Thursday, July 26, 2018

Ep. 268 - Hauntings of the Cumberlands

 Moment in Oddity - Telling of the Bees

Many of us are very aware of just how important bees are to our world. We may fear their stinger, but it would be much more fearful to live in a world without bees. Where would we be without honey, wax and pollination? In Medieval times, bees were held in even higher esteem and were thought to have a special intelligence in regards to the mysteries of the cosmos. Bees were highly prized and could be found kept at monasteries and manor houses, where they were cared for as a part of the community and family. Their behavior was watched closely and if the bees were seen swarming, they were given special attention. If the swarm was around a dead branch, a human death was imminent. A group of bees flying into a home meant that a stranger would soon call. Good luck was coming if the bees rested on a roof. Communities were very careful about their dealings with each other and emotions because they found that discord could cause the bees to stop producing honey, die, or fly away. Because of all of this the tradition of the “telling of the bees” was started. Bees would be kept informed about everything important in a keeper's life like marriages, births and journeys. One of the most important rituals in the "telling of the bees" was in regards to death. If the bees were not put into mourning after being informed of a death, it was believed they might fail to thrive or leave their hives. In order to put the bees in mourning, a keeper would need to drape the hives with black crepe fabric and leave a piece of the funeral bread nearby. Then the keeper would sing pleasantly to the bees about who had died and how it happened. These songs became rhymes that were shared across Europe and eventually made their way to America. We should all treat bees with respect and harvest their honey sustainably, but the idea that we should tell the bees all about our major life events, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Legionnaires Disease Outbreak Starts

In the month of July, on the 23rd, in 1976, the Legionnaires Disease outbreak starts. The disease is named for the group of men who came down with it in the late Summer of 1976 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The American Legion opened its annual three-day convention at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia on July 21 with more than 2,000 Legionnaires in attendance. Three days after the convention ended Ray Brennan, a 61-year-old retired US Air Force captain and an American Legion bookkeeper, died from what was believed to be a heart attack. A couple days later, another Legionnaire named Frank Aveni died of what looked like a heart attack. Six more Legionnaires died and officials finally took notice. Within a week, more than 130 people, mostly men, had been hospitalized, and 25 had died. It was discovered that this was a cluster of a particular type of pneumonia caused by the Legionella pneumophila bacteria.

Hauntings of the Cumberlands (Suggested by: Jamie Wolfe)

Williamsburg, Kentucky is said to be the "Gateway to the Cumberlands." This area is nestled in the foothills of Daniel Boone Country. It's part of Whitley County with the Cumberland River running through it. Another city in this county is Corbin, which has stories of its own including Satanic activity. On this episode, Jamie Wolfe shares many legends and ghost stories from the Williamsburg and Cumberland Gap area in Kentucky. These include University of the Cumberlands, Highland Cemetery, The Independent School, Cumberland Inn, the Bird Man, the Mulberry Black Thing and Cumberland Falls. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Cumberlands.

University of the Cumberlands

Jamie attended the University of the Cumberlands, which was originally called Williamsburg Institute. The college was founded on January 7, 1889. This was a religious institution established by the Mount Zion Association, which were representatives from 18 eastern Kentucky Baptist churches. This started just as one building, but in 1907 the school bought the three buildings of Highland College. The name changed to Cumberland College in 1913. The name Cumberland comes from the Cumberland River, Cumberland Falls and the Cumberland Gap. Because this was a religious establishment, the rules on campus are very strict. Jamie explains that they are not allowed to close doors and they must keep feet on ground when a male is in their rooms.

There are several ghosts at this location. Gillespie Hall is considered the residence hall of choice for freshmen women and was dedicated as Johnson Hall on February 11th, 1894. On ghost story goes, "Long ago, a young girl went to Cumberland College. If you have ever heard of the school, you know that it is a somewhat strict, private Christian institution. Anyway, the young girl got pregnant while on campus and knew that if anyone found out, she would be shamefully dismissed. Thus, she committed suicide by hanging herself on the third floor of Gillespie Hall. Long after this, a girl was staying in room 316 (?) and she was engaged. One day, she sat her engagement ring down on a desk and left the room. When she returned, she could not find the ring anywhere. She searched and searched until finally she found the ring in a trash can. The incident happened multiple times. It is also said that, even thought the room is locked up, the light will sometimes be on in that room and the girl who died will show herself to other girls in the dorm. She will not talk but stand on the third floor. You can talk to her and everything and she will not disappear and such but she will vanish after you walk by without a sound." Jamie recounts the story for us.

Mercurial1101 wrote, "My friend unfortunately saw the one in Gillespie. She spoke with her and everything and the girl didn't say anything. When my friend turned around, the girl was gone."

The Ruby Gatliff Archer Hall opened in 1966 and houses more than 150 female students. It is rumored that a room on the first floor is haunted. The cause of the haunting is unknown. It is reported that posters fall off the wall no matter how much they're taped up, alarm clocks will go off at midnight despite them being set for a different time, cd players will come on by themselves, also different objects within the room will become misplaced inexplicably. Jamie has experienced it.

The Slain Robbery Victim's Ghost

Cumberland Falls

This waterfall is located in the Daniel Boone Forest in Cumberland State Park. Jamie tells us about the very cool moonbow phenomenon here.Lover's Leap has led to hauntings.

Jamie also shared about Highland Cemetery, The Independent School, Cumberland Inn, the Bird Man and the Mulberry Black Thing.

