Thursday, July 18, 2019

HGB Ep. 303 - Keg Mansion Steakhouse

Moment in Oddity - The Tree with Matchmaking Powers
Suggested by: Ariel Facey

There are some lonely hearts out there that turn to online dating sites and newspaper personal ads to find love. There is a city named Eutin along the Baltic Sea in northern Germany and it is home to Br√§utigamseiche, which in English means Bridegroom’s Oak. This tree is believed to be 500 years old and it is the only tree in Europe with its own mailing address. And why would a tree need a mailing address? Because there are people, dozens every day, who hope to use its magical powers to their benefit. And what magic power does the tree have? It apparently is a matchmaker. A mailman named Karl Heinz Martens has been delivering these letters for 20 years and what he does is puts the letters into a small knothole in the trunk. Then lonely hearts come from all around and reach into the hole, hoping to find a match. The story behind the tree is that a young woman fell in love with a chocolate maker in 1890 and her father did not approve. The couple sent secret messages to each other at this tree by leaving letters in the knot hole. Eventually, her father realized that the love was good and he hosted their wedding under the canopy of the tree. By 1927, the tree was so overwhelmed with mail, the post office decided to give it its own address. The rules about the letters is that you must write to the letter sender or place the letter back in the tree. And many couples have found love this way and gone on to marry. Some have carved their initials on the branches of the tree. The Bridegroom's Oak has ropes holding parts of it together and many branches have been removed due to fungus, but it still stands and matches lonely hearts to this day. An old tree playing matchmaker, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Percy Shelley Drowns

In the month of July, on the 8th, in 1822 poet Percy Bysshe Shelley drowned in the Bay of Spezia. Percy Shelley was born in 1792 into a family of not only means, but also political position. He stood to inherit his grandfather's estate and seat in Parliament. He attended Eton College and moved onto Oxford from which he was summarily expelled for voicing his atheistic views. His father broke ties with him over this as well and this left him in dire straits for a while. Shelley believed in free love. He married a sixteen-year-old girl named Harriet in 1811, but by 1814 he had fallen in love with Mary Godwin and he abandoned a pregnant Harriet. Mary would become pregnant too, but lost the baby. She would later give birth to a son the couple named William. Eventually, Harriet would commit suicide and Percy would marry Mary who went on to write Frankenstein. Percy became most well known for his poetry with his best work being Prometheus Unbound in 1820. Percy had a schooner named Don Juan and he took it out to sail from Leghorn to La Spezia in Italy in July of 1822. A storm erupted and Percy went overboard and drowned. At least that is according to one story. Conspiracy theories claim pirates may have attacked to rob him or that creditors had him killed. The boat was found with a huge gash in its side like it had been rammed. Percy was cremated and a story claims that Mary kept his desiccated heart in her desk for 30 years. There are modern-day theories that believe it was actually his liver as it would have been waterlogged and not cremated, while the heart would have burned up quickly.

Keg Mansion Steakhouse

Keg Mansion Steakhouse in Toronto, Canada is considered Canada's most infamous and haunted restaurant. The Steakhouse is the former home to a radio station and the Bombay Bicycle Club, but for many of its years, it was a home to some very well-known Torontonians. Several family members died here as well as a staff member. Many have claimed to have unexplained experiences at the steakhouse. Could these be caused by spirits of the family? Join me as I explore the history and hauntings of the Keg Mansion Steakhouse.

Toronto has been the setting for many films like The Shape of Water and Suicide Squad and for television productions like The Handmaid’s Tale, Orphan Black, American Gods and one of my favorites, Umbrella Academy. This is a great city for productions as it is a financial center and large with a population close to three million. But this was originally the domain of the First Nations, first the Wyandot People and then the Iroquois. The first European settlement here was a French trading fort known as Fort Rouille and it was established in 1750. A Frenchman named Etienne Brule was the first to explore the area in 1615 and that is why the French would be the first Europeans to settle. The Seven Years War started in 1756 and when it finished, all of Canada would be British ruled. A man named John Graves Simcoe would become governor of Upper Canada and in 1793 he founded the town of York named for the Duke of York. It would be the capital of Upper Canada. The first post office opened here in 1833 and the following year the town changed its name to Toronto and was incorporated. Gas street lights were added in 1841 and the city grew and flourished The railroad would come as well as horse drawn streetcars that eventually were electrified. In 1867, Toronto became the capital of Ontario. The city would suffer its own great fire in 1904 and the Depression would hit it hard, but following World War II, the city rose to prominence.

