Thursday, December 26, 2019

HGB Ep. 320 - General Dodge House

Moment in Oddity - Kitty Cat Gods

Is there any doubt that cats think they are gods? This is their world and we just live in it. And that living, is to serve them. But there are humans who have thought of cats as gods too.  Sephardic Jews had ancient myths about Lilith that claimed she roamed the Earth as a black vampire cat named El Broosha and that she sucked the blood of newborn babies. Matagots are a cat god from European folklore that are magical. People claimed that Dick Whittington was able to attain his position of mayor of London in the 15th century because of his matagot. The French believed that once a matagot was lured into the house, perhaps by way of a plump mouse, that their home would have good luck. Li Shou was an ancient fertility cat goddess to the Chinese and it was believed that she brought rain and protected crops. The Chinese also believed that the ability for humans to talk was given to them by cats who could once speak. And then there is the ancient Egyptian goddess Bastet who had a cat head. Her name meant devouring lady and her feast day was October 31st. She was associated with music, dancing, motherhood and vengeance. She would destroy the bodies of the dead with her flame if they failed a test to enter the underworld. For this reason, the Egyptians would hold big funerals for dead cats and bury them with riches and gem-studded cat figurines. We like cats, but to treat them like gods, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Joyce Kilmer Born

In the month of December, on the 6th, in 1886, American journalist and poet Joyce Kilmer was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Kilmer had graduated from Rutgers College and Columbia University and became a literary editor and worked on the staff of the New York Times. He was known for his poetry that celebrated the beauty of the natural world and he was best known for his poem "Trees." This poem was published in 1914 and was unique in that it personified trees in the poem. Even though he was not required to enlist when World War I started, he did and requested a transfer to the infantry and was deployed to Europe. He rose to the rank of Sergeant and served as an intelligence officer. He was killed by a sniper's bullet on July 30, 1918 in France. His poem "Trees" became very popular after that. The French awarded him the prestigious Croix de Guerre (War Cross) for his bravery. In 1938, the U.S. government named a 3,800 acres section of old growth forest in North Carolina for him. A park in the Bronx is also named for him.

General Dodge House (Suggested by: Jessica Garcia)

When one thinks of the state of Iowa, they probably just envision fields of corn. While there definitely are fields of soybeans and corn here, this state is also a hotbed of paranormal activity. We visited and investigated several haunted locations while in Iowa and the General Dodge House is one of them. The man who built the home has a fascinating history, as does his wife, and the house he had constructed is one of the most beautiful Victorians I have ever seen. The inside is incredible and the historical society has done a beautiful renovation and upkeep of the structure. And while people probably expect to find interest accoutrements and antiques inside, they probably don't expect to run into ghosts. The house is reputedly haunted. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the General Dodge House!

We met up with listeners Jessica and Erina Garcia in Council Bluffs, Iowa in September and much to our surprise, they took us on a tour of the place zipping us from the Fairview Cemetery to see the Black Angel to the General Dodge House to the Squirrel Cage Jail to Malvern Manor, which we will bring to you early next year. When visiting the General Dodge House you get two houses. The August Beresheim House is right next door and we started our tour at that house. This house has been through several changes over the years. (Beresheim 1) This house was built for August Beresheim, who was a banker and a state legislator. The construction was completed in 1899. The house is a three-story frame house that is hard to pinpoint to a style. There are many different designs and it is definitely not as beautifully Victorian as the General Dodge House. There is a wonderful wrap-around porch. The things I liked about the interior of this house was the wrap-around staircase, the gaslights that were also electric lights once they were converted and the transom windows above the doors. One of our fun finds was among the antiques downstairs. It was an old hotel register that had been transformed into a scrapbook full of old newspaper articles. (Beresheim 2)So yeah, articles in there from 1889. So cool to see something like that! Then we made our way over to the Dodge House.

General Grenville Dodge was born Grenville Mellen Dodge in Danvers, Massachusetts in 1831. He came through the Council Bluffs area when he was 22-years-old as part of the Trans Iowa Railroad Route. He was doing the survey work and fell in love with Council Bluffs. He decided to make it his home. When the Civil War broke out, he joined the Union and worked his way up to Major General. He was the youngest man to be a General until World War II. He also founded the first military spy system during the war and used information from unionists living in Confederate territory, female spies and runaway slaves and this information helped win the war. Dodge became friends with Generals Logan, Black, Sherman, Sheridan, Rawlins and Grant and they would visit him often after the war. A fun fact for us is that his troupe built a bridge over the Chattahoochee in Roswell, Georgia before the Atlanta campaign. We were in Roswell in October. The bridge was 710 feet long and 14 feet above the water. It took them only three days to complete. In the Battle of Atlanta, a bullet grazed his skull and he was lucky to come away with only a concussion.

He went on to even bigger things after the war. Dodge became Chief Engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad and supervised the construction of the first Transcontinental Railroad, which was completed in 1869. And the railroad would really be his thing. He would continue as a railroad builder, financier, director and lobbyist and other countries would have him visit to advise on railroad construction. These countries included Cuba, France and Russia. He would get into politics too and he represented Iowa in the 40th U.S. Congress. Republican presidents who served between the Civil War and World War I would seek his advise. Dodge would also get involved in the mercantile business and organized a bank. This all made him a very wealthy man and he built himself a magnificent home in 1869 for $35,000.

The General Dodge House was designed by Chicago architect William Boyington with heavy supervision by the General. He insisted on upgrades like central heating and hot and cold running water and most importantly, closets! There were also telephones in various parts of the house like the library and kitchen. The General spared no expense. For those of you familiar with the awesome gothic water tower in Chicago, Boyington designed that. It was one of the only structures to survive the Chicago Fire. The exterior is just gorgeous done in the Second Empire style with a mansard roof with modillioned eave. There are many dormers with eared and rounded tops and lots of windows, many which are tall and narrow,. Some have segmented-arch tops and others have decorative stone hoods. The house stands three stories with a basement.

The interior of the house is spectacular. After entering the front door, you find yourself standing in a foyer that branches off into rooms with this amazing ending into a staircase at the end that is almost impossible to describe. The wall and stairs curve around and there is a niche in the staircase wall that displays an 1806 Simon Willard banjo clock, that Dodge was given by his parents. On top of the base of the staircase banister, or what is referred to as the newel post, is a very unique lamp. Once a kid was sliding down the banister and knocked it off so there is a rod going through it now. This and the chandelier were original pieces for the house. The wallpaper is similar to what was originally in the house and follows the style that was prevalent during the Victorian era with the ceiling being wallpapered as well. Another original piece found in this entrance hall was this beautiful etagere, or fancy bookshelf, that was inlaid with mother-of-pearl. An elk head is mounted on the wall as well. We want to share this sound bite (Dodge House 1) So this naming contest took place in 2014. It was hard to understand the names the guide said. One kid wanted to name it Elkon John, which won most creative. The third place name was Spike, Second Place was Sherman for General Sherman and the winning name was actually Arbor, not Alder.

One of the rooms the hall opens into is the library, which houses the original black walnut and butternut bookcases. This was clearly a room that General Dodge spent much of his time writing and pondering life. Some of his treasures still remain here including sabers, a Tiffany bronze inkwell. bison horn candlesticks, a Winchester Saddle-ring carbine, a Turkish-style table and books, some of which he wrote about his personal adventures. A solarium branches off of this and we found an old wheelchair out there.The door to it was actually a window and there was an old wheelchair out there. There were so many interesting details here: The walls were a foot thick and the smaller doorways indicated a private space in the house. The shutters from the windows folded up into the walls. You history nerds are probably familiar with the practice during the Victorian era of taxing houses according to how many doors there were. This is why many balconies were accessed through long windows. There were 7 fireplaces in the house and all had marble mantle pieces marble. I commented that someone should make a coffee book table of mantle pieces. Kathy, who did the investigation of Villisca with us, had posted a bunch of mantle pieces in the Crew that she had taken pictures of and it just solidified to us that there is a real need for this out there! LOL! Imagine how gorgeous the house must be at this time decorated for Christmas.

Another of the rooms off the hallway is the dining room There's a funny story about the picture above the mantle in this room. (Dodge House 2) Five former presidents ate in this room: Grant, McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt, Taft and Hoover. Much of what is in here is original including the mahogany server, corner hutch, dining table and eight chairs. There are four massive silver candlesticks from his private railroad car. There is a small butlery opening off the dining room that passes through to the kitchen. On the opposite side of the library and dining room are the front and back parlors that were like similar ones in other Victorians where the owners could close off the parlors from each other to separate the women from the men. The marble fireplace in the front parlor is graced with ear vases Mrs. Dodge brought back from Paris. There is an inlaid fruitwood table with an amethyst Mary Gregory vase displayed on top. Mirrors on the front and back wall are huge and have given the parlors the nickname "The Hall of Mirrors" and they make the rooms feel much larger. The guide said it is breathtaking when the Christmas trees are in here. The Brussels lace curtains were reproductions made in Switzerland. The parquet floors were laid with square nails and our group loved the elaborate door hinges that had intricate designs. We mean, on door hinges?! The back parlor has portraits of the General and Ruth Anne circa the 1870s. There were 6 Victorian parlor chairs in here along with a red arm chair that were all original to the Dodges.

We went upstairs to the bedrooms. As is the case for many couples as they get older the General and
Jenny Lind Bed
Mrs. Dodge did not share a bedroom. The former Master Suite became the General's Den and is painted and decorated in gray, red and gold. Some of his belongings are still here like razors, a walking stick, vest, eyeglasses, black shoes and a paper weight. There is a nursery next to this room that contains a doll house with Victorian furnishings and Anne Dodge's cherry wood Jenny Lind Bed. And we need to go down that rabbit hole for just a minute. *Rabbit Hole: We became familiar with Jenny Lind from watching "The Greatest Showman." She was known as the Swedish Nightingale and P.T. Barnum brought her to America in 1851. He was a big time promoter and one way that he promoted her was to create the "Jenny Lind" brand. Products under this brand included hats and gloves, tobacco and, clearly, furniture. The Jenny Lind bed is a spool bed with square corners on the head and foot boards and the design is still popular today. Supposedly, the singer slept in this style bed during her American tour.* There is also The Gold Room on this floor that was one of the daughter's rooms and a trunk room and bathroom. Strangely, there is a phone in the trunk room. The bathroom had a flush toilet with the tank high up on the wall that used gravity to flush the bowl. There is a marble framed mirror in here and a tub, but the tub was not installed until later. For bathing, servants would take portable tubs into each family member's bedroom.

