Wednesday, November 27, 2019

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

Moment in Oddity - Queen Elizabeth I's Dress

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

This Month in History - Queen Elizabeth I Ascends the Throne

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

Investigation of the St. Augustine Lighthouse

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

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

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

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

Set the mood (Augustine Wind)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 21, 2019

HGB Ep. 315 - The Menger Hotel

Moment in Oddity - Jack Budlong's Death

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

This Month in History - Martha Mansfield Dies

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

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

The Menger Hotel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 14, 2019

HGB Ep. 314 - Haunted Churches of York

Moment in Oddity - Aqua Tofana Poison
Suggested by: Chelsea Flowers

Giulia Tofana was better than any divorce lawyer and a prolific serial killer. Interesting combo, eh? Seventeenth century Italy was a place of forced marriages and not a good place for a woman to get a divorce, so another solution was needed. In steps cosmetic chemist, Tofana. She made make-up and she soon found her niche. She developed a make-up called Aqua Tofana that contained lead, arsenic and belladonna. Tofana sold her deadly conconction without detection for fifty years killing hundreds of men. She finally was given up by one of her customers, a woman who regretted poisoning her husband's soup and stopped him from eating it. He demanded to know why and she confessed she had poisoned it, so he had her turned over to the Papal authoprities. She told them she got the poisoned make-up from Tofana, who was arrested. The authorities tortured her until she confessed to helping poison over 600 men. She was executed as were her employees and some of her clients as well. Others were thrown into prison. One hundred years after her death, Tofana's make-up was still being talked about when Mozart fell ill and claimed, “I feel definitely that I will not last much longer; I am sure that I have been poisoned. Someone has given me acqua tofana and calculated the precise time of my death.” Hiding poison in make-up was very effective, but certainly was odd!

This Month in History - Holland Tunnel Opens

In the month of November, on the 13th, in 1927, the Holland Tunnel opened to traffic. The Holland Tunnel was originally known as the Hudson River Vehicular Tunnel and was funded by the New Jersey Interstate Bridge and Tunnel Commission and the New York State Bridge and Tunnel Commission. In 1930, the Port Authority of NY & NJ took over operations. The tunnel connects Canal Street in Manhattan with 12th and 14th streets in Jersey City, NJ and is named after its first chief engineer, Clifford M. Holland. He died before it was completed and even more oddly, the second chief engineer, Milton Freeman, died before completion. The project's third chief engineer was Ole Singstad and he finished it and it is he that came up with the engineering marvel of this tunnel. The air in the tunnel needed to circulate to prevent poisoning from car fumes, so he designed the tunnel to be circular with four ventilation buildings, two on each side of the Hudson River, housing 84 big fans that changed out the air every 90 seconds. This innovation made the Holland Tunnel the first mechanically ventilated underwater vehicular tunnel. In 1993, the Holland Tunnel was designated a National Historic Landmark.

Haunted Churches of York

York, England is a place full of haunted locations with a vast history stretching back centuries. There are those who claim that York is the most haunted city in the world. On this episode, I'm going to focus on the haunted churches of York.

There is a remnant of Roman influence in York because the city was founded by Rome in 71 AD. The most well known haunting in York is a story I believe I have told before about a contractor working in the Treasurer's House basement and witnessing some Roman ghosts. His name was Harry Martindale and he was checking the plumbing that they were tasked with updating. He was alone and had climbed up a ladder when he heard a trumpet. He thought perhaps he was hearing a band playing up on the street and continued his work until a ghostly horse came through the wall right near where he was working. He fell off the ladder and as he scrambled to get away, he saw a whole legion of Roman soldiers walking in formation and carrying shields, come out of the wall behind the horse. He watched as they walked through the room and into another wall and then he ran to tell his foreman. A curator at the house let Harry know that he was not the first to see this sight. An old Roman road was found beneath the Treasurer's House. The Romans didn't call the city York, but rather Eboracum. This was Celtic meaning the place with yew trees. They built a fort and a stone wall around the city. By the 4th century, Rome's grasp on the area was faltering and the soldiers left in 407AD leaving their towns abandoned and falling into ruin.

