Thursday, April 25, 2019

HGB Ep. 296 - Battle of Passchendaele

Moment in Oddity - Myrtle Corbin
Suggested by: Jennifer White

Myrtle Corbin was born in Tennessee in 1868. She was born with a very rare condition known as dipygus. Myrtle had a twin that was a part of her, not like a conjoined twin, but as a malformed lower half. You see, Myrtle had four legs. The two middle legs were shorter and the feet on each only had three toes. Myrtle could control them, but she couldn't use them for walking. She had a problem with one of her longer legs as well as she had a clubbed foot. As was the case for so many people like Myrtle who lived during the 1800s, she was an oddity who would find a home in a freak show. Her first stop was with none other than P.T. Barnum and then later she moved on to Ringling Bros. and finally ended up at Coney Island. She was very popular and earned $450 dollars a week. She married Dr. Clinton Bicknell when she was 19 and actually was able to get pregnant and give birth five times. The couple had four daughters and a son and it is believed that three of her children were born from one womb and the other two were from another womb. Yes, Myrtle had two sets of sexual organs and in the book "Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine" by George M. Gould and Walter L. Pyle it was reported that both vaginas menstruated , so clearly both functioned normally. Myrtle lived to the age of 60 and passed away on May 6, 1928. A human born with four legs, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Howard Hughes Dies

In the month of April, on the 5th, in 1976, Howard Hughes Dies. Howard Hughes was born Howard Robard Hughes, Jr. in Texas in 1905. He was born into some money, but would go on to make himself incredibly rich as a manufacturer, aviator, and motion-picture producer and director. He was not only one of the richest men in America, he was incredibly eccentric. He produced many movies, usually running over budget and including risque material. Two of those movies were the Academy Award-winning Two Arabian Knights in 1927 and Hell’s Angels. During World War II, he started manufacturing military aircraft, but these ran over schedule too and were not completed before the war ended. While testing one of the planes, the Hughes XF-11, Hughes had a near fatal crash that left him in chronic pain for the rest of his life. Another plane he built, the Hercules, came to be known as the Spruce Goose and was flown only once for one mile. It was an eight-engine wooden behemoth that was suppose to carry 750 passengers. Hughes' eccentricities included going into complete seclusion at times, obsessive-compulsive disorder and he was a germophobe. In 1953, he established the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. In his latter years, he moved around a lot going from the Bahamas to Nicaragua to Canada to England to Las Vegas and finally to Mexico. While in Mexico he starved himself to emaciation and was heavily addicted to drugs. He set out to seek medical treatment in 1976, but died on the plane ride from Acapulco, Mexico, to Houston, Texas.

Passchendaele (Suggested by: Brian Morse)

They say it was 103 days in hell. Any amount of time, during any war could be deemed hell. But the Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium during World War I brought a new definition of hell during war. The battle would be one of the bloodiest of the war, killing half a million men. The weather and mud at the field would contribute to dealing that heavy blow. Battlefields of all kinds seem to be epicenters for the paranormal. The blood becomes a part of the earth and seems to cry out from the afterlife. This area of ground would come to be known as Flanders Fields.

In Flanders Fields by Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
 If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
 In Flanders fields.

Poppies. They're weeds. Not really anything special about them. At least there wasn't until war. It was during the Napoleonic War that poppies first became associated with fallen soldiers and memorializing them. But Flanders Fields would bring red poppies into the limelight of remembrance ceremonies and days. You see, dead bodies on a field make it unsuitable for growing many plants because of the high lime content. Poppies would flourish on Flanders Fields and for that reason they are worn on Remembrance Day in Commonwealth member states and on Veterans Day in America. So what happened on Flanders Fields? First, the Battle of Passchendaele was not the first battle fought here. This was actually the third Battle of Ypres. This was considered the Western Front and was a very strategic place because of the proximity of the railway line for supplying the German troops. This would end up being one of the most controversial battles of World War I and is still hotly debated by scholars and historians today.

