Thursday, August 29, 2019

HGB Ep. 306 - Haunted Cemeteries 14

Moment in Oddity - Mysterious Stone Monuments of Markawasi, Peru

Markawasi is known as Peru's Mysterious Stone Forest. This is a plateau in the Andes Mountains that dominates the landscape, standing over 13,000 feet. The area was first explored by Daniel Ruzo in the 1950s and he revealed that the area has several hundred rock formations that look like they were carved rather than just naturally formed. These shapes seem to resemble religious symbols, human faces and animals. There are many archaeologists who claim that these shapes are just the result of volcanic reactions in the region and erosion. But does that really explain how it is possible for there to be shapes that resemble elephants, camels, frogs, winged sphinxes and human profiles? If these are man-made, what makes them even more unusual is that many of the figures resemble things that people who lived here centuries ago would know nothing about. The different human profiles have indications of different races and there is a massive structure that has been called the Monument to Humanity. Many theories have developed as to how these mysterious stones came to be and, of course, Ancient Aliens believes that they were created by extraterrestrials. Others believe that ancient people in the area created them centuries ago. Whatever theory is true, they certainly are odd!

This Month in History - King William II Dies By Arrow

In the month of August, on the 2nd, in 1100, King William II dies while hunting and some believe it was an assasination. William II was the third son of William the Conquerer and took the throne in 1087. He ruled for 13 years as a good ruler who was victorious many times in battle. But he also seemed to lead a life of vice with no social graces and the Church thought of him as wicked. The King had gone out into the New Forest with several of his men to do some hunting. One of those men was Walter Tirel. Tirel saw a stag in the distance and he lined up his arrow to take a shot. While accidents do happen, I can't imagine how he managed to hit the King rather than the deer, but he did. Right in the chest, puncturing the King's lung. As the King lay dying and the noblemen all fled from him, I wonder if he thought about the letter of warning he had received from the Abbot of Gloucester, warning him that a monk had seen a vision of him dying on the hunt. A peasant was the one to find the body and the King's younger brother Henry was quick to grab the crown, even before the archbishop could arrive. This has caused some to believe that this was no accident, but rather an assassination.

Haunted Cemeteries 14

Having a final resting place is important. Not only on a sociological level, but clearly spiritually. I surmise this based on the fact that so many hauntings seem to be connected to improper burial. Socially, we need a place to memorialize our lost loved ones, not only for us emotionally, but historically. This person buried here, lived once. But do emotions carry across the Veil? Why is it important to a spirit that their body have a proper final resting place? I know why we as humans need closure, but why does the spirit need that closure? It's just one of the many questions I ask myself as I study the paranormal. When we look at haunted graveyards, that question stands out even more. Why are there ghosts or at least, unexplained things happening in cemeteries? Can we find answers in the history? In the stories? We're up to episode 14 of these haunted cemeteries and I don't know that I'm any closer to answers. One thing that is very clear though, is that cemeteries are very important! Join me as we explore Elkhart Cemetery in Illinois, Dawson Cemetery in New Mexico, Lone Fir Cemetery in Oregon, Spider Gate Cemetery in Massachusetts and Oakwood Cemetery in Texas!

Elkhart Cemetery (Suggested by: Jim Featherstone)

The Elkhart Cemetery is found in Elkhart, Illinois and the origin of the name is an interesting story. The Kickapoo tribe had lived on the land here and the chief had a daughter named White Blossom. She was very beautiful and had won the hearts of two men, one from her tribe and the other from the Shawnee tribe. She loved both and couldn't decide whom to marry. The men insisted she make a choice. At that moment, an elk came into the ravine where they were standing and White Blossom said, "The one who can pierce the heart of the elk will be my husband." The man from her tribe pierced the heart of the elk. They were married and took the elk's heart as their family badge and that is where the name Elkhart comes from.

Elkhart Cemetery sits on a hill that was first settled by James Latham and covers 700 acres with beautiful woods and gardens. Latham was in the area serving as an Indian Agent at Fort Clark (now Peoria). He wouldn't hold the position long as he took ill and died only two years later and his body was buried here near his cabin. This cemetery would be named for him, Latham Cemetery and it is today just east of Elkhart Cemetery. So if you are going to visit one of them, you might as well visit both.

The next settler to live here was cattle baron John Dean Gillette and he owned a ton of land and built a beautiful home on the hill that is today a bed and breakfast I believe. Gillette owned a lot of land and when a need for a new cemetery arose he offered up a portion of his land that was known as Gillette Grove. This wasn't all altruistic as he made a tidy profit from selling lots. Gillette is buried here in the cemetery. His wife Lermira built a chapel in the grove in 1890 after he had died. It is called Chapel of St. John Baptist and is the only privately owned chapel in the state of Illinois. Eventually the cemetery took on the name Elkhart.

There are a couple of other notable burials here. The first is for Governor Richard Oglesby who got into politics after the Civil War. He became Governor of Illinois in 1869 and was re-elected in 1873, but apparently Congress looked more interesting to him so he resigned only 8 days after that so that he could be elected as a Senator. He served as a Senator for six years and then went after Governor again 1882 and won for the third time. He built his home on Elkhart Hill and called it "Oglehurst." This was a fifty room mansion. He didn't live here long as he died eight years later in 1899. His funeral was held in the chapel in the cemetery and his body was then placed in the vault in the chapel while his mausoleum was built. (Mort: I had nothing to do with that.) The structure was finished in a month and was made from solid concrete and stands 24 feet high, one half under ground with 18 inch thick walls. The original doors were antique bronze with glass inserts, but they were stolen in 1986 and considered worth $20,000.00. One door was recovered, but never stood at the mausoleum again. Today the doors are iron bars with amber colored glass. The glass has also suffered vandalism. Ogleby's wife and son are buried in the mausoleum too.

Captain Adam Borgardus is also buried here and he was an expert marksman. He was so good that he was hired to tour with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show as the main shooting act and there are claims that the only marksman better than him was Annie Oakley. She would replace him when he left the tour after three years because of what we would today call "creative differences." Another claim to fame for him was that he developed a form of trapshooting that shot glass balls as targets. This was a precursor to clay disks that were developed in 1880.

Mists and full-bodied apparitions have been seen in the cemetery. There was a picture taken of something that looks like a swirling vortex. The main haunting here has been credited to the wife of Governor Oglesby. Her spirit has been seen sitting outside of the Oglesby Mausoleum. The strangest story I heard connected to this claimed that a group of Native American spirits chased her away and that she fled over a nearby bridge. As to why there was this interaction, I don't know. There is also a legend about a path that leads outside of the cemetery into the forest. This legend claims that you will see shadow figures, feel like you are being watched and hear disembodied voices as you travel up the path. Once you hit the top of the hill, there is a fork in the path and if you choose the wrong one, they say you will not find your way back out.

Dawson Cemetery

Dawson Cemetery is located in New Mexico and is said to be one of the most haunted locations in New Mexico. The graveyard is basically all that is left of a town called Dawson that was named for the rancher who had owned the land here, John Barkley Dawson. The town formed around a coal mine industry that started in 1901. The Phelps Dodge Company came into Dawson and bought the mines that numbered 10 and turned the city basically into a company town. Before long, Dawson had schools, a hospital, a theater and its own newspaper. Things were good until tragedy struck in 1913. On October 22nd, there was an explosion in a mine that killed 263 miners. During a rescue attempt, two rescuers lost their lives. Tragedy struck again in 1923 when another mine suffered an explosion. This time 120 men were killed. Eventually, the mines were shut down in 1950 and the town just died. It didn't help that the Phelps Dodge Company sold the whole town, so the buildings were sold off and carried away. Today, Dawson is a ghost town and all that really exists there is the cemetery.

The cemetery is full of iron cross markers. These mark the final resting places of the miners who were killed. These miners died in tragic circumstances and that is why some people believe that their souls are at unrest. Disembodied voices are heard throughout the graveyard. People who visit the cemetery have claimed to see strange lights. The way I have heard these describes makes me think that these spirit miners are wearing their head lamps and these are the lights people are seeing. Full-bodied apparitions and shadowy figures have been seen as well.

Lone Fir Cemetery (Suggested by: Casey Callahan)

Lone Fir Cemetery is located in Portland, Oregon. Lone Fir Cemetery is gorgeous and just screams Pacific Northwest. There are so many trees here that the graveyard is considered the city's second largest arboretum. The cemetery is located at Southeast 26th Avenue and Southeast Washington Street and is on land that was originally owned by B. Stephens and run as a farm. Stephens' father, Emmor, died in 1846 and he was buried in a family plot on the farm. This would turn out to be the first burial for Lone Fir Cemetery too. Stephens decided to move, but he wouldn't sell unless the buyer agreed to maintain his father's grave. That buyer would be Colburn Barrell and the purchase was finalized in 1854. Barrell set aside 10 acres of the land for a cemetery the following year and it was platted as Mount Crawford Cemetery. He had a specific reason for doing this. Barrell was a businessman and he had invested in a steamship called the Gazelle. In April of 1854, the steamship exploded and it killed 24 of the 50 passengers. Two of the dead were friends of his, D.P. Fuller and his partner Crawford Dobbins. He brought the bodies to his property and buried them next to Emmor Stephens.

