Saturday, August 12, 2017

HGB Ep. 216 - Conrad Mansion Museum

Moment in Oddity - Mummified Bodies Discovered in Alps Glaciers

The Alps are giving up their dead. Last month, July of 2017, climbers traversing the Hohlaug glacier in the Saas Valley were surprised when they came across a hand and two shoes protruding from the ice and snow. Excavation took a couple hours and when it was done, the body of a man who had been missing for 30 years had been recovered. The remains were identified via DNA in Bern and revealed the man to be a German citizen who went missing in 1987. These have not been the only remains found, with several discoveries coming over the past few months all across the Alps in Switzerland and France. Also in July, a Swiss couple's mummified corpses were discovered in the Tsanfleuron glacier. They had been reported missing in 1942. Fifty years ago, an Air India plane crashed into the French Alps and the dismembered remains of two of those passengers had recently been discovered on Mount Blanc. The Swiss glaciers are retreating and it is believed that hundreds of mummified corpses will begin to emerge from the ice and snow of the Alps. That means that hiking the Alps could turn into a grim and horrifying adventure and that, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Arthur Murray Comes Through Ellis Island

In the month of August, in 1897, a two-year-old boy passed through inspection at Ellis Island with his mother Sarah. He was born Moses Teichman in Austria-Hungary and he and his mother were meeting his father Abraham, whom already had a house waiting for them in the Lower East Side of Manhatten. Moses would grow up there and at the age of 14, his friend Joe would teach him some dance steps. Moses took to it and started finding weddings to crash, so that he could practice his dance steps. He started work as a draftsman at the age of 17, but he held on to his first love of dance and taught dance classes at night. He won his first dance contest at the Grand Central Palace and since there was only the one silver cup awarded, he let his partner have it and soon it was a pawn shop. This made Moses promise himself that any contest he ran would make sure that everyone who won received a prize or award. He continued teaching dance lessons and wondered how he could expand into a business. One night William Jennings Bryan said to him, "You know, I have a fine idea on how you can collect your money. Just teach 'em with the left foot and don't tell 'em what to do with the right foot until they pay up!" This inspired Moses to start a mail order business that supplied people with dance step footprint diagrams. Within a couple of years, over 500,000 dance courses had been sold. Moses married and he and his wife started a dance school offering personal instruction, which soon branched into classes at hotel chains under the name he had taken on for himself, Arthur Murray. The franchise of Arthur Murray Dance Studios expanded until over 3,500 of them were in the country. They have since declined, but we have one right here in Clermont, Florida. Arthur Murray's franchise is the second-oldest franchise company right behind A & W Restaurants. Murray passed away in Hawaii in 1991 at the age of 95.

Conrad Mansion Museum (Suggested by Tammie McCarroll-Burroughs)

Montana is known as Big Sky Country and one tends to think of wide open spaces when picturing the state. The state was formerly part of the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark Expedition left their mark here, literally, with Clark inscribing his name and the date on a pillar northeast of modern day Billings. Explorers, frontiersmen, miners and businessmen all flocked to Montana. One of those men was Charles Conrad. He was a pioneer, businessman and banker who founded the city of Kalispell in Montana with his own money.  He built his home in Kalispell and today it is known as the Conrad Mansion Museum. The mansion is a great example of a turn of the century home in the Northwest and it is reputedly haunted. The spirits seem friendly as they belong to members of the Conrad family. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Conrad Mansion Museum!

Kalispell, Montana was founded by the Kalispell Townsite Company, which was formed by four men headed by Charles Conrad. The Flathead Nation were the early settlers here and are known today by that name because that is what the white people who came to region called them. They refer to themselves as the Salish. The word means "the people." The first time the tribe was written about was during the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The Kalispell Townsite Company platted out the future town and started selling lots in 1891. The city of Kalispell was officially incorporated in 1892. It has grown to be the largest city in Northwest Montana. 

