Saturday, June 24, 2017

HGB Ep. 208 - Fort Henry

Moment in Oddity - The Swinging Sailor
Suggested by: Melissa Antonelli

In Perryman, Maryland there is an old church graveyard at the Spesutia Church of St. George's Parish. A very unusual grave is in this cemetery. Legend claims that it belongs to a Captain who directed his men to bring him here and bury him in such a way that his feet would never touch dry ground. People claim that the sailors carried their captain up a hill from the Chesapeake Bay, filled his casket with rum and buried him as requested. A rock group named Captain Quint even wrote a song about the legend called "The Swinging Sailor of Perryman." The chorus goes, "On his sea legs he'll forever stand, A man obsessed with one last request, To never touch his feet upon dry land." The grave belongs to a man named John Clark Monk and there is no record that he was ever a captain and made such a request. But his burial is so bizarre that clearly, something akin to this legend must be the true story. He has been dubbed "The Swinging Sailor" and the grave is built as a large concrete box sitting upon a stone slab. But Mr. Monk's remains are not in the concrete box, rather he is inside of a coffin that is suspended from chains that hang underneath the slab. There are cracks in the slab that allow visitors to peer down into the space. No one is really certain why he was buried this way, but it certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Robert Kennedy Shot and Killed

In the month of June, on the 5th, in 1968, Robert F. Kennedy was shot and mortally wounded while leaving the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. His brother John F. Kennedy had been assassinated five years before as well. He had served as Attorney General under his brother and resigned in 1964, so that he could run for the Senate. He decided to run for president in 1968 and he was celebrating his victory in the California presidential primary at the Ambassador Hotel. He had just finished addressing his supporters after midnight and was making his way through the hotel's kitchen when a Palestinian named Sirhan Sirhan opened fire with a .22 caliber revolver. Six people were hit with Kennedy being shot three times. He succumbed to his injuries at 1:44 a.m. He was only 42 and left behind a wife and eleven children. Bobby was buried at Arlington National Cemetery near to his brother's final resting place.

Fort Henry (Suggested by listener Sarah Norton)

Fort Henry was built during the War of 1812 in Ontario, Canada. The fort was constructed to protect the nearby Point Henry because of its proximity to the Royal Naval Dockyards. The fort that stands today is not the original. It was fortified later on to protect the waterways even more thoroughly.  Today, it is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and a living museum. There are more than just the living  here. The fort also seems to harbor spirits from the past. Ghost tours are hosted and dozens of people have claimed to have had paranormal experiences. Join us and our listener Sarah Norton as we share the history and hauntings of Ontario's Fort Henry.

Fort Henry was built along a vital trading route near the mouth of the St. Lawrence River and the fort protected communication between Kingston and the eastern settlements of the area. French explorer Jacques Cartier had explored the Gulf of St. Lawrence on three separate voyages in the 1530s and 1540s. He gave the country of Canada her name. It was the Huron Iroquois name for "settlement." Cartier blazed a path for colonization by France and began some limited fur trading with the First Nations that lived along the St. Lawrence River. He was not as successful with trading because he focused on furs used as trimming and adornment, rather than the coveted beaver pelt. He was ultimately seeking the northeast route to Asia. He never found the route. He returned to France after the third voyage and lived out his life as a navigational expert, never exploring again.

The War of 1812 broke out between Britain and America and Canada became a central battleground. With the importance of the St. Lawrence River, it was decided that forts needed to be built along the route for protection. Point Henry was one of these points. The Fort was constructed high atop Point Henry overlooking Lake Ontario. A dry moat leads down to the waters edge on both sections of the fort, making it impossible for the fort to be completely surrounded. The fort itself is surrounded by a dry moat as well. Discipline was paramount at the fort and punishment harsh. After the war, the Rideau Canal was built. That construction took place from 1826 to 1832 and it became even more important for the area to be protected because three important waterways intersected here: the Rideau Canal, the St. Lawrence River, and Lake Ontario. Fort Henry needed improvements, so it was reconstructed between 1832 and 1837.

