Thursday, March 29, 2018

HGB Ep. 251 - Fort Leavenworth

Moment in Oddity - The Theft of the Irish Crown Jewels

The Irish Crown Jewels were worn by the Grand Master of the Order of St. Patrick on special occasions. These jewels were comprised of a diamond brooch, five gold collars and the jeweled star of the Order of St.Patrick. This last piece was a large eight-pointed star composed mostly of Brazilian diamonds and there was a trefoil of emeralds at its centre within a ruby cross upon a background of blue enamel. These Irish Crown Jewels were stolen in 1907 despite the fact that the safe in which the jewels were kept had two locks and this safe was in a room that required 7 keys for entry. These seven keys were held by the staff of the Office of Arms, while the two keys that went to the actual safe were held by only the Vicar. One was carried by him constantly, the other was kept in a locked drawer in a desk at his home. On July 6th, the safe was found open and the jewels were gone. Also missing were the Vicar's mother's personal jewels. Many people were suspected of the crime, the first being the jewels' custodian Arthur Vicars. He enjoyed getting drunk and parading around with the jewels. The theft definitely appeared to be an inside job, but the Dublin police were unable to solve the crime. Scotland Yard jumped in to help with the investigation and they failed to pinpoint a suspect either. The thief and the location of the jewels remains a mystery and that, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Opens

In the month of March, on the 24th, in 1955, Tennessee Williams’ play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof opened in New York. Williams had been born in 1911 to an abusive father who tormented him ruthlessly. Williams found refuge in books and he began writing. He proved to be good at writing and at 14, he won a prize in a national writing competition. Three years later, he sold a short story to Weird Tales Magazine. He began writing plays that would win awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes. These plays included "The Glass Menagerie," "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." That play was set in the Mississippi Delta plantation home of Big Daddy Pollitt, a wealthy cotton tycoon. The play focuses on the relationships of Big Daddy's family, primarily between his son Brick and Brick's wife Maggie who is the "Cat." The original Broadway production opened at the Morosco Theater on March 24, 1955. It was directed by Elia Kazan and starred Barbara Bel Geddes as Maggie, Ben Gazzara as Brick, Burl Ives as Big Daddy, Mildred Dunnock as Big Mama, Pat Hingle as Gooper, and Madeleine Sherwood as Mae. The play would win Williams his second Pulitzer Prize. He continued writing until his death in 1983, when he choked on a medicine-bottle cap.

Fort Leavenworth (Suggested by and research help from listener Breanne Sanford)

Fort Leavenworth is the oldest permanent settlement in Kansas and is the oldest active United States Army post west of Washington, D.C. The fort not only has a history as a place of protection for settlers traveling along Santa Fe Trail, but it also is where the Buffalo Soldiers came together during the Civil War. Today, Leavenworth is known as a maximum security prison for the Department of Defense. The fort is also known as one of the most haunted locations in Kansas. Several of the properties have unexplained activity. Join us and our listeners Breanne and Collin Sanford as we explore the history and hauntings of Fort Leavenworth.

Colonel Henry Leavenworth was given the order to find land suitable for a permanent camp to protect the oncoming white settlers and pioneers traveling the brand-new Santa Fe Trail from Indian Attacks in the fledging and mostly un-charted Kansas Territory. He brought four companies from the Third Infantry, women, children and supplies with him. He found a more ideal place than they had originally planned along the Little Platte River, twenty miles from the original site due to the prior areas flooding issues. Leavenworth and his entourage reached the site of the future fort on May 18, 1827 and they set about establishing the cantonment. One of the first officers to call Fort Leavenworth home was Major John Doherty, whose son would be the first white male child born in Kansas. The quarters for the enlisted men consisted of four one-story brick buildings, with kitchens in the basement and a hospital built in 1828. Due to a horrific malaria outbreak in 1829, the cantonment was temporarily abandoned, but life returned to normal soon after the outbreak was quelled.