Belgium is a culturally rich and diverse country. They have three official languages, Dutch, French and German, as proof of that diversity. The name "Belgium" comes from a Roman province in the northern part of Gaul known as Gallia Belgica. This area was inhabited by the Belgae before Rome invaded in 100 BC. The Belgae were a mix of Celtic and Germanic peoples. Merovingian kings would eventually rule over Belgium due to the immigration of Germanic Frankish tribes during the 5th century. Belgium would become mostly independent in the 11th century. The country became very prosperous through its wool industry that would later prove to be an issue when France would go to war with England. France expected their vassals in Belgium to join them against England, but Belgium relied on English wool. Belgian peasants later rose up against the French and defeated them and then spent decades of trading out who would rule over them, going from Burgundian territory to Austrian rule to Spanish rule then back to Austria and then the French again by 1794. After Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo, the great powers redrew the map of Europe and combined Holland and Belgium. The two countries proved to be too different and Belgium would finally become independent. In 1914, Belgium declared itself neutral, but that would mean little to Germany and that brings us historically to where we need to be for this episode.

As I said, Belgium had declared themselves neutral when World War I started and King Albert was ruling in 1914. The Germans requested that they be given passage through the country, so that they could attack the rear flank of the French. King Albert refused, so the Schlieffen Plan was launched and the German army invaded Belgium on August 4, 1914. The Race to the Sea began in September and the first Battle of Ypres would begin on October 19th and end on November 22nd. The end put a stop to the German advance in an unconventional way. The Belgian army flooded the Yser plain by deliberately opening the locks at Veurne-Ambacht, Nieuwpoort. The second Battle of Ypres would come as a devastating surprise chemical attack by the Germans. On April 22, 1915, the Germans released chlorine gas and the effect was immediate, killing thousands of Allied troops and driving them back. The success of the gas was so surprising to the Germans that they lost their advantage by not giving a full attack. The battle would be over by May 25th after the British basically blew the top off the hill where the German army was stationed. They had burrowed underneath and blew it up with mines.

This strategic spot had not seen its last battle. The Third Battle of Ypres would start on July 31st in 1917 and this would be the Battle of Passchendaele. The Germans had established a submarine base at Bruges, which was around 44 miles from Ypres. Germans had been using U-boats very successfully and the British were on the verge of defeat by them. The Germans called their submarines Unterseeboot or U-boot for short, which we anglicized to U-boat. While many might think that U-boats were mainly battle ships, they actually conducted a more damaging attack by raiding merchant ships and blocking shipping lanes. This cut off supplies. But the U-boats also sunk a large number of battleships starting with four of them in September of 1914.

So the Allied forces needed to do something to destroy this submarine base in Belgium. First they would need to seize the railway line that ran beyond the German line. General Douglas Haig of Britain would direct the attack. Haig took his plan to British Prime Minister David Lloyd George. That plan was to attack the Ypres Salient and if successful, the British could push all the way to the ports on the English Channel coast. And since I didn't know and I imagine some of you don't, a salient is a military term for an area where one side has pushed into their opponent's territory and it looks like a bulge. The three sides of the salient are surrounded, so the army within the salient is vulnerable. Usually trench warfare is the form the battle takes. Nobody was crazy about Haig's plan, namely because the British barely outnumbered the Germans. There was a fear that there would be a great loss of life and that fear was going to be realized. The plan was approved.

The offensive began with the detonation of 19 mines under the German lines at Messines Ridge. The explosions were heard all the way in London. Before talking about the battle to come, I need to explain how the land here was set up. Much of this was farm land and there had been an ancient drainage system set up to pull away the water and keep the land from getting soggy. All of the prior offensives had not only wiped out all of the vegetation, but the drainage system was destroyed. There was nothing to keep this area from becoming an apocalyptic quagmire. If there was any rain, especially a lot, these soldiers were going to be in big trouble. And we all know how it rains in this area. General Haig chose General Hubert Gough to lead the British offensive. Gough was unfamiliar with the Ypres Salient and that is probably why Haig chose him. He figured the man would do his bidding with aggression and without question. It was a fatal error.