It wouldn't be until the 8th century that York would start to rebuild and grow. At this time, York was known as Eofer's Wic, which means market and when the Danes came, they changed it to Jorvik. The Vikings made this a capital for one of their kingdoms in 866 AD. William the Conqueror captured York and he built two wooden castles there in 1069. York flourished in Medieval times and functioned as a port. The Middle Ages found the city run by the churches and monks actually provided much of the care in the hospitals. There were several orders ranging from the Augustinians to the Franciscans to the Dominicans to the Carmelites. These monks would be overwhelmed when the Black Death came. Nearly half of York succumbed to the disease. The Plague would strike again and again throughout the 1500s and 1600s, but the city was always resilient and recovered. The Middle Ages seem to be the time that has carried over the most into the present era

Henry the VIII decimated the churches in York. In 1538, he closed the priories and friaries and the parish church numbers were cut in half. Despite this, the churches made a come back and many still stand today and are well known. And several of them are reputedly haunted. Church. This is a place of worship, a place of peace. There is a silent reverence in a church. But sometimes a church is not a place of peace or silent, even in the wee hours of the morning. 

Holy Trinity Church

Holy Trinity Church is a hidden away little gem. One immediately notices the medieval stained glass windows, the most prominent one being a lily crucifix one. The interior of the church features several boxes that are 10-foot by 12-foot with 4-foot side walls and there is an elevated platform in the center of the room for the pastor to give sermons.

This church has a churchyard and it is said to be quite haunted. There are several ghosts that have been described here. One of these spirits is headless and thought to belong to Thomas Percy who was the 7th Earl of Northumberland, He was beheaded by Henry VIII for an attempted overthrow in 1572 and his head was placed atop a spike at York's Micklegate Bar. Apparently, the spirit is looking for that head. The head was thought to have been stolen off the spike and buried in this churchyard.

The other ghosts are female in nature. One belongs to a medieval woman who was buried here with her husband. She is said to be at unrest because the couple had lost a child to the Plague and she was buried in a mass grave outside the walls of the city and the woman seems to be looking for her. Then there is an older spirit that roams the churchyard alone. Many believe that she is the last abbess of a Medieval convent that owned the church before the Reformation. Maybe she isn't happy it is Protestant now?

St. Olave's Church

St. Olave's Church was dedicated to St. Olaf, the patron saint of Norway, and was built originally in 1055 AD. The church was rebuilt in the 15th century and despite having several renovations over the centuries, it still mostly looks out of that century. St. Olave's has a castle-like look to it with a taller square tower and cool spires on all the corners. The church really is charming and even better, it is home to a couple of ghosts that seem to come as a pair. This pair is a woman and a young boy and they are seen wearing black, as though in mourning, sitting in the back of the church. They sit quietly although the boy is crying while the woman comforts him. Are they replaying a scene from a funeral? The two always disappear after being in view for a couple of minutes.

Church of All Saints (2)

There are two Church of All Saints, with one located on North Street and the other on Pavement. The North Street location was built sometime in the 1340s and has a wonderful soaring spire and 15th century roof. Several of the windows have medieval stained glass, which is said to only be overshadowed by the glass at York Minster. These feature saints, the nine orders of angels and the Corporal Acts of Mercy. The interior features these magnificent arches and the carved pulpit dates to 1675. There is a pipe organ as well. At the west end of the building, an anchorite building was built in the fifteenth century with an opening in the wall so that Emma Raughton could observe and hear the Mass being said. Emma Raughton was a British anchoress in the 15th century who apparently had regular visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There is a ghost here said to be a gentle elderly specter wearing a dress from the time of World War II. She seems to be residual in nature and comes in and out of the railed garden.

The location on Pavement dates from the 14th century and has undergone many changes through the years. The chancel was demolished in 1780 with the east end being rebuilt at that time, but it wouldn't be until 1834 that the rest would be rebuilt. A vestry was added in 1850 and the stained glass in the east window was installed in 1887. This is the regimental church for the Royal Dragoon Guards. This is a cavalry regiment of the British Army. The spirit that haunts here is said to be a long-haired wraith. She appears to be angry and at unrest because she was not given a Christian burial and so she usually shows up during funerals and gazes at the coffins. One person reported seeing her for five minutes before she disappeared.