This area along the Cumberland River that is home to Whitley County seems to have many ghost stories connected it. And the legends are fun too. Is this area of the Cumberlands haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Ep. 267 - Fort Mifflin

Moment in Oddity - The Sin-Eaters

There was a rather peculiar tradition that started in southern England that was meant to free a dead person from any sin they may have committed. Upon the death of a person of prestige, a certain outcast from the edge of the village would be brought to the home. This person was an outcast because they were thought to carry the sins that they ate. You heard that right. These people were known as sin-eaters. The ritual usually consisted of a body or casket being carried out of a home and past the sin-eater. The deceased's family would pass a bowl of beer, a loaf of bread and a sixpence to the sin-eater over the body of the dead person. The sin-eater would say an incantation and then eat the food. Sometimes the ritual would take place inside the home. A plate of salt was placed on the chest of the departed and then a loaf of bread was placed on top of that with a mug of ale next to that. The sin-eater would whisper over the body and consume the food. This whole ritual signified that the sins of the dead person had been eaten away. They could then pass on to Heaven and be saved from walking the earth as a spirit or even as something undead. The 1926 book Funeral Customs by Bertram S. Puckle reads, "Professor Evans of the Presbyterian College, Carmarthen, actually saw a sin-eater about the year 1825, who was then living near Llanwenog, Cardiganshire. Abhorred by the superstitious villagers as a thing unclean, the sin-eater cut himself off from all social intercourse with his fellow creatures by reason of the life he had chosen; he lived as a rule in a remote place by himself, and those who chanced to meet him avoided him as they would a leper. This unfortunate was held to be the associate of evil spirits, and given to witchcraft, incantations and unholy practices; only when a death took place did they seek him out, and when his purpose was accomplished they burned the wooden bowl and platter from which he had eaten the food handed across, or placed on the corpse for his consumption." Believing that someone could eat away the sins of another human, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Dymaxion Car Goes into Production

In the month of July, on the 12th, in 1933, the first three-wheeled, multi-directional Dymaxion car was manufactured in Bidgeport, Connecticut. Architect, engineer and philosopher Buckminster Fuller designed the car as part of his goal to live his life as “an experiment to find what a single individual can contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity.” Fuller first sketched out the car in 1927. It was part aircraft, part automobile with wings that inflated. Fuller asked his friend, the sculptor Isamu Noguchi, to make more sketches of the car and the final design was an elongated teardrop with a rear third wheel that lifted off the ground. There was also a tail fin. The name Dymaxion was a combination of the words “dynamic,” “maximum” and “ion” and was a name Fuller used as his own personal brand. Under this brand he created not only the car, but the geodesic dome and the Dymaxion house, which was made of lightweight aluminum and could be shipped by air and assembled on site. Production began on the Dymaxion car in Bridgeport with the final car being made of ash wood, covered with an aluminum skin and topped with a painted canvas roof. The engine was in the rear, much like the Volkwagen Beetle. It could reach a speed of 120 miles per hour and average 28 miles per gallon of gasoline. The car went on display at the Century of Progress exposition in Chicago. Production of the car went downhill after that when investors backed out after professional driver Francis Turner was killed driving the car during a demonstration. In 2008, the only surviving Dymaxion was featured in an exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City that was dedicated to the work of Buckminster Fuller.

Fort Mifflin (Suggested by and research by: Drea Hahn)

Fort Mifflin stands on Mud Island as a reminder of a time when the original capital city of our new nation, Philadelphia, was in need of defense. The British commissioned the fort in 1771, but it would be the Americans who would finish the construction. The fort would witness the greatest sea battle of the Revolutionary War. Hundreds lost their lives here during that war. When the Civil War raged, the fort served as a Confederate prison. This kind of history lends itself to paranormal activity and there are many stories of a variety of ghosts walking among the casements and barracks. Join me and listener Drea Hahn as we share the history and hauntings of Fort Mifflin!

Fort Mifflin, or as it was known at the time, Fort Island Battery, was commissioned in 1771 and construction started along the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers by the British. They wanted to protect their very prosperous port, which the Quaker William Penn had left without defense. The problem was that there were not enough funds to complete construction and the project was abandoned with only the east and south walls completed. Once the American rebels declared their independence, Benjamin Franklin formed a committee, The Philadelphia Committee of Public Safety, and they restarted construction on the fort and finally completed it in 1776. They named it Mifflin after it’s first commander, General Thomas Mifflin. who eventually became the first governor of the state of Pennsylvania.

In 1777, Fort Mifflin would be the scene of the greatest sea battle of the Revolutionary War. The British bombarded Fort Mifflin with a barrage of cannonballs that would damage a large portion of the fort and leave hundreds of men dead. This was called the Battle of Mud Island. A couple of decades would pass before the fort was rebuilt. French architect and engineer Pierre L'Enfant had designed the plans for Washington, D.C. and President John Adams directed him to supervise the reconstruction of Fort Mifflin. The oldest existing complete structure is the blacksmith shop, which was built during this reconstruction in 1802. The fort was used again during the War of 1812.

During the Civil War, the fort served as a prison for Confederate soldiers and Federal prisoners from 1863 to 1865 and were housed in Casemate #1. After the war, the army discontinued using it as an active fort. It was used again during World Wars I and II when the Army stationed anti-aircraft guns there to defend the nearby Fort Mifflin Naval Ammunition Storage Depot and the United States Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. After 1954, the fort fell from use as a military post and the federal government deeded it to the City of Philadelphia. Restoration efforts began in the 1960s. The United States Army Corp of Engineers set up shop at Fort Mifflin and so it is now considered the oldest active military base in the United States and the only base in use that pre-dates the Declaration of Independence.

Jacob the Blacksmith

There is a small blacksmith shop on the site (photo). The story is that the blacksmith had an ongoing argument with the fort’s commander. Jacob wanted to keep the back door to the shop open while he worked. It’s said that you can hear a hammer hitting an anvil around the building, but when you go in all goes quiet. It’s also said that the door keeps opening on its own. Last time I was at the fort, I got curious about this. I don’t want to burst any bubbles. The door is on very well-oiled hinges and easy to move. The ground in the area is bumpy and uneven, so there is a chance that the building is just on a slant and the door swings open. I’m visiting again in November and will check it out.
TAPS (Ghost Hunters if you want to check out the episode) investigated in 2008 and reported a sense of dread in the building.

Blacksmith Shop - photo courtesy of Drea Hahn
 The Lamplighter

There is now electric lighting throughout the fort and all the buildings. Entity is seen walking on the 2nd story balcony of the barracks building (built around the War of 1812).  He appears in the evening, at twilight, carries a long pole with a flickering light at the end, and is lighting the lamps that would have hung on the balconies. The figure is pale and barely discernible.

