Thursday, December 14, 2017

HGB Ep. 236 - Haunted Cemeteries 7

Moment in Oddity - Foxfire

Anyone who has walked through a wet, deep forest has more than likely noticed that mushrooms have an affinity for growing on rotting wood. In some forests these mushrooms give off an eerie bioluminescent glow that has been nicknamed "fairy fire." The more formal name is Foxfire, but the fox part is not representative of the animal. The term refers to the French word fols, which means "false." So basically the name means false fire. It is believed that the bluish-green glow of the mushrooms is from luciferase, which is an oxidative enzyme. The glowing attracts insects to spread spores and keeps animals from eating it. Documentation of this glowing oddity dates back to Aristotle in 382 B.C. Foxfire is mostly found in the tropics and just last year, a new variety was discovered at Ribeira Valley Tourist State Park near Sao Paulo, Brazil. Foxfire makes fungus beautiful, but it certainly is odd!

This Month in History - First Permanent Artificial Heart Implanted

In the month of December, on the 2nd, in 1982, the first permanent artificial heart was implanted in 61-year-old Barney C. Clark by Dr. William De Vries at the University of Utah Medical Center in Salt Lake City. Clark was a Seattle dentist who was suffering congestive heart failure at the age of 61. His illness was so severe that he was not a candidate for a heart transplant. The FDA had just approved an artificial heart for human implantation. The device was named the Jarvik 7 after Dr. Robert Jarvik who was one of its key developers. The Jarvik 7 employed a heart-shaped pump that had an external pneumatic compressor that connected to the pump by tubes running through the chest wall and this regulated blood flow. The threat of infection was high though. Clark knew that he would probably not live long, but he wanted to further science. He managed to live for 112 days with the artificial heart, but it was an awful time for him. He suffered mutliple infections and strokes and begged to be allowed to die. He finally did die on March 23, 1983.

Haunted Cemeteries 7

The final resting places we are covering in this haunted cemeteries episode are all very different with one thing in common, they are all haunted. The Waldheim Cemetery is a large conglomeration of several cemeteries within one cemetery that was set aside for the Jewish dead of Chicago. The famous specter here is a hitchhiking ghost. La Recoleta Cemetery is a graveyard that Denise has visited in Buenos Aires, Argentina and she was amazed by the beauty of the architecture of the over 4,000 above-ground crypts found here. Old Gray Cemetery is a historic cemetery located in Knoxville, reputedly home to another Black Aggie. And Stull Cemetery illicits chills from just the mention of the name because people who know the legend here knows that it involves portals to Hell and visits from the Devil. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of these four cemeteries.

Waldheim Cemetery in Forest Park, Illinois

Forest Park is a village and suburb of Chicago. The village was originally part of the larger city Harlem. It was incorporated in 1907. The history of Forest Park is of great interest to taphophiles because it was once considered a city of the dead because there were so many cemeteries here at one time that there were more dead residents than living one. One of those dead residents is nearly as famous as her counterpart Resurrection Mary. This hitchhiking ghost has the nickname Melodie Millie having been named after the nearby Melody Mill. The cemetery that she asks to be dropped off at is named Waldheim Cemetery.

Waldheim Cemetery is a Jewish Cemetery that was established in Forest Park in 1870. The cemetery was divided into 288 separate sections with each one representing a family group or a synagogue or an organization. Each of these sections had their own prices, rules, regulations and individual caretakers. Most of the ornate entrances and dividing fences still exist today. There are reportedly 300 gates. The first Jewish interment was held in 1873. In those earlier days, a funeral procession would take quite some time to make its way to the cemetery. This all changed in 1914 when the Metropolitan Elevated L Tracks began a special funeral route train. That route ran until July 13, 1934. Immigrant based Jewish organizations kept up the care of the cemetery, but over the decades, these organizations faded away and before long, Waldheim began to look neglected. Today, it has recovered with new efforts by the Waldheim Cemetery Company to upkeep the beautiful historic cemetery. There are estimated to be around 150,000 Jewish burials in the cemetery.

