Thursday, January 25, 2018
HGB Ep. 242 - Rotherwood Mansion
Moment in Oddity - Dr. Graham's Quacky Cures
Scottish Doctor James Graham, who practiced in the mid to late 1700s, should appear in the Encyclopedia right next to the words "Quack Doctor." He pushed some very bizarre treatments. He would tell childless couples who were having trouble getting pregnant that they should do their business on a mattress filled with stallion hair. Barren women were also told to wash their delicate parts with champagne. In 1781, Dr. Graham introduced to the world his "Celestial Bed," which was a gaudily decorated vibrating bed that promised better conception. Another bizarre treatment he championed was something he called Earth-Bathing. This practice required patients to strip naked and be buried up to their necks in fertile dirt. One advertisement of the time reads, "Dr. Graham is now at Sheffield and he and a young woman were on Wednesday and Thursday buried up to their lips in earth, in order to prove the practicability and safety of the practice of Earth-Bathing, which he recommends as an universal restorative to infirm and decayed nature. The spectators were numerous, as might be expected." According to Graham, Earth-Bathing would open the pores, so that toxins could be released. He claimed it cured scurvy, gout, venereal disease, leprosy, rheumatism, cancer and even insanity. The appetite could be suppressed as well and obese patients were told to Earth-Bath for as long as 6 hours. Dr. Graham seems to have been a true believer as he charged Londoners a shilling to watch himself and a naked female companion Earth-Bathing. People began to lose faith in the doctor's quackery as they began to realize that he himself was slipping into insanity due to an opium addiction. It wasn't clear to the people of the 1700s, but it is quite clear to us now that Dr. Graham's cures, certainly were odd!
This Month in History - The Concorde Begins Passenger Flights
In the month of January, on the 21st, in 1976, the Concorde supersonic jet began passenger service with flights from London to Bahrain and Paris to Rio de Janeiro. The Concorde was jointly developed and manufactured by Sud Aviation and the British Aircraft Corporation under an Anglo-French treaty. The program was estimated to cost a whopping 70 million pounds, but due to delays and issues, eventually ran 1.3 billion pounds. Twenty of the supersonic jets were made and eventually made flights to London, Paris, New York, Virginia and Barbados. It took the Concorde half the time of other airplanes to make flights. Tickets to fly on the fast and luxurious Concorde were exorbitant, so only the wealthy could afford them. To fly from London to New York in 1997, cost $8,000. Not only could the Concorde fly at twice the speed of sound, it could fly at an altitude up to 60,000 feet. The Concorde was retired in 2003.
The name bestowed upon Rotherwood Mansion really says it all. It is known as the House of Terror and Sadness. Today, it is a private residence where the inhabitants seem to live in peace, but the history here is anything but peaceful. This home was once one of the largest slave plantations in Eastern Tennessee where life for slaves was terrifying. Death came calling many times in all of its forms: accident, suicide and murder. Left behind is the spiritual residue that attaches itself to strong emotions. Rotherwood Mansion has a reputation for being haunted. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Rotherwood Mansion.
Kingsport, Tennessee is part of the Mountain Empire, which covers Southwest Virginia and Eastern Tennessee. Kingsport was originally known as Salt Lick and was established after the Revolutionary War at the confluence of the North and South Forks of the Holston River. Our Executive Producers heard about this area and Long Island that is here in our bonus episode featuring the Curse of the Cherokee. This area was very important to the Cherokee and they were the first settlers here. The settlement became important for pioneers as part of the Wilderness Road. The city of Kingsport was chartered in 1820 and became a major port on the Holston River. The Civil War brought fighting here with the Battle of Kingsport and after the Civil War the city lost its charter. The charter returned in 1917 and Kingsport grew into a garden city and was one of the first cities to introduce traffic circles. Located in Kingsport is Rotherwood Mansion. *Fun Fact: Nick Castle, actor who played Michael Myers in the original Halloween, was born in Kingsport and always makes an appearance at the local haunted houses.*
High on a hill above the Holston River sits a beautiful red brick, dark shuttered mansion built by Reverend Frederick A. Ross in 1818. Reverend Ross was born in 1796 in Cumberland County, Virginia. He entered the Presbyterian ministry in 1818. He moved to Kingsport that same year and built his mansion. He became the pastor of Old Kingsport Presbyterian Church in Kingsport in 1826 and remained there until 1852. He moved to Huntsville, Alabama in 1855 and finished out his evangelical and physical life there, dying in 1883. Many may wonder how a reverend was able to build himself a large plantation in Kingsport. Ross came from a wealthy family and they owned a large acreage along the North and South Forks of the Holston River. And even though he was a reverend, he owned many white indentured servants and black slaves. He even wrote a book in 1857 entitled, "Slavery as Ordained of God." And while he writes in the preface, "And let the Southern Christian-nay, the Southern man of every grade-comprehend that God never intended the relation of master and slave to be perpetual. Let him give up the theory of Voltaire, that the negro is of a different species," he also writes, "Let him learn that slavery, like all evils, has its corresponding and greater good; that the Southern slave, though degraded compared with his master, is elevated and ennobled compared with his brethren in Africa." Biographies say that Ross was good to his slaves and they enjoyed working for the family.
Rotherwood Mansion is breath-taking and the first item one notices about the plantation home are the large Doric columns that line the front porch. There was a garden and pool on the roof. There were large french doors and beautiful gardens all around the home. The heating in the house came from hot water radiator heat and it was throughout the mansion. The house has three floors and it is our understanding that the current house is actually two houses that were joined together in the 1840s. There are several fireplaces and every mantle is completely different with carved wood and the dining room has the most elaborate mantle with lattice work and scrolls. The name Rotherwood came from Sir Walter Scott's book "Ivanhoe." There is a guest house on the property as well and we're not sure when it was built.
Reverend Ross married a woman name Theodocia Vance and they had fifteen children together. Five of them died in childhood. His first and only daughter to survive to adulthood, Rowena, was born in 1824 and she was his favorite child. He sent her to the finest Northern schools. In 1842, she returned to Rotherwood and she was the most eligible belle in the area, so suitors were knocking down the door. It wasn't just that she was the daughter of a rich and influential man, she was beautiful and had an outgoing and mischievous personality. She had a friend named Mag that she would write to about her suitors. About one she wrote that he had an "outrageous impertinent request" for her to secretly meet him "at the upper gate" and that her father was "so perfectly outraged" by it all that he threatened to "horse whip" him. She finally settled on a young man that she referred to as "Dr." when writing Mag. She wrote, "Tell Dr. that the field is clear," but he had "two rivals who are determined to tilt a lance with him at the same Christmas tournament, which he doubtless remembers and if he is not forthcoming on the occasion it will be truly distressing!"