Revolutionary War Soldier and Tour Guide

A friendly man dressed as a Revolutionary War soldier who will take you on a tour around the grounds. Visitors complimented the site on the excellent docent…the only problem is that no costumed staff were working that day. Or nobody on staff who matches the description.
Thought is that he was one of the men who died during the bombardment.
Can’t speak to this because when we’re there, the entire fort is filled with soldiers.

The Screaming Lady 

This spirit is attributed to Elizabeth Pratt. Dale Kaczmarek and his team, Ghost Research Society ( have a great report of their investigation online. They summarize the story “Elizabeth was married to an officer and her daughter, who lived with them at the fort, fell in love with and wanted to marry an enlisted man. Elizabeth could not accept this and disowned her daughter. The daughter died of typhoid fever before they could reconcile, which threw Elizabeth into a deep depression. She hanged herself over the balcony of the second floor [of the Officer’s Quarters]. It is true that screams have been heard in the area of the Officer’s Quarters. TAPS/Ghost Hunters captured an EVP in this area that sounds like a child asking for “mommy”. The police have been called out several times to investigate the screams.

The true story of Elizabeth Pratt is much more tragic. She was a real person and the wife of a Sargent Pratt stationed at the fort. However, the family never lived in the Officer’s Quarters because those weren’t built yet. The family lived in another part of the fort, a spot that does have quite a bit of reported activity. The fort used to have a cemetery (it was moved at some point) and internment records confirm that Elizabeth had two children. One, a son born at the fort, died on July 20, 1802 as an infant. The other is a daughter who died on December 6, 1802 – the records include a note that she was a “child” and this indicates that she was 12 y/o or younger when she died. Elizabeth herself died on February 11, 1803. All three are thought to have died of yellow fever, annual epidemics of which were common during those years. Yellow fever is spread by mosquitoes which would be prevalent in the shallow moat and swamps around Fort Mifflin.

Where Screaming Lady is Heard - photo courtesy of Drea Hahn
William Howe

Probably the person you will hear about most often. The stories vary. In all, it goes that he was a Civil War deserter, traitor, and murderer. He was captured and held at Fort Mifflin until he was hung on gallows built in the middle of the fort. Once again, the truth is much more tragic. Howe was a private with a local Pennsylvania regiment during the Civil War. He was very highly esteemed by his superiors and today would be what we call a war hero. After he was injured at the Battle of Fredericksburg (VA), he and some other men were told to go to the hospital in DC to recuperate. When they reached the hospital, there was no more room. Howe left his companions and went home to PA to recover. One of his ailments is listed as “inflammation of the bowels” which might have been dysentery, an awful condition marked by severe abdominal cramps and frequent, bloody, diarrhea.

When the local Union officers found out about this, they went to Howe’s home to arrest him. The men hammered on the door, Howe fired two shots out of the window, and the men fled. Howe did not know that he had fatally shot one of the men. Several days later he was arrested and taken to Fort Mifflin to stand trial. He was charged with desertion and murder, found guilty, and sentenced to death by hanging. During his time at Fort Mifflin he was held in an underground cell. He was executed at the fort on August 26, 1864. He was 24 years old at the time and has the distinction of being the only person ever executed at the fort. He has been associated with an entity called “The Faceless Man” who is seen mostly in and around Casement 5. Why Faceless? At the time it was customary to put a bag over the head of the person you were hanging. I’m thinking it was to spare the audience the sight of someone choking to death, which could take several minutes and be grotesque.

This might be a case of mistaken identity. In 2006, Wayne the fort caretaker, was moving the grass. The rear wheel of the riding the mower started sinking. He got the mower un-stuck and did a little bit of digging to figure out what the hole was all about. He found steps leading down and into the side of the fort. Excavations revealed stairs, then a short underground hallway, then a small room, and then a slightly larger room. So, imagine a stone room about the size of a walk-in closet that leads into a second room about the size of a large bathroom. It’s thought that this was the original powder magazine (aka. storage) for the fort and that charges and torpedoes were made here by the soldiers. If there was an explosion, it would be contained. We also know that this is where William Howe was kept. And we know this because he wrote his name on the wall.

Howe's Name on Wall - photo courtesy of Drea Hahn
The area is open and now called Casemate 11 if you visit. It is a bit claustrophobic, but I’ve never sensed anything here. This was not the case when TAPS/Ghost Hunters investigated. The team reported:
A crouching figure in the corner
Hearing footsteps
Flashlight and camera malfunctions
The air thickening, hearing breathing, footsteps, and scratching.
A feeling of not being alone.
One of the investigators sensed a cold spot. He looked through a vent shaft into the larger room (it looks like a small window opening) and saw a face with blond hair and scraggly beard.
EVP in the room caught “the boss wants it deeper”. It was later revealed that Casemate 11 was refurbished in 1861, as part of this the floor was dug up in order to make the room deeper.
EVP in the room caught “Can I get some water?”

Casement 11 - photo courtesy of Drea Hahn
Other Random Experiences

In addition to these, people have reported disembodied voices of children, men, women, dogs barking. The figure of a “sad man” walking on the road toward one of the gates. The scents of fire and bread baking (might be leftover from reenactments so take it with a grain of salt). Also, “People have been touched, pushed, pulled, and sometimes restrained”. The bathroom another odd area. TAPS/Ghost Hunters reported seeing a shadowy figure near the ladies’ room. This is one of the fort’s old buildings that has been converted into modern bathrooms and a gift shop.

Drea says, "I’ve been to the site over 10x, usually in November when it’s cold. The ladies’ room is one of the few places with heat - a nice place to change clothes, or get dressed in the morning, or duck into just to warm up a bit. I always get the creeps there and a feeling of being watched. A few times, just outside the ladies’ room in a little hallway leading to the outside I’ve turned around and expected to see someone, but there was nobody there. Not a big scaredy-cat and used to walking around sites at night, but this is just one of those places where I bring a buddy."