Pairpoint puffed apple tree table lamp
We went up to the third floor and saw the ballroom, which was being set up for a special tea. The highlight of this room was the rosewood square grand piano that was brought up the Missouri River by steamboat. There were servant bedrooms up here too. We went back down the stairs and saw the servant staircase, which was really narrow and the walls were scarred from years of being banged into. We found Mrs. Dodge's Room here too and it had the unique addition of a marble sink area, kind of like having a vanity in the room. There is a fireplace here with her original sewing basket and a shawl and handbag nearby. The wallpaper in here was really unique. There were these foot wide pieces of wallpaper on the walls and they painted out the edges, so you couldn't see the straight lines. The guide pointed out that in each of these rooms were lights retrofitted to be gas and electric and she pointed up at the medallion and told us something we had never heard before. (Dodge House 3) There was a guest room up here called the Art Nouveau Room because the furnishings inside were of that style including a French brass bed. There are also Pairpoint puffed apple tree table lamps in here.

We continued back down to the main level and got to see the kitchen that had a large all marble sink with a big working slab. The servants had their dining table in here. The General felt that this was the most important room in the house. A pantry branched off of the kitchen and had an icebox and Hoosier style cupboard. Then we went down to the basement, which had mostly just been for storage with a wine cellar, ice room, laundry room and boiler area. This boiler had originally been a coal burning furnace. An interesting feature was the brick flooring, which was not original and was made from Council Bluffs street bricks. The basement is now a place of memorabilia with family photographs, books, a replica of Dodge's Council Bluffs Savings Bank office and a framed newspaper advertising a reward for the capture of the man who killed Lincoln.

We've put pictures up on Instagram and have some here too.

General Dodge married Ruth Anne Browne in May of 1854 in Boston, Massachusetts. They had met in Peru, Illinois and Ruth Anne was quite the catch with violet eyes and tomboy leanings that made her good at horseback riding and handling guns. And while she would eventually end up living her life out in their grand home, the early years were rough as Ruth Anne lived in pioneer conditions as she followed Dodge from camp to camp during the war. When the war first started, she joined a local group of women to form the Soldier’s Aid Society. This society would prepare supplies for the soldiers in the form of food, medical supplies and towels. And when her husband took sick with typhoid, she nursed him back to health out in the field. At one point, the couple were in St. Louis and Ruth Anne witnessed a man beating a female slave. She wrote this letter to the wife of Colonel Woods about the incident on March 31, 1862, "Dear Mrs. Wood, I write this to let you know that old scamp Wheelan had been to work here about the Negroes. Went and got a justice to come and take Louisa away from Mrs. J. Robbins and has taken her off in some slave yard in another part of the city. You have no idea how it made my blood boil to hear how he treated the poor thing. Made her go without bonnet or shawl and struck her with an umbrella to make her go faster and she expecting every moment her child, would be born – I wish you would let Col Wood know all about it. I think it is horrible and outrageous and I hope that Col Wood will catch him and make him suffer for it. How I would like to see him shot. Tell the captain to get some one to call him down to Rolla by some way and then sick his men on him. He then carried Louisa off. She had sent her little boy up to her sister’s and then he beat her till she told him where he was - I felt like crying and was bound to let you know and your husband know how that scamp had been acting and all I ask is Col Wood catch him yet. My husband is quite ill and has not been up at all today. Am in hopes a few weeks rest will restore him. Do you think of leaving Rolla soon and have your husband come back. I shall be glad to hear from you. Truly, Mrs. G. M. Dodge."

Ruth Anne would go on to become part of the Executive Committee for Women's Suffrage. She and her sister-in-law worked to save the library in Council Bluffs as well. Ruth Anne loved art, literature and music and could play both the piano and the guitar. She and Dodge would have three daughters together. In January of 1916, General Dodge died and his wife died 8 months later. She told her daughters about a dream she had prior to her death in which she saw an angel offering her the water of life. Ruth Anne said, "I was not yet ready for this supreme blessing. I felt unworthy, and it seemed to me it would be presumption on my part to partake of anything so wonderfully pure, so heavenly, so spiritual." The angel appeared a second time in a dream and Ruth Anne wouldn't drink again. The angel came a third time in a dream and this time she accepted the offer. After drinking from the bowl, Mrs. Dodge said she had been "transformed into a new and glorious spiritual being. I drank of that wonderful water of life and it gave me immortality." After she died, her daughters commissioned the sculptor who made the Lincoln Monument, Daniel Chester French, to make a memorial for their mother featuring this angel. This is the Ruth Anne Dodge Memorial or more famously, the Black Angel found at Fairview Cemetery. The Dodges are actually buried in the family mausoleum in Walnut Hill Cemetery. The couples youngest daughter Anne, took over the house, but she only used it occasionally throughout the year. She died in 1950 and the Dodge Family Trust sold the house and in 1961 it became a National Historic Landmark. The Historical Society of Pottawatomie County held a public drive to raise funds to buy the house and it did so successfully. The City of Council Bluffs restored the house and made it into a museum.*Fun Fact: Fort Dodge in Kansas is named in his honor as is Dodge City.*

The Dodge family loved this house and some believe that they never left. When we asked our guide about her experiences, she really had not had any yet, but she had only been there for a short time. (Dodge House 4) So our guide believes in this stuff, but the main people in charge shy away from talking about hauntings. We run into this a lot in these homes because they don't want to be known for their hauntings. This usually results in not a lot of ghost stories. So what IS out there?

The main apparition people claim to feel and see here is the man who loved this place the most and had it built to his specifications: General Dodge. Several people have claimed to see his full-bodied apparition sitting in his favorite rocking chair. His shadow is also seen walking the hallways of the house. There are other hauntings here though that are hard to pinpoint as to what is causing them. Light flashes and the smell of smoke are experienced outside the residence on the property. Inside, people have claimed to hear the disembodied voices of two men fighting with each other. There were quite a few political people in the home, so maybe arguments about politics. The spirit of a young girl is seen in the home too particularly in the servant's quarters area, but we don't know of any children that died in the house. People have claimed to take her picture in the small windows of the front door. We never trust window pictures.

The Black Angel
Now considering the nice story behind the creation of the Black Angel Monument in Fairview Cemetery for Ruth Anne Dodge, it's hard to believe that it has malevolent stories about it. The stories are pretty crazy. People scare children by telling them that she shoots lines of fire from her eyes when the clock strikes midnight. Other stories claim that she springs to life after it gets dark and roams among the tombstones. Her stare is said to curse anyone who looks into it too long or if you gaze into her eyes at midnight. And the weirdest story is that children who run behind the statue disappear forever.

We had such a great time touring this house and we never fail to learn new things when visiting these Victorian homes. Is the General Dodge House haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

HGB Ep. 319 - Yule

Moment in Oddity - A Fateful Pair of Shoes
Suggested by: Mitch Riggs

There is a story about a fateful pair of shoes that dates back to the time of the Civil War. The Battle of Gettysburg to be exact. Members of the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry were marching to Gettysburg when they came upon an obstacle in the road. There was a wagon full of stuff stuck in the road. The regiment quickly moved the wagon and then distributed the goods among themselves, which included thread, needles, pipes, tobacco and a pair of white canvas shoes. The cavalry private who grabbed the shoes used a pen to put his initials on both pairs of shoes, R.V.C. The next day, the regiment arrived in Gettysburg and participated in the battle. R.V.C. was killed in a skirmish and a Confederate took his canvas shoes. He put them on immediately, but didn't get to use them for long as he was soon killed. The shoes became Yankee footwear again as another of the 1st Massachusetts members took the shoes from the Rebel. He put them on and went to catch some sleep that evening as the fighting stopped. The battle began again early in the morning and the Confederates started gaining ground once again. The Yankee was one of the first killed in the battle. This time though, no one bothered to grab the shoes. Clearly, they had figured out that those canvas shoes were unlucky. Three men were killed wearing those shoes in a period of 36 hours and that, certainly is odd!`

This Month in History - Orville and Wilbur Wright First Flight

In the month of December, on the 17th, in 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright completed the first controlled flight of a heavier-than-air aircraft in Kittyhawk, North Carolina. The brothers had not always been pilots trying to get a plane off the ground. They had started off as printers and then they opened a bicycle shop. But through all of that time, they had worked on various contraptions to attain flight. Three days before their successful flight, Wilbur had been at the controls and the plane had stalled and crashed. Orville would take over on December 17th with conditions that were perfect. Orville wrote of the experience, "The wind, according to our anemometers at this time, was blowing a little over 20 miles, 27 miles according to the government anemometer at Kitty Hawk. On slipping the rope, the machine started off increasing in speed to probably seven or eight miles. The machine lifted from the truck just as it was entering on the fourth rail. Mr. Daniels took a picture just as it left the tracks… A sudden dart when out about 100 feet from the end of the tracks ended the flight. Time about 12 seconds (not known exactly as watch was not promptly stopped)." The brothers would make three more flights that day with each one gaining more distance than the one before. The last flight covered 852 feet in 59 seconds. I've been to Kitty Hawk and seen the marks where the plane landed. It doesn't seem like very far, but when you think of the time period and that we now send people to space, it truly is extraordinary what mankind can accomplish.


We mentioned Yule briefly in the History Goes Bump Christmas Special in 2015, but we've never just focused on this set of beliefs, practices and traditions. On this episode we are going to peer into the darkness to find the light that will lead us into Spring. Because that is really what Yule is about for most people that observe it. This is an opportunity to take the time during the darkest part of the year and focus on the end of the year and what the future holds and to prepare for the rebirth that Spring brings. This is also a festival of rituals for which much of the traditions and practices of Christmas are rooted. Join us as we explore Yule!

The Winter Solstice is on December 21, 2019. Yule this year, 2019, starts on December 22nd and ends on January 2, 2020. The community that surrounds History Goes Bump is the best! We might be biased, but I just love the richness of beliefs, traditions, thoughts, ethnicities, locations and love that our members bring to the group. Suzanne put it so well in the Spooktacular Crew when she said, "Love reading all these traditions! I had no idea. Going to have to add some of them to my family traditions. Thanks guys! This is what I love about this group. I learn so much. (And for those that love Cemetery Bingo, you have Suzanne to thank for that.) I so agree with Suzanne. I learn so much from everybody. And we couldn't share about Yule without asking our community, for those that observe Yule, what are some of your traditions? That is what Suzanne was commenting about.

