Thursday, November 29, 2018

Ep. 284 - Squirrel Cage Jail

Moment in Oddity - Old Mike

Cornish Funeral Home in Prescott, Arkansas had a very unusual display for years. The display featured the embalmed, mummified remains of a man that everybody just knew as Old Mike. The reason they called him Old Mike was that no one knew who he was. The story is that Mike was a traveling salesman in the early 1900s and he would come into Prescott occasionally on the train to sell his wares, which consisted of stationary and pencils. He would sometimes stay overnight and then leave on the train the next day. No one really got to know the guy. Nobody knew about his family or where he came from. One day, the townspeople found Mike lying under a tree, dead. He had passed away sometime in the night. He was taken to the local funeral home, but no identification for him was found. People only knew that his name was Mike. So the funeral home embalmed him and decided to put him in the window to see if anyone recognized him. And there he was for the next 60 years. He became a tourist attraction and a challenge that young boys gave to each other. You know, "I dare you to touch Old Mike." In 1975, a petition finally got the state attorney general's office to request that Mike finally be given a proper burial and so he was laid to rest that May with a few people in attendance. The idea that a funeral home would put a body on display in hopes that someone would claim it and do it for 60 years, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Architect Stanford White Born

In the month of November, on the 9th, in 1853, Architect Stanford White was born in New York City. Stanford White was a renowned architect. He had been a member of the prestigious firm McKim, Meade and White and designed the Washington Square Arch, Pennsylvania Station and Madison Square Garden. He was well liked, but he had a side many didn't know about him. He had a taste for young chorus girls, even though he was married. He had a red velvet swing in his 24th Street studio and he would invite a teen-aged Evelyn Nesbit to come have a swing. Nesbit was an artist's model and a cast member in Broadway's hottest musical comedy at the time. Nesbit had another admirer though named Harry Thaw. He was a wealthy playboy and on the evening of June 25th in 1906, Thaw murdered Stanford White during a performance of Mam'zelle Champagne on the rooftop of Madison Square Garden. This was called the Crime of the Century.

Squirrel Cage Jail (Suggested by Jessica Garcia and Lynne Larsen Savage)

Old jails just seem to be crawling with spirits as we have come to find from the several jails covered on this podcast. No matter the country, region or city and no matter the size, prisons hold spirits. One incredibly haunted jail can be found in Iowa. Council Bluffs was known as the Great Railroad Center of the Northwest. Before that time, it was a hub for trade between Native American tribes and white settlers. The Squirrel Cage Jail was built here in 1885. This jail has one of the most unique designs of any jail I have ever researched. This prison had a long run, being used until 1969. Today, it offers tours giving a glimpse into penal history and is said to be home to several spirits. Join me as I explore the history and hauntings of the Squirrel Cage Jail.

The reason why Council Bluffs was considered the Great Railroad Center of the Northwest is because nearly every city in the state of Iowa is connected by rail to Council Bluffs. The town was originally known as Traders Point, being named by Francois Guittar who was a St. louis businessman. He came to the area in 1824 and established the town as a base for fur trading and other mercantile business with the local Native American tribes, the most prominent being the Potawatomi for whom the county where Council Bluffs is located is named. The trading was friendly because the chief of the Potawatomi was Billy Caldewell, who was the son of a Potawatomi mother and a Scots-Irish immigrant father. This became a desired destination in traversing the Missouri River for a multitude of groups working their way to the western United States. On the Oregon, the California, the Mormon, or the Lewis and Clark trails. The town eventually came to be known as Kanesville and it became a Mormon winter encampment. The claim to fame for Kanesville was that Mormon leader Brigham Young was sustained as the second prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the tabernacle here. The Mormon settlers left in 1852 and the town was renamed Council Bluffs after a site that was 20 miles north that had been named Council Bluff by the Lewis and Clark Expedition. They had met with the Otoe Tribe on that bluff, which was near the Missouri River. The county needed a jail and Council Bluffs was picked as the location.

The Squirrel Cage Jail was originally known as Pottawattamie County Jail. The building is found at 226 Pearl Street in Council Bluffs and was built in 1885. The interior of the jail consists of revolving cells that are technically called a rotary jail. This was a design by William H. Brown and Benjamin F. Haugh, both from Indianapolis. They patented the design in 1881 and it would be used in eighteen jails in the United States. The patent on the design stated, "The object of our invention is to produce a jail in which prisoners can be controlled without the necessity of personal contact between them and the jailer."  This would mean that the jail could provide maximum security with minimum jailer attention.  It was said that if a jailer had a trustee he could trust, he could control the jail. The cells were wedges that resembled the shape of a pie and these were seated on a platform that rotated in a carousel fashion. They were more secure in that there was only one opening and so only one cell could be accessed at a time. a man would hand crank the gears that were beneath the structure to rotate the entire cell block. The design had an upgrade with a core sanitary plumbing system. There was just one problem. Inmates limbs would get caught either accidentally or on purpose due to self-harm and become severed. By 1939, all the rotary jails had been condemned save one, the Squirrel Cage.

The Squirrel Cage is unique from the other revolving cell jails in that it was the only one that was three-stories tall. The building itself was designed to be four-stories and this was a grand plan in that the prototype upon which it was based was only one story and had only eight cells. The total cost for the build was $30,000 and when it was complete, all three floors of the jail had the revolving pie-shaped cells, each with their own toilet, and there were quarters for women, a kitchen, trustee cells and offices for the jailer and other staff. The construction took only five months. The architects, Eckel and Mann, designed the building exterior with a Victorian style. They incorporated Romanesque arched windows, detailed brickwork and limestone trim. From the outside, it does not look like a prison, it looks like a mansion.

The first inmates arrived on September 11, 1885 with Sheriff Theodore Guittar at the helm. These inmates included Miles Mullen who was a horse thief, Frank Scofield, a forger, John Gordon who had violated tax laws, Ed Rankin and the Brock Family, Mr. and Mrs. and their daughter, all doing time for larceny. Not long after opening, the jailer quarters on the fourth floor revealed another issue with the revolving jail. The malodorous odors from the sewer system traveled upward. The second floor women's jail area was soon converted to a living space. Opinions of the jails were harsh. The danger to inmates limbs was an issue as was the lack of ventilation, but many townspeople were critical of the fact that prisoners had their own toilets when many of them did not. It was thought the prisoners were being coddled. But others focused more on the danger and an editorial was written that decried the jail saying, “Rotary cells of the present jail not only are a farce, they are dangerous to the lives of the prisoners.” And imagine a fire in one of these places!