So the British began their attack at 3:50 am on July 31, 1917. The British intially gained ground, but eventually were pushed back. Dozens of tanks rushed to help the British, along with a French contingent. For the next month, fighting went back and forth, as the ground became more sodden. Haig knew they were getting nowhwere, so he asked the Canadians to attack the French city of Lens occupied by the Germans to try to draw some of the Germans away. The Canadians opted for a different strategy and were really successful. Haig continued to falter and by September, politicians in London were calling for him to pull out of the Battle of Passchendaele. He refused and pressed on. The Australians and Kiwis came to reinforce the British, but the results were the same as they had been all along. The Allies would gain a little ground and then get pushed all the way back again. The Germans also attacked with chemicals once again, but this time they used mustard gas rather than chlorine gas. The mustard gas was nicknamed ‘Yperite’ after the city of Ypres. The gas blistered the skin, eyes and lungs. The death was painful. By October, Haig was turning to the Canadians again, but this time he wanted them to come to Passchendaele. Their leader, General Currie, didn't want to come, but he had no choice so he made sure to reinforce gun emplacements and rebuilt roads. He was worried that there would be at least 16,000 Canadian casualties.

The Canadians arrived and assaulted the Passchendaele ridge, but it made no difference. October had brought pure hell. The rain fell continuously. Shells rained down too with only a few being cushioned in the mud. That mud that made explosions less damaging also gummed up rifle barrels, slowed down stretcher-bearers and made it hard to detect the front line. Soldiers drowned in puddles, some being swallowed up as they slept. Private Richard Mercer described the horror of the mud in this way, "Passchendaele was just a terrible, terrible place. We used to walk along these wooden duckboards – something like ladders laid on the ground. The Germans would concentrate on these things. If a man was hit and wounded and fell off he could easily drown in the mud and never be seen again. You just did not want to go off the duckboards."

November would change things and the Canadians were successful as they launched their third large-scale attack on the ridge. They captured it and took back the ruins of Passchendaele village. One final assault captured the remaining high ground on November 10th and the battle was over. In the end, the losses were huge. The Allied forces had 275,000 casualties and the German had 220,000. Currie's prediction of 16,000 Canadian casualties was almost spot on with 15,600. Canadians were awarded nine Victoria Crosses, the British Empire’s highest award for military valour.

Churchill would describe the Battle of Passchendaele as a "watchword for the wasteful horror of the Great War." Another way to describe the battle would be a total waste. Within a few months, all the ground won would be regained by the Germans during the Spring Offensive of 1918. Two more battles would take place on the battlefields here. The Germans would finally be pushed out. Many of the remnants from those battles still exist today and there are dozens of cemeteries in the Ypres Salient area for the dead from these World War I battles. There are memorials to the missing and unidentifiable as well. The Menin Gate at Ypres features a memorial with the names of 54,000 men who died in the area during World War I. Although the medieval town of Ypres was never occupied by the Germans during the Great War, it was basically razed by the battles. During the 1920s and 1930s, it was reconstructed, brick by brick. Hundreds of thousands of troops and civilians died in Flanders. Conditions were inhumane. There can be no doubt that something sorrowful, fearful, angry and negative has been left behind. What remains in the paranormal ether from the Battle of Passchendaele?

The village of Passchendaele experiences multiple hauntings. The disembodied sounds of battle are heard throughout the village and this is accompanied by the screams of men. Machine gun fire is heard in the distance.

BBC News Magazine journalist Chris Haslam, wrote a piece entitled “Does the WW1 tourist trade exploit the memory of the fallen?” In the article he writes, “My disquiet is caused by something less solid – a brooding sense of malevolence oozing from the earth, as though the violence has a half-life. I’m no believer in spooks but the old lady I meet walking her dachshund most certainly is. Her name is Beatrijs and her dog is called Robert. As we amble down the muddy track, she tells me about mysterious lights seen flickering in no man’s land, of half-heard screams in the night and of corners of fields where generations of Robert’s ancestors have refused to go.”

Another ghost story goes back to World War I itself. The German army stationed at Ypres had a weird experience. In 1918, a British captain named Hayward reported watching the Germans throw granite and shot at an empty piece of land. The soldiers clearly seemed to be fighting against something, but he couldn't see what it could be. The Germans finally retreated and the British captured them. Captain Hayward asked the German colonel heading the contingent about what he had witnessed. The German officer claimed that there had been a white cavalry in the field. What did he mean by a white cavalry? The Germans swore they saw white riders on white horses and that they trotted right through bullets and got closer and closer until the Germans had to retreat. Did they see a ghostly cavalry?