He asked for her hand in marriage and Reverend Ross was thrilled. He decided to build them a home on the property and it was the same design as Rotherwood only instead of red brick, it was entirely done in white. It was across the river from the main house. His daughter would never get to enjoy the home as it burned completely to the ground soon after it was finished. It was only the start of tragic circumstances for Rowena. On the morning of their wedding day, Rowena's groom decided to go fishing with his friends and so they took a small boat out onto the Holston River. Rowena was watching them from the porch of her childhood home. The Holston can have dangerous currents and on this particular day, a current capsized the boat and pulled the young men under the icy depths of the river. Three of them managed to break free and pull themselves to the shore, but one of those young men was not Rowena's fiance. His body was never found. Rowena was devastated and became a recluse, locking herself away in her third floor bedroom.
Rowena finally stepped out again after two years and met another man named Edward Temple to whom she became engaged and then married. They moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee. He was a wealthy man and she was happy again, until yellow fever struck and took his life. She once again slipped into a depression. It took her ten years to recover and she remarried. The couple had a daughter and things seemed to be going well, but one night, Rowena slipped into her wedding gown and made her way outside, slipping silently beneath the water of the river. Some say that she heard the call of her first love and was going to meet him. This was tragic for the Reverend, but more bad circumstances would follow. A mill that he operated went bust and other businesses suffered losses and many of his investments failed. Just before the Civil War, he had to sell his beloved Rotherwood. The man to whom he would sell it, would add the "terror" part to the house's nickname, "House of Terror and Sadness."
Joshua Phipps acquired not only Rotherwood Plantation, but the Reverend's slaves as well. Phipps had been the overseer at the plantation and he was known for being a cruel man. For this reason, Ross freed many of the slaves and a fun fact about one of those slaves is that they were an ancestor of Diana Ross and that is where he last name comes from as many slaves would take on the surname of their owners. Phipps had abused the slaves when Ross was on the property, but once he was owner, the abuse intensified. Slave cells were installed in the basement of Rotherwood. They were windowless with dirt floors, save for one window that had iron bars set into it with no glass. The field slaves slept here at night. A woman who grew up here when her parents worked on the property as a cook and chauffeur, Jill Ellis, wrote of the basement, "As a child, I had to go into this area almost every day because the food Mother canned was stored in the basement, and the laundry facility was also in this area. The stench was embedded in the ground--the darkness and dampness was sometimes overpowering. One could imagine hearing the moaning, the wailing, the crying of slaves.. their misery and despair. If a slave was maimed, he was shot like an animal because he was of no more use. In the front room of the 3rd floor facing the river, was the whipping post. Slaves were shackled to the post to be whipped. The blood stains are still embedded into the wood floors of that room. Days of heavy moisture, the blood stains appear!"
Phipps was cruel to more than just the slaves. His own daughter Priscilla fell in love with a young man during the Civil War and her father did not approve. He arranged to have that man killed in action. It is said that his daughter died from grief at the age of 20. Phipps had a mistress who joined him in his cruel treatment and some say she was more evil than he was, even though she herself was a former slave. Edward Stewart wrote about a slave named Aunt Vic who was owned by Phipps, in an article published in the Kingsport Times-News in October of 1975. He wrote, "Aunt Vic was a slave at Rotherwood before the Civil War, and [she talked] about hiding in the reeds and culverts when the slave traders would come through, so she wouldn't be sold. Aunt Vic described Richard Netherland as a workmaster for Joshua Phipps, who made the slaves work harder. She said that both Netherland and Phipps were cruel and beat the slaves all the time." Aunt Vic also claimed that Phipps would say he wanted to be buried standing up on the hill at Rotherwood, so he could supervise the slaves working.
And that death would come in 1861. Phipps fell ill and no doctor could figure out what was wrong with him. Out of fear, he was moved to the carriage house, so that he would sicken anyone else. He presented with fever and delusions and a young slave boy was assigned the job of fanning him to keep him cool. Phipps breathing became more labored as the days went by and when death finally took hold, it came in a very strange way causing some to think that he was cursed. The slave boy claimed that Phipps came out of the fog of his fever and his eyes fixated on a spot behind the boy. The boy turned and let out a blood curdling scream of horror. The child described seeing a thick cloud of hundreds of buzzing flies. The thick cloud of wriggling flies descended upon Phipps, covering his entire face and they pushed their way into the openings there, his nostrils, ears and open mouth. Phipps began to suffocate and convulse and the boy bolted off to the main house to get help.
The boy returned with a doctor and family members and they found Phipps dead with his eyes staring up and a look of terror frozen upon his face. Everyone was confused because the boy had told them about the swarm of flies and there was not one fly in the carriage house. It was as though they had never existed. The funeral that followed is a part of Kingsport legend. His coffin was put on a cart that was pulled by two horses. As the horses made their way up a hill, the wheels of the cart got stuck and two more horses were brought to try to pull the cart out. The four horses managed to get the cart moving forward, just as lightning started to flash across the darkening skies and thunder clapped.
One bolt of lightning hit a tree near the path to the cemetery and knocked that tree into the path, blocking the way. The pallbearers had to carry the casket the rest of the way to the open grave. People started murmuring that the circumstances were due to how evil Phipps had been. The pastor began to conduct the graveside ceremony when the nearby river began to bubble and churn. The thunder and lightning grew more violent. And then, the casket under its dark cloth, began to move. Inexplicably, a large black dog hurled itself out of the casket and ran down the hill. The terrified group of onlookers quickly closed the casket, lowered it into the ground and buried it over. They then ran home.
A Uneca Company acquired the property and several men, including Jeffrey Johnson and John B. Dennis, farmed the land. Rotherwood Farms covered 2,000 acres of the original 6,000. They had Jersey Cows, riding horses and prized bulls. Rotherwood Farms was bought by the U.S. government in 1940 and a Colonel Ryan moved into the mansion with his family. The government occupied the farm until the end of World War II. And then Rotherwood sat empty for many years and it began to fall into disrepair. A man bought the property and fixed up the outside and then he sold to a couple named the Stones. Today, Rotherwood Mansion is owned by Lenita Thibault whom we think bought the property in the 1980s. She was a doctor and Kingsport was desperate to have her and after she visited the town and saw Rotherwood Mansion from a distance, she was sold as long as the money could be worked out. There is a video that we have posted a link to featuring her talking about the restoration and she clearly loves this home. She doesn't seem to believe in all the ghost stories told about Rotherwood, so we are thinking that she has not had any experiences.