Citizens signed petitions and the Pottawattamie County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution in 1910 to ask voters for $75,000 so that a new county jail could be built and this would include a residence for the Sheriff and his family. Well, apparently there weren't that many in town who supported such an idea despite the complaints and petitions. The resolution was not passed and no new jail was built. Squirrel Cage would continue on for forty more years as a rotary jail. In 1960, a prisoner died of natural causes, but it took two days to retrieve th corpse because the rotary mechanism malfunctioned. After that, the mechanism was disabled.  Access had to be cut through the outer cage to cells, so that they could be reached from the floor or landings and the jail continued to operate until 1969.

After the jail ceased operations in 1969, it was acquired by the Council Bluffs Park Board. In 1972, the Squirrel Cage was named to the National Register of Historic Places. This is only one of three revolving jail cell prisons still in existence. The jail was still in great need of restoration efforts by 1977 and the Historical Society took up the effort. They are the current owners and operators of the facility and they offer tours. One of the things visitors can see are the signatures and dates made by some of the former infamous residents on the cell walls. The jail is open from 11am to 4pm, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, April through October. There are many visitors and staff who claim to have experienced supernatural things at the jail.

Paranormal experiences date back to before the prison was ever built here. The apartment on the top floor was not only not used because of the odors, but there are claims that strange things happened up there. Bill Foster was a jailer there in the 1950s and he moved out of the fourth floor after experiencing what he called, "Strange goings-on up there." He reported hearing disembodied footsteps on the the fourth floor. These are thought to belong to J.M. Carter who oversaw the jail's construction. He lived in the top floor apartment for a while. There is a previous jailer haunting the fourth floor as well. He was named Otto Gufath and his full-bodied apparition has been seen.

The experiences indicate that there are both intelligent and residual activity. Nevermore Paranormal investigated the jail and claim to have caught EVP of laughing, a voice saying "Give it to me" and "You can't" said by a little girl with a southern accent and "Whose there," and there has been shushing. The Paranormal Research and Investigative Studies Midwest (PRISM) group investigated in 2005. They managed to video a cabinet door opening by itself three times. They also captured orbs on video at the same time that EMFs registered electromagnetic spikes and temperature changes were noted. In 2008, the Carroll Area Paranormal Team (CAPT) investigated the jail and they captured unexplained light activity in the infirmary and unusual sounds.

Carla Borgaila with the Historical Society of Pottawattamie County has said she has had the following experiences, “I have had my hat pulled off my head and my hair played with. I have seen mists, shadows, full body apparitions, footsteps, voices and doors closing. In addition to the little girl, there are reports of a teenage girl, several men – some inmates, some jailers – and a couple different women’s voices caught on EVPs or audibly heard during the night. We also have two ghost cats that are known for brushing up against peoples legs. Many groups have caught ‘meows’ on their recorders and seen the little striped cats going through doorways.” 

Heavy breathing and sighing and the jingling of keys have been heard and strange lights have been seen. The audible voice of a little girl singing has been heard. This little girl has been seen coming from the juvenile detention center by many people. These claims come from investigators from all over the country, which makes the claims more believable since they all have had similar stories without contact with each other. A woman working on a project in the building after hours, saw the little girl. She was dressed in gray and inside a cell that was locked with no way in or out.

Staff claim that whatever spirits happen to be in the jail, they are friendly and non-threatening. There is a great feeling of sadness throughout the building. And there are reputedly two ghost cats on the premises. So why do we have hauntings here? There were four deaths in the prison. A prisoner was trying to carve his name on the ceiling and he fell three stories. Another committed suicide by hanging himself in his cell. A third prisoner had a heart attack. The final death came about during the Farmer's Holiday Strike in 1932. An angry mob was storming the jail when an officer accidentally shot himself. The Sheriff at the time was named Lainson and he had hired 98 special deputies to get rid of blockades caused by the strike. He promised “to fight it out if it takes 5,000 deputies,” adding “if the Pottawattamie county jail bulges with picketers it will just have to bulge. I’m going to see that law and order are maintained.” Some strikers took that to mean that the jail was bulging with their buddies and word spread  that 1000 men were on the way to Council Bluffs. Tensions flared and the Sheriff told the press that if the jail was mobbed, his men were armed and would handle it “in the best possible manner.” Deputies had been told they could shoot to kill should any farmers try and storm the jail. A tragic accident occurred when special deputy Claude Dail was shot and killed from a gun that accidentally discharged during a weapons test.

So with four deaths, we have some fuel for paranormal activity. There was a lot of sadness within the walls as well. But where is this young female ghost coming from? St. Paul's Episcopal Church had a morgue that was on the site before the jail. Is it possible that spirits from some of the bodies that passed through here are now inside the jail? Are there other reasons for the activity? Is the Squirrel Cage Jail haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Ep. 283 - Haunted Cemeteries 12

Moment in Oddity - Train Accidents Depicted on Gravestones

Tree-stump gravestones were popular for a twenty-year period from 1885 to 1905. Many cemeteries in the Midwest used them because limestone was plentiful and the tradition of stone carving was a fine art. The trees were meant to look as if a tree stump had been used to mark a grave and symbolize a life cut short. This was very true for Charles F. King who died when he was only 26 years old. He was killed in 1893 at Jonesboro, Arkansas, in a train wreck on the St. Louis, Arkansas, and Texas Railway. What is weird is that this accident is actually depicted on his gravestone. There is a train engine and then another rail car flipped on its side. I've never seen a car accident depicted on a marker or someone clutching the heart from an attack. Causes of death are usually not visually depicted on a stone. But as I came to find out this week, this gravestone is not unique. There is another and here's where that little synchronicity that happens around here all the time creeps in. I found the King Gravestone while searching for haunted cemeteries. A few days later, I was researching Bohemian National Cemetery for a Stones and Bones BonusCast and stumbled across a picture of a headstone there for Matej Sidlo that is also a tree stump and it depicts Sidlo's death due to a train as well. This carving shows a train hitting a beer wagon. Sidlo was forty years old and was riding on a beer wagon owned by the E.R. Stege Brewing Co. when it was struck by engine No. 590 belonging to the CB & Q RR Co. throwing him from the wagon. What are the chances that two tombstones depict deaths by train and that I would find them in the same week? All I know is that, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - First Presidential Library Construction Began

