Thursday, April 16, 2020

HGB Ep. 332 - Spirits of the Spanish Flu

Moment in Oddity - Railworkers Discover 14th Century Cave
Suggested by: Quoylette

Last week, workers making repairs to a railway route in Surrey, England made a fascinating discovery. The company they work for is NetworkRail and they have been adding on to and repairing Britain's railway infrastructure. A landslide near one of the railways had workers digging and they discovered a 14th century cave complete with drawings inside. Those drawings feature a Christian cross and decorative dots. This has lead archaeologists to believe that this cave had once been bigger and served as a Medieval shrine associated with St. Catherine's Chapel, which sits in ruins on a nearby hill. This discovery is the most recent of seven finds that the NetworkRail reports on its website. Other finds include: a Victorian roundhouse, a lost plaque for the railway from 1839, the remains of Isambard Kingdom Brunel's engineering workshop, the first settlement at London Bridge, Roman artifacts from the Saxon and Medieval times and George Stephenson's notebook from 1822. Stephenson is considered the father of the railways. Finding old artifacts during construction happens quite often and is not only amazing, but it also certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Civil Rights Bill of 1866 Passed

In the month of April, on the 9th, in 1866, the Civil Rights Bill of 1866 was passed by Congress. This was the first federal law to affirm that all citizens are equally protected by the law.This granted blacks the rights and privileges of U.S. citizenship. Unfortunately, the President at the time, Andrew Jackson, vetoed the act. Congress passed it again to support the 13th Amendment, which was again vetoed by Jackson, but the checks and balances of our system of government allowed Congress to override the veto with a two-thirds majority. One thing that this act did not do is provide the right to vote. The authors of the act explained, "Do they mean that all citizens shall vote in the several States? No; for suffrage is a political right which has been left under the control of the several States, subject to the action of Congress only when it becomes necessary to enforce the guarantee of a republican form of government (protection against a monarchy)." This override of a veto by Congress would be the first time that was ever done in U.S. history. The KKK undermined the act and blacks did not have easy access to legal help to fight discrimination, so for much of history they had no recourse for violations of this act.

Spirits of the Spanish Flu (Suggested by: allnew1995 and Carlston on Insta)

Pandemics and plagues have been a part of our human history. No matter how developed the world becomes, a very microscopic bug can cause society to fall into collapse and kill millions of people. We are now living through an unprecedented moment in history with the Covid-19 Pandemic. There have been many of these pandemics in recent human history and one of the worst was the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918. This form of influenza was believed to have infected a third of the world's population at the time and lead to the deaths of 50 million people.

The Black Death that hit Europe in 1347 was the first time that quarantine was used to fight back against an pandemic. This pandemic killed 200 million in four years. The Great Plague in London in the 1500s had laws implemented to separate and isolate the sick and their family. The greatest killer in Mexico and North America was the Small Pox epidemic of the 15th century. This would also be the first virus to be cured with a vaccine. The cholera epidemic lead to urban sanitation development. We as a global community learn from epidemics and pandemics. The problem with being a global community though is that we have an amazing ability to travel and connect and with that, diseases spread more readily and quickly. This is what happened with the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. The World War would help to spread this disease making it a big global killer. More people died in a year from this, than in four years of the Black Death.

The Spanish Flu didn't come from, nor start in Spain. That moniker is misleading. This flu outbreak got that name because Spain was a neutral country during World War I and they were the first to report the pandemic. The Spanish Flu originally appeared to be a common seasonal flu that lasted for three days with a fever, aches and just a general feeling of not being well. This first wave wasn't really bad. This is why in 2020 we are witnessing countries that have restarted their economies and communities after tamping down their coronavirus illnesses and deaths, watching for outbreaks of coronavirus very closely. Because it was the later waves of the Spanish Flu that killed millions. The first reported case of the Spanish Flu is believed to have happened in January 1918 in Haskell County, Kansas. The next known case was in early March 1918, and the person infected was a U.S. Army cook named Albert Gitchell stationed at Camp Funston in Kansas. When he was measured as having a 104-degree fever, he was put in the hospital. Camp Funston had 54,000 troops stationed there and the virus spread quickly. By the end of March, 1,100 soldiers were in the hospital and 38 had died.

