Thursday, November 30, 2017
HGB Ep. 234 - Haunted Calico
Moment in Oddity - Judge Crater Goes Missing
Joseph Force Crater had been born to Irish immigrants in 1889 and he went on to getting his law degree from Columbia University in 1916. This would start his path to becoming a New York Supreme Court Justice. He was named to the bench in April of 1930 by Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt. Crater was a corrupt man and it is believed that he had paid off the Tammany Hall political machine to get his position. On August 6, 1930, Crater reportedly went to his office and destroyed several documents. He took several portfolios of other papers to his Fifth Avenue apartment. He took out $5,000 from his bank account as well. He had dinner with a friend and a showgirl names Sally Lou Ritz. He told them he had tickets for the Broadway comedy "Dancing Partner" that evening. He bid them farewell and they watched him walk down the street, presumably heading for the play. He was seen hailing a cab and was never seen again. News of his disappearance broke on September 3rd and launched a massive investigation that captivated the nation. Crater came to be known as “the missingest man in New York.” Because of his activity on the day of his disappearance, some claimed he left the country with a mistress. Others claimed that he was feeding the fishes after crossing the Tammany Hall bosses.His wife requested he be declared legally dead in 1939. In 2005, new evidence emerged. a woman claimed that her husband and several other men, including a police officer, had murdered Crater and buried his body beneath a section of the Coney Island boardwalk. That site had been excavated during the construction of the New York Aquarium in the 1950s, but no human remains were found at the time. The disappearance of Judge Crater is still a mystery and, certainly is odd!
This Month in History - Congress Creates the Committee of Secret Correspondence
In the month of November, on the 29th, in 1775, Congress creates the Committee of Secret Correspondence. The Second Continental Congress had met in Philadelphia to establish the Committee of Secret Correspondence. The committee’s goal was to solicit aid for the Revolutionary War from European nations by sending them a Patriot interpretation of events in Britain’s colonies. The committee members were Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Harrison, John Dickinson, John Hay, Robert Morris and Silas Deane. Deane was a Connecticut delegate and he left for France on the secret mission on March 3, 1776. The group managed to negotiate with the French, unofficial assistance. This assistance came as military supplies aboard ships and military expertise from the Marquis de Lafayette. Full support did not come until the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga. French naval fleets proved critical in the defeat of the British during the American Revolution, which was assured after the Battle of Yorktown in October 1781.
Haunted Calico (Suggested by listeners Lianna Sapien, Anna Prado-Frias and Laura Rey)
The Calico Mountains rise out of the Mojave Desert, painted in a variety of colors, which is how they got their name. These mountains are home to Calico, a ghost town that was once a thriving mining town. As was the case with so many other mining towns, once the price of silver dropped, people started leaving. The gunfights, gambling and mining of the past just faded away. Today, it is a tourist attraction that seems to still be home for some of the spirits of its former residents. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the town of Calico.
In 1881, a group of prospectors discovered silver in the Calico Mountains. They laid claim to their find and built the Silver King Mine. This mine would become California's largest silver producer in the mid-1880s. The town of Calico grew slowly, but by 1882 it was big enough to establish a post office. Next came the Calico Print, a weekly newspaper. Calico hit its height of silver production from 1883 to 1885 and during that time the town added five general stores, three hotels, several bars, boarding houses and brothels, a meat market, Wells Fargo Office and a school. The town also had a deputy sheriff, two constables, five commissioners, two lawyers, a justice of the peace and two doctors. There were residents here from all over the world including Ireland, England, France, Greece, China and the Netherlands. The population hit 3,500 people.
When silver mining was at its pinnacle in Calico, there were over 500 mines and the most important were the Waterloo, Oriental, Burning Moscow, Bismarck and Garfield. A narrow gauge railroad was constructed in 1888 to bring ore from the Waterloo and Silver King mines to the mill in town. There was more than just silver adding to Calico's fortunes. The borate mineral colemanite was discovered in the mountains a few years after the settlement of the town. Unfortunately, fortunes turned for Calico with the enactment of the Silver Purchase Act. This drove down the price of silver and by 1896, its value had decreased to $0.57 per troy ounce. Within two years, the post office had closed and that was soon followed by the school. Borax mining ended in 1907 and Calico became a virtual ghost town. By the time it was abandoned, the mines of Calico had produced between $13,000,000 and $20,000,000 worth of silver. For a time in the 1930s, the Zenda Gold Mining Company mined the silver from the Calico mines. There is still low grade silver in the mines of Calico.
Walter Knott was born in San Bernandino County and grew up in Pomona. He tried his hand at farming and didn't have much luck until he started working with boysenberries. They thrived under his care and the family started creating jams and pies from the berries and selling them at a roadside stand. Before long, they opened a restaurant that also featured his wife's fried chicken dinners. Lines wrapped around outside the building. Knott got the idea that it would be fun to open a park to entertain the people waiting for food. He started relocating old buildings from ghost towns to his farm and named the park Knott's Berry Farm. Knott had a real love for Old West towns and in 1951, he purchased Calico. He had once lived in Calico with his uncle and he restored the town back to its former glory and opened it as a tourist attraction. The buildings had originally been constructed from adobe brick because there wasn't much lumber in the area. Knott had cement used in the restoration to keep everything looking as close to the original as possible. In 1966, Knott donated the town to San Bernardino County, and Calico became a County Regional Park.
