Thursday, August 24, 2017

HGB Ep. 218 - Old Fort Niagara

Moment in Oddity - Delphi Purple Sapphire

Purple sapphires are very rare gems and they are unique in that they don't need to be heat treated to obtain their best color. The most famous purple sapphire is the Delphi Purple Sapphire. And the funny thing is that the Delphi Purple Sapphire is actually an amethyst. Today, it can be found at London's Natural History Museum, but it began its travels in the Temple of Indra in 1857. It was looted during the Indian Mutiny of that year and legend claims that a curse was set in motion. Bengal Cavalryman Colonel W. Ferris brought the gem home with him and soon the entire Ferris family was battling illness and struggling financially. A family friend wore the gem one day and committed suicide while in possession of the stone. Author Edward Heron-Allen became the next owner in 1890 and he suffered a series of misfortunes. He was a scientific man and not given to such beliefs, but he began telling people the gem was cursed. He tried to pawn it off on a couple of friends who soon returned it after experiencing their own bad luck. So Edward threw the sapphire into the dirty Regent's Canal. It came back to him three months later when a dredger found it. Edward eventually put it in a box with instructions for it to be given to the Natural History Museum upon his death. A note was included the detailed its cursed history and gave instructions that Edward's daughter was to never touch or be in possession of the gem. Edward ended the note with, "Whoever shall then open it, shall first read out this warning, and then do as he pleases with the jewel. My advice to him or her is to cast it into the sea". A member of the museum has transported the stone three times for events and each time he experienced a horrid weather event or illness. If there really is a curse that continues on into the present in regards to the Delphi Purple Sapphire, that certainly is odd!

This Month in History - President Warren G. Harding Dies

In the month of August, on the 2nd, in 1923, President Warren G. Harding died suddenly in the presidential suite of San Francisco’s Palace Hotel while on a Western speaking tour called "The Voyage of Understanding." His wife had been reading him the "Saturday Evening Post" as he recovered from a week long illness that many felt was food poisoning. He had been experiencing cramps, fever, indigestion and shortness of breath. The stress of the tour was thought to have made matters worse. His wife was reading an article about him and he commented after she finished, "That's good, go on." He then shuddered and fell back dead on his bed. The Teapot Dome political scandal had tainted his administration and many rumors began after his sudden death, calling into question if he had really just dropped dead from illness. The vice president, Calvin Coolidge, was sworn into office at 2:43 a.m. Eastern time, at his home in Plymouth, Vermont.

Old Fort Niagara

When one hears the city of Niagara mentioned, one immediately thinks of the stunning natural wonder Niagara Falls. There is much more to this western New York area and it is truly a haunted spot. One location that is rich in history and haunts is Old Fort Niagara. The Fort's history stretches back over three centuries and it initially was a key point of defense, especially during the colonial wars in North America. Several countries have held control of Fort Niagara. Fort Conti, Fort Devonville, the French Castle and finally Fort Niagara have all had homes here. The strategic importance of the Fort diminished when the Erie Canal was built, but it remained active into the 20th century. Today, it has been restored and is operated by the Old Fort Niagara Association, Inc., a not-for-profit organization, in cooperation with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Tours are offered and it is a living museum. Former docent from the fort and author, podcaster and investigator Tim Shaw joins us to discuss the history and hauntings of Old Fort Niagara!

An interesting legend is connected to Fort Niagara and its role in putting down a Native American rebellion led by the Seneca. The Fort became a staging area for one final effort by the British to stop the rebellion and it worked. The tribes were required to sign peace treaties, but the Seneca had a harsher punishment and were forced to give up a one-mile wide strip of land on the east side of the Niagara River.  The reason for this was what has been dubbed "The Massacre at Devil's Hole." Devil's Hole is a huge cavern near the Niagara Gorge that was originally nearly three-quarters of a mile in length. The native tribes in the area used it as a hiding place and legend claims that they killed anyone who came near it, leading to people claiming that it is home to evil spirits.The Battle of Devil's Hole, also known as the Devil's Hole Massacre, was fought near Niagara Gorge in present-day New York state on September 14, 1763. The squirmish was between a detachment of the British 80th Regiment of Light Armed Foot and about 300 Seneca warriors. The regiment was leading a wagon supply train from Fort Schlosser to Fort Niagara. The Seneca warriors killed 81 British soldiers and wounded 8 before the British managed to retreat.