A lot of activity especially is reported in the Casemates. Reports are of pale outlines, shadows, faceless men in confederate uniforms walking in this area. Camera problems. Feelings of not being alone. Given the history as a prison, misery, and number of deaths in this area it makes sense. This is where two of my experiences happened. Entity known as The Faceless Man is reported, usually in Casemate 5. When TAPS/Ghost Hunters visited their thermal camera caught a heat signature, as if someone was sitting on one of the beds, but there was nobody there. For a long time, it was believed that this was the spirit of William Howe because he was thought to have been held in this casemate. But with the discovery of Casemate 11 we can’t be sure. Drea shares an experience she had with a friend here:
"When we visit for a history event, the re-enactors live in the fort and stay for the whole weekend. We usually arrive Friday night, my group stays in one of the large casements, and leave on Sunday afternoon. I’ll share a photo, so you can get the idea. At an event a few years ago, I was walking from the bathroom back to our casemate. It was a Saturday morning and to go back you go along a flagstone path/sidewalk, then into the casemate tunnel, you go around a bend, and then the casemate door is on the left. Since it was morning, before the site opened to visitors, I didn’t have my cap and hat on yet. Thanks to an experiment with Clairol, what I did have was long blonde hair. I came around the bend and was slowing down to open the door to the casemate when I felt a hard yank on my ponytail. So hard that you almost fall backwards. I turned around ready to smack whoever did it, but nobody was there. I got the chills. While collecting information for this podcast, I read that there are reports of an entity in that area that seems to have enmity for blond haired women. Great. So, for any of you blonde listeners who would like to give it a go and let us know what happens."
Fort Mifflin has a rich history and it is nice to know that it continues to have a living history. With all the reported paranormal activity, it seems to have a dead history as well. Is Fort Mifflin haunted? That is for you to decide!

Photo courtesy of Drea Hahn

Photo courtesy of Drea Hahn

Photo courtesy of Drea Hahn

Photo courtesy of Drea Hahn

The Casement Drea Overnighted In - photo courtesy of Drea Hahn
Brandon's Pictures:

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Ep. 266 - Colonial Williamsburg

Moment in Oddity - Largest Baby Ever Born was 23 Pounds

Anna Haining Bates was a woman born in Canada who became famous because she was considered a giantess. She was sixteen pounds at her birth in 1846 and grew to the height of 7 feet 11 inches. She eventually joined the sideshow circuit and met her husband Martin van Buren Bates. He himself was a tall man and stood 7 feet 9 inches. They traveled in circus troupes together and separately. Eventually Anna became pregnant and gave birth to an 18 pound baby girl. Unfortunately, the baby died at birth. Anna became pregnant again while touring in the summer of 1878 and this baby grew to be even bigger, as if having an 18 pound baby was not enough. The baby was born on January 18, 1879 and Anna lost six gallons of fluid when her water broke. He only survived 11 hours. That little baby boy made his imprint on the world though in the form of a Guinness World Record. He was the largest newborn ever recorded, at 23 pounds 9 ounces and nearly 30 inches tall. His feet were six inches long. That record still stands today. His father wrote, “He was 28” tall, weighed 22 lbs and was perfect in every respect. He looked at birth like an ordinary child of six months.” The baby is buried, along with his parents, at Mound Hill Cemetery in Seville, Ohio. A baby weighing nearly 23 pounds at birth sounds not only rather painful, but it certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Enigma Code Broken

In the month of July, on the 9th, in 1941, the Engima Code was broken. The Enigma machine was Germany's most sophisticated coding machine. The machine was originally designed for use in business by Dutch inventor Hugo Koch, but the Germans adapted it to make an unbreakable code. The Enigma allowed an operator to type in a message that would be scrambled by three to five notched wheels that contained the alphabet. The receiver would need to know how the notched wheels had been placed to decipher the coded message. German code experts continued to make the machine more complicated. Parts of the code were broken by a group of British mathematicians and other problem solvers early on, but it wouldn't be until July that they achieved a true breakthrough. It is believed that this breaking of the code helped to shorten the war. Not only did the Allies manage to hide the fact that they had broken the code so that they could continue to decipher German war plans through the rest of the war, no one knew anything about it until 1974.

Colonial Williamsburg (Suggested by: Lloyd Dierker)

Colonial Williamsburg is part of America's historic triangle. Today, it is a historic area that features a look back into the America of colonial times just as the struggle for independence was sparking. Visitors can watch artisans ply trades from the past and visit dozens of historic buildings that have been restored to their eighteenth century charm. This is a place where one can walk in the footsteps of our Founding Fathers and experience the reality and uncertainty of the times that earlier Americans lived under, both free and slave. In any city with this much history, there is bound to be talk of a ghost or two. And there are many here with fascinating stories of pirates, poisonings, suicides and war. Many of the historic buildings have ghost stories attached to them. Join me as I explore the history and hauntings of Colonial Williamsburg.

Williamsburg was originally known as Middle Plantation. The settlement was founded in 1633 about halfway between the York and James Rivers. The town started to rise to prominence when Bruton Parish was built in 1683 and the College of William and Mary was charted in 1693. This college is the second oldest college in the United States, right behind Harvard. Francis Nicholson was lieutenant governor from 1698 to 1705 and he platted out the town of Williamsburg. He was experienced in this in that he had helped design Annapolis. The principle axis was a 99-foot-wide central avenue known as Duke of Gloucester Street. Homes were allotted a half acre and most were built from wood and then painted white with either a gambrel roof, A-frame roof or a hip roof. Each home had at least one chimney and shutters on the outside. Most of the public buildings were made from brick that was made locally. It was in 1698 that Williamsburg became the capitol of Virginia when the state house in Jamestown burned.

The city was officially incorporated in 1722. The ideas of freedom and revolution had a birthplace in Williamsburg. After Britain passed the Stamp Act in March of 1765 to help foot the cost of the French and Indian War, the colonists became enraged. Their gripe was that they were being taxed without representation and it was a fair assessment as people who lived in Britain had representation. Virginians believed that only the Virginia General Assembly could tax them. The other colonies felt the same. A fiery orator named Patrick Henry started giving speeches and one of those was in Williamsburg. When older legislators accused him of treason he said, "If this be treason, make the most of it." A crowd in Williamsburg forced the stamp collector to resign. Virginia's burgesses passed five resolutions condemning the Stamp Act. The seeds of revolution were fomented. Williamsburg would host parts of the Revolutionary War and was even occupied for a time by General Cornwallis of Britain.