Charles E. Conrad was born in 1850 on the Conrad family plantation in the Shenandoah valley of Virginia. Charles served with the Confederacy during the Civil War in the guerilla cavalry of Mosby's Rangers. Colonel Mosby was known as the Gray Ghost and his men hid among the civilians and worked like a band of thieves destroying Union supply lines. This is why they were referred to as guerrillas rather than soldiers and Mosby himself did not generally use troops or soldiers when referring to his men, which were actually the 43rd Battalion of the Virginia Calvary. The Civil War changed things for the Conrad family and left them in poverty. Charles turned eighteen three years after the end of the Civil War and he left Virginia with his older brother William and the duo headed to Fort Benton in the Montana Territory to make their fortune in shipping. And they did just that turning Fort Benton into the largest shipping point west of the Missouri. Routes extended north into Canada and as far west as Walla Walla in the Washington Territory. The railroad arrived twenty-three years later and the shipping business started to flounder, so the brothers split their fortunes and invested in banking, real estate, mining and cattle.

At some point in the 1870s, Charles married a Native American woman named Sings-In-The-Middle-Woman and they had a son named Charles E. Conrad, Jr. in 1876. She was from the Blackfeet tribe and eventually returned to her people, leaving her son with his father. She died from influenza sometime after that. Charles later married Alicia Davenport Stanford in 1881. She went by the nickname Lettie. The two had met through her brother who was a member of the Northwest Canadian Mounted Police. The couple had three children: Charles Davenport in 1882, Catherine in 1884 and Alicia Ann in 1892. Charles decided to head to Spokane, Washington to check out business opportunities, but he took his wife Lettie and their children to Flathead Valley in Northwestern Montana for a vacation that lasted several weeks. Lettie fell in love with the area and the couple decided to make this their home.

It was at this time that Charles joined with the three other businessmen to form the Kalispell Townsite Company. Kalispell is a Salish word that means flat land above the lake and that is where the name came from because the Native Americans in the area referred to the area by this name. Charles convinced the railroad baron Jim Hill to bring a route of his rail line north of Flathead Lake. The Conrad family began construction on their mansion in 1892 and they contracted the famous Spokane architect Kirkland Cutter to design the home. The house is shingle style with Norman influences, particularly inside. The mansion is 13,000 square feet with 26 rooms spread out over three floors and there are 8 sandstone fireplaces. There was a carriage house and stable built outside and a dry stone fence with iron gates surrounded the three acres of land upon which the mansion was built. The grounds were well manicured with annual and perennial flower beds, pruned hedges and evergreens and a manicured lawn.

The interior of the home was beautiful with German immigrant craftsmen being brought in to fashion the oak trim and paneling. Electricity was installed with a carbide gas back-up system. The windows were made out of a variety of glass including tinted and clear bottle glass, diamond-paned leaded glass and the second floor has panels of Tiffany-style stained glass. The architect was known for including arches in his design s and the house has several. The mansion not only was updated with electricity, but it had a freight elevator, dumbwaiter, built-in fire hoses, an intercom, elecric call box, a speaking tube and a radiator warming oven. Additional luxuries included a wall-mounted 1895 Spaulding exercise machine and two Italian onyx cold water drinking fountains. The music room was decorated with a hand painted linen border next to the linen ceiling. There was also a game room that featured a billiard table, window seats, oak paneling and a large bank of windows. There were nine bedrooms and they each had a walk-in closet and their won marble sink. It took three years to complete the home. The family moved in around Thanksgiving 1895. *Fun Fact: Teddy Roosevelt stayed at the house.*

Charles would not live long in his dream mansion. Seven years after moving in, he died at the age of 52 from complications of diabetes. He and Lettie had taken a horseback ride out to an area of their property that was a promontory east of the Mansion and Charles told her, "I can think of no more peaceful and lovely spot for a final rest." It would be this spot where she founded the C.E. Conrad Memorial Cemetery in keeping with his desire. A mausoleum was completed in 1908 and Charles was placed inside. There are several members of the Conrad family laid to rest at the cemetery. Lettie remained in the home until her death there as well in 1923. The property then passed on to their youngest child, Alicia Ann Campbell. She remained in the mansion until 1964. She and her husband started having financial problems and they could no longer maintain the home, so they moved into a trailer on the property and just used the mansion for storage. It fell into disrepair and by the 1970s it was in a sad state, overgrown and deteriorating.