In the month of November, on the 19th, in 1939, construction of the first presidential library began. This library would belong to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He laid the cornerstone next to his home in Hyde Park, New York. Roosevelt had donated the land, but public donations funded the building of the library, which was dedicated on June 30, 1941. Roosevelt noticed that he had a vast quantity of papers and other materials that he and his staff had accumulated during the first two terms of his presidency. He also knew that in the past, many Presidential papers and records had been lost, destroyed or ruined. He asked historians and scholars for their advice and they all came up with the idea of a public repository of some sort. This began a tradition that continues to this day. There are currently 14 libraries in the Presidential Library System. These libraries are not like other libraries in that they are archives and museums that bring together the documents and artifacts of a President and his administration and present them for the public to study and discuss.

Haunted Cemeteries 12

As I continue to roll out these new episodes in the Haunted Cemeteries Series, it never ceases to amaze me just how wrong I was in thinking that there were very few haunted cemeteries. After all, I surmised that spirits would want to be among the living with all of their energy and not hanging out with the dead. I tend toward believing that most graveyard ghosts are residual and perhaps that is why I have managed to find so many of them. On this episode, we are going to explore cemeteries in Erie, Pennsylvania, cemeteries in Iowa, Odd Fellows Rest in New Orleans and Riverside Cemetery in Asheville. Join me on this journey through the history and haunts of these graveyards!
Erie Cemetery

Erie Cemetery is located in Erie Pennsylvania and was established in 1851. The graveyard is laid out over 75 acres and is found at 21st and Chestnut streets. There are around 50,000 burials and these include General Strong Vincent, Daniel Dobbins and Sarah A. Reed. Within, one will find over 165 years of funerary art. Burials still continue there today.

General Strong Vincent was fatally wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg on Little Round Top. He wrote to his pregnant wife on the way to Gettysburg, "If I fall, remember you have given your husband to the most righteous cause that ever widowed a woman." Today, there is a statue of him at Gettysburg on top of the 83rd Pennsylvania Infantry monument. There is no identification on the statue because it was against Pennsylvania battlefield commission rules to place an image of a regiment’s commanding officer on a monument, but it is his likeness, not a random officer. He was buried at Erie Cemetery and his baby daughter joined him shortly thereafter. She died shortly after being born.

Sarah A. Reed was a founding member of the group who formed “The Association for Improving the Conditions of the Poor, and a Home for the Friendless”. They opened The Children's Center in 1871 as a place to  and homeless children. Sarah served as President for 45 years from 1889 to her death in 1934. The center was named for her after her death.

There are two unique burials here that are steeped in legend.

Brown Crypt/Vampire Crypt -  The final resting place of the Goodrich Family is a Mausoleum carved from a ridge. It's a beautiful Gothic structure, but quite plain with no typical stain-glassed window or even a name on the outside. There is a strange V-like carving above the entrance as though lettering has fallen away. The front gate is hewn from wrought iron. And eerily, the granite from which the crypt is made has blackened. No other structures near it have done so.

The actual owner of the mausoleum is Gertrude Brown, but she is not buried within more than likely because she is still alive and the last heir. Most of the bodies inside bear the name Goodrich, the first being George Washington Goodrich who died on November 14, 1884. Six other individuals have joined him: his wife, two of their children who died young and I'm unsure of the rest. That's all pretty basic, but somehow a legend got started that a vampire is locked within the crypt and thus it is nicknamed the Vampire Crypt.

One of the stories told about the crypt is that a wealthy man from Erie fell ill after returning home from a trip to Romania. He died soon after becoming ill. He was placed in the crypt, but people claimed that he was undead and left the crypt to attack people in the surrounding suburbs. They were found drained of blood and the classic teeth marks on their necks. Another tale claims that a young man broke into the vault and stole a ring off of one of the bodies inside. He bragged to his friends what he had done and told them that he would show them the ring the next day. His friends came over to the house, but when his mother went to fetch him, she found him dead in his room. He was colourless and his eyes and mouth were frozen open in horror. His ring finger had been ripped off of his hand.

The explanation for the V on the crypt that many claim means "vampire" is that the symbol is actually a lily with stylized leaves that are Victorian. The blackening on the tomb is most likely from rain runoff and pollution. But it sure is fun to believe a vampire lurks within this very cool looking crypt.

The other area of interest is known as the Witch's Circle. This can be found in the oldest part of the cemetery, by Chestnut Street. The graves here are placed in a circle and are very old. Two of them have darkened stones. These two graves are said to belong to the two heads of a coven. They died in the late 1800s and the legend claims that the stones were blackened when Satan came to drag their souls to Hell. At least, that is one version. Another claims that the coven practiced their magic in the circle and that the Devil sent a fire from Hell to burn up the witches and the blackening is scorch marks. People claim that you can hear disembodied footsteps, usually behind you and when you turn you will see no one, except a big black dog, who will try to attack you. Thankfully, he disappears right before he chomps.

Evergreen and Vegors Cemeteries in Iowa

Evergreen Cemetery is found in Vinton, Iowa and is located at 1002 E. 10th Street. The city of Vinton was founded in 1849 and incorporated in 1869. It was named for Hon. Plynn Vinton, a state legislator. The graveyard was established in 1853 and has over 8500 burials. Burials have continued up until our present day. There is a huge flea market held on the adjacent grounds every summer.

There are a couple of well known burials here. The first is for Civil War Union Brevet Brigadier General James Loraine Geddes. He was born in Scotland, and immigrated to Canada with his family in 1837. He would go to a British military academy and serve in their army for seven years. In 1857, he settled on a farm in Benton county, Iowa. He raised a company of volunteers for the 8th Iowa infantry when the Civil War started and he became their captain. He worked up the ranks until he was wounded and captured at the Battle of Shiloh. He spent time in Libby prison in Richmond. He was released in a prisoner exchange and fought at Vicksburg and Jackson. He became a professor of military tactics and engineering at Iowa State Agricultural College in Ames and later became vice president of the college and treasurer of the institution. He died in 1887 when he was only 59. He is buried beneath a draped obelisk.