And it is this timeframe in which Colonial Williamsburg seems to be frozen. The historic area stretches across 301 acres and features 88 original buildings that have been restored and many more than have been rebuilt, most of them on their original foundations. I remember fondly visiting when I was a kid. It was educational and fun to watch the various artisans ply their trades from blacksmithing to candlemaking to sewing and so much more. The people all dressed in period clothing and played their character to the fullest, pretending to not know about modern conveniences. The buildings were wonderful to explore. Little did I know as a kid, that many of these buildings harbored spirits. Let's venture through this historic place and see what ghost stories we may find.

King's Arm Tavern

You can't have a haunted historic town without having at least one haunted tavern. Colonial Williamsburg has more than one. The first is the King's Arm Tavern. Some may not be aware, but during colonial times, a town could be fined if it did not have a tavern. Jane Vobe opened the original tavern that was here on February 6, 1772. She used slave labor to run the place, but was said to be a "good" master who made sure her slaves got an education and were baptized. One of the first ordained black ministers was Gowan Pamphlet and he had worked at the tavern. When he left that job, he became pastor at the First Baptist Church, which was founded by both enslaved and free blacks. They had originally had to meet in secret in the woods, but were given use of a carriage house on Nassau Street by a man who was moved by their prayers and singing. Vobe's main customers were politicians and other government officials and it is said that both Washington and Jefferson stopped by the tavern on occasion. The King’s Arms Tavern was very important during the Revolutionary War as military folk and politicians gathered there to talk strategy.

King’s Arms Tavern is reputedly haunted by the ghost of a woman named Irma who had worked and died at the tavern. She was killed in a bad fire that was ignited by a dropped candle. For this reason, when candles seem to go out on their own in the tavern, people credit Irma with doing it. She is said to be a friendly spirit. Tavern employees claim that she helps them out on occasion and that they regularly thank her for her help and wish her a good night every evening.

Raleigh Tavern

Another reportedly haunted tavern is the Raleigh Tavern, which opened in 1717. The one that stands here today is not the original. That one burned to the ground in 1859 and was replaced by a couple of stores. They were demolished during the restoration and the Raleigh was rebuilt in its former footprint. Like the King's Arm, this was a tavern that saw a lot of action, but it also had a darker side. Slaves were auctioned on its steps and there are rumors that the skull of Blackbeard was used as a punchbowl. Could it have been the secret society that met here in the Apollo Room, that used the punchbowl? Painted above the mantel in the Apollo Room is the tavern's motto, "Hilaritas Sapientiae et Bonae Vitae Proles," which means "Jollity, the offspring of wisdom and good living."

The haunting that is reported here definitely seems to be residual and it features a party atmosphere. People walking outside the darkened tavern at night claim to smell the distinct scent of tobacco smoke and to hear laughter and music playing from harpsichords. When people walk up to the windows, they see nothing inside. No light filters from a back room. The tavern is empty.

Bruton Parish Church and Cemetery

The Bruton Parish Church was part of the Church of England. The brick building was constructed in 1683. After the Boston Tea Party, worshipers gathered here for a day of fasting and prayer. Many colonial leaders including Washington worshiped at the church. The church served as a hospital during the Civil War. The cemetery that surrounds the church has graves from the 17th century through to the 20th century and one mass grave for around 100 Confederate soldiers. One of those buried here is Reverend Scervant Jones. He is buried here with his first wife who died during childbirth. Before she passed, he proclaimed his undying love for her and that he could never love another woman. He asked her to wait for him in Heaven. He left town for three months after her death and returned with her headstone and...a new wife. While he was away, people reported seeing his wife's ghost walking around the cemetery and even sitting in a church pew. After the reverend's return, his wife's spirit seemed to turn angry and people would see her crying and wailing. The church has a haunting as well that involves the church organ playing by itself. The curtains inside the church flutter and move without explanation as well.

Another ghost story told about the church and cemetery involves two security guards. The story goes, "Late one night, two Colonial Williamsburg Security guards were sitting in their patrol car, and saw a man walking up from the palace green along the road towards the church. He was described as a tall, shadowy figure dressed in cardboard black suit with a vest. He had a strangely elongated neck, but what surprised them most was that he had red, glowing eyes. As security was watching, they saw him duck behind this tree and the brick wall. They assumed that he must have used the tree to jump over the wall, and entered the cemetery in search of him. When they entered the church cemetery, he had vanished. They looked all around, but couldn’t find him. They thought they heard the sound of the church door closing, and believed the man somehow made his way inside the church. When they arrived at the main entrance, it was locked. Determined to catch this intruder, they unlocked the door and entered the church. As they allowed their eyes a chance to adjust to the dark, they heard a strange sound: it was described as being sort of a whoosh-­‐thud, whoosh-­‐thud. Once they turned on their flashlights, they could clearly see what was causing the noise: the hymnals were seen to levitate up from the church pews, fly across the room, and hit the wall. Needless to say, they decided to flee the church!"

The Ludwell-Paradise House

The Georgian styled brick Ludwell-Paradise House was built in 1755 for Philip Ludlow III. Ludlow owned the Green Spring Plantation in James City County. He traveled often to London and he eventually died there in 1767. The house was then inherited by his daughter Lucy. She was married to a man named John Paradise and they lived in London, so they rented the house out. Paradise died in 1795 and he had ran up so much debt before that, that he left Lucy destitute and she had to return to Williamsburg. Lucy had been a member of London’s social elite, so she expected to be treated accordingly in Williamsburg. She was very eccentric, walking the streets like a member of royalty greeting everybody. And she bathed a lot for the time. People began to whisper that she was insane and in 1812 they had her committed to the Public Hospital for Persons of Insane and Disordered Minds. She was locked away for two years. And then she committed suicide.

The house is haunted by the spirit of Lucy some say. One of the primary unexplained experiences is the sound of water either running, splashing or dripping when no water is on. It sounds almost as though someone is taking a bath. Perhaps Lucy bathed so much because she suffered from OCD and thus washed her hands and arms incessantly. The haunting seems to be residual in nature.