John McCrae wrote In Flanders Fields for his friend Alexis Helmer who had been killed in the war. McCrae took care of wounded soldiers at a bunker in Ypres. He eventually died in 1918 of pneumonia. The site is now part of a memorial near the Ypres Canal. There are two ghosts reportedly here. People claim to have seen the full-bodied apparitions of John McCrae and his friend Alexis Helmer. The echoes of disembodied gunshots are also heard.

On a side note, there was a 2008 movie named Passchendaele that was shot in Calgary, Alberta, Fort Macleod, Alberta, and in Belgium that featured the experiences of a Canadian soldier at the Battle of Passchendaele. One of the places where part of the movie was filmed was in the Prince House in Heritage Park Calgary. The house is said to be haunted. A grandfather clock in the downstairs parlor started to chime during the movie. It chimed and chimed and the crew couldn't figure out how to stop it. So they called security to come help. The security forces were perplexed. They said that there was no way to stop the chiming because the clock had no innards. There was nothing inside to make it chime. Several tour guides at the house have heard it chiming as well. Security claims to see lights coming from the third floor. One guard called the manager to report it and the two men were stunned because there is no electricity on the third floor. The guides claim that whatever ghost is at the house, it is friendly.

Much blood was spilt on the fields of Flanders. The Battle of Passchendaele was the most devastating. Do the spirits from that time still roam that sacred ground? Is the Passchendaele Battlefield haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Ep. 295 - Haunted Derby Street in Salem

Moment in Oddity - Fredric Baur Buried in Pringles Can
Suggested by: John Michaels

Fredric John Baur lies beneath a fairly normal headstone in the Cincinnati Springfield Township, but his burial container is anything, but normal. Baur was born in 1918 in Toledo, Ohio. He studied science in college and eventually went to work for Proctor & Gamble in Cincinnati as a chemist. His main job was to develop methods of food storage. In 1967, Proctor & Gamble developed a new-fangled chip based on Baur's experimenting. People had been complaining that chips were stale and broken and Baur designed a saddle-shaped chip that was easily stackable. But the chip wasn't tasty, so another man named Alexander Liepa took over and it would be his name on the patent for the chip that we all know as Pringles. Even though Baur didn't get his name on the patent, he is known for something else. That special chip needed special packaging and he invented the Pringles can. He declared that “the Pringles can was a revolution within the realm of snack food.” Baur died in 2008 at the age of 89. He told his children that he had a request about his burial. After he was cremated, he wanted his ashes buried inside a Pringles can. His children fulfilled his request by stopping at a Walgreens before arriving at the funeral home. The can was for the classic original flavor. Obviously, being buried inside a Pringles can, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Levi Weeks Acquitted in Manhattan Well Mystery

In the month of April, on the 1st, in 1800, Levi Weeks was acquitted of the murder of Gulielma Elma Sands. Elma had been found at the bottom of the Manhattan Well badly beaten and dead. This would be one of the first murder mysteries in New York and has never been solved. But Levi Weeks was indicted because he was Elma's love at the time. The couple had been intimate many times, leaving some speculating that Elma was pregnant when she divulged that the couple was secretly engaged. Elma met up with Weeks on the day they were to marry and she was not seen alive again. A carriage driving away from the well in a hurry was said to belong to Weeks' rich brother. That brother hired the best defense for his brother and that would be lawyers Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. The case was circumstantial and the judge made sure to drive home that fact to the jury before he sent them to deliberate. Trials were very different at this time. All the evidence was laid out over 2 days and it was 2am when the jury was sent off to come up with a verdict. They wouldn't take long, only 5 minutes. They voted to acquit and Levi Weeks went off to become a very successful architect. The case and trial was controversial and a cause celeb at  the time. It was the first murder trial in the US to have a recorded transcript. The trial is referenced in the song "Non-Stop" in the 2015 musical Hamilton.

