Tuesday, May 23, 2017

HGB Ep. 203 - Haunted Ships of Baltimore

Moment in Oddity - Organized Crime's Bee Heist of 2017

Lloyd Cunniff owns bees. He loans his bees out to farmers in order to facilitate pollination. It is really an uneventful process, but this year, 2017, a very strange thing happened. In January, as Lloyd's bees were heading to an almond farmer, they disappeared. These weren't a few bees. This was a whole tractor trailer full of bee hives. Four hundred eighty-eight of them. It meant about $400,000 in lost income. Lloyd's bees weren't the only ones to disappear. Other hives across California went missing. Here in the month of May, it was discovered what happened to the bees and about two-thirds of them were recovered. The culprits were a Ukrainian-Russian mob and they were re-renting the bees, earning around $100,000. The idea that an organized crime ring kidnapped a bunch of bees to fund their criminal activities, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Kehoe Commits Deadliest School Mass Murder

In the month of May, on the 18th, in 1927, Andrew Kehoe committed the deadliest school mass murder in American history. Kehoe was fifty-five and had just lost the election for township clerk in in Bath Township, Michigan. He was angered over this loss and about increases to his taxes and financial issues leading to foreclosure on his home. Kehoe started his killing spree by murdering his wife Nellie. He then denoted several explosives on his homestead shortly before 9am. Almost at the same time, a huge explosion rocked the Bath Consolidated School. Kehoe had spent months planting dynamite in the school and he used a timer  to set off the explosion. As emergency crews arrived on the scene, Kehoe drove up in his truck. He pulled out a rifle and shot at explosives in his truck, killing himself, the school superintendent and several others nearby. The horrible attack injured 58 and killed six adults and 38 children.

Haunted Ships of Baltimore (Suggested by and research help from listener Sarah Gunther)

There is a retired fleet of ships now docked at the Baltimore Maritime Museum, each with its own history of battle and death and now with a legacy of hauntings. The USS Torsk is a Tench Class submarine emblazoned with the fierce grin of a shark that became the Galloping Ghost of the Japanese during World War II. The USCGC Taney is a Coast Guard Cutter that is the last ship floating that fought at Pearl Harbor and it participated in the search for Amelia Earhart. The USS Constellation has the distinction of being the first ship built for the Unites States Navy and it also has the distinction of being one of the most haunted locations in Maryland. That is probably because it not only fought in several wars, but it was involved in battling against pirates and the slave trade in Africa. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of these haunted ships of Baltimore!

USS Torsk

The USS Torsk is one of two Tench Class submarines still located inside the US. Submarines used to be named for fish and that is where the name Torsk originates. It is Norwegian and refers to the gadoid fish, which is a cod-like fish found in the North Atlantic. The submarine was known as SS-423 and was built at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in New Hampshire with the keel laid in June of 1944. That December it was commissioned and sailed down to Florida, around to Panama and then to Pearl Harbor. From there, the Torsk moved to patrol the Pacific war zone.

It was during this service in World War II that the Torsk earned the nickname the Galloping Ghost of the Japanese. The Torsk sank one cargo vessel and two coastal defense frigates with the second one being the last enemy ship sunk by the US Navy in WWII. After the war, the Torsk made her way to Connecticut where she went into training activities and she became the divingest (apparently that IS a word) submarine in the fleet. In 1951, the submarine underwent a Fleet Snorkel Conversion, which meant that she could stay underwater for longer periods of time because a long tube snorkel extended above the submarine allowing for fresh air to flow into the diesel engines. This helped charge the batteries and gave her greater speed. This meant that rather than the typical 24 hours underwater, the Torsk could remain submerged for several days.

The Torsk was officially decommissioned in 1968 and she underwent modifications at the Boston Navy Yard. so that she could be used in training reserves. She was moved to the Washington Navy Yard. In 1972, the submarine was turned over to the state of Maryland to be used as a museum ship in Baltimore's Maritime Museum and that is where she is today. One tragic event  occurred abaord the Torsk and it seems to have led to a haunting. Joseph Grant Snow was a soldier standing on the deck of the Torsk when it suddenly needed to dive and he was killed. It seems that his ghost has been trying to get back aboard the ship ever since.


The US Coast Guard Cutter Taney's keel was laid on May 1st in 1935 at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. The Taney is of the Secretary/Treasury Class of cutters and measures 327 feet long. She originally was meant for peaceful missions such as search and rescue and law enforcement, so she only carried two deck guns and two 6-pounder saluting guns. The Taney was commissioned on October 24th in 1936 and was stationed in Honolulu, Hawaii. In 1937, she took an active part in the search for Amelia Earhart and her plane when it disappeared in the Pacific Ocean near Howland Island.