Some early prominent families in Toronto were the McMaster Family and the Massey Family and both would have connections to the Keg Mansion. William McMaster came to Toronto in 1833 and was the founder of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and McMaster University and he served in the Senate of Canada from 1867 to 1887. He had  made most of his money running a wholesale dry goods company and eventually partnered with his nephews, one of whom was Arthur McMaster. Arthur would build the mansion that is today Keg Mansion. The Massey Family is said to be arguably the most prominent family in Toronto. The Masseys are most known for manufacturing farm equipment and for being patrons of the arts in Canada. One of the bigger contributions was the concert hall, Massey Hall, built by Hart Massey in 1894. The Massey Foundation, which was formed by Hart's sons Chester and Vincent after he died and donated most of his estate for the building of public insititutions, is responsible for the construction of many landmarks in Toronto. These include the Massey Memorial Pipe Organ, Hart House Theater and Hart House. Vincent Jr. would go on to be Governor General of Canada in 1952 and another grandson named Raymond would become an actor most well known for his performance as Abe Lincoln in "Abe Lincoln in Illinois." Americans were not happy that a Canadian had been given the role, but his wonderful performance silenced the critics and got him an Oscar nod. *Fun Fact: A friend of Raymond said, "Raymond wouldn’t feel his Lincoln impersonation is complete until getting assassinated."*

During Victorian times, Jarvis Street in Toronto was once the pinnacle of society. This is where the wealthy built their mansions. One of these stately homes that still stands today is the Keg Mansion. Arthur McMaster built the house in 1867. The mansion is unique in its look and was built in the Baronial Gothic style. This style is Scottish and inspired many of the Disney castles for its whimsical flair. These include the round towers, lancet windows and gothic spires. The mansion originally had twenty six rooms and seventeen fireplaces. There was also a stable and large brick carriage house in the back.

Hart Massey had moved to Cleveland, Ohio for a while, but when he returned to Toronto, he bought the McMaster's former mansion. This was in 1881. The Masseys renovated the house and added a turret with a red tile roof, verandah, and greenhouse. Edward James Lennox was an architect who embarked on his solo career in 1881. He was immediately hired by Hart Massey to supervise alterations to Euclid Hall. He would later design the family's Massey Mausoleum in Mount Pleasant Cemetery. It is a magnificent structure! Hart also added a secret tunnel under the house that connected directly to the Wellesley Hospital building. There is a legend that claims that the tunnel was used so that Hart's son Frederick Victor could be secretly whisked away to the hospital. He ended up dying when he was only twenty-three. Tragically, Hart had lost another son named Charles, six years earlier. Another son had died in infancy, so at this point, he had lost three sons. He eventually died in 1896 and his daughter Lillian would take over ownership of the house and the family interests. She was a strong woman and she needed to be because a woman as the head of the family was just not done at this time. Lillian had loved their time in Cleveland and she officially named the manion Euclid Hall after the street they had lived on in Cleveland. Lillian demanded respect, but she was a wonderful employer and her staff adored her. When she died in 1915, they took it very hard, especially her personal maid. Stories claim that the woman hanged herself in the foyer over her grief. After Lillian's death, the house was given to the Victoria College and it became the first home of radio station CFRB, now Newstalk 1010. Later an art gallery would take over and then finally the Keg company bought it in 1976 to house one of their steakhouses.

Inside, the lobby has a marble checkerboard floor. A women's restroom is located on the second floor with an oval vestibule that overlooks the lobby. Columns and a gorgeous wooden archway open up into the main lobby area. There are only two booths in the restaurant and they are located in the library, which is not the original library. The library had been outside the kitchen, but a fire caused the redesign to occur. A beautiful carved wood staircase leads to the second floor and the bar is nestled underneath. I hear the food here is amazing. The other thing I've heard is that this place is full of haunting stories. Staff and patrons have seen many spirits. The reports date back to the 1950s.

As I mentioned, there is a story that claims the maid hanged herself in the house. Based on many people's experiences, I think the story is probably true. The oval vestibule is the scene of this death and many people have seen a residual scene of the maid hanging there. A girl named Mia T. shared the following experience, "This was my first time inside the Keg Mansion. What an amazing place! I had a wonderful dinner with my fianc√©. I knew about the woman in the washroom and kids on the stairs. Even knew about the hanging maid. We took an impromptu tour after dinner and ended up at the second floor ladies room. I was in there alone, but it felt like someone was with me the entire time. I came out and looked to the stairs. A woman dressed in a dark, beautiful old fashion dress looked at me. I assumed she was a Keg worker, maybe someone made to look old fashion. Sounds weird now, but made sense to me that night. I even said “Hi” to her when walking past and down the stairs. Felt weird about it, so I asked the host. He said it was only four male servers that night, no waitresses and definitely no one in an old fashion dress."

The Travel Geek reported this story as told by a waitress, "The one that stuck out in her mind was that of a father and daughter who came to the restaurant after a gymnastics competition in the city. The two were from out of town and knew nothing about the restaurant before stopping by “The Keg” for a meal. The girl was 10-years old and went to the washroom at some point during the meal. A while later she came back to the table crying. She told her father that while standing by the oval vestibule outside the washroom, someone tried to push her over the edge of the railing. When she turned around, no one was there. It was only after talking to the waitress did they learn that this is where Lillian Massey’s maid committed suicide shortly after the death of her employer." 

