Friday, November 4, 2016

HGB Ep. 161 - The Palmer House

Moment in Oddity - The Lake in the Gulf

Some have called this location the "Jacuzzi of Despair." And it would seem it is a type of hell on Earth, or actually, under the water. It's approximately a days ride aboard a boat from New Orleans. Scientists have been amazed by this discovery in 2014 and Erik Cordes, associate professor of biology at Temple University, has said of this lake at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, “It was one of the most amazing things in the deep sea. You go down into the bottom of the ocean and you are looking at a lake or a river flowing. It feels like you are not on this world." This is a circular pool that measures about 100 feet in circumference and about 12 feet deep and is around 3,300 feet below the surface of the Gulf. The water in the lake is five times as salty as the water surrounding it and contains toxic levels of hydrogen sulfide and methane. Anything that swims into this area dies. Only bacterial lifeforms like shrimp and tube worms manage to survive this deadly lake. Scientists look at the lake as a chance to study what life on other planets would be like. You know, because some day you might go to space and end up in the bottom of some toxic lake. This lake at the bottom of the Gulf, certainly is odd!

This Day in History - Genie the Wild Child Discovered

On this day, November 4th, in 1970, a child given the name Genie is taken to Children's Hospital and she will come to be known as the Wild Child. Genie had suffered horrid abuse for the first thirteen years of her life. Her mother had brought her into a welfare office seeking help for the blind. It was after Genie was taken to the hospital that the world found out that she spent those first thirteen years locked in a bedroom, tied to a child's potty wearing diapers. That was during the day. At night, she was bound inside a sleeping bag and an enclosed crib. If she spoke a word, she was beaten. No one spoke to her and her father only growled at her. She was given the name Genie by Social Services because she reminded them of the genies that were kept in bottles. Her parents were charged with abuse and her father committed suicide before his court appearance. Genie was studied for a few years until funding dropped off. She traversed through foster homes where her abuse continued. It is believed that she is living in an adult foster care home somewhere in California. The movie Mockingbird Don't Sing was made about Genie and her tragic life.

The Palmer House (Suggested by Katie Flanay)

Minnesota became the 32nd state in America on May 11, 1858. The Minnesota city of Sauk Centre has a long history as a wild west of the Midwest. In this city sits The Palmer House Hotel, which is both a hotel and a restaurant. It has been a popular place for over 100 years. It was not the first building on this location. An earlier hotel burned to the ground. The Palmer brought innovation to the city with its glitz that included electricity. There are stories of people who have died at the hotel and some claim that there are dozens of restless spirits in this most haunted location. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Palmer House.

Minnesota was once inhabited by the Dakota and Ojibwe Native American tribes. They were eventually pushed back by European settlers from Germany and Scandinavia. In 1762, it became part of Spanish Louisiana. Land west of the Mississippi became part of the United States after the Revolutionary War with the rest of Minnesota coming along after the Louisiana Purchase. Logging would become a main part of the economy and sawmills would dot the land. Nearly smack dab in the middle of Minnesota sits the city of Sauk Centre.

Sauk Centre is 117 miles west of St. Paul. Sauk Lake sits nearby and it is from this lake that the city takes its name. The name was initially suggested by Alexander Moore. The Sauk Centre Herald was the first continuous newspaper west of the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains. The first issue was published by Joseph Simonton June 6, 1867. *Fun Fact: A printer's devil is a person serving at or below the level of apprentice in the printing industry. (A Twilight Zone episode had that name too.)* The second publisher of the paper, Charles F. Hendryx, said of the town, "When I came to town in July 1879, the frontier town was like a child in swaddling clothes and when I left in 1903, it was like a young child running around in knickers." The city was a true wild-west town hosting settlers and trappers. In the early days, there were two flour mills and one grain elevator. A rail line brought two trains a day, the stagecoach was running and a steamboat brought produce and passengers down Sauk Lake.

Sauk Center House - Sauk Center Historical Society Collection
The old Sauk Centre House was the city's first hotel. It was built along the stage coach line as a stop around 1863. It quickly became a social gathering place. Which meant it housed some extras like a brothel. Unfortunately, on June 26, 1900 it burned to the ground. There were no reports of anybody dying in the fire. Many people in the city were glad to see it go as they did not approve of the side activities going on here. Businessman Ralph L. Palmer, along with his wife Christena, built a new hotel in the former's footprint and Ralph was all about going big. He wanted this new hotel to be bigger and better than the Sauk Center House and he went for glitz with the goal of giving the city its first class hotel. When it opened, the hotel had 38 rooms and a spacious gathering area. It was the first building in Sauk Center to have electricity. There were beautiful Austrian stained glass windows in the lobby that remain today.