Colonel Leavenworth eventually died in Indian Territory in July 21, 1834, due to an infection he received from falling from his horse while chasing down a buffalo calf. One of the main reasons why the Fort was established was to protect settlers and travelers from the wild Plains Indians in the region. The Kaw Indians, who lived along the Kansas River and the Osage Indians who lived to the south both agreed to relocate to reservations. The Pawnee and Oto tribes were basically forced to give up all of their land north of the Platte and Kansas rivers to the government. This allowed eastern tribes to move into the vacant land. More aggressive tribes like the Delaware, Kickapoo, Shawnee and Sac-Fox moved in and were followed by the Wyandott and Potawatomie tribes. In 1833, the army raised a regiment of Mounted Rangers from the surrounding areas. Basically, just farmers on their own horses that lacked any experience, they were called the Dragoons and became the first Mounted Calvary regiment of its kind. Under the command of Colonel Henry Dodge and Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Watts-Kearney, the Dragoons along with the Missouri Volunteers set out for New Mexico in 1846 to play their part in the Mexican War.

After the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, Fort Leavenworth served as the first territorial capital of Kansas. During the Plains Indian Wars, a suspended and court-marshalled General George Armstrong Custer and his wife Libbie stayed at the fort with General Sheridan in the posts oldest home, one of the most historic buildings in the Fort that still remains. One interesting fact- when Kansas was admitted to the Union in January of 1861, the federal government failed to make sure the title for the fort and grounds remained in their possession. The Kansas State Legislature amended the issue in 1875 and ceded the land back to the United States. In 1866, General Ulysses S. Grant oversaw the organization of two mounted Calvary groups made up of black troops. Unheard of at this time, they would be called the Buffalo Soldiers. In May of 1872, Congress began plans to move a US Military prison to Fort Leavenworth. Operations in the prison began in 1875. It remains the only maximum-security correctional facility within the Department of Defense and is the oldest penal institution in operation.

The town of Leavenworth itself was the first city incorporated in the Kansas Territory. Founded in 1854, it was located just south of the Fort. Within the first year, the growing town would boast about 1200 townspeople. Now the city’s population swells to over 39,000. By the time the Civil war began, Leavenworth was the largest city on the Missouri River. By 1855, Leavenworth would become the starting points for Salt Lake and California traders. The Kansas Stage Company would make Leavenworth its home, employing more than 500 wagons, 7,500 head of cattle and nearly 1,800 men. In 1865, Fred Harvey of Harvey House fame moved his family to Leavenworth seeking to find his fortune in the new fledgling West. After working his way through the ranks, Harvey cajoled the manager of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad to let him create restaurants inside his railway stations. After that, Harvey Restaurants and Hotels, along with their famous Harvey Girls, became a household name across the country. Now the town is home to the Parker Carousel Museum, the Carroll Mansion, the Fred Harvey Museum, a Black History Museum, a Frontier Army Museum and much more. They have walking and driving tours that give great detail to the people and events that created the city.  There is also a ghost tour held by Ghost Tours of Kansas that looks to stop at many of the hotspots.

Fort Leavenworth has several hauntings going on in the various buildings that make up the property.
One of the more famous apparitions at the Fort is that of General George Armstrong Custer. It is said that his apparition patrols the National Cemetery and kneels at various graves as if to offer prayer to those who he may have wronged in life. The General’s Residence, located at 1 Scott Avenue is reportedly haunted by Custer. They say his spirit roams the first floor of the residence. Some say that his restless spirit still remains due to the fact that he was court-martialed here at the Fort and basically disgraced.