Children died in the home and their spirits seem to still be here, especially a little boy. The children's rooms were upstairs when the Masseys lived in the house. The disembodied running footsteps of little kids that are excited can be heard running on the second floor and when people go up to investigate, the footsteps stop. The little boy is seen on the main staircase often and there are a few stories about this staircase that may or may not necessarily be connected to the boy. He is not residual, but intelligent as many times he will look directly at diners and glance into rooms with a curious look on his face. One account said, "I went upstairs to wait in the Keg Mansion bar for a table to open up. At the top I saw a dark haired boy playing on the stair. Strange because I knew kids are not allowed in there at night. Walked passed him towards the bar, looking back again to see the boy was gone. There again in 2014, I went up to the second floor bar with a friend. Talking, we both heard it at the same time… the sound of kids running down the stairs. We looked over without a word to see no children at all."

Another experience on the staircase involves a wooden spindle. Several years ago, one of the wooden spindles under the bannister on the third floor landing came loose and fell straight down onto the bar top below during a busy Saturday night. Amazingly, no one was hurt. Scared the crap out of the bartender though. The manager went upstairs to see where it came from and wrote it down in a logbook. The spindle was repaired. One year, to the day, the exact same spindle fell down onto the bar again. People wondered after this if the spindle had something to do with the little boy on the stairs and his death. Had he fallen and this was a reason why and was that date the date of his death? The spindle was again found to be sticking out some time later and had to be repaired again. Pretty freaky! The little boy is seen often just sitting on the stairs watching people eat. Kids see him most often and several have claimed he is playing with a train set.

The Women's Bathroom is a center of activity. People describe the woman who haunts this area as creepy, but that seems weird to me because many people believe the woman is Lillian Massey. One woman said that she went into the bathroom and she saw what she thought was another woman in a stall because she could see the feet under the door. She entered the stall next to this one and heard the other toilet flush. As she opened her stall door, she heard the other one open and expected to see a woman step out, but no one stepped out. She glanced into the stall and no one was in there. She came out of the bathroom with a look of utter terror on her face and after verifying from someone standing there that no one had come out, she told them her story. Another woman entered the bathroom and instantly felt like someone else was there. She looked in the stalls and knew that she was alone, but she couldn't shake the feeling. She went into the stall to do her business and heard the lock start moving. It unlocked and the stall door swung open, but no one was on the other side. I'm not sure how she reacted, but I would have immediately been done doing whatever I was doing.

Another woman asked her husband to wait for her while she ran to the bathroom. She had bought a bottle of wine and it was in a bag that she carried in with her. She hung it on the hook on the stall door. She heard the plastic of the bag rustling as she did her business and looked up to see the bag off the hook and in mid-air. She closed her eyes preparing to hear a huge crash on the floor. She didn't hear anything and when she opened her eyes the bag was sitting on the floor by her feet with no damage to the wine bottle.

Melanie Elaraby had an experience here while dining with her husband. She believes she had interactions with two different spirits. She describes it as follows, "While at the Keg Mansion on a Friday evening, my husband and I encountered two different spirits. We arrived at about 5:45 pm for our first visit to the Keg Mansion. As soon as I entered a feeling of excitement mixed with anxiety, my heart fluttered in my chest. Maybe I was really excited because I knew the place was haunted, and was so happy to finally visit. My husband and I were alone in the India room. I soon felt a light coldness leading to goose-bumps on my arm. After our waitress took the orders, I needed to use the ladies room upstairs. Nothing happened (unfortunately), just continued anxiety. At our table the coldness and goose bumps returned, continuing through our meal. It escalated to a light wispy touch on my fingers, centered near my engagement ring. I thought maybe a fly, looked down to see nothing.
I moved my hand off the table, and the feeling stopped. Back on the table and it returned. I told my husband, who was surprised but said he felt nothing odd. Later on I once again felt the touch, but this time on my neck. Then a flash across my mind of a woman. She was young, blonde hair with a wide face and blue eyes. She wore her hair swept up and wore a light colored blouse with a high neck, and a long light colored skirt. In the flash, she was standing behind me, as if shy around my husband. All during our evening the gentle, shy presence remained near me, except one moment. I went back to the woman’s washroom a second time, and again she was gone. Maybe my husband wasn’t the only one she feared."

There is a lot of activity in this beautiful steakhouse. They even keep a ghost log behind the bar upstairs. I'm so glad the Keg company goes around and gives these old historic locations new life. Are the renovations they do somehow awakening the spirits and making them more active? Is the energy of having all these people in the restaurant fueling the paranormal activity? Is the Keg Mansion Steakhouse haunted? That is for you to decide!

