Thursday, June 25, 2020

HGB Ep. 342 - Mad Doctor McDowell and his Medical College

Moment in Oddity - The Talking Stove of Spain
Suggested by: John Michaels

When we first heard the story of the talking stove from Zaragoza, Spain, we figured it had to be a work of fiction. But after researching and finding that many people witnessed this talking stove from neighbors to journalists to police officers, we had to look at this seriously. The Palazons family had been living peacefully in their home until September of 1934. At that time, they heard a strange maniacal laugh coming from the chimney and their stove, which were connected to each other. They lived in a duplex apartment, so they naturally assumed it was a neighbor. Later that month, they became more concerned when their maid heard her voice called out from stove and then a sinister laugh. The family asked their neighbors to come listen and they heard the voice coming from the chimney and stove too and since they were in the room, they knew that it wasn't them making the sounds. Soon the town was talking about the haunting. Many believed that this was a Duende, which is a supernatural goblin-like creature in Spanish folklore. The voice seemed to know the names of everyone who came to visit, even the police officers who were called in to investigate. They had the family move out while they gave the place a thorough going over. The London Times filed daily updates on the case. Architects inspected the building and when they went to measure the chimney opening, the voice said, "The diameter is 6 inches." And that is what it was, clearly not big enough for a person to fit. Priests blessed the place and the Parazons moved back in, only to leave the next day when the voice returned and threatened to kill them. They never returned. The Governor got involved and an official statement was released explaining the origin of the voice. The statement claimed that the maid was unknowingly throwing her voice by "unconscious ventriloquism." Was this really just a hoax? The maid was rarely around when the voice was heard, but blame was placed firmly on her. Eventually, the building was torn down and another apartment building was built in its place and given the name Edificio Duende or Goblin Building and that, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Frank Hayes Dies of Heart Attack During Belmont Stakes
Suggested by: Chelsea Flowers

In the month of June, on the 4th, in 1923, Jockey Frank Hayes suffered a fatal heart attack while riding in a race at Belmont Park in New York City, USA. The Belmont Stakes is a horse race that is held every June at Belmont Park and started in 1867. This is known as "The Test of the Champion" and is the final and longest leg of the United States Triple Crown. Becoming a jockey at this level is quite the feat and grueling on the body as jockeys have to maintain a very low weight. Frank Hayes was not actually a jockey, but a horse trainer. So when he decided to ride in this race, he had to do some pretty drastic stuff to make weight. And that could be why, along with the excitement of the race, be why he had the fatal heart attack at some point in the middle of the race. He was locked in tight to the saddle, so he remained atop his horse, Sweet Kiss, who was a 20-1 long shot to win. And despite the fact that he was no longer kicking and guiding Sweet Kiss to victory, the horse crossed the finish line in first place. This made Hayes the first and only jockey to win a race while dead.

McDowell Medical College

Stories connected to the McDowell Medical College cover all the bases for a good ghost tale. There was the unusual construction of the building, medical experiments, grave robbing, mental illness, Spiritualism, a Civil War prison and lots of death. The only thing missing in this story is the actual building. The former Ralston-Purina Company owns the land today, but tales of supernatural happenings persist. Join us as we share the history and hauntings of the McDowell Medical College!

The Nestle Purina PetCare Company, or the former Ralston-Purina Company, owns the property at Ninth and Gratiot (Grass shut) Street. The company was started by William Danforth in 1894 as Purina Mills with its headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri. This is now the Nestle Purina Campus and the main building was constructed in 1969. When Purina started, they mainly processed animal feed, but it eventually got into breakfast cereal, which is when it added Ralston to the name. The corporate parking lot takes up the space at 9th and Gratiot, but this had been the Gratiot Prison and even before that it was the McDowell Medical College.

Dr. Joseph Nash McDowell was born in 1805 in Kentucky. He became interested in medicine early, perhaps inspired by the work of his uncle Dr. Ephraim McDowell who made history in the state by removing a tumor from a female patient without using any anesthesia. Troy Taylor describes this in his book, Haunted St. Louis, "Ephraim recited a special prayer that had been written for the occasion and then made a nine-inch incision in her abdomen. The tumor was too large to remove with scalpels, so he pressed on it to remove the 'noxious fluids' and bring it down to a more manageable size - of 22 pounds. The woman survived the surgery and lived another 32 years." Joseph had trained under his uncle and this is when he would start his grave robbing ways. Things between the men were great until they had a falling out over a relationship Joseph had wanted to kindle with Ephraim's daughter, his cousin. Joseph would leave and never talk to Ephraim again. He decided to attend Transylvania University in Kentucky and would flourish there taking on a mentor named Dr. Daniel Drake whose sister he would marry. He then went on to work at hospitals in Kentucky, Ohio and Pennsylvania. In 1839, he moved to St. Louis, Missouri.

Joseph McDowell was a peculiar man with crazy hair who had a temper, carried lifelong grudges and was described as unstable. He would rail on street corners against medical institutes and then eventually set up his own. Before that though, he got a job teaching at Kemper College and he helped organize the medical department. That department thrived under McDowell and was known for its anatomical studies. The finances just weren't there and the college faltered, so McDowell took on the reorganizing and gave it his name, McDowell Medical College. He decided to build a new building and began construction at the 9th and Gratiot Street location in 1848. This was a unique building with an octagonal tower in the center of two wings, with niches in the tower meant to hold the future remains of the McDowell family. The architectural style was Greek Revival with large Gothic windows. The tower had a deck with six cannons around it to provide protection. This was a medical school, not a fort, but apparently the cannons were needed. Legend claimed that one cannon had belonged to Jean Lafitte. The school was also stockpiled with muskets.