Melissa P: I make a Yule log and my family writes down their wishes for the coming year and we burn them in the fire. This is the Yule log I made for this year. We found the log, pine cones & pine needles during a family outing up to the snow. It may not be “traditional” but its what I was called to make.

Sb: We light candles to chase away the darkness and eat a pomegranate or two.

Shannon B: We usually have a feast with friends, fill a papier-mâché boar with wishes for the coming year and then burn the wishes (not the boar- he’s too cute.), and light candles for Persephone and to welcome back the light/chase away the darkness. We also do ‘commercial Christmas’ with the tree and the gifts, and minus the Jesus.

Jannae M: We have dinner with friends, and write down wishes for the coming year. Lighting a candle to welcome back the sun is a must. I light it as the sun sets and then let it burn (safely) on my altar which is in my bedroom so it’s glow can remind us of the coming warmer months. Lots of warmth, light, and love.

Sara E: The key one for me is lighting a candle and being sure that it burns through midnight in order to lend light to the world in its darkest time. If I could I would leave one burning all night to offer strength to the sun. I'll traditionally take a few minutes to consider the year to come as well, although Samhain is the end of the old year, I make my resolutions at Yule.
Beth V: Yule and Solstice coincide and it depends really on pagan type and geography. My grandparents were old country Eastern Europe, so we celebrated solstice. But there is a lot of crossover. For Solstice we celebrate the longest night and fires for warmth and stories are usually a tradition. Singing, too. The main gift, often handmade, is given on Solstice and then small presents following with only a stocking with fruit and candy of the 25th. But the 21st overnight to the 22nd was most important.

Diane V: Light a fire started with the Yule log from last year that has been on the hearth. Family dinner and candle lighting.

Alicia J: We are lucky enough to have a winter solstice lantern walk around a local lake. The path around the lake is lit with candles, people bring their lanterns - a lot of them are homemade and amazing, there was even a dragon shaped lantern one year! And at the end of the walk there is a big bonfire and mince pies. At home I light our fire and leave a mince pie and a glass of mead on the mantlepiece for any visiting spirits who stop by as it tends to be an active time of year, in fact we've had a few things happen already this season! We've heard someone moving around upstairs (there was no one, it's just the two of us and the cat was with us at the time) I saw a white shape move across the room reflected in the mirror (no car lights passing as it was the side of the house facing the garden), the same day I heard someone knock on our door but the street was empty and my partner saw our recently deceased cat twice in the space of a couple of minutes. It's been a bit busy in our house!

Jess from SBT: We usually eat a lot, including a yule log shaped cake and drink a lot of beer.

So the common practices here seem to be lighting candles and/or a fire and making wishes for the new year. And then there are other traditions based on personal preferences or location. But where does all this come from? First, let us just clarify that Pagan and Wiccan beliefs are a matter of personal choice and run the gamete. We have been joined on episodes by several Pagan practitioners and have found them to have eclectic practices. The term Yule is derived from the Old Norse jól, although it has also been referred to as miðsvetrarblót or midwinter sacrifice. First, we have difficulty establishing origins on our present calendar because there have been several calendars throughout history, obviously. We are now in the Gregorian calendar. One of the ancient lunar months was known as Jultungel, which translates to Yule Moon. There are those who maintain that there were two parallel calendars before the Julian Calendar. One was based on weeks for the quarters of the year and each quarter started four weeks after the astronomical solstices and equinoxes. This was called the Week Year Calendar. The other calendar was the Lunisolar Calendar and was based on lunar months within the solar year rectified to the winter solstice. So basically, the point is that traditionally the Yule feast was to be observed at the first full moon after the first new moon following the winter solstice. 

It is thought that the oldest yuletide feast was called Hokunott in Scandinavia and was first described by the 6th century Byzantine writer Procopius. This feast was to celebrate the return of the sun and was observed right after the Winter Solstice. The earliest reference to jól was in a 9th century Norse praise poem in honor of Harold Fairhair's victory at the battle of Hafrsfjorð, which unified the kingdom of Norway.

(Kelly) As we approach the Winter Solstice, we are moving from the darkest time of the year into the light. We are also moving into a time of the year where food is scarce for humans and animals. This was a time of famine and probably why this time was also called the midwinter sacrifice. The cattle would be butchered before this time because there would not be enough to feed them and the people would need them for food. So it was a time for meat feasting. The Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year. Thus it would be a good time for introspection. These are the pieces of Yule that have traveled through the centuries: a feast, fire or light, introspection and future planning.

There are deities connected to Yule and they include The Oak King, The Horned One, The Green Man, Mabon, Odin, The Great Mother, Diana, Brighid, Demeter and The Dagda. Brighid taught the art of fire tending and working metal to the blacksmiths. We talked about her a lot on the Imbolc episode. She is thought to be a Celtic triple goddess. She is described as a daughter of  The Dagda with two sisters having the same name by some, but by others these three personas are three aspects of a single deity. She is a goddess of hearth and home and helps with divination and looking to the future. The Dagda is an Irish deity looked at as the father-figure and controls the weather and crops and such, so you see his connection here. The Oak King is the counterpart to the Holly King. These two fight for supremacy and at Yule, The Oak King wins and Winter reigns. The Summer Solstice brings victory for the Holly King and Summer reigns. Some Pagan systems make them the opposite with them reigning on the Equinoxes and other traditions combine the two into The Horned One. The Oak King is sometimes called the god of the Sun, while the Holly King is referred to as the Dark Lord. The Holly King looks something like a nature version of Santa with sprigs of holly in his hair, dressed in red and driving a sleigh pulled by eight stags. The Oak King is thought to be a type of fertility god and can also be referred to as the Green Man. Most people know Odin is the chief Norse god, so makes sense that he is connected to Winter festivities and he bears a strong resemblance to Santa.

Activities for a village included wassailing to the trees and crops. The trees were mainly cider apple trees. This would be singing and uttering incantations to promote a good crop at the next harvest and to scare away evil spirits. This makes me think of us talking to our plants. You listened to that episode of Odd Tonic about plants, right? The one that covered the Secret Life of Plants. So clearly this understanding of talking or singing to plants is ancient. This singing is something Beth incorporates into her observance too. Many villages would have a wassail king and queen that would lead the procession and the queen would hold up a Claven Cup with toast soaked in Wassail inside of it, up to the trees as an offering. One of the incantations went like this:

Here's to thee, old apple tree,
That blooms well, bears well.
Hats full, caps full,
Three bushel bags full,
An' all under one tree.
Hurrah! Hurrah!

Folklore has tales about the Apple Tree Man, which is the persona given to the spirit of the oldest tree in the apple orchard. This is thought to be the spirit of fertility in the orchard. Ruth Tongue and Katharine Briggs wrote about the Folktales of England and one of these tales is about a man in Somerset who offered his last mug of mulled cider to the trees in his orchard on Christmas Eve. The Apple Tree Man saw this and decided to reward the man, so he told him where he could find some buried gold.

The wassailing could go house to house too and this is where caroling comes down from. Children would also take gifts from house to house. These would be baskets made from evergreen boughs, which were sacred to the Celts since they didn't die, and wheat stalks dusted with flour, which represented the harvest  with flour representing triumph, life and light. Inside the baskets were oranges and clove spiked apples. And drinks would usually be offered. Alcohol is a big part of the Yule celebration. You heard Jess mention that.

One of the most important symbols of Yule is the Yule Log. Traditionally, the Yule Log was made from a log found on the householder's land or given to them as a gift. The most prized log would come from an Ash tree, which was considered sacred by many tribes and Ash was said to be an herb of the Sun and thus it brings light to the hearth. The Vikings and Scandinavians believed that their tree of life that they called Yggdrasil, was made of ash. The roots of Yggdrasil were bound in hell and its branches were in heaven. The god Odin hung on this tree for 9 nights, so that he could gain the gifts of prophesy and divination. He lost an eye, but received those. The first man was said to have been formed from the Yggdrasil. Ash is also symbolically representative of the four elements.

This Yule Log was decorated with evergreen sprigs and boughs and doused with cider or ale. Flour would be dusted over it all. And these all symbolized what we mentioned with the gifts the children took around. The Yule Logs were saved from previous years and this was so that the fire that that year's Yule Log was to burned in could be started with the previous log. The fire would be kept burning through the night and left to smolder for the twelve days of Yule. Now in our present day, it is harder to observe this tradition because people don't have fireplaces, so many observers choose to drill three or more holes into a log and place candles in the holes that they can light. The decorating goes much the same. Candle colors range from the colors of the Sun God: green, gold and black to the colors of the Great Goddess: white, red and black to seasonal: red, green and white. I advise against the flour though because that is so hard to clean up.

And speaking of greenery, this is brought inside too to remind people of living, not death and to entice those nature faeries and spirits to come inside and celebrate. This is why holly, ivy and mistletoe have become a part of Christmas, this is just part of Yule. The mistletoe carried the added symbolism of fertility as the seed of the Divine and Druids would travel deep into the forest to find it in the middle of Winter. And you can probably imagine why people kissed under the mistletoe.

So you see the origins of Christmas in all of this. Bringing a tree into the house and decorating it with candles and bows. Christmas Carols carry many lines that leave people confused because they harken back to Pagan rituals. We light fires and candles. We make resolutions. We drink apple cider. And we give gifts. This is all very nice, but as you dig into the research, you do find some dark sides in the Pagan traditions. The English brought mistletoe into the house to ward off evil spirits. There is, of course, The Saturnalia, which was a week-long festival celebrating the Romans' agricultural god, Saturn. This festival lasted from December 17 until December 23 and the festivities were anything but a time for a child to get a sparkle in their eye as they dreamed of sugar plums and toys and tried to be good even though a crazy Elf on a Shelf was watching their every move like Big Brother and reporting back to jolly ole St. Nick. Come to think of it, Elf on a Shelf does add a bit of horror to the Christmas Season for kids. Anyway, Saturnalia usually involved gluttonous eating, drinking alcohol to excess, gambling and public nudity. I'm sure none of this goes on with any of your family festivities over the holidays. *wink, wink*

But Saturnalia could get even darker. There are those who claim that Saturn was the cruelest god of the Romans and demanded child sacrifice. This human sacrifice didn't last for long, but gladiator fights during the festival added blood. There is a return to talk of human sacrifice when looking at the candles on the tree, which some claimed was made from the fat of children who were sacrificed, but I would venture to say it was probably from the "sacrifices" of all the animals before winter set-in. And then Saturn has been said to be another image of Father Time and the New Year Baby is the sacrifice victim. And Saturn is also suppose to be like Santa and with a child on his lap, well, you get the picture. The balls on trees supposedly represent the heads of those conquered by the Sun God or his male genitalia and retrieving presents from under the tree represents parents sacrificing their children under the trees for the Sun God. Did any of these things happen. I'm sure there were cultures that participated. Human sacrifice did happen throughout history. But as for Yule for the past few centuries, it is all very tame.