World War II broke out and the cutter was upgraded to become a wartime ship with another deck gun and three 3”/50 caliber dual purpose guns, capable of shooting at both surface and airborne targets. Depth charges and .50 caliber machine guns were added, along with sonar so that submarines could be detected. Her crew remained a Coast Guard though. During the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Taney engaged with Japanese planes flying over Honolulu and started submarine patrols when the attack ended. These patrols continued until the fall of 1943. At this point, the Taney was transferred to the Atlantic Theater where she served as Flagship of Task Force 66, US Atlantic Fleet. She traveled between the US and North Africa and narrowly missed being sunk several times by torpedoes.

In 1945, the cutter was reconfigured into an Amphibious Command Ship. She destroyed four Kamikaze planes and 1 “Betty” bomber during 119 separate engagements back over in the Pacific theater and when the war ended she evacuated Allied prisoners of war from Japan. The Taney would serve again during the Korean and Vietnam wars. Her non-wartime duties included Ocean Weather Patrol in the Pacififc, search and rescues around the world and fisheries patrols in the Bering Sea. She came to be known as the "Queen of the Pacific." She also was referred to as the "Last Survivor of Pearl Harbor."

In 1969-70, during the Vietnam War, TANEY participated in “Operation Market Time” in the South China Sea. As a unit of Coast Guard Squadron III, TANEY interdicted illegal arms and supplies along the coast of South Vietnam , fired over 3,400 rounds of 5”/38 ammunition in support of American and South Vietnamese troops, and provided medical assistance to more than 5,000 Vietnamese civilians. In February 1972, TANEY was reassigned from the 12th Coast Guard District in San Francisco to the 5th Coast Guard District in Virginia. From 1973 to 1977, TANEY carried out Ocean Weather Patrol at Weather Station HOTEL, some 200 miles off the coast of New Jersey, as well as “hurricane hunting” for which she received a special Doppler weather radar installation atop her pilot house. In September 1977, TANEY had the distinction of completing the Coast Guard's last ocean weather patrol when she closed out Ocean Weather Station HOTEL. From 1977 until 1986, TANEY carried out search and rescue duties, fisheries patrols in the North Atlantic, drug interdiction patrols in the Caribbean, and summer training cruises for the Coast Guard Academy. During this period she made 11 major seizures of illegal drug including a 1985 bust which netted 160 tons of marijuana – the largest in US history.

On December 7th in 1986, after more than 50 years of continuous service, TANEY was decommissioned at Portsmouth, Virginia, and donated to the City of Baltimore to serve as a memorial and museum. She also serves as home to some spirits.  Disembodied footsteps are heard as well as whispered voices. One of those voices seems to be speaking Japanese and it is thought that this spirit belongs to a Japanese pilot taken aboard for medical attention during World War II. The galley had doubled as a medical ward and that is where the voice is heard. Voices come over the ship's PA system at times and that system is no longer in operation, so it should not happen. It can't be someone playing a trick. No machines run on the ship anymore either, but that hasn't stopped people from hearing mechanical sounds in the boiler room. There are shadows seen in the berthing area and lockers open and close on their own. People walking by at night claim to hear the warning bell sound.

Near the Chief's Mess and damage control office is where most of the activity takes place.Sarah Rauscher is the Taney's Education Coordinator and she said, "I, personally, have never experienced anything, but we get a lot of reports and some of the workers swear they’ve seen something. Overnight workers doing rounds will walk by the Chief’s Mess and see someone inside the room, which isn’t possible because all of the rooms on display like this are under lock and key.” She also said, "A parent was sitting in the crew’s mess area and saw someone standing in the passageway by the damage control office. The parent got up to check, only to realize no one was actually there."

Ghost Hunters featured the Taney in Season 8. They caught voices coming over the inoperative PA system. Grant and Jason heard a whistle coming from above them when they were in the captain's quarters. They also heard an obnoxious laugh that did not dcme from any of their team. A scratching noise was heard in the berthing room, as well as what they surmised was a coin rolling. They felt there was some kind of haunting going on.