There are a couple of famous burials here. The first is Clara Peller. That name might not ring a bell until you hear that she was the little old lady made famous as the Wendy's spokesperson who asked, "Where's the beef?" She was plucked from obscurity to star in the commercials and it was a boon for Wendy's. She was born in 1902 and worked as a manicurist until she retired. And that was when Wendy's came calling. She actually was fired from her spokesperson job after doing a commercial for a spaghetti sauce. She passed away in 1987. Another famous burial belongs to Michael Todd who was a motion picture innovator and producer in the 1950s. He's probably most famous for being married at one time to Elizabeth Taylor. He died in 1958. Albert Weinshenker is buried here as well. He was a gangster who worked for Bugs Moran and he was one of the victims in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

Melody Mill was known to the locals simply as "The Mill." The Mill was a dance hall that opened in the 1930s and hosted young people until it closed in 1984. The young woman who haunts the road from The Mill to Waldheim Cemetery is unknown, but her legend predates that of Resurrection Mary. That legend first began in 1933 and rose to prominence in 1938 when a bandleader named Tiny Hill told the story on a WGN radio show. He had been performing at The Mill and heard the story there. Apparently, a young woman had been dancing with three young men who all offered her a ride home. She accepted and they got in the car that was one of the young men's and they drove towards Waldheim Cemetery. She asked them to stop the car right outside of the cemetery. She got out and headed into the cemetery. Two of the men followed after her, maybe because they feared for her safety or perhaps they had ill intentions. Either way, those two men were found the next day in the cemetery, alive but driven insane by whatever they saw in the cemetery. Their driver friend who had remained with the vehicle was dead at the wheel. The story continues that a purse was left in the car and the police found an address inside. They took the purse to the home and were shocked when the woman living there told them the purse belonged to her daughter...who had died three years earlier. Even though there has to be a name connected to this legend, it has been lost to time.

La Recoleta Cemetery

There are many diverse burials at La Recoleta Cemetery and many are very ornately decorated. A few have fallen into disrepair revealing the brickwork beneath the marble. Different architectural styles found here are Baroque, Neo-Gothic, Art Deco and Art Nouveau. It was after the Argentinian War for Independence that a plan was put forward to create a cemetery worthy of the wealthy elites living in Buenos Aires. The location that was chosen had been a former monastery to the Order of the Recoletos. This order was part of the Franciscan Order and the Recollect Fathers had established the neighborhood of Recoleta in the 18th century. Their chapel, Our Lady of Pilar, was built in 1732 and still stands. The graveyard opened in 1822 and encompassed 14 acres that was designed by French civil engineer Próspero Catelinand. His design has the cemetery broken into areas similar to city blocks with wide, tree-lined walkways. The entrance features tall Doric columns and neo-classical gates. The cemetery was initially named Cementerio del Norte and was on one of the highest points in the city. The name was later changed to Cementerio de la Recoleta.

There are around 4,000 burials with many important and famous burials that include Argentinian presidents, the founder of the Argentine Navy, Nobel Peace Prize winner Luis Federico Leloir, the illegitimate granddaughter of Napoleón Bonaparte named Isabel Walewaski Colonna and Eva Peron made famous in the play Evita. Eva Peron was born in 1919 as Eva Maria Durate. Her early life was one of poverty and she moved to Buenos Aires as an adult, so she could pursue acting and singing. She met Colonel Juan Peron in 1944 and the two married in 1945. Juan was elected President of Argentina in 1946 and Eva got heavily involved with politics at this time as well. She spoke on behalf of labor rights, women's suffrage, founded and ran the charitable Eva Perón Foundation and founded the Female Peronist Party, the nation's first large-scale female political party. She decided to run for the office of Vice President of Argentina in 1951 and she received wide support. The nation's military and elite opposed her though and when she was diagnosed with cancer, she withdrew her candidacy. The cancer eventually killed her at the age of 33 in 1952 and Eva Perón was given the title of "Spiritual Leader of the Nation" by the Argentine Congress. Her corpse was put on public display for two years, disappeared for 16 years, was shipped to Spain where Juan and his new wife kept it in their dining room on a platform and finally was buried in the Durate family crypt.