There are many stories of hauntings on the property of the former Rotherwood Plantation. Rowena's apparition is a common occurrence. She is seen walking towards the banks of the Holston River, wearing her wedding dress, making her our Lady in White at this location. Sightings of Rowena's ghost started when her family still lived on the site. Her first love is also said to haunt the banks of the river due to his tragic death and the fact that his body was never recovered. Now the interesting piece of this story is the actual history because it is our understanding that Rowena committed suicide in Huntsville, Alabama. So has her spirit just decided to haunt here or is this just a piece of ghost lore?
Phipps daughter who died from grief is said to be an apparition seen sitting in one of the front windows of the mansion. The black dog that sprung from the casket of Phipps is referred to as the "Hound of Hell." People claim that this large black dog roams the area around the Rotherwood Mansion. It gives off a low and mournful howl, particularly on stormy nights. Joshua Phipps himself is said to be an apparition at the mansion. He enjoys removing the covers from people when they are sleeping and gives off a disembodied sadistic laugh. His evil mistress is here as well and the reason for that is because after Phipps died, the slaves rose up and killed her. They buried her in an unmarked grave, somewhere on the grounds of Rotherwood Mansion. Objects are said to move throughout the house and people claim to have been poked or pushed.
During one of the renovations, some workmen were working on replacing the plumbing and the wiring in the basement. One of the workmen looked up from his work and froze, with his eyes fluttering open wide and he went white. He began to scream and ran upstairs as his co-worker looked on in confusion. The co-worker followed him upstairs and outside, where he watched him jump into the work van and peal out as he drove away from the mansion. The man returned the next day as he had left his tools behind and he was calm enough to tell the owner and his co-worker what had happened. He explained that he had felt as though someone were staring at him and when he looked up, he saw an apparition materialize right out of the wall. The spirit was male and wearing a suit and had gigantic black dog with him that had glowing red eyes. The beast was snarling and the man gave the workman a sadistic smile and pointed at him. The dog leapt at him and that is when he ran out of the house. He claimed that the dog followed him upstairs and even followed the van down the road for a bit. And, of course, the other workman had seen nothing. That man never set foot in the house again.
The Sensbaugh Tunnels are just a few miles up Big Elm Road from Rotherwood Mansion. These tunnels are said to be incredibly haunted. The tunnel was widened in the 1920s and during that work 16 men working for the Clinchfield Railroad were killed. The tunnel was made from a natural tunnel that had been used by runaway slaves waiting for a ferryman coming down the Holston River. A slave owner once found two of his slaves and their three children hiding in the tunnel. He killed the woman, who had been his mistress, her husband and two of the children by shooting them. The baby he crushed against the inside of the tunnel. It is said that the baby's mournful cry is heard coming from the tunnel. Rumors of Satanic rituals taking place in the tunnel have been a popular part of the legend and people claim that car engines die when near the tunnel.
While there are only claims of three ghosts, Rowena, Phipps and his mistress, and the Black Dog, one has to wonder if some of the spirits of the slaves who were treated so badly, remain here in the afterlife. Could there be some trapped negative emotional energy? And while the current owner and friends who have visited the property claim that there is nothing haunting the property, has that always been the case? Could the spirits be at rest because the home is loved and taken care of now or do people in the modern era just ignore the supernatural activity? Is Rotherwood Mansion haunted? That is for you to decide!
Video featuring the current owner and her story of acquiring Rotherwood Mansion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vf8pUq7SXGs
Thursday, January 18, 2018
HGB Ep. 241 - Baker Mansion
Moment in Oddity - Fake Vampie Attack Thwarts Hukbalahap Rebellion
After the second World War, the Filipino's People Army that had fought against the Japanese started adopting Communist ideals and began a peasant's rebellion called the Hukbalahap Rebellion against wealthy Manilan Filipinos who had worked with the Japanese. The United States considered the Philipines an asset and they didn't want this Communist rebellion to succeeed, so the CIA sent one of their top men, Edward Lansdale, to the Philippines to quash the rebellion. Lansdale's favorite tactic was psychological warfare and he decided to use some of the cultural folklore to his advantage. As we learned in our Filipino legends episode, one of the things the people here fear is the Aswang, which is a vampiric creature. A unit of the Hukbalahap rebels had positioned them on a very strategic hill and it was imperative to get them removed from that advantage. Lansdale ordered several of his men to grab one of the rebels at the back of the group. They then punctured the man's neck in twoplaces and hung him upside down until the blood had drained from his body. They threw the man back onto the pathway, so that when several of the rebels returned to find their comrade, they ran across his lifeless corpse and discovered the marks and that he had been drained of blood. They were terrified and reported back to their group. The rebels fled their hilltop position, losing their advantage. Lansdale used other tactics like painting all-seeing eyes on homes and flying aircraft low. The rebellion ended in 1954 and Lansdale's fake vampire attack was credited with playing a large part in that success and that, certainly is odd!
This Month in History - British Egyptologist Howard Carter Finds Sarcophagus of King Tut
In the month of January, on the 3rd, in 1924, British Egyptologist Howard Carter found the sarcophagus of Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings near Luxor. Carter had searched for the tomb of King Tut for several years and found the entrance to it in November of 1922. His crews had been digging around ancient stone huts that had housed workers when they discovered a stair. This stair proved to be a full staircase that led to a sealed tomb door that was marked in a way that indicated it was a royal tomb. Carter reached the inner door and drilled a hole through which he could see the treasure of King Tut. It would take him over a year of excavation to finally find the body of King Tut, who had died at the age of nineteen, in his sarcophagus. The treasures and sarcophagus are usually on permanent display at the Cairo Museum in Egypt, but the collection has regularly traveled the world on exhibition.
Baker Mansion (Suggested by and research help from listener Tiffany Delozier)
The Baker Family moved to Altoona, Pennsylvania in the 1830s and grew a successful iron-making business. Elias was an ambitious man who ruled his family with an iron fist that resulted in him alienating his first son and driving his daughter to dedicating herself to a spinster life. He built the family a mansion in Altoona, known as the Baker Mansion. The home remained with the family for decades and most of them died in the house. Today, there are claims that this historic home houses more than just a museum. The spirits of the family seem to have decided to stay in the afterlife. Join us and our listener Tiffany Delozier as we discuss the history and hauntings of the Baker Mansion.
Altoona is located in Blair County in Pennsylvania, it was originally the home of the Iroquois Confederacy. The first western settlers arrived in the mid-1700's and a series of stockades were constructed in the region as a defense against Indian raids, one of which was Fort Roberdeau. In 1849 the Pennsylvania Railroad Company paid David Robeson $11,000 for his farmstead so that they could develop it into a staging area for the construction of the rail line that would be used to service the train locomotives. There are two theories as to how Altoona got its name, one is that it is named after the German tow Altona which is now part of Hamburg and the second is that it comes from the Cherokee word "allatoona" which means "high lands of great worth." In 1854 the Horseshoe Curve was completed and the travel time to get from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh was cut from three days to 15 hours.
