Thursday, June 4, 2020

HGB Ep. 339 - Ohio University

Moment in Oddity - The Screaming Mummy Museum of Mexico
Suggested by: Breanne Sanford

The Museo de las Momias is located in the small town of Guanajuato in Mexico. This is a museum right up our alley as it is home to a really weird display. This is a museum full of mummies, most of which are less than 200 years old. There are over 100 preserved mummies with one of them being the world's smallest mummy. This is a fetus that was still in its mother when she passed away. The mummies were dug up between 1865 and 1958 from the dry soil of Guanajuato and were found in a variety of poses. Many of these poses feature faces disfigured into looks of horror that have caused people to nickname them "The Screaming Mummies." Some are believed to be victims of a cholera outbreak in 1833. Others are thought to have been buried alive, particularly one that was found frozen in a pose of chewing on her own arm. The reason they might have been buried too soon is that cholera might have caused people to seem already dead because they were so dehydrated and were unconscious. This would explain why so many have their mouths wide open in screams. They must have awakened after being thrown into a mass grave. The mummy chewing on her arm has a different story. She was a woman named Ignacia who had a rare heart condition and she had been passed out for more than a day, so her family figured she was dead. When her coffin was exhumed, her mummified body was found flipped over, so that she was facing down, she was biting down on her arm and had dried blood in her mouth. The high altitude, low moisture and humidity are said to be responsible for the mummification. The bodies were first displayed in the 1950s and can still be seen today. A museum dedicated to screaming mummies, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Event That Inspired Les Miserables Occurred

In the month of June, on the 5th, in 1832, a two day insurrection rose up against King Louis-Philippe, inspiring the novel Les Miserables. The author of Les Miserables was Victor Hugo and he had been taking a walk through the Tuileries garden when he heard gunshots. He ran to the area, which was a working class neighborhood, and hid himself behind a pillar. There had been food shortages for years and a devastating cholera epidemic. The final straw was the death of General Jean Lamarque who was a hero to the working class. Republican demonstrators grabbed red flags and protested after the General's funeral. The protest became more of a riot and they built barricades. Hugo arrived in time to see the king’s soldiers firing on the republican rebels. He managed to get away without being hurt and he never forgot what he witnessed. The army took the momentum out of the uprising and by the next night it was all over. Thirteen years later, Hugo wrote Les Miserables about that moment in history and it became his most well known work.

Ohio University (Suggested by: Ashley Struz and Katie Meeks)

Ohio University in Athens, Ohio has been open for over 200 years and today has over 28,000 students enrolled. This was the first institute of higher education to be chartered by an Act of Congress and was founded by American Revolutionary War veterans. The university is the home of the Bobcats and apparently, quite a few ghosts. A ghostly bobcat might be a more appropriate mascot. There are few buildings on the campus that don't have some kind of ghost story connected to them. Join us as we explore the history and haunts of Ohio University.

The original inhabitants of Athens, Ohio were mound builders. The first Europeans arrived in 1797.  Athens County was established in 1805 and named for Athens, Greece. Ohio had become a state just two years before that. The town of Athens would incorporate in 1811, but it wouldn't become an official city until 1912. The town grew after the railroad arrived in 1857. There were many forms of commerce here from salt production to coal mining to iron production. The largest employer in Athens predated even the formation of the county and that was Ohio University.

Ohio University was chartered in 1804 and was the first institute of higher learning in the Northwest Territory and the eighth oldest in America. A group of American Revolutionary War veterans formed a company called the Ohio Company of Associates and they signed a contract with Congress that granted them large tracts of land in Athens and Alexander Townships. The company then set aside this first federal land grant for Ohio University. This would be the first time a university was chartered by an Act of Congress. The ordinance included with the charter read, "Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged." Most of this land was leased out, but eventually the university grew into it and is one of the largest institutions of higher learning in Ohio.

Students started attending OU in 1809 and interestingly, the college was more like a high school in the beginning than a college and this was based on the course of study. It wouldn't be until 1822 that the university would bring in more specialized professors who could offer traditional college programs. The University specialized in educating teachers by the late 1800s and to attain the excellence they were seeking, OU was one of the first institutes of higher learning to receive state support from taxes. The greatest time of growth for the university would start in 1955 and carry through 1970 with 25 new dormitories being built. The university gained some fame when President Lyndon Johnson came in 1964, and talked about his Great Society initiative for the first time on the College Green. When you look at the architecture of the buildings on campus, it is easy to see the Early Americana Federalist influence.