There are several spirits who haunt the cemetery. One of these spirits is said to belong to a former grave digger at La Recoleta named David Alleno. He loved the cemetery and all the beautiful architecture of the various tombs. He himself wanted to have a grand final resting place and so he would put all his earnings toward his burial plot. When he had enough, he commissioned and Italian sculpture to make a statue in his likeness. After everything was completed, Alleno committed suicide. It is believed that his spirit roams the cemetery because of the suicide. Visitors claim to hear the jingle of his keys echoing throughout the property.

Another of the ghosts is believed to belong to a woman named Rufina Cambeceres. She was the nineteen year-old girl of a wealthy family living in Buenos Aires in the late 1800s. Rufina had been getting ready for a night out on the town when she died suddenly. She was put in a casket, taken out to the cemetery and put in the family's mausoleum. Cemetery workers were doing a regular patrol of the grounds and when they looked in the Cambeceres Mausoleum, they saw that Rufina's coffin had been moved and the lid was no longer properly set. This made them believe that grave robbers had come to take away the jewelry that Rufina was wearing. They opened the casket and saw that her jewelry was still there. But her body was in a sad state. She was covered in bruises and there were scratch marks all over the inside of the casket. She had actually been alive and just in a coma when she was placed in the coffin. Theories claim that she had suffered from cataplexy brought on by narcolepsy. Cataplexy is a sudden weakening of the muscles caused by the destruction of the neurotransmitter hypocretin. Hypocretin regulates the awake cycle. So poor Rufina was conscience of everything going on around her, but unable to respond. And when she was able to respond, it was after she was already suffocating in the casket. It is for this traumatic reason that people believe she walks the graveyard at night. Some believe she is trying to unearth bodies to make sure no one else has been buried alive. The mausoleum is beautiful and features a stone statue of the young woman leaning upon its door.

Judy wrote of her visit to the cemetery, "For those of you sensitive to different energies, I can tell you that at least a part of this cemetery is haunted. The energy was extremely heavy and very uncomfortable. Some of the spirits aren't friendly. I told my friend and we walked to a different area, & the negativity didn't follow. Unfortunately, I didn't protect myself well enough and woke up the next morning sick. If you're sensitive to energy, take some precautions to protect yourself!"

Old Gray Cemetery (Suggested by Tammie McCarroll-Burroughs)

Old Gray Cemetery is located in Knoxville, Tennessee and it is the second oldest cemetery in the city. The graveyard was incorporated in 1850 and is the final resting place of many prominent people from Tennessee. The architecture here is Victorian in style and thus, this is also a garden cemetery. Victorian angels make up the bulk of the statuary and there are many obelisks as well. The winding avenues spread out over 13 acres. Old Gray is named in honor of Thomas Gray who was an English poet during the 1700s. He wrote the poem, "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard." Mrs. Henrietta Brown Reese, who was the wife of  the first president of the cemetery board of trustees, suggested the name Gray. It was called simply Gray Cemetery until a newer cemetery was built in 1892 and then this became Old Gray. Old Gray was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.

The first person buried in the cemetery was William Martin. An exploding cannon fired during a July 4th celebration killed him and he was buried in the northwest corner of Old Gray on July 15, 1851 before the cemetery was completely laid out. The cemetery is the final resting place of over 9000 people. These people include those who died during Knoxville's 1854 cholera outbreak and victims of the 1904 New Market Train Wreck. This wreck involved two Southern Railway passenger trains that collided at high speed near New Market, Tennessee. This occurred on Saturday, September 24, 1904 and killed at least 56 passengers and crew and injured 106 people. The crash was heard as far as fifteen miles away.

Old Gray Cemetery is part of the Civil War Heritage Trail and there are many dead from both sides buried here. The Horne monument has a life-sized sculpture of a Confederate soldier and marks the graves of two Confederate veterans, William Asbury Horne, an assistant quartermaster with the 42nd Georgia Infantry, and John Fletcher Horne, who was a sergeant with the Kansas Bottom Tennessee Artillery. One of the more well known Tennesseans buried here is William Rule who was an American newspaper editor and politician. He founded the Knoxville Journal, which was published from 1870 until 1991. Rule served as mayor of Knoxville twice and published the city's first comprehensive history. Eldad Cicero Camp, Jr. was an American coal tycoon, attorney and philanthropist, who lived in Knoxville in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was president of the Coal Creek Coal Company and was one of the wealthiest men in East Tennessee. Charles McClung was an American pioneer and surveyor who platted out Knoxville. "Lizzie" Crozier French was an American educator, women's suffragist and social reform activist who was one of the leaders for the push for women's rights in Tennessee in the early 1900s, and helped the state become the 36th state to certify the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

