Thursday, February 13, 2020

HGB Ep. 327 - Yellowstone National Park

Moment in Oddity - Wooldridge Monuments
Suggested by: Kim Gasiorowski

There is a very unusual monument in Mayfield, Kentucky. This monument is named the Wooldridge Monuments and is named for Henry Wooldridge who was a lifelong bachelor and eccentric horse breeder. Henry must have spent a lot of time thinking about his death and how he wanted to be honored with his burial. He decided to commission 18 life-sized statues to be erected within the boundaries of his 17 x 33 square foot plot in Maplewood Cemetery. That's already really unusual, but even stranger, all of the monuments face east and include family members and animals. Statues represent his two brothers, three sisters, mother and two nieces. He also made sure to include two of his dogs and a horse. He also commissioned two monuments for himself, one of which has him astride the aforementioned horse and the other standing next to a lectern. The latter was crafted from marble in Italy while the rest of the works were made from limestone. Legends claim that all of the people represented were dead and that sculptors just had to wing it because Henry provided them with no pictures. The statues were put in place before Henry died in 1899 at the age of 77. His marble vault has a double-barreled shotgun carved into it. This procession of statues in a graveyard, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Diphtheria Serum Arrives Via Sled Dog in Nome, Alaska

In the month of February, on the 2nd, in 1925, Norwegian Gunnar Kaasen, and his lead dog Balto, brought the life-saving diphtheria serum into Nome, Alaska. A major outbreak of diphtheria threatened the young people of Nome, Alaska in early 1925. The only serum was in Anchorage and a major storm with temperatures reaching down into the -70F level was raging. There was only one aircraft that was available to get the serum through, but the cold weather had frozen the engine. Officials knew their only chance was to use sled dogs. This would not be an easy trip and while Balto and Kaasen have gotten most of the glory, a group of mushers and sled dogs got the serum through. The worst stretch that was also the longest was covered by Norwegian Leonhard Seppala and his dog Togo. But Balto managed to follow the trail in whiteout conditions and in the dark. All of these men and dogs were heroes. There is a statue of Balto in Central Park, New York. The plaque on it reads, "Dedicated to the indomitable spirit of the sled dogs that relayed antitoxin six hundred miles over rough ice, across treacherous waters, through Arctic blizzards from Nenana to the relief of stricken Nome in the Winter of 1925. Endurance · Fidelity · Intelligence"

Yellowstone National Park (Suggested by Carren Sanders)

Yellowstone National Park has some real bragging rights. This was the first ever American National Park. The park stretches over three states and two million acres. There are geothermal wonders, wild animals that can readily be seen, rustic architecture and hundreds of ghost stories. Yellowstone is probably the most haunted national park in America. Join us as we share the history and haunts of Yellowstone National Park!

(Diane) Kelly, I went to Yellowstone with my family when I was a teenager. I had wanted to be a Forest Ranger when I grew up and I love animals, so this was a dream! I got pictures of buffaloes and elk and a momma and baby moose. I'm a birder, so seeing Trumpeter Swans, which are the largest wild waterfowl in America, was amazing. And the hot springs and geysers! There is nothing like them in the world. This is a place of wonders, but also danger. Fall into one of those hot springs and well, you probably will die.

(Kelly) That's right! Ever heard of hot potting? This isn't some form of cooking in the kitchen. There are people who make it a sport to travel around and find these hot springs that are untouched by humanity and still very much in their natural state. The Gnarly Science Blog by Dr. C.M. Helm-Clark has some great stuff on this and isn't that the best name of a blog? Bathing in water over 110 degrees Fahrenheit is unsafe and many hot springs run about 122 degrees Fahrenheit. Dr. Helm-Clark writes, "The mecca of acidic hot springs, at least in North America, is the Yellowstone volcanic caldera.  There have been more than 20 documented deaths at Yellowstone associated with hot springs. Many of these are described in detail to rival any good horror movie in Lee Whittlesey’s Death in Yellowstone (1995, Robert Rinehart Publishers, ISBN 978-1-57098-021-3). Almost all of them are gut-turners." Several bodies of those who have fallen in have never been recovered because they completely dissolved. Some date back to the early 1900s, while one story is as recent as 2015 where a brother and sister left the boardwalk to go hot potting where it was prohibited and the brother fell in and was dissolved. One story Dr. Helm-Clark shares demonstrates just how ludicrous decency beliefs were back in the day, "One woman from Washington DC was on a tour of Yellowstone in 1905, before boardwalks were built for the safety of visitors. In Upper Geyser Basin, home to Old Faithful, she took off her glasses to wipe the moisture off them. Without thinking, she stepped backward, not looking where she was going and fell hip deep into the pool of a boiling water hot spring. She was wearing thick petticoats and these got soaked with the spring water; their presence next to her burned legs kept inflicting a deeper level of burn since they were not removed right away. Apparently, decency was more important than good first aid in those days. In relentless pain, the poor woman lingered for three weeks in a local hotel before she died."

