Thursday, December 20, 2018

Ep. 287 - The House of the Seven Gables

Moment in Oddity - Three Cages on St. Lamberti Church Spire
Suggested by: Kim Gasiorowski

For almost 500 years, St. Lamberti Church has had some rather odd objects hanging from its spire. They are a reminder of a terrible time when an Anabaptist Rebellion rocked the German city of Münster. The Anabaptists were a Christian sect that held the belief that only willing baptism as an adult could get a person into Heaven. Because of this belief, they were not only considered to be heretics, but their children were said to be unsaved. They also believed in a communal form of government where wealth should be shared equally. Even though Catholics and Lutherans were at odds during this time in the 16th century, they both were against the Anabaptists. A preacher in the city named Bernhard Rothman didn't like the Catholic control of the city of Munster and he joined the Anabaptists and preached their ideals from his pulpit at St. Lamberti Church. The angry citizens supported the Anabaptists and many Catholics and Lutherans fled, fearing for their lives. Rule under the Anabaptists led to polygamy, the burning of all books except the Bible and Corporal punishment was meted out for trivial offenses against the new hierarchy. In June of 1535, Catholic Bishop von Waldeck gathered a mercenary army and laid siege to the city. They succeeded and arrested three rebel leaders: Jan Matthijs, an Anabaptist preacher from Leiden in the Netherlands and his two closest followers, Bernd Knipperdollink and Bernd Knechting. The three men were tortured and mutilated before being killed. Three iron cages were fashioned, big enough for the men's bodies and these cages were hung from the spire of the St. Lamberti Church as a warning to any other would-be rebels. The remains were left in the cages for 50 years. In 1800, the original tower was demolished and rebuilt and the cages were put back in place where they remain today and that, certainly is odd!.

This Month in History - Unabomber Kills First Victim

In the month of December, on the 10th, in 1985, the Unabomber killed his first victim. Bombings by the Unabomber began in 1978, but he wouldn't kill anybody until 1985. Computer store owner Hugh Scrutton would be that first death. Scrutton found a package in the parking lot of his store. He was killed when he opened it. The bomb was sophisticated and meant to do great harm as it was filled with nails and splinters. The FBI had already been looking for the domestic terrorist for several years as he had already sent or planted several bombs at this point. This search would be the longest and most expensive in FBI history. The Unabomber was finally identified and captured in 1996. He was Ted Kaczynski and it would be his brother David who would tip off the government after recognizing his brothers writing style and opinions in the Unabomber Manifesto after it was published in newspapers. Kaczynski was sentenced to life without parole. In total, he injured 23 people and killed three. The name Unabomber was created by the FBI and was an acronym created from University and Airline Bomber.

The House of the Seven Gables (Suggested by: Nicole Cardarelli)

Most of my adult listeners have probably read something written by classic author Nathaniel Hawthorne. Nearly all schools require a reading of "The Scarlet Letter." Hawthorne also wrote other classic stories and one of those books is "The House of the Seven Gables." Within the pages of this volume is a ghost story. Hawthorne himself claimed to be a skeptic, but even he had some experiences. And the house he wrote about was not a fiction. It is a real home that can be found in Salem, Massachuesetts. Apparently, it's not just the novel that claims that the location is haunted. Visitors and staff to the now museum, claim to have had experiences they cannot explain. Join me as we explore the beliefs of Nathaniel Hawthorne and the history and hauntings of The House of the
Seven Gables!

In July of 2017, I did a bonus episode for the Executive Producers of this podcast that featured the Boston Athenaeum. This was an exclusive membership-only library and many classical authors were members. These were writers like Henry David Thoreau, Henry Wordsworth Longfellow and Nathaniel Hawthorne. In the BonusCast, I detail a supernatural experience that Hawthorne claimed to have one day while in the nation's oldest library. He published this account as "The Ghost of Doctor Harris." What made this experience compelling to me is that like myself, Hawthorne claimed to be mostly a skeptic when it came to ghosts.