Haunted Derby Street in Salem

Long before America was America, there was Salem. The town was a successful and busy port city, but it would become an infamous location that still causes a chill to run down our spines at the mere mention of its name. Even though it was not the first spot to hold trials and hangings in regard to witchcraft, it would be the most well known. This apparently has left behind energy that lends itself to paranormal activity, but there is even more to the history of Salem that probably contributes to this spiritual residue. Based on my research, I would say that Salem has two main streets in its historic district that are the most haunted in the city. One is Essex Street and the other is Derby Street. On this episode, we are going to focus on the history and hauntings of Derby Street.

I've been to Salem, Massachusetts twice in my life and HGB has featured the Salem Witch Trials and locations like the Witch House and the House of the Seven Gables. This is a city that seems to be enveloped in an ethereal energy and that impression seems to be backed up by accounts of the tribes that used to live in the area that claimed that the land had an energy of its own and that energy was negative. I myself did not feel anything negative when I was there, but like so many historic cities in America, I had an appreciation for the history that penetrated nearly every building in this town.

What is it about Salem that makes it seem to be such a center of paranormal energy? Is it just the energy from the violence that accompanied the Salem Witch Trials? Or could there have been something here before the accusations started flying? Native Americans in the area seemed to think so and there are those who claim that multiple ley lines come together in Salem, making it a powerful place of spiritual energy. Ley lines are pathways of strong energy and that energy could be electrical or magnetic and even in some cases, psychical. Many of these lines run under places like churches or locations like Stonehenge, the Great Pyramid and Machu Pichu. Could these lines influence the emotions of humans or affect their thoughts? There is more to the history of Salem than just witch trials and hangings. Being a port city, it has stories of bootlegging, rum running, pirates and brothels.

Derby Street is named for Elias Hasket Derby, Sr. Derby was a very wealthy man and there are claims by historians that he was the first millionaire in America. He was usually seen walking around Salem using a gold-headed cane and wearing a Sir Roger de Coverley coat. Derby had made most of his money in shipping and trading. His father had a very successful business that he inherited and expanded so far that he was shipping to St. Petersburg, Russia. You can imagine that during the Revolutionary War, he had a bit of trouble with the British Navy. They intercepted his ships and nearly ruined his business as they impounded vast quantites of his rum and sugar cargo. Derby decided to rally the men of Salem and equipped at least 158 vessels with weaponry like 2,000 cannon. Men from Salem and the contiguous ports of Beverly and Marblehead manned the ships. When America eventually won the war, the news was brought from France aboard a ship that belonged to Derby named "Astrea." After the war, Derby continued his trade, which had to change tactics since during the war he operated as a privateer. This is when he would begin trade with Russia. America would send tar, rice, rum and turpentine and get back hemp, iron, tea, spices and duck, which was what they called a fine linen canvas used to make sails.

The Derby Street Historic District was established in 1974 and runs parallel to Salem Harbor. The district includes all of the buildings on both sides of Derby Street, beginning at Herbert Street and extending north to Blockhouse Square. Nearly all the buildings here are directly associated with the commerce and people from the 1760-1820 period. The House of the Seven Gables is at the far end of the street. Most of the buildings are in the Georgian Colonial and Federal styles.

Old Burying Point Cemetery - 51 Charter Street, borders Derby Street as well

Of course, the first stop in any city for me is a cemetery and like most cities, Salem has several. The cemeteries in Salem and in New England in general are some of my favorite. There is one that borders Derby Street and it is known as Old Burying Point Cemetery or Charter Street Cemetery as it is named for the street where one can find its entrance.This cemetery was founded in 1632, making it the second oldest cemetery in the United States. There are not many burials here, at least officially. That number is around 350 bodies, but as I found in Boston, sometimes a burial plot could hold several bodies stacked up on each other. Names from the headstones have found their way into the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Most of the headstones here are hard to read and falling over in a haphazard way.

There are many well known or historical figures buried here. Eight of them are members of Hawthorn's family, including his great-great grandfather John Hathorne, who was a judge during the witch trials. Nathaniel added the "w" to his name to try to distance himself from the man. Also buried here are the poet Anne Bradstreet, architect Samuel McIntire, witch trial judge Bartholomew Gedney and Mayflower passenger Richard More. And Giles Corey's second wife, Mary, lies beneath a small, white gravestone here. Giles name appears on a plaque in the cemetery known as the Witch Trials Memorial, along with the name of his third wife, Martha. Many of you probably are familiar with the curse associated with him in which his apparition appears as a harbinger of doom. They say he called out the curse as he was unmercifully pressed to death.