And if those statistics and stories aren't enough, listener Carren Sanders who requested this location wrote to us, "From the time it was made a national park up till 1995, there had been over 300 deaths. 16 murders, 15 suicides, 87 drownings.....the list goes on. I’m sure there are many more now. People taking selfies on cliffs and such." So there are many reasons to have ghosts here. Add to that that there are a couple of cemeteries too. Carren told us, "Up on the hill back behind the general store in mammoth (north of old Faithful in the north entrance of the park ) is the very first cemetery. There are 15 graves, all of them are unmarked except one. Mary Foster I believe her name is. So my husband being the good sport that he is, hiked up there with me and we combed the hillside for quite some time looking for this grave marker. He found a piece of cement with some metal in it that we don’t know what that is. I’m not sure if that would have been part of the marker or something else. So as I was walking, being the crazy lady that I am, I said 'OK Mary if you’re here please show me where you are so I can take a picture and remember you.' Just then this beautiful bluebird landed on a rock close to me. I’m a bird watcher and I was grateful that this beautiful bird made an appearance. Is this a sign that we found her grave? Of course , that is for you to decide."

This is Yellowstone's Kite Hill Cemetery and it was founded in 1883. This had originally been called Sepulcher Hill, but was changed to kite because so many people go there to fly kites. Only one monument remains and it does indeed belong to Mary Foster who appears to be the first burial in 1883. She died at the age of 33 and had probably worked at the Mammoth Hotel near where she was buried. Another woman is buried next to her who died from natural causes in 1887. There are also people buried here who died from suicide, an avalanche and murder, according to the "Death in Yellowstone" book. Fort Yellowstone Army Cemetery is also here and then there is a lone grave near the Nez Perce Picnic Area that belongs to Mattie S. Culver, who was the wife of E. C. Culver who was the caretaker at the Firehole Hotel from 1888 to 1889. The Culvers had come here hoping to help Mattie with her TB that she suffered from, but she eventually died on March 2, 1889. The ground was too frozen to bury her so she was placed inside two pickle barrels and buried in a snowdrift until the spring thaw.

We've talked a lot of death. Perhaps we should get into the history behind the formation of Yellowstone National Park. The park is named after the Yellowstone River, which was named by French trappers in the 18th century. The French name is Roche Jaune. Paleo Indians of the Clovis Culture were here long before the French though. Possibly living in the region 11,000 years ago. They were followed eventually by the Shoshone, Nez Perce and Crow. Stories about Yellowstone in the early 1800s were thought to just be myths. When trappers and mountain men reported that they had seen rivers with steam rising from them, mjud that boiled and trees that were petrified, people thought they were making up stories and even called the place Colter's Hell after one of the men who had spent time in the area called it a place of fire and brimstone.

The Cook–Folsom–Peterson Expedition of 1869 was the first to survey the Yellowstone area and this was followed by the Washburn–Langford–Doane Expedition in 1870. This expedition not only surveyed the land, but collected specimens and one of the members, Cornelius Hedges, championed the idea that the Yellowstone area be set aside as some kind of national park. More people would join the cause and finally Congress was petitioned to "pass a bill reserving the Great Geyser Basin as a public park forever." Things would finally move forward and President Ulysses S. Grant would sign The Act of Dedication law that created Yellowstone National Park on March 1, 1872. Nathaniel Langford was Yellowstone's first superintendent. But Langford was given no federal funding and poachers and other raiders took full advantage with nearly 3,000 animals being killed between 1874 and 1875. Eventually funding came and crude roads were built and then the train came and people used stagecoaches and horses to access the park.

