Thursday, January 23, 2020

HGB Ep. 324 - Hammond Castle

Moment in Oddity - Prague's Charles Bridge

The Charles Bridge in Prague was built in 1357. There are some oddities and superstitions connected to this bridge. The first has to do with a palindrome. A palindrome is a phrase, sequence or word that reads the same backwards as it does forwards. The palindrome for the Charles Bridge is the date and time of when the original bridge stone was laid by builders. This happened on July 9 at exactly 5:31 AM, in 1357. If you write this out with the year first, then the date with the day followed by the month and then the time, you get 135797531. This sequence was actually carved onto the stones at the east end of the Old Town Bridge Tower. The people of Prague were superstitious and believed that in doing this, they were giving the bridge a magical strength. So we don't think the timing of laying that stone was just chance. It had purpose as did the alignment of the bridge. It was placed in perfect alignment with the tomb of Saint Vitus and the setting sun on the equinox. Saint Vitus was a Christian saint from Sicily who died as a martyr and is thought of as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers of medieval Roman Catholicism. These helpers were thought to have interceded on behalf of the Catholics to protect them from the Bubonic Plague and other diseases. There is a statue of Saint John of Nepomuk that stands on the bridge and there is a superstition connected to is that claims if you rub the plaque at the base of the statue, you can make a wish and it will be granted. The bridge has survived a lot from battles to flooding and other natural disasters. This has been credited to its superstitious and magical strength and that, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Samuel Pepys Diary Starts

In the month of January, on the 1st, in 1660 Samuel Pepys (Peeps) began his famous diary. Pepys was born in 1633 and even though he had no maritime experience, through hard work and patronage, he managed to work his way up to Chief Secretary to the Admiralty of the Royal Navy. What he is most known for though, is this personal diary he kept from 1660 until 1669. This work would not be published until the 19th century and is considered an important primary source in regards to the English Restoration period and the most celebrated British diary. The reason for this is that it thoroughly documents major events of the time from a personal point of view. These events include the Second Dutch War, the Great Plague of London and the Great Fire of London. The diary is over a million words long and also includes scandalous details about his affairs with actresses, so it meets all the "real" requirements of a diary - lol. Pepys also included things like his dislike of how crowded London had become and the annoyance of his cat waking him up at 1am. We may not be able to relate to life in the 1600s, but we can all relate with a pet waking us up at 1am.

Hammond Castle (Suggested by: Nicole Cardarelli)

Hammond Castle is a medieval-style castle found in Gloucester, Massachusetts. This elaborate and whimsical structure was built by its eccentric namesake, John Hays Hammond, Jr. A drawbridge leads visitors inside where they find an indoor pool, pipe organ and a vast collection of Renaissance, medieval and Roman artifacts. This was not just a home, but a laboratory because Hammond was an inventor who held over 800 patents. The interesting decor reflects the eclectic spirit of the man who lived here, but it may also still be holding on to that spirit. The ghost of Hammond is said to roam his former dwelling, but it may not just be his spirit here. There are several ghost stories connected to the structure. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Hammond Castle!

Gloucester, Massachusetts was named after Gloucester, England because many of the earlier settlers came from that town. The pilgrims had landed at Plymouth in 1620 and just three years later, Gloucester became a settlement in 1623. In that year, James I had chartered an expedition of men from Dorchester called the Dorchester Company. This group founded Gloucester at Cape Ann and this would be one of the first English settlements that formed the Massachusetts Bay Colony. That makes Gloucester older than Boston and Salem. And Gloucester would actually lead to the establishment of Salem because everybody would pick up and move there after finding conditions too harsh at Cape Ann. They even took apart their meeting house and moved it with them. Gloucester would be formally incorporated in 1642. Initially farming and logging would be the major industries, which is surprising since fishing is what it is known for today, but at the time, the conditions were just too extreme. They didn't have the Deadliest Catch back then. Fishing wouldn't really take hold until the mid-18th century. Granite would also become a major industry for a time. Not much remains today of the early village, save for remnants of cellar holes. The stone foundation and memorial altar of the Second Parish's meeting house and former burial ground are still around off of Old Thompson Road. Gloucester is considered America's oldest seaport and it would be here that John Hammond would build his home.