Church of St. Crux

Sadly, the St. Crux Church no longer stands, but its church hall still remains in the Shambles. The church was demolished in 1887 after it was deemed unsafe. For some reason, it was never rebuilt. When it stood, it had an Italianate tower that Francis Drake described as 'a handsome new steeple of brick coined with stone.' The Victorians found the tower unsightly and didn't bother to fix the cupola on top that had collapsed. And then the rest of the church fell into ruin. The church hall features displays about the former church. One of the spirits that was seen in the church, before it was destroyed, belonged to a tall man who would peer out of a window. People would wave to him and he seemed to take no notice of them as though he couldn't see them. People began to believe that he was a ghost and when the verger offered to unlock the church so people could investigate, no one volunteered.

There are several female spirits connected to the former church. One is seen walking from the site of the church to Spen Lane and she is usually wearing a long non-descript gown, so historians are unable to place her to a time period. Another female ghost is seen wearing a shawl and walking to Foss Bridge from the church site. Some claim these women are the same, but they do seem to wear different dresses. They both always vanish. There is another woman spirit that was connected to the Waits of York. This group no longer exists, but for centuries they were basically the neighborhood watch here. They were a group of four men the size and shape of your typical bouncer and they walked the streets around the Church of St. Crux. They wore scarlet uniforms, so they were easily seen and they kept an eye out for criminal behavior and watched the weather, announcing in the morning what people could expect for the day. The group eventually went away because what had been high pay at one time became a pittance after inflation hit and no one was willing to risk themselves for that. There was a female spirit that seemed to attach herself to the Waits. She would appear whenever they would start to sing to pass their time on the street. She would come out of the churchyard at St. Crux. She was beautiful and wore a long gown that many believed was her actual death shroud wrapped around her. She was intelligent and would follow the Waits and stop whenever they stopped. She would vanish whenever any of the Waits would try to approach her.

There is another one-time story shared by a policeman that happened right before the church was demolished. He was on his patrol when he heard organ music coming from the church. He knew it should be empty since it was getting ready to be demolished. He approached the church and just before he got to the doors, they flew open with a burst of air. The policeman could see that the interior was dark and empty and then he heard disembodied footsteps. He ran to get a colleague and when they returned they found the church locked and quiet.

The Church of St. Saviour

St. Saviour's Church is found at the end of Peasholme Green along Spen Lane and is another great example of medieval architecture with parapets encircling the top of its main tower that features a large arched stain-glass window. This church was founded in the 11th century with the current church building dating to the 15th century. The vestry was added in 1878 and a little before that, the roofs were painted a light buff and highlighted with gold, crimson and blue. The building is today used by the York Archaeological Trust. There is a Grey Lady at this location who is seen often wearing clothes dating to the late 18th century. The legend about her claims that she appears coming out of the church at midnight and walks along the length of the structure and waits when she gets to the end as though she is expecting someone to arrive. She even paces at times, but disappears before the clock strikes 1 a.m. A story that is probably ghost lore claims a man asked to be locked into the church overnight so that he could see where the Grey Lady originated from. When the vicar came to let him out the next morning, he found the man scared witless on the roof talking jibberish to himself. Another version claims the man was dead as though he had been scared to death.

There is another spirit here and it is said that it belongs to a Viking. He is seen wearing a shirt of iron mail and a helmet, carrying a sword. It is thought the Viking was executed at the church.

St. Mary's Abbey

St. Mary's Abbey no longer exists, but there are still some ruins left behind by the former Benedictine abbey. These ruins include a gatehouse and part of the church abbey. The site is now home to the York Museum Gardens. The first building on this land was built in 1055 AD and through the years, the abbey grew to become the richest in northern England. Abbeys were major landowners and St. Mary's was the biggest. They eventually built the Abbot House now known as King's Manor on the property, which still exists today and this would play host to kings and queens. This abbey was dedicated to St. Olaf of Norway and rededicated in 1088 AD to the Virgin Mary and thus the name. A fun fact is that the abbot from St. Mary's is the nemesis of Robin Hood in the stories. The power and reign of St. Mary's would end when Henry VIII shut down the Catholic Church and he had the place closed and demolished. There were 30 Abbots in all through the years at St. Mary's and this position gave them a seat on Parliament. One of these abbots is known today as the Black Abbot and he makes appearances among the ruins as a phantom wearing a black robe. Pretty creepy!