Mount Crawford would become the main cemetery for Portland as other graveyards were located on marshy land and needed to be closed. Bodies were reinterred here and by 1866 the name had changed to Lone Fir and the cemetery was on 30 acres. That name was inspired by the fact that there used to be only one little fir tree here in the northwest corner and was suggested by Barrell's wife, Aurelia. At this same time, Barrell offered the cemetery to the city of Portland, but the city wasn't interested in buying so a group of Portland families bought it. The name Lone Fir doesn't fit anymore as there are now 67 species of trees covering the landscape.

One major issue was that no money had been set aside for perpetual care and the graveyard fell into disrepair. Several plots had wooden headstones that were now rotted or completely gone. Nearly 10,000 graves were unknown. There were also sections for asylum patients and Chinese immigrants that was largely forgotten. Burials still continue at Lone Fir and there are around 25,000 burials making this cemetery the largest of fourteen historic cemeteries managed by the Metro regional government. A heritage and memorial garden is planned for the forgotten patient and immigrant area.

Notable burials include Adam “Gus” Waterford who was Portland’s first African American firefighter. His family plot had been unmarked, but in 2015 Madison High School students worked to get him a marker from the Portland Fire Department. Ada Smith was a six year-old who died in 1885. She had a beautiful angel statue on her grave, which was stolen 20 years ago. It was eventually found in an abandoned warehouse and was restored and put back on Ada's grave. Alice Oberle was a sex worker who made her way to Madame. When she passed away, her male customers bought her a beautiful monument. Things wouldn't stay this way for long. Alice's sister would have her body moved to a plot at Mt. Calvary Cemetery and the monument the johns had paid for was erased of anything mentioning Alice's work. Asa Lovejoy is buried here. He was a pioneer who later became a politician. He was a founder of Portland and served in various political positions in the region. Dr. James Hawthorne was superintendent at the Oregon Hospital for the Insane and is credited with providing burial for 130 of his patients at Lone Fir.

Here's my favorite burial considering I'm a baseball fan and it belongs to a man who was a former slave. His given name was George Taylor, with that last name being the family name of his slave owner, but he would eventually come to be known as Julius Ceasar because he loved to give speeches. He also loved baseball. Visitors to his headstone immediately see that his love of the game is inscribed right there for all to see with the words "Play Ball" across the top. There are claims that he coined the term. He had been a successful businessman, but alcohol got the better of him and he died penniless on the street. His friends pooled money for his memorial. Andrew Johnston and Sarah Francis Wisdom were self-emancipated slaves who opened the first African American restaurant in Oregon. There is a marble urn at bartender James Frush's plot that used to sit at Colburn Barrell's saloon and had been filled with a really popular drink called Tom and Jerry. After Frush's death the urn would be returned to the bar annually at Christmas to be filled with the drink again. A Tom and Jerry was created by British journalist Pierce Egan in the 1820s and is a holiday cocktail made from eggnog, rum and brandy and served hot.

Charity Lamb is buried here and she isn't notable because she was a pioneer. She murdered her husband in 1854. And she did it in front of their children, hitting Nathaniel twice in the back of the head with an axe while he regaled the kids with stories. He lived for two weeks before succumbing to his injuries. She was the first woman convicted for murder in the Oregon territory and would get jail time rather than death, although she eventually ended up in Dr. Hawthorne’s insane asylum where she died in 1879. The quirkiest headstone or memorial in the cemetery depicts Oregon pioneer James Stephens and his wife Elizabeth. Elizabeth had died in 1887 and he had this memorial carved for her that features the couple holding hands, but their faces have a weird almost cartoonish look to them. The back of the memorial features the following statement, "Here we lie by consent, after 57 years 2 months and 2 days sojourning through life awaiting natures immutable laws to return us back to the elements of the universe of which we were first composed."

But, of course, this cemetery wouldn't be included if it weren't for legends and stories of the unexplained.Addie Decker's daughter Katie died when she was two. Addie was devastated and she would visit her daughter's grave regularly. She put up a crib and brought toys. After Addie died, the cradle was left at the plot and people would see it rocking when nobody was near it and there was no outside force like wind to cause the movement. People claim to hear the disembodied laughs of children near Katie's grave. PSU Television is a student run organization at the university and they made a video up on YouTube featuring a volunteer named Linda from the Friends of Lone Fir sharing an experience she had at Katie's grave. She had thought the stories were just that until she had this happen to her. She was in the cemetery one sunny afternoon near the grave and heard the laughter for herself and she now claims to be a believer. No one was in the cemetery with her. She heard one toddler belly laugh and then another.

Another volunteer named Margaret said that she often felt as though something she couldn't see was with her at the cemetery. She thinks that because so many graves are unmarked, there is a sad residual energy and unrest here. There are also many Chinese immigrants who were buried here and their graves were paved over to build an office. Eventually they were removed and sent to China. The reports are numerous of people seeing what appear to be apparitions wandering aimlessly among the headstones.

Horror writer Elizabyth Burtis has a website called Living With Ghosts and she has a post recoun ting an experience she had at Lone Fir, "As we passed the grave of Millie Harris, I got such an incredibly strong sense of sadness that I couldn’t ignore it. The grave was a simple stone headstone set into the grass, half-obscured by mud and vegetation. Nothing fancy or out of the ordinary, except that when I got close I wanted to cry." Later, Elizabyth wrote that she believed the spirit of Millie had followed them home and that she and her husband saged the house to send her back on her way.

Donna Stewart wrote "Ghosthunting Oregon" and she tells a couple of stories that she heard about the cemetery. Two men were walking in the graveyard at night when they saw a figure in the distance. They called out to it and got no response, so they decided to approach it. As they got closer, they saw that it was an old man. His eyes were blank and he opened his mouth in a scream. He screamed and second time and the men ran. Another full-bodied apparition that has been spotted is a woman in a red dress that is strolling through the cemetery in a joyful way. Other people have reported seeing misty figures.

Spider Gates Cemetery 

The Friends Cemetery in Leicester, Massachusetts is a private cemetery owned and maintained by the Quaker Worcester Friends Meeting. Most people know it by its nickname though, Spider Gates Cemetery. It acquired this name because of the unique gates that stand at its entrance. The wrought iron gates are squares with an inner circle. In the middle of the circle is a solid knot of metal that radiates out with curved lines that resemble a spider. This is a peaceful graveyard dating back to the early 1730s and has always been considered a sacred plot of land. Two Quaker families, the Potters and the Earles, were the first to settle Leicester. The town was incorporated in 1713 and named for one of the oldest cities in England. They would set up the cemetery and have their first official burial in 1740. The largest family plot is believed to belong to the Southwick family who joined this Quaker fellowship in 1810.

Perhaps because of the idea that this is sacred land and its age, this is a place plagued with legends. Are any of them true? There is no proof, so it's really up to you to decide. One legend is how the gates came to be here. The story goes that a young Greek boy was depressed and hanged himself in a tree in the 1940s. His parents had the gates made inspired by the story of Arachne. Arachne was a human who was very talented at weaving. She was pretty heady about her talent and thought she could even beat the goddess Athena in a weaving contest. And she actually could back up her bravado with the real thing because she did indeed beat Athena. Well, Athena was a goddess and she wasn't having any of this. How dare a mere mortal beat her! So she destroyed Arachne's tapestry and then turned on the woman and cursed her. Arachne was so despondent about this that she hanged herself. Athena felt guilty about what she had done, so she brought Arachne back to life as the creature we now call a spider and she goes on weaving her web everywhere...especially in my garage!

So what is the truth about the gates? The original iron gates and granite posts were installed in 1895. The money to do so came from a man named Dr. Pliny Earle. And he wasn't looking for a spider web design; rather, this was his take on the sun and its radiating rays. With gates like these, you can imagine that they would be subject to theft and one of the gates was indeed stolen. The Southwick family paid to replace it and had an exact replica made, so it looks like all the rest.