A legend claims that French explorer Robert René Cavelier de La Salle was returning to Lake Ontario when he and his guide came upon the Devil's Hole. His guide told him it was the abode of the Devil. La Salle was an explorer and he wanted to descend into its depths so his guide tried to dissuade him with this story, "Ages and ages of prosperity and happiness to the red men had passed from the time of his first creation. The Great Spirit loved his red children, and gave them this country for the sole use and enjoyment. So it would have continued forever, if the Great Falls of Onguiaahra, whose thunder, we now hear so plainly, had continued near the spot where your canoe landed. (Lewiston). But the red men became bad, and vexed the Great Spirit with their war parties. The rocks began to fall off amid thunders and storms, and scarcely a moon passed that was not marked by some change. Moons and moons passed and the falls were above this "Devil's Hole" which then became open to the rapids, and the Evil Spirit could get out. Noise of thunder, shrieks and groans were often heard from his darkened den, which greatly excited the curiosity of the young man. One of them, a fine young brave, insisted upon examining the secrets of this dark prison house. Armed for battle, he descended with much difficulty, and we never saw him more. Then came the word that the pale faces, in the vast canoes which could each carry an army, had come out of the great sea, and landed under the midday sun. The evil was distant, and we thought little of it. Time passed on, and another of our young men descended into the cavern; he returned in a few hours, a raving maniac, and his hair, which had been black and glossy as a Raven had become white as snow. Then came the word that a paleface, Jean Cabot, had landed on the shore of the great sea, convinced that the spirit of evil lived in this deep, dark hole, and that the fate of the red man depended upon his not being disturbed. This is the tradition of our race. Judge them, my white brother, whether you could disturb the Evil Spirit in his abode, and not suffer the penalty?"

La Salle seemed convinced that it would be a bad idea based on this revelation by his guide, so the men rode away. But La Salle could not stop thinking about the place and two days later he decided to return and explore the Devil's Hole. He went alone and descended into the hole. He heard disembodied whispers and he pressed deeper into the cavern. Then he heard a voice speak in the Iroquois language with an urgent warning for him saying, "Return to your home in Canada, and wealth, honors, a long life and usefulness will be yours, and when death comes, generations of your descendants shall follow you to your grave, and history shall transmit your name to prosperity as the successful founder of a great empire. Proceed to the West, and although gleams of hope may, at times, shine in your path, in gratitude and disappointment will be sure to meet and follow you, until a treacherous murder shall end your days remote from human habitation, without the shelter of even a wigwam of a friendly red man. The Eagles of the desert shall strip the flesh from your bones, which shall lay bleaching under the tropical sun, unburied and unprotected by the cross you now so devotedly cherish."

La Salle ran terrified from the Devil's Hole. Unfortunately, he did not listen and he pressed West, finding bad luck and losing his fortune. Nearly 14 years later, the entire prophecy had almost been fulfilled. He returned to France after his native empire in Illinois was wiped out entirely. Was the Evil Spirit actually being helpful to La Salle or had it cursed him for entering the Devil's Hole? And did any of this experience actually happen?

Employees at the Fort claim to see strange reflections and to hear ghostly sounds of battle, marching, snoring, yelling and alarms going off. Chairs move on their own as do other objects. One investigator claimed to encounter a black phantom and a soldier. He also got odd feelings near the well where the body of the headless dueler was thrown. There are claims that a hobgoblin is seen in the cemetery.

Based on the stories we have heard, not only from Tim, but others, it would seem that there are spirits at unrest at this old fort. Is Old Fort Niagara haunted? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes:

Tim Shaw Links:
Twitter: @TimShawGhost

To find his podcast, search Slackjaw Punks:

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