Buren Robinson Sherman was Iowa Governor from 1882 to 1886. He too fought in the Civil War. He served as a State Court Judge in Iowa in 1865 and as the Iowa State Auditor from 1875 to 1881. He died in 1904 at the age of 68. His stone is granite with an American flag engraved across the bottom.

This cemetery apparently has a lady in white who rides on a horse and is seen riding up and down the train tracks. One of the areas in the cemetery is for unknown soldiers. People have reported seeing  strange phenomena around a military statue there and full-bodied apparitions of soldiers hang around the area.

Vegors Cemetery is located in Stratford, Iowa, which was platted in 1880. Stratford was named for Stratford-upon-Avon in England. The cemetery is believed to have been a burial ground for four Native American tribes originally from 500BC to 1200AD. These were the typical mound type burials. White settlers moved into the area in the early 1800s and they did a stupid thing. Yep, they moved the bodies, so they could use the burial ground as their own. These moved tribe people would be honored in 1960 when E.H. Hawbaker erected a monument in the cemetery to give recognition to the fact that the hilltop cemetery had significance before the settlers came.

There are multiple hauntings at the cemetery. One reason for the hauntings could be the Spirit Lake Massacre of 1857. In the spring of 1857, Wahpekute Dakota Chief Inkpaduta and his band of warriors descended on the homesteads near Spirit Lake, which is near the Vegors Cemetery. They massacred a bunch of people because a whiskey runner and bad guy named Henry Lott and his son killed Inkpaduta’s blood brother Sintomniduta and Sintomniduta’s wife and five children in 1854. Inkpaduta asked the military to punish Lott, but Lott managed to get away. Lott was never found, and justice was never served. Many people were massacred in 1857 by the Native Americans. Legends claim that Mrs. Henry Lott was murdered at this time and that her spirit is said to haunt the graveyard and is seen as a full-bodied apparition. At least that is the legend. The Mrs. Lott I found here has on her tombstone that she died in 1849 from exposure of Indian raid. She is not buried in the cemetery. She was probably buried near the cabin. She was the first white woman to die in the area.

Other hauntings at the cemetery include full-bodied apparitions of Native Americans, probably because their graves were desecrated. The beating of drums is heard on the air as well. Anonymous posted on 5/24/2017: my friends and I went to vegors many times last summer and we walked through the whole cemetery to see the really old graves and sat near the memorial of mrs.lotts and then sat on a cement bench, first we heard a whistle and then a huge sound of voices as if you were in a stadium occurred and became louder and louder and got closer to us. we decided to move around and continued hearing whistles and drums and sounds mimicking what sounded like Indian calls. we heard screams, and you feel such a presence of paranormal activity while being here it is very active.

Odd Fellows Rest

This graveyard is located in New Orleans, Louisiana. Odd Fellows Rest is considered one of the most mysterious graveyards in the world and there are those that claim it is the most haunted in New Orleans. No small feat, considering that nearly all graveyards in New Orleans claim that label. Odd Fellows Rest is located at the corner of Canal Street and City Park Avenue near St. Patrick Cemetery No. 2. This graveyard was founded in 1847 and its primary purpose was to hold the remains of members of the Grand Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. The Odd Fellows are one of the largest fraternal organizations in the United States. This is a secret society that dates back to the 15th century and started in England. It arrived in America around 1806. Most members were tradesmen with unusual or odd professions. Unlike other secret societies, this one was open to both men and women. The society flourished in America and reached its peak during World War I. Popularity dwindled after that and by the late 1970s, membership was down from three million to about 250,000. Most of the Odd Fellows Lodge Halls in the US have been sold off or left abandoned.

Their burials have a very distinctive symbol, which features three linked chains. This symbolizes the tenets of friendship, love and truth. Many times, the all-seeing eye accompanies the chains along with shaking hands. The dedication ceremony took place on February 29, 1849. This was a huge and elaborate event with a funeral procession that was fit for a king. The Odd Fellows disinterred the remains of sixteen of their members that had been buried elsewhere and put them in a sarcophagus. They brought the remains in a caravan that had two circus bandwagons, one of which was pulled by sixteen horses, and a funeral car. The single sarcophagus was to symbolize the burial of the cemetery’s first occupants.

The Odd Fellows were not only forward in their thinking about membership for women, but they were against segregation. In many cemeteries, blacks were not allowed to be buried next to whites. The Odd Fellows felt they deserved the same honors, so they opened the cemetery to people of color. They had purchased the land for $700 and expanded with the help of local donations, which they needed to do because the cemetery filled up quickly. In a few short years, the Odd Fellows had erected two hundred vaults and the tomb of the Teutonia Lodge number ten. Walls were named for past grand masters of the Order and enclosed the cemetery. Plots were filled by 1930.

As is the case with most graveyards in New Orleans, getting access to this cemetery is difficult. The only real entrance is through The Herb Import Company that is next to the graveyard. You have to ask somebody there to be let in and it is at their discretion. They give you a number, so you can call when you want to be let back out. I've also heard that due to restoration efforts, they do not allow anybody inside. So I'm not really sure you can peruse this one. Perhaps you could sip a tea on the back patio of this establishment and you should be able to at least SEE the graveyard. And it really seems as though it is a site to see with elaborate epitaphs. Other symbols seen throughout the graveyard include beehives, the mother and her children, the cornucopia, the world, the Bible, the five-pointed stars and the initials "I.O. of O.F."

Urban legends abound here. Some people claim that zombies roam the grounds. Others declare that they have seen ghost cats. There does seem to be a ghost dog here and it is accompanied by its owner whom people call Mr. Mike. He seems to be a friendly spirit and is seen wearing a white t-shirt and dark pants and he is always walking a large dog. There is no other information about him, so I'm not sure if he was an Odd Fellow or if he hangs out here for another reason. His dress makes me think that he is not buried here.
Riverside Cemetery in Asheville

Riverside Cemetery is found in Asheville, North Carolina, in the Montford Historic District, and this is a large cemetery that holds the dearly departed remains of over 13,000 people. Some of those people are quite famous. The cemetery is located at 53 Birch St. and the oldest known grave here is from December of 1885. Some burials are so old, it is hard to see the inscriptions and as is the case in all cemeteries, some are unmarked due to loss of a marker or perhaps a family did not have the means for a stone. This is not only one of the more well known cemeteries in the state, it is said to be the most haunted graveyard in North Carolina.

