Wednesday, January 11, 2017

HGB Ep. 175 - Santa Maria Inn

Moment in Oddity - The Little People of America

There are creatures described in the oral traditions of Native Americans that tell of tiny people eaters. These are little people that stood between 20 inches to three feet tall. These legends would seem to match up with European lore about fairies and leprechauns, but these tales date back before Europeans ever arrived in America. To the Shoshone Indians of Wyoming, this small race of people were known as the Nimerigar. These were an aggressive people who shot poison arrows from their tiny bows. It was said that they would kill their own if they were unable to be an active part of their community due to illness. The Comanche had the Nunupi, which were described as small bi-pedal humanoids with large heads and long arms. Some had long hair and some had no hair. They were described as mischievous. The Cherokee had the Yumwi and the Hawaiians have the Menehune. All of these little people are similar in attitudes and appearance. Were these just legends? Were these some kind of spirit as some native tribes believed?  Were these Star People from the heavens? It would be easy to pass these stories off as legends, but skeletons of these little people have been found in several places in America. Cochocton, Ohio had a burial ground with numerous remains of a race of people measuring under three feet. Another graveyard in Coffee County, Tennessee held the remains of reputedly thousands of little people. A whole race of little people is unique, but the fact that they no longer exist, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Pol Pot Overthrown

In the month of January in 1979, Vietnamese troops seize the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh and this topples the Khmer Rouge and the dictator Pol Pot. He had organized the Khmer Rouge in the Cambodian jungle in the 1960s. Their goal was to foment a Communist revolution. And if that meant killing people, they were willing to do so. They gained control of a third of the country by 1970 with the help of the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong. The United States bombed the Cambodian territory in 1973 and the power vacuum left behind was captured by the Khmer Rouge and by 1975 the pro-U.S. regime was overthrown and Pol Pot was in control. Pol Pot and his thugs spread like a cancer across Cambodia and killed two million Cambodians from 1975 to 1979. Intellectuals were killed. Skilled workers were killed. Anyone with glasses or a watch were killed. These atrocities are known today as the Killing Fields. It would take until 2009 for the first genocide trials to start.

Santa Maria Inn (Suggested by: Elliot Gladstone of Entwined Podcast)

Santa Maria is a town that lies strategically halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. This makes it an attractive stop over point for travelers. The Santa Maria Inn is a central coastal historical landmark that has provided accommodation for business people, tourists and celebrities for nearly one hundred years. Those celebrities include Charlie Chaplin, Rudolph Valentino and Jean Harlow. Other guests that have stayed here, have never left and remain after death. The hotel is reputedly haunted by several spirits and gives enough creeps that some people never want to stay again. One of those people is Elliot Gladstone of the Entwined Podcast and he joins us to talk about the history, hauntings and his experiences at the Santa Maria Inn.

Spanish explorers were the first Europeans to come to the Santa Maria area and they found the native Chumash tribe already there. The Spanish set up missions and two of them, San Luis Obispo founded in 1772, and La Purisima Concepcion, founded in 1787, bordered the Santa Maria Valley. These mission lands would be made available for private ownership after the Mexican War of Independence. Santa Maria was originally called Grangerville and then Central City and was founded by four men: Rudolph Cook, John Thornburgh, Isaac Fesler and Isaac Miller. These four men donated strips of land where their properties adjoined to lay out Central City in 1874. In 1882, the name was changed to Santa Maria because the town's mail kept ending up in Central City, Colorado. Huge fires ripped through in 1883 and 1884, but the town thrived as the Pacific Coast Railroad continued to bring in business. The turn of the 20th century brought oil discovery and the Santa Maria Valley would have produced $640 million worth of oil by the 1950s.

Frank J. McCoy was an American born in Ireland. He grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and moved to San Francisco in 1900. He came to the Santa Maria Valley in 1901 looking for work and he found it at the Union Sugar Plant. The plant extracted sucrose from sugar beets. A whole company town sprang up around the facility called Betteravia, which refers to the French word for beet root. About 350 lived there until the 1950s when the sugar company decided renting out homes was not something they were interested in doing anymore and by the 1960s most of the buildings had been razed in Betteravia. Atlas Obscura reports that "the site still boasts two enormous hermetically sealed silos, a more or less intact refinery building, and a towering furnace stack." McCoy left the company in 1916 after he noticed that the area really needed a hotel.

He built the original Santa Maria Inn, which only had 24 rooms at the time, in 1917. The property had highway frontage, so it was perfect for travelers. Each of the rooms had its own bath, which was a real luxury. McCoy planted gardens around the humble hotel and many of those original plantings are still a part of the Rose Garden today. Every room was supplied with fresh flowers every day. The main areas were decorated with McCoy's collection of copperware, pewter and artwork by California artists. In 1928, he expanded the hotel to 85 rooms. The Tap Room was designed by Edgar Cheesewright and added in 1941. This bar captured the atmosphere of an old English pub with peg plank wooden floors and rich wormwood paneling.