There are several spirits reputed to be here. The first is said to belong to the Hanging Judge, John Hathorne. People claim that he shows up in pictures taken in the cemetery. There is also a lady in blue here that wears a Victorian dress, carries a picnic basket and is usually joined by a little boy. Legend claims they both died in a tragic fire at an inn next to cemetery on Charter Street. These spirits are usually caught as white streaks in pictures. Christopher Forest wrote about a Lady in White in this cemetery in his book, North Shore Spirits, "The ghost itself does not typically appear in person. Rather, it often manifests itself in the form of orbs. It has even appeared as a slight figure in pictures taken at the site." So I guess she is different than the other woman because she is alone and has no basket? This spirit may not be readily seen in the cemetery, but she may wander to a nearby business based on reports that I have read. 

Murphy's Restaurant and Bar - 300 Derby Street

This business is Murphy's Restaurant and Bar. and it is at the back corner of the Old Burying Point Cemetery. Before it was Murphy's, it was Spirits and before that it was Roosevelt's and owned by Henry McGowan.

One legend claims that a casket crashed through the retaining wall into the dining room. I say "legend" because there is no verifiable evidence, but employees say that it really did happen and they will show you a patch on the wall that indicates some work was done to the wall. The casket is said to have belonged to a little girl.

The Lady in White has been seen by employees at the pub and specifically former owner Henry McGowan. He said that he was alone on the second floor in the restaurant one night around 3am when he saw a female apparition looking down on him. He looked away for a minute and when he looked back, she had disappeared. There are those who wonder if this is Giles Corey's second wife Mary. The two were said to be much in love. The Lady in White has been seen coming from her grave.

Bunghole Liquors - 204 Derby Street

Right across the street from Derby Wharf is Bunghole Liquors. Okay, so let's just get the laugh out now. Yes, this next location is a liquor store with the real name Bunghole. I can hardly say it with a straight face. The place looks so cool with its retro neon sign and it has a fabulous history for history and ghost story lovers alike. The building originally housed a funeral parlor, but liquor always seems to have had a home here. Embalming was done downstairs, but there was more than just preserving bodies going on down there. The name "Bunghole" was a nickname that people in town gave to the speakeasy in the basement of the funeral home. The term is actually what they call the hole in a barrel or cask. So clearly since this was a speakeasy, it was in operation during Prohibition. People would whisper to each other on the street, "Psst, I'll meet you at the bunghole tonight." The speakeasy had a perfect location since it was right across from the wharf. And remember those tunnels? The owner easily smuggled spirits into his joint. When prohibition ended, a friend of the owner suggested that he turn it into a liquor store and he did just that. The second ever liquor license was issued to Bunghole Liquors and they got rid of the funeral parlor accoutrements like the embalming tubes, which were closed up in the walls. The tunnels were also sealed.  

But something has remained from that past and it is confirmed by both patrons and employees. There are several spirits here. An assistant manager named Brandon O'Shea had his own experiences. When he started working at the store, he was a total skeptic. He was in the bathroom and the light had gone out. He suddenly felt a cat rubbing against his legs. He flew out of the bathroom and asked a co-worker if there was an animal in the store. Of course, there was not and when they looked in the bathroom, they saw nothing. So people are pretty sure that one of the spirits here is a ghost cat. O'Shea said, "When you're working alone, you always see weird things here. I'm telling you, I'm the last person ever to believe in this stuff. But something is here."

There are those who claim that there is residual energy left over from the speakeasy and that disembodied sounds and voices are heard. A camera in the basement picked up white flashes of light. The only other apparition that has been seen here is said to belong to a woman. New Year's Eve of 2013, the store had a big rush. An employee saw a woman walk behind the wine racks and then go out back. He couldn't pursue her to see why she was going out the back. He was sure another employee would have run into her, but that person saw nothing. They saw the woman in the store again two hours later. One of the employees actually bumped into her and when he looked up to apologize, there was no one there.