Join us in observing Yule this year. Take a Solstice Walk and bring some greenery into the house and make yourself a Yule Log. Write down what you are grateful for in the past year. Visualize the next year and the path you want to walk. And kiss somebody under the mistletoe! We also want to remind you to join us on Christmas Eve at 8pm ET as we tell scary ghost stories in keeping with the old traditions. So have a Happy Yule, Merry Christmas and blessed whatever you observe at this time of year!

Show Notes:

Nordberg, Andreas. 2006. Jul, disting och förkyrklig tideräkning: Kalendrar och kalendariska riter i det förkristna Norden. Kungl. Gustav Adolfs Akademien för svensk folkkultur: Uppsal

Thursday, December 12, 2019

HGB Ep. 318 - Haunted Ashland, Virginia

Moment in Oddity - Skara Brae Discovered by Farmer
Suggested by Jen Sullivan

Imagine working your fields one day as a farmer and making an incredible discovery. Not just some little artifact kicked up by a farming implement, but an entire village! That is just what happened to one Scottish farmer on the island of Orkney in 1850. He stumbled upon a large stone that didn't seem like it belonged with the landscape. He pushed the stone over and when he did, he found what is now called Skara Brae. A Neolithic village that existed probably over 5,000 years ago. That is amazing because it means that this place existed before Stonehenge and even the Egyptian pyramids. The farmer originally thought he had found a house, but as more was unearthed, there seemed to be an entire city buried here. Apparently, the village was covered over by sand dunes centuries ago and this helped to preserve it. Skara Brae is believed to be the best-preserved Neolithic settlement in Western Europe. The village was small with probably only 100 residents. Historians were interested in the fact that only utility type knives were found on the site, with no weapons for warfare. The site has been named an UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are those who claim that the story that a farmer found the site is just a bit of lore, but I rather like it because it certainly makes the discovery a bit odd.

This Month in History - Dom Pedro I Crowned

In the month of December, on the 1st, in 1822, Dom Pedro I was crowned as the first emperor of Brazil. He was the founder of the Empire of Brazil and was nicknamed "The Liberator." His father was King of Portugal, but in 1807, he fled with his family to the Portuguese colony of Brazil after French troops invaded Portugal. On his 24th birthday, Pedro was acclaimed as Emperor of Brazil and then officially crowned in December. Not all of Brazil recognized him as Emperor though  and he used force to bring these areas into submission. His father died in March of 1826, making him the successor to the throne in Portugal. He knew that the people of both countries would not accept him as ruler for both, so he adbicated the Portuguese crown to his daughter Queen Dona Maria II. He added the condition to the arrangement that she would marry his brother Miguel. I'm not sure why, but this was a bad move because Miguel only pretended to go along with everything and once he was declared regent in 1828, he didn't marry Pedro's daughter, he repealed the Constitution and was acclaimed King Dom Miguel I. This was all backed by all of Pedro's sisters, save one, so the betrayal he felt was immense. He was not a good guy at this point though either. He had a string of lovers, settling on one and moving her in to play Lady-in-Waiting to his wife. He mistreated his wife horribly and she eventually died either from a miscarriage or a beating. Pedro would later claim to see the ghost of his dead wife and vowed to become a better person because of this. He did just that, remarrying and being faithful. He eventually contracted Tuberculosis and died in September of 1834. His heart was placed in Porto's Lapa Church and his body was interred in the Royal Pantheon of the House of Braganza.

Haunted Ashland (Suggested by: Whitney Zahar)

Richmond, Virginia had been the capital of the Confederacy, so one can imagine that the towns around it would be strategic locations for gathering supplies and protection. Ashland is one of these towns and the railroad was a major part of the city. The railroad company established the town with a spa hotel that hosted visitors to the curative powers of a natural spring. This location would go on to become a college. As the Civil War erupted, Ashland found itself a host to wars and the wounded. With this kind of history, hauntings are sure to follow. Listener and Executive Producer Whitney Zahar has joined us on other episodes and she joins us on this one to share her experiences as a tour guide for Ashland Ghost Tours. Join us as we share the history and hauntings of Ashland, Virginia!

The Hanover area that Whitney talks about has many haunted location within its boundaries. L.B. Taylor, Jr. has written numerous volumes in his "The Ghosts of Virginia" book series and we wanted to share a poignant story he shares in Volume 8 that is from Hanover. (pg. 346)

So the natural springs in Ashland led the railroad company to build Slash Cottage and then Randolph-Macon College takes over the property. That story about seeing soldiers from the waist up is so weird. I would like to believe they are just having issues manifesting completely. What do you think Kelly?

On this episode we also talk about the McMurdo House, the Henry Clay Inn and the Mills House that no longer stands. Lots of great ghost stories! Is Ashland, Virginia haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, December 5, 2019

HGB Ep. 317 - The Legend of Elementals

Moment in Oddity - Crown Shyness
Suggested by: Jenny Raines

Black mangrove trees do something really weird. So do eucalyptus trees and camphor trees. In the 1920s, this weird phenomenon was first documented and scientists have studied it ever since and tried to figure out why it happens. This phenomenon is known as crown shyness. You've probably seen it for yourself. Next time you are in a dark forest looking for Bigfoot or fairies, look up and see if you notice a network of cracks between the canopies of trees. This almost looks like tiles laid next to each other with grout in between or jigsaw pieces nearly connected together. One of the reasons why scientists can't figure out the "why" is because it doesn't happen all the time. Some have theorized that crown shyness is the result of abrasion. This is a fancy way to say that branches brushing against each other cause twigs to break. And it's a good theory until scientists surveyed trees in high wind areas and found no increase in crown shyness. Other scientists think that maybe light has something to do with it. This hypothesis basically states that the tips of trees can detect light levels and this will cause the tips to stop growing. Whatever the cause, it does help prevent the spread of damaging insect larvae. Looking up at crown shyness is breathtaking, but is also a phenomenon that certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Cicero Beheaded

In the month of December, on the 7th, in 43 BC, Cicero is beheaded. The year before his death, lawyer Marcus Tullius Cicero became one of the most powerful men in Rome when Julius Caesar was murdered. He was an outspoken critic of Octavian, who was Caesar's heir, and Mark Antony. Two men, Popilius and Herennius, were sent to take care of Cicero and they caught up with him as he went out to find a ship to take to the coast. When Cicero was approached by the men, he knew what they had come to do and he basically put up no fight and asked that they give him a quick and clean death. And they did. Herennius drew his sword and cut off Cicero's head. He then cut off his hands and brought the head and hands back to Antony who hung them in the Forum. Antony felt like he was vindicated by taking the hands that had written mocking speeches about him, but the Roman people saw it more as a symbol of the darkness in Antony's soul.

The Legend of Elementals

Our lives are touched nearly everyday by the four elements. We breathe air, drink water, eat things fed by the Earth and cook or warm ourselves with fire. There are stories of ancient creatures that are one with these elements and we have come to know them as Elementals. Elementals show up in a variety of places from books to comics to legends of old. Is there any possibility that these mythic beings did actually or could actually exist? On this episode, we explore the history, stories and possibilities of Elementals.

I mentioned comics and Elementals in the intro because for me, that's where I first learned about Elementals. I was a DC comic girl and for the most part I still am (sure wish they could get their movies right like Marvel) and my favorite hero and comic was Firestorm. I own nearly all of them. I remember keenly about the time I started college, in the early 1990s, Firestorm underwent a huge change and he became the Fire Elemental. I also followed Swamp Thing a bit and he was the Earth Elemental. So this was my introduction. Later though, as I got more into the paranormal and legends, I started to learn more about the Elementals and their connection to the four main elements. Kelly and I both have a real connection to nature and so for us, it's easy to be connected to the elements.

We all know the four basic elements: air, water, land and fire. Theophrastus von Hohenheim, more commonly known as Paracelsus, was born around 1493 and he was a physicist and alchemist nicknamed the "Father of Toxicology." He studied ancient beings in his works and it was his conclusions and writings that separated various mythical beings into the four classes of elements. His archetypes were Gnome or Pygmy for Earth (North), Undine or Nymph for Water (West) *Blur of color*, Vulcanus or Salamander for Fire (South) and Sylvestris or Sylph for Air (East). Paracelsus described these creatures as not being spirits, but also not being creatures. He emphasized that they were something between. For me, this is a hard concept to understand because as we study the stories about them, they can both appear as human in human clothing or be invisible. Paracelsus also did not call them Elementals, but Sagani. These are nature spirits. Each Elemental seems to have its own body type. Gnomes are short and pudgy, sylphs are similar to humans, but stronger, longer and rougher, undines are basically human in appearance and size and salamanders are long, narrow and lean. Since these beings are part of a particular element, they can move freely through that element. But this is all according to Paracelsus. We know that the belief in these creatures goes back long before this time.

Ancient cultures in the Middle East and East referred to four elements, sometimes calling them something else like wind instead of air. Many cultures, especially in places like China and Japan, would refer to a fifth element that was described as void. China would even press that elements were not physical, but more transitional and they include metal and wood as elements. Perhaps this is where the idea of elements as spirits got its start? And I find that fifth classification, the void or ether, very interesting. This was a basic way to say that we have four types of matter, but there is a fifth beyond material. This fifth element is said to not have a spirit connected to it. And what are we when we die? This energy or matter, but we are beyond the physical world. Hinduism also has their void, which they call akash, and that the human body dissolves into all of these elements upon death. Plato was believed to be the first to use the term element and Aristotle took it further breaking the elements down into qualities. Earth is cold and dry, air is hot and wet, water is both cold and wet and fire is hot and dry. Native Americans break Elementals into different classes like tree spirits, rock spirits, etc.

