Moment in Oddity - Lord Tod Wadley
(Suggested by: Kelly Helter)
This Month in History - Nazi General Rudolf Freiherr von Gersdorff Attempts to Assassinate Hitler
In the month of March, on the 21st day, in 1943, Nazi General Rudolf Freiherr von Gersdorff attempts to assassinate Hitler. Throughout World War II, there were many attempts to assassinate Adolph Hitler. Nazi General Gersdorff was one of those men who participated in an elaborate plan to assassinate Adolf Hitler. The Nazis had intercepted a bunch of Soviet weapons and they were stored at an armory in Berlin. Gersdorff was a weapons expert, so he was tasked with taking Hitler on a guided tour of the former Soviet arsenal. He realized that this was a great opportunity to try to kill the Nazi leader since he would be right there next to him. Gersdorff stuffed two bombs in his pockets and began the tour. This was going to be a suicide mission. The plan was to ignite the fuses, which would take ten minutes to detonate and before they exploded, Gersdorff was going to lock Hitler into an embrace. As it turned out, Hitler was in a big hurry when he arrived at the armory. He had no plans to stay for ten minutes and so there was not enough time to detonate the bombs. Gersdorff had to make a mad dash for the toilet where he secretly detonated the bombs and his plan remained unknown to Hitler, who would have had him killed. Gersdorff spent much of the rest of his service supervising the construction of mass graves following a series of mass executions of Poles perpetrated by the NKVD, which was a clandestine Soviet police organization.
Penn State University
Penn State University is a part of the Big Ten East and has 24 campuses across the state of Pennsylvania. Not bad for a school that had small beginnings and only 64 undergraduate students. Penn State was one of the first land grant universities in America and was founded as an agricultural school. The main campus is situated in the Nittany Valley between Nittany Mountain and Muncy Mountain. The university sits on a limestone shelf, which lends itself to capturing energy and it is said that this may be one of the most haunted universities in America. Matt Swayne, author of America's Haunted Universities, joins us to share stories of spirits that continue here in the afterlife. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Penn State!
Pennsylvania State University has meager beginnings as a farmer's college. A man named James Irvin was a prominent ironmaster and agriculturalist in the 1800s. He entered politics and was elected twice as a representative to Congress for the 14th congressional district in Pennsylvania. He ran for governor of Pennsylvania in 1847, but did not win. Irvin was also a landowner and had several acres in Centre County. He donated 200 acres for the founding of the Farmer's High School, which was chartered in 1855 by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It was one of the nation's first colleges of agricultural science. The land was located at the junction of Penns, and Nittany Valleys near the geographical centre of the State. Irvin was passionate about mixing agriculture and science and had a certain vision for the new school.
Irvin wrote to the Executive Committee of the Pennsylvania State Agricultural Society that "If we would add dignity to Manual labor, if we would have it held in honor by the Community; we must associate it with Science, and if we would lessen the expense of acquiring scientific knowledge, so as to bring the Cost within the means of the farming Community, we must connect its acquisition with manual labor – These as I understand are leading objects of the Farmers High School of Pennsylvania; and if, as has been suggested such an institution properly organized, with the aid of the Surplus funds of your Society and a reasonable appropriation from the State, can afford to the young men of Pennsylvania, able and willing to work, (when work is required of all, and esteemed honorable) a scientific practical education, at an expense of less that Seventy five dollars per annum, it will be productive of benefits to the community, the full extent of which time only can develop, and future generations only tell."
Evan Pugh was the founding president. He planned a curriculum based on the scientific education he had received in Europe. He joined other leaders in supporting the passage of the Morrill Land-Grant Act through Congress in 1862. The act enabled states to sell federal land, invest the proceeds, and use the income to support colleges "where the leading object shall be, without excluding scientific and classical studies ... to teach agriculture and the mechanic arts [engineering] ... in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in all the pursuits and professions of life." The Farmers High School would then become Pennsylvania's land-grant institute and the name was changed to Agricultural College of Pennsylvania. In 1874, the college would become Pennsylvania State College. The mission of Penn State has been research, teaching and public service and you will hear Matt talk about that a little later.
In the 1880s, Penn State expanded the curriculum to include far more than just agricultural science. Liberal arts were introduced, along with engineering. This was championed by then president George W. Atherton. He and his wife will come up again later when we get into talking about hauntings. The early 1900s brought cooperative extension and outreach programs, which grew into other campuses branching out across the state. This would give students a better chance of attending the university during the Great Depression. In the 1950s, research brought advances in building insulation, dairy science, diesel engines and other specialized fields. It was also in the 50s when Penn State would officially become a university under President Milton S. Eisenhower, who was the brother President Dwight D. Eisenhower. In 1967, the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center was established as a college of medicine with a hospital in Hershey.