Riverside Cemetery was established in 1885. The years have blossomed this cemetery into a beautifully matured landscape with meandering roads. This is a great example of a garden cemetery. One fun epitaph declares, ""Meant Well, Tried a little, Failed much." The Battle of Asheville took place in 1865, less than a mile from the cemetery. Many of the dead are buried here. There are also dead from the other wars buried here, including 18 German soldiers from WWI.

O. Henry was born William Sidney Porter. He was born in 1862 and was raised in Greensboro, North Carolina. He began his working career as a teenager working in his uncle's drugstore. He became a licensed pharmacist, but enjoyed spending much of his time sketching the portraits of customers. He moved to Texas hoping to get rid of a cough he had developed. While there, he worked in a bank and was charged with embezzlement. His father-in-law posted his bail, but he ran away to new orleans and then to Honduras. He eventually returned to Texas when he heard that his wife was dying of TB. She passed away and he served his time in jail. He wrote as a hobby, but pursued it more when he was released and got a job with The Post in Houston. He began his prolific short story writing career in 1902. He was a heavy drinker and he became quite ill in 1908. He died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1910.

Thomas Wolfe was born in Asheville in 1900. He began his writing career at the University of North Carolina, where he attended college. He wrote several one-act plays and edited the school newspaper. He moved to New York in 1923 and this became his home. Three years later, he started his novel "Look Homeward, Angel." The novel was a critical success, but angered some of his friends in Asheville who recognized themselves as characters in the book. He continued publishing works, but his creativity was cut off early. He died at the age of 37 from tuberculosis of the brain in 1938.

There are claims of multiple hauntings here and many of those seem to be connected to the Battle of Asheville. The shouts of troops are heard and there is also the disarming exchange of gunfire. An entire regiment of ghostly Confederate soldiers has been seen as well. A couple of the other ghosts belong to children. Their small apparitions are seen and the disembodied laughter of children is heard. The spirit of an old man is seen wandering among the tombstones, but no one is sure which burial he belongs to.

Each of these cemeteries has its own unique features, but they are all beautiful and peaceful. Save for the spirits that seem to be at unrest. Are the legends real? Are these cemeteries haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Ep. 282 - The Great Wall of China

Moment in Oddity - Sarah's Grave
Suggested by: Pat Clifford

Pat lives in Australia and wanted to share the local story about Sarah's Grave. This grave belongs to Sarah Simpson and is located in an old bush cemetery at Castlereagh about an hour west of Sydney, Australia. Some of the first settlers in the region are buried in this graveyard. Sarah was a British convict who arrived in New South Wales in 1818 aboard the Friendship. Her crime was stealing some clothes that were valued at fivepence. She served her time and met a recently released convict named John Simpson who was a tailor and the couple moved out west. They had 8 children together. On the evening of December 10, 1838, Sarah was walking home when a group of men attacked her and killed her. John was devastated when her battered body was found. They had not married and so he married her in a graveside service to ensure she could pass on without sin into the next life. But it doesn't seem that Sarah passed on. Legends claim that she harasses young men that lurk near her graveside. Young women claim to have seen her ghost in the branches above her grave. An even weirder part of the legend claims that her father visited her grave and found her headstone destroyed. Each time he repaired it he would return the next day to find it destroyed again. He decided to stay the night at the cemetery and watch for the culprit. He went to the bush to go to the bathroom and when he came back the headstone was destroyed.  He was truly puzzled because he was not gone long enough for anyone to destroy the marker and he had heard no noise. And it is that part of the legend that certainly is odd!

This Month in History - The Murder of Stringbean Akeman
Suggested by: Johnny Marvin Allen

In the month of November, on the 10th, in 1973, David "Stringbean" Akeman and his wife Estelle  were ambushed and murdered. Stringbean had started his legendary music career with a guitar he made out of a shoebox and a piece of thread. He got his nickname at a talent contest because he was lanky and the MC yelled for the Stringbean to come to the stage. Soon Stringbean was picking his banjo in a band, but was eventually left behind because he was considered old-fashioned. He married Estelle and went on to continue playing his old-time music, doing comedy and living a simple life. He also became a part of the Grand Ole Opry radio show and the cast of Hee Haw on television. That simple life also meant that he didn't trust banks. He had good reasoning considering that the Great Depression had left many people homeless and businesses shuttered. It was rumored that he kept a huge wad of his cash in his bibbed overalls. A couple of lowlifes named Doug and John Brown would shatter the innocence of Nashville's small town feel. They had heard about Stringbean keeping a stash of money and they ransacked the cabin that Stringbean and Estelle shared. Stringbean knew something was wrong when they got home and pulled his pistol. It would do him no good as he took a bullet to the head the minute he entered the cabin. Estelle made a run for it, but she was shot too. Fellow Opry star, Louis Marshall "Grandpa" Jones would find the bodies. The Brown cousins were arrested and convicted and sentenced to life behind bars. Doug died in prison, but John was eventually released after 41 years. Stringbean did have stashes of money in the cabin that the Browns never found. They were found in the walls.

The Great Wall of China (Suggested by Katrina Ray-Saulis)

Visiting the Great Wall of China is a bucket list item for many people. This man-made structure runs west to east across northern China for 13,171 miles. Construction began with the First Emperor of China over two thousand years ago. Building would continue for centuries with most of the work being done during the Ming Dynasty and actually, most of the original wall no longer exists. Thousands of people died while building the Wall and many died in battles near and on the Wall. This much death seems to have lead to paranormal activity. The Wall is said to be the most haunted structure in China. There are many ghosts seen here. Join me as I explore the history and hauntings of the Great Wall of China!

The Great Wall traverses eleven provinces and two autonomous regions. The structure began as the Northern Frontier Wall and was initiated by the First Emperor of China, Shi Huangdi in 221 BCE. This would be the Qin Dynasty and where China gets its name. But even before that, princes that headed up the various states in the country had built their own walls along state borders for protection. These were similar in style to the Great Wall and began as early as 650 BCE. Warlords eventually jopined the individual states during the Warring States Period and seven large states were the result.