As we move down through history, we come to alchemy. The science of alchemy has always been tied to Elementals. After all, alchemy is about changing matter and in order to do this, elements must be used. Alchemy basically shows up during medieval times and it was Arab alchemist Jābir ibn Hayyān who not only laid out the four elements, but added mercury and sulfur into the mix. Alchemy is not just a physical science, but also philosophical. And as we look at Elementals, there is more philosophy and spirituality there than basic science. And speaking of basic science, we know we have scientists out there screaming that there are more than four elements. Clearly, we have a periodical chart with lots of elements on it and these are broken down into four states of matter: solid, liquid, gas and plasma. Although, we could argue that those are basically the four elements too.

In our episode about the Legend of Faeries, we mentioned Elementals and that people sometimes classify them together, but traditionally they are different beings. Elementals are thought to not be as developed, but rather true energy and so they do not have personality. Faeries have an affinity for elements, but are not those elements. We listened to several people talking about Elementals, but many just threw them in a mix with Skinwalkers, the Fae, Daemons and etc. One point that we heard is that the Quran mentions the Djinn and that they are described as being Elementals. We did an episode on the Djinn (Ep. 157) and they were created from fire, but does this make them the Fire Elemental?

When it comes to hauntings, we experience many different types of spirits. There are those who were human at one time and then there are those who could be called unborn. This is something that is not human and never was. Obviously, Elementals fall under this. Many claim that we cannot experience Elementals or actually meet one. And we are taught from a young age that they are not real. But are they? There are so many stories of these ancient beings and Pagans say that these beings are on a different plane or dimension and that is why we may not experience them.

Malignant magick conjures Elementals. Disturbances can cause Elementals to rise up or come forth. Like mining or construction or even building a dam can cause an Elemental to be disturbed. They give off EVPs with very gruff and deep voices. They don't like metal objects and so these may have a tendancy to disappear. They can be attached to crystals, so if you bring one home, they might come with it. Earth Elementals will cause animals to behave strangely, cause a person to have fear of being buried alive or fear of leaving their home and cause earthquakes. Water Elementals cause plumbing problems, they might cause someone to commit suicide by drowning and cause floods. Fire Elementals can cause spontaneous fires, a human that develops an obsession with fire might be touched by one or if you see tongues of flame or balls of flame and spontaneous combustion. Air Elementals can throw or break objects, cause sexual assaults and cause agitation and fighting in their locale and people commit suicide through the air by jumping from high places and cause tornadoes and gales. Obviously, ley lines are deeply connected to Elementals.

A person going by username Sylunedarkchylde from the Philippines wrote of encounters with Elementals, "I'm not sure how other countries perceive Elementals to be, but here in the Philippines, they are called "Engkantos", "Anitos" and so on. These Engkantos and Anitos used to be worshiped by ancient Filipinos until Spain decided to force Christianity on us a few hundred years ago, and only then were they thought of as evil entities. Personally, I think Elementals are a part of nature, too; but were made differently - just like when someone would be born with an extra toe, no arms, no legs, etc. To me, they're like nature's "special" brothers and sisters. But of course, please do enlighten me if my understanding is wrong - because that was just an uneducated opinion formed based on what I have seen. The first story was when my family and I were on a 3-day vacation in Baguio City. I was around 16 or 17 at the time. Baguio City is famous for its many hauntings, especially after the 1990 (or was it 1991?) earthquake that pretty much reduced the city to rubble. But I honestly don't think what I saw was a ghost - somehow it had a different "feel" to it. The house that we stayed in was a vacation home owned by my mom's boss, and she was nice enough to let us use the place for free. The house was situated at the middle of the mountain, so you would need to drive up from the foot and you can drive all the way up to the top as well. The house only had one private room, and two semi-private rooms; because the rooms on the second floor may be separated by walls and two different doors, but both rooms are mezzanine types, so I can see the living room from where I was. On the first night, we were still tired as hell because of the eight-hour drive to the city and spending the rest of the day shopping for trinkets to bring home to our friends. But since I just ate, I cannot go to sleep yet because of my acid reflux - so I decided to grab the book I brought from my bag. While I was reading, I noticed something flicker, like a quick flash of light in my peripheral vision. I looked up from the book and to the window where I think I saw the light, but nothing was there. So I went on reading, and it happened again - but this time, when I looked up, I was in for a surprise. There was a bluish-white ball of light. It wasn't very bright, but luminescent. I'm guessing it's as big as a volleyball, or maybe slightly smaller. And if I were to estimate my distance from it, I'd say around ten feet--far enough to see it clearly. I was scared at first, but for a person who's easily attracted to shiny things and sometimes too curious for my own good, I continued to watch in awe. It looked almost magical. It bobbed up and down very slightly as it glided, and it left some sort of translucent, almost transparent "tail" like a comet as it moved. Then it passed behind a tree. Again, to my surprise, it emerged on the other side of the tree, but no longer as one white ball, but hundreds of tiny little swirling balls of light. It was awesome! I admit I still felt a little scared, but it was too pretty to ignore. I had this feeling that whatever it was, it was playing with me. Then, it passed behind another tree, and then when it emerged, it was one big ball again. By the third time it emerged, the window only had enough space so I had to stand up and walk towards the window to continue watching it. It kept doing the same thing - compressed into a ball, scattering, then compressing every time it passes behind a tree - until it got so far up the mountain that I couldn't see it anymore. I don't know, but to me it was awesome. I've never seen something so unnaturally pretty in my life. Of course, just like any person would do, I told everyone about it. My sister was asking why I wasn't scared, and I admitted I was at first, but when I looked at it long enough it looked so pretty and it didn't seem to mean any harm. My stepfather said it might have been "St. Elmo's Fire", but after researching about it, St. Elmo's Fire behaved differently, so I didn't really think it was what he said it might be. Then I learned about swamp lights. Of course, there isn't a swamp anywhere near there, but I needed to find out what it was. But swamp lights are chemical reactions in the swamp that causes it to light (like methane mixing with something and it burns a white, sometimes blue light) but again, it didn't look like fire. Besides, fire doesn't glide the way the mysterious white light did. Not to mention the shape, then scattering, then reshaping again. I left the city without any answers, but memories of the pretty lights. I even remember making a painting of it (it was sold already) because it just looked so pretty and mysterious that I needed to show everyone how it looked like. I have friends with different beliefs - Christians, Muslims, Satanists, Atheists, Wiccans - and when my Wiccan friend saw the painting she asked me what it was. I told her the story, and she said I might have encountered an Elemental; and it might have been the Wind - a manifestation of the Sylph. I researched online right after she said it, but none of the images I saw were the same. However, what made me think that it really was an Elemental was what she said that they are neither alive nor dead; that they have taken a different evolutionary turn from most things, and the wind elemental is most commonly seen as a white or yellow light. To be honest, I am really not sure what it was, but all I know is that I didn't feel the same fear I did when I experienced ghostly stuff. Of course, I was afraid at first, but after a while I just felt like I was drawn to it. I could just imagine how the ancient Filipinos would see this as, and no wonder they worshiped them."

Famous hauntings in history include one at the Leap Castle. Short skeletal monster with sharp claws, a decayed face and smells like sulfur. People describe it as looking like Gollum. Some believe it was conjured by Druids before the castle was there, while others claim that a fighting force conjured it in some way to bring fire to destroy the castle. Gerald Fitgerald is said to be the one who conjured it because he was adept at magick and tried to take over castle several times. That would be malignant magick. Others claim he is the spirit of an O'Carroll family, but that is not possible because it were never human. This entity is dark and sinister. Mildred Darby's account, "Suddenly, two hands were laid on my shoulders. I turned round sharply and saw, as clearly as Isee you now-a grey ‘Thing’, standing a couple of feet from me, with it’s bent arms raised as if it were cursing me. I cannot describe in words how utterly aweful the ‘Thing’ was, it’s very undefinableness rendering the horrible shadow more gruesome. Human in shape, a little shorter than I am, I could just make out the shape of big black holes like great eyes and sharp features, but the whole figure-head, face, hands and all-was grey-unclean, blueish grey, something of the colour and appearance of common cotton wool. But, oh! so sinister, repulsive and devilish. My friends who are clever about occult things say it is what they call an “Elemental”. The thing was about the size of a sheep, thin, gaunt and shadowy in parts. It’s face was human, or to be more accurate, inhuman, in it’s vileness, with large holes of blackness for eyes, loose slobbery lips, and a thick saliva-dripping jaw, sloping back suddenly into its neck! Nose it had none, only spreading, cancerous cavities, the whole face being a uniform tint of grey. This too, was the colour of the dark coarse hair covering its head, neck and body. It’s forearms were thickly coated with the same hair, so were its paws, large, loose and hand-shaped; and it sat on it’s hind legs, one hand or paw was raised, and a claw-like finger was extended ready to scratch the paint.  It’s lustreless eyes, which seemed half decomposed, and looked incredibly foul, stared into mine, and the horrible smell which had before offended my nostrils, only a hundred times intensified, came up to my face, filling me with a deadly nausea. I noticed the lower half of the creature was indefinite and seemed semi-transparent-at least, I could see the framework of the door that led into the gallery through its body." The last time she saw the thing was in 1915.

The Felixstowe Fire Demon. In the fall of 1965, a group of British men were hanging out in Felixstowe, which is on the coast of the North Sea in Suffolk, England. They were driving and pulled their car over near a forested area. One of the young men, Michael Johnson, jumped out of the car and ran into the forest. His friends thought he was relieving himself, but he didn't return and then they thought they saw an UFO. It flew away and their friend stumbled out into the road and collapsed. Later at the hospital he told his friends that he had been compelled to enter the forest and he met a weird creature there that was some kind of humanoid with large sloping eyes that were glowing in the darkness and the thing was completely engulfed by orange flames. He blacked out and then woke up in hospital. The doctors found burn marks on his neck.

In Railbach Germany in 1125, a group of people described seeing a burning man who had fire coming from his nose and mouth and they said they could see his burning ribs. And the Black Forest in Germany is said to be crawling with them.