World War I started in 1914 after the heir to the Austria-Hungarian Empire, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated. The Serbian government was blamed and they were backed by Russia. The Austria-Hungarians were backed by Germany. And the fight was on with France, Great Britain and Belgium joining the Russians and Serbians. The United States opted to remain neutral. After Germany sunk the passenger ship Lusitania and several other neutral American ships, the U.S. decided it was time to ready for war. On April 6, 1917, America declared war on Germany. The U.S. would not formally enter the war until the Spring of 1918 and with that, the Spanish Flu was introduced to the world. The virus spread quickly through France, Italy, Great Britain and, of course, Spain, throughout April and May 1918. Almost half of British troops caught the virus and three-quarters of French troops were sick. This was still part of the less deadly first wave.

Much of the World Wars were fought as trench warfare and we're sure everyone can imagine just how bad the health conditions are inside of a trench. Men were practically on top of each other and the trenches were damp and cold. As soldiers continued to move about, they spread the virus. The war ended, but the Spanish Flu continued. There would be 43,000 servicemen who would die. Many of these sick troops would carry what was a very contagious flu, home with them and this would be a more virulent second wave as the virus mutated. Boston was the first part of America hit with this second wave. Hospitals were taxed to their limit because so many men had come home injured with wounds or mustard gas attacks. And the really unique thing about the Spanish Flu is that it was deadly for the young and healthy who were aged 20 to 40. In two years, 28% of Americans were infected. This depressed the average life span in America by 10 years. President Woodrow Wilson ended up with the flu in early 1919.

A third wave rolled in starting in the Winter of 1919. People all over the world died rapidly with a mortality rate of 2.5%. The virus spread through trade routes. Every country was touched just as we've seen with Coronavirus from Asia to Africa to the South Pacific and Brazil. India was hit really hard with 50 deaths from influenza per 1,000 people. One narrative claimed that four women were playing cards one night and by the next evening, three of those women had died from this form of influenza. The worst effect of the disease was this development of a pneumonia that caused a bloody froth to spill from the mouth and fill up the lungs, so that the ill person suffocated. And just as we are witnessing today, scientists were rushing to find and create a vaccine for the pandemic. Another similarity with our current pandemic is that medical students were pulled into service even though they were not with school because there was such a shortage in physicians. Most people died from a secondary infection like pneumonia.

We wanted to share this interesting letter from a nurse to her friend at the Haskell Indian Nations University in Kansas that was written on October 17, 1918. This record is from the National Archives at Kansas City. Record Group 75.

And just as children developed the nursery rhyme "Ring Around the Rosey" about the Bubonic Plague, children in 1918 created this rhyme:    

        "I had a little bird,
        Its name was Enza.
        I opened the window,
        And in-flu-enza."

When we look at the numbers in connection with the Spanish Flu, it gives us an appreciation for what the world faces today. Back in 1918 and 1919, there were about one billion people on the earth. Today, we have seven billion. Imagine the numbers if we didn't all practice physical distancing as early as we did. Back at this time they practiced social distancing too. People were told to stay home and funerals were limited in how many could attend and length. No funeral could go over 15 minutes. Coffins were hard to come by and morticians and gravediggers were overwhelmed. Steep fines were issued for people ignoring flu ordinances. Gauze face masks were handed out to everybody. The great news about all of this is that we certainly were not living this way before Covid-19, which means we will eventually get back to where we can be together again and touch each other again. And it seems that the experts have been really off with modeling and our numbers will be nowhere near Spanish Flu.

While there are those who still claim we don't know where the Spanish Flu came from, modern day scientists had used a molecular clock to track the strain of Spanish Flu and found that it was a human H1 virus that had been around since 1900 that picked up a version of the bird flu and mutated. So this was a bird flu more than likely. These same scientists also tried to figure out why this was so devastating to young people. The answer seems to be that people born before 1880 and after 1900 had antibodies from being exposed to an H1N1 virus. People who had their childhoods land between 1880 and 1900 were exposed to H3N8, which didn't give them the proper antibodies.