Now knowing what the gates are meant to represent, its hard to believe that anyone would think of them as gates to Hell, but another legend claims that once you pass through the gate at night, the Devil himself will meet you and take your soul. Has this ever happened? Well, how would we ever know since the person is whisked away? There is a story about a young girl being murdered and left in a cave here, even though there is no cave and four stone blocks in the middle of the cemetery mark off a Satanic altar. The truth is that the old Friends' Meeting House used to be there. There is an area where grass has a hard time growing because of another legend surrounding a grave. This is the last resting place of Earle Marmaduke. There is a story that if you walk around the grave ten times at midnight while asking Marmaduke to speak to you, he will speak to you. Usually you have to kneel down and then put your ear on the headstone to hear him clearly, but I imagine it could just be the blood rushing through your ears. The attempts to do this have left a barren circle around the grave.There are people who do claim to hear moaning though.

There are several people who have claimed to have unexplained experiences here, one of which entailed a phantom motorcycle chasing kids from the cemetery. Disembodied voices have been heard and there is a strange rustling sound when there is no wind, although this is a wooded area so... An interesting aside is that I've heard that coins are left on headstones out of respect, but in this cemetery they are actually meant to pay the toll across the River Styx. Daniel Boudillion has been to the cemetery a couple of times and written about his experiences and he did comment that it is actually Earle Street outside of the cemetery where some unexplained and frightening experiences have happened. Daniel writes, "Grown men have been known to run from this spot in terror and for no known or obvious reason." I can say based on Daniel's pictures that this a great place to explore to see ruins of an old Quaker settlement!

Oakwood Cemetery in Austin

Austin, Texas was set to be the Athens of the West in the late 1800s. The city had been a rustic cow town, but following reconstruction, it was moving towards things that were more modern. Prior to the Civil War, the Oakwood Cemetery was established sometime in the 1850s, making it the oldest cemetery in Austin. The cemetery was not called Oakwood at the time, but rather The City Cemetery. The first people to be buried in this area were earlier settlers who died in a Comanche attack. Others would slowly join them. The cemetery would officially be named Oakwood in 1907. The graveyard is laid out over 40 acres at 1601 Navasota Street. There are around 23,000 people buried here, so this is a fairly large graveyard.

There are several burials that are considered more noteworthy. One is for Richard Bache, Jr. He was the grandson of Benjamin Franklin and his common-law wife Deborah Read. He served as a state senator for Texas in 1847 and assisted in drawing up the Texas Constitution of 1845. Susanna Dickinson managed to survive the attack on The Alamo. She was married five times, a bit unusual for the era. And really, even today, unless you're Elizabeth Taylor or Zsa Zsa Gabor. She was illiterate so unable to given a written account of what happened at The Alamo, but she gave oral reports and saw both James Bowie and Davy Crockett dead. The infant son of O Henry. Several Texas governors and other politicians.

One of the spirits that haunts Oakwood is believed to be General Thomas Green. Green had been a lawyer and soldier who first took part in fighting during the Texan Revolution of 1835–36, serving under Sam Houston. For his efforts, he was given a land grant. When the Civil War started, he joined the Confederacy as a part of the cavalry. He lead his group to victory in the Battle of Valverde and helped recapture Galveston. During the Red River Campaign, he was mortally wounded by a shell from a gunboat. He was buried in the family plot at Oakwood Cemetery. There are those who claim to see a soldier wearing a Confederate uniform wandering between the headstones. People sometimes hear the ghostly hoofbeats of horses.

There are many graves for children here as is the case in every cemetery, but they seem to be quite active in the afterlife. People report hearing children playing and laughing that they cannot see. There are also reports of the apparition of an old man who wanders around as though he is lost. He simply disappears after a time. There are cold spots here even on hot afternoons and people get an overall sense of unease. Visitors also report cold spots, even on hot days, orbs showing up around some of the graves, and a distinct feeling of uneasiness in certain parts of the cemetery.

In 1884, a serial killer began to release his murderous rage in Austin. He would come to be known as the Servant Girl Annihilator. If you are a fan of true crime, you've probably heard the details of what he did, but for those who don't know, let me run you through the basics. This killer targeted the black servants of the rich families of Austin. Not every victim was killed. Some did survive. A black cook named Mollie Smith was found dead in 1884 with a hole in her head, outside of the outhouse at her employer's house. The weapon had been an axe. The axe was next used to kill cook Eliza Shelly who was discovered dead by her children in the room where they lived. Irene Cross would be the third woman to die, but she would be killed with a knife rather than an axe and a reporter said she had been scalped. Rebecca Ramey and her daughter would be attacked with her daughter suffering a rape and an iron rod stabbed into her ear. Gracie Vance and her boyfriend would be murdered with an axe. Gracie was dragged to a stable and her head pounded to jelly and I share that graphic detail to emphasize the rage involved. Now the sad thing is that people didn't care as much since the victims were black, but that would change in 1885 when the killer changed his MO and killed Sue Hancock, a white woman. Her husband found her in their backyard with her head split open and an object lodged in her brain.

This brings us to Eula Phillips who was killed just an hour after Hancock in the wealthiest neighborhood in Austin. She was sweet and beautiful 17-year-old girl whose friends called her Luly. It was Christmas Eve night and her life was ended by an axe. She was married to a man named Jimmy and he was unconscious in their room with a gash to his head. Their child was thankfully uninjured lying next to his father. Eula was found naked, raped and with a look of agony frozen on her lifeless face. Luly was buried here in Oakwood Cemetery in the oldest part of the cemetery known today as the Old Grounds. She unfortunately has no headstone and people are unsure of where she is located. Records indicate that she in indeed here, just nobody knows where. The victim of an infamous crime and nothing to mark her final resting place. Perhaps because of her violent death or maybe because she has no marker, her spirit is here in the cemetery. Her full-bodied apparition has been seen roaming the cemetery.

There have been many stories recently reporting vandalism in cemeteries. This kind of criminal behavior has happened in cemeteries as long as they have existed. But recently we are hearing about thousands of dollars in damage. In some cases, I'm sure it is racially based, particularly with Jewish cemeteries, but for the others I really don't understand. I think it is so important to teach the value of cemeteries. It's important to inspire care of cemeteries. I sometimes wonder if these scary legends and stories were meant to keep people from doing bad things in cemeteries. I sometimes wonder if the spirits are protecting their final resting places. I don't have the answers. Are these cemeteries haunted? And if so, why? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

HGB Ep. 305 - Black Dahlia Murder House

Moment in Oddity - The Aztec Death Whistle
Suggested by: Michael Rogers

There is a sound so scary that when you hear it, it not only unnerves you, but it literally makes your skin crawl. I love using skulls in my decor, but I never imagined that a skull could be used to make a terrifying sound. I also never imagined that a whistle could be formed in such a way that it makes such a chilling noise. Welcome to the Aztec Death Whistle! Ever heard a zombie wail? How about a banshee cry? Better yet, how about the screams of a sacrifice victim? That is how I would describe the noise made by the death whistle. The first of these whistles were found by archeologists decades ago and at the time, they thought they were just decorative pieces. Aztecs liked skull decor like myself after all. Now, I'm not sure who was the first person to purse their lips on the hole at the top of the skull and blow, but when they did, I'm sure everyone around them ran for cover. And that is why scholars believe that these whistles were used by the Aztecs in war as a type of psychological warfare. Imagine a hundred warriors running at you with the multiplied sound of screams. Since a whistle was found clutched in the hand of what was believed to be a sacrifice victim in a place used to worship the god of wind, some scholars believe that the death whistle was used during sacrifice ceremonies. We'll probably never know the real purpose of the death whistle, but the fact that it can make such a realistic human scream, certainly is odd! (Play a sample)

This Month in History - Congress Takes Over Lighthouses

In the month of August, on the 7th, in 1789, Congress enacted legislation that gave the federal government control over the creation and maintenance of lighthouses. This Act also included beacons, buoys and public piers. As we all know, lighthouses were built as a way to warn ships of dangerous rocky areas or to guide them back to land. They were especially effective during storms and heavy fog. While today radar and GPS has made the need for lighthouses obsolete, we all appreciate their long history of saving lives and their symbol as safe harbor. And for those of us at HGB, we appreciate their many tales of hauntings. In 1989, Congress passed a resolution that made August 7th of that year National Lighthouse Day. Although it is not an annual event yet, many lighthouse organizations treat it as though it is an annual thing. Maybe someday Congress will get with the program and make it official. So what is your favorite lighthouse? Mine, of course, is St. Augustine Lighthouse, but we've covered many amazing lighthouses on the podcast and I really do love them even though climbing them scares the crap out of me!

Black Dahlia Murder House

To title this episode, "Black Dahlia Murder House" is a bold move as the murder of the Black Dahlia remains unsolved. This is actually the John Sowden House, but the man I believe killed Elizabeth Short lived here for a time and I believe he murdered her and many other women in this house, which is one of the most unique homes, architecturally speaking. The torture and murder that took place here has left a negative spiritual residue that has lead to hauntings. Not only that, but the Black Dahlia herself is not at rest and has been seen in several locations in her spirit form. Join me as I explore the murder of the Black Dahlia, her killer and the history of the house that ties the two together, the Sowden House!