The Nicholson House

The Nicolson House was built sometime between 1751 to 1753. The house was built on land owned by the famous planter and lawyer Mann Page. His son had sold the parcel of land when Page died in 1730. Cabinetmaker James Spiers was the first to take over the lot, but he later sold it to a tailor named Robert Nicolson. He made a good deal of money from his tailor business, which also operated as a post office and general store. The house Nicolson built was two stories with a fireplace and bedrooms on the first floor. He rented out some of the rooms and one of the renters was violinist Cuthbert Ogle. It is his spirit that is said to haunt the home. People claim to have been touched on the shoulder or to hear scratching noises.

The Wythe (With) House

Next we have the Wythe House, which was built for George Wythe as a gift from his father in law. Wythe was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and served in the House of Burgesses. He knew everyone who was anyone and was said to have quite an influence on Thomas Jefferson. He became the first professor of law at the College of William and Mary after the War. Wythe died from poisoning. His grandnephew had been staying with him and was what we would call in our vernacular, a deadbeat. He ran up huge debts and he decided that he would kill his uncle so that he could inherit his money. Unfortunately for the nephew, Wythe held on long enough to figure out what happened and to write his nephew out of his will. The only witness to the crime was Wythe's cook, a slave whom Wythe had freed. She couldn't testify since she was black and the nephew went unpunished.

Another owner of the house was the Skipwith family, Ann and Sir Peyton. Ann got into a very public fight with Peyton at a ball being held at the Governor's Palace. She accused him of having an affair with her sister. She ran home and took her own life in the master bedroom. Visitors claim hear the sound of a woman in heels running up the the stairs in the home. The apparition of a female in a ball gown has been seen as well. This is usually in the bedroom or near the stairs. The room where she died is said to occasionally have the scent of lavender and the closet door opens and closes on its own. There are people who test the spirit here by walking up to the closet door and loudly proclaiming, “Lady Skipwith, Lady Skipwith, I found your red shoe!” The spirit of George Wythe is also said to haunt his former home for an obvious reason, since he was murdered and never received justice. It is said that he returns to visit each year on June 8, the day of his death. Guests who have stayed in his former room have claimed to feel a firm and cold hand press down on their foreheads.

College of William and Mary

Reverend Dr. James Blair set sail for England in May of 1691 to ask King William and Queen Mary to grant a charter for a college to be founded in Williamsburg. They granted the charter in 1693 and the college was named for them, The College of William and Mary. The first building was constructed in 1695. One of the buildings that still remains a part of the college is the Wren Building. It was named for the famous London architect Sir Christopher Wren in 1931. The building was designed by Thomas Hadley and is said to be the oldest college building still standing in America. The structure was here before the founding of Williamsburg. The many purposes it served included a school for Native Americans and from 1700 to 1704, the Virginia General Assembly used the building while the state Capitol was under construction. A fun fact about the building is that Thomas Jefferson was not a fan and wrote in his "Notes on the State of Virginia" that the Wren was a “rude, misshapen pile which would be taken for a brick kiln. The genius of architecture seems to have shed its maledictions over this land.”

The building suffered a series of fires and later served as a wartime hospital and it is for this reason that the building just may be haunted. Apparitions of soldiers have been seen roaming the hallways from both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Disembodied footsteps are heard echoing through the building. Sir Christopher Wren is said to haunt his namesake as well, though no one knows why. A spirit matching his description has been seen pacing the floors. The spirit of a soldier is said to patrol the third floor. The students who see him most frequently are those pulling all-nighters. Ghostly legends are told here as well. There is a bridge that is said to either reward or curse collegiate sweethearts. This bridge is behind the Crim Dell and if lovers kiss at its peak  it is said that they will marry and live happily ever after, but if they break up a curse is placed on them that can only be lifted by one pushing the other off the bridge. A legend about the statue of Lord Botetourt, an 18th century Virginian Colonial Governor, claims that if it is touched it will grant good grades to students.

Another building on the campus is called "The Brafferton" and it is the second oldest building on campus and was built in 1723 and is southeast of the Wren Building. This building was used for the instruction of some of the Native American boys, who arrived malnourished and many became ill and died. Their spirits are said to be trapped in the building and are restless as they seek to escape. The boys were said to not be happy to have been brought here and many would have liked to escape when they were alive. On foggy nights, ghostly boys are seen running through the Sunken Gardens.

The Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall has a haunting that is reputedly of a girl who was going to be the lead in a play, but she died while visiting home. A new lead was chosen and one night while she was practicing alone, she saw the dress she was supposed to wear for the show sitting upright in one of the audience’s seats. There is a ghost in St. George Tucker Hall that is said to belong to a girl who hanged herself in the third floor bathroom in the 1980s. It’s said that her ghost will visit students who are pulling all-nighters and ask them how their exams are going. If they answer that their exams are going well, she’ll scream and throw a fit until the student leaves.

Hangman's Road and the Public Gaol

Hangman’s Road is a road that sets just off from Colonial Road and is exactly what it's name indicates, a route from the Public Gaol to the gallows. The Gaol was ordered by the General Assembly in 1701 and construction was completed on the brick structure in 1703. There was an exercise yard that was twenty square feet and the property was surrounded by a ten-foot wall. All sorts of people found themselves in the gaol, not just criminals. Some were debtors, others were mentally ill. Punishment was harsh here and involved whipping or branding and there were many executions. Some of these executions were of members of Blackbeard's crew. Fifteen of his men found themselves in the Williamsburg Gaol after Blackbeard had been captured and killed. Thirteen of them were hanged on the gallows and their bodies left to rot in iron gibbets along the road. Another man held here was the Lt. Governor of Detroit, Henry Hamilton. He had paid Native Americans for the scalps of Americans.

The spirits that haunt the jail reputedly include the family of  Peter Pelham, who was a gaoler here and lived in a section of the gaol with his wife and children. People claim to hear conversations between two women and have seen the ghostly image of a child playing. Haunting sounds are heard here as well that include slamming doors and creaking floorboards. Haunting experiences are had on the Hangman's Road as well that include the sound of an old wooden wagon traveling down the street. Other eerie sounds are reported.