The Palmers had two children, Hazel and Carlisle. The family lived at the hotel and Christena’s mother and brother, George Brandner, also worked at the hotel. The hotel was the cornerstone of the city's downtown area. Nobel Prize winner Sinclair Lewis had worked at the hotel and he included it in his 1920 novel, Main Street. In the novel, the hotel is called the Minniemashie House. There were several families from the town that called the hotel home. During the 1920s, with prohibition in full swing, the Palmer House became a place to headquarter the running of liquor. There were reports that tunnels under the hotel took liquor to other locations in the city. There was a flea maret at the hotel at one time too.

A major renovation began in 1993 of the hotel. Rooms were combined so that 38 rooms have become only 19 and each of these has their own bathroom. Jacuzzis have been added to some rooms as well. There is a restaurant and pub just off the lobby stocked with favorite cocktails and savory dishes that include home-baked goodies for dessert. There is also a conference room. They provide historic tours of the hotel and even ghost tours with a ghost hunt in the basement that is normally off limits to guests. They keep a log of ghost experiences because they are so frequent here.  When the place was renovated, everything was re-wired and updated. So how do you explain so many electrical disturbances from lights turning off and on without assistance and televisions flickering off and on? Kelley Freese became owner of the hotel in 2002. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Both guests and employees have had so many experiences that it is hard to keep track. Reports started back in the 1950s. The chef has heard footsteps moving across the wet floor when she is mopping all alone. A wet puddle will appear in the middle of the kitchen floor for no reason. Servers will set up the tables after dinner is over, so that they are ready for the next day. When they come in the next day, they will find that the silverware has been moved. A night clerk had a male guest come down and ask if he could get a beer. The clerk went into the pub and got a bottle of beer. The man asked how much he owed as he took out a $5 bill and the clerk wasn't sure what to do as he had no access to any money. He told the man he would either need to drink five more or he would have to give him change in the morning. The man fished out $1.25 and went upstairs. When the clerk told the owner about the interaction the next morning, the owner stated that no man was staying at the hotel with that description.

Kelley, the owner, has experienced some chilling paranormal occurrences. She was a skeptic before coming into possession of the hotel. She has felt what seemed like the palm of a hand grabbing the top of her head. She has had guests fling their room keys at her as they make a run for it in the middle of the night. She has seen a shadowy figure in the basement. Her husband was with her at the time and he thought the figure's eyes looked red and that it a wolf type creature. As the figure moved into the room further, all the light was blacked out and there was a strong malevolent feeling. Her husband said they should all go upstairs immediately. Kelley says it is the most chilling experience that she has ever had at her hotel.There is also a story that a psychic told Kelley there were bones in the basement. Kelley dug where she was told they were located and she found what looked like rib bones. She placed them in a box to show to her husband later. When she went to retrieve the bones, they were gone.

Ghost Adventures has filmed an episode here. My Ghost Story featured a couple in episode 15 that experienced a freaky possession type haunting while at the Palmer House. Darkness Radio with Dave Shraeder uses this as their supernatural base. They host events here often. Katie Heart had interned with Darkness Radio for a while. She is now co-host of One Bizarre Podcast and I asked her on Twitter if she ever experienced anything there. She tweeted, "There's always lots of activity there! We had the lights, and some movement as well. It was very interesting!" Psychic Echo Bodine claims that there are at least 40 individual ghosts at the hotel.

Ghost Stories Inc. visited the Palmer and had unexplained knocks on the wall of their hotel room. They figured out that the knocks sounded like the headboard of the beds bumping against the wall, but could not explain why this would come from an empty room. They picked up a young boy singing on a walkie talkie several times, including when asked if he could do it again. They had no children with them. A ball that they brought with them was moved from the hallway to the inside of a room. A couple members of the group also saw the apparition of a child crouched on the stairs. There is a story that a young boy died at the hotel, possibly of the flu, and there have been other reports of a young boy seen in the hallway playing with a ball.

Other ghosts reputed to have made the Palmer House their home in the afterlife are Raymond, Lucy and Hank. Raymond is a grumpy spirit that haunts the entire hotel with an emphasis on the room that is called "Raymond's Room." Lucy is very good at changing the temperatures of a room. She can drop it 30 degrees in minutes. Guests wake up in the middle of the night freezing and able to see their breath. The most haunted area is in the basement. The ghost here is a former maintenance man named Hank. Some claim that Sinclair Lewis liked the hotel so much that he not only wrote about it, but has decided to stay there after his death.

The basement may be the most haunted area, but the rooms that have provided the most experiences are rooms 11 and 17. A newlywed couple were staying overnight in Room 17 and they were awakened in the middle of the night by the apparition of a man wearing clothes more suited for the 1920s. He was standing at the foot of their bed. The furniture gets moved in this room when the guests are absent. A guest in Room 11 was sleeping with his legs outside of the sheets - a big no no - and sure enough, he felt unseen fingers stroking his legs. When he jumped up to see what was causing the sensation, he found nothing. Both rooms have cold spots at times and seem to have a heavy oppressive feeling.

Do these former employees and guests still roam the halls of the Palmer House? Is the Palmer House Hotel haunted? That is for you to decide!

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