St. Mary's Church

This is not to be confused with the aforementioned abbey. St. Mary's Church is along Castlegate. The church dates to around 1020 with the original Saxon stonework still as part of the body of the church. Most of the updates were done during medieval times and the steeple is the tallest in York. The church was deconsecrated in 1958 and between 1975 and 2001 was a heritage centre. This opened as a contemporary art venue in 2004. One thing that has remained the same is the churchyard and it plays host to a killer whose spectre hangs around the graveyard. This killer was Walter Calverley. He had a good background being born into a wealthy family of farmers in the 16th century. He did well for himself by marrying an heiress in 1599. But Walter had an issue with money. He ran up huge debts and it got so bad that he ended up in court and then jail. His mother wrote him out of her will and made sure the inheritance would go to her three grandchildren with Walter's wife as the trustee. Clearly, she didn't trust him with money. This seemed to set Walter off.

He came home from a long walk and found his oldest son playing in the hall. He stabbed the boy to death and then went to his wife's bedroom and stabbed her. He then found his middle son and slit his throat. A maid stumbled upon the scene and Walter attacked her. Her screams brought some male servants to her aid and Walter jumped on a horse and rode off. One of the servants guessed that Walter was heading to the home of the wet nurse for his youngest child and he hopped on a horse in pursuit. This sounds like an amazing movie as the nurse sees Walter coming with a knife and bars the door. The servant arrives and fights with Walter as he calls for villagers to help him and they all succeed in overpowering Walter. Walter was sentenced to die and he was executed. His wife actually survived the attack and went on to marry again and have more children. Parish records for the church indicate that Walter was buried here in the churchyard, but it is thought that the bones were moved to a tomb at Calverley. And that is why his spirit is thought to be at unrest, it is looking for his body. The full-bodied apparition has been seen wandering through the churchyard searching in vain.

York Minster

Probably the most well known church here is York Minster. York Minster was not the first church here. There have been many through the decades. The first was probably built in 627 AD out of wood and eventually replaced with a stone structure. This fell into disrepair and was restored in 670. Fire destroyed it in 741 and it was rebuilt as a bigger stone structure. This was attacked and destroyed through the years until the one that survives today was begun in 1220 AD.

York Minster is northern Europe’s oldest Gothic cathedral and borders one side of the city while Clifford's Tower borders the other. I cannot begin to put into words the beauty of this building. It was made from handcrafted masonry stones, medieval stained glass and features architectural wonders. One of these is the Old Mason's Loft and roof of the Chapter House. A revolutionary engineering technique was used by 13th century Masons to create the wooden carpentry here with timber that today is over 1,000 years old. Stone cut designs and statuary are everywhere on this building, made from magnesian limestone that was quarried from Tadcaster and has a creamy white hue. The statuary is some of the finest Gothic sculpture in the country and features angels, animals, grotesques and human heads with no two alike. Purbeck marble was added to the piers of the Chapter House. The Gothic design is based on a cruciform plan featuring an octagonal chapter house attached to the north transept, and three towers with one set centrally and the other two at the west front. The Minster is dedicated to St. Peter and the seat of the Archbishop of York. The stained-glass windows feature a rose window on the south transept, a heart-shaped design on the West window, which is known as the Heart of Yorkshire and the Five Sisters Window with each lancet measuring over 53 feet and 5 feet wide. Patterned marble was added to the floors in the 1700s. Fires have continued to ravage the building with the most recent in 1984. A broad renovation project was started in 2007 and was completed in 2018.

This is one of the more haunted sites and always manages to make it on a Top 10 Haunted York Sites list. The carved stone I mentioned is part of one of our ghost stories. Stone masons have to make repairs often to the stone because of the elements and they were doing this in 1964. A female tourist in York stopped to watch them for a bit and was approached by a man who asked if she liked the stonework. The man looked scraggly, but the woman was polite and told him that she did. He grinned and said that he made it, and then he disappeared. She was startled, but then assumed that the man was supervising the repairs to the work he had done some 600 years earlier. One of the other spirits here is thought to belong to a parishioner who was named Dean Gale and he is seen sitting and listening to sermons before he disappears into thin air. Gale had been the head of the Minster chapter in the late 17th century. He was highly respected and never missed a service, always sitting in the same seat. He died in 1702 and was buried in a tomb in the Minster.

Disembodied barks are heard coming from inside the Minster at night and people believe this is because there is a rumor that a dog was walled up inside the church. A really well known ghost story dates to the 1820s and features a man in a naval uniform walking up to two women inside the church and whispering in one of their ears before disappearing. One of the women claimed it was her brother crossing the veil to let her know that there was an afterlife. He apparently had died at sea. Another telling of the story has a young woman being shown around the Minster by a local York man and that he sees the man in the naval uniform first and watches as he walks up to the girl who has a stunned look on her face. She later explained to him that she and her brother had made a deal with each other to return after dying to reveal there was an afterlife. So this was apparently a crisis apparition and only appeared the one time.