The reconstruction was supposed to be more extensive, but the canal went over budget. Only the Fort and four Martello towers, spaced along the Kingston waterfront, were completed. This made Fort Henry the largest fortification west of Quebec city. The Fort cost 70,000 British pounds sterling to construct, which is the equivalent to approximately $35,000,000 in modern Canadian currency. Some soldiers were allowed to bring their families with them. There was a schoolroom for the children. Bugles, drums and bagpipes helped to communicate battle instructions and the Royal Welch Fusilires were stationed at the Fort in the 1840s. Today, the mascot of the Fort if a goat named David and he represents the Fusilires. This group was one of the oldest infantry regiments of the British Army, part of the Prince of Wales' Division. *Fun Fact: At the surrender of Yorktown, the Royal Welch Fusiliers was the only British regiment not to surrender its colours after the British loss at Yorktown. They smuggled their flag out tied around an ensign's waist.*

By 1870, the British no longer had use for the fort and they abandoned it, so Canadian troops moved in and stationed themselves there until 1891. Neither the original fort or this second one ever came under military attack. There was not much use for the fort after that time and it fell into disrepair until 1936. Ronald L. Way started an effort at that time to turn the fort into a living history museum and in 1936 restoration of the fort was begun as a "make work project" during the Great Depression. It opened on August 1, 1938 and cost over $1,000,000. Prime Minister Mackenzie King officially opened it and it was dedicated to all the British soldiers who had served within its walls. During World War II, it was closed to the public and used as a prisoner of war camp. It was known as Camp 31. It was re-opened to the public in 1948. It has been named as a National Historic Site and today, the former military quarters have been transformed into a restaurant and bar. The Fort is like a little village with displays and there is even a working bakery. They host tours, conduct demonstrations of firing cannons and troop movements and the top of the Fort offers great views of Kingston. (Those troop movements demonstrate how stupid some of that old warfare used to be.) It becomes Fort Fright for the Halloween Season. The Haunted Walk of Kingston offers a ghost tour of Fort Henry, so this location has some spirits wandering around.

One of the ghosts is believed to belong to John "Gunner" Smith. He was a rifleman whose weapon malfunctioned and exploded in his face. This sent him flying backwards off the top of the fort down into the dry moat below where he screamed in agonizing until he died. Many people have reported seeing an injured man lying in the ditch while others have reported hearing the sounds of people scurrying in the area. His wails have been heard as well. Nils Von Schultz was a Finnish born nationalist that became involved in the Upper Canada Rebellion in the early 1800s. He was captured, tried for insurrection and hanged in 1838. There are claims that he haunts the Commanders Room #3. He likes to move objects around the room. And then there is the man in the blue uniform who wanders around several areas of the Fort.

Karly V wrote on TripAdvisor: "This is a review of the Haunted Walk of Fort Henry, done by the Haunted Walk of Kingston. Seriously cool time. We got to see the Fort at night, with barely any lights, in the rain which added some spooky atmosphere to our evening. The tour started late, but that wasn't a problem. I think we got a lot of extra stories that we may not have got during a normal day tour. Not for the faint of heart - there were two major ghost experiences on just our tour alone that night and we captured an EVP as well. Really unique way to see the Fort - HIGHLY recommended."

Rob Brown wrote on TripAdvisor: "This place is phenomenal. Its so cool. Kids love it. Heck the Ghosthunters loved it. But they dont know a story I know. According to one of the night guards, all the canteens came off the shelf in one of the rooms and on to the table one night. Come to see the fort and you will know the room. The night guard was sincere. Why do I believe her? Well, a door closed behind me on its own. Go and visit if you are brave enough."

Rusty wrote of an experience he had, "In 2010 I took my family, which consisted of my wife, our 1-year old daughter and myself, on a trip to see Old Fort Henry in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. This fort is known for ghost experiences. I have had many "ghostly experiences" in my life so maybe I'm more sensitive to things than others but that's another story. While taking a group tour we came to a hallway leading to the fort's "Officer's quarters". My daughter started acting up in what could be best described as a refusal to enter the hallway (she was in a stroller at the time). My wife and her stayed back while I went with the group. After seeing the living quarters of the officers (which is secured with a glass front so no one can enter) the group moved onto the kitchen area. A few minutes later I decided to leave the group to go check on the wife and daughter. After checking to make sure things were okay with the family, I followed the hallway back past the Commanding Officer's quarters to catch back up with the group. As I passed this room I glanced back in for an extra look. Standing in front of the writing desk located in the room was a rather tall British-uniformed officer who turned and looked at me and then just faded away! Needless to say, it did not take me long to catch up with the group. At the end of the tour I asked the guide about ghost sightings in the fort and he did mention that there have been reports of an officer's ghost, along with several others, being sighted, sometimes in the hallway through which we walked."

Sarah definitely felt as though something creepy was hanging around the fort. The haunted tour has recorded dozens of experiences. Is Fort Henry haunted? That is for you to decide!

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