Wednesday, November 16, 2016

HGB Ep. 164 - Ledge Lighthouse and the Lighthouse Inn

Moment in Oddity - UFO Battle Over Nuremberg

Long before the infamous trials of Nazi war criminals, Nuremberg was a Medieval city with courts serving during the Holy Roman Empire. It also was the scene of a reputed UFO battle on April 4, 1561. A woodcut illustration by Hans Glaser documents the battle. He did not witness the event himself. The battle was a mass sighting with residents reporting that they saw cylindrical objects that released many colored disks and globes. People described tubes and crosses in the sky as well. The battle lasted for approximately an hour. Some skeptics claim that the battle was nothing more than an atmospheric phenomena known as a parhelion or sundog. Sundogs are commonly made by the refraction of light from plate-shaped hexagonal ice crystals in high and cold cirrus clouds. This more than likely was an atmospheric disturbance that the people of the 1500s would not understand, but even such a light show would be unique and certainly is odd!

This Day in History - UNESCO Founded

On this day, November 16th, in 1945, the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture, also known as UNESCO, was founded. A need was seen after World War II to bring the major countries of the world together to work for the greater good. Thirty-seven countries signed the constitution to found the organization and it was ratified by twenty of them including: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, France, Greece, India, Lebanon, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, United Kingdom and United States. Today, there are 195 member countries. There are more than fifty offices throughout the world all focused on the goals of building peace, eradicating poverty and education. Two of its top priorities are Africa  and gender equality. The World Heritage arm that has come up several times on this podcast, focuses on sites around the world that feature cultural and natural heritage for regions and humanity in general. These places are all unique and range from the Great Barrier Reef to the Serengeti to cathedrals to the pyramids.

Ledge Lighthouse and the Lighthouse Inn (Suggested by: Brian Morse)

The New England area is dotted with lighthouses to protect ships from the treacherous shores of the coast. Some of these lighthouses are more inland like the Ledge Lighthouse that sits in the Long Island Sound. It has a unique design that makes it appear to be a house floating out on the water, although the bright flashing light atop it is a dead give away of its true purpose. Across the water is the abandoned Lighthouse Inn that started out as a summer mansion and later served as an inn. Both of these locations are not only historic properties, but they are reputed to be haunted. Join us as we explore the histories and hauntings of the Ledge Lighthouse and the Lighthouse Inn!

New London, Connecticut sits along the Long Island Sound. The area was first settled by the Mohegan Tribe. In the early 1600s, this tribe was originally the Pequot. A rivalry developed between the chief, who was Sassacus, and another member named Uncas. The dispute was so great that Uncas left, taking a group with him. He was named chief and they called themselves the Wolf People. Mohegan means Wolf People. The main reason for the dispute arose from dealing with European settlers. Uncas wanted to collaborate with the English. There would be wars, but Uncas was successful with the help of the Europeans and they would protect the Mohegans during King Phillip's War. Settlers would come and buy land from the Mohegan, but eventually when Connecticut became a colony it ruled that the Mohegan would not be compensated for land they sold. Eventually the tribe was penniless and decided to relocate to upstate New York with the Oneida tribe.

The Pequot called this area Nameaug. The original settlement that would later become New London was founded by John Winthrop, Jr. in 1646. When it came to naming the settlement, the people wanted to name it London after London, England, but the Connecticut General Assembly wanted to name the town Faire Harbour. The colonists said they would rather continue with Nameaug if they couldn't have London. The legislature caved and the town was officially named New London on March 10, 1658. New London was the first official port of the Connecticut colony. It was the perfect spot as the Thames River was wide and deep and perfect for ships to maneuver through. The port was a maritime center with ship building and trade that specifically centered on the West Indies.The city would be incorporated in 1784 and was one of the first five cities in Connecticut.  The 19th century brought huge growth and prosperity to the city with sealing and whaling building this into the second-largest New England port and by 1850, the railroad had arrived. The prime water location would eventually bring the Coast Guard Academy here.

One of the most unique, in appearance, lighthouses in the world is Ledge Lighthouse, found off of New London in Fishers Island Sound. It stands at the mouth of the Thames River. The New London Harbor Light had been built upriver, but increased traffic made it obvious that another lighthouse was needed and so it was decided in 1900 to build Ledge Lighthouse. It took until 1906 for the United States Senate to authorize construction and another two years for T.A. Scott Company to be contracted to build it. The lighthouse was completed in 1909 and originally named Southwest Ledge, but after it was pointed out that another lighthouse had the same name, the Southwest part was dropped.

What makes the lighthouse unique is that it was not built in a round tower-like style, but more like a house. Two wealthy homeowners suggested that the lighthouse be designed in the same style as the homes in the area. The structure incorporates a mixture of the Colonial Revival and French Second Empire styles and made from granite and brick. Ledge is three-stories and has eleven rooms. And it really does look like a house sitting alone on an island with a light blazing from a tower atop it. When it was first lit on November 7, 1909, it was equipped with a fourth-order Fresnel lens, that had been crafted in France. That original lens was later replaced, but it can still be seen on display at the Custom House in New London. This particular beacon had three white flashes followed by a red flash every thirty seconds.