*Fun Fact: Some episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents were filmed here!*

Thursday, July 11, 2019

HGB Ep. 302 - Mineral Springs Hotel

Moment in Oddity - Peck San Theng Columbarium
Suggested by: John Michaels

The story behind the Peck San Theng Columbarium is interesting and unique. This was a place where the living lived with the dead. The history goes back to 1959 when Singapore broke free from a century and a half of British colonial rule. They set up their own government, which found its first task to be finding a place to house the population. The Housing and Development Board or HDB formed to build housing and since Singapore is only around 45 miles across, they decided to build vertically and if you have seen pictures of Singapore today, you have seen that it is just tall building upon tall building. Singapore’s tallest public housing buildings are 50 stories high with about 10,000 public housing buildings on the island. Many of the people in Singapore were Chinese migrants who had set up these ornate cemeteries and had communities that believed in taking care of each other from cradle to grave. The need for land would change the way burials were done in Singapore and it would also mean closing down and emptying the cemeteries. One government cemetery was established and the process of disinterring and cremating bodies began. Peck San Theng Cemetery was one of these graveyards, but there was a problem, This wasn't just a cemetery, it was a self-sufficient little Cantonese community of around 2,000 residents. These people built little thatched roof homes among the graves because the active graveyard meant jobs. Tombstones needed to be carved, graves needed to be dug and they needed to host mourners by selling food and goods. They installed a large, Chinese-style gate at the entrance to the village and built stores and a clinic. The government couldn't leave it alone though because it took up so much space. Some family plots in the cemetery were as big as a three-bedroom HDB apartment. In 1978, the community received a letter informing them that the land was being reclaimed and public housing was going to be built on the cemetery. The living and the dead were given four years to vacate. Eventually, everybody was moved out, but the Peck San Theng cemetery association fought in court and got eight acres of their original 324. They built a few administrative buildings and the Peck San Theng Columbarium, which was designed by Tay Kheng Soon, a controversial architect known for designing brutalist superstructures. The outside looks like a typical condo, but inside there are nine levels that are a series of cascading stories and half-stories that resemble traditional Chinese tombs like cement hills. It is airy and sunny inside with urns lining the walls from floor to ceiling. The rituals around death did a 180 degree turn for Singaporeans with 80% of them now getting cremated, all because the living needed the dead to move out, even though they had once lived together in a symbiotic relationship. And that, certainly is odd! To hear more on this, I encourage you to listen to Ep. 359 of 99% Invisible.

This Month in History - German Radar is Foiled

In the month of July, on the 24th, in 1943, the British literally foiled the German radars. It was during World War II that the idea of using chaff was developed and ironically, it was developed in the UK, Germany, Japan and America all independentantly of each other. Chaff is a countermeasure used to block radar signals and this is done with thin pieces of aluminum or plastic. The radar's signal would hit the aluminum strips and this caused an echo that bounced the signal back. There was no way the opposing force could distinguish aircraft from the chaff. The Germans had hit the British home front hard with bombing raids, so the Americans and British decided to retaliate by hitting Hamburg. They called it Operation Gomorrah and out of 791 aircraft, only 12 were lost. As they approached Hamburg, the planes dropped strips of aluminum foil and blocked the radars. The air raids continued for 8 days and 9,000 tons of bombs were dropped, killing or injuring 80,000 people.

Mineral Springs Hotel

Alton, Illinois sits along the great Mississippi River and this made it a good place for industry. Lots of business was done here. This was also a good place to get away and hotels popped up around town for visitors. One of the grandest places to stay was the Mineral Springs Hotel with its marble staircases and two mineral pools. Eventually it went the way of many grand hotels and became apartments and now shops. Its former glory has faded, but one truly expects to see a man or woman hanging around the former lobby in period clothing. And apparently, they sometimes do as visitors from the afterlife. This is one of the most haunted locations in Alton and on this episode we will share its stories as we venture into every nook and cranny from the dug out spaces underneath the building to the empty pool room and beyond. Join us on our investigation into the Mineral Springs Hotel!

Mineral springs and the spas built near many of them have a rich history. Today, we enjoy them as a form of recreation, but centuries ago they were favored for what many believed were their healing properties. These mineral springs are naturally occurring and usually result from the water passing underground and collecting minerals, sulfur compounds, salts and gases along the way. They are classified according to their minerals from salt springs to soda springs to hot springs and etc. We have covered several locations that are reputed to be haunted that were built because of the nearby mineral springs including the Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells, Texas from episode 58 and the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas all the way back on episode 11. Mineral spas popped up mainly around the Victorian Era and were places mostly for the well-to-do. Belief in their restorative powers even lead presidents like Franklin Roosevelt to use them in hopes of healing ailments like his paralysis. There are at least 12 notable mineral springs in America. The one in Alton no longer exists, but the building that housed it still does.

In the late 1800s, there were two brothers, Herman and August Luer, who had moved from St. Louis to Alton and they opened a meat-packing plant. August had moved initially to Alton with his wife as he felt the air was cleaner and healthier. After Herman joined him, the two brothers thought that they should venture into the ice business. They hired some men to begin drilling in 1910, so that they could build a cold storage facility and ice maker where the Mineral Springs Hotel is today. There was just one problem, or maybe not, depending on how you view business opportunities. The workers found a natural mineral spring when they drilled. The time was ripe for such a discovery because mineral springs were being promoted everywhere as having healing powers. The brothers decided to build a health spa instead of the ice facility. And not only would they have pools, but they would bottle the water to send out around America.