Salem, Massachusetts was home for Nathaniel Hawthorne. He was born here on July 4, 1804 and his family had a long history here dating all the way back to the Salem Witch Trials. In fact, one of his ancestors, John Hathorne, was an unrepentant judge during the trials. Hawthorne went to college and published his first work in 1928, but he needed to find a real job to pay the bills and he ended up at the Salem Custom House. There he met a man named William Baker Pike who was a Swedenborgian Spiritualist and he would discuss with Hawthorne his experiences of communicating with the dead. The author once wrote to Pike that "I should be very glad that these rappers are, in any one instance, the spirits of the persons whom they profess themselves to be; but though I have talked with those who have had the freest communication, there has always been something that makes me doubt." So Hawthorne was basically like most of us: an open-minded skeptic. Although he took this stance with his belief about ghosts, it did not prevent him from exploring these themes in his writing and this brings us to his novel "The House of the Seven Gables."

"The House of the Seven Gables" is a Gothic novel that strongly influenced H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft said of the work, "It is one of New England's greatest contributions to weird literature." The work was published in April 1851 by Ticknor and Fields of Boston and features a story that follows the lives of the Pyncheon Family of New England. The House of the Seven Gables is their ancestral home that was built on land seized from the original owner, Matthew Maule, by the patriarch of the Pyncheon Family. Maule was accused of witchcraft and hanged, but he called down a curse on the Pyncheon Family before he died. The tale explores themes dealing with guilt, witchcraft and the supernatural. Alice Pyncheon is driven mad by a spell and dies from shame. She comes back to haunt the ancestral home. The spirit of the land owner, Matthew Maule, also haunts the house in the story. This home exists in real life and actually was a place Hawthorne knew well because it belonged to his cousin Susanna Ingersoll. The home is also known as the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion and perhaps Hawthorne got his inspiration for writing about the house in his novel being haunted because the actual house reputedly was said to be haunted.

The House of the Seven Gables is one of the largest timber-framed mansions in North America still on its original foundation and its building dates all the way back to 1668 when it was built for Captain John Turner I. He had purchased the lot from Widow Ann Moore. The Turner family was one of the most successful maritime families in New England. They would influence the future maritime traditions in the colonies and this would spread into several areas including trading, fishing and mercantilism.  What one sees today is not this original house. The original part of the house was small, built around a central chimney. There were two rooms over two rooms. Around 1680, Turner was able to expand the house with two additions. One of these additions was the Great Chamber that had high ceilings and large windows. The other added a gable to the house and a kitchen lean-to.

His son, John Turner II, would inherit the house when he was only nine-years-old as his father died young. He added Georgian style to the house that included wood paneling to the walls of the dining room, parlor and Great Chamber. The wood work was then painted in the modern palettes of the time. John Turner III would be the final Turner to own the home. After the Revolutionary War, he suffered great business losses and came to a point where he could no longer maintain the home and needed the money from its sale to pay off his debts.

Captain Samuel Ingersoll was a wealthy ship captain and he purchased the Turner House in 1782. Ingersoll liked the boxy Federal home style, so he had four of the gables removed as well as the kitchen lean-to. His daughter was Hawthorne's second cousin, Susanna, and she inherited the house when the Captain died in 1804. The cousins had a twenty year age difference, but that didn't keep them from becoming close friends. Hawthorne dined at the house on a regular basis and loved the stories that Susanna would tell him about the house. He loved the unique look of the house because it had seven gables. Susanna died in 1858 and the house passed to her adopted son Horace Connolly. He stunk at business and ended up losing the house to creditors in 1879. The house would fall into disrepair for awhile and nearly became a tenement. In 1883, the Upton Family purchased the home and used it as both a residence and business. This family would be the ones to come up with the idea of offering tours of the house. They were already a family of entertainers with Henry O. Upton being a well-known musician who taught dance lessons around Salem and his wife, Ida, was a well-known artist. His children taught music and oratory. His wife created a souvenir for people to purchase after tours that she called a “Witch Cup.”

The Uptons moved to the Salem Willows neighborhood and decided to sell the house. Caroline Emmerton was a philanthropist and preservationist and she bought the house in 1908. She founded The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association, which assisted immigrant families settling in Salem. Emmerton hired architect Joseph Everett Chandler to restore the house. Chandler was a major proponent of the Colonial Revival architecture and he specialized in historic preservation. Emmerton hoped that by using the house for tours and as a museum, she could raise funds for her settlement programs. Emmerton modeled the house after the novel as well. The Secret Stairway was added at this time. She purchased the Hooper-Hathaway House and Retire Beckett House and moved them to the property. Eventually, Hawthorne's birthplace was moved here too. Tours are run on a daily basis.

