Wednesday, December 7, 2016

HGB Ep. 168 - Sallie House

Moment in Oddity - The Mystery of Fort Mountain

In Georgia, there is a mysterious rock wall that is part of Fort Mountain State Park. This wall zigzags for 885 feet and features stones from the area. It is clearly something not made by nature. Many theories have been postulated as to who is responsible for the rock wall. The most obvious one is that Hernando de Soto built a fort here in 1540 as protection from the Creek tribe and these are the remnants. It is this theory that gives the state park its name, "Fort Mountain." But historians have pointed out that de Soto was not even in the area for a month, certainly not long enough to build a fort. Another theory claims that a Welsh Prince named Madoc ab Owain Gwynedd fled his homeland after the death of his father and he came to the area in 1170. He arrived with a group of people and they built a fortification here. Apparently, they built fortifications in other places too like DeSoto Falls, Alabama and Chattanooga, Tennessee. The most interesting theory comes from the Cherokee tradition. They referred to the group who lived here and built the wall as the moon-eyed people. The reason the tribe used that name was because these people supposedly had very poor eye sight, especially out in the light. They were small in stature with very pale skin. They sound very similar to people born with albinism. The Kuna People of Panama quite possibly could have been their ancestors. The Cherokee drove them out and said that a temple had been built near where the stone wall is today. Perhaps these were actually Welsh descendants of the prince and the people who came with him. We will never know, but the wall that is the only symbol of their presence, certainly is odd!
This Day in History - Pearl Harbor Attacked

On this day, December 7th, in 1941, Pearl Harbor in Hawaii was bombed by the country of Japan, pulling America into World War II. Just before 8am that morning, 360 Japanese warplanes appear in the skies over the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor. The attack took the base by surprise and the result was massive casualties and a critical blow to the naval fleet. The attack lasted a mere 90 minutes. Destroyed or heavily damaged were eight battleships, three destroyers, seven other ships and 200 aircraft. On the ground, 1,200 people were injured and 2,400 were killed. Nearly half of the fatalities were due to the USS Arizona being hit in its forward magazine by a shell and exploding. It was left on the bottom of the harbor to serve as a memorial for those lost. President Roosevelt appeared the following day before a joint session of Congress and declared, “Yesterday, December 7, 1941–a date which will live in infamy–the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” Both houses of Congress immediately voted unanimously, except for one representative from Montana, to go to war with Japan. 

Sallie House (Suggested by Mitch Guidry)

Atchison, Kansas is famously known as the birthplace of Amelia Earhart.  It was home to the Kansa tribe before settlement began when the territory opened in the mid 1850s. The Finney family were some early settlers to the town and prominent members of the family would live there all their lives. They built several homes and one of those came to be known as the Sallie House. It gained notoriety in the the 1990s when a couple named Debra and Tony Pickman lived in the house. Hauntings were documented in the house at that time and it has become a well known haunted location to paranormal investigators. The stories that the Pickmans have shared about their former home are horrific and terrifying. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Sallie House.

Atchison, Kansas was founded at a precarious time in American history in 1854. The Civil War was to commence in the near future and the country was already strongly divided along the lines of pro-slavery and anti-slavery. This small city would be an example of that great divide. The man for whom the city was named was Senator David Rice Atchison and he was strongly in favor of slavery. His goal was to set the town up as a place open to slavery. He grabbed a bunch of friendly investors and convinced them to form the town. It was decided that the original site was not suitable and another location that was newly open to settlement and rich in agricultural possibilities. There were 480 acres divided into 100 shares and each member of the town company received five shares. Two of the first businesses built were a hotel and a printing press. Soon the National Hotel and The Squatter Sovereign, a pro-slavery newspaper, were in business.

The city was formally incorporated in 1855. Three years later, the forces for abolishing slavery took control of the city. When the Civil War broke out, Atchison had three militias that fought for the North, but the main concern for the eastern side of the state was protecting against invasion from Missouri. Many of the listeners are probably familiar with the mascot of the University of Kansas, the jayhawk. But do you know what a jayhawk references? The term has been shortened from Jayhawker. Jayhawking was stealing. And this was a tactic of guerilla fighters in the state of Kansas. One of the famous Jayhawkers during the war was Charles "Cleveland" Metz and Atchison was his headquarters with the blessing of the townspeople. He would regularly lead raids into Missouri to steal horses and then bring them back to Kansas to sell. He targeted pro-slavery farmers. He was finally stopped in 1862 when he was shot and killed.

In 1866, Michael C. Finney came to town with his wife Kate and they bought a parcel of land. Michael had been a wharfmaster for steamboat traffic on the Missouri River. He started building a home on the property that was completed in 1871. The family lived in the basement while the house was being completed. Michael did not get to enjoy the home for long because he died on September 27, 1872 at 10pm in the house. At the time, Kate was pregnant and the couple already had two sons, James and Charles, and a daughter, Agnes. Eight months later, Edwin was born, but he would die before he was two years old.