In 2000, Penn State merged with the Dickinson School of Law and it also graduated its first students enrolled in the World Campus. The university has had a huge influence in the state. It is the largest school in the state and has the second-largest impact on the state economy, generating an economic effect of over $17 billion on a budget of $2.5 billion. A main outreach of the university is philanthropy as well. Its Grand Destiny campaign raised over $1.3 billion. Unfortunately, Penn State has a black mark in its recent history because of an assistant football coach employed by the university named Jerry Sandusky. As a time stamp on this episode, just this last week in March of 2017, former Penn State President Graham B. Spanier was found guilty of child endangerment related to Sandusky's crimes. Those crimes were sexual abuse on boys that he had groomed thorough a charity he started called The Second Mile. The scandal broke in 2011, but Sandusky's crimes went on for decades. And several university officials were implicated for covering up or not reporting the crimes. As was the case with the former President.
Now we are joined by Matt Swayne who works at the university and has documented the hauntings going on there:
The hauntings according to Matt Swayne:
"Penn State's haunted heritage goes way back—the whole way back to one of the oldest buildings on campus, in fact. Old Botany, the quaint, red brick cottage tucked off of Pollack Road, looks innocent enough, but masks, if you believe some ghost-hunting buffs, a range of supernatural phenomena. In one legend, Frances Atherton, the wife of George Atherton, uses the windows in the top floor of Old Botany to keep an eye on her husband’s grave, which rests across the street from Old Botany. As students trudge along Pollock Road—one of the busiest walkways through campus—they cast an eye on the upper-floor windows, half-expecting to see the worried gaze of Frances looking back at them.Are there spirits wandering around Penn State, that include a donkey? Is Pennsylvania State University haunted? That is for you to decide.
One of the most haunted spots on the University Park campus is Schwab Auditorium, a theatre that seats a little more than 900 people with enough room left over for at least two or three ghosts. People have reported spotting a few apparitions—including the ghost of a janitor—in the auditorium over the years, according to Rachel Moeser, president of the 40-member Paranormal Research Society, one of the nation's first university clubs formed to study the paranormal. Her team has scoured the theatre looking for evidence of the haunting and who's behind it. She says that some speculate that Charles Schwab—the industrialist, not the stockbroker—is haunting the auditorium. A former Penn State trustee who funded the construction of the auditorium, Schwab loved supporting the arts and going to the theatre so much that he has stuck around long after his lifetime passes expired, or so the theory goes. The theatre isn’t haunted only by industrialist-sized theatre goers, though, according to Moeser. "I think Schwab [Auditorium] is active," says Moeser. "There seems to be the ghost of a janitor, and we think there is a female spirit in the theatre." Over the years, students, staff, and faculty claim to have heard strange noises echoing from the building’s upper floors. They say they hear footsteps, feel scratches, and see objects moving across the floor. When someone goes upstairs to check, there is no sign of a presence—at least a human presence. Because of the confusion about exactly who—or what—is doing the haunting in Schwab, students gave the auditorium’s paranormal presence a generic nickname, “Schwaboo.”
While ghost stories about university presidents, founders, and donors haunting the halls of campus buildings are not unique in higher education ghost-lore, Penn State has a spirit that separates it from the rest of its collegiate competition—the ghost of a mule.
Born in 1855, the same year as Penn State’s traditionally observed founding, Old Coaly traveled from his native Kentucky to, among many other duties-as-assigned, labor tirelessly at lugging limestone blocks from a quarry at the corner of what is now the southeast corner of the Old Main lawn to the construction site of the original Old Main.The mule quickly became a favorite of the students at the Farm School—which was what most people called the University at the time—and almost became the school’s mascot. It’s true that, but for a twist here or there in campus history, we may be watching the Nittany Mule do pushups at Beaver Stadium during home football games. Old Coaly was so loved and appreciated by the entire University community that his bones were preserved once he shuffled off to the great pasture in the sky on New Year’s Day of 1893. But he wasn’t quite ready to retire. It seemed every place where Old Coaly’s bones were displayed—in Watts Hall, for example—ghost stories would follow. Students claimed to hear, usually during the dead of night, the sound of plodding hooves thudding down dark, empty halls and the occasional braying of a mule echoing through the silence. Most people suspected a prankster was behind the "paranor-mule" phenomenon. The spirit of Old Coaly, by the way, seems pretty content now in his current resting spot in the HUB-Robeson Center. At least, no one has reported seeing the ghost of a mule, or heard the rumble of hooves in the HUB so far."
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