How do you get rid of an Elemental? You can't destroy them or completely banish them, but you can release them to their realm. You can make peace and coexist too. A shaman would be the best person to get help with this.

Elementals are something to explore connecting to and perhaps you will find a class you are drawn to. For me, I've always been drawn more to water. The undines help not only to cleanse water, but also the emotional and subconscious world. Gnomes clean up discord and negativity on a spiritual level. Sylphs purify the mental plane of  negative thoughts like hatred, anger, resentment, pride, greed and jealousy. Salamanders are agents of bringing fire to mankind through electricity, firelight or candle flame and they are responsible for the spark of life and they keep it from decaying or disintegrating. So perhaps explore one. And see if you find that Elementals do exist. Because, that is for you to decide!

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

HGB Ep. 316 - Investigation of the St. Augustine Lighthouse

Moment in Oddity - Queen Elizabeth I's Dress

Textiles are very hard historic objects to preserve and retain through the centuries for obvious reasons. Moths, humidity and light can play havoc with cloth. But textiles are very important treasures to help us understand how a people lived: their culture, their wealth and their values. For some people like me, it's just really cool to be able to touch or see something that was worn by someone with historic appeal. Seeing something from the Victorian Era is pretty amazing. Imagine being able to see something dated to the time of Queen Elizabeth I! She reigned from 1558 to 1603. Anne Boleyn was Elizabeth's mother and she loved pearls, so when gowns were made for the queen, she always asked for pearls to be included. She had some elaborate gowns that were very unique and one dress was featured in a portrait of her named "Rainbow Portrait." The gown features fabric hand embroidered with forest animals, insects, flowers and a small bear. Eleri Lynn, a curator at the Historic Royal Palaces in England believes she has found part of that gown. This is an amazing piece because it was believed that none of Elizabeth I's dresses survived. The clothing of royalty was always made from the finer things, so many times these items would be repurposed or given away as gifts. The dress was given to a member of the court, but the queen was so vain, no one could be dressed as fine as she was, so known of her gowns could ever be worn. It is believed that the dress was cut apart by the new owner and made into an altar cloth for St. Faith's Church in Bacton, Herefordshire. The idea that a piece of cloth used for years to cover an altar would turn out to be part of the only dress belonging to Queen Elizabeth I to survive, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Queen Elizabeth I Ascends the Throne

In the month of November, on the 17th, in 1558, Queen Elizabeth I ascended the throne of England at the age of 25. Elizabeth was born to King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn in 1533 and was the last of the five monarchs of the House of Tudor.The era of her reign would come to be known as the Elizabethan Era and it was a good time for England. She succeeded her half-sister Bloody Mary and was not one to force religion on her subjects. She did establish the Protestant church that would come to be known as the Church of England, however. She never married and became known as the Virgin Queen and was celebrated for that. She was cautious in foreign affairs, but did eventually find that she could no longer avoid conflict with Spain and led England to one of its greatest military victories with a defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. In her later years, she became severly depressed and eventually fell ill. She died on March 24, 1603 at the age of 69. Her coffin was carried at night on a barge lit with torches to Whitehall. Elizabeth's funeral would be a month later and her coffin was carried on a horse drawn hearse to Westminster Abbey.

Investigation of the St. Augustine Lighthouse

The St. Augustine Lighthouse is a location full of history, but it also has many stories of tragedy. The tower that stands there today is not the original lighthouse. There have been several towers through the centuries. The one built just prior to the current tower was closer to the sea and eventually fell into it, but not before tragedy hit. The tower that exists today was started in 1871 and was completed in 1874. That construction would leave another tragedy in its wake. Others would lose their lives here too. And in the wake of all of this, we have spirits. I've visited this location many times, but this would be Kelly's first visit and this would be the first time I would conduct an official investigation here. Join Kelly and I as we share the investigation of the St. Augustine Lighthouse!

I've told the story of the tragedies on previous episodes, but let's do a brief a recap. The original lighthouse here was built from wood and burned to the ground in 1586 when Sir Francis Drake attacked the settlement. Another wooden one was built and in the early 1700s it was replaced with the Old Spanish Watchtower, which was made from coquina. This tower would pass from the Spanish to the British and finally to the United States in 1821 as Florida passed from country to country. As I said earlier, it eventually fell into the sea due to erosion in 1880. A keeper, Joseph Andreu, and his wife Maria De Los Delores Mestre Andreu lived here before the Civil War. In 1860, Joseph was on a scaffold to whitewash the exterior of the tower. The scaffold collapsed and Joseph fell more than 60 feet to his death. Maria witnessed the whole thing and would take over for Joseph. She was the first female and the first of Hispanic descent to have that job. During the Civil War, a local harbor master named Paul Arnau and Maria removed the lens from the lighthouse to keep it from union soldiers and they buried it in the ground. Arnau was taken captive and under torture on a vessel, he revealed the location of the lens and the Union forces replaced it, so they could see the shipping lanes. Maria left after this and never returned.

The second tragedy involved Hezekiah H. Pittee, who was in charge of constructing the second lighthouse, and I'm sure nearly all of you are familiar with the story. His four children, Mary, Eliza, Keri and Edward, and a neighbor girl, who was African American, jumped into a supply cart and rode it down the rails to where the supplies were loaded and when they got to the gate, the cart flipped over it and down into the water, trapping the kids under it. Two of Pittee's daughters, Eliza and Mary, died and it is believed the African American girl did too.A construction worker saved Keri and Edward.

Listener Myra Wheeler had contacted me to let me know that she, her boyfriend Ken and her mother Mary - also a listener - would be in Florida and they were going to do an investigation at the St. Augustine Lighthouse. We were totally in! We went up to St. Augustine early and I took Kelly to the Pirate Museum. It's a great place full of history and memorabilia. Then we met up with Myra and her family at Harry's for dinner. This is one of the haunted locations in St. Augustine and one of my favorite places to eat for New Orleans style food. And then we were off to one of the handful of places I will say with no hesitation, is haunted: The St. Augustine Lighthouse.

Set the mood (Augustine Wind)

We started the investigation by climbing the 219 stairs to the top of the lighthouse. Certainly not one of my favorite places to be when it is windy or dark! They have redone the decor on the landings with new displays and one of the additions is a story about Smoky the cat. It would seem that a brother and sister once lived at the lighthouse and Smoky was the little girl's pet. Her brother decided one day to see if Smoky could float, so he attached a parachute to the cat and threw it off the top of the lighthouse. It did indeed float, all the way to the ground, and then the scared creature promptly ran off and stayed away for a few days.

The lighthouse has always held an allure for me and a spiritual connection. This is where I had my first real unexplained experience. I had heard what I thought was a ghost dog with my sister when I was a teenager, but this was really what I consider the real deal. And there was no need for any investigation equipment. It was special and always will be and it's why it's the story I share every time I'm asked to be on a podcast or speak about the paranormal. So I was not expecting for the Keeper's House to be the place where we had all of our experiences. We made our way down to the basement where Pete is said to reside. Did we catch an EVP? (Augustine EVP 1) Here it is amplified (Augustine EVP 1 amplified) It almost sounds like something repeating like "thank you, thank you." It's definitely a low class EVP. There were two other people in the basement, but they were being very quiet. Sometimes the smell of smoke comes from down here in the basement or outside. Pete was a keeper, Captain Peter Rasmussen and he was not allowed to smoke in the house by his wife, so some wonder if this is him sneaking a smoke down here in the basement.

We got the dowsing rods out to see if we had anyone with us and we got a yes and that it was a male entity. But that was about it for the basement. When I was on a tour here before, you might recall that one of the women on that tour got poked. So we decided to head upstairs to the first floor and we joined Myra and Mary who had already been having an interaction with at least one spirit. We sat down at the table with our EMFs. (Keeper's House 1) It was funny cause they had told the spirit they would leave and were getting ready to do that when we came along and then Mary ended up having to leave. We got a lot of interactions with the EMF detectors as we sat there. And using them and the dowsing rods, it seemed we were talking to the children who haunt the property. (Keeper's House 2) As we continued to press for more details, it seems that one of the Pittee girls was with us, Mary. (Keeper's House 3) We asked her some of the questions I like to ask inspired by listeners who have joined us on live feeds, for example temperature changes and whether they can leave an area. Mary interacted with the EMF detectors a lot. She would step away and shut down the lights when we would ask. (Keeper's House 4) Now as I listened back to what we recorded, I really wasn't looking for EVPs because of all the audio contamination. But I thought I heard something different in one part that I've pulled out to see what you think. (Augustine EVP 2) Then I've amplified the section (Augustine EVP 2 amplified) and I pulled it out alone (Augustine EVP 2 amplified solo) I think I hear yes or yeah to our question. To let you know how we are set-up here, I have a recording on catching everything and then I have a mini recorder that I do short bursts with. I started doing this at Villisca so we could see if we catch things in real time. So what I'm going to play here is us listening back to a short burst being caught on the recorder catching everything. (Keeper's House 5) Now I'm going to play for you the short burst from the little recorder in its original. (Augustine EVP 3) And now I'll amplify the section (Augustine EVP 3 amplified) and all by itself (Augustine EVP 3 amplified solo) I can't understand what it is said but it sounds like same voice and lilthy cadence)

We head back into the lighthouse and we think we start communicating with the little African American girl that died in the accident too. Now we know we have certain words we don't use anymore, but sometimes we need to return to the vernicular of the time so we are going to use "negro." (Lighthouse Girl) So apparently she didn't want us in there. And sadly, there is really no record for her, so I couldn't find a name. Kelly and I do go back into the lighthouse and up onto a landing and get no interactions. We discuss the exchange again and this is when Kelly tells me that the feel of the dowsing rods changed. She felt as though someone were emphasizing that they were done with us. So we decide to leave the tower for good for the evening. Kelly explains it later to our group. (Lighthouse Girl 2) Then we talk to Mary about someone she was communicating all evening with and that was someone named Charles who had been at the lighthouse as a child. One of the guides let me take a picture with my phone of a picture she had found of Charles when he was a child. I'll put that up on Instagram. Why he has returned here, we'll probably never know. Here is Mary sharing about that and she has an EMF detector that was going off in regards to him. (Augustine Charles)

I kept hoping to see something manifesting as color. This is my focus with investigations now. But this area had quite a bit of ambient light and we needed somewhere darker. Kelly and I went to the parlor and this is where we had the more profound experiences. I didn't expect to have interactions with Joseph and Maria. These were more profound to us because Kelly could actually feel the difference in the rods between Joseph and Maria. Maria had a more delicate touch. In the audio, you will hear the clock on the mantle ticking. (Keeper's House 6) So you got touched Kelly? And it was interesting the exchange with Maria because she kept saying no to being the keeper after her husband, but seemed to indicate that she was an assistant. So I'm not sure what that was about cause that doesn't match the historical record.