When the staff is asked if the House of the Seven Gables is haunted, most say they have never experienced anything strange. But I personally believe that a skeptic like Hawthorne would not have included ghosts in his story about the house had he not been inspired by stories shared by his cousin. It seems like common sense to me that she had experiences or heard stories of experiences and Hawthorne was in the house enough to have his own as well. Plenty of visitors claim to have seen apparitions or felt something unexplained. There are stories of at least five ghosts here.

Susanna Ingersoll loved this house and her spirit still seems to be attached to it. Her full-bodied apparition has been seen in the house. Visitors claim to see her looking at them out of windows when they are touring the gardens. Another ghost is said to be the spirit of a young boy. He resides in the attic and is heard playing up there. There are the sounds of disembodied footsteps and laughter. It was thought that the Turner's servants lived in the attic and it is set-up today with a child's rocking chair and sleeping mat. Did one of the servant's children die up there?

There is another personal account that claims that Hawthorne's son's spirit has been seen. Lisa from Long Island wrote, "I decided to take a tour of the House of the Seven Gables property, also known as the Turner - Ingersoll Mansion located at 54 Turner Street. On that property now sits the birth home of American author Nathaniel Hawthorne, which was actually moved from Union Street onto Turner Street." While on the tour, she snapped a photo outside and in this picture, you can make out the picture of a young boy in the shrubbery. Another spirit said to be haunting this house is a woman who is doing the work of a seamstress. She is seen sewing and walking in the house.

Some claim that there is a residual haunting on the secret staircase. The apparition of a black man has been seen going up and down on the stairs. The only issue with this is that the stairs are fairly newer having been built in 1908. People claim that they feel they are being watched. Could it just be the eyes of the portraits throughout the house that seem to follow people?

Are the tour guides pretending that there is no ghostly activity because they don't want that reputation for the house? With so many different spirits being identified, it would seem that there must be some kind of activity going on. Or is it just that Hawthorne wrote about ghosts and people have projected this onto the house? Is the House of the Seven Gables haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Ep. 286 - Culloden Battlefield

Moment in Oddity - French Stilt Walkers
Suggested by: John Michaels

There was a time, in the mid-19th century, when the Landes region in southwestern France was a swampy terrain. Raising sheep and keeping a homestead was very difficult in this area. The people who lived here were poor shepherds and they knew they needed to come up with a way to make their lived easier. That's when they came up with the idea of making stilts and using them to traverse the landscape. The stilts were called tchangues, which meant “big legs.” They were made from wood and stood five feet high, had wide straps to support the feet and the bottoms were widened and solidified with sheep’s bone. The shepherds used the stilts to take wide strides and it gave them the opportunity to see their flocks from a high perch. Some used staffs to give themselves more support and the shepherds became so comfortable on the stilts that they spent most of their lives on them. This skill also transfered to the other townspeople and included women and children. All the people became very adept and could perform amazing feats of balance and dexterity. Children walked to school on stilts and did their chores on them as well. Women could pluck flowers from the ground. Eventually, they were performing feats for visitors to the region, which included Empress Josephine who stopped here in 1808 to meet Napoleon. The stilt walkers greeted her and managed to keep up with her carriage horses. By the end of the 19th century, the marshland was drained and replaced by a plantation of pine trees and a forest is there to this day. But there was once a time when living on stilts, saved a French community and that, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - First Virginia Company Expedition Leaves London

In the month of December, on the 20th, in 1606, The Virginia Company expedition to America began with three small ships. These ships were called the Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery. Captain Christopher Newport led the expedition as it launched from London with 105 men and boys and 39 crew members. The ships landed in Puerto Rico on April 6th and they collected provisions. They arrived at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay in late April/early May of 1607. Chaplain Robert Hunt offered a prayer as a cross was set up at the landing site. The expedition would move further inward. They ventured up the James River and found a suitable spot to establish the first permanent English settlement in America. They called it Jamestown after King James I.