John Hays Hammond, Jr., or Jack as everyone called him, was born in San Francisco in 1888. At the age of five, his family moved to South Africa for his father's work. He was a mining engineer and he was needed for finding gold. His efforts would make him a very rich man. The family lived in England for a time, where Jack fell in love with the castles. He also had an enduring love for invention that started early. He accompanied his father on a visit to Thomas Edison's laboratory in New Jersey at the age of twelve and he was fascinated by everything he saw and Edison gave them a personal tour. He peppered Edison with many questions and Edison was so impressed by him that he took Jack under his wing and mentored him. That would not be his only mentor though. After Hammond started getting interested in radio waves, Edison introduced him to Alexander Graham Bell who mentored Jack as well. He attended Yale University and graduated in 1910. One of his earliest experiments was with remote radio control and he decided to use little model boats as the mechanisms to control. He would be named the "Father of Radio Control" eventually.

Now picture this for just a moment. This is a time before the Roaring 20s and you are out at the harbor, maybe walking along with your sweetheart on your arm. You look out into the harbor and see this little unmanned boat zipping all around. This is quite a terrifying sight and I imagine if you look over behind that tree, you'll see a rather nice-looking, well-dressed man snickering as he moves a little control around in his hand. Something you have never seen before. This is what Hammond loved to do at that time. He enjoyed terrorizing people down at the harbor in this way. But oh, what joy he has brought to children and adults alike with his radio remote control.

Hammond worked for the US Patent Office where he got familiar with the process and discovered that radio was probably going to be his most beneficial area of focus and he founded the Hammond Radio Research Laboratory on his father’s estate in Gloucester, Massachusetts. He invented other things like automatic pilot, automatic stabilization by gyroscopes and the idea of having torpedoes and missiles detonate when they were near their intended targets. The fact that we have remote controls for our televisions and buttons that change the dials on the radio are all because of him. He also served on the Board of Directors of RCA. He married Irene Felton in 1925, which might have been a little scandalous since she was a divorcee. They didn't make a big production of it and his mother did not approve. Irene was an introvert like us and would often lock herself away during parties if they were crowded. But she liked seances and even claimed to be psychic herself.

On a rocky cliff overlooking Gloucester Harbor, Hammond built his dream home for his new bride, a castle. This was just down the road from his parent's place and while mom didn't approve of the wife, dad didn't approve of the castle. The castle would be a place where he could invent and display his vast collection of artifacts. Construction lasted from 1926 to 1929 and Jack dubbed it Abbadia Mare, which is Latin for "Abbey by the Sea." We can't really place a specific style on the castle because it is really unique. The castle was built in sections and includes pieces of Romanesque, Medieval, Renaissance French, and Gothic architectural styling. The grounds are beautiful and everything is a mixture of artifacts and stone with lots of iron embellishments. The towers rise 85 feet and there is a mote and drawbridge. There is so much to see inside.

The Great Hall rises to 65 feet and served as the Hammond's living room and is home to the pipe organ, which starts on the first floor and rises eight stories. Famous organists like Virgil Fox played the organ that was in working order until 2015. Throughout are various implements of ancient war like weapons and suits of armor. There are also beautiful stained glass windows, marble statuary, old wooden chairs and benches and artwork. The guest rooms were designed by Mrs. Hammond and she decorated them with bright colors and patterned wallpaper to offset the dreary feel of the rest of the castle. But these rooms had a little quirk to them. They had something called vanishing doors. These doors were covered in the same wallpaper as the rest of the room and so they are hard to see save for the little knob that serves as a doorknob. Hammond had a laboratory here, of course, where he created many of his inventions, some of which included top secret stuff for the Navy. These inventions included radio-guided weapons like missiles and torpedoes and in 1921, he guided an unmanned Naval battleship in Chesapeake Bay. We couldn't find the master bedroom described anywhere since it is off limits to tours.

