Friday, January 20, 2017

HGB Ep. 177 - Haunted Virginia City

Moment in Oddity - The Tootsie Roll Tale

Tootsie Rolls have been a loved candy for decades, particularly when it comes to American troops. It was during World War I that the defense department started shipping the candies in rations. They were perfect because they didn't melt like chocolate, but were soft and chewy. They also were unaffected by cold or rough handling. They also could be used to save lives. The Korean War was raging in November of 1950 when a combat team made up of British commandos, South Korean Policemen and United States soldiers and Marines numbering 15,000 was pinned down by ten divisions of the Chinese Communist Army that totaled 120,000 men. The area where they were trapped was near a mountain reservoir named Chang Jin and the temperatures there ranged from minus five degrees below zero in the day to minus thirty-five degrees below zero at night. The men were freezing and their jeep batteries froze and split. The ground was so frozen that no encampments could be built for the artillery. Blood plasma was frozen, as was the morphine. And even worse, so were the rations. The men began to starve and high command wrote them off as a loss knowing the situation was hopeless. The Marines sent a final request to be resupplied with 60mm mortar ammo. They were nearly out and the mortars were the only thing holding back the Chinese. The code for 60mm mortar ammo was "Tootsie Rolls." Whoever passed the request on or whomever filled it, sent the tootsie rolls rather than the ammo. Imagine how discouraged the Marines were when they opened the crates that had fallen from the sky by parachute, expecting to find ammo and instead finding candy. But then they realized that they could eat the Tootsie Rools and it gave them much needed energy. They also realized as they chewed the candy that it was very pliable and when exposed to the freezing air, it hardened. It was the perfect putty, if you will, to repair leaks in radiators and gas tanks and plug bullet holes in fuel drums. They managed to push to the sea on the energy of the candy. They suffered 9,000 casualties in that fight, with 3,000 men dying. Survivors credited Tootsie Rolls for their survival. The fact that Tootsie Rolls helped save the lives of so many men, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - The Submarine NAUTILUS is Launched

In the month of January, on the 21st, in 1954, the NAUTILUS, which is the first commissioned nuclear submarine, launches. A group of scientists and engineers at the Naval Reactors Branch of the Atomic Energy Commission developed a nuclear propulsion plant. Based on successful tests there, Congress authorized construction of the world's first nuclear powered submarine in July of 1951. President Harry S. Truman laid the keel at the Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton, Connecticut on June 14, 1952. It would take eighteen months for construction to complete on the submarine. First Lady Mamie Eisenhower broke the traditional bottle of champagne across NAUTILUS' bow on that 21st day in January. A year later, the first Commanding Officer, Commander Eugene P. Wilkinson, ordered all lines cast off and sent the famous message, "Underway On Nuclear Power." NAUTILUS would go on to shatter speed and distance records. In 1958, NAUTILUS accomplished the impossible by reaching the geographic North Pole. NAUTILUS was decommissioned in 1980 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1982. Today, she is a submarine museum in Groton, Connecticut and is visited by 250,000 visitors a year.

Haunted Virginia City (Suggested by Tara Williams-Case, Jeni Justine, Pamela Ennis and Anna Frias)

The Virginia City National Landmark is one of the nation’s largest historic districts and includes over five hundred buildings dating to the time of the great bonanzas, from 1859 to 1880. John Mackay was an industrialist who formed a partnership with three other Irishmen and operated silver mines on the Comstock Lode. They hit it big in 1873 when they discovered the “Big Bonanza.” That find built Virginia City and kept it on the map for the next two centuries. On this episode we are joined by three listeners: Tara Williams-Case, paranormal investigator with P.R.O.O.F. Paranormal Anna Frias and case manager for Pacific Coast Watch Pam Ennis. We discuss the history and hauntings of the Suicide Table, Silver Queen, Bucket of Blood Saloon, St. Mary's Art and Retreat Center and the Mackay Mansion.

