Monday, June 12, 2017

HGB Ep. 206 - Haunted Cemeteries 1

Moment in Oddity - Giants in Death Valley

A doctor named F. Bruce Russell claimed that he and a friend named Dr. Daniel S. Bovee discovered a series of complex tunnels deep below Death Valley in 1931 and what they found in those tunnels was amazing. The men had been trying to do some mining in the area and while sinking a shaft, Dr. Russell fell into a cave after the soil gave way. He found himself in the middle of a catacomb of tunnels leading off into different directions. The two men decided to explore the tunnels and eventually found the mummified remains of three large men. They measured between eight and nine feet. The mummies were dressed in medium length jackets and trousers that reached just below their knees. So it was as if these giants were wearing the clothes of normal sized men. The material was unidentifiable and the two doctors claimed it was similar to sheepskin, but came from an unknown animal. Perhaps an animal that was extinct. The burial room held a number of artifacts that appeared to be Egyptian and Native American in design. Hieroglyphics were chiseled on carefully polished granite. Other rooms in the caverns held other artifacts. The two men said that there were approximately 32 tunnels running across 180 square miles of Death Valley. No scientists or archeologists believed the claims. Dr. Russell recruited a group of investors and formed "Amazing Explorations, Inc." Unfortunately, by the time he got back out to the find, the sands had shifted and he could no longer find the site. Dr. Russell disappeared shortly thereafter. His car was found abandoned with a burst radiator, in a remote area of Death Valley. His suitcase was still in the car. Was the find a hoax? If it was true, it was strange, but the disappearance of Dr. Russell makes this even more odd!

This Day in History - Korean War Begins

In the month of June, on the 25th, in 1950, Communist forces from North Korea invaded South Korea, touching off the Korean War. Korea had been divided after World War II. Russia took over North Korea and transformed it into a Communist regime, while the United States took South Korea under its wing. After the invasion, the U.S. quickly put forward a resolution at the United Nations calling for a military response. The vote went forward and President Truman quickly put American military forces into action. China stepped in to protect North Korea. What would follow would be a frustrating three year war that would end with the United States not gaining a victory. A cease-fire was signed and the two parts of Korea remain separate. Fifty-five thousand American troops were killed and many think of this war as "America's Forgotten War."

Haunted Cemeteries 1

Cemeteries are the final resting places for most of us in this journey called life. While some fear cemeteries because these places remind them of their own impending end, for others, they are a place of respite and peace. The birds sing among the branches of trees growing freely in the safety of an area that will not be built upon. In the South, massive oaks covered in Spanish moss, thrust upward among the tombstones, mausoleums and gates. In the north, a cemetery will be cloaked in the white beauty of snow in the winter. Most cemeteries hold bodies, but not spirits. Occasionally though, there is a cemetery where a spirit or two is at unrest. Some stories have claims of portals or stairs to Hell. Others have tales of bizarre creatures lurking in the shadows. On this episode, we begin our series on haunted cemeteries. Writer Owl Goingback joins us to share his experiences with Greenwood Cemetery in Orlando, Florida and Tolomato Cemetery in St. Augustine, Florida, Tour Guide and Podcaster Mike Brown joins us to share the history and hauntings of the Unitarian Cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina and we will share the history and hauntings of Bachelor's Grove Cemetery in Cook County, Illinois.

Tolomato Cemetery (Owl Goingback joins us for this and the next. Owl is a writer who has written novels, children's books, articles, poetry, scripts, short stories and comic books. Check him out at

Before the cemetery was here, this was the site of an early 18th century Franciscan Indian mission named Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Tolomato or Our Lady of Guadalupe of Tolomato. The Native American group that lived at the mission had come down from Georgia and were known as the Guale. No one is sure where they got the name Tolomato, but it is believed to refer to a river from their home. They had been seeking refuge from attacks by rival tribes. After the French and Indian War, most of the Spanish citizens in the St. Augustine area left because the British took over. The Protestant Brits tore down the wooden Catholic Church from the mission. They were expelled after the Revolutionary War and the Spanish returned in 1784. Just prior to this, in 1777, a group of indentured servants from the Mediterranean known as Minorcans, came to the Tolomato mission seeking asylum and after Father Pedro Camps petitioned the governor, the group was allowed to live at the mission. The grounds were used as a burial ground for the Minorcan colonists. A little background on the Minorcans, they were brought over by a Scottish doctor named Turnbull who wanted them to work on an indigo plantation in New Smyrna Beach. They were treated very poorly and rebelled.