I have long been fascinated with the story of Elizabeth Short and her unsolved murder. The details are gruesome and so I do warn those of you that might have issues with details of murders, I'm going to go into the details of what happened to this woman, so this may not be the episode for you. One of the first Haunted True Crime BonusCasts I did for Executive Producers was about the Black Dahlia and her spirit. In that, I made a claim about whom I thought did the murder. This last year, the podcast "Root of Evil" dropped, hosted by the great granddaughters of George Hodel, sisters Rasha Pecoraro and Yvette Gentile, as a companion to the TNT limited series "I Am The Night." It was excellent and I encourage you to listen to it and by the time I finished it, I knew I was right in thinking that George Hodel was a sick serial killer and that Elizabeth Short was one of his victims. But before we get into all the details about that, I want to wind back the clock and talk about the three main characters in this episode and that is George Hodel, Elizabeth Short and the Sowden House.

George Hodel:

If you've never seen a picture of George Hodel, I encourage you to Google him. I don't think I'm the only one who gets the creeps looking at him. There is something sinister in those eyes. This guy was seriously weird in a bad way. He was obsessed with incest and enjoyed hosting an orgie or two and the Marquis de Sade, from whom we get the word sadist, was a hero of his. His interest in the art of surrealist Man Ray would lead him to do depraved things. Who the heck was this freak?

Hodel was born in October of 1907 to Russian Jewish parents. He grew up in Los Angeles and was highly intelligent and a bit of a musical protege. He graduated from high school early and entered the prestigious California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena. There he met the wife of one of his professors and the two began an affair that left her pregnant. He wanted to marry her, but she pushed him away. He eventually met another woman named Emilia and they would have a son they named Duncan in 1928. He left her and took up with a model named Dorothy Anthony whom he married. They had a daughter named Tamar, whom Hodel would groom for sex from an early age and he would eventually rape her repeatedly. He had Man Ray take naked pictures of her. Tamar told journalist Sheila Weller, "It made me so uncomfortable. My father always said that sex between a father and a daughter was the most beautiful experience."

During the time that Hodel was married to Dorothy, he graduated pre-med from Berkeley in 1932 and got his medical degree from the University of California in San Francisco in 1936 with a specialty in gynecology. He would use that degree to do abortions and treat venereal disease. He would then blackmail many of his patients. In 1940, Hodel married his second wife whom was also named Dorothy. She also was the former wife of John Huston. He started calling her Dorero, which was Dolores and Eros combined. Dorero would finally get Tamar out of the house and away from her father. Steve Hodel would be the son of Dorero and George and he would have two brothers as well. The 1940s was the era of Noire in Los Angeles and Hodel was a big time mover and shaker, hanging out with the art scene, particularly surrealist Man Ray. The two men shared an interest in surrealism and sadomasochism and lots of sex and drugs. After Hodel bought the Sowden House, he would throw drug-fueled parties and orgies. And he shared the home with both his first wife and second wife.

Tamar finally told the police what her father had done to her and he was put on trial in 1949. His lawyers got him off and did such a good job that the 14-year-old Tamar was sent to juvenile hall for lying. It would be here that Tamar would be raped and get pregnant at the age of 15. She gave birth to a daughter and named her Fauna. Fauna was given up for adoption to a black cleaning woman. She would grow up believing that she was a light-skin black woman even though she was actually white. When she was 19, she found out the truth that she was white and the granddaughter of George Hodel.

Hodel decided to leave America in 1950 and headed to the Phillipines where he married his third wife and had four children. They divorced in the 1960s and he eventually ended up back here in 1990. He killed himself with an overdose in 1999 at the age of 91.

Elizabeth Short:

Elizabeth Short was a girl with stars in her eyes like so many of us. Maybe that is why so many of us can identify with her. She just wanted to be somebody and to find fame in Hollywood. She had a rough start to life and got herself into some trouble. We all have our moments, don't we? But what is it about her that would lead George Hodel to her and drive him to not only kill her, but torture her and treat her body in the most heinous way and then display it in the most humiliating way to the world?

Elizabeth was born to Cleo and Phoebe Short on July 29, 1924 in Hyde Park, Massachusetts. When Elizabeth was five, the Great Depression was in full swing and her father who made a living by building miniature golf courses decided he was going to throw in the towel and kill himself. Or at least, that is what he wanted everybody to believe. He pulled his car up to a bridge and disappeared, leading authorities to believe he had jumped off the bridge and drowned in the river. His family believed the same thing until a letter arrived in the mail from Cleo, apologizing for faking his death and informing Phoebe that he had moved to California, but wanted to come home. He had left her to raise five girls on her own and so she, of course, told him to basically kiss off.

As a way to escape from her unhappy and sickly life, Betty, as Elizabeth was called by most of her friends, would go to the movies. She was fascinated by the moving pictures. Betty was growing into a raven haired beauty and a classmate described her as "a porcelain China doll with beautiful eyes — think of them as blue, but sometimes would change depending on color she wore, and became greenish.” Boys would become tongue-tied talking to her because she was so pretty. But she was a sweet girl and made friends with everyone. Basically, she was not what we would call "stuck up." Unfortunately she had bad teeth and would use melted candle wax to fill the cavities in her teeth, so that you couldn't she the black and decay. She was graceful and determined and she wanted to be famous. The irony isn't lost on any of us how she would actually come to gain a fame so immense that a nickname makes her immediately known to most people. She certainly would have wished for a life of obscurity had she known. Eleanor Kurz had been a good friend who said, “Dottie [Elizabeth’s sister], Bette, and I were going to be movie stars. We were all entranced with movie stars, star struck. Spent hours talking about movie stars, about going to Hollywood. We performed using the Short’s front porch as a stage. Every Friday as soon as the song sheets came out, we’d pool our money, get the latest sheets, and spend hours singing. Bette imitated Deanna Durbin. Walked like her, talked like her, and in my eyes sang like her.” During her teens, Betty would spend winters in Florida because of lung problems.

It was no surprise that when Cleo offered Betty the chance to move to California and stay with him, that she would take him up on it. In 1943, she packed her bags and headed to Vallejo, California. Cleo clearly thought that having Elizabeth there would give him a housekeeper, but that was not the case. He found her to be lazy and he disliked her dating practices and eventually he kicked her out. She found a job as a cashier at the Post Exchange at Camp Cooke where she eventually won a beauty contest and was declared “Camp Cutie of Camp Cooke.” The attention was too much for her and she left for Santa Barbara to live with a girlfriend. It was here that Elizabeth would get caught drinking underage at a restaurant when she and some friends got too rowdy. She was arrested and booked and her mug shots are some of the only pictures that exist of her today. She was sent back to Massachusetts, but she detoured to Florida. While there, she started dating servicemen and met Major Matt Gordon, Jr. The two fell head over heels and planned to marry. The Major was sent to India and before he could make good on his promise to marry her, he was killed in action on August 10, 1945. Elizabeth was heartbroken and even told friends that she and the Major had actually been married and that she had been pregnant, but lost the baby. There doesn't seem to be any proof of either of these claims.

One of the other servicemen she had dated in Florida was a pilot named Lieutenant Gordon Fickling. To try to overcome her heartbreak, she began to correspond with him and probably had plans on getting him to marry her. She met up with him in Chicago and he asked her to join him in Long Beach where he was stationed at the Naval Reserve Air Base. Betty ended up staying in Los Angeles and while there were claims she wanted to be a movie star, she never did pursue any acting jobs. Rather, she worked as a waitress and couch surfed. She stayed with friends like Ann Toth and Lynn Martin who said, "Hollywood is a lonely place when you come into it without home ties or friends and very little money. There are few places for a lonely girl to go except into a bar. Girls start rooming together like old friends. It doesn't matter if they don't know anything about each other. It's somebody to talk to and share the rent with - like Beth and Marjorie and I. ... You're always lonely in Hollywood, even when you're out with people. They don't belong to you - those people. None of them really care what happens to you. ... Lots of times the girls talk to each other about getting out of Hollywood and starting all over again. They're going back home, or they're going to get married to someone. Down in the heart of all of them is sort of a hazy dream about a husband and a house and a baby."