Even though the Civil War never made it as far north as Altoona it did still play a small role in it. The War Governors' Conference was held in the Logan House Hotel. Thirteen governors of the Union states came together for two days to discuss the support of President Lincoln and his Emancipation Proclamation and to discuss if General George B. McClellan should be removed as the command of the Army of the Potomac. The Logan House Hotel was also where David Wills held a meeting to begin plans for the establishment of the Gettysburg National Cemetery. Unfortunately, the hotel was later torn down and the Altoona Post Office now sits in its place. In 1858, Altoona was incorporated as a borough and in 1868 it was chartered as a city. Altoona gained unwanted attention from the Nazi's during World War II specifically the Horseshoe Curve. The Nazi's knew that the curve was making it easier for the U.S. government to transport much needed materials for weapons making and hatched a plan to destroy the Horseshoe Curve forcing trains to take a longer way around and this met the goal of slowing down production.
Luckily the men that were sent over were caught before they could destroy the tracks and the Horseshoe Curve was saved. Altoona is home to a few historical sites such as Fort Roberdeau, the Leap-the-dips roller coaster that is in the now closed Lakemont Park which is the oldest still running wooden roller coaster, Reighard's which is one of the oldest still operating gas stations, the Railroader's Memorial Museum, the Mishler Theater, the Horseshoe Curve, and Baker Mansion.
Elias Baker was born on December 24, 798 to Frederick and Margaretta Baker in Pequea, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. His wife Esther 'Hetty' Baker (maiden name was Woods) was born on October 2, 1803 to David and Ann Woods in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania as well. There is no information as to when or where they were married, and there is no information as to when their son David was born other then he was born sometime in 1823 in Erie County, Pennsylvania. Their second child and youngest son Sylvester was born on October 31, 1825 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and David was about two years old. Their third child Anna was born on June 9, 1836 in Altoona, Pennsylvania since the family had moved to the area before she was born after Elias had purchased the Alleghany Furnace with his cousin Roland Diller.
Their fourth and last child Margaretta was born on December 11, 1839 in Altoona but she would never live to see the mansion her family would eventually live in, she contracted diphtheria and later died on January 14, 1842. In 1844 Elias bought Roland's share of the business and contracted the Baltimore architect Robert Cary Long Jr. to design a new home for his family which would become Baker Mansion. Construction on the building in 1845 but problems and delays one of which was the falling prices of iron caused the building to go uncompleted until 1849. Elias almost caused himself to go bankrupt paying for the $15,000 cost of the mansion's completion, to give you an idea as to how much he would have had to pay today it would cost him anywhere between $460,000-$470,000 to complete today. The mansion is a Greek Revivial style home and is made of limestone and iron from Elias' own furnaces, it has around 35 rooms altogether one of which was Elias and later Sylvester's personal office, a double parlor which was used when the family was entertaining guests, a single parlor for quiet nights at home, a dinning room, the second floor is where the bedrooms were at along with a bathroom which was not a common thing to have at the time, the basement contained the kitchen so that the servants could cook the family's meals without worrying about getting in the family's way, an ice room and several other rooms for them to use, the mansion also had an in-house brick bake oven which was also another rare find in any home at the time.
In 1851, David married Sarah Tuthill and moved away, roughly a year after they were married Sarah gave birth to their only child Louise. Sadly Louise would grow up without David around, two weeks after she was born David was killed in steamboat accident and later on in life Louise would marry Ernst Beckworth and move to his native Sweden with him having never stepped foot in the mansion. Around the time of David's death there was more drama in the mansion as Elias found out that Anna was planning on marrying one of his workers, Elias was furious to find out that his daughter wanted to marry someone below her social stature and forbid her from marrying him. As the story goes during the argument Elias told Anna that the man was to poor to provide her and any children they would have and that he doubted that the ring she had been given was even a diamond. In anger Anna screamed at her father that she would prove to him that the ring was real, she took her ring off turned to the window and scratched her initials into the pane.
Nonetheless, Elias would not relent and went to the worker and either talked him into leaving Anna and Altoona or paid him to leave, when Anna found out what he had done she vowed that if her father would not let her marry for love she would not marry at all and was determined to die a spinster. Elias would never live to see the day, he died on December 5, 1864 from either an unknown illness or old age. Hetty never remarried and she remained in the mansion with Sylvester and Anna until she died on May 14, 1900 she was 96 years old so it isn't to far fetched to say that her age was probably the reason for her death. Sylvester died on June 24, 1907 he had been sitting on the couch in the single parlor when he stood to head up to his room and suffered a heart attack, he was dead before his body ever hit the floor. Even though she was all alone Anna refused to leave and died on December 20, 1914 leaving the mansion to her niece Louise, the mansion was closed up and would not open up for another eight years.
In 1922, the Blair County Historical Society began leasing the building from her and turned it into a museum. In 1941 with the communities help the Historical Society was able to purchase the mansion from her and they have continued to work with the community to restore the Baker Mansion to the grand home it has always been. They hold three tours a day Tuesday to Friday and hold several different events to pay for any renovations and to bring the community together. Baker Mansion was added to the PHMC on April 1, 1947 and the NRHP on June 5, 1975.
There are several ghost stories told about the mansion and many people have had experiences. The most famous story from Baker Mansion is that of the wedding dress, people have reported either seeing the skirt and shoes of the dress moving or the case that it is in violently shaking. What some people get wrong is that the dress belonged to Anna Baker when in reality it belonged to the daughter of another ironmaster named Elizabeth Bell, Elizabeth taunted Anna about the fact that she was unwed throughout their entire lives so some people believe that Elizabeth comes back every so often to taunt Anna once more by moving the dress or that Anna is longingly touching the dress that could have been hers if Elias had let her marry the man she loved and that when she is in a bad mood that she will shake the case so hard sometimes that people were worried that it would break. The dress is no longer on display due to it slowly falling apart from the passing of years so it is unknown if the dress still has activity happening. In the same room that the dress was kept in there is a music box that is said to play without being wound on certain nights. Elias has been spotted in the dining room possibly still tending to his business in the afterlife, a woman dressed in black that the volunteers believe is Hetty has been seen wandering around the attic and Anna is seen in different rooms of the house as well.
