Thursday, October 26, 2017

HGB Ep. 229 - Haunted Cemeteries 5

Moment in Oddity - Piano Playing Teens Get Chlorosis

A German physician named Dr. F. Waetzold published a short essay in 1899 in which he claimed that young girls who played the piano had an increased chance of developing mental disorders. According to Dr. Waetzold, his research had uncovered some alarming links between piano-playing and neurotic disorders. One disorder was chlorosis or ‘green sickness’, which is today known as hypochromic anemia and causes a greenish hue to the skin. The Doctor claimed that girls who studied the piano before the age of 12 were six times more likely to contract chlorosis or neuroses than girls who did not play the piano. He wrote, “It is necessary to abandon the deadly habit of compelling young girls to hammer on the keyboard before they are 15 or 16. Even at this age the exercise should be permitted only to those who are really talented and possessed of a robust temperament.” Apparently, the piano was not the only dangerous musical instrument. He claimed “studying the violin appears to produce even more disastrous results." Either Dr. Waetzold was surrounded by young musicians whose playing hurt his ears to the point he needed an excuse to make them stop or something about his research was decidedly very odd!

This Month in History - Inaugural Voyage on the Erie Canal

In the month of October, on the 26th, in 1825, New York Governor DeWitt Clinton made the inaugural voyage on the Erie Canal. Ground was broken on the canal in 1817. It took eight years to complete at a cost of $7 million and stretched for 363 miles. It was the second longest canal in the world at that time. The canal linked Lake Erie to the Hudson River and Governor Clinton predicted that it would create "the greatest inland trade ever witnessed." Many called the Erie Canal, "Clinton’s Folly" or "Clinton's Big Ditch." It took the Governor nine days to complete his trip along the Erie Canal and at the end he poured a barrel filled with water from Lake Erie into the Atlantic and called it a "wedding of the waters." His prediction about the Canal was right. Shipping costs dropped by 90 percent, settlers flooded west and the canal paid for itself in nine years.

Haunted Cemeteries 5

The three cemeteries we are featuring in this episode are some of the most well known cemeteries in the world. They also happen to be famously haunted. Each has beautiful and ornate monuments and have become favorite spots for taphophiles. Hollywood Forever has become the final resting place for a plethora of deceased celebrities. Some of them haunt the cemetery even today. Greyfriar's Kirkyard has a long history that includes Bloody Mackenzie who apparently still haunts the cemetery. Highgate Cemetery has gorgeous Gothic architecture and a story about a vampire that calls the graveyard its home. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of these three unique haunted cemeteries!

Hollywood Forever

The Hollywood Forever Cemetery sits on 62 acres with over 80,000 gravesites. The cemetery is one of the oldest in Los Angeles and it is the only one in Hollywood. It was founded in 1899 by the Hollywood Cemetery Association and originally called Hollywood Cemetery.  At that time there were 100 acres in total, but RKO Studios bought 40 of the acres and built a studio that eventually became Paramount Studios. The graveyard is a veritable who's who of dead celebrities. These celebrity burials include Mickey Rooney, Douglas Fairbanks, Jayne Mansfield's cenotaph, Cecil B. DeMille, Rudolph Valentino, Peter Lorre, Dee Dee and Johnny Ramone, Judy Garland, Bugsy Siegel and two of the Little Rascals, Alfalfa and Darla Hood. *Fun Fact: Our moderator Ronda was attacked by the guard duck that is at Johnny Ramone's grave.* There are more than celebrities here. Important historic figures in the building of Los Angeles have their final resting place here as well.

A convicted felon named Jules Roth purchased a 51 percent stake in the cemetery in 1939 and he proceeded to use cemetery funds for personal expenses and luxuries for the next six decades. One of those luxuries was a yacht he claimed would be used for spreading ashes, but it actually became a party boat. The cemetery fell into disrepair and it was so bad that when Cass Elliot was being cremated in 1974, several of the crematory bricks collapsed around her body. Relatives of the interred began moving the bodies of their loved ones and in 1986 a class action lawsuit was filed against Roth. Roth also was racist and would not allow minorities to be buried at the graveyard and this included Hattie McDaniel of "Gone with the Wind" fame. In 1998, Roth died bankrupt. After his burial, it was discovered that the cemetery endowment fund was missing about $9 million.