When you look at the hotel, it looks like it only has two floors, but it actually has five more levels below the street. The hotel was built in layers going up starting in 1913 with a water bottling plant on the lowest sub-basement. The hotel was completed in June of 1914 and designed in the Italian Villa style. The roof was tile, with stucco on the outer walls colored in beige. The interior featured those marble staircases along with terrazzo tile floors and art glass, along with two mineral pools. One of the pools was exclusive to men and smaller in size. The mineral water was pumped from the springs into the pools and people immediately started declaring that the water was healing their ailments. About 100 bottles of the water were sold every day and declared a curative for things like colds, headaches, muscle problems and even alcoholism. The pool hosted around 3,000 people every season. In the mid 1920s, an orchestra was hired and more rooms were added to the hotel. August Luer sold the hotel in 1926 and it would run successfully until the 1960s when the popularity of mineral springs dried up. The rooms were then rented out to any comer, many of whom were transients needing a place to live for a week or a month. Throughout the 1960s, the hotel really deteriorated and in 1971 it was condemned. The roof was leaking and collapsing at this point.

A man named Roger Schubert saw potential in the faltering building and bought it in 1978 and restored it, so that it could be run as an antique mall with restaurants. Eventually that shut down as well as business went away, but another man named Bob Love came in and did more renovations. The current owner, Dan Hornsey, is renovating the upstairs. The main area includes a banquet room that overlooks the Mississippi River, an antique mall, In Zone Barbershop, the "Curiosity Museum," which used to be the Historic Museum of Torture Devices and the metaphysical store "It's Raining Zen."

Rumors of the hotel and now mall being haunted go back years and years. Some of the stories are just fun lore like the story of an artist named Charlie who used to frequent the bar here often and ran up such a high tab that he was required to paint a mural in the building to cover his tab. Charlie began that mural, but committed suicide before it was complete and the legend claims that other artists had a hard time finishing the mural, which was untrue. Other ghost stories have historical facts to back them up. Let's walk around to the various areas of the building and see what we find!

The story that is generally told about the Jasmine Lady that is said to haunt the marble staircase is that she and her husband were staying at the hotel as he worked as a salesman. He came back to the room early one day and found her with another man.  They argued and the fight went out into the hall and ended up above the staircase. Some of the stories have claimed that she accidentally fell down the stairs, others claim she was pushed. It's a marble staircase and she broke her neck. Some have him telling the front desk that she had an accident and the police are called and other versions have him going back to the room where he hanged himself. None of these are true. A woman did fall down the stairs, but she only broke her hip. This was because she was fighting with her son who turned out to be a man wanted for the murder of two people. When the cops arrived after the accident, they recognized her son and arrested him. There is activity on the stairs and this comes in the form of the scent of jasmine, which is where the Jasmine Lady comes from. No one knows why the stairs are active. A female voice has been caught on EVP saying, "It was a misunderstanding."

The upper floor appears to be under refurbishment. One of the upstairs rooms has the spirit of a gangster haunting it. Many gangsters stayed at the Mineral Springs and they would get the spa treatment. This spirit presents as the scent of alcohol and cigar smoke. And some people believe a shadow figure they see is him. Our guide Luke will tell us a story later about seeing a shadow figure in this upstairs area that freaks him out pretty bad during our investigation. Was it this gangster? Another area in this upstairs area is said to be haunted by a child and there is a teddy bear there. Luke said he never had any interactions with ghosts in there. We venture into Pearl's room. She was staying at the hotel because she had marital problems. She was really depressed and ended up killing herself by taking a bunch of pills. People leave flowers for her and coins are moved around. We tested this with a coin, but it never moved. We spent some time sitting in this room. The final room we went into upstairs was a room with a very dark energy and the reason for this is that it is believed a seance was not closed out properly. A woman on a previous tour said, "Oh hell no" at the door and wouldn't come in. She said she felt a very bad feeling in the room. People get nauseous in this room.

Our final stop was down in the pool room. There is some ghost lore and this involves a party being hosted near the pool. These parties were extravagant affairs with hors d'oeuvres being served by waiters and orchestra playing. A couple was staying at the hotel and the wife was taking too long to get ready, so her husband went down without her. As seems to always happen in these stories, she finds him in the arms of another woman, she yanks off her high heeled shoe and starts hitting him with it. He falls into the swimming pool and died. The lore claims his spirit is seen haunting the pool area and also the former room, most often leaving a puddle of water outside the door. And none of this is true. Someone did die in the pool, however. In 1918, a 21-year-old named Clarence was taking swimming lessons at the pool. While he waited for his instructor, he apparently decided to go ahead and jump in the pool. He did so, head first into the shallow end and knocked himself unconscious and he drowned. His body sunk to the bottom of the pool and wasn't found until a bunch of people got into the pool and someone felt his body bump up against them. His death certificate is showcased in the lobby. Now strangely, it doesn't seem that Clarence is haunting the pool, but a little girl some believe is named Cassandra. So perhaps she drowned in the pool and it just never made it into the news. Or maybe she died soon after being at the hotel and she had loved it so much, her spirit returned to the hotel. People have experienced this child spirit playing with marbles and appears as a pink orb in pictures. The couple who own It's Raining Zen believe this spirit has an affinity for pink agate stones and told The Riverbender Magazine: "We started finding little pink agates everywhere. They were all over in the shop, behind Dave's toolbox, they were everywhere, and we had no idea where they came from or how they got there."