The US Army would take over the management of Yellowstone from 1886 through 1918. The National Park Service was created in 1916 and that same year, horse-drawn wagons were no longer allowed on park roads. This would usher in the automobile and people would start pouring into the park. But this was not without issues as many cars would get stuck on old wagon roads, so the park service started paving roads. In 1929, the park's boundaries were adjusted. Officials would continue to develop the park and make changes throughout the years to help protect animals, restore wolves to the park and manage the land better.

But lost in all this history is what happened to the Native Americans who had lived here and hunted here. They eventually were mostly excluded and the only year round tribe were the Eastern Shoshone who were known as the "Sheepeaters." They thought that a treaty had promised them the right to hunt in Yellowstone if they ceded their lands there. The treaty was never ratified and the Sheepeaters would be denied. There would be skirmishes with Chief Joseph's Nez Perce band as well. Eventually, there would be peace and one of the most beautiful areas in the country would be saved from development.

Old Faithful Inn

There are nine lodging options in Yellowstone National Park and probably the most famous is the Old Faithful Inn. What makes this the most popular hotel in the park is the fact that it is right next to the geyser for which it is named, Old Faithful. The geyser was named Old Faithful because of its constant regularity. It erupts every 35 to 120 minutes and the eruption last from 1 1/2 to 5 minutes. The burst of steam and water can rise as high as 184 feet. The steam hits around 204 degrees Fahrenheit at the vent. The Upper Geyser Basin Hotel had stood here originally, but it burned down. The Old Faithful Inn was designed by architect Robert Reamer and built between 1903 and 1904 using local logs and stone and rises four stories. This makes it the largest log structure in the world. The inside is wonderful to behold with decorative wood and wrought iron, a massive stone fireplace and a hand-crafted clock made of copper. There are 327 rooms least one ghost.

The Old Faithful Inn features the ghost story of the headless bride. The story dates back to 1915 and follows the same features as so many ghost stories involving star-crossed lovers. It's a wonder that it took so long for parents to come around to just letting their kids love who they love. In this case, we have the daughter of a wealthy shipping magnate in New York. Her parents had picked out the son of a wealthy friend to be her husband and arranged everything. But their daughter had fallen in love with one of the household servants who also happened to be a much older man. The daughter eloped with the servant. Her parents were humiliated and her father wanted to get the couple out of town, so he offered them a large sum of money - her dowry - to leave New York and never come back. The couple agreed and they headed for Wyoming. They decided to honeymoon at Yellowstone and they booked a room at the Old Faithful Inn.

Now the young woman had followed her heart, but maybe not her brain because she hadn't chosen very well when it came to her husband. He took the large sum of money that was her dowry and decided to do some gambling. He also bought the finest food and drank the best liquor. A month into the honeymoon and the couple was broke. The husband told her she should call her dad for more money and you can probably guess what the answer was, a solid "no." The couple quarreled and it was so loud that many staff and guests heard the argument. The husband left the room, slamming the door hard behind him and was never seen again. After a couple of days, the staff became worried because they hadn't seen either member of the couple. They entered the room and found a grisly scene. The bride was in the bathroom, with blood everywhere and her head was missing. This was eventually found in the Crow's Nest, where the band played. The young woman is now reputedly seen in her spirit form, wearing white, descending from the Crow's Nest with her head tucked under her arm.

Is there any truth to this tale? There doesn't seem to be and the story goes that a bell captain at the inn named George Bornemann had made the whole story up and now everybody tells the story. But there is another ghost tale connected to the inn. A woman staying at the hotel in Room 2 years ago claimed that she saw a woman wearing Victorian era clothing floating at the foot of her bed at night. She woke her husband up, but he did not see the apparition. Now, we would typically question this since the inn was built in 1904 and Victorian dresses were probably out of style by that time, but could this be a ghost from the earlier hotel that was here?