Near the end of his life Sylvester needed a cane to help him get around and when he needed to get either Anna or one of their servants' attention he would bang his cane on the floor as hard as he could, volunteers have reported hearing the sound of his cane banging along with the image of Sylvester sitting in the room it's coming from and have seen him banging his cane on the floor before he disappears. The single parlor is also haunted by Sylvester as well, the mansion has plates in the floor that goes off when someone steps on them and several times in the middle of the night they have gone off. Police will arrive and find no one there, there is even the story of one time when they brought a K-9 unit and the dog acted strangely in the house but was fine when it was out in the open refusing to re-enter the house, at one point the plates right in front of the couch that Sylvester sat on right before he died were found broken in the exact shape of a body while the rest of the plates remained intact. The basement is said to be haunted as well, when David died his body was sent back to Altoona for burial but by the time it had arrived the ground was frozen solid and they were unable to bury him so his body was placed in the ice room. Before his death, David and Elias had gotten into an argument and David had sworn to his father that he would never enter the house again, even though his body has long since been put in its final resting place people report hearing the screams of David Baker coming from the ice room in the basement at night.
David is not alone in the basement, one tour guide tells the story of when they were leading a group through the house. Everything was fine and the tour had gone off without a hitch until they got to the basement, a little boy took one look down the stairs before he clung to his mother and started to cry and beg her not to take him down. When they got him calmed down enough to ask him what was wrong he told them that "There's a soldier down there and he keeps glaring up at us. He doesn't want us down there." when he described what he saw they realized he was seeing a Union soldier. The war never made it up to Altoona but that didn't mean that it would not affect the Baker family, Sylvester was drafted into the Union army and unwilling to see his only remaining son leave to possibly die in a battle Elias paid another man to take his place. The soldier might be the spirit of the man who took Sylvester's place his life possibly cut short thus creating another spirit with a bone to pick with him.
Volunteers have also reported having a difficult time keeping some of the beds tidy mostly the bed that belonged to Hetty and Elias, they have reported going into their bedroom and straightening everything up for the next day or the next tour and moving on to another room before walking past the room and seeing that the bed has been messed up again. People outside of the mansion have also seen the Baker family and other unknown entities in the house, Hetty had a garden beside the mansion that she could see from her's and Elias' bedroom and the Historical Society keeps it maintained to honor her memory. People who have visited the mansion and stood in Hetty's garden have reported looking up to the bedroom window and seeing a woman matching her description looking down at them from the window before disappearing. Another woman who does not live in the area was driving by the mansion when her car either broke down or she realized she was lost, since this was well before cell phones she had no way of calling for help. She looked around to see if anyone was awake in any of the houses when she saw the lights on at Baker Mansion, she got out of her car and walked up the small hill to the front of the house.
She knocked on the door in an attempt to get someone's attention, she could hear people talking to each other in the house and became irritated at the thought that they were ignoring her. She knocked again and called out to them that she needed help, when no one answered the door she angrily knocked again and demanded help. Instead of anyone answering the door or calling out to her she heard a knock from the other side followed by laughter, she turned and stormed back down the hill in an attempt to find help elsewhere. She returned the next day and talked to the head volunteer at the time, when she told them the story of what had happened to her the night before the volunteer's jaw dropped and they apologized to her about the rudeness but explained that at the end of the night they give the mansion back to the Baker's and that the reason none of them answered the door was because Anna was the last one to live there and that she had died decades ago. The woman's face paled and she quickly left the mansion the way she had come, she is not the only one to have an encounter with a spirit inside the house while they were outside.
One person posted online that one night while their friends were returning home from Mansion Park they passed by Baker Mansion and noticed that one of the doors was open, they stood there daring each other to go into the house when they noticed someone in one of the upstairs windows. They moved so that they could see the figure better and saw a little boy in one of the windows looking down at them and waving at them to come in, thinking it was the child of one of the nearby residents they were about to enter the building when they realized that the boy's clothes did not match the time period. At the same time that the realization hit them the little boy vanished from the window, the door closed with the sound of a child's giggle and the two friends were sprinting down the hill as fast as they could. While the Baker family were the only people to live in the house that does not mean that there isn't a spirit from another location isn't there since the mansion has items that did not belong to the Baker's in its many rooms some of which is actually from the Logan House Hotel, who's to say that they didn't bring a spirit that cherished it along with it? There are numerous stories of sightings from the mansion that I either haven't found yet or are basically the same thing so I will end off with a story told to me in grade school and a personal one of my own.
Tiffany related the following to us, "This story was told to me by a worker at my elementary school, she had volunteered at the mansion during an event they held a few years before she told this story and one of the requirements was for the volunteers to stay behind and help close up the mansion. She went from the top of the mansion to the bottom and made sure all of the windows were shut and locked up tight since the windows had alarms connected to them as well and since the windows had not been fixed at that point they would fly open if not secured properly and set the alarms off. Once she had finished she went to the back door and let the other volunteers know that she had finished, they set the alarm and no sooner had they shut the door when the alarm went off for a window in one of the second story bedrooms. Thinking that she had not secured the window correctly she ran back up to the room and shut and locked the window again, she had just made it to the door when the alarm went off again. Now frightened but still not wanting to think about it to much she dashed up the steps and into the room slamming the window shut and pushing on the lock so hard she could have broken it.
Her feet hadn't even touched the 1st-floor hallway when the alarm went off again, she looked at the other volunteers before running out the door shouting to them that either one of them or one of the ghosts could shut the window because she was not going back up. My personal story takes place in the basement, whenever I would graduate from grade school to middle school to high school my dad would take me to take a tour of Baker Mansion. The year I graduated high school my dad told me that I was old enough to pay for my own way in and to go without him, I arrived in time for the first tour which turned out to be just me and a tour guide. Everything was fine other then the tour guide jumping when I stepped on a floorboard that squeaked and then we went down to the basement, the gift shop has been moved to the carriage house but at the time of this story it was still in the basement which I have always hated going in to since I've had two nightmares about that area of the house. The tour guide realized that she had forgotten the keys to the cash register and after excusing herself she ran upstairs to get the keys off of her boss, while I waited for her I browsed the selection of items they had for sale.
I had picked out a few things when I heard a man's voice 'What are you doing here?' he asked, he sounded irritated that I was there so I looked around to see if there was a male volunteer there wondering why I had been left in the gift shop by myself. There was no one there so thinking that I was hearing things I turned back to the items when I felt someone all but jump on me 'I said what are you doing in my house?!?' the man's voice said. I stood up straight and my breathing quickly came out short and panicked, something kept telling me not to turn around since I wouldn't like what I might see if I did so I stood frozen to the spot and the realization that I had not heard the voice out loud had me questioning if something was really happening to me or if I was letting my imagination get to me. Just in case I decided to think to myself just to make my possible imagination stop 'Seriously? I am a guest at your house and this is how you treat me? I've only come into this house because I love being in here and I love this house and this is how you're going to be? All I want to do is get a few things from the shop and leave! Leave me alone and I am out of here.' I thought. I felt the presence move a few feet away from me 'Fine then. Get your things and get out as soon as you purchase them,' he said.