Ledge Lighthouse had a standard crew of three men, but sometimes a fourth man was added. They spent their days polishing the brass and the lens, painting surfaces to keep them new and clean, oiling fixtures and keeping the light fueled. The lighthouse has been restored throughout the years and is ongoing. Three windows were replaced just last month, October 2016. Tours are offered in the summer season. The Project Oceanology boat takes visitors on a 10 minute ride to Ledge Light from Avery Point in Groton.

The Ledge has a resident ghost that is fairly well known. His name is Ernie and it is believed that he had been one of the keepers. Information is hard to find about him, but there is a legend that has grown up around him. It is said that he served during the 1920s or 30s. He had married a much younger woman and she did not follow him to the lighthouse. While he was away, she fell in love with the Captain of the Block Island Ferry. She decided to run away with him. Ernie was heartbroken and in his distraught state of mind, he climbed to the roof of the lighthouse and flung his body over the edge. The body was never recovered. It is rumored that he has haunted the lighthouse ever since. Cold spots are felt and disembodied voices are heard. Strange noises seem to have no cause behind them. Boats that are tied up become untied, seemingly on their own.The lighthouse embraces the legend and has a furnished keeper's room with a mannequin of Ernie.

Across the sound from Ledge Lighthouse, to the northwest, and through some trees, stands the Lighthouse Inn. The inn was built in 1902 and was originally the mansion of one man, steel baron Charles Strong Guthrie of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It specifically was meant to be his summer home. The 12 acre field it was built in attracted Guthrie because of the wildflowers growing everywhere. He called his home "Meadow Court" for this reason. The house was designed by Boston architect William Ralph Emerson and the landscape architect was Frederick Law Olmstead. Emerson is considered by historians to be one of the inventors of the Shingle style. Meadow Court was designed in the Mission style with Mediterranean overtones. It was built in a half circle, so that all the bedrooms had views of the beautiful gardens.

Guthrie picked the location because the Pequot House was nearby and served as the cornerstone for the summer resort colony and the area was described as a small version of Newport, Rhode Island. In 1927, the mansion became an inn and because of the nearby lighthouses, it was christened Lighthouse Inn. Most of the land was sold off and the inn only retained 2.8 acres of the original 12 acres. There were twenty-seven suites to rent. In the 1930s, Hollywood celebrities like Joan Crawford and Bette Davis stayed here. In 1979, the inn suffered a severe fire on the upper floors and required a $2.5 million renovation. Over time, the inn had become a popular gathering place for dinner parties and weddings and their Sunday Brunch was famous. The inn closed in 2008 after years of being dogged with financial issues.

The Lighthouse Inn is the only location in Connecticut designated as a Historic Hotel of America. The inn was city-owned and sat vacant for quite a while and was placed on auction in 2010 and was awarded to New Haven businessman Anthony Acri for a bid of $1.25 million. Acri promised to restore the location and his family was going to run it as a restaurant and inn.  A series of break-ins followed the auction and Acri withdrew his bid. In 2014, he participated in another bid and offered $100,000. The city rejected allowing Acri to take ownership because he was a very unscrupulous businessman. He and several associates were accused of enriching themselves at the expense of the Alaska native corporation that provides funding for the Eskimo people of Kotzebue, in northwestern Alaska. The inn sold again in October 2016 on the auction block. The high bidder was Alwyn Christy of Glastonbury. His bid was $260,000. Christy was asked about his plans and he said that he wants to reopen it as an inn again. So we hope that eventually, you will be able to stay at this historic inn once again and we hope they retain its charm. We do wonder if they know about the rumors of hauntings at this location.

The Lighthouse Inn has several ghosts. A hurricane blew through in 1938 and two children were killed at the inn. It is believed that they are still at the inn in the afterlife, haunting the bedrooms and hallways. There is also a story about a young girl that may or may not be separate from the story of these children. Not much is known about a back story, but she appears to be an intelligent haunting. She is heard running in the corridors and the doors open and close on their own when this happens. She is heard talking and laughing. A female ghost wearing Victorian era dress has been seen and heard walking in the halls, particularly at night. She seems to be more residual than intelligent.

There is another woman here and she is a lady in white. She is reputed to be in white because she is a bride. The tragic story that is told about here took place on her wedding day. She was coming down a winding center staircase at the inn when she tripped and tumbled down the stairs. She broke her neck in the fall and her deceased body came to rest at the feet of her groom. This happened in 1930 and she has haunted the place ever since. Her full-bodied apparition hanging out in dark corners and her reflection is seen in windows. The scent of her perfume is detected at times. The New York Times even featured her in a 2007 article. Ghost Hunters investigated the inn in 2004 and Steve felt something unseen touch him in the basement tunnels. The pressure felt as heavy as 15 pounds. There was a recorded drop in temperatures of 30 degrees that could not be explained.

The Ledge Lighthouse continues to keep watch of maritime traffic. Is the spirit of Ernie still carrying on his job as keeper in the afterlife? Is the Lighthouse Inn harboring the spirits of former guests or are these stories of ghosts just made up? Are the Ledge Lighthouse and Lighthouse Inn haunted? That is for you to decide!

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