There is one more ghostly tale connected to the hotel. This one is from an employee who had a really weird experience. A housekeeper claimed to watch a fire extinguisher that was hanging on the wall, lift itself up, do a 90-degree turn and then drop back to its original position. This was up on the 300 wing and the only time that anyone saw this extinguisher do its acrobatics. The National Parks Traveler Blog had the following comment, "As an employee of TWServices during the summers of 1986 and 1987 at the Old Faithful Inn location, I can verify some of the stories from the Inn. I worked as a line cook at OFI. I became friends with the security guards because I would get off work late and then hang around in front of the fire place or go to the second floor to write letters from the small tables in the public area. I marveled at the Inn and the geyser basin at night because I got to roam it without thousands of tourists interrupting. It was the summer of '86 that my experiences began with the unrested souls. On a routine watch with one of the guards we walked the halls of the 3rd floor something called my first name. I kept walking and continued to hear it several times until I asked her if she had heard anything. She said yes and that "they" do it to her quite often. Later that night we made it down to the 300 wing. It was the newer part of the hotel. I was told it was built on 2 unmarked graves. I pretty much shrugged it off, but thought it to be odd. In the months following several odd things occurred, many that took my nerve resulting in me running away. The 300 wing was intersected by 4 hallways and and a refreshment closet. I saw the fire extinguisher mentioned above. I saw the fire hose wheel turn and fill up the hose. I saw the short stairwell steps flatten causing my friend to stumble. I felt the unrested souls pass by me in the hallways. A sweet fragrance was present. I felt my hand squeezed. I saw the ice machine fill up then dump ice on the floor."

Lake Yellowstone Hotel

Lake Yellowstone Hotel was built in 1891 and has 296 rooms. This is the oldest standing hotel at Yellowstone and the decor is reminiscent of the 1920s with colonial architectural styling on the outside featuring yellow clapboard. It is named for Yellowstone Lake because it sits on its shores. The sunroom and lounge have massive windows providing a great view of this lake. One can sit in here or out on the porch, sipping some tea and listening to the tinkling of the keys from a live piano player. The hotel was originally designed by architect R.R. Cummins and was relatively plain. He had been hired by the Northern Pacific Railway to build the hotel, as one of three the railway was building in the park. As more and more people came to Yellowstone, upgrades were made. The architect of the Old Faithful Inn, Robert Reamer, was hired to renovate. The hotel has undergone many renovations through the years with 2014 being the most recent.

There are several spirits reported to be here. One of them is said to be President Calvin Coolidge. Like so many of our presidents, he visited Yellowstone and loved it and was particularly fond of this hotel. So they say that he occasionally turns up as though he is taking a vacation from the afterlife at a place he where he once liked to vacation in life. He is generally seen sitting in a rocker in the lounge. Being that the hotel is on a lake, one can imagine that a few people have drowned here either while swimming or in boating accidents. There are two drownings that have ghosts connected to them. A young boy was visiting with his family and drowned here. People see his apparition near the lake and in the hotel. One employee claimed to see him gazing out from the attic, which is kept locked at all times. He is said to always be wearing a dress shirt and has brown hair. He likes to play in the public men's restroom too.

Al Brindza tells of an experience he had on the Am Ghost Hunters Blog, "At this time I decided to head for the men's restroom located past the main desk down the hallway on the first floor. Upon entering through a heavy wooden door that made a squeaking noise like these type of doors often do, I discovered I was the only one there or so I thought. Within a few seconds I felt the familiar jag of a headache that I usually get when something paranormal is near. Next I heard some footsteps and a little boy giggling and laughing and I was surprised to see him peeking under the stall door. I believe I said 'Hey' and then he was gone. Total silence, I heard no more footsteps or the opening or closing of the door. Now I'm thinking OK, what just happened? I didn't see much of the little boy just his face and his light brown or blondish hair, wearing a white dress up kind of shirt. Afterwards I returned and explained my experience to my wife and to our son Eric and his wife Chrissy. Later after we finished our meal and were leaving I just had to ask the lady at the main desk if there were any ghost stories associated with this place. At first I got the usual stare as her mind processed what I had asked. Then she said, 'There are some stories of a little boy that has been seen by some of our guests!'"

