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!

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