The oldest building on the campus is Manasseh Cutler Hall and it was completed in 1819. The building is three stories, made from brick and has a distinctive wooden tower that is octagonal with louvered openings and a cupola. Originally, Cutler Hall housed a laboratory and dorm rooms. The building was modernized with an elevator and metal staircases in 1937. There was one story that a spirit hangs out in the bell tower, but we believe this very old building is surprisingly unhaunted. Cutler Hall was named for Manasseh Cutler who was a school teacher, botanist, doctor, attorney and minister. He wrote the charter for Ohio University modeled after Yale University's, which was the university he had graduated from. His family had all been clergymen, but he wanted to be different and so he had pursued the law. Eventually, he did become a minister. He co-founded OU with General Rufus Putnam and Brigadier General Benjamin Tupper. Cutler didn't spend much time in Ohio though. He was a New England man and he took over a church in Massachusetts. His congregation struggled to pay him, so he studied medicine - as though he didn't have enough degrees and areas of study - and he used this knowledge to treat people overcome by a small pox epidemic. He studied science until he died in 1823. Interestingly, one area of his scientific pursuits were the Native American mounds found here.

The College Green is the central gathering place for students and known as the Quad and has changed little in OU's 200 years. The College Green features Galbreath Chapel, which was dedicated in memorial of Helen Mauck Galbreath, who was the wife of alumnus John Galbreath. Helen and John met on campus and supposedly they shared there first kiss on this spot. The chapel is used by students for meditation and all sorts of cultural events are hosted here as well as weddings and memorial services. The Greek system uses it for their formal initiation ceremonies and receptions too. The spire that has a brass weather vane at the top was modeled after the portico of Nash's All Souls Church in London. There are two university gateways framing College Green: The first was built in 1915 and is known as the Alumni Gateway and has a verse etched on it that says, "That thou Mayest Grow In Knowledge, Wisdom and Love." The other gate was built in the 1960s and features words taken from the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. There is a bronze university seal embedded at the college gate. Legend claims that if a freshman steps on it, they will have bad fortune.

The John Calhoun Baker University Center was named for the 14th president of the university and opened in January 2007. This is a large five-story building that serves as a hub for student activities. The architectural style was done to match the rest of the campus in the Federalist style. The rotunda is unique with curved walls and there is an inlaid arrow on the floor. If a person stands in the center of that arrow and whispers, they will get a reverberating echo similar to the effect created at the center of the United States Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C.

East Green's Jefferson Marketplace is a nice food court type area, which features a variety of eateries like the New York-style Brick City Deli, Veggie Butcher and Juiced, The Ohio Café, the demonstration kitchen The Culinary Studio and the tea room Steeped & Stirred. There is the Bird Ice Arena and an Aquatic Center and a large recreation center for students. And many dormitories that we will get into in just a moment. This sounds like a gorgeous campus. Ohio University also owns the Athena Cinema, which has been continuously operated since 1915. This was originally the Bethel Grocery Store. The university renovated the building and students from the university run the theater.

For our haunts, let's first look at the fraternities and sororities. Several of these have ghost stories connected to them. One of the sororities is Pi Beta Phi. The spirit here is thought to belong to a young woman who drowned in the pool. Several girls who have lived here have felt something they couldn't see, crawl into bed with them. This thing actually slipped in under the covers. Another resident once claimed that she was awoken by an audible voice singing the ABCs and the voice clearly belonged to a little girl who would not have been in the house. This woman went to investigate where the voice was coming from and she saw a dark shadow. She turned around and ran back to her bedroom screaming and jumped into bed under the covers.

Our next Greek house is a fraternity called Delta Tau Delta. The actual house isn't haunted, but the brothers seemed to have brought something into the house with them when they returned from a trip to the Simms Cemetery. A part of a tombstone had broken off, so they brought the piece home with them. Strange things started happening in the house after this. Most of the activity was poltergeist in nature. Items would go missing, objects would move about on their own and strange noises were heard in the house. The brothers figured out that something was connected to the chunk of tombstone and they returned it to the cemetery. Apparently, the haunts stopped after that.

The building that houses Sigma Phi Epsilon has had several frats and sororities that have called it home. Not many like to stay here, probably because of a ghost here named Nicodemus. Athens was a city on the Underground Railroad and it is believed that Nicodemus is the spirit of an escaped slave. One of the students living at the frat was awoken several times by something pulling the sheets off his bed. He would look to see if it was one of his brothers pulling a prank, but there was never anybody there. Others reported doors slamming on their own and the lights flickering off and on. Things were so crazy when the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority was there that the Athens Magazine did an article about it back in the 1970s. These ladies reported being touched by something they couldn't see. There was the sound of scratching nails on the other side of walls too. This comes from an area that had a passageway where slaves would hide out. It was in here that Nicodemus is thought to have been shot by bounty hunters.The Sigma Phi Epsilon brothers don't mind having Nicodemus around and they feel he is no threat.