In 1879, the Finney's son James built a house next to his parents home and then he left for Colorado to find his riches in Gunnison. He returned shortly thereafter cursing the "godforsaken place." Atchison was not much better for James, so he deeded his house to his mother and left for St. Louis. Charles was a teenager at the time and he found work with Dr. Dan Holland, first as a bookkeeper and then as an assistant in the office. Dr. Holland's influence over Charles led him to a decision to attend medical school. At the same time that he was working for the doctor, Charles was also ice skating in competitions and he was quite good. He and a young lady named Florence Guerrier won a gold medal in couples skating in 1883. No one knows why, but Charles fell out of favor and by 1885 a local paper announced that the next skating competition was opened to all gentlemen, except Charley Finney. Charles loved to skate, so he solved that problem by dressing as a woman and skating as Miss Colby from Baltimore. He was so graceful, nobody knew he was a male.

Charles went to St. Louis and attended Beaumont Hospital Medical College where he received his M.D. in 1894. He returned to Atchison and opened a practice in the Martin Building on Fifth and Commercial. In 1899, his brother James would have a stroke and spend eight months in the hospital before passing away. His house was deeded to a woman named Johanna Barnes who had recently left a mental institution. She was divorced with three children and had been admitted to the institution on the orders of a judge because she was violently insane. Not the kind of neighbor one wants to have, but by 1906 James' house was back in the family when Johanna deeded it to sister Agnes Finney. A year prior, Charles had married Louise Zibold and they built a home on the other side of his mother's house. So now, all the surviving Finneys are living in a row next to each other. The house that would become known as Sallie House was the one built by James and now owned by Agnes.

Agnes married a man named William True in 1913. Their wedded bliss did not last long as he suffered a stroke three years later. Agnes cared for him the best she could, but within two years, he had passed away. She decided to continue living in the house and she did until the day she died in the house on November 28, 1939. She turned the home into a boarding house to help with expenses. Charles held onto the house, but when he died in 1947, it was decided to rent the house out. The first family to move in was the Mize family. They did not stay long and there are no clear records of who lived in the house for the next ten years. This makes trying to figure out the origins of hauntings difficult because up until this point, we really do not have anything that should cause the kind of haunting that has been reported here. There have been a few family member deaths, but nothing like murder or suicide. There was Johanna who had been declared violently insane whom had lived in the house.

The next documented owner was Ethel Anderson who moved in to the house in 1958. She lived there until 1990. Tony and Debra Pickman moved into the Sallie House on December 31, 1992. They were a young couple just starting out and Debra was pregnant with their first child. They both felt that the house was perfect for them because it was the perfect size with three bedrooms and a large yard. There was a basement with one room and it was unfinished. Beyond the furnace was what appeared to be a crawl space behind a tarp with large dirt mounds. Tony was a native to Atchison and looked forward to bringing up his family in his hometown. The couple had no idea that the quaint home they had just bought was going to become a nightmare.

At first, Debra said that they didn't notice anything unusual because there were boxes everywhere. But after they were unpacked, strange things started happening. Their dog was good-natured, but anytime he was near the nursery, he would bark ferociously. The cats started getting into the act as well as they sat and watched something unseen flying around the ceiling of the house. Their eyes would dart back and forth as though following something unseen. Then the timers for the stove and microwave would go off at odd times. They had not been set by either Tony or Debra. The lights in the family room would dim themselves at night. This was a concern for the Pickmans because the switch was across the room, so it could not be either of them messing with the lights. Also, the light switch was not of the dimmer variety. They assumed they had bad wiring. It was an old house after all. But an electrician could find no problem with the wiring and this was backed up by the fact that equipment like the stereo and television were on the same circuit and they were having no issues with either of these items.

Next, they started feeling cold spots in the house. These were usually near the stairs. Electronic musical toys would turn themselves on and sometimes, they made noises that were not supposed to come out of the toys. They occasionally sounded like distant voices trying to communicate. The phone had issues with disturbances and several times Debra claimed that she would just end the call because the phone would disconnect so many times during a conversation. None of these issues are cause for too much concern. They are more annoying than anything. And then they brought their newborn home.

As new parents, the Pickmans thought it was normal that their baby woke them up constantly. Sometimes it would happen right after a changing or feeding when they thought he was asleep. Debra was outside speaking with their neighbor Carol one day and Carol asked as an aside, if there was a reason that they left the light on in the nursery all night long. Debra answered that they did not leave the light on in the nursey. Carol said that she and her husband could see it on at all hours of the night. Debra suggested that perhaps they were seeing the light in the hallway. Carol was emphatic that the light was on in the nursery. This made Tony and Debra wonder if something had actually been waking up their baby in the night.

Debra's sister Karen offered to come help the couple with the baby. She took care of the nightly feedings and changings, so that the Pickmans could finally get some sleep. She had been there a week when an unforgettable, terrifying event occurred. It was July in 1993. The group had been at Tony's parents house for the day visiting. They got home that night and Tony went upstairs to use the bathroom. When he came down, he asked Debra why she had put all of the baby's stuffed animals in the middle of the floor in the nursery. Debra gave him a strange look and said that she had not put the animals there. The group went upstairs to investigate. All of the stuffed animals had been in different places in the nursery. A teddy bear had been in a wicker chair, a few in the crib, some on a shelf and a small musical cat on the baby’s changing table. Debra was stunned to see all of the animals on the floor and what's more, they were arranged in a circle with their backs to each other, facing forward. Debra's blood ran cold.