The ghost of Father Fred is well known. The original Saint Ignatius Chapel was built in the 1870s on the grounds of what is now 632 Thomas Avenue. The original church and adjacent home burned in 1875. A young priest was killed in the fire and the material that could be salvaged from the building was used to build the house that still stands there today. Legend tells that the very first residents of the home were privy to Father Fred’s apparition. They reportedly witnessed a hooded figure move up the stairs, unmindful of the tenants. Some later residents reported that he “joined” them for dinner occasionally, walked up and down the stairs from the attic or appeared in the kitchen. Father Fred reportedly “visits” nearby houses, especially if there is a party going on. [According to the book, Haunted Kansas] A picture of a robed figure was taken at one such party in 1973. The figure stood behind the subject of the photo and could not be explained. He has also been known to mend his clothes. In 1978, a Lieutenant Colonel and his wife lived next to Father Fred’s home. One day, the wife noticed the clickety clack of a sewing machine coming from next door. It struck her as odd, as the neighbors were supposed to be out that day. When she told her neighbor of the strange sounds, she seemed unconcerned and reported that the sounds happen all the time, that it was simply Father Fred “trying to sew his priestly garb”.

The Ghost of Catharine Sutter is reportedly a figure of a woman sometimes seen in the autumn, carrying a lantern, calling out the names Ethan and Mary. Legend has it that Hiram and Catharine Sutter and their children, Ethan and Mary, came to Fort Leavenworth to visit relatives on their way to Oregon Territory in 1880. Right after they arrived, the children, who were sent to gather firewood, came up missing. The parents and others began to search for them. They searched the area for three days and three nights before admitting defeat. Catharine would not give up her search and wandered the post by lantern, calling for her children. Unwilling to leave the area, Hiram and Catharine remained at the fort that winter. Due to her late-night searches in the harsh, wintry landscape, Catharine came down with pneumonia and died. Some say she actually died of a broken heart. Hiram returned to Indiana the following spring. Later, word was sent to him that the children were indeed alive. They had fallen into the river and drifted downstream where the Fox Indians had found them and took them along when they made their winter migration. Hiram returned to Fort Leavenworth and collected his children, but his wife’s apparition is still said to be looking for them, heartbroken and alone on the Kansas prairie.

There is a Lady in Black here. [According to Haunted Kansas] In 1975, residents at 16 Sumner Place reported that their then six-year-old son began telling them vivid stories of frontier Kansas. Telling of Jayhawkers, Quantrill’s Raiders, and other stories, they were mystified by the sheer historical accuracy of his tales. When asked where he learned them, the parents were shocked to find out that he learned the story from “the nice lady in the black dress that reads stories from her book to me after I go to bed at night.” Later that night, the parents creeped to their son’s room and witnessed a faint glow from under is door and reportedly heard a low, murmuring voice. Scared, the parents rushed into the room, noticing the chill in the air. Next, the old wooden rocker in the corner of his room was empty but rocking by its own volition. The little bow, frightened by the abrupt intrusion, burst into tears. He claimed that the lady would never come see him again, that she had said if his parents ever discovered her, she would leave and never return. The parents’ recourse was to have the house exorcised by a Catholic Army chaplain and twelve other laymen. The Catholic officials deny any such exorcism on the house, but the Lady in Black was never seen by their son again. She reportedly moved on to greener pastures- next door at 18 Sumner Place began witnessing phenomena. Doorknobs would turn, lights would turn off and on. A “presence” was felt in the kitchen, stairway and in the bedrooms. The resident reported that she left dirty dinner dishes on the counter and left the home to find the dishes “scraped and stacked neatly next to the dishwasher”. Another family in residence reported that she was roused from sleep by “a touch on her arm and the sound of someone speaking her name.” Upon waking, she claimed that the figure of a woman dressed in black stood by her bed. The figure faded away, but the image stayed with the woman.

The apparitions of Civil War soldiers are reported to be roaming the National Cemetery. The Rookery is haunted. Built in 1832, The Rookery is the oldest house continuously occupied in Kansas. Located at 14 Sumner, it is a particularly active house. Reports claim that the spirit of a young woman with unkempt hair rushes at people, screaming like mad, her white gown flowing. Some say they have seen other apparitions, like an old woman that sits in a corner; a young girl throwing a fit; an old man in a night shirt and ghosts that like to hide children’s toys.