We have found ghost stories when it comes to so many epidemics and pandemics whether it be small pox, Yellow Fever or things like the Spanish Flu. It took some real digging, but we have found some spirits connected to the Spanish Flu. The first place we started is where the flu first got a solid foothold and that was Camp Funston at Fort Riley in Kansas. This was the largest of 16 temporary military quarters as America ramped up to enter the Great War. This was a strategic site because of the central location and construction was begun on July 1, 1917.This was not only a training camp, but also a place where conscientious objectors were taken for detention. There were around 1,400 buildings that are today used as temporary housing. Camp Funston ceased to exist officially in 1922. The Spanish Flu spread through the camp quickly and a field hospital was set up. Many of the soldiers died and it would seem that one of them is still around in the afterlife.

This spirit was first seen by a Public Works employee and he knew he was seeing something unusual because this man was wearing a WWI uniform. The worker had been sent to the former camp to work on a downed power line in the middle of a snowstorm. He was near a building that had served as the old WWI gymnasium and the figure was wearing a heavy wool overcoat and had a rifle over his shoulder. He was pacing as though on guard duty. Even though the soldier looked out of place, the worker still believed this was a real human and he decided to share some of his coffee with him. The soldier had disappeared and even though there was snow on the ground, there were no footprints where he had been. Now perhaps this was residual, but others have seen a World War I soldier too and the only reason one would have died here was because of the flu. So the likelihood of this being a Spanish Flu victim is very high.

Great Lakes Naval Training Station was opened in 1911. It started to ramp up activity and recruiting in April 1917 because of the Great War. Conditions at the camp were rough with many recruits sleeping in tents on muddy fields. The first reported case of Spanish Flu here was reported on September 7, 1918 when sailors were transferred in from Boston. The way the naval training station was set up. many people came here for events and there were many civilians who worked on the base. The virus spread quickly. The Chicago Reader reported one recruit, Harney Stover, writing home, "It begins with high fever. Most get real weak and collapse. I probably will get it. I don’t think I will be very sick." But recruits did get very sick and many died. The Great Lakes Naval Training Station became the beachhead of the epidemic in Illinois and there was not enough medical personnel to go around. Many were worked practically to death and they fell ill. By October 11, 1918, the station had recorded 9,623 cases of with 924 deaths.

 Username agochoa shared his ghost experiences from his time at the Great Lakes Training Station in 2012: "The place felt naturally forboding. Even with 40 other guys, you still felt like something was going to sneak up on you and do God knows what especially at night. I often dismissed it as homesickness or general discomfort of bootcamp...One of the guys constantly felt sick every time he'd pass the door of the cleaning supply room on the other side of the head area (toilets). On another occasion, while showering, the knob for my shower head turned itself until the water shut off! I turned to guy waitng and he said 'I guess he's trying to tell you you're done', I asked, 'WHO?'. He said 'the ghost' and then he laughed it off...One of my watchstanders, a very intelligent, level minded recruit by the name of Parker, accompanied me on what was nearly the last of our watches until graduation: THE MIDNIGHT WATCH. It was just passed midnight. He took the forward part of the compartment and I took the aft (back of the compartment). Armed with flashlights guardbelts and canteens, we were ready to take on anyone! I remember peeking out of the back window which led to the fire escape to ensure that nobody was paying us an unpleasant visit. I glanced over my shoulder to see who I thought was Parker and I turned slightly and said, 'Parker get back Forward!... Whatever was there, kept walking past and vanished into the back wall before I could see what it was. It made no sound at all. I was completely freaked out at this point! I moved very quickly to the front to tell him what had happened only to hear Parker scream and come running out of the head (bathroom) like a bat out of hell. He said, 'I saw it, I saw it!'. He said he was doing a routine check of the cleaning supply room, when he opened the door he saw a recruit standing there just huddled in the corner staring off into space, he wasn't wearing the proper uniform, which was odd. Parker thought it was a joke until the recruit had vanished into thin air! After that, niether one of us could sleep." Now, perhaps there had been an accidental death or two that lead to these hauntings, but with the record number of deaths here from the Spanish Flu, we'd be willing to bet that these hauntings are connected to victims of that flu.  