Campbell convinced the city of Kalispell to take the mansion and they took it over in 1974. The Conrad Mansion Board of Directors was formed and they gathered groups of volunteers to help restore and maintain the property and by 1976, the Conrad Mansion Museum was open for business and the mansion was on the National Register of Historic Places. Campbell had saved her family's property and today the museum is filled with 90% of the original family furnishings. This includes collections of books and artwork, family firearms, children's toys and dolls and even their clothing dating from the 1880's - 1940's. Tours are given May through October and start at the top of every hour. Occasionally, fun nooks and crannies tours are offered that take guests to areas not regularly seen and they even reveal some of the secret hiding places that family had for valuables, some of which are hidden furniture compartments.

The Conrad Mansion houses more than the family's former furnishings. Spirits of the family seem to have lingered past their deaths. There are three of them in particular here. Both Charles and his wife Lettie died in the home and reputedly haunt it and their daughter Alicia Ann who was the last family member to live in the mansion. Her haunting is peculiar in that she appears as she did when she was a little girl growing up in the house. Experiences run the typical gamut of cold spots, lights flickering off and on and full-bodied apparitions. No one has reported anything threatening. A heartwarming story connected to the mansion was told by Lettie's brother Harry. He had come to the house because she was having trouble breathing and the family thought she was going to die. She sat up when her brother arrived and seemed to be much better. She looked towards a window that faced east and held out her arms as she exclaimed, "Oh Charlie, you came for me." She laid back down and died.

The Montana Paranormal Society has investigated the property as has Blackfoot Paranormal Investigations. The latter posted a video featuring several EVPs they caught while investigating. A former director of the museum was cleaning one afternoon when she had a spooky experience. She was running the sweeper when she saw the resident stray cat named Sweety Pie run up the stairs. She decided to finish vacuuming and then she would chase the cat back down the stairs. Suddenly, the cat came tearing down the stairs. Before the Director could even wonder what was up with the cat, she saw the full-bodied apparition of Alicia Campbell as a little girl come running after the cat. The girl had owned 13 cats when she lived in the mansion. At that point, the Director decided she was done cleaning and she would not return for two days.

There was a gentleman who spent a lot of time painting the mansion during the restoration and he witnessed a rocking chair rock by itself when he was alone in the house. He tried to tell himself it was nothing and compared to what was about to happen to him, it was. He continued painting and then he heard the distinctive sound of boots coming down the hallway. he thought it was odd because no one was suppose to come by the house. He looked up to greet the visitor and saw the semi-transparent figure of a woman, wearing a Victorian style dress with her hair piled up on top of her head. He recognized her from pictures he had seen. It was Lettie Conrad. She stopped at the opening of the door to the room he was painting and looked in at him as though she were inspecting his work. She then continued down the hall, down the stairs and he watched as she headed for the kitchen. He immediately dropped his brushes in the paint bucket without bothering to clean up and ran two steps at a time out the front door. He actually did return to work and never saw anything again.

A mirror in the billiards room has occasionally reflected the image of Charles Conrad smoking a cigar. Alicia has been seen in a room that has pictures of her and she likes to rock in the rocking chair while reading a book. During a holiday bazaar that is hosted at the mansion, vendors have had items move around. Kate's Room has had poltergeist type activity with candles being thrown across the room. The attic has poltergeist activity and workmen repairing the roof saw the apparition of a little girl thought to be Alicia. She waved at them. A tour guide was backing into the attic and bumped into something unseen that prevented her from going further and this was witnessed by her entire tour group.

Executive Director Gennifer Sauter has never experienced anything, but she heard about the tour guide's experience, “One experience that sticks out in my mind was when one of our guides backed up into someone while giving a tour, but when she said ‘Excuse me’ and turned around, no one and nothing was there. We’ve [also] heard many, many reports of a little girl on the third floor. That’s actually a very common one.” Sauter also claims that something sets off the motion alarm frequently at night. A local photographer told Sauter that once time she felt someone running down the stairs next to her and decribed it as resembling excited children running down the stairs on Christmas morning. Sauter added, “It’s kind of neat to think they’re around here and looking out for the place. And neat to think that maybe there’s something beyond.”

Are members of the Conrad family still living in their home after death? Were they so attached to the home and land they loved that they are unable to let go? Is the Conrad Mansion haunted? That is for you to decide!

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