The Convocation Center was built in 1968 and is a large round building with a domed roof. This not only is home to the Men's Basketball Team, but it also has dorm rooms. Students call this The Convo and one of the spirits here likes to open and close the closet door in one of the rooms, which we could not track the number down on. This ghost also throws things out of the closet. Another spirit here is said to belong to a former RA who was killed by her boyfriend and she walks up and down the hallways. The last ghost here is said to belong to a student who died in her sleep.

There are several haunted halls on the campus. Perkins Hall was built in 1953 and was named in honor of Dr. Eliphaz Perkins who was the first physician, first postmaster, first auditor and first apothecary merchant in Athens County and became the first treasurer of Ohio University. The building served as a male dormitory with 210 students that first year. An RA claimed to have  experienced and heard several stories of unexplained phenomenon. One time, she gathered several residents in her room to go through Halloween decorations. They all heard a bone-chilling disembodied laugh and the girls went screaming from the room. The RA also said that the refrigerator for the dorm would open on its own - a spectre hankering for a snack apparently - and stereos and televisions would turn on by themselves. The RA also was in the dorm by herself a couple of weeks before students moved in and she distinctly heard a voice call out, "Hey!" When she turned to look, no one was there. She went into the hall and saw nobody there either. Another resident claimed to have some kind of presence enter her room and it felt as though it were filling it up with a malevolent energy. The ceiling fan blades began to spin slowly and then accelerated. And then the room got ice cold. That was enough and she ran out of the room and asked for another one.

Jefferson Hall was built in 1956 and was named in honor of President Thomas Jefferson. Residents had been experiencing some strange stuff and so they decided to have a ghost hunt in 1996. They didn't have much luck until they got to the attic. There they experienced the holy grail: a full-bodied apparition. This was the spirit of an older woman in clothes from the 1950s. She was floating above the floor. They ran to grab the RA to tell her what happened and when the group returned, they found the attic locked. Lights flash on and off by themselves. This location also has the marble sound, as though hundreds of marbles are dropping on a floor above.

Washington Hall was named after President George Washington and has one of the strangest hauntings on campus. An entire girl's basketball team is said to bang around in the afterlife in this dormitory. Residents claim to hear the squeaking of basketball shoes and to fill cold spots in the hall that connects this dorm to Read Hall. But there are those who claim that this is actually a male basketball team and that they hang out in the attic, which used to be a recreation room. Bush Hall was built in 1954 and named for an 1892 Ohio University graduate named Frederick W. Bush. The ghost that haunts this dorm likes to mess with the lights and turn on and off the water faucets. There is also a peculiar sound heard here and it is described as a marble sound as though hundreds of marbles are being dropped on the floor.

Brown House was built in 1928 and named in honor of Mildred Francis Brown, who had owned the 7,800 square foot house with her husband. Her grandfather had been the contractor who built three of the buildings on campus. After the University purchased the home, they converted it into the Contemporary History Institute, which was an interdisciplinary academic research institute. An article from July 2019 reported that the house had significant structural damage and was slated for demolition and a later article in the Athens News confirmed that it was indeed destroyed. There were reportedly a couple of hauntings here. One featured the disembodied sounds of children splashing around and there had been a pool here at one time. The other was about the ghost of Millie Brown. She was seen looking out the window as though she is watching the children play on her property as they once had. We wonder if the haunting will continue.

Wilson Hall is the most haunted dormitory on the campus and was built in 1965 and named for Hiram Roy Wilson. When "Scariest Places on Earth" came to feature the University, this was the location they chose as their backdrop. There are reports of strange noises, books fly off of shelves and lights turn on an off by themselves. Furniture like desks and dressers move around by themselves and doors open and close on their own. Pretty standard stuff, but other stories get weirder. Room 428 is said to be closed permanently and its because of the last girl to live in this room. She started acting very weird. She would chant in a strange language and eventually, she jumped from a window, killing herself. Some people think she became possessed after touching The Stain found at the Athens Lunatic Asylum. And speaking of stain, the face of a demon is said to show up in the wood grain on the door. Another student claimed that he saw the apparition of a girl and she was pointing at the door to Room 428. Was this the woman who killed herself? This room is said to be incredibly haunted, but clearly, there is stuff going on all over the dorm. Wilson Hall is also said to be the geographic center of a pentagram that is drawn through all the cemeteries in Athens. Does this give it some kind of supernatural energy?

History Goes Bump featured Athens Lunatic Asylum on Episode 121. This had been a place where the mentally ill, violent convicted criminals, Civil War vets and even children were kept. Eventually, the Asylum was bought by Ohio University and is today The Ridges. This houses the Kennedy Museum of Art, an auditorium, offices, classrooms and storage facilities. It also is incredibly haunted, just added more to the haunted mystique of this campus. Is Ohio University haunted? That is for you to decide!

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