There are two things that I really love in Britain and those are its castles and its churches. They feed my love of architecture and the fact that they have witnessed so much history makes them even better. It is not surprising that these older churches would host ghosts. Many of them seem to be looking for something. That seems like a hard thing to be locked into for the afterlife: a constant searching. Are these churches haunted? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes:
Please check out "Haunted York" by Rupert Matthews written in 2009 from which some of the stories have been culled.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

HGB Ep. 313 - Haunted Lawrenceville, Georgia

Moment in Oddity - Old Bill as Tourist Attraction
Suggested by: Breanne Sanford

Pedro Rugiero was 55 years old when he gained some fame, but the story behind this is quite tragic. Pedro became famous as the number one tourist attraction in Garden City in Kansas. This lasted for twenty years. People called him Old Bill and they came from all over by the thousands over the years to see him. Sometimes they would find him lying down, other times he would be leaning against a wall, but every time, they would find him dead. Yes, Old Bill was dead and on display at a funeral home. He had been mummified with a special embalming fluid that contained metal, which helped preserve the body better and as it mixed with air, the mummification took place. Pedro's tragic story began on April 29, 1911. The quiet Italian immigrant boarded a train in Dodge City heading for Garden City carrying a suitcase with some lunch meat, an empty bottle of wine, six cans of tobacco, seven boxes of matches and a loaf of rye bread. He also had a straight razor in his pocket. About 19 miles from Garden City, Pedro pulled the razor out of his pocket, jumped up on a seat, put the razor to his throat and yelled, "Here goes, boys. Here goes!" And then he slit his throat. He was taken to A.R. Clark funeral home where they embalmed him hoping someone would claim his body. And even though the director was able to find a wife in Italy and a brother in San Francisco, no one wanted to claim the body. So they kept him and put him in a new suit every year and shellaced him to prevent mold and continued to display him. And it stayed this way until 1938 when a fire ravaged the center of town taking out the funeral home and cremating Pedro. And he might have been forgotten for not a photo that was taken reminding everyone that for 20 years, an embalmed man became a tourist attraction and that certainly is odd!

This Month in History - The Ocoee Massacre

In the month of November, on the 2nd, in 1920, the Ocoee Massacre occurred. The Ocoee Massacre was a race riot in which a white mob attacked people of color in the town of Ocoee. For a year, people in the African-American community had been making great inroads to getting People of Color registered to vote. November 2nd, Election Day, came along and a black man named Moses Norman went into a precinct to vote and he was turned away. Moses tried to vote a second time and was turned away again and this apparently angered a group of white men who decided to teach him a lesson. They thought he was hiding out at July Perry's house and so they went over there as a mob and beat on the door. July felt threatened and he got out a gun. He fired off some shots and unfortunately killed two men and wounded another. And that was it. The night would end with nearly every African-American business burned to the ground along with their schools, homes and churches. As the people ran for their lives, they were shot at with nearly 60 of them being killed. July Perry had run for his life, but was found and while he was en route to a jail, a mob pulled him from the car and lynched him, hanging him from a lamp post. No one was ever prosecuted for his murder. And for years after this, Ocoee was basically an all-white town. The Ocoee Massacre would be described as the "single bloodiest day in modern American political history."

Haunted Lawrenceville

Lawrenceville is a quaint town about forty minutes outside of Atlanta and is actually the second oldest town in the Atlanta metropolitan area. The historic downtown is full of storefront restaurants and shops. One would not think that this city has a paranormal essence to it, but as we found while taking a ghost tour, there are many stories of the unexplained here. Not something a city that is the headquarters of the Presbyterian Church of America would really want to champion, but their city website does have a link for ghost tours. Join me as I share the history, lore and hauntings of Lawrenceville, Georgia.