Salem Maritime National Historic Site - 160 Derby Street

The Salem Maritime National Historic Site was the first national historic site established by the National Park Service and this happened on March 17, 1938. The maritime history in Salem is rich. Shipbuilding and trade flourished and obviously, some of that trade was for smuggled products. Derby's son had a few tunnels built leading from the wharf to various buildings in downtown Salem in 1801. The goods would be brought up through trap doors, some of which can still be seen in various historic buildings today. These tunnels are said to be haunted.

This complex has several points of interest and several hauntings. We mainly are going to focus on Derby Wharf and the old Custom House. Derby Wharf was built by Elias Hasket Derby, Sr., for whom it is named, in 1783. The original wharf was shorter, but was extended to one mile in length in 1809. The Debry Wharf Light Station was built in 1871. The white and black lighthouse is fairly small, only standing 20 feet tall, and has a unique square design. The light for this one is actually red that flashes every 6 seconds and can be seen for 4 nautical miles. There was never a keeper's house here and was tended by a lamplighter until it was automated in the 1970s. The lighthouse has stories of at least one ghost, but there could be two. People who visit the wharf claim to see full-bodied apparitions of sailors from a bygone era and there are cold spots even on warm summer days. There was one woman who claimed to feel an icy tap on her shoulder as she walked the wharf and when she turned around, there was no one there. Many claim that the spirits they see belong to pirates and that they seem to be residual. But there are others who believe these shadowy figures are crewmen from the Andrew Johnson, which was literally ripped apart by the schooner the Haskell during a hurricane. Jeff Belanger, who hosts the New England Legends Podcast, wrote, "They saw dark, shadowy figures rising out of the sea. There were ten of them in all, and as they reached the Haskell, the watchmen could see that the figures looked like men. The dark wraiths reached their hands over the rail of the schooner and climbed aboard. Their eyes were black, like hollowed-out holes, and they wore dark and oily sealskins for clothes. The phantoms quickly took up positions around the ship and began to go through the motions of casting lines, rigging sails and setting the anchor."

The other main structure here is the Custom House, which faces Derby Wharf. This structure was built in 1819 and features a carved wooden bald eagle that is painted gold sitting on top of the brick Federalist-style building. Nathaniel Hawthorne had worked here at one time as a surveyor and he actually uses the location in the opening pages of "The Scarlet Letter." The Custom House issued permits to land cargo and certification for ship measurements. This was also where merchants paid custom duties. Those duties were very important because they were a main source of government revenue before there were taxes. The spirits here seem to belong to captains of ships and disembodied whispers are heard as though they are discussing the treasures they have aboard their vessels. Disembodied footsteps are also heard and strangely, flickering lights appear throughout the building, but disappear when approached.

I should mention that The Derby House is also here. There are no hauntings,but it was the home of the Derby's, so it is very historically significant. Elias Derby built the home in 1762 as a wedding present for his wife. They lived there for the first twenty years of their marriage and had seven children there. Derby called it the "little brick house." He sold it in 1796 to Capt. Henry Prince, who built the West India Goods Store next to the house around 1800. The Princes stayed until 1827 and then the house passed through various hands and had many uses, some of which were tenement apartments where the Polish community lived while working in the nearby mills. In the early twentieth century, the house passed into hands to preserve the history.

Witch's Brew Cafe - 156 Derby Street

The Witch's Brew Cafe and Mercy Tavern stand across from the wharf, which made them prime locations for brothels. Not only were there brothels here, but also bars and remember those tunnels? These were used to shangai men into working on the ships. So Derby Street basically became a red light district. The activity in the brothels and bars seems to still be here. Apparitions of sailors and pirates still walk about the restaurant. Tuesday nights are Tarot card reading nights.

Mercy Tavern - 148 Derby Street

This establishment was formerly In A Pig's Eye, which had been open for thirty years. The Boston Eater paper reported on the transition to the new restaurant in April 2017, "The food at Mercy Tavern leans towards a gastropub style with both international and New England comfort food. There are “small bites” such as hand-cut prosciutto, roasted cauliflower, and roasted red pepper crostini; appetizers such as French onion soup and pork skewers; and entrees that range from spaghetti and meatballs to fried chicken, a Cuban sandwich, burgers, and pan-roasted steak. Mercy Tavern also has 12 draft lines and a cocktail list." The name "mercy" was chosen because of the concept of mercy as a beautiful practice.