Bassett Hall

Bassett Hall is one location here that is unique in that it is staged as it appeared in the 1930s when the most famous owners of the property, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and his wife, lived here. This is a two-story eighteenth-century frame house. It's white with black shutters and surrounded by gardens. Philip Johnson, who was a member of the House of Burgesses, built the home between 1753 and 1766. The home was later purchased in 1800 by Burwell Bassett who was Martha Washington’s nephew. He was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from 1787 to 1789 and served on the Virginia State Senate from 1794 to 1805. The property would function as boarding house and tavern and exchange hands until the Rockefellers bought it in 1936. The Rockefellers had to do extensive restoration to the home, which was damaged by fire after lightning struck the structure. *Fun Fact: General Custer spent 10 days here after the Battle of Williamsburg to attend the wedding of a West Point buddy who was Confederate John Lea. Lea was engaged to the daughter of the owner of Bassett Hall at that time.*

The Battle of Williamsburg happened near the property and that may be why it is rumored to be haunted.  Tourists who visit the hall claim to hear disembodied voices and some have felt cold spots that defy explanation.

The Orrell House

The Orrell House is believed to have been built in the 1850s, but historians are unsure who initially owned the home that is today an inn. The house is two-stories and built as an almost perfect cube by its dimensions. James Orrell purchased the house in 1800 and the house is named for him. He lived there for about 20 years and then it passed through several hands.

The inn apparently has some ghostly chills in store for guests. One family had the following experience according to Steve Erickson, who is the general manager of the Colonial Houses-Historic Lodging. A family was watching television in the living room when they heard water running upstairs.The father went up to investigate and found that a faucet had been turned on. He assumed one of the kids had left it on. He went downstairs to scold whomever had left it on when he suddenly heard the water running again. The family had another fright when the father went to the bathroom. The drinking glass that had been in the medicine cabinet was now shattered across the floor, “as if it had been thrown.” The following morning, the bathroom was found strewn with toilet paper.

The Peyton Randolph House

Our next stop is the Peyton Randolph House. This house was built by William Robertson in 1715 and then later purchased by John Randolph who was considered the colonies most distinguished lawyer. He was even knighted for service to the Crown. The home has been restored and is actually three buildings, two of which are connected to each other. An east wing is more like an outbuilding. The main center part of the house is two stories and burgundy colored clapboard in style. There is a hall with a large roundheaded window and a grand staircase that connects single rooms on each floor. When John died, he left the home to his wife and then his first born son Peyton, for whom the home is named. Peyton went to law school and served as attorney general, served in the House of Burgesses and was eventually elected Speaker of the House in 1766. Peyton had a brother named John and the Revolutionary War would fracture the family. Peyton was a Patriot, while John Jr. sided with the Crown. Leading revolutionaries from Virginia met at the Peyton Randolph House before going on to Philadelphia. A little fun fact is that the Randolphs' cousin was Thomas Jefferson and he inherited the library Peyton had built and those added with his books were part of the formation of the Library of Congress. Peyton was said to be the "father of his country" before that title was given to George Washington. He died in 1775. The house was auctioned off after his wife's death. It is interesting to note that Peyton died in Philadelphia and his body was pickled in a barrel for the trip back to Williamsburg.

There seems to be several spirits in the home and this home is said to be the most haunted in Williamsburg. One belongs to a young soldier who stayed here when a family named Peachy owned it. They owned the home in the 1820s. The soldier was staying at the house while he studied at the college, but he fell ill and eventually died in the home. People who visit the home claim to hear heavy booted feet wandering through the halls and to see the apparition of a young male. The Peachys housed French General of the American Revolution Marquis de Lafayette when he returned to Williamsburg in 1824. He claimed to experience something unexplained and wrote, "I considered myself fortunate to lodge in the home of a great man, Peyton Randolph. Upon my arrival, as I entered through the foyer, I felt a hand on my shoulder. It nudged me as if intending to keep me from entering. I quickly turned, but found no one there. The nights were not restful as the sounds of voices kept me awake for most of my stay.”

One guest who stayed here in the 1960s said, “I was resting comfortable when awakened by the peculiar feeling that someone was tugging on my arm. Naturally, I assumed I was dreaming, so I rolled over and went back to sleep. A short while later, I was being shaken violently! As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I could see that I was completely alone. I darted out of bed and ran as fast as I could. I didn’t even go back to collect the things I’d left behind.” There have been many claims through the years of violent shaking and tugging. Another spirit here is our lady in white. She is said to be an older, friendly woman who wears a white flowing gown. And a young girl who died in a fall down the stairs or out a window still seems to have her essence lingering here.

A security guard who was watching the house became trapped in the basement. He a terrifying growl behind him and felt something grab his legs and his feet felt as though they were firmly rooted to the floor.The shutter doors that he was going to exit out of, slammed shut on their own and his flashlight turned off. He grabbed his radio and called his lieutenant for help. When the man arrived, he had to pry open the cellar doors. At that same moment, the security guard was released by whatever had been holding him. He quit the following day. Other activity that has been reported are strange knocking sounds and furniture moving on its own. The Peachy family had a son die in the house and the sound of children laughing when no children are present has been heard. The second floor is said to be the most haunted and people claim that something has tried to push them down the stairs.

An alarm once went off at the east wing of the house. Security couldn't find a key to the house, so they entered through a window. They thought perhaps there was a fire inside, but they found no smoke or flames, but they did find a fire extinguisher resting in the middle of the floor, its contents completely emptied around it in what looked like a controlled circular pattern. They searched the house for intruders and found no one. They also never found the pin to extinguisher. No residue was found underneath the fire extinguisher, nor on its bottom and there were no footprints through the discharged spray.