Perhaps that is why Betty decided to leave Los Angeles for San Diego on December 8, 1946. She also had been very upset about something as she told Mark Hansen, a man in whose home she had stayed for a while, that she was scared and needed to get away. In San Diego, she met Robert "Red" Manley, a guy who was built nice and very good-looking. But, he was also married. He offered to drive Betty back to Los Angeles and he did so on the morning of January 9, 1947. She asked him to drop her at the Biltmore Hotel, so that she could meet-up with her sister who was visiting from Boston. Red is the last person to have seen Elizabeth alive, other than a few staff members of the hotel who remember seeing her using the lobby telephone and sitting in the Crown Grill Cocktail Lounge. She walked out of the hotel at 10pm wearing a friend's coat heading south. *Weird Fact: Red died on January 9, 1986, thirty-nine years to the day after leaving Elizabeth Short at the Biltmore Hotel.* Elizabeth would be found dead January 15th. Before I get into the specifics of her murder, I have so many questions right here.

Why didn't she meet up with her sister? Did she leave before her sister arrived for some reason? Did she leave with someone? Was it willingly? Did she know George Hodel prior to this? Is that why she had been afraid and wanted to leave town? Did he show up at the Biltmore Hotel? How did George Hodel get Elizabeth to his house? Where was she for six days?

The Sowden House:

Standing outside of the Sowden House leaves an impression on anyone. This is one of the most unique homes that has ever been built. Many people got to see the home when it was used as a setting during the "I Am the Night" series. Steve Hodel described what was probably the draw for his father when he wrote, "Once inside this remarkable house one found oneself in absolute privacy, invisible to the outside world." The house is located at 5121 Franklin Avenue in Los Angeles, California and was built in 1926. The design can leave no doubt that this is the creation of the Wright family. Frank Lloyd Wright was a legendary architect known for his unorthodox and controversial designs. I'm fortunate in that I live near Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida, which is a campus filled with Wright creations and a museum. As a matter of fact, it is the largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in the world. Frank had a son whom he gave his name and junior would go on to be an architect as well, who helped his father. He went by Lloyd and joined his father in Los Angeles in the late 1910s. One of the commissions he helped his father with was the famous Hollyhock House. The elder Wright eventually became tired of Los Angeles and left the reins to his son. Lloyd wanted to get out of the shadow of his father's name and establish himself.

He would do that designing places like the Otto Bollman House in the Hollywood Hills, the Wayfarer's Chapel in Palos Verdes and the avant-garde orchestral shells for the Hollywood Bowl. In the neighborhood of Los Feliz, he would build the Samuel-Novarro House and the Sowden House. Los Feliz has shown up on the podcast before because Griffith Park and this neighborhood make up the original Rancho Los Feliz, a land grant given to colonial Spanish-Mexican land grantee, José Vicente Feliz. (You can hear about the haunts of Griffith Park on episode 95.) The Los Feliz of the 1920s was an enclave for silent movie stars and people on the upper end of the financial spectrum. It was here that retired artist John Sowden moved with his wife Ruth and they commissioned Lloyd to design a unique home for them. And that is certainly what he did.

The Sowden House is in the Mayan Revival style, which I had never heard of before. It resembled a fortress and the Sowdens had requested that it have a stage for them to host avant-garde performances. Also included were secret rooms and a central courtyard filled with plants, a pool and fountain, which were later removed. The entire structure is built from steel and the concrete blocks used in construction were ornamental. The carved stones are so unique and really make this house. The designs are on the outside and inside and are so hard to describe, but are beautiful. The floors are wood and the windows are uniquely shaped and designed. The style of the house has been referred to as "brooding" and "cultic." A 1938 article in the Los Angeles Times wrote of the house, "It's the sculptural style of architecture,” explains Mr. [Lloyd] Wright. Sculptural architecture, it seems, fits the building right into the landscape. One of the striking features of the Franklin Avenue structure is the mass of stone and cement which project out from the roof line." One of the most impressive features of the house are the huge sculpted copper gates at its front. The interior is described as labyrinth-like and has seven bedrooms, four bathrooms and covers 5600 square feet. This house would be considered the pinnacle of Lloyd Wright's career.

The house was sold in 1930 to Ruth Rand Barnett who kept it for six years and sold it in 1936. I'm not sure who that owner was, but they sold it in 1944 to someone who didn't keep it long. George Hodel bought the property in 1945 and moved into it with his ex-wife Dorothy. Steve Hodel described the house as, "Once through the gate, you turned immediately to your right and continued up a dark passageway, then made another right turn to the front door. It was like entering a cave with secret stone tunnels, within which only the initiated could feel comfortable. All others proceeded with great caution, not knowing which way to turn. Growing up in that house, my brothers and I saw it as a place of magic that we were convinced could easily have greeted the uninvited with pits of fire, poison darts, deadly snakes, or even a giant sword-bearing turbaned bodyguard at the door. Right out of Arabian nights."
After George Hodel was aquitted of raping his daughter, he sold the Sowden House and left the country. From that point until the 2000s, I'm not sure what happened with the house, but it was left in disrepair. The house was purchased for $1.2 million in 2001 by Xorin Balbes. The house was in need of a lot of love at this time and he spent $1.6 million in restorations. He added a pool and spa to the central courtyard and redesigned the kitchen into a large open room. Some of his changes were criticized by preservationists and Lloyd Wright's son Eric. In 2011, Balbes sold the house to a man named Stephen Finkelstein for $3.85 million. The current owner of the house is Dan Goldfarb who purchased it in 2018 for around $4.7 million. He made his fortunes by selling cannabis to pets. His plans at the time for the property were to open a "cannabis oasis" in the space. As I did my research, the official website for the property was down, so I'm not exactly sure what is going on with it currently, but it had been offered for photo shoots and as a gathering place for events. The house has been in several movies, TV shows and music videos.

The Murder:

What happened to Elizabeth between January 9th and the discovery of her body on January 15th is a mystery, although I would say at least three people know much of what happened: George Hodel, Man Ray and Elizabeth Short. That is my opinion, not fact. We can reason out how Elizabeth was tortured and murdered based on her body. This is gruesome stuff committed by a sick mind. When her body was discovered in an empty lot near 39th Street and Norton Avenue in Los Angeles, it had been surgically bisected. I'm not sure if her body was cut in half to facilitate transport or for the purpose of creating an art piece. Now you may have jerked your head when you heard me say art piece, but I believe that is what this was: George Hodel's sick surrealist piece of art as an homage to Man Ray.

There are some who believe that Elizabeth Short knew Hodel and had even posed for Man Ray. A piece of art Man Ray did in 1970 features an unknown woman who has a striking resemblance to Elizabeth and has a Red Dahlia in her hair. The piece “L’Equivoque” was done in 1943 and features a nude torso of a woman with the face scratched out. Steve Hodel thinks this gave his father inspiration. Man Ray seems to depict the crime scene of the Black Dahlia murder in his piece "Les Invendables," which was done in 1969 and features a woman's torso on top of a mythical beast body. I totally see it. Link to see here. The woman's arms are raised above her head. Steve says that “I talk about his scalpel being his paintbrush and her body was the canvas." I couldn't have said it better.

Another Betty would find the nude and bisected body, Betty Bersinger. She was heading down Norton Avenue with her three-year-old daughter on the way to a shoe repair shop. Many of the lots here had been left abandoned because of World War II. Betty noticed something white in the weeds that looked similar to a human body and she initially thought it was a mannequin that had been discarded. She approached closer because she was intrigued as to why the mannequin was in two pieces and then she realized that she was looking at a human. She screamed. She then ran to a nearby house to call the police. The first to arrive on scene were officers Frank Perkins and Will Fitzgerald who called for backup when they saw the state of the body.

Investigators made several notes about what they found. The woman had clearly been posed with her torso lying on the back and the arms raised over the shoulders. The lower half of her body featured her legs spread in a vulgar way. The body had been mutilated and the coroner's report would reveal some twisted stuff. The mouth resembled the Joker's smile having been sliced from corners of the mouth to the ears. This type of mutilation is called a Glasgow Smile. The reason is because the practice originated in Glasgow. It became very popular with English street gangs. And we would have an answer as to where Betty had been for six days as rope marks on her wrist, ankles and neck indicated that she had been tied up and tortured for days. Her intestines were tucked underneath her buttocks. The most peculiar thing was that the body had been drained of blood and washed. This was confirmed by Detective Lieutenant Jesse Haskins who described the scene as “the body was lying with the head towards the north, the feet towards the south, the left leg was five inches west of the sidewalk… The body was lying face up and the severed part was jogged over about ten inches, the upper half of the body from the lower half… there was a tire track right up against the curbing and there was what appeared to be a possible bloody heel mark in this tire mark; and on the curbing which is very low there was one spot of blood; and there was an empty paper cement sack lying in the driveway and it also had a spot of blood on it… It had been brought there from some other location… The body was clean and appeared to have been washed.”