After a few minutes the tour guide came back apologizing for taking so long before turning the register on, as promised as soon as she rung me up I power walked to the exit that leads from the basement to the backyard area taking the steps two at a time. About halfway down I stopped and turned towards the mansion half expecting to see Elias or Sylvester Baker watching me from the steps before heading to a bus stop to get back home. Most people wouldn't want to go back to a location after something like that happens to them but I have been back to the mansion at least three or four more times so far but I still wonder even ten years later if I really did have either Elias or Sylvester confront me in the basement or if I had made up the whole thing in my mind."
Have members of the Baker family decided to stay behind in their former home after their deaths? Are the strange noises heard supernatural or just the creaking of an old house? Is the Baker Mansion haunted? That is for you to decide!
Thursday, January 11, 2018
HGB Ep. 240 - Yosemite National Park
Moment in Oddity - The White Death Sniper
The deadliest sniper in world history was a Finnish man named Simo Hayha. He racked up his unbelievable record of 505 kills during the Winter War. World War II had just broken out when the Soviet Union invaded Finland. The Finnish people were not about to go quietly and they put up a fierce fight that lasted three and a half months. Simo dealt the Soviets a heavy blow with his prowess as a sniper. The Soviets were soon calling him Belaya Smert, which translates to "White Death." Simo made his kills in just 100 days meaning that he averaged 5.5 kills per day. His record days were 23, 25, and 40 confirmed kills. The only thing that stopped him was a bullet. The Soviets sent out counter-snipers and one finally got lucky and hit Simo with an exploding bullet. It blew the lower half of his face away, but he survived and had reconstructive surgery. What is really amazing is that Simo made his kills while seated rather than lying down and he had no scope on his rifle and that certainly is odd!
This Month in History - The Russians Surrendered to the Japanese After the Battle of Port Arthur
In the month of January, on the 2nd, in 1905, the Russians surrendered to the Japanese after the Battle of Port Arthur during the Russian-Japanese War. The Russo-Japanese War was fought from 1904 to 1905 and was a military conflict in which Japan fought against Russia for dominance in Korea and Manchuria. There had been an agreement by Russia to withdraw its troops from Manchuria in 1903, but it reneged and Japan decided it was time to attack. It defeated Russia, becoming the first Asian power in modern times to defeat a European power. President Theodore Roosevelt later mediated a peace conference in September of 1905 held at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, where the Russians agreed to the Treaty of Portsmouth. This treaty gave Port Arthur and the Liaodong Peninsula to Japan and it also had an agreement by Russia to evacuate Manchuria. They also had to recognize Japan's interests in Korea.
Yosemite National Park
In the United States, there are 59 separate natural protected areas known as National Parks. The Department of the Interior oversees these parks under the National Park Service and each area has been dedicated by an act of Congress. The effort to set aside these areas was initiated to prevent the expanding population from destroying distinct natural areas, so they could be preserved for future generations. Yosemite National Park was one of the first parks designated for special protection. The park covers an area of 747,956 acres in the Western Sierra Nevada of Northern California. It was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1984. Known for it’s granite cliffs, waterfalls, giant sequoia groves, lakes, mountains, and glaciers it is the source of not only beauty but of an amazing history and great stories including those of curses, cryptids, and ghosts. Join us as we explore the history and the hauntings of Yosemite National Park.
The California Gold Rush of 1849 brought thousands of miners to the Sierra Nevada. Many miners were ruthless in their search for gold and thousands of the native people were killed or died of starvation. In 1851 the Yosemite Valley was entered by the Mariposa Battalion, a state sponsored militia. They made two attempts to remove the native people to the Fresno River Reservation but were unsuccessful. When non-native people began settling in the Yosemite area, life for the native people changed drastically. Euro-American clothing styles and food were adopted. The native people started working for the new arrivals doing jobs, such as, guides, wranglers, and wood cutters for the men with the women taking care of children, housekeeping, and making woven baskets to sell.
The population began to shrink and eventually in 1969 the final houses of the native people were razed. Today many of the descendants of Yosemite’s native people live both nearby and scattered throughout the world.
Yosemite was central to the development of the National Park System. Galen Clark and others lobbied to protect Yosemite Valley from development. This lead to President Abraham Lincoln signing the Yosemite Grant in 1864. Later, John Muir, who was a naturalist and environmental activist, led a successful movement to establish a larger national park that included not just the valley, but the surrounding mountains and forests as well. The area was called “Ahwahnee” (big mouth) by the indigenous people, who called themselves the Ahwahneechee. Muir had been born in Scotland and immigrated to America with his family when he was a child. He loved nature and studied botany in college. It was after an accident caused him to go temporarily blind, that he dedicated himself to nature and walked from Indiana to Florida, sketching the terrain as he went. He wrote articles and essays and his efforts eventually not only led to the creation of Yosemite, but also the Grand Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.
Another group that had a huge impact on Yosemite were the Buffalo Soldiers. They were among the first park rangers, especially in the back country. The Buffalo Soldiers were formed shortly after the Civil War when African-American army regiments were dispatched westward to fight in the Indian Wars. They were given the name Buffalo Soldiers by the Cheyenne and other Plains tribes who saw a resemblance between their short curly hair to that of the hair between the horns on a buffalo.
Even though the Buffalo Soldiers wore the uniform of the US Army they had to overcome much racial prejudice and were often abused and even killed for the smallest perceived offense. They were considered the bottom rung of the ladder, but in spite of that, they performed their duties well protecting and building the area and became a huge part of building the infrastructure of Yosemite National Park.
Women also played a crucial role in the development of the park. In the 1800s, women were expected to play a traditional role in the family and the home. When the railroad came in and as the Gold Rush drew people to California in the late 1800s, pioneering women found ways to broaden traditional roles. The advent of "bloomers," allowed women to participate in outdoor pursuits, while women writing about their adventures in the West inspired the imagination of others. Some women expanded traditional roles because of an adventurous spirit while others branched out from the necessity of supporting the family. In the West, women's domestic skills sometimes became the basis for a profitable business. The early women became Yosemite’s concessioners, adventurers, rangers, naturalists, cultural demonstrators, and artists that helped expand women's roles.
Clearly, the shaping of Yosemite is thanks to a wide variety of people from all walks of life, which is really symbolic of a National Park that is such a tapestry of different wild areas. These include vast wilderness areas, waterfalls, deep valleys, lush meadows and ancient giant sequoias. And the park offers a variety of things to do to get people closer to nature. Yosemite is one of the most popular parks and is very crowded during peak season with visitors all seeking to write their story of adventure. There are many stories from the park that are of a different nature as well. For those into the bizarre, unexplained and supernatural, Yosemite seems to have experiences that touch upon it all including ghosts, curses, legends and cryptids.