Culloden Battlefield (Suggested by: Brian Morse)

The Battlefield of Culloden is under the care of the National Trust for Scotland and can be found in the Scottish village of Culloden. Culloden Village is an ancient town with buildings dating back to the 1600s, one of which is Culloden House that is today a hotel. The battlefield was the scene of the Battle of Culloden that would be the final confrontation of the Jacobite rising of 1745. This battle was bloody and causalities were high. This has led to paranormal activity on the battlefield that seems to recreate the battle. Along with this are stories of omens, premonitions and The Scree. Join me as I share the history of the Battle of Culloden and the resulting hauntings of the battlefield.

Culloden Village is found in the Scottish Highlands and the name is Gaelic meaning "back of the small pond." Historic buildings that are found here include Culloden House, the Culloden Stables and the Barn Church. This village would become the scene of the final battle in the Jacobite uprising and the resounding defeat of the Jacobites would do more than just stop an uprising. This defeat would make it illegal to play bagpipes or to wear tartan and the clan way of life and system were destroyed. Jacobites were Scottish clans that supported the reinstatement of King James II who had been deposed by English nobility and they had him replaced by William and Mary. James II had been King over both England and Scotland and he had converted to Catholicism, which is what caused him to be deposed. The Scots would recognize nobody but James as their King. There would be several uprisings.

The Jacobite Rising began in 1745. This was also called the Forty-five Rebellion and was an attempt by Charles Edward Stuart to regain the British throne for his father, James Francis Edward Stuart. After William and Mary, Queen Ann took the throne until she died in 1714. She had no children alive, so the Act of Settlement of 1701, gave the throne to her cousin George I, which passed from the House of Stuart to the House of Hanover. Charles was more famously known as Bonnie Prince Charlie and he launched the rebellion on August 19th in 1745. The initial battle was at Glenfinnan and the result was the capture of Edinburgh. Some of the Scots were unsure of continuing to push back against the British, but Charles guaranteed that English Jacobites would come to the rescue. The group entered England in early November and they reached Derby by December. The English support never materialized and a split began between the Scots and Charles. The Battle of Culloden would take place in April of 1746.

The battle took place on the southeast of Inverness, which was a few miles southwest of Nairn and the date was April 16th. This would be a match-up between The Jacobite Army of Prince Charles and the Royal Troops of King George II under the Duke of Cumberland. The armies were fairly equally matched with 7,000 in the Jacobite Army and 8,000 in the Royal Army. The regiments present at the battle were: Cobham’s (10th) and Kerr’s (11th) dragoons, Kingston’s Light Dragoons, the Royals (1st), Howard’s Old Buffs (3rd), Barrel’s King’s Own (4th) Wolfe’s (8th), Pulteney’s (13th), Price’s (14th), Bligh’s (20th), Campbell’s Royal Scots Fusiliers (21st), Sempill’s (25th), Blakeney’s (27th), Cholmondeley’s (34th), Fleming’s (36th), Munro’s (37th), Ligonier’s (48th) and Battereau’s (62nd) Foot. Many might think that the Jacobite Army was mostly Gaelic-speaking Catholic Highlanders, but the reality was that many of these men were Non-juring Episcopalians from the Lowlands and English, French and Irish men were also among their numbers.

So we have a split in Prince Charlie's men. The main cause for the split was deciding what kind of warfare to engage with. Part of the Jacobites wanted to go back to their roots of guerilla warfare. These clan men were used to conducting raids, not professional military strikes. There was also a split within the ranks. The officers of the infantry were from the upper classes and aristocracy, while the foot soldiers were basically poor agricultural workers. Some major issues that happened during the decision making about tactics, weakened the Jacobites further. Lord George Murray led a heated council with the officers as he pushed for guerilla warfare and he believed there was not time to launch an attack and that they should abort. He sent Prince Charlie's right-hand man named O'Sullivan to inform him of the change in plan, but O'Sullivan missed him in the dark. Meanwhile, Murray took his men, which were one-third of the Jacobite forces back to camp as they aborted. The other two-thirds of the force had no idea that there was a change in plans. Some of these forces had dispersed to find food or were asleep in ditches and outbuildings when the British forces began engagement.