The Qin was the most powerful and conquered everybody else. In 221 BCE, Emperor Huangdi begin construction on The Great Wall and the Grand Canal. He wanted the Wall to protect against the harrassment coming from the Mongols. This early work mainly joined together all the separate walls and took 9 years with nearly a million workers. These workers did not volunteer for the job. These were convicts and unwilling conscripts. This Wall measured 3100 miles and gave the Chinese no pride as they believed this Wall did not unify and that people were just sent there to labor and die. The Qin Dynasty only lasted 15 years and was replaced by the Han Dynasty.

When Emperor Huangdi died there were two powerful generals who tried to take control. They were Xiang-Yu of Chou and Liu-Bang of Han. Liu-Bang won and the Han Dynasty rose to power and continued construction on the Wall. This emperor was the first to use the wall as a means of regulating trade along the Silk Road. The Han Dynasty Great Wall stretched from the North Korea coast near Pyongyang in the east to Jade Gate Pass in the west. This spans included branching walls, natural barriers, and trenches. A special kind of building was adopted for this stage of the Wall. Builders made basic wall frames by weaving together rose willow and reeds, and then they filled the frames with gravel. These were then piled in layers. High saline groundwater solidified the sand and gravel. There were three main types of construction: yellow Gobi Desert soil pressed in layers; sand and stones in rose willow and Hu poplar frames and reed adobe. Beacon towers were built every three miles and 80 of those still survive today. These towers were used as signal posts. Smoke and fire could be seen as far as 10 miles, so these were used by guards. The construction here is amazing as this section of Wall in the Gobi Desert has survived.

Feudal Dynasties continued working on the Wall through 1271 AD. The vast Mongol Empire managed to invade China and ushered in the Yuan Dynasty. This would unify Mongolia and China and all work on the Wall ceased, of course. This was China's first foreign-led dynasty and the Yuan Dynasty was founded by Genghis Khan. *Fun Facts: This was the first dynasty to use paper money and Marco Polo visited China during this time.* As tends to happen, this dynasty lost touch with its Mongol roots and internal turmoil was the result. Weakness also came via the Black Death and natural disasters. This weakness opened it up to defeat. The internal rebellion called itself The Red Turban Rebellion and they blamed the government for the disasters. The final straw came when the Yellow River changed course and flooded a major region and impoverished it. The Red Turbans said that this happened because the empire had lost the Mandate of Heaven.

*Rabbit Hole: The Mandate of Heaven was similar to the Divine Right of Kings in concept in that God was in control of ruling powers, but with the Divine Right of Kings, a particular family was chosen and it was wrong to rebel against them, whereas the Mandate of Heaven allowed for the people to rebel when they saw that favor had fallen from an Emperor via signs like famines or disasters. There are four principles to the Mandate:

1. Heaven grants the emperor the right to rule.
2. Since there is only one Heaven, there can only be one emperor at any given time.
3. The emperor's virtue determines his right to rule.
4. No one dynasty has a permanent right to rule.*

Zhu Yuanzhang was an important leader of the Red Turban Rebellion and he defeated all the other rival armies, destroyed the Yuan palaces and established the Ming Dynasty. Most of the original wall does not exist today. What we see today was mostly built during the Ming Dynasty. This dynasty lasted from 1368 to 1664 AD. This undertaking was the most massive. The Ming added over 25,000 massive watchtowers that ranged in height from 16-26 feet, 20 feet across the bottom and 16 feet across the top. The Ming Dynasty also enclosed their prized agricultural center, Liaoning Province, behind a walled fortification. This wall has been a source of controversy between China and North Korea with North Korea claiming that this wall belongs to them and not China. This fight continues today. The Ming Dynasty had a long run, but there was some inner turmoil. Rebels turned against the Ming Dynasty, which at the time was headed by Emperor Wu Sangui. He decided to allie himself with the Manchus and made an agreement with them that he would open the wall if they would help him defeat the rebels. Dumb move as the Manchus seized power, expelled the Ming Dynasty, and established the Qing Dynasty that held power from 1644 to 1912 AD. The Great Wall would fall into negelct at this time.

In 1912, the Republic of China decided to use it for controlling immigration and emigration. As hard as it may be to believe, the Great Wall had no real efforts to maintain and preserve it until 1980 when the Chinese government realized it could be used for tourism. In 1987, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Even with these efforts, the Wall has only around 600 miles that is stable. People come from all around the world to visit and contrary to the popular belief out there that the Great Wall is the only man-made structure that can be seen from space, it actually cannot. Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield spent five months aboard the International Space Station and he tweeted, “The Great Wall of China is not visible from orbit with the naked eye. It’s too narrow, and it follows the natural contours and colors [of the landscape]." Many believe that this fallacy dates back to 1895 when English essayist Sir Henry Norman wrote that the wall was "the only work of human hands on the globe visible from the moon." His made this observation based on the fact that people on earth could see craters and canals on the moon. He reasoned that someone on the moon would be able to see something as long and massive as the Great Wall on earth. I'm more amazed by the fact that he was thinking about man on the moon at that time.

A legend connected to the Wall is about a fortress on the Great Wall originally named, the Xifeng Kou, or the Happy Meeting Fortress. This is how it got its name. The Great Wall required soldiers to be on guard at the place all year round and this caused much suffering for them and their families. A young soldier had gone to defend the northern territory of China along the Great Wall. He was gone for many years. He and his father were the only people that remained of their family and his father came to find him. The two men almost didn't recognize each other because of all the years that had passed. They greeted each other with hugs and wept. Then they both died on the spot. The fortress was named in their honor. They represented the heart of thousands of soldiers and their family.

The China Travellers website reports, "Jiayu Fortress is the Western end of the Great Wall of China. It is a huge fortress that marks the end and the beginning of the Great Wall. Beyond it, lay the barren Gobi desert in which nobody lived. Only travelers and traders risked their lives in passing the great fortress and their lives depended on destiny. In ancient China, and perhaps in present day also, people had the habit of testing their luck which they believed would predict the outcome of their travels. Travelers and traders had the custom of throwing stones on the walls of the Jiayu Fortress. If the stone created noise, no matter loud or not, it would be a good sign that they would at least be safe out of the fortress. On the other hand, if no noise came about, they would probably be lost in the vast unknown world and should never return. If the sign is good, they might make a fortune and most importantly, return safe and sound. If the sign is a bad one, they might be hindered of their decision of venturing out. Such habit existed along the Jiayu Fortress."