On the most recent visit to the lighthouse for the Ghost Hunters, this is the new one with just Grant, there was a cupboard on one of the upper landings that opened on its own and hit the railing. We opened the cupboard and it did indeed hit the railing. Other than this, they really didn't have any experiences. We were really disappointed with this episode because they never even went into the Keeper's House and an interaction they got excited about happened out in the woods. We had a similar one, which I guarantee just sounded like an animal, probably a racoon or armadillo. We were chased out of the woods by the mosquitos. (Augustine Woods) Amplified sound (Woods Roar)

I've collected many ghost stories about the lighthouse over the years, many since the original episode we did on this location, Ep. 76.I'm going to share a story about the first caretaker who started on after the lighthouse became fully automated in 1955. His name was David Swain and this is from David Lapham's "Ghosts of St. Augustine." (p. 141-142)

Thursday, November 21, 2019

HGB Ep. 315 - The Menger Hotel

Moment in Oddity - Jack Budlong's Death

There are a handful of stories of actors dying while on set filming a movie. One of these stories involves a guy who really wasn't an actor, but his buddy got him a part as an extra on the 1941 film "They Died With Their Boots On." That amateur actor was Jack Budlong and his buddy was Errol Flynn. They knew each other from playing polo together. The film was a fictionalized biopic of George Custer and Errol asked the producers to let his friend Jack ride into battle with the other extras. Everybody was given wooden swords as props, but Jack had a real saber and he decided he wanted to use that. The battle scene began and this sequence featured the Bull Run bridge. There were some special effects blasts that went off on the bridge and this spooked Budlong's horse. The horse reared and Budlong lost grip on the saber, which fell to the ground and the hilt wedged between two rocks with the saber tip pointed up. Budlong was thrown 15 to 20 feet and right onto the saber. They rushed him to Cedars of Lebanon Hospital and he lingered for days finally succumbing to advanced peritonitis. Even more strange, his father had died a month before, to the day, and his brother died a week later. The fact that a sword would wedge perfectly on its hilt and that Budlong would be thrown perfectly atop the saber, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Martha Mansfield Dies

*Let me preface this with that I was looking for details for the Moment in Oddity when I came upon this actress' death, which took place while filming in San Antonio. I thought to myself, wouldn't it be perfect if she died in November so I could use this for the history segment?*

In the month of November, on the 30th, in 1923, Martha Mansfield dies while filming "The Warrens of Virginia" in San Antonio, Texas. Mansfield was the leading actress in the movie. She was dressed in a Civil War era costume that had a billowing hoopskirt with lots of ruffles. She had just finished her scenes for the day and had gone to sit in a vehicle with some friends. A man in the car or possibly she herself, lit a match that caught the costume on fire. Her co-star, Wilfred Lytell, took off his overcoat and threw it over her trying to protect her face and neck from the flames. The chauffeur of the car tore the burning dress off Mansfield as she ran from the car. Sixty percent of her body was badly burned and at the time, there was not much they could do. She was taken to the Physicians & Surgeons Hospital where she died the following day. She was only twenty-three years old. Her body was sent to New York for burial and production on the film continued without much issue because most of her scenes had already been shot. And well, I guess Fox didn't want to lose money by halting production out of respect.

The Menger Hotel

San Antonio is one of my favorite cities not only for its amazing history, but it is full of haunts. One of those haunted places is right next to the Alamo and boasts over thirty ghosts. A young man came to this city with big dreams and started the first brewery in Texas, which makes him a top entrepreneur in my book! This man would turn the boarding house where he stayed upon arriving in town into the Menger Hotel, which would host dignitaries and become a town center. Join me as I share the history and hauntings of the Menger Hotel!

St. Augustine, Savannah, Salem, New Orleans, Alton and San Antonio are all cities that I return to often on this podcast. They each have their own character and when I look at that list, I realize they touch on key areas of American history that are all quite different. St. Augustine is the oldest settled city, Savannah was built as a series of squares and survived the Civil War mostly intact, Salem was one of the first colonies and the scene of the most famous witch hunt, New Orleans has unique architecture, jazz and Voodoo, Alton was a center for abolition of slavery and San Antonio was the setting for the Texas Revolution. For San Antonio, I've produced Ep. 47 featuring the Gunter Hotel, Ep. 83 featuring the Emily Morgan Hotel and one of the HGB Road Trip episodes from 2017 covers the Alamo and San Antonio in general. I've shared the history of the Battle of The Alamo and the Texas Revolution before, but there is an aspect to San Antonio's history that I haven't covered. There were originally Native American people here, followed by frontiersmen. But there was no civil government or organized settlement until the Canary Islanders arrived.

José de Azlor y Virto de Vera was born in Spain to a family that had a long history of serving the Spanish Crown. He married the daughter of the first Marqués de San Miguel de Aguayo and thus he became the second man to serve in that position. This was similar to being a governor and this was for the Mission San Jose. He sent a letter to the king of Spain in 1719 suggesting that they needed more immigrants to the area  to help set up a proper city. He wanted 400 families and he asked that they be brought from the nearby islands of Cuba, Galicia and Canary. The king said yes, but it wasn't that easy. Juan Leal Goraz led a group of far fewer families than the 400. There were about twenty-five families who started the journey and this shrunk to ten, which grew back to fifteen after a few marriages and a group of bachelors were considered a sixteenth family. This amounted to 56 people and they had to hike overland from the Gulf to the presidio of San Antonio de Bexar. They arrived on March 9, 1731. This small group would be the nucleus of the organized government and they elected their leader, Goraz, as first alcalde or mayor. There are many families in San Antonio that trace their roots to the original Canary Islanders.

They laid out the village that would become San Antonio on the west side of the Plaza de las Islas, which is today the Main Plaza. They built the first church and government building here. Within this historic plaza, one will find the Menger Hotel at 204 Alamo Plaze, right next door to The Alamo. I have been inside this magnificent hotel and it is like walking into a museum where you can stay overnight. From the Victorian lobby to the antiques to the artwork, one is transported to another time. And perhaps that is why there are spirits locked into this location.

As you know by now, I like to dig through history to find out what was on the land at the very beginning for a haunted location. So many miss the importance of this, but this is sometimes the only way to explain why a place is haunted. And I'm one of those people that wants to know the why, not just the what. Obviously, since the hotel is near The Alamo, the land beneath the building was once part of the fort. All of the men fighting at The Alamo for Texan Independence died as the fort fell to General Santa Anna in 1836. Not long after that, German immigrant William Menger arrived in town.
He was only twenty-years-old and he used his German knowledge of brewing beer to establish what would be the first brewery in Texas with a partner named Charles Phillip Degen. They called it Western Brewery and it specialized in making lagers, which were in high demand because lagers were not as available. They are harder to make than porters, ales and stouts.

*Rabbit Hole: I'm not a beer expert, but I'm working on it! I've always loved beer, but while I was with Denise we didn't drink. There were not many craft brews back when I was in my early twenties, so I'm really having fun now exploring all the great flavors out there. I just wanted to take you down into this rabbit hole for a brief overview. There are two main styles of beer: lagers and ales. Porters, stouts and wheat beers are all ales falling under categories like IPAs, Browns and Belgians. Bocks, Pilsners and Oktoberfests are Lagers falling under categories like dark, pale and Vienna. They are made in very different ways. Ales are brewed using top-fermenting yeasts, so the yeast floats to the top of the brewing barrel during fermentation, which takes place at a warm temperature around 50 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Lagers are brewed using bottom-fermenting yeasts, which take longer to grow and they settle on the bottom of the barrel during fermentation, which needs colder temperatures around 45 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. So as you can imagine, before we had refrigeration, lagers were hard to make and maintain and for southern areas, one had to wait until cooler weather temperatures.*

So when Menger brings lagers to the public, it was a hit and his brewery became very popular and he started to get wealthy, even having enough to buy out competitors, so that Western Brewery became the largest operating brewery in Texas by 1878. Soon, people were calling Menger the "Beer King." The Western Brewery was on part of the site where the Battle of the Alamo had happened. On the other side of the brewery was a boarding house owned by a widow named Mary Guenther. Menger had made one of the rooms here his home and he lived there for three years. I don't know how many long nights Mary and William spent sitting on the porch visiting or how many longing glances they gave each other in the hallways, but they eventually ended up married to each other. And this made Menger co-owner of the boarding house. He helped expand the business and they needed more rooms, so they decided it was time for the boarding house to go and a gorgeous and expensive hotel to take its place. They had big dreams and they would make those dreams come true.

The Menger Hotel you see today is a culmination of years of design and construction under four different architects. The original section is a two-story building on the southwest corner that is made from limestone and designed by a local architect named John M. Fries. Fries is also credited with repairing the damaged Alamo and he's the one that gave it that unique parapet on the front. The hotel opened on February 1, 1859 with fifty rooms. The Victorian Lobby was the original lobby on that opening day. There was a large cellar built under the hotel with three-foot thick walls that Menger used to chill the beer from the brewery and a tunnel was built to facilitate this storage without having to cross the street above the ground. This tunnel also brought guests over from the hotel to tour the brewery.

Things changed quickly for the Menger and three months after opening, William and Mary were already making plans to expand the hotel to ninety rooms. This would make the Menger Hotel the largest hotel in the area. This three-story addition was built directly behind the hotel. Things continued to be good until the Civil War broke out and business slowed way down. The Mengers decided to offer up the hotel as a hospital and obviously, many soldiers died at the hotel. After the war, it reopened and flourished. And then William Menger got sick. There is no record as to what illness he had, but he passed away at the age of 44 in March 1871. Mary and her son Louis announced that operations would continue and the hotel flourished even more. She bought more property in 1874 and got the hotel outfitted with its own gas source.