The first one we would like to share is the Curse of Tenaya Canyon. The canyon is beautiful and calls to the heart of those that love nature and adventure. There is a 10 mile hike through the canyon for those that dare to attempt it. It has rough terrain, mandatory swims, dangerous climbs, and numerous waterfalls and slippery glacier polished granite rocks -dangerous for even experienced hikers. In the 1850s, Chief Tenaya of the Ahwahnechee tribe placed a curse on the canyon as revenge for the death of his son at the hands of a battalion. The troops had been sent by the state of California to relocate the tribe. The Yosemite Indian Petition to Congress of 1891 describes what happened as "The action of the Mariposa Battalion towards our chief at that time, Tenaya, and his tribe was wantonly unjust and outrageous. Our only quarrel with the whites then was owing to our determination not to go upon a reservation being established on the Fresno, and give up to the whites this magnificent valley, which was to us reservation and all that we desired and that for a few paltry blankets, gewgaws and indifferent supplies of rations, that might be furnished us or not, at the discretion of any appointed Indian Agent. Our fathers had the sorrow to see their tribe conquered, their dignified and honored chief Tenaya led out by a halter, like a beast, into a green field to eat grass, amid the wonder and laughter of our pursuers; and his youngest son shot dead for no other reason than that he had tried to escape the unjust thraldom of our persecutors. For proof of these statements, you are referred to Dr. Bunnell’s History of the Discovery of the Yosemite. He was himself attached to this battalion, and was an eye witness to all the facts related. Those who were left of our fathers were taken with their chief, however, to the reservation on the Fresno, from which place hunger and destitution finally forced them to run away; after which, we have been informed, the reservation was broken up, having shed disgrace upon all connected with its management."
Rangers sometimes refer to Tenaya Canyon as the “Bermuda Triangle” of Yosemite as they have to do dozens of rescues there every year. Many hikers have disappeared over the years. John Muir himself claimed to be a victim to the curse, "I was ascending a precipitous rock front, smoothed by glacial action, when I suddenly fell—for the first time since I touched foot to Sierra rocks. After several somersaults, I became insensible from the shock, and when consciousness returned I found myself wedged among short, stiff bushes… I could not remember what made me fall, or where I had fallen from; but I saw that if I had rolled a little further, my mountain climbing would have been finished, for just beyond the bushes the canyon wall steepened and I might have fallen to the bottom.” The native people also believed that this area was home to the Monah or Yosemites whom they considered to be similar to witches.
Next is the Spirit of Ahwahnee. The Ahwahnee Hotel is one of the most historic and luxurious hotels in Yosemite. Mary Curry Tresidder (who was crucial to the development of the hotel) lived in an apartment on the hotel’s 6th floor until her death in the 1970s. Ever since her passing, apparitions and strange activity have been reported on the floor. There are also claims that the ghost of John F. Kennedy show up from time to time. He stayed on the 3rd floor during a 1962 visit. He was brought a rocking chair to alleviate some of his back pain. Guests have reported seeing a phantom rocking chair on the floor despite the fact that no room has been furnished with such a chair for years.
Po-Ho-No and Bridalveil Falls has it’s own creepy story. Some people translate Po-Ho-No as “Puffing Wind” but many translate it as “The Spirit of the Evil Wind”, a demon who attempts to lure people over the park’s Bridalveil Falls. There are a couple of variations to the Native American legend: young women are picking berries or grass to weave baskets near the falls, when one of them is lured to the edge by a hypnotic, misty rainbow…the wind comes and attempt to pull her off the falls. The other version is that the Po-Ho-No lures young women to the falls and all the way over the edge. The chief of the tribe warns the tribe to never approach the falls or they will be lured to their death by Po-Ho-No. As legend has it no son or daughter of the Ahwahnee have ever gone over the falls but it has not protected other people from being lured to their death by the spirit.
The Ghost of Grouse Lake goes back to the first park ranger. In 1857 he experienced a wailing sound coming from Grouse Lake. It sounded like a puppy in distress. He reported it to the local tribe who warned him not to go into the lake or to the edge. The story goes that there was a young boy from their tribe who drowned in the lake. He lures victims into the water with his cries and then pulls them into the lake to drown them.
The immense wilderness of Yosemite National Park makes it a perfect place for cryptids. There have been dozens of sightings of Big Foot across the park and surrounding areas. There have also been reports of Nightcrawlers (and we aren’t talking about the ones you use for bait). They look like a walking pair of pants. The local tribe believe them to be aliens – there are images of them in statues and totem poles that confirm the beings have been here for a long time.
Is Yosemite National Park just a beautiful wilderness area for people to come and enjoy nature? Are the legends and stories just made up as warnings from the native people to keep their young people in line? Are the spirits of the people who loved the park still there in the afterlife? Is Yosemite National Park haunted? That is for you to decide!
Thursday, January 4, 2018
HGB Ep. 239 - Keith-Albee Theater
Moment in Oddity - Benjamin Bathurst Disappears
Benjamin Bathurst was a British man who was sent by the British government on a secret mission to Austria to ask them to join in a confederation to fight against Napoleon. His message was that Britain would attack the French occupying Spain if Austria would join. Things didn't work out and Austria ended up ceding territory to Napoleon. Bathurst began his journey home after delivering the message under the assumed name Koch. He told everyone that he was a wealthy merchant and he was traveling with his secretary. Bathhurst had been acting very vervous and was sure agents of Napoloen were following him. He decided to leave an inn where he was staying in the middle of the night. He left his secretary to pay the bill and he went out to check that the horses were rigged right. He walked around the horses and just disappeared. The valet did not see him anywhere and he had been loading the baggage. The secretary did not see him come back into the inn. Soldiers stationed at each end of the street did not see him pass. He literally just disappeared. Many stories theorized that he had somehow run away and been lost at sea, others say he was kidnapped and others say he slipped away and changed his identity. The only thing we know for certain is that he walked out around his horses and was no more and that, certainly is odd!