Elizabeth's fingerprints were taken to help identify her and then her autopsy began. There was no sperm on the body as it had been washed, but it was believed she was violated both vaginally and anally. She had multiple lacerations to the face, arms and head and it was these along with head trauma that was listed as her cause of death. Her pubic hair had been removed and there was a criss-cross pattern cut into the area above her pubic bone. There was a tic-tac-toe slashing on the right hip. Pieces of flesh had been cut away from her breasts and thighs. Horribly, the flesh that was removed from her left thigh was found in her vagina and the pubic hair that had been removed was found in the rectum. Many of the cuts were believed to have been made post mortem as was the bisection.

People and reporters had trampled the crime scene and there wasn't much to go on. A list of suspects was compiled, but no one was arrested. The Herald-Express was owned by William Randolph Hearst and he wheeled and dealed with the LAPD to exchange information. LAPD Captain Donahoe wasn't keen to make this deal with the Devil, but he was desperate and so he agreed to grant exclusive access to the paper if they would continue investigating clues and give the police anything they uncovered. Wayne Sutton, a Herald-Express reporter, called Phoebe Short and lied to her about Betty winning a talent contest to get information on Betty. He then told her mother that Betty had been murdered and he offered to fly her out. He kept her from the cops and other papers. The paper also managed to track down Elizabeth's trunk where she kept her photos and mementos at the Greyhound Express station in downtown Los Angeles. On the nickname Black Dahlia, I've heard a couple of stories. One is that the newspapers came up with the name, but I also found several stories that claimed she already had the nickname before her death and that the papers were meerly reporting what they heard about Betty. A drugstore owner said, "Her hair was jet black and she liked to wear it high. She was popular with the men who came in here and they got to calling her ‘The Black Dahlia.'"

The Black Dahlia in Hollywood website reported that Betty's belongings were mailed to the newspapers in LA, but ended up just at the post office. The website says, "At approximately 5:30 p.m. on January 24, 1947, Postal Inspector Wood telephoned police investigators and informed them that an open ended envelope with paste-up letters, addressed to “Los Angeles Examiner and other Los Angeles papers” had been received at Terminal Annex in downtown Los Angeles. The envelope also read, “Here is Dahlia’s Belonging. Letter to Follow.” After authorities were contacted, several Los Angeles newspapers were informed.

The envelope was opened in the presence of Postal Inspectors Wood and Green, Homicide detectives Brown and Cummings, Sgt. Wheeler of the fingerprint unit and several representatives from local newspapers.

The envelope had been soaked in gasoline or kerosene and 23 items were discovered inside, all personal property of murder victim Elizabeth Short. The contents included,

(1) Western Union Telegram regarding missing trunk shipped via R.E.A..

(2) Railway Express Agency Express receipt, dated 6/1/46.

(3) Part of sales slip printed in ink, Pacific Outdoor Advertising Co.

(4) Business card, Pacific Outdoor Advertising Company.

(5) Business card for A.D. Brix

(6) Business card for E.A. “Jack” Kleinan. House of Hollywood Realtor.

(7) Typewritten Social Security card, signed “Elizabeth Short” in green ink.

(8) Piece of notebook paper with Jimmy Harrigan’s Army base phone number.

(9) A torn piece of notepaper with Carl Balsiger’s phone number.

(10)  Notebook leaf printed in pencil “Jimmy Bifulco.”

(11) Scrap of paper with”Wayne Gregg” written in ink.

(12) I.D. card “Elizabeth Short,” in case of emergency, contact P.M. Short.

(13) Abstract of record registry, City of Boston, “Elizabeth Short, daughter of…”

(14) Card, Hollywood Wolves Association with member, Chet Montgomery.

(15) Business card for Brandt Orr, Dressen Realty Company, with personal note.

(16) A Pacific Greyhound Lines parcel claim check, stamp dated January 9.

(17) 1 small snapshot of an aviator and a girl in cockpit of a plane.

(18) 1 small snapshot of a girl in black fur jacket, black hat, buildings in background.

(19) Photo of man in army uniform, standing near tree, frame house in background.

(20) Small snapshot of victim and a man.

(21) Small snapshot, aviator in flying suit and parachute, standing in front of plane.

(22) Woman dressed in riding habit standing beside a horse.

(23) One black address and telephone book with “Mark Hansen” in gold letters."

I've heard former LAPD detective Steve Hodel interviewed many times. He has written several books including "Black Dahlia Avenger" that detail what he believes were the crimes of his father. Steve put forward that he thinks his father killed at least nine women and that three of them came to their end in the Sowden House, including Elizabeth Short. There is evidence to back up the claim that this is true and one of those things is that a cadaver dog named Buster was brought to the house in 2013 and he marked several places in the basement as having the scent of death. Soil samples that were collected revealed the presence of human decomposition.

And Steve found that he wasn't far off when LA Times reporter Steve Lopez went through police transcripts and found that George Hodel had been a suspect. The police had also bugged the Sowden House during the incest trial and in those tapes it is believed that there are the sounds of a woman being assaulted and then there are sounds of a shovel moving dirt. George later called a friend and said, "Supposin' I did kill the Black Dahlia. They couldn't prove it now. They can't talk to my secretary because she's dead." We don't know what his secretary, Ruth Spaulding, knew, but Steve believes his father killed her. She apparently died of an overdose.

Now an interesting little aside is that I also did a Haunted True Crime on Georgette Bauerdorf who haunts the The El Palacio Apartments. She was murdered in 1944 in a horrible way too and the murder was never solved. She had worked at the Hollywood Canteen and I had thought that the Black Dahlia did too, so I remarked in that BonusCast how their lives intersected because of these similarities. Later I found that there was no real proof that Elizabeth Short had worked at the Hollywood Canteen because every woman who worked there had an ID with their fingerprint on it and there has never been an ID like that that has surfaced for Elizabeth. But their lives intersected in another way according to Steve Hodel. When I visited his website to look at the list of victims he thinks his father killed for sure, Georgette Bauerdorf is second on the list just before Elizabeth. On the BonusCast, the only suspects I really had mentioned were several servicemen, one of whom had been pretty persistant about dancing with her at the Canteen on the night of her death. Is it possible she was another victim of Hodel's? The other women Steve has down as definite victims are Ora Murray in 1943, Jeanne French in 1947, Lillian Dominguez in 1947, Gladys Kern in 1948, Mimi Boomhower in 1948, Jean Spangler in 1948 and Louise Springer in 1949. The podcast Hollywood & Crime did a 26-episode series opener they called The Black Dahlia Serial Killers that goes into detail about these deaths.

The Hauntings:

Goldfarb and his wife claim to feel at peace at the home and believe they have not had any paranormal experiences when they stay there. I mentioned that I didn't know what happened to the house between Hodel and the 2000s, but Steve Hodel claims that the house was abandoned in the 1960s and 1970s and his half-sister, Tamar, broke into the house, possibly seeking some kind of closure and when she was in there, she saw an apparition of a female. She didn't think it was the Black Dahlia. Zak Bagans interviewed members of the Hodel family and while he was talking to Tamar's daughter Fauna, they both felt a presence near them. Fauna claimed that she has felt ill many times in the home because of the negative energy. Psychic medium Patti Negri has felt that same negative energy in the house. She says that something pushed her up against the wall. Something she could not see.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention where the spirit of the Black Dahlia has been seen and for that, we need to leave this property and head to the Biltmore Hotel, the last place that Elizabeth was seen. Her full bodied apparition is seen pacing in the area where the bank of phones was once located. She paces in the lobby and in the hallways and wears a black dress. And occasionally, she takes a ride on the elevator. One man reported his first hand experience with the Black Dahlia. He boarded the elevator with his head down and jammed the number 8 button. He noticed that the number 6 button was lit, so he glanced behind him and saw a young woman in the corner of the elevator. She had black hair and beautiful eyes. She seemed sad, but gave him a faint smile. He turned his head forward again, but he could see the young woman in the reflection of the elevator doors. He noticed that she seemed dressed in clothes better suited for the 1940s.

The elevator reached the sixth floor and the doors opened. The young lady did not get off as the man stepped aside. He cleared his throat and said, "This is the sixth floor. Don't you want to get off." The young woman seemed startled and bustled passed him. As she did, he felt an icy chill. She turned to him before the doors closed and there was a look of urgency in her eyes as though she were asking him for help. Just as the doors closed, he pressed the Open Doors Button. As the doors slid back open, he saw that the young woman was gone. He glanced up and down the hallway, but she had just disappeared. Later, he was in a bookstore when he picked up a book on unsolved crimes. He flipped through the pages and was stunned to see the young lady staring back at him from one of the pages. The young woman had been the Black Dahlia.