The Patio, as the Hammond's liked to refer to their indoor pool area, is magnificent and was built to look as though one were walking out of a church and into a medieval village built from Roman ruins. The pool water had a greenish hue to it caused by a chemical agent invented by Hammond. Pilots who crashed into water also used this same dye to indicate their location. The lighting and climate were controlled by a Sun System that was installed overhead. To us, it looks like a greenhouse with lots of windows, but it could give off sun on a cloudy day and add artificial moonlight at night. There were pipes above as well that could cause it to rain inside and the intensity could range from a slight mist to a torrential downpour. The pool had an optical illusion designed into it that made it seem as though there were a shallow end in the pool that moved all around. We're not sure why it was designed this way, but in actuality, the pool is 8.5 feet deep throughout. And listen to this! A lever could be pulled that changed the 30,000 gallons of water in the pool from fresh water to salt water. There is a statue in here that is supposed to be John Hammond standing with his arms raised and in the nude. His wife insisted that his, uh, covered with a fig leaf.

Hammond had written to his father, "My ambition is to leave a modest, but beautiful, museum. I want only an authentic atmosphere, some furniture, and genuine architectural pieces -- doors, windows, etc. In cold restrained New England, a place with the romantic beauty of the Italian and French past may prove the inspiration of many poor artists and students to come. It will give them something that I have been fortunate enough to know and enjoy. It also gives me satisfaction to think that I may be able to produce something of lasting worth." We think he accomplished that with this castle. Jack set things in motion so the castle could be a museum and that is what it is today, hosting tours, weddings and other special events.

There is so much that we love about this place and the man who built it! First and foremost, it's a castle!! There are gargoyles and headstones brought over from Europe for outside decor and Hammond was said to be a man heavily interested in Spiritualism, a good friend of Nikola Tesla and legends claim he kept the dead body of his father down in the cellar, so that he could attempt to reanimate it one day. He also had a human skull that was supposed to belong to one of Christopher Columbus' crewmen. Jack liked collecting items from dead people because he believed these things held a bit of their spirits. And Hammond's final wish when he died in 1965 was that he would be buried beneath poison ivy so that no one could disturb him and several mummified cats that had been his pets were in the same place. His body would later be moved in 2008 inside the Cat Garden near the drawbridge. This certainly would not help to put his spirit to rest. Not only do people claim that he haunts the premises, but there are other spirits here too.

In October, the castle hosts a haunted house attraction, which has been managed more recently by Folklore Theater Company. This company tries to keep the scares more closer to the truth, finding inspiration in the real seances that the Hammonds would host at the castle. But this place is the real deal according to the reports and claims of many people. Disembodied voices are heard, there are footsteps by unseen things and books fly off of shelves. Jack said he would come back as a black cat and black cats do seem to appear out of nowhere in the castle. The Hammonds spirits are said to materialize often in their master bedroom. A groundskeeper supposedly died on the grounds and one of the spirits seen in the garden area is believed to be him and that he is still doing his work in the afterlife.

Ghost Hunters investigated Hammond Castle in 2012 for Season 8 on episode 23. Josh Gates had lived right down the road, so he joined the group. Amy Bruni and Adam Berry both heard an audible whistle. Jason, Steve and Josh focused on the balcony area where they continued to hear voices and other noises emanating. Later, another investigator named Ashley was joined by Josh and they went down into the basement where they witnessed a chandelier swinging wildly.  Josh had never seen anything like it and the group tried to debunk it through a few methods and nothing could make the chandelier move. There was no air blowing in the basement and no walking from above caused the swaying. The most interesting EVP they captured sounded like it said, "Hammond."

Hammond Castle is magical in that it is like having a real-life castle right here in America. But is the castle magical? Is Hammond Castle haunted? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes:
John Dandola is considered the expert on John Hammond  and I used his website for some of my information:

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