They tried to play it off as a prank. Debra remembered that earlier in the day, Tony's sister had confessed that she had let herself in the house one day to see if the nursery had been finished. She had felt guilty about it and wanted to tell the couple. So perhaps Tony's brother or someone else had let themselves in the house and set this up for fun. They checked the animals for magnets. Maybe the cats had knocked them over. They tried to find a logical explanation, but there was not one. They verified that no one had visited the house unannounced. Debra even called Jeanie and when she explained how they had found the animals, Jeanie told her that she had felt really odd inside the house and that she had even told her husband about her unease when she was in the nursery.

The group began to wonder if they had a ghost in the house. They went back downstairs and Karen glanced back upstairs. She shouted that the nursery light was back on and they all knew that they had turned it off when they left the nursery. They had also put all the animals where they belonged. When they got to the nursery again, a big stuffed bear was on his back in the middle of the floor. They had a real concern now that perhaps someone was in the house hiding. They checked the entire second floor and found nothing. Debra hoped that if they did have a ghost, that it was a child ghost just interested in playing with the toys. They decided to watch TV to calm their nerves. Eventually, Debra needed to go upstairs to use the bathroom. Karen and Tony waited at the bottom of the stairs for her.

Debra glanced into the nursery on her way to the bathroom and what she saw caused her to curse aloud. The bear was on the floor again. They had no doubt that something supernatural was occurring. They wondered if they should leave and go back to the in-laws' house, but decided to stay. They all slept in the master bedroom together and had no more trouble. The next day, Tony's brother Greg came over to take pictures. He called out to whatever and asked if it wanted its picture taken. A bear sitting next to the TV turned around before their eyes and they all screamed. They decided they should leave. As they packed, Tony was attacked. Something scratched him across his back. Debra took a picture of the three scratch marks.

The couple called a psychic named Barbara Connor for help. Barbara met with the couple in the house for ninety minutes. Barbara started communicating with a spirit that claimed to be a little girl named Sallie. During the session, they took pictures and Tony's brother ran the video camera. Sallie told Barbara that she didn't like Debra. That she thought she was bossy and had too many rules. The reason she said this is because Debra had started telling the entity to leave the baby alone and stop scratching Tony. Barbara told Debra to continue to remind Sallie of the rules and to be firm with her. They gave Sallie some toys that she could keep as her own. They even wrapped a new baby doll for her to see if she could unwrap the present. It took months, but she finally got it unwrapped. Tony saw Sallie as an apparition and sketched her.

The Pickmans came to think of Sallie as a protective spirit, but they soon realized she was not the only spirit in the house and they believed the other entities were evil. Attacks continued on Tony and on any investigators who came to the house. They eventually moved from the house, but they wrote a book about their experiences 20 years later and continue to give talks and interviews about their experience. The house has been investigated by numerous paranormal investigators. The television show Sightings featured the location in the 90s. Investigations have resulted in countless EVPs and strange pictures. One investigator claimed to pick up four voices on EVP that were not anyone in his group. Another person who went into the house claimed to feel unseen adult hands pushing him forward and unseen child hands pulling him back.

The official website for tours tells the following story about Sallie, but there is no proof that this is anything more than legend. And in our research, we found no indication that Dr. Finney ever used the Sallie House as his medical office. He did not live in that home.
"Originally built at the turn of the century, this house became the residence of an Atchison physician. The front served as office space and examination rooms, while the doctor and his family lived upstairs.   One day, a frantic mother arrived carrying her 6-year-old daughter, Sallie. The child had collapsed from severe abdominal pain. The doctor diagnosed appendicitis and knew there was no time to delay surgery. Believing the appendix would soon burst, the doctor began cutting Sallie before the anesthesia took full effect. Sallie’s screams suddenly stopped and she grew pale and limp. She died on the operating table – her last memories of a man whom she believed was torturing her. Reports of Sallie’s haunting grew even more ominous in 1993, when the house was rented to a young couple. Their dog seemed to growl at nothing, especially near the upstairs nursery.   Things began to take a violent turn, however. Fires broke out in the house and a series of sinister attacks on the husband began. The operating area would become cold. Objects would visibly move when the young man drew near. He could feel scratches upon his chest or abdomen. But never did the ghost attack the wife or baby."
The Sallie House has a very detailed haunting account. Is this just the product of overactive imaginations? Perhaps a story to sell books? Are there really several entities in this cute little turn-of-the-century house? Is the Sallie House haunted? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes:
You can tour the Sallie House. There are seasonal self-guided tours that run $10. Guided tours run $100 for a group up to 10 people. Overnight stays are also offered for $100 per person. You can get more information on this here:

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