The British did have at least a thousand more men in total and you don't have a complete Jacobite army here. The British were more skilled with the artillery as well. The highland terrain also made a charge very difficult and rain and sleet were falling. This would be a very brief skirmish starting around 11:00 and lasted only an hour. The Jacobites formed three columns with the three Macdonald battalions; a small one of Chisholms; another small one of Macleans and Maclachlans; Lady Mackintosh and Monaltrie's regiments; Lord Lovat's Regiment; Ardsheal's Appin Stewarts; Lochiel's Regiment; and three battalions of the Atholl Brigade. Bonnie Prince Charlie ran off and hid somewhere and once found was pressed to order a charge, which he did with the Clan Chattan charging first. The Jacobites advanced on the left flank of the government troops, but faced superior fire power and had volleys of musket fire with roundshot that switched to grapeshot raining down on them. They managed to charge all the way to the government lines and there a direct clash ensued. Two British regiments took the brunt, but it was minimal and a counter attack followed. This attack formed a five battalion strong horseshoe-shaped formation and the Jacobites found themselves trapped.

A catastrophic collapse of the left-wing followed and this group of Jacobites began a retreat. Another clan group were waiting in the wings as a type of ambush, but their leader was killed and they soon were in retreat. A group of Irish picquets came to the rescue and prevented a massacre. Prince Charlie was not ready to give up, so Captain Shea told Charlie's bodyguard, "Yu see all is going to pot. Yu can be of no great succor, so before a general deroute wch will soon be, Seize upon the Prince & take him off ." He did so. The Lowland regiments retreated southwards and the Highlanders went back towards Ruthven Barracks, but the government cavalry cut them down and the rest had to retreat to Inverness. They were pusued and given no quarter. The only ones spared were 50 French officers and soldiers. The government forces captured fourteen of the colours or standards. The Jacobites had suffered a crushing defeat that left 2,000 of their number dead or wounded. The British suffered only 300 casualties.

There would be one more small skirmish that was naval and the uprising was over. This solidified the fact that the House of Stuart would not return and Bonnie Prince Charlie never tried to challenge the crown again. The punishment that the Duke of Cumberland issued after the battle left him with the nickname "The Butcher" and this has caused some controversy even in our era when the University of Glasgow awarded the Duke of Cumberland an honorary doctorate. Further civil penalties helped eradicate the Gaelic culture and undermine the Scottish clan system.

Today, people come from all over the world to see the Culloden Battlefield. The visitor centre is located near the site of the battle and was opened in December of 2007. The field had been a grazing ground during the battle, but today is covered in heather and shrubs. There are footpaths to explore and a memorial that stands 20 feet high, made of stones, was erected by Duncan Forbes in 1881. In the same year, Forbes also erected headstones to mark the mass graves of the clans. "The English Stone" marks the place of the government dead near the Old Leanach cottage. Something that might surprise people is that this was not an English versus Scots thing. More Scots fought for the Duke of Cumberland than for Prince Charlie. In fact, Scottish Captain Ferguson chased down and hanged highland rebels as he scoured the Scottish isles. Many Jacobites fled to the American colonies. The only building to survive the battle, still stands today: Old Leanach Cottage. It was inhabited until 1912 and is now kept by the National Trust for Scotland and looks like it did in the 18th century. There were barns around the cottage, but they no longer exist because Government redcoats found 30 wounded Jacobites seeking refuge within them and so they barricaded the barns and burnt the Jacobites alive.

As we all can imagine, this battlefield is full of negative energy. The supernatural activity here is high and the legends and lore that date back to even before the battle, reveal even more strange activity that had nothing to do with the aftermath of the battle. On the edge of Inverness and on part of the battlefield stands Culloden Woods. It is within these woods that one can find St. Mary's Well. Although the name leads one to think the well has a Christian connection, it actually has its roots in Pagan traditions and was originally called Tobar n'Oige, which meant Well of Youth in Gaelic. The well is named for St. Mary who lived in the woods. She would do her rounds with a bucket in her hand. It was said that she healed the sick with water from her well. This well has a legendary claim of being a place of healing. People are encouraged to come to the well and carry on a tradition in which they make a wish, walk around the well three times, gather water in a cupped hand and drink deeply and then tie a scrap of cloth from your clothing very tightly around a nearby tree. This ritual is said to only work when done on Beltane. It is more than just tourists and villagers who come. It is said that the clansmen come too, although Beltane is two weeks too late for them. They have been seen so many times, that few are skeptical about the stories.