The Tolomato Cemetery is the oldest planned cemetery in the United States and it was entirely a Catholic burial ground where Protestants were not allowed. Most burials took place from the 18th and 19th centuries and this came to an end in 1884. The main reason for it closing was the belief that cemeteries were helping further the spread of yellow fever. At this time, they were unaware that it was the mosquito that was the vector. A diverse group of people are buried here including Spanish, Minorcan, Irish, African, Greek, Italian burials, slaves, convicts and soldiers. Many individuals important to the history of Florida have their final resting place here. The wife of Kingsley Gibbs, who owned the famous Kingsley Plantation, is buried here and Catalina Llambias, who lived in one of the oldest houses in St. Augustine, was buried illegally here by her son. He was fined, but she was left at rest. There are around one thousand recorded burials.

A woman in white is rumored to walk among the headstones. Two young boys decided to camp in the cemetery about a hundred years ago. They pitched their tent among the tombstones and went to bed. They were awakened in the middle of the night by a strange sound. They pulled back the flap of the tent and saw a woman who was glowing in a white dress, hovering near their tent. They couldn't see her face, but they saw that she had long grey hair. They ran for their lives. When they told the townspeople what they had seen, a man remarked that he believed that the ghost belonged to a young woman who had died of heart weakness one week before she was to be married. She was buried in her wedding dress.

A mortuary chapel that is in the center of the cemetery, once housed the bones of Father Varela and Bishop Verot. It is believed that both of these men haunt the cemetery, even though Father Varela was relocated to Cuba. Bishop Verat had his bones moved to the center of the cemetery. The most famous ghost here belongs to little James Morgan. He was the son of E. and Agnes Morgan and was only five at the time of his death in 1877. The circumstances of his death are unknown. He favors a large live oak that sits near his headstone. People claim to see his apparition sitting in the boughs of the tree. Others have seen his spirit running among the tombstones.

Greenwood Cemetery (Owl Goingback)

Orlando had no permanent place for burials up until the 1880s. Eight Orlando residents, I.P. Wescott, C.A. Boone, James K. Duke, J.H. Livingston, Nat Poyntz, W.R. Anno, James Delaney and Samuel A. Robinson, decided to rectify that situation and bought 26 acres from John W. Anderson for $1,800. The original layout of Greenwood Cemetery was designed by Samuel A. Robinson. It remains the only cemetery within the city limits where burials still take place.Last week's tour began with the group passing the gas lanterns at the entrance of the 120-acre cemetery, where Spanish moss covers drooping oak trees, and tombstones, obelisks and two mausoleums dot the grassy, rolling hills. Today, Greenwood Cemetery is owned and operated by the City of Orlando. Its operations are directed by the City Clerk, as provided for in City Code, Title II Chapter 16 – Cemeteries and Burials.more than 60,000 rest in peace.Buell Duncan, who headed SunTrust Bank into the 1990s.

"If it wasn't for this man here, there wouldn't be a Walt Disney World," Price said.

Duncan (1928-2010) was on the banking team that courted the Walt Disney Co. in the 1960s, and it was said that he impressed Walt Disney with his folksy nature.Nearby is the burial plot of Allie "Boo" Dixon, a name no one on the tour recognized. Dixon (1884-1947) invented the reflectors seen on most major highways and streets — they're known as Dixon Highway Safety Markers. In the 1940s, Dixon installed 268 markers along Orange Avenue near Ivanhoe Village into Winter Park.

The city, however, couldn't afford to pay him, so he was given several plots in the cemetery. His epitaph reads: "The Light Shineth."Joe Tinker (1880-1948), the Hall of Fame Chicago Cubs shortstop who died in Orlando.Francis Eppes (1801-1881), grandson of Thomas Jefferson and founder of what would become Florida State University.