This second oldest city in the Atlanta area was officially incorporated on December 15, 1821 and Lawrenceville is the county seat for Gwinnett County. We really enjoyed walking the downtown block area and observing the older buildings and churches found here. We found out that the city was named for a Lawrence: a War of 1812 navy commander, Captain James Lawrence. He became famous for his words to his men, "Tell the men to fire faster and not to give up the ship; fight her till she sinks!" He did die in the war. This downtown area was established because of nearby streams and by 1824, a courthouse lay in the center of town with multiple businesses branching out from it. This area was originally dubbed Honest Alley because of the trade that was exchanged here, which was anything but honest apparently. This was the seedy area of town. The main industry here was cotton followed by corn, lumber and livestock. The late 1800s brought the railroad and the town became a transportation center. The city has continued to flourish as Atlanta flourished and today is undergoing a revitalization that was evident in the theater and its expansion into a bigger complex. It was outside this theater, the Aurora Theater, that we met our tour.

Madame Macabre was our guide on the Lawrenceville Ghost Tour. Her real name is Cynthia Rintye and she was an excellent storyteller and also happens to be the director of the tour group. You can find it at The tour started at the Aurora Theater, which had originally been the Methodist Church. The Methodist cemetery was not located next to the church, but rather down the street and then up a hill and is named the New Hope Methodist Cemetery. The earliest burial I found there was for an infant in 1850. We were informed that a well-known unnamed paranormal investigator considers this cemetery the most active cemetery that he has ever seen. He spent the night there with a crew from 11 Alive News one October. They brought a thermometer with them on what was a balmy night and it registered a cold pocket of air and their thermometer registered a temperature drop of 30 degrees and their camera batteries completely discharged in 5 seconds. This happened a second time that evening. I have some audio here from that report that played on the news. (11 Alive News) Did you hear that woman talking in the background? There were only three men in the cemetery that night. When the reporter was asked if possibly they recorded over a tape that had this woman recorded on it and somehow it bled through. He said, sure that could happen I guess, but I've never had that happen before. Here is a second report about the same story. (11 Alive News 2) Cynthia also was in the cemetery on her own one day and decided to walk through using a recorder to see if she could catch anything. She listened back to the whole tape and got nothing until the very end. Here she is sharing that, see what you think you hear. (Cynthia Cemetery EVP) I hear "Ma ma" too. The Ghost Tour does offer specific tours of the cemetery.

We stopped at the Jule Oakes House, which is now a coffee house known as Boulder Creek Coffee. Julius C. Oakes, or Jule as everyone called him, was born in 1888 and died in 1966 at the age of 78. He was a former mayor of the city and lived in the house in the 1940s. The house was actually built in the 1890s. This house is historical, but apparently not haunted. Now, across the street were a line of shops and Madame Macabre told us that she was delivering flyers there one day and in each shop she was told that there was something going on that couldn't be explained. One of these places was a spa with a basement that has a weird cold spot where cell phones won't work. Another store experiences knocking on a back door that opens onto an alley. Whenever they open the door, they find no one there or in the alley. Another jewelry store named Sparkle was owned by a woman named Meg. She was unpacking a box of product and checks a piece off of a list. There was a noise behind her and she drops the piece and turns around to see what caused the noise. When she turned back, she couldn't find this one-of-a-kind piece. She looked all through the packing and the box. She couldn't find it anywhere. About two weeks later, the piece reappeared in plain sight on the other side of the shop.

We then arrive at Honest Alley, which I mentioned earlier. This is the kind of area where a child would never want to go. Edgar Dunlap's mother had told him never to walk down that alley and he never did, until this one time. He had been visiting friends across town and it had gotten late. He was worried he was going to get in trouble and Honest Alley was a short cut. He decided to take that short cut in 1924. There was no light in the alley and a storm had started raging. He makes it through the pitch black alley. But just as he starts to step forward, two skeletons come walking in front of him. Edgar is so frightened, he passes out. Some men take him home and when he wakes up, he tells his mom what he saw. She didn't believe him until she saw a story in the paper. Apparently, a tornado touched down inside a cemetery and pulled this 100 year old tree out of the ground and these two skeletons popped out of the ground with it and the whole thing blew past the alley.