Luke told us he had an experience two years ago. There was no one else with him in the pool area and he was sitting quietly. He kept hearing the sound of hard-soled shoes walking around the pool and when he turned to look, he wouldn't see anything. Then he heard somebody walk in on the other side of the pool. I'll let him tell what happens next. (Luke Pool) Troy Taylor talks in his book Haunted Alton about an experience that was shared with him that happened in the pool area. A man was in the basement when he heard the sound of water coming from behind the locked door of the pool room. This was in 2002. He thought a water pipe had broken and he was really worried they had a major leak. He unlocked the door, rushed inside, flipped on the lights and saw that the floor was completely dry. The wound had stopped too. He started to leave the room when he noticed a set of wet footprints. They lead from the side of the pool to a few feet away and then disappeared. There's no water in the pool. There is no one else in the room. Where had these come from? He didn't care. He bolted out of there and would not go into that room again for the entire time he was employed there.

There is a room beyond the pool that has a spirit named William haunting it and apparently he doesn't like women. So we decided to investigate there first with Jennifer Jones of The Dead History and her family. We tried to capture some EVP and we didn't catch anything. As we were leaving, we walked through an area that was used for storage and Kelly captured some weird light anomalies that we put up on Instagram. On the Ghost Radar, we get the word Horse, which started our weird paranormal experience that continued for the rest of the trip. (Horse) A little later we tried an experiment with our temperature gauge and we seemed to get some interaction. (Temperature)

The lobby definitely has some haunts going on and we had some interesting interactions there. We were in there twice during the evening because we had what seemed like the most communication in there, specifically through our EMF detector. This picture was taken in the lobby previously and seems to show something trying to materialize:

The first time we left the lobby area and were heading into the ballroom, the Ghost Radar said (Stay conversation) As you hear, we have the names Christopher and Effie come up. We had joined three other girls who were investigating. I believe we caught an EVP. One of the girls asks how many are here. I think I hear an answer really low. What I'm going to play is the original at original volume and then right after it you will hear it again amplified a ton and we'll see if you hear what I do. (EVP 1 Mineral 5 Million) Did you guys hear the answer as 5 million? What in the hell does that mean?

Luke comes in to tell us his experience he just had and you will hear the Ghost Radar give us a word that goes with the story. (Luke Scared) You can kinda hear that his voice is shaky. We follow him upstairs to see if we can find the shadow person. Again a particular name comes up and this one comes up three times, Edward twice and Eddie once. You'll also hear in this clip Luke showing us how the shadow figure peered out in front of the window. We also hear a knock or something and we were the only people on the second floor. After we hear Edward for the third time, the Ghost Radar says Army and then Base. (Edward)

Kelly and I return to the lobby. We started communicating with something that moved the EMF needle to respond to us and we get our first interaction in regards to Kelly's horse that will continue throughout our trip. There is a fountain in the lobby, so excuse the background noise and we apologize if it makes you suddenly need to run to the bathroom. (Pony and Trail) At this point, we believe Kelly has her horse's spirit attached to her. As you heard in the McPike Mansion episode, we get more answers in regards to this and the saga comes to completion on our bonus episode that we made for Executive Producers at the $5 and above level with our stop in Chattanooga.

So here we had back-to-back episodes of locations in Alton, Illinois. These places seem pretty active making the claim that Alton is one of the most haunted small towns in America ring true. Or does it? Is the Mineral Springs Hotel haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, July 4, 2019

HGB Ep. 301 - McPike Mansion

Moment in Oddity - Robert Wadlow

Robert Wadlow was considered Alton, Illinois' Gentle Giant. He was born in Alton on February 22, 1918. He was an average baby weighing in at eight pounds, but things would drastically change. By the time he was one-years-old, he was already weighing 44 pounds. At five-years-old, he was weighing in at 105 pounds and measuring five feet, four inches tall. When he started school, the whole world realized that Wadlow was quite different. Freak show operators came calling, but his parents wanted him to have as normal a life as possible. Doctors eventually diagnosed him with pituitary gigantism.  They told his parents that they could operate, but that it was very dangerous, so they opted not to do it. Wadlow had dreams of becoming a lawyer, but he soon realized that any career was out of the question as he was too big for books, cars and much more. His only option was to make money off the publicity of being a very tall man. The tallest man to have ever lived. He began promoting the shoe company that made his special sized shoes. He eventually joined the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus. He stipulated that they would need to provide a suite for him and his father to live in and that he would not be a part of the sideshow. He would enter the center ring, three times a day. He traveled to 41 of the contingent United States and over 800 cities. He grew to a record 8 feet 11 inches and had to walk with a cane. He wore braces on his ankles for added support and one of them rubbed him raw and the sore became infected. He suffered in a hospital for 10 days with fever before emergency surgery was performed, but it would be too late.  He passed away on July 15, 1940 at the age pf twenty-two. A special coffin was made and there were 12 pallbearers at his funeral. His coffin was encased in concrete to keep anybody from stealing his body or bones.