In 1998, Tyler and Brent Cassity purchased the property for $375,000 and they invested millions in renovations and renamed the site Hollywood Forever. One of the items they added was a granite monument for Hattie McDaniel. The cemetery has become a cultural center and every year features a Dia de los Muertos Festival. Controversy still continued for Hollywood Forever though. Brent Cassidy and his father were indicted for a Ponzi scheme in which they stole $450 million from a funeral company they ran selling pre-burial expenses. The renovation funds for Hollywood Forever came from those stolen funds. The men went to prison in 2010. Tyler Cassity was not charged in the case and his brother Brent sold his interest in Hollywood Forever to a family-owned trust.

We wanted to mention a burial that is special to us and that is Maila Nurmi's grave. She became the first ever television horror host in the 1950s. We all know her as the fabulous Vampira. Vampira was born when Nurmi attended Choreographer Lester Horton's annual Bal Caribe Masquerade in a costume inspired by Morticia Addams in 1953. She made her skin pale white and wore a tight black dress. Television producer Hunt Stromberg, Jr. saw her and knew she would be perfect to host horror movies on the Los Angeles television station KABC-TV. Nurmi's husband Dean Riesner came up with the name Vampira. Nurmi's characterization of Vampira was inspired by the Dragon Lady from the comic strip Terry and the Pirates and the evil queen from Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. She hosted "The Vampira Show" from 1954-1955. She also appeared in Ed Wood’s cult film, "Plan 9 From Outer Space" among other films. She died of natural causes in 2008 and was buried in the Griffith Lawn section at Hollywood Forever.

Hollywood Forever is incredibly haunted. Many ghosts apparently walk the grounds. One of these spirits belongs to William Randolph Hearst. He isn't buried at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, but the grave of his mistress Marion Davies is located there and he likes to visit in the afterlife. Rudolph Valentino's grave is the site of an apparition of a woman in a black dress and many claim this woman is Ditra Flame. Ditra had been seriously ill in the hospital when she was a little girl. Valentino was freinds with her mother, so he showed up at the hospital bearing a single red rose. He whispered to her, “You’re not going to die at all. You’re going to outlive me by many years. But one thing for sure—if I die before you do, will you please come and stay by me because I don’t want to be alone either. You come and talk to me.” Valentino was right. Ditra got better and he died a few years later from complications from gastric ulcer surgery. As an adult, she brought red roses to his crypt every year on his death date. She died in 1984 and ever since then, people claim to see a ghost woman in black kneeling in front of Valentino’s tomb. Some visitors have seen a rose just appear in the vase on the wall. Disembodied footsteps have been heard and there is a feeling as though being watched by someone unseen.

Clifton Webb was an actor who appeared in the films "Cheaper by the Dozen" and "Laura" and he played Mr. Belvedere in "Sitting Pretty," "Mr. Belvedere Goes to College" and "Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell." He died of a heart attack at the age of 76. He is buried in crypt 2350 in the Abbey of the Psalms Mausoleum. Visitors claim to see his apparition in a suit at the crypt and to hear whispering voices and see strange flickering lights there as well. There are occasional reports of a cold swirling draft that leaves behind the scent of cologne.

