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!


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