This Month in History - First Anti-Rabies Vaccine Given

In the month of July, on the 6th, in 1885, Louis Pasteur gave the first anti-rabies inoculation to a boy who had been infected by rabid dogs and it was successful. Louis Pasteur was born to humble beginnings. His early interest was art, but obviously, he eventually got into science and studied fermentation and focused on coming up with ways to prevent bacteria from growing on food. We get pasteurization from his name. He went on to study infectious disease. While studying silkworms, he came up with germ theory, which revolutionized hygiene in all settings, especially in the medical field. He used the rabies virus in rabbits to formulate his human vaccine against rabies. He took it from their spinal cords and reduced the veracity of the virus. What he didn't know at the time is that rabies was a virus and not a bacteria. He first used the vaccine on dogs and when that proved successful, he tested it on his first human subject. This was a boy who had been severely attacked by feral dogs and he was dying. Pasteur injected him with a daily series of vaccines with each day having a more virulent dose. The boy didn't develop rabies and Pasteur became a hero.

McPike Mansion

Mark Twain once referred to Alton, Illinois as "a dismal little river town," but I don't agree with those sentiments. This was the birthplace of the tallest man ever to live, Robert Wadlow, and was a center of the abolitionist movement. Many paranormal enthusiasts think of Alton as the most haunted small town in America. It is here that one finds the McPike Mansion, a once grand home with marble fireplaces that had become a wreck of a place. The current owner has poured much time and love into restoring this home and though it has a long way to go, some of its former glory is starting to shine through. And I imagine that makes the spirits of the McPike family very happy. And they would definitely have seen the progress as many of them are still in the home in the afterlife. Or at least that is what people claim. And after my visit to this home, I believe there are certainly spirits here and I had one of the most profound unexplained experiences of my life. Join me as I share the history and haunts of the McPike Mansion. 

This is our second location that we've covered in Alton, Illinois. The first was the Milton Schoolhouse in Ep. 90. I just love Alton because despite being a small little town most people haven't heard of, it has a really rich history. Mound builders first called this home and the Cahokia Mounds lie just 30 minutes away. These same native people birthed the legend of the Piasa bird that calls Alton home. We've covered that in a previous Moment in Oddity, but a quick recap is that this is a cryptid that resembles a dragon with large wings that Father Jacques Marquette, whom discovered a mural depicting two of them in 1673 on a limestone bluff, described as "large as a calf; they have horns on their heads like those of a deer, a horrible look, red eyes, a beard like a tiger's, a face somewhat like a man's, a body covered with scales, and so long a tail that it winds all around the body, passing above the head and going back between the legs, ending in a fish's tail. Green, red, and black are the three Colors composing the Picture." This is a place where the Missouri and Illinois Rivers flow into the mighty Mississippi that carried explorers and supplies into many areas of America. Abraham Lincoln debated Stephen Douglas here for the seventh and final time as they ran for a senate seat. And this would be a place the McPike family would call home.

Henry Guest McPike was born July 6, 1825 in Indiana to John Mountain and Lydia McPike. Henry's early experiences were touched by the abolitionist sentiments crossing the nation and his father was even the editor of an abolitionist paper. He was twenty-two when his father moved the family to Alton, Illinois. Henry got involved in real estate in the 1850s and at one point, he and his real estate partner owned 700 parcels of land. In 1854, Henry married his first wife, Mary Amanda Mulveeney Burns and they had five children: James, Jennie, Alice who died at 18 months from teething, John Haley and Robert Samuel. He would help organize the Lincoln-Douglass Debate in Alton. Henry was friends with Abraham Lincoln and as a matter of fact, he was with Lincoln when Lincoln received a telegram informing him that he had won the election to the presidency. While everybody whooped and hollared, Lincoln simply said, "Well, I guess I'll go tell mother" referring to his wife Mary Todd. Henry's wife Mary died from a heart ailment in 1867. In November of 1869, he married his second wife, Nannie Louise Lyons. They would have one child named Eugene in 1870. The marriage was short-lived as Nannie filed for divorce on grounds of fault and misconduct and she got custody of their son. The divorce wouldn't be finalized until 1878. Henry would get even more involved in politics when he became mayor of Alton in 1887 and 1891. Henry was also a horticulturist and he ended up developing the McPike Grape, which was patented and became famous for the wine that was made from it. In 1892, Henry would marry his third wife Eleanore or Ellie and they had one daughter named Moreland. He died April 18, 1910 after coming down with a cold that he fought for only a few days. He was eighty-five.