Visitors who come to Calico get to see what the town looked like in its heyday and they get to experience some of the things that took place here like panning for gold and gunfights. There are tours of the mine and visitors can ride aboard the narrow gauge Calico & Odessa Railroad. Many of the original buildings had to be replaced. The newer buildings are in the Gingerbread architectural style and there are some false fronts as well. Some of the structures that date back to the silver rush era are the Lane home that is now a museum, Lil's Saloon, the town office, courthouse and post office, the general store, Joe's Saloon and Smitty's Gallery. The schoolhouse is a replica, but stands on the site of the former building.
There is a cemetery here that has over 160 burials. Despite their best efforts, historians and researchers have been unable to identify who is buried in the cemetery. Only about 20% of the plots have been identified. One of the people buried here is Harry Dodson who robbed the Runover Mine's superintendent James Patterson at gun point. He nabbed around $4400 and ran out of town. A posse was formed and they caught up to Dodson pretty quickly because he was on foot. He was just hiking up from a watering hole when he saw the posse and started shooting. The posse returned fire and hit him twice, killing him. Anastacio Rubio was buried here after he came to a sad end. He had gotten a great haul in the mines and announced in one of the local saloons that drinks were on him. When he left the bar that night, he was shot and robbed by an unknown assailant. His murder remains unsolved to this day.
We did an episode on the ghost town Bodie and that is the Official State Gold Rush Ghost Town of California. Calico was named the Official State Silver Rush Ghost Town. There are reportedly several spirits in this ghost town, making that description of the town legitimate. Ghost tours are offered every Saturday night. One of the haunted locations here is the Calico School House. Claims have been made that this building is haunted by both teachers and students. Could one of these teachers be Margaret Kincaid Olivier who is buried in the cemetery? Visitors claim to see the apparitions of school teachers peering out at them from the windows. A moving ball of red light has been seen inside the schoolhouse on multiple occasions. The apparitions of children have been seen inside here as well, but the most frequent spirit belongs to a girl that appears to be eleven or twelve years old. She only makes herself known to other children. Sometimes she is mistaken by the children who see her as being a real kid, until she disappears.
John and Lucy Lane ran the general store in Calico. When people started moving out, they decided to leave too. They missed the old town and returned in 1919. Lucy lived into her 90s and she died there. Her former home has been turned into a museum and visitors claim to see her apparition walking from the home to the general store as though she is heading off to work. She is always seen wearing a black lacy dress and there are claims that she was buried in the dress. Visitors and investigators have seen her rocking chair moving on its own in the house.
“Tumbleweed” Harris is buried in the Calico Cemetery. He was the last marshal of Calico and served in that position for seven years. Visitors claim to see his spirit walking along the boardwalks on Main Street. He is described as a rather large man with a flowing white beard. Arthur wrote, "I work at the restaurant here in Calico and live in the town as well. One morning before daylight I was making coffee in the restaurant and felt as if someone was standing behind me. I turned and glimpsed a man with a white beard for a split second and then he disappeared. It jumped me right out of my shoes must have been Marshall Tumbleweed."
Calico has its own Lady in White who is seen on the outskirts of town. The Calico Corral has a residual haunting that sounds like a crowd of people celebrating. This was used for dances and the sounds of ghostly music are also heard sometimes. Music is also heard at Lil’s Saloon. The music sounds like an old-style piano and the noises of a rowdy crowds have been heard when no one was in the building. Employees claim to hear the jingle of spurs and other noises that can’t be explained. The building that once housed the town theater, which is now the R&D Fossils & Minerals Shop, is said to be haunted by a female ghost named Esmeralda.
Another famous ghost belongs to a dog named Dorsey who carried mail around the town. Postmaster Jim Stacy found Dorsey in 1883. He was a black and white shepherd who was hungry and limping. Stacy adopted him and put him to work carrying messages back and forth from the mines to town. This moved into mail carrying and he was soon carrying all the mail from Calico to Bismarck, bearing his load in little pouches strapped to his back. Dorsey did this for three years. His legend was immortalized in a 1972 album entitled "The Ballad of Calico” by Kenny Rogers. The song was called "Dorsey, the Mail Carrying Dog.” Dorsey continues on as a spectre and his shadow-like apparition has been seen at the cemetery and near the Print Shop that is located where the post office used to be.
Hank’s Hotel once belonged to a cowboy named Hank. He was apparently an angry man and he has carried that on with him into the afterlife. His ghost is said to have punched a man in the leg who was standing on his fence. Others report feeling a tugging on their wrists and clothing. There is said to be a child of four or five that hangs around outside the hotel on the boardwalk and some of the clothes tugging could be a result of his activity.
The Maggie Mine was started by the Mulcahy Brothers in 1881. Thirteen million dollars worth of silver ore was pulled from this mine. Visitors are invited to tour the mine and many visitors have reported feeling extreme cold spots throughout the mine and eerie feelings. It is believed the Mulcahy Brothers, who made the mine their home, are haunting the mine. To add to the weird feelings, a couple of mannequins are a part of the props here.
Ghost towns are a wonderful way to immerse oneself into the old west of yesteryear. Calico has a colorful name to go with its colorful past and some of that past continues on today. Not just in the fake gunfights and false facades, but through the spirits who have remained here when everyone else had abandoned the town. Is Calico a haunted town? That is for you to decide!