And there is the spirit of a young woman wearing a flapper's dress that is seen. People say that her name is Mathilda and that she likes to haunt a room on the second floor in the back with a view of the forest that was probably her room at one time. Mathilda will sometimes walk the second floor hallway and she has touched people on occasion. She enjoys staff more than guests. There had been a group of musicians who would play at the hotel and they apparently still like to play in the afterlife. A former porter at the hotel has returned in spirit form and people see him in the lobby before he just disappears. He often appears out of nowhere and offers to help guests with their luggage and provides information on the trails one can hike at Yellowstone.

S.E. Schlosser wrote the book "Haunted Yellowstone" and tells a story about the bellman in there, "About halfway down, a compassionate bellman overtook me and claimed my heavy bag.  Relieved, I hitched my handbag over my shoulder and followed the bellman.  We chattered about my trip all the way up the elevator, and the bellman had some great suggestions for hikes we might take along the lakeshore, and where we might see wildlife. The elevator let us off on the fourth floor, and we walked to the end of a long, rather spooky hallway.  I shivered a bit, feeling uncomfortable and not understanding why this was so.  But the friendly bellman distracted me with his gentle conversation.  He left me in front of the open door with my bag, bowing slightly like an old-fashioned gentleman in a movie.  I fumbled in my handbag, looking for my wallet, then realized I'd given it to my husband so he could check us in.'Wait a moment,' I told the friendly bellman and hurried inside the room, calling to my husband.  Frank was locked in the bathroom, but my wallet was on the bedside table.  Pulling out some money, I hurried to the door, only to find that the friendly bellman had vanished." The woman tells her husband about the bellman and they agree to leave a tip at the bell desk later. When they get to the desk, the woman explains to a young man there what happened. Schlosser continues the story, "'Do you know his name?' the young man asked. 'I'm sorry, I don't,' I said.  Then I spied the picture on the desk, showing a group of bellmen. 'That's him,' I said, pointing. The young man's smile slipped a bit. 'That is an historic picture, taken many years ago,' he said cautiously. 'None of those men work here now.' 'Really?  That's strange,' I said, feeling cold again. 'The bellman who helped me looks just like this man.' 'That man was the bell captain,' the young man said. 'He’s since passed away.'  Face devoid of expression, he added: 'I'm sorry, I don't know who it was that helped you today.' 'Oh well, maybe I will see him again,' I said with an uneasy glance at the photo on the desk.  Strange that the man who helped me looked exactly like the former bell captain. I shuddered and hurried over to my husband, who was examining some of the lovely photographs displayed round the lobby. 'All done?' he asked, taking my hand and leading me toward the dining room. 'Not really,' I said uneasily, and told him about picture. 'So you’re saying a ghost helped you with your luggage?' Frank asked when I finished. Hearing it put that way sent cold shudders down my spine. 'Pretty much,' I said. 'I’m not sure I want to spend the night at this hotel. What if the ghost comes back?'

Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel

The Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel was built in 1883, but eventually demolished in 1936 and rebuilt, although the north wing is the same as the one added in 1911. The new version of the hotel opened in 1937. Ghost stories are plentiful here. A storage room is used to keep extra beds and chairs and furniture often moves in here of its own accord. Maintenance workers will report that chairs that they have neatly stacked against one wall will have been either unstacked or the entire stack has moved over to another wall. A maintenance supervisor had an unsettling experience reported on the Stormy Night Tales Blog, "Once, the head maintenance supervisor had retrieved a box of light bulbs for his men to replace several which had burned out. He locked the door when he left. He received a call on his walkie-talkie for some other item almost immediately so he turned back, opened the locked door and found something was on the other side. He pushed it open to find an unopened case of toilet paper had been pushed against the door. The cases of toilet paper are kept against the far wall in the back and there is only the one door through which to enter."

A similar experience happened to a maid cleaning a room. She stepped out into the hall to get some more towels and the door slammed behind her. She tried the door and while the knob would turn, she couldn't get it opened. She pushed and pushed with no luck. The room had an adjoining room so she went in through there and found that the door wouldn't open because a dresser had been pushed up against it.  Frightened, she ran to get her supervisor. When she returned with the supervisor, they found the door wide open and the dresser back where it belonged six feet away. The housekeeper quit on the spot. The supervisor figured the woman was lying, but upon inspection, she found deep scratches on the floor from the dresser being pushed across the floor. But imagine how quickly that dresser had to move across the floor.