Oyster Bay Seafood Cafe opened in October of 2009. Before this, the building was home to The Flying Saucer Retro Cafe & Bakery. Tucker was the son of the owner of Oyster Bay and he felt like he always had to do all the dirty work. One day while they were renovating, Tucker's dad told him to bring a box of nails. He tripped and spilled the nails everywhere. He bent down to pick up the nails and he mutters to himself about having no help with the nails. Then he notices these feet start moving the nails towards him. He gets all the nails in the box and then looks up to thank his helper and sees that the legs stop at the waist. He runs to tell his father who told him to stop with the foolishness. A few years later, Tucker again finds himself doing some grunt work unloading boxes of canned goods. He was angry because he would rather be at the ball game. He throws a can of tomatos across the room and it bounces off the wall and comes flying back at him, but a hand reaches out and grabs the can before it hits him. He turns to thank whoever helped him, but he only sees an arm from the elbow forward to the hand. Then last year, Tucker had another experience as an adult. It was Christmas Day, the only day the family took off from the restaurant. Their phones all started going off indicating that the security alarm at the restaurant had been set off. They figured it was a false alarm, but someone needed to go reset the alarm. And Tucker got the short straw. He was really upset about it and muttering again to himself as he reached the restaurant. He found the back door locked and the alarm was blaring. He unlocked the door, went inside and saw nothing. A few seconds later, he saw something he hadn't seen before. There is a man sitting at the bar. Tucker can see that this figure has no arm and nothing below the waist. The figure waves him over and he sees that there is a bottle of whiskey and two shot glasses next to the ghost. The ghost pours them each a shot. He tips his back as he pushes the other to Tucker. Tucker tips his back and when he brings his head back up he sees that the ghost is gone. The other shot glass was gone too. Tucker washed up the glass. He told our tour guide that he has never felt alone again after that day. So where could this spirit have come from?

About 30 years ago, the city wanted to put a connector between two one-way streets. They dug into a bank with a bulldozer and realized that there had once been a cemetery here and not all the bodies had been removed. The bulldozer had broken into a grave and split a skeleton in two at the waist. Every one could clearly see this skeleton that had been cut in two and our guide wonders if this is why there is a ghost at Oyster Bay because this happened right near it.

Little Gardens is a colonial style former mansion and plantation that is today a wedding venue. It was built in the 1800s and features a glorious ballroom with a wall of french glass doors that open up into the gardens. A woman died here in the 1900s and she supposedly haunts the place manifesting as cold spots, disembodied footsteps and restroom doors open and close by themselves.

We head down Callaboose Alley and stand outside a small concrete building. This is the old city jail. Callaboose actually means jail. There is a very tragic tale connected to this place. Elleck and his wife Betsy were slaves owned by a horrible drunkard named Colonel James Austin. He abused his slaves and one night he busted into the shack that served as Elleck and Betsy's home. He grabbed Betsy and said he was going to take what was his. Elleck grabbed Austin and threw him off his wife. He told Betsy to run while Austin turned his attention to Elleck. Elleck ran too and Austin ran up to the house to get a weapon, his calvary sword. He came back out and saw Elleck scrambling up a ladder to a sleeping loft and he followed him. Austin climbed up to the loft before Elleck could pull the ladder up and he began swinging the sword wildly. He lifted it high and got it caught in the roof. The two men fought for the sword and Austin went flying out of the loft and died. Elleck turned himself in thinking that people would understand that this was self-defense. He faced a judge who found him guilty and sentenced him to death. He was thrown into a small jail that still exists and we got to go inside this jail and see something left behind by Elleck. Elleck used a metal slat to start chipping away at the concrete of his cell. People outside of the jail heard the nice and notified the sheriff who was pissed. He chained Elleck to the floor by both his wrists and ankles. He was left that way for 3 days and nights. Elleck sang to Betsy to pass the time. It was a song he made up asking her to meet him. He was hanged a month later. But his spirit still seems to be inside the jail. People claim to hear a disembodied voice singing a song to a woman named Betsy. We went inside this small building that was built in 1832 and still had the barred doors and metal beds. It seems to be used for storage now, but the remnants of the past were clearly still here too. Madame Macabre said that one night while giving a tour, she had sung Elleck's song and she kept hearing the word "me" echoed after her. She thought she was just hearing things until everybody was out of the jail and a person on the tour asked if people heard something weird. Another person said they heard someone else singing. All the people on the tour agreed that they heard a second person singing at the same time as the guide. Madame Macabre says that they have caught orbs, felt cold spots, had shoelaces untied and people have been touched. We didn't experience anything while inside. Our guide pointed out that last year she had found out the exact dates that all of this happened and the night we were doing our tour, October 11th, was the first night Elleck spent in the jail. Her earlier tour felt a lot of anxiety while in there.

She tells these stories as we leave the jail area. (Jail Area)