One of the spirits at Old Gray is believed to belong to Herb Evers, who was a cowboy that died in Knoxville's first and only duel on Market Square. Apparently, the duel was over a fight between Evers and his neighbor. The neighbor was having relations with one of Evers' sheep and he was angry. Since he lost the duel, he is even angrier and so his spirit roams the cemetery looking to settle the score. East Tennessee Paranormal Society member Eric Huckabee claims to have captured a picture of Evers using a Sony Mavica digital camera. He said, "I snapped the photo and ran like hell back to the safety of the nearest street lamp." 

Another supernatural being that roams the cemetery is a dark shadowy figure known as the "Black Aggie." This is not the same spirit as the one we covered on an earlier episode. This mysterious shadow weaves between the tombstones at night and it seems residual as it rarely interacts with people who see it in the cemetery. Still others claim that Black Aggie is an aggressive spirit and has chased after them.

Stull Cemetery

Stull, Kansas was founded in 1856 and originally called Deer Creek. German and Pennsylvania Dutch were the first settlers here and they erected the Evangelical Emmanuel Church on land donated by Jacob Hildenbrand. He later donated land to be used as a cemetery. Sylvester Stull ran the post office when it was opened in April of 1899 and residents started referring to their town as Stull. The name stuck and even when the post office closed in 1903, the town continued to be called Stull. Stull was never big and the population never exceeded fifty residents. In the early 20th century, many businesses tried to start in the town, but eventually people just moved away and today the church and its cemetery, known as Stull Cemetery, are abandoned. There are still a few homes here and around twenty residents.

Legends abound about the tiny church and abandoned cemetery. Stories incorporate witchcraft, Satanic rituals, haunting experiences and the infamous "Seven Gateways to Hell." A haunting wind is a popular legend. One story claims two young men were visiting Stull Cemetery one night and became frightened when a strong wind began blowing out of nowhere. They ran to their car and found that it had been moved and turned around. Another man claimed to experience the same wind inside of the abandoned church. He said it felt sinister and knocked him to the ground. The wind then held him down.

The student newspaper at the University of Kansas is believed to have started many of the legends. In the November 1974 issue of the University Daily Kansan, an article claimed that the Devil himself appeared in Stull twice a year: once on Halloween, and once on the spring equinox. Following this story, rumors started circulating that there were seven gates to Hell within the graveyard. Students have made it a rite of passage to visit on Halloween and the Spring Equinox to see the Devil. They have done a lot of damage and now the police arrest anyone trespassing. *Fun Fact: The season 5 finale of Supernatural is set in Stull cemetery and the creator of the series, Eric Kripke, claims he had made Lawrence, Kansas the hometown of Sam and Dean Winchester because of the city's closeness to Stull.

Why would the Devil choose such a small town? Apparently, there was an event in the 1850s when “a stable hand allegedly stabbed the mayor to death in the cemetery’s old stone barn. Years later, the barn was converted into a church, which in turn was gutted by fire. A decaying wooden crucifix that still hangs from one wall is thought to sometimes turn upside-down when passersby step into the building at midnight." But there is more than just that.

An old tombstone near the church bears the name “Wittich” and a tree that used to stand nearby had supposedly been used as a gallows for condemned witches. A grave in the cemetery is said to hold the bones of a “child of Satan”, who was born of the Devil and a witch. The child only lived a few days due to his deformities. People claim its ghost hangs out here, but has grown to the size of a boy that someone claims to have captured a picture of and that he resembles a “werewolf-like boy” peering out from behind a tree.

Each of these cemeteries features at least one haunting tale. As is the case with so many cemeteries, legends abound, most of which have no basis in fact. Are these cemeteries truly haunted? That is for you to decide!

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