In 1876, a chambermaid named Sallie White was murdered by her husband who didn't like her working in the hotel. He shot her three times, but she didn't die right away. She languished for two days and in that time, her husband was released and he ran away, never to be caught. The Menger hotel covered the costs of her funeral, buying her a coffin and plot. By 1881, Mary felt like she needed to retire from the hotel business, but Louis didn't want the hotel so she sold it for $118,500 to Major J.H. Kampmann. He also purchased all the furnishings. All of this would have run over $3 million today. He added a third story to the Alamo Plaza section and a third-story to the north side and relocated the kitchen. Kampmann felt the hotel needed a new bar and so he had one built that was considered one of the most elegant around and it is no wonder since it was inspired by the House of Lords Pub in London. The ceiling is paneled cherry-wood, beveled mirrors from France, decorated glass cabinets, a cherry-wood bar and leather booths from France. This really is the neatest place to get a brew on tap. There is a balcony areas sitting above the bar that is perfect for taking in the ambiance and people-watching. In it's heyday, the top drinks here were mint juleps served in silver tumblers and hot rum toddies.

There's also something pretty special historically about this bar. Teddy Roosevelt loved this place and it became the scene of the formation of his Rough Riders. There is memorabilia here that includes some of their uniforms. Some stories claim that Teddy actually rode into the bar on his horse and a bullet hole in the wall is credited to him too. This happened in 1898. The Rough Riders was a common name given to the 1st United State Volunteer Cavalry that served during the Spanish-American War. They were mustered from four southwestern states because they would be fighting in Cuba, which had a similar climate. The war started when the USS Maine was sunk in Havana Harbor and Spain was considered responsible.

In 1887, a fourth-story was added to the Blum Street side of the hotel and updates were made including electric lights, steam laundry, steam elevator and artesian well. Renovations would continue through the years adding fixtures and more furnishings and another fifty-room addition. In 1909, Architect Alfred Giles would add an ornamental marquee of iron, a new marble floor to the original lobby and Renaissance-revival embellishments like Corinthian columns and filigreed balustrades with wrought iron scrollwork. The decorative tile floor was expanded into the Colonial Room Restaurant and a leaded stained-glass skylight was installed.

That Colonial Room Restaurant would be remodeled in 1912 by architect Atlee B. Ayres to make it match the neoclassical style that was evolving in the hotel. The plaster mantelpiece is unique featuring two caryatids topped with Ionic capitals and scrollwork that has a nymph motif. The food is said to be amazing here. In 1924, fire would hit. The headline for the San Antonio Express read "Flames Rout Menger Guests, Fire Engine and Street Car Collide, Five Hurt." The Express reported, “Rarely have the firemen had to do battle with a more stubborn or spectacular fire” and this was because of all the additions and remodels to the hotel. The fire started in the kitchen when an overheated flue set fire to the ceiling and the hotels woodwork just fed it sending flames quickly to the second floor and then over to the south wing where fire gutted the third and fourth floors. A night clerk discovered the fire and ran down the halls yelling for everyone to wake up and get out. One crazy guest grabbed the clerk and threw him down the stairs. He was only slightly injured. None of the 101 registered guests was injured, but the fire hit the hotel hard and damages were thought to be $100,000, about $1.4 million in today’s dollars. 

The Menger would rebuild and in 1943 it would be bought by W. L. Moody, Jr. A major addition was added in 1949 that added another four-story wing with 125 rooms, a new lobby was built, a swimming pool was added and air conditioning was added throughout the hotel. Today, there is a display case that surrounds the fireplace that contains memorabilia. Another five-story addition was added in 1966 and another restoration project in 1988 added a new ballroom, meeting rooms and 33 more rooms and suites. Famous people who visited the hotel over the years were Lillian Langtree, Sarah Bernhard, Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, Presidents McKinley, Taft, Eisenhower, and Roosevelt, Mae West, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Babe Ruth and Oscar Wilde.

This is clearly one of the most acclaimed hotels in the state of Texas, but it is also considered the most haunted hotel in Texas too. There are many rivals to this claim, but I think the Menger Hotel probably makes a good argument for that claim with its long list of spirits found here (usually claimed to be 32) and there are many, many people with their own personal experiences. All types of phenomenon are reported from rapping noises to faces staring out from mirrors to doors opening and closing on their own to the scent of cigar smoke. Brandon Cory wrote me, "I have overheard you mention the Alamo and the Menger Hotel in San Antonio and having worked at the Alamo I can verify the haunting and can correlate that many of the staff in both locations have had many a run in with spirits."

The employees all seem to have their own personal stories to share. Two of them were up on the third floor at the east end of the hotel, walking down a hallway. They were visiting with each other when they suddenly stopped, startled by what they were seeing. They saw a white mist that resembled smoke and it was coming towards them. They stood frozen as it passed right through them and they felt a chill. They turned to watch as this mist continued down the hall towards a set of French doors. One of the doors opened, the mist passed through and then closed. The employees took off downstairs. Two waiters in the Renaissance Room were setting the tables for an event. On one of the side tables, they set up 100 wine glasses in four rows of 25. They started to leave the room when they heard the sound of a glass falling over. They turned around and watched as each of the wine glasses was pushed over one at a time. Two porters in the lobby went into the ladies room to clean it and as they approached the utility closet with the supplies, they heard a bunch of banging around in there as though buckets and mops were being moved around. The door was locked so they tried their key and couldn't get the door opened. They called for security worried that someone was in the closet. The guard used his special keys to open the door and they found no one inside and nothing amiss. They closed the door again and heard disembodied laughter coming from inside.

A guest was taking a shower and when they got out of the shower, they found a ghost standing in their room, dressed in a buckskin jacket and grey pants. He seemed to be talking to something unseen and he yelled, "Are you gonna stay or are you gonna go?" He yelled it again two more times and then disappeared. In the bar there was a weird incident. A young man was sitting at a table in front of the mirror at the north end of the bar. A couple walked in and sat at the table facing this young man's. Suddenly, an ashtray went flying off that table and landed at the young man's feet. He asked the couple why they threw the ashtray at him when he didn't know them. The couple insisted that they didn't throw the ashtray. That is when the cocktail waitress let them know that there was a spirit in the bar who liked to move things around like that.

There are two ladies in blue here. They both roam the halls in blue dresses. One doesn't seem restricted to the hotel and has been seen dancing on the ramparts of The Alamo next door. The other is described as looking middle aged and her dress has red embroidered stars on it and she wears boot that look like they are too big and bulky for a woman. She is seen sitting in the lobby at times reading or knitting and then she disappears. And speaking of The Alamo, there are spirits that spill over from that location. Soldiers are seen standing on the second floor and looking over the railing, one of which is called the Spaniard. This Spanish conquistador is also seen in the lobby in full armor. There are Confederate soldiers seen here as well. There is also a four year-old little girl. Her story is that she was run over by a horse and carriage outside of the hotel in the late 1800s. She is seen behind the front desk in the lobby, in the bar and in the Colonial Room Restaurant. She is mischievous and is known to play games with the staff. They have taken to calling her Sarah and people claim she has long brown hair and wears a white dress.

These are random stories about indiscernible spirits, but there are some spirits who people believe they can identify. One of the more well known is the spirit of the chambermaid who was murdered by her husband, Sallie White. She is easily recognized because she always wears a white scarf around her head. She originally stuck to the oldest section of the hotel, but now has been reported nearly everywhere. She seems to still be doing her job in the afterlife, often being seen carrying towels and bedding in her arms. One guest claimed to see Sallie come walking through her door carrying a towel and disappearing into the bathroom from which she never emerged. Another female guest stepped out of her shower and saw a maid folding sheets near the bed. She was startled, not only because she didn't expect to see someone in her room, but because she could see right through her.

Another guest ran into Sallie in the ladies room in the lobby. She described her as having short curly black hair and either being Native American or Latina with a paper-like tiara in her hair and a maid outfit that you would see in an old movie. The guest went into a stall to do her business and heard Sallie rattling around stocking stuff. She wondered why she was wearing the tiara. She thought she would ask her when she came out. Possibly she was head maid?  When the guest exited the stall, she didn't see the maid anywhere. She went up to the front desk and asked about the headpiece and why this maid would be wearing one. The clerk directed her to a man in the lobby who kept track of the ghost stories and after she gave him details, he told her that she probably just saw Sallie the ghost.  The guest was positive that this was a real person. She walked away and then saw this same maid holding towels out in the garden. She looked to see where the man was so she could show him this was a real person. When she looked back, the maid was gone. Others have seen Sallie wearing an old long gray skirt and a bandana around her forehead, the uniform common during her era. Primarily, appearing at night, Sallie is generally seen walking along the hotel hallways, carrying a load of clean towels for the guests.

Charlotte Jane is one of my young listeners and she had wanted to know if Teddy Roosevelt's ghost was seen anywhere and it just so happens that The Menger Hotel is one of those places. He loved the bar and that is where staff members have seen him after closing time, sitting at the bar. A new employee was closing up the bar by himself when he heard something behind him. He turned and saw a man sitting at the bar, gazing at him intently. He knew he should be the only one in there and he ran to the door frightened. As he pulled, he realized he was locked into the bar. He banged and screamed until someone heard him and let him out. He told the person what happened, but they were like, who is at the bar? There was no one there and the only way out was through that door. Sometimes Roosevelt's ghost can be vocal and he has tried some of his recruiting tactics on the employees. He occasionally hollers at employees too.

Another specter with an identity is Captain Richard King. He had been the owner of The King Ranch, which was one of the largest ranches in the world. The Menger Hotel was one of his favorites and he had a personal suite at the hotel. It was in this suite that he decided to die after his doctor told him that he was going to die. He had stomach cancer. He wrote his will there and goodbye letters to family and friends and died in 1885. That suite is today called "King Ranch Room." It is here that Captain King is seen. What is really strange is that the room was remodeled so the door was moved, but Captain King still enters his room where the door used to be so he goes right through the wall. There is also a red orb seen in suite or just outside of it. This is the only place where this orb is seen. King not only died here, but his funeral was held here.

The Menger Hotel has seen a lot of death whether it was natural deaths or suicides in the hotel to accidents outside to men dying in battle. Has this lead to spiritual activity? Is the Menger Hotel haunted? That is for you to decide!

*Special note: If you find Ernesto Malacara at the hotel, he is the man to talk to about ghosts!*