This Month in History - Beatles Turned Down by Decca Records
In the month of January, on the 1st, in 1962, the Beatles auditioned for Decca Records and were turned down. The members of the Beatles at that time were John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Pete Best. They travelled from Liverpool with their roadie Neil Aspinall. Brian Epstein met up with them later as he decided to take the train. They nearly missed their 11am audition with Decca because of snowstorms. The boys were eager to seal the deal. A representative from the company had already seen them perform live and he was not impressed, so they hoped the private audition would win the contract. They were thrown off at the beginning of the audition because their amplifiers were considered subpar and so they had to use some that Decca owned that they were unfamiliar with. The session took an hour to record. They recorded 15 songs most of which are only available today as bootleg. Another group had auditioned that day as well and that was Brian Poole and the Tremeloes. Decca Records could only choose one of them and in a decision they clearly must have regretted later, they decided to sign Brian Poole and the Tremeloes since they were a local group and would be easier to work with. The official reason Decca gave was that "guitar groups are on the way out, Mr Epstein". Dick Rowe would forever be known as the "man who turned down the Beatles" and this line became infamous. Obviously, Brian Epstein pressed on for the Beatles and took the recordings they made around to other record labels. And the rest, as they say, is history!
Keith-Albee Theater (Suggested by Victoria Brooke)
The Keith-Albee Theater in Huntington, West Virginia was a part of a national chain of theaters that hosted vaudeville shows and then eventually converted to motion picture theaters. The Keith-Albee Theater also has the distinction of being one of a very few atmospheric theaters built in America. Nearly all of them are gone today. This theater has survived and has been refurbished to its former glory. All the decades of use has left spiritual residue behind. There are rumored to be several ghosts here. Join us as we share the history and hauntings of the Keith-Albee Theater.
Keith-Albee-Orpheum Theaters was a national chain of vaudeville theaters formed by the merger of the holdings of Benjamin Franklin Keith, Edward Franklin Albee II and Martin Beck's Orpheum Circuit. The company was incorporated in Delaware on January 28, 1928 and soon the company was operating a chain of theaters across America and Canada that could seat a total of 1,500,000 people. There were 700 theaters at its height. Fifteen thousand vaudeville acts passed through the theaters. Eventually the KAO theaters were bought out by RKO and motion pictures became the main source of entertainment at the theaters.
One of the locations where Keith and Albee decided to build a theater was in Huntington, West Virginia. The first permanent settlement in Huntington was "Holderby's Landing," which was founded in 1775. The official city of Huntington was incorporated in 1871 and named for founder Collis P. Huntington, who was one of the "Big Four" to build the Central Pacific Railroad. He and Delos W. Emmons wanted the city to be the western terminus for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. The tract of land was at the mouth of the Guyandotte River. Huntington boomed from that time in the late 1800s and the city was actually the second in America to feature electric street cars. They were eventually replaced by gas-powered buses. Things changed with the Great Flood of 1937. The Dust Bowl and Great Depression had already hit the country hard and this flood was devastating. For Huntington, it resulted in five people dead, millions of dollars in damage and tens of thousands left homeless. *Fun Fact: The movie "We Are Marshall" was filmed in Huntington.*
Construction on the Keith Albee Theater began in 1926 and ended up costing $2 million to build. The owners, the Hyman brothers, hired Scottish-born architect Thomas W. Lamb to design the theater in the rococo style. The rococo style dates back to the 18th century and was a French artistic movement. The style was ornate and featured light colors, curves, gold and asymmetrical designs. Many of the themes were quite witty and many times incorporated Chinese figures and designs. Interiors would integrate ornate furniture, tapestries, small sculptures and ornamental mirrors. Another unique part of the design for the theater is that Lamb chose to make it one of eight atmospheric theaters he designed. Atmospheric theatres were designed to create the illusion of being entertained outdoors in a magnificent courtyard. There are faux facades of various shops and village homes and the domed ceiling appears to be a blue night sky with a smattering of stars.There is only one other atmospheric theater left and it is in New York and scheduled for demolition.
The theater officially opened on May 7, 1928. Guests entered to find a grand theater with seating for 3000, chandeliers, intricate plasterwork, balconies, restrooms for men and women that had fireplaces, smoking rooms, cosmetic rooms and a gorgeous front lobby with Mexican Baroque styling. Inside the theater there was a Wurlitzer organ to accompany live performances and motion pictures. This type of organ was fun in that it could create sound effects for any silent pictures shown at the theater. The Hyman Brothers innovated the theater to have air-conditioning. It was one of few places to have such a luxury. There was also a state-of-the-art heating system, so guests were comfortable all year long. Huntington’s Herald-Dispatch newspaper called the theater the “temple of amusement.” That first opening featured a performance by singer Rae Samuels, some vaudeville acts and a screening of 1928's "Good Morning Judge" starring Reginald Denny. People paid .50 cents for a ticket.
The theater was hit hard through the Great Depression and the flood and the entertainment industry changed. The Wurlitzer organ was removed in the 1950s, but in 2001 the Huntington Theatre Organ Project, Inc., purchased a 1927 Wurlitzer organ and reinstalled it in the theater. In the 1960s, the theater was converted fully to a three screen theater. A fourth smaller theater was added later. In 1986, the theater was added to the Register of Historical Places. The Hyman family had owned it for eighty years and they decided to donate it to the Marshall University Foundation, Inc. in the 1990s. In January 2006, the Keith-Albee Theatre closed as a functioning movie theater. The foundation later passed it on to the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center Foundation. Many grand theaters dating back to the time of the Keith-Albee were demolished, so it is really special that the citizens of Huntington decided to save their theater. Today, the theater is used for weddings, special events, touring Broadway shows, music concerts and dance recitals.
The Keith-Albee shares a unique feature found in so many theaters and that is, ghosts. Several people have met their ends inside the theater and many believe that their spirits have opted to stay at the theater in the afterlife. There are claims that this is the most haunted building in the tri-state area. Three of the ghosts reputed to be here, belong to workmen, two of them electricians and one a maintenance man. The electricians were electrocuted while working on wiring and the maintenance man died in some way inside the modern projection room. They appear as shadow figures and fittingly, mess with the lighting and other electrical parts.
A homeless man had taken shelter in the basement, but there was no heat down there and he ended up freezing to death. It was right below the staging area. Much of the activity does center around the basement and it believed that this is where the electricians died as well. Ghostlore claims that the basement opens up into a system of tunnels, but we didn't find anything to prove that these tunnels exist today. They may have been under the city, but they are more than likely filled in now.
The most famous ghost at the theater is the Lady in Red. She tends to occupy the ladies restroom on the mezzanine level. There is a mirrored parlor that leads into the restroom and this is where she is often seen as a full-bodied apparition. The specter wears a fancy red dress and high heeled shoes. Another bathroom at the Keith-Albee is said to be haunted by a spirit, but no one is sure what is haunting it as it only appears as more of a poltergeist type spirit. Patrons describe feeling as though they are being watched or followed.
Most theaters claim to have at least one spirit hanging around. The Keith-Albee claims to have several. Is the Keith-Albee theater haunted? That is for you to decide!
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