USS Constellation

The USS Constellation served for over a century. She was originally constructed in 1854 as a sloop-of-war and named for an earlier frigate that bore the same name. That frigate had been built in 1797 and served until 1853. She fought in the West Indies against the French and served in the blockade of Tripoli in 1802. She saw service in the War of 1812 and protected the Hawaiian Islands right before sailing to Norfolk where she was retired and broken up. Some of the wood from this original Constellation is part of the construction of the Constellation moored at the Baltimore Maritime Museum.

The second Constellation was designed by John Lenthall and commissioned July 28, 1855. A unique claim to fame for the Constellation is that it was the last sail-only warship designed by the Navy. Her first duty was to sail to Spain to protect American interests during a revolution there. By 1859, the ship was part of the African Squadron and stationed off the Congo River. She repeatedly captured ships that were sailing under no flag and without papers. Each of these ships carried hundreds of slaves. The slavers, as these ships were called, would be impounded and sold at auction. Slaves would be freed and taken to Liberia where the crew would be paid a bounty for each freed slave, which ran around $25. That is around $700 today!

The Constellation went on to serve during the American Civil War and one of her sailor's described their work as "trying to capture Rebel privateers and cruisers and blockade runners. The process of reasoning ... seems to be that our ship is supposed to be in European waters, and there is no United States warship resembling her cruising about here, and consequently she might approach closely to a Rebel vessel or blockade runner without exciting suspicion." She finished the war as a Receiving Ship and then worked in training missions. In the late 1800s, the Constellation had several interesting missions. She carried exhibits to France for the Paris Exposition, carried supplies to Gibraltar for the Mediterranean Squadron and she carried relief supplies to victims of famine in Ireland. The ship carried over 2,500 barrels of potatoes and flour to Ireland. The ship carried works of art for the Columbian Exposition after that and then returned to Norfolk and placed out of commission.

She went back into service again as a training ship, particularly during World War I, until the 1920s when sailing ships were no longer used. She was re-commissioned during World War II for use as a relief ship and as a national symbol. She was docked as a permanent exhibit in the Chesapeake Bay in 1955 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. Today, the Constellation is the last intact naval vessel dating back to the Civil War. She was restored to look like the original frigate Constellation and underwent significant restoration in 1999 after dry rot nearly destroyed her. She is today a museum with some unliving crew members aboard. The Constellation is reputed to be one of the most haunted places in the state of Maryland. There are reports of many spirits lingering on the ship.

The ghosts seem to be most active around midnight and they seem to really like Christmas and New Year's Day. There is reputedly the scent of gunpowder just before an apparition materializes. Interestingly, many of the ghosts date back to the days of the original Constellation and seem to have carried on here even after the rebuild. So the ship was already haunted in its second incarnation.  It would be the crew of the Navy submarine Pike that was docked next to the Constellation in the 1950s that would be the first to officially report strange things occurring on the sloop. They claimed to see ghost lights, heard strange noises and witnessed apparitions.

One of the spirits is said to belong to a sailor named Neil Harvey. He left his station during a battle with the French. He was court-martialed in 1799 for cowardice and the punishment was harsh and deadly. He was tied to the front of a canon and blown to bits under the order of Captain Thomas Truxton. The spirit appears as a shimmering mass and indicates that it wants to be forgiven via EVPs. The next ghost is said to belong to Captain Truxton himself, so we have an interesting interaction here with ghosts. Is he here because he regrets his actions against Neil Harvey? The Captain served as an officer during the Revolutionary War and is recognized because of his old navy uniform. He was photographed by a Lieutenant Commander on the Pike during an appearance and he had a bluish-white radiancy. He appears most often on the forecastle decks. Powder Boys would carry gunpowder to the soldiers during battles and one of them that was killed seems to still be on board as a ghost.

Another young spirit belongs to an eleven-year-old boy who served as a surgeon's assistant from 1820-1822. He was murdered by two sailors and now seems destined to walk the ship in the afterlife. This spirit was identified by a psychic who had joined Hans Holzer on board for an investigation. A despondent sailor hanged himself aboard the ship and appears as a sad entity, floating across the gun and forecastle decks. And finally, there is Carl Hansen who served as a watchman on the museum ship until 1965. He absolutely loved the ship and that is why people believe he is still here. He is said to like to play cards and has given the occasion tour to guests whom have no idea that Carl is dead. One such person was a priest. A Halloween party hosted on board had him sitting next to a girl and smiling at her.

Each of these ships played a key role in America's war history. A lot of death was witnessed by these ships, both on board and out on the sea. Have some spirits of those who died on these vessels continued on in the afterlife? Are these ships at the Baltimore Maritime Museum haunted? That is for you to decide!

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