Virginia Rappe was a silent film actress who also was an alcoholic. She died after attending a party hosted by Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. Her bladder ruptured while at the party and she was rushed to the hospital and died a few days later. The rumors swirling around were that Arbuckle had raped her at the party and that because of his size and the violence of the encounter, her bladder was ruptured. He was even tried for rape and murder. He was acquitted, but his life was ruined. What really happend to Rappe is a mystery. Some say she had a botched abortion. Others claim that she tickled Arbuckle and he accidently kneed her in the abdomen when he jumped. She was buried at Hollywood Forever and it is believed that her spirit is at unrest there because of her tarnished reputation and unsolved death. Witnesses feel cold spots and hear the sounds of a woman sobbing.
Greyfriar's Kirkyard

Edinburgh, Scotland is considered one of the most haunted cities in all of Europe, particularly with Edinburgh Castle sitting above the city as a type of haunted sentinel.  The Castle is said to be the most haunted location in Edinburgh, but Greyfriar's Kirkyard could give the Castle a good fight for that title.  Burials have taken place here since the 16th century and the cemetery sits between an old melancholy hospital and a menacing looking prison.  The tombstones and statuary are ornate and beautiful.  The term "kirk" means "church" and so a kirkyard is a churchyard.  A churchyard is a cemetery that is on church property. The church that sits here is named for the Franciscan Friary that originally was located here and managed by the Greyfriars, an order of Franciscan monks.  The Franciscan Order originally landed in Canterbury from Italy in the 13th century and spread across what we call the United Kingdom today.  The Order was later split into two different groups known as the Conventuals - friars that were in the cities - and the Observants - who wanted to keep the old more isolated ways.  The Franciscans in Great Britain became known as Greyfriars.

Roman Catholicism was pushed out of Scotland in the 16th century.  A group of people signed covenants in Scotland binding themselves to maintain Presbyterian doctrines and denouncing the Pope and the Catholic Church.  They became known as Covenanters and they proved to be a big issue for King Charles I.  The National Covenant was signed at Greyfriar's Kirk in 1638 and it was an oath to maintain the reformed religion and reject all superstition of the Catholic Church.  When King Charles tried to push new reforms on the Covenanters, they revolted and defeated the King in the Bishops' War.  Wars continued and the Covenanters became the de facto government of Scotland.  Later, Oliver Cromwell, fighting for the English Parliament, would defeat the Covenanters and by 1652, they were decimated.  In 1679, another rebellion was formed, but it was knocked down once again and 1200 Covenanters were taken prisoner and put into the Covenanters' Prison at Greyfriar's Kirkyard.  Conditions were awful and many were executed.  By the end of their imprisonment, only 400 Covenanters were alive and they were sold into slavery, most of them dying when the ship transporting them wrecked.

Sir George Mackenzie, who was a Scottish lawyer, became the Lord Advocate implementing the reforms of King Charles II in Scotland and he was the one who not only imprisoned the Covenanters, but had most most of them executed earning him the title of "Bloody Mackenzie."  Prior to this, Mackenzie had been involved in witch trials.  Mackenzie died in 1691 and is buried, ironically, in Greyfriar's Kirkyard in a large mausoleum. Reports of Mackenzie's ghost haunting Greyfriar's Kirkyard began in the 20th century after a homeless man decided to seek shelter in Mackenzie's Mausoleum during a rain storm.  He had noticed that he could get through an opening in the back of the structure.  After he entered, he began to rummage through the coffins like a grave robber and he fell through the flooring that had rotted away, into a pit full of bones.  This pit was where plague victims were buried.  As is the case in so many cities in earlier centuries, it was impossible to do individual burials during times of plague and so mass burials were conducted.  The homeless man ran screaming from the building and now the poltergeist of Mackenzie has been taking out his rage about this desecration on visitors.  The ghost injures people to the point of cuts, bruises and even broken bones.  Most of these attacks happen in the Covenanter's Prison area, so apparently Bloody Mackenzie has returned to his roots.  There is a mausoleum inside the prison called the Black Mausoleum and this is where much of the activity occurs.  And if the hundreds of personal reports do not convince people the place is haunted, perhaps the true story of how the Exorcist Colin Grant died shortly after trying to cleanse the entire kirkyard, and particularly the Black Mausoleum, might convince them.