A friend of Hodel's named Edmund Teske said of his time at Sowden House, "It’s an evil place! Artists, philosophers, accountants and politicians we all played and paid there. Women were tortured for sport there. Murders happened there. It’s an EVIL place." Is there still something evil there? Is the negative energy absorbed into the stones? Is the Sowden House haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, August 1, 2019

HGB Ep. 304 - Of Jail Riots, Ghosts and the Penitentiary of New Mexico

Moment in Oddity - The Earling Possession

The Earling Possession took place in 1928 and is said to be one of the most well-documented possession cases of the 20th century. Most of you have either watched "The Exorcist" or seen some other movie or documentary about exorcism. This case would be about Anna Ecklund who would suffer demonic possession over and over in her life starting at the age of 14. According to reports, Anna's aunt had been a witch who cursed her food with spells and then later her father would heap curses on her and wish for her possession. Father Theophilus Riesinger, a native Bavarian and a Capuchin monk, would be the man to finally free her when she was 46. If this account is true, Anna displayed some of the most horrific and bizarre behavior. Father Theophilus took Anna to Earling, Iowa to the convent of the Franciscan Sisters on August 17, 1928. Upon arrival, Anna purred like a cat, demanded unblessed food, spoke in languages she didn't know, had to be held down by six strong nuns, vomited tobacco leaves and other spice-like debris and she vomited, urinated and defecated inhuman amounts of waste. The really unbelievable stuff included her lips growing to the size of her hands, she levitated many times, from a prone position she leapt from her bed onto the wall above the door, where she maintained a position of crouching, defying gravity and her body would bloat to twice its size. The claim was that Anna was possessed by many demons, described as "a swarm of mosquitoes." On December 23, 1928, Anna stood erect on her bed and then crumpled back down as the demons left her, each one calling out its name as it left. The exorcism was done in three rounds and took 23 days in total. I'm skeptical of these demon possession stories, but if the Earling Possession is real, it certainly was odd!

This Month in History - St. Columba account of Loch Ness Monster

In the month of August, on the 22nd, in 565, the Loch Ness Monster is spotted for the first time. Now I know many of you are thinking, what is Diane talking about? The story of the Loch Ness Monster didn't come to worldwide attention until 1933. That is true, but the first sighting supposedly was much earlier. The Loch Ness Monster or Nessie as it came to be known was named for the place she was said to inhabit in the Scottish Highlands. It was a dinosaur-like creature with a long neck that had one or more humps protruding from the water with these front flippers to help it get around. When scholars began investigating the tales about Nessie they discovered that the first account of a sighting dated back to 565 in the semi-legendary tale of St. Columba. He was an Irish monk who had sailed to Scotland to spread the gospel of Christ. As he traveled to the land of the Picts, he reached the river Ness and found some people burying a friend. They told the monk that the man had been attacked by “some water monster" that had "snatched at him as he was swimming, and bitten with a most savage bite.” After that, St. Columba ordered one of his acolytes to go fetch the boat, which meant swimming across the river. That was when the monster appeared. The story goes that the monster was “lying hidden in the bottom of the river and suddenly emerged, and, swimming to the man as he was crossing in the middle of the stream, rushed up with a great roar and open mouth”. Everyone was scared except St. Columba who raised his hands and made the sign of the cross and after invoking the Name of God, he commanded, "Think not to go further, nor touch thou the man. Quick! Go back!" And the monster did and a bunch of people were converted. Is the story reliable? We know that pictures of Nessie were hoaxes and many researchers think most sightings of Nessie are mis-identifications, but it sure is fun to think that the Loch Ness Monster that captured my imagination as a kid, just might be real.

Penitentiary of New Mexico
Suggested by listener: Aimee Sandoval

Jails and ghosts seem to go hand-in-hand. So much dark and negative energy in one place. Inside these walls have resided some evil or bad people and even some innocent people. Those accused or guilty of some evil doings. The Penitentiary of New Mexico has the dubious distinction of being the site of the worst prison riot in American history. Prisons are already notorious for being havens for paranormal experiences, but what ensued during that riot, left behind a residue just begging to feed negative spiritual energy. There are those who claim the land here is cursed. Join me as I explore the history and hauntings of the Penitentiary of New Mexico!

Imagine for a moment the energy connected to a jail complex. You have the fear, the anger and the sorrow from the criminal and I would imagine, even the victim. After years of sharing the history and hauntings of a variety of historic jails from around the world, I've learned that many of them had similarities that made them not only places of inhumanity, but keen spots for hauntings. Nearly all of them housed men, women and children in the same areas and overcrowding was the norm. There was no plumbing, so buckets or honey pots were used. Some crimes considered worthy of punishment would be ridiculous by today's standards, like stealing bread. And every one of these jails had "The Hole" - solitary confinement, a place of utter hell that could leave someone insane. Sickness, abuse and murder were rampant behind the bars. While we would all like to believe that the purpose of jail is to reform, at its core its meant to punish. And I'm fine with that, but within reason. Because when things happen outside of reason, hauntings are not far behind.

As I look back over the list of episodes I've done featuring jails, I count 16 of them. Most of them are considered the most haunted jails in the world. There's episode 34 on Kilmanhaim Gaol in Dublin, Ireland with the spirits of former prisoners and wardens with the warden spirits being the most terrifying. Alcatraz in San Francisco was the subject of episode 53 and is thought to be one of the most haunted jails in America with the spirit of The Butcher and something evil with glowing eyes in The Hole. The Old Charleston Jail has made two appearances, in episodes 55 and 262, and is the only jail on the list that I've visited so far, but I had no experiences myself although people claim the spirit of Lavinia Fisher is there. Episode 66 featured the infamous Ohio State Reformatory haunted by the warden's wife Helen, wayward boys and shadowy figures. Episode 68 featured the Maitland Gaol, a jail that housed Australia's worst criminals and is home to the spirit of Sawas who hanged himself inside the door of cell 4 and possibly a former guard. Episode 84 features the Carleton County Gaol in Ottawa, Canada and there are so many spirits here that it has been declared the ninth most haunted building on the planet. Episode 86 had us in Australia again for Pentridge Prison with a female spirit and the ghost of Mark Chopper Read. Episode 104 took us to a Civil War era prison known as Andersonville with the spirit of Father Whelan and the sounds of gunfire and foggy apparitions. Episode 112 on Fremantle in Australia featured the gaol there that has the spirit of the only woman executed there, Martha Rendell and the sounds of a scuffle at the gallows. Episode 113 featured Eastern State Penitentiary that is probably the most haunted jail in America located in Philly with hauntings in Cell Block 12 and Cell Block 6. Episode 116 features Moundsville State Prison or more famously known as  the West Virginia Penitentiary with its castle-like structure and ghost of a maintenance man, shadow figures and a prisoner named Robert. Episode 215 that includes the Derby Gaol in Derby, England has the spirit of a murderer, a female ghost, a human-like gray mist and child ghosts. Episode 220 with the Kentucky State Penitentiary and spirits of some of the 162 men executed at the jail. Episode 223 featuring the Old Idaho State Penitentiary and its haunted Cell House 5 and Solitary Confinement. Episode 284 has the Squirrel Cage Jail in Council Bluffs, Iowa with spirits of a little girl and cats and lots of sounds of jingling keys and loud sighing and the hauntings seem friendly which is good news for us since we'll be investigating it in September.

So there are definitely a variety of ghosts in these places, but there are many similarities including cold spots, disembodied voices and the slamming of cell doors on their own. Added to this list of haunted prisons is the penitentiary in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Parts of it are still open today as a maximum security prison, but the jail dates back to the late 1800s. Congress had authorized for New Mexico to build a prison here in 1853, but it would not be open until 1885. This would be the original Old Main and the design was based on the same plans used for Sing Sing and Joliet. This prison would put the prisoners to work making bricks and this would be its first industry. The next industry would be building highways and New Mexico would be the first western state to use prisoners to do this work starting in 1903.

It would seem this prison and riots would have a long and tense relationship. The first would take place on July 19, 1922. Prisoners were angry over the overcrowding, excessive force used by guards and the bad food. The inmates were all out of their cells and refused to go back to them when the guards ordered them to do so. The tower guards apparently weren't fooling around and they just opened fire, killing one prisoner and injuring five others. They were reprimanded for their obvious heavy-handed approach and a report claimed that guards had a failure to understand how to control a prison population and were inexperienced. Despite decades passing before the next riot, nothing would be learned. The second riot took place on June 15, 1953 and was fueled by inmates protesting excessive force used on them. They grabbed Deputy Warden Ralph Tahash and twelve guards and held them hostage. By the end of this riot, two inmates were dead and several others were injured.