Regardless of what name hangs on the shingle here, the one constant are the hauntings. Those that take place here are full-bodied apparitions of pirates that appear to be hanging out at a bar. Disembodied voices are heard and the sounds of struggling men being carried off through the tunnels is also heard.

There is a bit of a troubling aspect to Salem. Some find it controversial that business has been made on the backs of people who were wrongly accused and hanged. Could this partly be to blame for the hauntings in the city? Bridget Bishop was the first woman to be hanged in the Salem Witch Trials. No one knows for sure when Bishop was born, but it is estimated to be around 1633. She and her husband moved to the Massachuestts Bay Colony in 1660. Her husband died four years later. She lived a life very different from the Puritans, which is probably what made her a target. She dressed in a way they considered to be flamboyant. She and her second husband fought often and in a very public way. In 1678, Bishop was brought into court for cursing at her husband. The exchange was described in the book Salem-Village Witchcraft, "Bridget, wife of Thomas Oliver, presented for calling her husband many opprobrious names, as old rogue and old devil, on Lord’s day, was ordered to stand with her husband, back to back, on a lecture day in the public market place, both gagged, for about an hour, with a paper fastened to each others foreheads upon which their offense should be fairly written."

After her second husband passed, rumors started flying. Bishop's stepchildren accused her of causing their father's death by bewitching him. Nothing came from that and Bishop married her third husband. They lived in downtown Salem where she owned an apple orchard. Bridget Bishop was arrested on charges of witchcraft on April 18, 1692. She was accused by Mercy Lewis, Abigail Williams, Elizabeth Hubbard and Ann Putnam, Jr. The next day, she was examined by Judge John Hathorne and Judge Jonathan Corwin. Here are some of the exchanges:

    “[Hathorne]: They say you bewitcht your first husband to death.
    [Bishop]: If it please your worship I know nothing of it.
    She shake her head & the afflicted were tortured.
    The like again upon the motion of her head.
    Sam: Braybrook affirmed that she told him to day that she had been accounted a witch these 10 years, but she was no witch, the Devil cannot hurt her.
    [Bishop]: I am no witch.
    [Hathorne]: Why if you have not wrote in the book, yet tell me how far you
    have gone? Have you not to do with familiar Spirits?
    [Bishop]: I have no familiarity with the devil.
    [Hathorne]: How is it then, that your appearance doth hurt these?
    [Bishop]: I am innocent.
    [Hathorne]: Why you seem to act witchcraft before us, by the motion of your
    body, which seems to have influence upon the afflicted?
    [Bishop]: I know nothing of it. I am innocent to a witch. I know not what
    a Witch is.
    [Hathorne]: How do you know then that you are not a witch?
    [Bishop]: I do not know what you say.
    [Hathorne]: How can you know, you are no witch, & yet not know what a
    witch is?
    [Bishop]: I am clear: if I were any such person you should know it.
    [Hathorne]: You may threaten, but you can do no more than you are permitted.
    [Bishop]: I am innocent of a witch.”

There was a lot of evidence provided, some of which included a neighbor claiming she had sent a talking deformed monkey to torment him. An examination found unnatural growths on her body. Bishop was found guilty of witchcraft on June 8, 1692 and hanged two days later. Since then, her spirit seems to be haunting many locations in Salem. Her spirit is said to be malevolent and I can imagine why she is angry. The main location is where her apple orchard once stood and since the Hawthorne Hotel is nearby, she is said to walk around the hallways there. But that is probably an erroneous location and the real spot is the Lyceum Building, home for Turner's Seafood restaurant. The scent of baked apples clings to the air where her spirit roams. This location is a couple blocks up from Derby Street.

If Bishop still walks around in the afterlife, it is probably not on this street, but because of what happened starting with her, the guilt, fear, anger and sorrow that permeated the witch trials, still continues on in Salem. And to make light of it might be why hauntings continue and spirits seem to be at unrest. Is Derby Street in Salem haunted along with all these various locations? That is for you to decide!