The clansmen were said to have experienced an omen before the battle. Many were gathered near a well on the road from Uig to Portree. They were all stunned when a blood-soaked man ran up to them with pure terror in his eyes. He called out, "Defeat!" He yelled it twice more with anguish and then vanished before their eyes. The group all looked at each other realizing that they had witnessed a phantom. they they heard distant drums and the clash of swords. The sound moved quickly upon them and it was as if a ghostly army and battle passed right through their midst. The group had no way of knowing that this was an omen of the demise that was to come the next day at the Battle of Culloden.

Have you ever heard of the Scree? I had not. And if you Google Scree, you'll just find information about rock debris. But the Scottish clans believed in a figure that they called the Scree and they said that it was bad luck to see the Scree.  Death was said to surely follow. The Scree is described as a large black bird that rises up from the heather , screaming. The day of the battle, the men leading the Scots all claimed to see the Scree. George Murray was frozen to his spot. The bird practically blocked out the evening sky. It flew over Drummossie Moor giving off a shrieking caw. And then it just disappeared midflight. This was another bad omen. And it was not just something for the people of this time to see. A tourist witnessed it on the battlefield in July of 2005. What makes this legendary bird odd here is that it makes noise. For no bird makes any noise at the battlefield. They nest in the heather and the trees and fly over the moor and the graves, but they make no noise.

The ghost of The Highlander is said to wander here. A woman from Edinburgh was visiting in August of 1936. She was reading some of the clan stones and noticed that someone had laid a tartan on the cairn. She lifted the cloth so she could read the name and a ghostly face peered back at her. He stared at her and she ran. Other people who have seen this apparition, claim that he seems shell-shocked and lost. He walks for a while and then just stops. When people try to approach him, he disappears. It seems that most stories about him have him being spotted on April 16th.

Temperature fluctuations happen rapidly near the Cairns. On the anniversary of the battle, locals claim that they hear the battle as though it is being reinacted. There are the sounds of drummers beating a tattoo, weapons clashing and men yelling and then the sounds just stop. Andrea Byrne of Scottish Paranormal took a team of investigators onto Drummossie Moor and they used dowsing rods to try to find energy lines and they found one running from Cumberland's Stone to St. Mary's Well. Temperature and humidity flutuations were dramatic near the graves. They conducted interviews with staff who claimed to hear disembodied sounds and they reported that visitors often claimed to hear the sounds of battle. Most psychics who visit claim that the activity is all residual, just replaying events.

Even if none of this activity is intelligent, it still seems to exist. A reminder replaying over and over of the horrible thing that happened here when men fought and killed each other over a power struggle. Many lost their physical lives, but what was really lost was a culture. Highlanders bogged down in mud and overwhelmed by more powerful artillery could have had no idea that their way of life was dying with them. Perhaps the energy that replays here over and over is a desperate attempt for this culture's spirit to live again somehow. Is the Culloden Battlefield haunted? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes:
Outlander is a historical fiction novel that is a series that also was turned into a TV series about a WWII nurse named Claire who walks through one of these megolith/ley line places in Scotland and goes back in time from 1946 to 1743. So most of the novel and TV series is set in Scotland, specifically in the Highlands. One of the settings is the Battle of Culloden. It comes up in several of the books and in the Season 2 finale.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Ep. 285 - Pennhurst State School and Hospital

Moment in Oddity - The Narragansett Runestone

The Narragansett Runestone is a Rhode Island formation meta-sandstone that is 7 feet long, 5 feet high and 2 feet wide and is inscribed with two rows of symbols, which some have indicated resemble ancient Runic characters. The Runestone is also known as the Quidnessett Rock and was first reported to the Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission (HPHC) in the 1980s. According to the HPHC, there are several inscribed rocks that can be found along the shores of the Narragansett Bay Region. The most famous is known as the Dighton Rock, which was discovered during Colonial times and has been an object of study from that time. Brothers Everett and Warren claimed that they had carved the runes back in the summer of 1964, but locals claimed that the rock had been there before 1964. The fact that other similar carved rocks have been found seems to dispute that claim as well. The rock was stolen from the tidal waters off of Pojac Point in North Kingstown between July and August 2012 and eventually returned in 2013. It can now be seen in Wickford, a village of North Kingstown Rhode Island. Was this runestone carved by an early people in the Americas? Was it brought over from another land? Whatever the case, the Narragansett Runestone, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Bhopal Disaster