Disembodied footsteps are heard in many parts of the hotel and the giggling of a little girl when there are no children around has also been heard. This is usually in the hallway on the fourth floor and her little running feet are sometimes heard as well. Psychics claim the little girl is Emily and there is a grave for an Emily Seivert in the Fort Yellowstone Cemetery. She was not quite two-years-old.

Uncle John Yancey

John F. Yancey was a gold prospector and Civil War veteran who decided to set down roots at Yellowstone. People called him "Uncle John" and he built a hotel here in the 1870s that was named Yancey's Hole. It was near the present-day Roosevelt Lodge and served the stagecoach running between Mammoth Hot Springs and the mining camps in Cooke City. Rooms were $2 per day and there were five of them that could hold twenty guests. In 1903, Uncle John went to Gardiner, Montana to hear President Teddy Roosevelt speak at the dedication of the Roosevelt Arch. He caught a cold while there that turned into pneumonia and he died when he was 77 years-old. They buried him in the old Tinker’s Cemetery near Mammoth. But his spirit is not at rest and he seems to have made the Roosevelt Lodge his new home since his old hotel no longer stands. He is a poltergeist-like ghost blamed for hiding things and he was known to unsaddle horses.  Park staff claim that he bangs a tin cup on the walls of the staff quarters at three a.m.

E.C. Waters

A man named E. C. Waters found that running cruises on Yellowstone Lake could be a lucrative business, but he was a horrible businessman and an angry man. He had bought the Yellowstone Boat Company in 1897, which consisted of rowboats and a passenger boat named the Zillah. Waters had a hard time keeping the boats in repair and he started charging really high prices. Then he came up with the idea to charge people when they first got on the boat and then when they got to the other shore, he charged them so they could get off the boat. Then this guy decided to open his own zoo on Dot Island in Yellowstone Lake and brought in elk and buffalo. The animals were poorly cared for and malnourished. Eventually, Waters decided to buy a bigger boat, so he could make more money, but officials at Yellowstone would not certify the vessel to carry more than 125 people and this outraged Waters who had planned to carry far more. In his rage, he docked this new shipped that he had named after himself, the E. C. Waters, on the eastern side of Stevenson Island and filled the boat full of holes so it wouldn't float. He still continued to run the boat tours for a couple more years, but things got so bad that President Roosevelt himself expelled Waters from the park. He moved back to Wisconsin where he was from and eventually ended up in an insane asylum and died. But his anger and need to hold onto his Yellowstone glory days seems to have brought his spirit back to his old stomping grounds. His ghost has been seen hanging around the dilapidated boat and his disembodied voice is heard cursing his fate on the shores of Yellowstone Lake. A ghostly fire has been seen on Stevenson Island and visitors claim that Waters spirit is the one who sets the fire.

Beyond all of these stories is the fact that Native Americans and animals have been displaced in an effort to conserve the land. Seems kinda ironic, but we also know that displacing the spirit of the land can cause issues. Are there Native American spirits wandering among the geysers? How about animal spirits? There are some who claim that the spirit of a grizzly bear guards Death Gulch. He has been named Wahb and has silver tipped fur.  

Carren had her own "spooky" story she shared, "I was visited by something during the night at the Inn that we paid $200 a night to stay in. We were laying in bed with all the lights off, my husband was next to me sound asleep CPAP and all haha! I was listening to your podcast and playing solitaire on my phone. I heard something going through my things. I sat up and it stopped. I laid back down and started listening to the podcast again and then I heard it even louder. So I got brave and I turned on my flashlight and looked at the end of my bed, on my suitcase was a mouse eating my brownies for heaven sake!!! Little monster was so loud!! So I did get a little spook after all!"

Yellowstone is well worth the visit for just the natural wonders and animals alone. But with the possibility of ghosts, it is all the better. Is Yellowstone National Park haunted? That is for you to decide!

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