We covered Coe College in Ep. 196 back in 2017. The most famous ghost that haunts the college is said to belong to Helen Esther Roberts. She was only eighteen and the daughter of a furniture businessman. The furniture business was actually a generational family business. Helen had suffered from Scarlet Fever in 1914 and it is believed that this left her more susceptible to disease and she died on October 19, 1918 from pneumonia caused by the Spanish Flu. She hadn't even been at the college for a month. The Evening Gazette reported on Oct. 23, 1918, "Miss Helen Roberts of Strawberry Point, who died last Saturday at Voorhees Quadrangle from influenza, was buried Monday afternoon at Strawberry Point. Miss Roberts was a freshman at Coe College this year. Mr. and Mrs. H.L. Godfrey of this city accompanied her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Roberts, to Strawberry Point when they returned with the body. Prof. and Mrs. Chas. T. Hickok and Mr. and Mrs. S.N. Harris motored to Strawberry Point Monday afternoon to attend the funeral."

As is the case today, back at this time, the college quarantined sick students and this was on the second floor of Voorhees Hall at the college. And that is where stories of hauntings were reported starting about a year after Helen died. Her parents had donated a grandfather clock from their furniture business to the Voorhees dorm at that time.Most of the haunting tales were connected to this clock. Many students reported seeing the apparition of a girl wearing white wandering down hallways and then disappearing. The room that Helen had once stayed in was reported to be haunted too. Pounding noises in here awaken residents and some girls would become so scared that they left their rooms and opted to sleep in the lobby. Some years ago, a group of students held a seance to summon Helen. They got answers on their ouija board for two of the fifteen questions they asked. Helen never appeared to them.

Pennsylvania was one of the hardest hit states in America. Schuylkill (Skool Kill) County road crews were working to widen the highway just south of Schuykill Haven when they made a ghoulish discovery. Several human bones were found that were believed to have belonged to three people and there were also some coffin nails, indicating that coffins had once been buried here. The bones had been here for over a century. The area had been a coal region and it was hit hard by the Spanish Flu. There were no doctors in town, so they had to be called in and residents were quarantined. The losses were heavy and soon the bodies were piling up faster than pine boxes. Back in the day, when this was the case, many bodies would just be buried in unmarked mass graves. And that is what people believe this area was, a large mass grave of victims of the Spanish Flu.

This was reported by DD on the Ghost Sightings website: "Part of Schuylkill Haven that has been in the news in recent times. Yes, close to the Alms field where the bones were found by the highway construction. Our house was built in the late 40s, by a business owner of the area. From the time we moved in, the air was, shall we say, off a bit. My wife was folding laundry in the basement when she looked at our daughter across the room from her. She was looking at the window up and behind my wife with tears running  down her face. When asked what was wrong she said 'there are two young girls looking at me through the window.' When asked to describe them, she described the period of dress and hair from the early 1900s. It only got better from there. You can hear walking, names being called, a shadow that comes down the stairs and out the front door, a particular orb, and being touched to the point of marks being left. When activity gets unnerving, I go to the basement and read them the riot act. For those of you who do not understand, this is my house. They are the guest, and their actions towards my family determine if they are welcome or not. To me, I have no problem, but to scare my family I have an issue with that. Those girls I mentioned have been seen in the house at various times as well, mainly in the back room. It's really freaky when you pass a doorway, and there is a girl sitting crossed legged on the floor you never seen before, and then she isn't. As I worked a second job returning home after 1 am, my oldest would wait till I returned home before she went to sleep. Yes, she was scared. Knowing she was in bed for the night, I went to get a shower. From upstairs I heard her come out of herroom, walk to the kitchen, and get a drink of water. I heard the  water turn on then off, place the glass in the sink. We have a stone sink, and the glass makes a distinct noise when being put down. Then she would walk back to her room. Good I thought. She's in bed.
Getting ready for work the next day, she came out of her room and said, 'Please tell me that was you in the kitchen last night.' I responded 'No. I thought it was you.' My daughter was in her early 20s, home from college for the summer. These are but a slight glimpse of what happens in our home."

There were many mass graves dug all around the world and there is no doubt that these spots more than likely harbor a ghost or two. The Spanish Flu was the most horrific pandemic for centuries. It left 50 million people dead. Catastrophic numbers like that make it easy to believe that there are ghosts connected to this event. Many of the victims were those in the prime of their life. Are there spirits connected to the Spanish Flu? That is for you to decide!

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