The Toilet Flushing Ghost resides at 22 Sumner Place that is enamored with the homes indoor plumbing. The story goes that one time, the upstairs neighbors went on a short vacation and left a key with the downstairs neighbors to watch over their house. The man of the house was watching TV one night and heard the upstairs toilet flush. He went upstairs, looked around and found nothing. When both the husband and wife went to bed that night, they heard the phantom flushing again. The wife demanded her husband check things out and he found nothing amiss- again. The rest of the weekend the toilet flushed every six hours like clockwork. When the upstairs neighbors came home, the husband told them what happened. The upstairs neighbor just smiled and replied that every time they went away, their toilet flushed all night as well.

The fort isn’t the only place that is haunted in the area. The town of Leavenworth itself is reportedly very haunted. Lloyd’s of Leavenworth is reportedly one of the most haunted areas in town, Lloyd’s boasts more than one apparition. Callahan’s Drug Store was established on the site of the now jewelry store in 1868. In 1943, a man name Gnip purchased the store and it remained Gnip’s Drug Store until he died in 1957. The current owners claim that Gnip still waits the counters, waiting for customers.
The owners and staff have reported voices, pushing and numerous ghostly figures. Employees that Gnip might consider as “lacking” will be reminded to work harder by the radio being turned off and on by an unseen hand. One employee reported she saw an older man standing at the locked front door. Having been accustomed to buzzing people in, she buzzed him in and watched him open the door, walk in with cane in hand and walk up to the counter slowly. When the gentleman finally reached the counter, the woman hung up the phone and turned to greet him, the gentleman was nowhere to be found.

The Santa Fe Diner was built in 1886, the Diner served passengers on the LN&S Railway and the Interurban that connected the city of Leavenworth to Kansas City. The depot was in use until 1982, when it was abandoned. It is said that a child’s handprint can be seen on the glass of the transom above the entry doors. The glass can be cleaned and yet the prints always show back up. Theories debunking the print state that they could be mineral deposits left in the glass while others say it’s the spirit of a child murdered in front of the station more than 50 years ago. The occupants also claim there are cold spots, voices and an apparition of a woman in a long dress is often seen in the dining room. Lights turn off and on at odd times. The faucet in the kitchen turns on full blast and lights have been seen in the depot tower, where there is no electricity. The High Noon Saloon (Now called Grinder’s) was formerly home to a vast array of businesses, the Saloon now boasts a brewery and restaurant. Employees have witnessed footsteps, weird noises and have even seen footprints on a snow-covered roof that ended abruptly at the edge. Apparitions have also been seen.

In 1900, the body of Pearl Forbes was found a ways from downtown Leavenworth. Fred Alexander was also killed at the same location in a lynching that was witnessed by almost 8,000 residents.
Fred Alexander had been accused of the rape of Eva Roth and the murder of Ms. Forbes, even though there was no concrete evidence that pointed at Alexander committing the crimes. Held in a jail cell, the enraged citizens of Leavenworth broke down the outside wall of Alexander’s cell. They apprehended the black man and demanded that he be burned at the stake for his crimes. Alexander claimed his innocence repeatedly. The crowd didn’t care. The townspeople fixed him to a pyre along the river, covered him in coal oil twice and lit a match. He was dead within five minutes, yet they kept adding wood to the pyre until 7 pm. From 6:00-8:00pm there were scores of people coming to see the spectacle. The crowed swarmed and collected bits of skin, chain and wood as morbid souvenirs. Legend says that you can hear moaning, the roaring of the crowd and the crackle of fire.

Most people think prison when they hear the word Leavenworth. There is far more than just criminals at this historic fort. Are there ghosts wandering among the various buildings that make up this property? Are there spirits in the city of Leavenworth itself? Is Fort Leavenworth haunted? That is for you to decide!

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