The McPike Mansion was built on 15 acres of land in 1869 by architect Lucas Pfeiffenberger. Pfeiffenberger was a German immigrant who spent time in California as a Deputy Sheriff trying to tame the Gold Rush town of Hangtown before getting into architecture. Another lawman who worked with him was one of the Studebaker brothers. He visited a friend in Alton who talked him into staying and he would eventually become the most prominent architect in the area. The land the mansion was built upon was known as Mount Lookout Park. The mansion was built in the Italianate-Victorian style with 16 rooms, custon-made interior doors to go with the twelve-foot ceilings, chandeliers, a vaulted wine cellar and black marble mantle pieces.

James McPike married Jennie Wilkinson. Jennie McPike married Robert Wilkinson and they had two daughters, Gertrude and Birdie. John Haley inherited the house when Henry died and he lived in the house for 20 years, but ended up losing the house in a poker game it was rumored. The McPike family lived in the mansion until 1936. Then Paul and Sugie Laichinger bought the house and either lived in it or ran it as a boarding house until Paul's death in 1945. Some records have him buying it in 1925, so I'm not positive on those dates. In 1954, Sugie sold the house to Paul Davis, a developer who planned to demolish it, so he could build a shopping center. The city would not allow the new zoning and so the property sat for years abandoned and in disrepair and vandals took the marble fireplaces and destroyed much of the interior. Even things that were nailed down were stolen including the toilets! In 1990, a man named Gary Hendrix bought the mansion with big plans to renovate, but he soon gave up in 1994.

Sharyn and George Luedke are the current owners and they had driven past the property for years and Sharyn just really loved the place. George called it the Scooby Doo House. The house went up for auction on August 8th, 1994. Sharyn bid on the house and won it for $42,000. At the time, Sharyn had no idea that the mansion was haunted. They planned to restore it and open a Bed and Breakfast and Banquet Room. They have replaced the roof and done a $25,000 renovation to the front porch, which looks amazing. There is a picture up on Instagram of it. They also have replaced all the windows in the mansion. Lighting has been added and the physical support of the mansion is complete. Not long after they started repairs, they realized that something else was going on with the house. Now it is known as one of the most haunted houses in Alton and has found itself on the list of the Top Ten Haunted Houses in the United States. Many paranormal shows have featured the location from Ghost Adventures to Ghost Lab and Scariest Places in America.

Stories abound about this mansion. When it was apartments, there were two girls who claimed to hear disembodied sounds of a child running and playing upstairs even though they were the only children on the property. A picture taken from the outside reveals a little black boy standing at a window that is believed to be the son of a servant. Laichinger was a heavy smoker and there are those who claim to catch a whiff of cigarette smoke in the home. Sharyn had a run-in with Laichinger's ghost about six weeks after buying the property. She was outside watering some plants when she saw him in a window looking out at her. She didn't know he was at the time, but she noted he was wearing a striped shirt and tie. She later saw a picture of him wearing the exact same clothes. A former servant named Sarah is believed to be here and when she appears there is a scent of lilacs, She has hugged Sharyn. Rene Kruse who has written several books with Troy Taylor, was touring the house and doing a video when a white mist enveloped the group and she described it as feeling electrically charged. No one has been able to debunk the video. 

Sandy Little Lizard was our medium guide. She is Cherokee and Choctaw and had set up a pot of burning sage for everyone to pass around to both cleanse ourselves and to use as protection. I felt that Sandy was sincere and that she had a good rapport with the spirits of the mansion. What I'll do here is play a little chat that we had at breakfast with Tammie and Brian Burroughs who had done the McPike Mansion the previous night. (Tammie explains what the presentation is like and then she shares her own experiences. She explains that Henry is a shadow person and that even though we'll be in ptch black, it is still possible to see his shadow.) I'm going to be honest, I thought this talk of seeing bursts of colors was just eyes trying to make sense of the complete darkness. I was thinking it was BS. I will change my mind.

Sharyn shares an interesting story with us before we walk around the outside of the house, which we did before going down into the wine cellar. Kelly had an amazing experience out here where she saw a blue oval light in the garden and it lasted long enough for her to take a picture and we put that up on Instagram. Len had told us when we showed him the picture that he had had a disturbing experience in that area before and doesn't like going over there. There are stories that a woman's spirit is over in this part of the yard and she has been caught in a picture that looked pretty real to me. But that isn't who Kelly and I think she got with this picture. Our dowsing rod session had Henry telling us that it was him. 

What we are going to do now, is take you with us into the dark session. We had the most amazing experiences during this! Hopefully, you are somewhere in a place where you can close your eyes. Sit down next to me across from Sandy or next to Kelly who is sitting on Sandy's left. Here we go.

So as you heard, I saw Gertrude appearing as a purple burst/mist and it felt cold in front of me, at least a little cooler than the cellar already was. She hung out with me almost the entire time and Kelly and the girl next to her both saw the purple in front of me. And then it was blocked out by the shadow figure of Henry. I believe I didn't see Henry because Gertrude was in front of me. Kelly and I think she had the little girl Abigail crawl into her lap and play with her earring. One of the kids or other spirits tapped on her dowsing rods when she had them down and was not using them.

There are so many stories here of haunting experiences. After our visit and upon listening to Tammie's experience, I'm convinced that this place has something going on. Is the McPike Mansion haunted? That is for you to decide!