In the month of December, on the 3rd, in 1984 a deadly gas leak of methyl isocyanate at a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, killed at least 3,000 persons and injured more than 200,000. This became known as the Bhopal Disaster. Union Carbide was a pesticide plant and the highly toxic gas leaked out of pipes and into the surrounding small towns, exposing over 500,000 people. Hospital staff had never heard of methyl isocyanate and thus they had no anecdote. Exposure caused coughing, severe eye irritation, stomach pains, vomiting and breathlessness. Children and adults smaller in stature were more affected. The morning after the leak, thousands of people had died. The cause of the leak has been debated, with the company claiming it was sabotage and others blaming loose management and maintenance that caused a backflow of water into a chemical tank. There were several civil and criminal suits filed. Today, the site is still in need of clean-up and groundwater remains contaminated.

Pennhurst State School and Hospital

Pennhurst State School and Hospital is sometimes referred to as Pennhurst Asylum. This is a location deemed to be one of the most haunted and with its history, there is no wonder. Decades of abuse and experimentation were perpetuated on children who for all intents and purposes were left abandoned to a system with no moral compass. An expose in the 1960s shined some light on the situation, but it would still take twenty years before the location was shut down. Today, it is open again as a haunted attraction and hosts tours. I'm joined on this episode by Tony Merkel of The Confessionals Podcast who lived near Pennhurst. We discuss his fascination with Bigfoot and the paranormal and the history and hauntings of Pennhurst Asylum!

The TV reporter who exposed all of this in the mid 1960s was Bill Baldini. He ran a five-episode exposé of Pennhurst State School and Hospital on Philadelphia’s TV10. The segments were entitled "Suffer the Little Children" and it revealed a degree of neglect that was horrifying.  People were bound with straps and placed in adult-sized crib beds. Many of the residents were severly disabled and seemed to just be rocking, pacing, and twitching. They all seemed withdrawn into themselves probably from fear and overstimulation. When one patient was asked by the interviewer what he would like most in the world, if he could have anything he wanted, the sad and withdrawn reply was simply, “To get out of Pennhurst.”

From the Weird NJ website:
Quaker Building:  Numerous shadows manifest and dissipate at will. These shadows include what appeared to be a small female child with long black hair, a hunched over presence with long dangling arms and the upper portion of bodies looking over or around obstacles. Doors and a rocking chair have moved without anyone being near them. Investigator was shoved from behind hard enough on a stairway to leave a deep red mark on the small of back. Investigator was scratched on the arm by unknown object when they were not by anything or close to any walls. Objects being propelled in the basement such as a pry bar, some sort of brass fixture, and various other unknown objects. Multiple EVP’s (electronic voice phenomena) as well EMF spikes throughout the building when there is no electric supplied to any building there. Our Psychic Medium, Sharon Pugh, has felt multiple energies there including either a demonic force or a past life that wasn’t a very nice person.

Limerick Building:  The apparition of a woman in a old style nurse’s uniform was observed by a fire fighter, police officer and a marine.  Multiple EVP’s.

Devon Building: Unknown sounds and multiple EVP’s.

Mayflower Building: Shadow people seen multiple times. EVP’s captured. Investigators have been touched in this building.

Tinicum Building: Multiple EVP’s. Investigator had their legs touched.

Philadelphia Building: Loud sounds and voices heard coming from the building. Investigators surrounded the building and entered it via the tunnel system. No one was in the building nor could they have fled without being observed.

Administration Building: Multiple voices heard at various times and EVP’s caught of what appears to be a toilet flushing. This building has no running water or bathroom fixtures.

Hershey Building: Investigator heard a female child’s voice on the third floor.
 There does seem to be quite a bit of activity here and nearly every building has something unexplained going on. Is Pennhurst State School and Hospital haunted? That is for you to decide!