The Great Wall is visited by over four million people a year and some of those visitors claim to experience things that they cannot explain. There are stories that at least a million people died during construction of the Wall. The most common experience is the holy grail of ghost hunting, full-bodied apparitions. Many tourists complain that they feel weird while visiting and this "weird" entails nausea, headaches, feelings of uneasiness and body pains. Some people report being physically assaulted with punches, slaps and are grabbed. Local legends say, “If you visit the Great Wall, the spirits of the fallen workers will haunt you until you cross a line of firecrackers to scare them away”.

Many of the ghost stories originate from one area of the Wall that is north of Beijing and known as The Wild Wall. Even worse than stories of hauntings is the fact that several hikers have died along this portion of the wall via lightning strikes and falls. Marching footsteps are heard in this area of the Wall and strange apparitions have been seen. Destination Truth visited the Wall during Season 3, Episode 11 in 2010, to do some ghost hunting and this section was their focus because of its dark corners. Grant and Jason from Ghost Hunters reviewed the evidence.

Anon on Paranormal Stories: "We did a private hike of the 'Wild' Jiankou section of the wall in 2012. We also camped overnight in the isolated section there, just beside the wall. It was only myself, my wife, and the guide. The guide had his own tent and helped us set up ours, after which he prepared dinner. After eating and a bit of a chat, we went to sleep in our tent and the guide retired to his. Shortly afterwards, we heard someone walking around outside our tent. The sound of footsteps on rocks was unmistakable, as it was otherwise very silent there. I quickly unzipped the tent, thinking maybe it was the guide walking around, but I couldn't see anyone. I walked a few meters over to his tent to ask if he was still awake and he unzipped his tent before asking if I needed something. I told him we heard footsteps and asked if it was him and he said no, he had been in the tent since after dinner. In the morning he told us that other tourists had also heard footsteps over the rocks in the middle of the night."

The Great Wall of China is one of the greatest wonders in the world. It was built on the backs of millions of people and one has to wonder how many of those workers died and are buried somewhere along the Wall. Is this why there are reports of apparitions? Is this energy captured from the historical conflicts that took place here? Is the Great Wall of China haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Ep. 281 - Duff Green Mansion

Moment in Oddity - The Park of Monsters
Suggested by: Kim Gasiorowski

The "Parco dei Mostri" or Park of Monsters can be found in Bomarzo in northern Lazio, Italy. The park is situated in a wooded area below the Orsini Castle. This castle was once home to Prince Pier Francesco Orsini who lived there in the 16th century. Orsini is the designer of this bizarre and horribly beautiful park full of stone sculptures of various monsters. The sculptures are designed to shock and were an expression of his grief. He had come through a terrible season in his life. He had just survived a brutal war that had killed his best friend, he had been held for ransom for years and when he returned home, his beloved wife died. The prince hired architect Pirro Ligorio to help him create what he called the "Villaof Wonders." This would be a place of art before its time as it demonstrates a type of Surrealism. Salvador Dali loved the place when he visited. The park took 20 years to complete and was finished off with a temple built for the Prince's second wife. Other designs include a house built on a tilt to disorient visitors, a war elephant, a giant tearing another giant in half, a huge fish head and an enormous head with a wide gaping mouth locked in a scream, known as the mouth of hell, that features a small picnic table within. A novel, libretto, and opera have all been based on the park. A lovely and peaceful Italian garden playing host to stone monsters, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Mission San Juan Capistrano Founded

In the month of November, on the 1st, in 1776, the Mission San Juan Capistrano was founded in California. Saint Junipero Serra founded the mission as the 7th of 21 missions statewide. The mission was originally intended as a self-sufficient community for Spanish Padres and Native Americans and was a center for agriculture, education and religion. Over 300,000 people visit the mission annually, but it is not just humans that visit. This is the site of the famous Annual Return of the Swallows.  Swallows migrate 6,000 miles from Goya, Argentina to San Juan Capistrano and arrive on March 19th, St. Joseph's Day. This has been happening since the 1930s. The legend of why this happens goes: One day, while walking through town, Father O’Sullivan saw a shopkeeper, broomstick in hand, knocking down the conically shaped mud swallow nests that were under the eaves of his shop. The birds were darting back and forth through the air squealing over the destruction of their homes. “What in the world are you doing?” O’Sullivan asked. “Why, these dirty birds are a nuisance and I am getting rid of them!” the shopkeeper responded. “But where can they go?” “I don’t know and I don’t care,” he replied, slashing away with his pole. “But they’ve no business here, destroying my property.” Father O’Sullivan then said, “Come on swallows, I’ll give you shelter. Come to the Mission. There’s room enough there for all.” The very next morning, Father O’Sullivan discovered the swallows busy building their nests outside Father Junípero Serra’s Church. The mission also features one-of-a-kind artifacts and paintings and has the ruins of the Great Stone Church destroyed in an earthquake in 1812. Her nickname is the American Acropolis.

Duff Green Mansion

Vicksburg is one of those Civil War era cities that I long to visit because I love antebellum mansions.  The Greek Revival architecture and magnolia trees take me back to an earlier time with hoop skirts embellished with ribbons and elegant carriages riding in the streets, but it was also a dark time of slavery and division in the United States that would lead to the outbreak of the Civil War. Vicksburg was the scene of an intense battle that would leave over 37,000 causalities in its wake. Just prior to the outbreak of the war, Duff Green built his mansion and the Bed and Breakfast still carries his name today. The mansion seems to have more than just the Green name. Spirits of the family members seem to have stayed on her in the afterlife. Join me as I explore the history and hauntings of the Duff Green Mansion!

Vicksburg, Mississippi is a river port that sits high on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. The United States bought the area from the Choctaw Nation in 1801. The city would become the scene of a battle that would be a major turning point in the Civil War. Confederate forces held the city under Lt. General John Pemberton. The Union knew that this was a strategic location that they needed because of the location on the river bluff. In the summer of 1863, Maj. General Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Tennessee converged on Vicksburg. They found that Pemberton's forces had built a series of trenches, forts, redans, and artillery lunettes in a 7-mile ring surrounding the city, but the Union had the advantage of outnumbering the Confederate forces two to one. Grant went forward with two assaults but both were repelled leading him to lay siege to the city. This led Pemberton to surrender on July 4th as food and supplies ran out. Grant's Vicksburg campaign was considered one of the most brilliant of the war and it solidified the Union with control of the entire Mississippi River.