Charleston Unitarian Churchyard (Mike Brown of Pleasing Terrors Ghost Tours and Podcast, which you can check out at

Bachelor's Grove Cemetery 

Before Bachelor's Grove came to be known as the most haunted cemetery in America, there was a settlement here  that was founded in the late 1820s. These settlers arrived from Scotland, Ireland and Germany. It would be the Germans who would predominately move into the area after the 1840s and it would remain that way until 1900. Bachelor's Grove was located twenty miles south of Chicago in Illinois. All of the wooded places in the area took on the names of the families that lived near them, which included Walker's Grove, Gooding's Grove, Cooper's Grove and Blackstone's Grove. Thus Bachelor's Grove got its name from the Batchelor Family who came to Rich Township in 1845. There are some who claim that the name is because four single men settled there, but the name was in use before these men arrived. A man named Stephen Rexford established the first post office in the vicinity as Batchelor's Grove in 1843.

Rexford was very involved with the organizing of the town. Bachelor's Grove encompassed areas in northwest Bremen Township, northeast Orland Township, southwest Worth Township, and southeast Palos Township. Bachelor's Grove Cemetery was established in 1844 with the burial of Eliza Scott. This makes the cemetery one of the oldest cemeteries in south Cook County. It covers approximately one acre across from the Rubio Woods Forest Preserve on 143rd Street just east of Ridgeland Avenue. The property had belonged to Edward M. Everden and he sold it to Frederick Schmidt, who set aside the acre for the graveyard. Many of the early settlers from the area were buried here. To arrive at the cemetery, one has to travel down a trail closed to traffic. This was originally part of the old Midlothian Turnpike in the 1960s. The last burial took place in 1989 and was the cremated remains of Robert E. Shields. The cemetery is now under the supervision and responsibility of the Cemetery Trustees (under the Real Estate Management Office) of the Cook County Board.

Around the time that the Turnpike was shut down, teenagers started using the graveyard as a hangout for making out and drinking parties. The cemetery suffered extensive vandalism and rumors of Satanic rituals have plagued its modern day history. The defacing of the property accelerated in the 1970s and many headstones ended up in a quarry pond. The once beautiful park was now a wreck no longer suitable for the family picnics that took place there decades before. Could the mistreatment of this once peaceful cemetery have led to it becoming haunted? Tales of the things happening here range from the mundane to the truly terrifying. There are reports of strange orbs of blue and red light and phantom cars that appear and disappear. There are those that claim that a ghost house makes occasional appearances. This house is seen in all kinds of weather conditions. When people approach the house, it seems to get smaller and smaller and then finally just fades away. And there are many reports of apparitions, some of which have been caught on film.

There is the Picture of the Madonna of Bachelor's Grove. This picture was captured by the Ghost Research Society (GRS) on August 10, 1991. GRS member Jude Felz took several black and white photos with a high-speed infrared camera. When the pictures were developed the image of the madonna emerged. She was a young woman who appeared to be wearing a white dress looking down in a forlorn manner and sitting on a tombstone. She is partially transparent and the dress is dated in style. The GRS was the first group to really start documenting sightings of the woman in white. She was seen walking among the tombstones, sometimes cradling a baby. The President of GRS was Dale Kaczmarek and he said, "A woman in white, with a baby in her arms, was also reported by local officers, and at first they never repeated the story of their sighting because they thought they'd be laughed at by their friends and colleagues."

The pond behind the cemetery has its own legend as well. In the 1870s, a farmer was plowing a nearby field when something startled his horse. The reins tangled about the farmer and he was dragged by the horse for several feet until the frightened animal ended up in the small pond. The farmer was pulled beneath the surface and drowned as he was unable to free himself. One night in the late 1970s, two Cook County Forest Preserve officers who were patrolling the cemetery claimed to see the apparition of a horse emerge from the pond. The horse had a plow behind it and that plow was being steered by the ghost of an old man. The complete apparition crossed the road in front of the started eyes and then it vanished as it entered the forest. They reported the incident and they have not been the only ones to see it.

Are these four cemeteries harboring more than just the remains of the dead? Do spirits still wander among the tombstones? Are these cemeteries haunted? That is for you to decide!

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