Suicide Table - The Suicide Table can be found at the Delta Saloon. This is a former Faro table that was converted into a '21' table. It is supposedly responsible for causing three people to commit suicide. The first was a man named Black Jake. He lost $70,000 in one evening and he shot himself. The second guy is unknown, but the legend claims that he ran the table for one night. Then he started losing and couldn't pay off his losses. His solution was to commit suicide. The table was put into storage until one dark and stormy night. A miner stumbled in drunk. He had lost everything in another gambling hall save for a gold ring on his finger. He walked up to the table that had been changed over to a '21' table and he needed to win back his money. He pulled the ring from his finger and slammed in on the table up against a five dollar gold piece. The risk was worth it as he won the hand. And then he won the next and the next. By morning he had won over $86,000 in cash, a team of horses and interest in a gold mine. The owner of the table is the one who lost all that and well, he was the third suicide.

Silver Queen - The Silver Queen Hotel was built in 1876.

A prostitute named Rosie is said to have committed suicide by slashing her wrists in the bathtub of Room 11 and now her spirit wanders the hotel, banging on doors. She generally chooses rooms occupied by men. Guests and employees also describe loud noises at night and tapping on the walls. There are voices in unoccupied rooms and disembodied footsteps on wooden floors. The issue with that is that the hotel is carpeted. And the noises that are heard usually occur when guests are staying all alone in the hotel. One guest said, “We tiptoed down the long hall and descended a few steps toward Room 11. There was a heavy feeling at that end of the hall. At one point a growl was heard by the door. I decided to go midway down the hall from my room. As I stood there, suddenly I felt and heard a figure running quickly towards me. It made me take steps back and gasp…The incident happened in repetition.”

San Diego Rosey wrote on TripAdvisor in 2009: "My husband and I just celebrated our twenty year anniversary and we decided we wanted a little adventure. We both had watched the shows on TV that featured the Silver Queen Hotel in Virginia City and remembered that the programs said that the place was haunted so we made mid-week reservation for a stop-over between Vegas and Reno. We got a room above the bar, facing the street. Upon arriving we found the room was very old fashion, comfortable and we felt like we were in the times of the old west. After our long drive up from Las Vegas we were tired and decided to take forty winks before dinner. During our nap we heard voices of a family, a couple of kids and a woman. We thought nothing of it. We woke, had a great Chinese meal in town, took a stroll up and down the wooden-plank walkways and played at two local casino/bars. Although this was the first time we stayed the night in Virginia City, as in previous visits, we enjoyed ourselves and found the locals very friendly. We walked back across the street, found the Silver Queens bar closed, so after a walk through Silver Queen’s hallways (which were completely quiet and empty and all room’s dark) we returned to our room at midnight. It wasn’t fifteen minutes after our head hit the pillows when things started happening. We both heard a loud clunk followed by footsteps up and down our hall. Unremarkable perhaps, except as far as we could tell, no one on our floor was awake and the footsteps were clearly on a wood floor and every inch of the hotel is thickly carpeted. I made my husband leave the light on in our room. Voices, door creaking and a repeat of footsteps continued to keep us awake, yet every time we opened the door the hall was empty and quiet. At about 3:30PM things seemed to quiet down. Taking pity on my poor husband, I got up and turned off our bedroom light. He fell asleep minutes later. I continued to lay awake; the blanket over my head. My last memory before sleep finally found me was of loud boots stomping down the hall, a bang on our door and the door knob jiggling. I didn’t get-up to answer the door. We left early the next morning.. before breakfast. Later that day, while eating breakfast in Reno, I called the Silver Queen and spoke to Karen, the hotel’s pleasant bar tender and hotel reservationist. I wanted to let her know that “yes,” like other before us, “we now believe their hotel is haunted.” After hearing about the continued footsteps and door creaking, etc., she told us we were the ONLY people on our floor. I asked about the family that we heard while napping. This seemed to really surprise her. She said that the only child that had been in the hotel the day before was the grandchild of the owner and that child was two—far too young for the voices we heard so very clearly. Would I stay at the Silver Queen again? Well… it’s been about five days since I was there and I’m still a little freaked-out, however, yes. I got the adventure I hoped for, a wonderful story to tell and a very memorable anniversary!"