Coca-Cola was bottled for the first time in Vicksburg in 1894 by Joseph Biedenharn who was a local confectioner. Well, I had to know more because I love Coke. Coca-Cola originated as a soda fountain drink and sales were so good for Biedenharn, he decided to try bottling it. He used a common glass bottle called a Hutchinson. Biedenharn sent a case to Asa Griggs Candler, who owned Coke. Candler thanked him but took no action at first.

So Vicksburg was a major player in the war, but it suffered greatly afterwards and racial strife would be a key part of its history. Today, it is a grand city that focuses on tourism. People come from all around to see the antebellum mansions and one of those is the Duff Green Mansion. Duff Green was a local cotton broker that had become very wealthy. He had recently married Mary Lake and wanted to build his new wife a grand home that the neighbors would envy. Construction began in 1856. The mansion was built in the Palladian style with two large verandas that featured wrought iron embellishments. There were 13 fireplaces, several bedrooms and a large ballroom. Lavish parties were thrown at the mansion and both Jefferson Davis and Ulysses S. Grant were said to have danced in the ballroom. Things were wonderful until the Civil War broke out.

The Siege of Vicksburg that I described earlier brought the battle right to the home of the Greens. Five cannonballs blasted through the upper floors before Mary was able to hoist a yellow flag indicating that the mansion could be used as a hospital. Both Confederate and Union casualties were brought to the mansion. The Union took the top floor and the Confederate forces took the main floor. The kitchen became the operating room and so much blood flowed onto the floor that the wood is still bloodstained to this day. The Greens needed a place to stay during this time and they took cover in caves that they had built into the hill outside their home. Mary was pregnant at the time and actually had to give birth to their son in the cave. She named him William Siege Green. I'm not sure what happened with the Greens between the time the siege ended and when they returned to their home in 1866, but the mansion itself was leased by the US government to be used as a Soldier's Home.

The Greens stayed in the home until 1880 when Duff passed away. They had a daughter named Annie who died in the home when she was six. Mary decided to sell the house and she did so to the Peatross family. This would begin a time of ownership switching hands and different uses for the house. The Peatross family stayed in the house until 1910 and they sold it to Fannie Vick Johnston. She used the mansion as a temporary residence while her mansion was being built. That home is known today as Stained-Glass Manor. She moved out and allowed the home to be used as an orphanage for boys. For a time, it also became a home for elderly, destitute women. In 1931, Johnston's heirs sold the property to the Salvation Army and they used it for 50 years. In 1985, the mansion was sold to Harry Sharp and his wife.

The Sharps brought the Duff Green Mansion back to its former glory as they transformed it into a bed and breakfast. The process took two-and-a-half years, but it is gorgeous inside with polished wood floors, gorgeous chandeliers and walls covered in historic paint. Twenty-seven layers of paint had to be removed. The mansion is filled with period antique furnishings and offers several rooms for guests that include The Dixie Room, The Camellia Room, The Confederate Room, The Magnolia Room, Little Annie Room, The Pemberton Suite, The Duff Green Suite, The Nursery and Lucy's Cave, which is an apartment that is located under the driveway off the courtyard. There is a brick courtyard with a pool. Weddings and events are hosted as well. Something the bed and breakfast does not keep a secret, is that it also hosts ghosts.

The owner Henry Sharp himself has seen ghosts. He told the Vicksburg Post, "I've seen the ghost of Mary Green floating in the entrance of that doorway, plain as day." The cook has also seen the apparition of Mary and describes her as a beautiful woman with flowing blonde hair. She told a local television station, "I was standing there over the stove stirring my grits, and I felt this rubbing on my shoulders. I thought someone had walked in behind me - teasing me or something like that. But I looked back, and there wasn't anyone there. Then I know it was Mrs. Green." This apparition has been seen most of the time wearing a green antebellum dress. The cook also came in one morning and heard music coming from the ballroom. When she looked inside, she saw a ghostly couple swirling about the floor. A female spirit has been seen looking out a window in the dining room who could also be Mary Green.

Little Annie who died in the house when she was six still seems to be here. Her apparition is seen and heard running up and down the staircase and the sounds of a child playing with a ball have also been heard. Mr. Sharp's one-and-a-half year old granddaughter Lydia was in the ballroom with him one time and she kept glancing over at a corner in the room and finally said, "Ga-ga, ball," over and over. Mr. Sharp said "ga-ga" was Lydia's word for baby. Did she see Little Annie in the corner playing with a ball? A three-year-old guest kept making motions like he was throwing a ball in the ballroom and when his father asked why he kept doing that he responded that he was throwing the ball to Annie.

The most seen spirit belongs to a Confederate soldier who lost his leg. He is seen most often by the fireplace in The Dixie Room standing by the mantle or sitting in a chair and he just looks straight ahead. A policeman captured the figure of a soldier sitting on the front steps. I'm not sure if this is a different soldier as the description didn't mention a missing leg. A side note about amputations here, one of the basement rooms is where these took place and there was a window through which the limbs were thrown and it is said that the stack reached five feet high. During excavations around the foundation, human bones were found that had surgical saw marks on them.

Guests have had other experiences like feeling the sheets being pulled off them in The Confederate Room. Phantom smells have also been experienced in this room, one of which is gangrene. The investigative group Paranormal Incorporated captured some interesting EVPs during a stay. Most are hard to hear other than differentiating voices between male and female, but one sounds like a whistle that goes, "Yoo Hoo." Heavy furniture is heard dragging across the floors of rooms where no one is staying. Photographic evidence has been captured featuring shadow figures. Employees claim that hardly a week goes by that they don't have something strange happen or see something out of the corner of their eyes. Some guests have even claimed to see angels and a pair of undertakers. Only two guests have ever left the mansion, unable to stay because of the haunting activity, and that seems to indicate that the spirits here are not malevolent.

The mansion is beautiful inside and out. Could it be that Mary green's love for her former home has brought her spirit back? Did she come back to join her daughter Annie in the afterlife? Did the trauma of the Civil War leave the spirits of some soldiers here? Is the Duff Green Mansion haunted? That is for you to decide!