Colonial Williamsburg is a must stop for anybody visiting this area of Virginia. A chance to be immersed in the eighteenth century is hard to find. And for those of us that love the darker side of history, Williamsburg offers a lot of stories and what could be lots of haunts. Are these historic buildings in Colonial Williamsburg haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Ep. 265 - Legends of Taiwan

Moment in Oddity - Ballet Fans Eat Taglioni's Ballet Slippers

Marie Taglioni was one of the most famous ballerinas in the world. She was born in Sweden to Italian choreographer Filippo Taglioni. In 1822, Taglioni made her debut as a ballet dancer in Vienna and people went crazy for her. Before long, she was famous across Europe. She introduced the era of romantic ballet and launched the image of the ballerina in a long, white tutu with point shoes. Women wanted to copy her hairstyle. Her most famous role was in La Sylphide at Paris Opera, which was a ballet created by her father. The ballet was set in Scotland and featured forest fairies and witches and Taglioni wore transparent fairy wings. The ballet was so popular that La Sylphide dolls were made.  Even Queen Victoria had a La Sylphide doll. Taglioni left the Ballet of Her Majesty's Theater in 1837 and joined the Imperial Ballet in Russia. The Russians loved her and she had a huge following of balletomanes. Balletomanes were male fans of female ballerinas. Like super fans. These guys were so crazy about the ballerina that they bought her point shoes from her last performance for two hundred rubles. They had an issue though. How would the group of them be able to share the shoes and pay homage to their favorite ballerina? Now, you've probably heard of people drinking champagne from women's shoes, so you might think that perhaps they passed them around for a toast. But you would be wrong. This group of Balletomanes cut those slippers into pieces, cooked them, covered them in a special sauce and...ate them! Being so enamored by a ballerina that you eat her ballet slippers, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Thurgood Marshall Born

In the month of July, on the 2nd, in 1908, the first black man on the U.S. Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall, was born. Justice Marshall was born in Baltimore, Maryland and went to Howard University School of Law. In 1934, he began working for the Baltimore branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He began using the judiciary at this time to help get equal rights for people of color. Marshall spent much of his career arguing and winning several cases that struck down legalized racism in the lead up to the Civil Rights Movement. In 1954, he won the Brown v. Board of Education case. This case ended racial segregation in public schools. President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated him to the Supreme Court of the United States in 1967. He served for 24 years and retired in 1991. Justice Clarence Thomas replaced him.

Legends of Taiwan (Suggested by: Whitney Zahar)

The island of Taiwan is located between the Philippines and Japan, about 100 miles off the coast of China. The small island is inhabited by many people who were escaping from the mainland of China, a country that claims to be sovereign over the island. Many nations have held control over Taiwan over the years, from the Dutch to the Spanish to the Japanese to the Chinese. This is a land of indigenous groups that each seem to have their own mythical story of origin and there are many haunted locations. Join myself and listener Whitney Zahar, who lived in Taiwan for a time as we share the history, legends and haunts of Taiwan.

Immigrants from the Pacific Islands were the first to inhabit the island of Taiwan. The Chinese arrived in the 1400s and over the next hundred years, an influx of Europeans came, mainly from Portugal. It was the Portuguese that named it Ilha Formosa or "Beautiful Island"in 1517. The Dutch and Spanish followed, but by the 1660s, the Chinese had returned and ousted the Dutch. The Chinese held it for two centuries until the Japanese invaded in 1895. The island would be ceded to China after World War II. Taiwan has faced an uncertain political future from that time with China refusing to recognize it as a sovereign nation and Taiwan claiming to be an independent country.

Tigress Witch

There is a strong belief in different spirits in Taiwan and many of these spirits are considered to be gods and goddesses. Others were thought to be witches and ghosts. There was the SunGod, MoonGod, EarthGod, RockGod, TreeGod, and animal gods and goddesses. When it came to animals, there was a belief that some of them could trabsform into human form and then hunt humans in that form. A woman lived in the mountains with her two daughters. She left fortown one day and instructed her girls to lock the door and open it for no one. The two daughters did as they were instructed, but later, someone came to the door and began to knock loudly. The girls were afraid when they heard the knocking.Then they heard someone call out, "Open the door, open the door! I am your mother." The sisters moved closer to the door and said: "You are not Mama; you wouldn't be back so soon." But the person knocked harder and called out louder: "I am your Mama. l thought you would be scared, so I came back quickly to see you."

Unfortunately, the girls opened the door and saw that the person at the door was not their mother. The woman standing there had hair white as snow and her face was wrinkled like a cat. The woman claimed to be their great-aunt who hadn't visited in a long time. Never mind that she claimed to be the mother originally. The girls invited her in and led her to one of the rooms tosleep for the night. One of the sisters joined her in the room. The other girl awoke at midnight and went to check on her sister when she heard strange noises coming from the room that she was sleeping within. The sounds reminded her of someone chewing roasted peanuts or a dog chewing a bone. The sister asked the aunt what was making the noise. The aunt answered, "Oh, I am chewing some ginger roots; they are very hard, hot, and bitter, not for children to eat." The girl insisted that she get some ginger roots and the aunt tossed over a piece, which turned out to be the finger of the girl's sister. It was then that the young girl realized that they had let the Tigress Witch into their home. The girl tried to escape, but the Tigress Witch called out, "You will be my breakfast. How can I let you go; you might try to sneak away!" The girl was clever and answered, "If you don't want me to escape, why don't you tie a rope to my leg; then I will have no way to escape." The Tigress Witch tied a rope around her leg and held it while the sister went to the rest room. The smart girl took the rope off her leg and tied it to a water container and escaped out the window.

The Tigress Witch realized she had been tricked after some time had passed and she tracked the girl to a tree and proceeded to start chewing the trunk. The girl called down, "Great-aunt, you don't have to chew the tree trunk so hard. I am willing to come down to let you eat me. The only problem is that I am so hungry that if you eat me now, I will become a Hungry Ghost, and I will forever follow you and torment you. If you boil a bucket of peanut oil for me, I'll fry some birds here and eat them. When my stomach is full, you can then eat me without any worry." The Tigress Witch thought this was a very wonderful idea, so she boiled a bucket of peanut oil and sent it up to the girl. After awhile, the girl called out, "I am ready to jump down now. Open your mouth." When the Tigress Witch heard this, she opened her mouth widely, thinking that she would be eating the child. Instead, the foolish Tigress got a whole mouthful of boiling peanut oil and died.

In this story, you heard mentioned the Hungry Ghost. Stories of Hungry Ghosts are prominent in Taiwan and the people there even celebrate the Ghost Festival. In their culture, the fifteenth day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar is called Ghost Day and the seventh month is observed as the Ghost Month. This is a time when ghosts and spirits arise from the lower realm. Whitney describes the celebration of the Ghost Festival.

There are at least seven well known haunted locations in Taiwan and we touch on each one. Are these locations haunted? That is for you to decide!

The Tagalong