St. Mary's Art and Retreat Center - St. Mary's Art and Retreat Center was originally a Catholic hospital that opened its doors in 1879. It was four floors with 36 rooms that could care for up to 70 patients and was called St. Mary Louise Hospital. It was managed by the Sisters of Charity and Bishop Patrick Manogue after Marie Louise Mackay purchased the land and donated it to them. All types of sick people were cared for at the hospital. People suffering from one of the many epidemics, gun shot victims, injured miners and even the mentally ill. The hospital was closed after 18 years in 1897. The government turned it into a county hospital to replace the previous one that had burned to the ground. That hospital ran until 1940 when it was closed. It sat empty for 24 years and fell into disrepair. It was decided in 1964 to level it with a wrecking ball. Father Meinecke suggested that the building be turned into an art center.

There are hauntings here. During the time of the hospital, one of the mentally ill patients knocked over a lamp, which started a fire. A nun ran to save him and unfortunately, they both died. Another version of the story claims that the nun died under mysterious circumstances. Whatever was the real cause of her demise, she is now known as the White Nun and haunts the building. She is seen most frequently looking out of one of the third-story windows. She's also seen in room 11, which was the hospital’s former chapel. Her apparition walks up and down the halls, as though she is still checking on patients. She is seen dressed in all-white and she is considered a friendly entity. Others died at the hospital, one of whom may have been a polio-stricken boy. His spirit is seen residually standing at the top of stairs wearing iron leg braces and looking tentative about going down the stairs.
Another residual haunting is a horse-drawn hearse, driving up to a door of the former hospital building as if to collect and carry away the corpses of the dead. No sounds are heard other than the horses snorting. Another spirit appears as a heavy-set woman who smells like violets. She is usually seen in one of the kitchens. An apparition of a man in a wheelchair is also seen and he appears confused.

Bucket of Blood Saloon - The Bucket of Blood Saloon was built in 1876, when the town was rebuilding after the great fire of 1875. Nearly a thousand structures had been destroyed by that fire. The saloon was little more than the size of a one car garage. The Boston Saloon was located behind and under the Bucket of Blood. It was accessed via some stairs and this was only discovered and excavated in 1997.

The McBride family bought the Bucket of Blood in 1931 and has owned it since then. Prohibition had just been repealed and the Great Depression was getting under way. Versal McBride expanded the bar from the small 12 stool bar it started as to the tourist attraction it is today. The bar passed onto his son Donald who was very active in the town and helped establish the early form of the Chamber of Commerce. He also helped organize Bonanza Days, which was a three-day celebration that brought the stars of the television show Bonanza into Virginia City. In 1998, the saloon passed on to Donald's sons.

Don hasn't completely let go of the saloon in the afterlife. He passed away in 2006 and many believe that his ghost haunts the establishment.

Mackay Mansion - The Mackay Mansion is a three story Victorian mansion built in 1859 by a young mine superintendent named George Hearst. It is built in the Italianate style. He used it as a home and the mining office. Hearst had invested $400 in the Comstock mines and he made a fortune. He eventually left Virginia City as a millionaire. The mansion was then bought by John Mackay and is named for him. The mansion has always been owned and occupied. There is a beautiful hand-carved staircase which leads down to the living room, kitchen and parlor.

The mansion is full of spirits. Four distinct ones that have been reported are:

A Little Girl Dressed in White:  This entity has appeared to many whom have slept in these bedrooms.  Johnny Depp saw this apparition while staying here during his filming of “Dead Man.”

An Elderly Female:  She appears to float around and “linger” in favorite spots on the 2nd floor.  Perhaps she is a former lady of the house?

A Former Colonel:  This apparition chooses to sit in the kitchen as his favorite way to pass the time. Long after his death, his presence remains, and has been felt by many psychics.

A Focused, Conscientious Woman:  This apparition (possibly a servant) seems to keep herself busy, making never-ending trips up and down the staircase ... in a vain attempt to complete her chores?

Virginia City is an old city with a violent history. We've heard now several first hand accounts of haunting experiences in this city. Are these locations harboring spirits from the past? Is Virginia City haunted? That is for you to decide!


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