It was decided after this riot that it was time to build a new facility and that was done in 1956 at a spot about 11 miles south of the original and they would dub it "the main unit." This was a bad place to build. The land is said to be cursed here, more than likely from something that happened in 1680. Spanish settlers had moved into the land that was already occupied by a Native American tribe. These settlers had made the tribe members into slaves and they revolted. The Native Americans stripped the settlers naked and beat them. During that revolt, 400 settlers were killed. So this prison was already haunted by something before it was even built.

Things were good here for awhile with reform being the focus. Under President Lyndon Johnson, Project Newgate was started, which developed programs for job training, community service and education. The population was kept below capacity as well. Things were good, until they weren't good and then, they got really bad. The programs were stopped in 1975 and lock downs were done for long periods. One really disturbing incident was the "Night of the Ax Handles," which sounds like a bad horror movie, but was actually punishment dealt out by guards. The inmates formed a work strike in 1976 and the Deputy Warden stopped it by using tear gas. The prisoners were run out of the dormitory, stripped naked and forced to make their way down a gauntlet of ax handle wielding guards who beat them.  

What fueled the flames of the worst prison riot in America I would say are based on two things. One, prisoners had some legitimate beefs about the quality of their conditions. They were not allowed recreational time, the sanitation was horrible and the food was nearly inedible. There was overcrowding with 1,156 inmates in a prison that had beds for less than 963. A visiting warden reported that this was the most disgusting prison he had ever visited. Inmates made several complaints, but everything fell on deaf ears. The second catalyst was a snitch system that was in place turning prisoner on prisoner. This was an angry volcano ready to erupt and when it did hundreds were injured and dozens were killed.

So here is our scene. This is Cell Block 4 and the date is February 2, 1980. This cell block is at the far northern end from the Control Center. This contains the E-2 dormitory, which was specifically designed for minor offenders. Due to construction, some of the most hardened and violent prisoners were moved to E-2. That's right, murderers and rapists are housed in a dormitory. Add to this, many new and fairly untrained guards. Prisoners in E-2 had made themselves some Prison Hooch and several were fairly intoxicated when the 1:30am count was conducted by two guards. At approximately 1:40am, two inmates overpowered a guard before he had closed the door in the southside Dormitory E-2. Another four officers were taken hostage. As long as the grill to the south wing was closed, this little blip on the radar would be over as the other guards would easily be able to handle the situation. But the grill was not closed. One of the inmates took one of the guard's uniforms and positioned himself by the grill. Officers Larry Mendoza and Antonio Vigil heard several men's voices as they ate breakfast in the officers' mess hall. They got up and saw the hallway beyond the grill filled with prisoners. These inmates would have access to the control center if that grill wasn't closed. They knew the situation was urgent. They ran to the control center and warned the officer inside about the growing situation and then they took refuge in the north wing of the prison. The inmates stormed the control center at 2:05am, smashing the bulletproof plate glass window with a brass fire extinguisher, and this gave them complete control of the prison.

Around 2:30am, several inmates broke into the infirmary and they started dealing the drugs that were there. So they are not only drunk on hooch, but now they are high too. And they all start talking among themselves about what they should do with the guards and how they were going to punish the snitches. The most brutal and dark place in man was opened this night. Whether it was supernaturally influenced or not, it would be pure evil. Execution squads formed and groups started carrying around  acetylene torches that had been left by construction workers. They used the torches to cut into Cell Block 4 where many snitches were kept in protective custody. This happened around 7am. The Attorney General's report about the riot stated, "Some impatient killers threw flammable liquids into locked cells and ignited them,." And when the groups got a hold of their victims they "stabbed, tortured, bludgeoned, burned, hanged, and hacked [them] apart." No amount of begging spared anyone the execution groups were set on punishing.

And no amount of begging from the inmates now trapped in Cell Block 4 got officers outside to attempt to save them, even though there was a back door to route them through. The reasoning was that as long as the guards weren't being killed, negotiations would continue. The guards weren't being killed, but they were being hurt. Twelve of them would be beat and raped. The snitches were beat, raped, dismembered, burned and one was decapitated with an axe. The axe marks can still be seen today. The official report stated that "the violence had spent itself" by 1:30pm on Sunday, February 3rd and the National Guard finally went in and retook the prison. They found 33 dead inmates and more than 100 others injured, including the 12 guards. Unbelievably, Old Main would remain open until 1998. Systemic reforms did follow although there are claims that abuse continued until it was closed. Hollywood has used the Old Main as a setting for film making. The Longest Yard and Zero Dark Thirty were both filmed here.

Shortly after the riot came reports of weird phenomena. Inmates claimed to hear disembodied screaming and guards started having problems with cell doors opening and closing on their own. The most consistent story about this prison are experiences with shadow beings. Former guards and tour guides claim to have seen multiple 3-dimensional dark figures. Negative emotions are often felt near the Gas Chamber and the main areas that experience haunting activity are the tool room and laundry room. Ghost Files featured this location in its second season and we'll discuss what they found in a little bit.

A radio show was hosting a Halloween special at Old Main and they invited a Paranormal investigation group to join them. There was no electricity hooked up as they entered the dark building. After they got inside, they heard the cell doors closing, one after the other. They caught it on their recorders as well. Thing is, the door system is controlled by electricity, so there was no power to close those cell doors. It can be controlled manually, but that is very difficult as the metal wheels are hard to turn and most are rusted. The group checked to see if the doors had actually shut or if they were just hearing residual sounds and the cell doors were indeed shut.

A producer on a film being shot at Old Main, picked up one of the actors from the airport and he said he wanted to take him by the old prison before shooting the next day so he could get a feel for the place. By the time they arrived, it was already dark, so they grabbed a couple of flashlights. Their first stop was Cell Block 4 and the producer pointed out the axe marks on the floor where an inmate had been decapitated. Then he showed the actor the outline of a human figure that had been burned into the floor when an inmate was tortured by a welding torch. Then he challenged the actor to sit in the old Gas Chamber and he actually agreed. As they made their way to the basement, they saw a light at the end of the corridor and they found out it was a lit candle. The candle was sitting on a chair in the room used for viewing executions. The actor chuckled and patted the producer on the back telling him that he had done a good job with this prank. Only the producer hadn't done this. The actor stepped into the Gas Chamber and sat down. When he looked up, he could see that the producer was peering into the chamber and he looked scared and was clearly staring at something behind the actor. He spun around and saw dark figures there. The producer waved for him to get out and then took off down the corridor. The actor was right behind him and both men ran until they got to the ground level.

An actress named Sandy had been at the prison working on a film in which she played a prisoner. On Ghost Files, she informed Steve that she had a truly chilling experience. The crew had already been feeling and seeing strange things like shadowy figures that would run by. The crew was filming a scene up in the cells when Sandy got locked into one of the cells. They got her out and as she was exiting, she heard a male voice behind her say, "Hey, how you doin'?" She said, "Fine, how are you?" The voice said, "Fine now." She thought it was a member of the crew, but when she turned around, nobody was there. She almost peed her pants. To make matters worse, something followed Sandy home and was tormenting her at home. She couldn't sleep and was getting an ulcer from the stress she was feeling.  This seemed to be connected to a hat she found in Cell Block E-2 and took home with her. After scary stuff started happening in her house, she burned the hat, but the activity continued. Amy helped her to resolve the issue.

Steve talked to a former corrections officer who worked here in the early 1990s named Anthony. The activity here was so well known that during training at the academy, it was addressed. Anthony had three inmates that he brought down to get linens from the laundry room. As they walked back, they heard a rattling noise and when Anthony looked he saw a shadow and he shined his flashlight at it the beam was invisible. He gets chills just thinking about the jail. There was also Leon, a former corrections officer who really was scared of the jail. He saw shadows like regular shadows, but there was nothing to cast them. Windows opened on their own as well.

Amy picked up on all the chaos and horror of the riot. I sometimes feel like Amy can see residual pictures like watching a movie rather than seeing actual spirits. But here, she was also encountering entities. She said that the whole prison felt haunted and that the land was cursed. The most disturbing thing that Amy saw was a shadow figure that was completely three dimensional. She said that it was not a human spirit, but something ancient. She used the term "devil" to describe it. The entity was thriving in the jail. She managed to trace its origins to a hole in the lowest area. It looked like a sewage pipe or something to me. She saw many spirits that seemed to be mentally ill down near the laundry area and Steve confirmed that many inmates were unmedicated for their mental illness.

The New Mexico Corrections Department started the “Old Main Tours” in 2012 and so you can tour the facility and hear the stories about the riot, but don't expect to hear anything about ghosts. They don't entertain that stuff at all, which made it difficult to get information on the hauntings. But based on the people who have come forward with their stories and the reading by Amy, I imagine if ghost hunts were offered here, there would be plenty of activity. Is the Penitentiary of New Mexico haunted? That is for you to decide!