Greyfriar's Bobby is another famous resident at the kirkyard.  The story is told of a night watchman named John Gray who took on a Skye Terrier as his partner and named him Bobby.  Gray eventually contracted Tuberculosis and succumbed to the disease in 1858.  He was buried at Greyfriar's Kirkyard and Bobby took up vigil at his master's grave.  He refused to leave, even in bad weather and so the townspeople took care of the dog, bringing him food and water and Bobby would sometimes leave to have a meal at a nearby shop.  Bobby kept vigil for fourteen years and then he was buried in the kirkyard and a monument was erected in his honor.  The accuracy of this story has been questioned for years and some have surmised that Bobby was just a stray dog that had taken up residence in the graveyard.  At the time, many strays would live in graveyards.  Whatever is the case, a beautiful monument was built for the dog.


Highgate Cemetery opened in 1839 outside of London. Churches at that time were having a hard time dealing with all the burials, so a plan was implemented to build more cemeteries known as the Magnificent Seven. Highgate was one of them and it was designed by Stephen Geary. The cemetery was dedicated to St. James by Right Reverend Charles Blomfield and burials were sold to people for a limited period or for perpetuity. The graveyard is very Victorian in style with Gothic tombs and it became a very fashionable place to be buried and people enjoyed visiting. Wildlife and wild flowers have made the cemetery home. Notable areas are Egyptian Avenue and Circle of Lebanon and notable burials are Jane Arden, Karl Marx, Elizabeth Siddal, Ellen Wood, Feliks Topolski and William Michael Rossetti. By World War II, the cemetery was abandoned for the most part.

For all of its beautiful monuments and ostentatious memorials, Highgate has a dark side. Rumors of Satanic ceremonies and cult meetings have been rampant. And tales of ghostly experiences have been received by the local newspapers. One man wrote that his car broke down outside of the cemetery. He got out of his car and looked towards the gates of the cemetery and saw an apparition with red eyes. The spirit appeared to be glaring at him and the man was terrified. Some have referred to this as the Devil Ghoul. A spirit on a bicycle was seen by a woman. She was frightened as she watched him make his way up a steep incline. Another ghost was said to be seen wading in a pond. Our infamous Lady in White appears here as well. Could she be the one who is the wailing banshee that many have reported? Another man was knocked to the ground by a creature that swooped down from a wall of the cemetery while he walked down Swains Lane. The creature then disappeared as the headlights from a passing car shone into the cemetery.

Several similar experiences are shared in Westwood and Simpson's The Lore of the Land, "My fiancee and I spotted a most unusual form about a year ago. It just seemed to glide across the park. I am glad someone else has spotted it." And, "To my knowledge the ghost always takes the form of a pale figure and has been appearing for several years." And, "Suddenly from the corner of my eye I saw something move, which seemed to be walking towards us from the gates, and sent us running up Swains Lane as fast as we could."

The most bizarre story about Highgate features a vampire. The Highgate Vampire story dates back to the 1960s. A group of paranormal enthusiasts started investigating the cemetery in the late 60s. One of their members named David Farrant decided to stay overnight on December 21, 1969. Farrant claims in interviews that he saw a very tall and pale figure that appeared to be inhuman with hypnotic eyes. Some time later, a man named Sean Manchester claimed to see a similar supernatural entity. He also said that he found the carcasses of foxes, drained of blood in the cemetery. Manchester came up with an idea that a vampire had been brought to England in a coffin in the 18th century and interred at Highgate. All of the Satanic rituals that took place later, woke up the vampire. Manchester and Farrant became rivals and a public interview of the two caused a frenzy of people vampire hunting in the cemetery. the police had to intervene and kick people out of the cemetery. Both men continued to return to the cemetery with their supporters to find the vampire.

Do several spirits wander around the cool mists of these three cemeteries? Are the ghosts of celebrities hanging out in Hollywood Forever? Is Bloody Mackenzie at Greyfriar's Kirkyard in the afterlife? Does Highgate have a vampire hiding in the darkness? Are these cemeteries haunted? That is for you to decide!

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