The rich and famous flocked to the hotel. Hollywood legends like Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplain, Rudolph Valentino, Bette Davis, Marlene Dietrich, Bing Crosby, Joan Crawford and Bob Hope all stayed here and many of the rooms are marked with stars and indicate which celebrity had once stayed in the room. Sports stars like Willie Mays and Joe DiMaggio and the rich and political like Richard Nixon, William Randolph Hearst and Herbert Hoover also stayed here.

The hotel went to a nephew after McCoy's death and he added more rooms, a coffee shop and a swimming pool. By the 1970s things were going poorly and the inn closed. Highway 101 and faster cars that could travel farther in one trip had taken their toll. The inn was vandalized and antiques were stolen. It reopened in 1981 under new ownership and in 1984 the six story tower was added. The hotel thrives today with 164 rooms and boasts that it has the "comfort and style of the English countryside." The hotel has something else that is anything, but comforting and that are ghosts. The Santa Maria Inn is reputedly home to many ghosts, each coming from a very different walk of life.

The first ghost that has been reported belongs to the Hollywood silent film hunk, Rudolph Valentino. Valentino was known as the "Latin Lover." He was born in Italy in 1895 as Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d'Antonguella. He was a poor student and a never-do-well. The family finally shipped him off to America to learn to be a man. He worked odd jobs in New York until he met and befriended a beautiful heiress. He found himself embroiled in scandal when this woman divorced her husband. She went on to kill her ex-husband. The whole situation degraded him and he changed his name to various parts of Rudolph Valentino and moved to Hollywood. He acted in the theater, while working odd jobs once again, which may have included some gigolo type work. He definitely worked as an exhibition dancer and we're not exactly sure what that meant.

He got bit parts in several movies, usually as a villain because he was darker complected. In 1921, he starred in "The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse," which was a critical success. It was the first film to make 1,000,000 at the box office and is the 6th best selling silent movie of all time. The silent film "The Sheik" would make him a huge star and he made more commercial movies after that gaining a rabid female following. Jack Dempsey said of Valentino, "He was the most virile and masculine of men. The women were like flies to a honeypot. He could never shake them off, anywhere he went. What a lovely, lucky guy." He was married twice and the second had to be annulled after it was discovered he was not divorced from his first wife, with whom he never consummated the marriage because she batted for our team. He eventually remarried the second wife,but they eventually divorced. He was heavily in debt and lived a hard life, which led to him having multiple ulcers in his stomach. Eventually, these ulcers perforated in 1926 and he lingered in excruciating pain for a little over a week, dying at the age of 31. Ten thousand people tried to attend his funeral.

During his Hollywood career, he stayed at the Santa Maria Inn in Room 221. He has been seen lying on the bed in the room and his indentation on the top of the covers is clearly seen. His favorite tactic seems to be knocking on doors, particularly of Room 221. We read several accounts of people being awakened by knocking on the door, some of them as negative reviews about the hotel where people are completely unaware that they may have experienced something supernatural. Elliot experienced this type of haunting during one of his stays.

The second most seen and experienced ghost at the inn belongs to a sea captain. His apparition dates back almost top the time of the hotel initially being built. The legend is that he was having an affair and his mistress murdered him. He is apparently attached to Room 210, so perhaps he was murdered in that room. He haunts other areas as well though. Activity felt in other areas that may be connected to him are icy chills in rooms. This is also something Elliot experienced. The gardens and cellars have activity, disembodied footsteps are heard, doors open and close on their own and a piano plays by itself. Unexplained perfume smells are also reported. A balloon once followed a housekeeper around, even following her downstairs.

The ghost of a woman known as Peppy has also been reported. This one we are not so sure about because she came through as a channeled spirit by a medium, which can be quite dubious. She claimed to be friends with the Hearsts and that she would stay at the Hearst Castle on occasion. She  apparently was a cocaine addict and she died of an overdose. An Assistant Manager at the hotel claimed that the curtains in room 216 sometimes billow by themselves, even when the windows were closed. He also said that one could feel The Captain all around the inn.

TripAdvisor Reviews: "Stayed in the Jacuzzi Suite. Wouldn't have it any other way. Gorgeous Suite with Bay Window, Nice Views, Fireplace, Bedroom, Kitchenette, and Master Bath. Had to nosey around the 'haunted' rooms (older part of Hotel) where Marilyn Monroe and other celebrities have stayed. Saw a few 'strange' things happen like a vending machine working on its own and a fork and knife appear out of nowhere. We found it too funny rather than scary. Must say if there are ghost, they are very friendly."

"I have found out that Rudolph Valentino, a film star from the 20's, used to stay at the Inn regularly...and still does. He stayed in a room on the same floor that I stayed in when I went to the Inn in 2003. There have been numerous reports of similar experiences as mine. Apparently, it is said that Rudolph loves to lie down on the beds and that was what I felt when my body was held down on the bed by an unexplained pressure. There have also been accounts of Mr. Valentino sitting at the head of the bed."

After reading about experiences people have had and hearing from Elliot about his experiences, someone we know and trust, it really would seem that something strange is going on at this hotel. Does Rudolph Valentino's spirit remain in a room where he once stayed even though he died elsewhere? Does the ghost of a former sea captain still roam about in the afterlife? Is the Santa Maria Inn haunted? That is for you to decide!

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