Dr. McDowell wanted to get medicine away from the old way of doing things followed by the old men of medicine. Luke Ritter writes in his paper Anatomy, Grave Robbing and Spiritualism in Antebellum St. Louis, "Dr. McDowell thought the old men lowered the overall reputation of the medical profession and made it harder for him to legitimate his cause. He told one story about an 'old doctor' who mixed tobacco spit into his homemade pills. When McDowell asked him about it, the old doctor replied: 'Oh, I am just making some pills for a lady across the street, and as there isn’t any water handy, I just do this way.'" The medical school had everything it needed from laboratories to lecture halls to chemical rooms to dissecting rooms. This was the first medical school west of the Mississippi and many medical graduates would come just to attend lectures by McDowell who was flamboyant, loud and very skilled, especially in surgery. But in order to do these lectures, bodies were needed. As we've discussed on previous episodes, for a while, the bodies of executed criminals would be "donated" to science. That did not usually provide enough cadavers, but only five states allowed the use of bodies of non-criminals. McDowell made it a rule that no one could graduate without dissecting at least one body. And he had a point because it really is impossible to know anatomy without studying the actual body. Many medical schools were graduating students who only had a year of study and many had never dissected a body. Dr. McDowell did an outreach to the poor community and would offer care for free and the medical students would have people to practice on. But that still wasn't enough. And thus, rumors started floating that the medical students were robbing graves. Dr. McDowell had done it with his uncle, so why wouldn't he teach his students to do the same? And grave robbing back at this time was pretty rampant in some places. In New York alone, 600 to 700 bodies were being snatched annually.

The people of St. Louis didn't do anything about the grave robbing from their cemeteries, but they were not happy. They didn't have any real proof anyway. But when a young female German immigrant named Mrs. Malter went missing, people began to think that the medical school had kidnapped her to use for dissection. She was later found living with another man in Alton, Illinois. But the distrust of the school continued and there were several movements against the school by mobs of people. Part of the reason people were so quick to blame Dr. McDowell for the girl's disappearance was because he was known for his hatred of immigrants. He was part of the "Know Nothing Party," which was a cover name for the Native American Party. This was not an indigineous group of people, but rather a group of Protestant men of British descent. They couldn't stand Germans or the Irish Catholics. This was just another facet of McDowell's erratic temperament. McDowell had also started a museum with rare specimens and animals and he once set a bear loose on a mob. The doctor also made sure that residents knew he had guns as he would occasionally send his students out to fire the muskets in a nearby park.

Things came to a head when a German girl died and McDowell and his students hid her body in the college. Her death had been unusual and they wanted to investigate. The locals got word of this and they planned to break into the school and find the body. McDowell received a letter warning him of the coming invasion. He grabbed the girl's body and headed for the attic with it over his shoulder. He was ascending when his lamp blew out. He re-lit it and started to climb again when it blew out a second time. He eventually got the body up the stairs when he was startled by a figure he saw at the end of the attic. It was his mother. Only his mother was dead. He would tell people that the spirit of his mother had come to warn him and protect him. And it seemed that she might have. Dr. McDowell was shaken by seeing the spirit of his mother who had disappeared once he recognized her, but he set the girl's body down and made his way back down the stairs. He saw that several residents had entered the school and were lighting lamps. They had weapons. He was trapped.

He glanced into the room from where he had removed the girl's body and his mother's spirit was standing next to the table, beckoning him. McDowell got on top of the table and covered himself with a sheet, hoping that no one would dare uncover a corpse. Several minutes passed as he listened to the men scurrying about the building looking for him and the girl's body. They came into the room and started lifting sheets off of bodies. One man commented that McDowell's corpse died with his boots on and McDowell braced himself for discovery. He then heard his mother whisper into his ear to keep completely still. He never knew if the men just decided not to look at his corpse or if his mother had done something to get them to leave, but he always attributed her with his escape. And it was at this time that he started to seek out the spirit world.

The story is the same for most of us. We have that first supernatural experience and we need to find out more. McDowell began to study electromagnetism because he understood that there had to be a relationship between the supernatural and electricity and magnetism. He always considered the afterlife consequences when making decisions and he became keenly concerned with preserving the body and he detested normal burial customs. His first foray into something different in this way was to bury his first wife atop the Cahokian burial mounds in Illinois. He would use a telescope to keep an eye on her burial, which he could see from the top of the college tower. He also decided that when any of his family members died, including himself, that they should be encased in copper tubes filled with alcohol. And remember those niches in the tower? Dr. McDowell wanted to put the tubes in those niches. But this was not feasible, so he was on the hunt for a cave to store bodies. The Doctor at first chose the Mammoth Caves, but these were all the way in Kentucky, so he found a more suitable location in Hannibal, Missouri.

The first person to be stored in a copper tube in that cave would be his fourteen-year-old daughter, Amanda. The copper tube was suspended from the ceiling of the cave. People started calling him Mad Doctor McDowell and perhaps he was a little mad as he believed that he was more able to communicate with his daughter in the afterlife because of this set-up. Before long, people were claiming that Amanda haunted the cave. Today, the cave offers tours and is known as Mark Twain Cave. Many tour guides claim sudden chills that completely envelope them and they also say they see the apparition of a young girl that they believe is Amanda. She is smiling and wearing a white gown that is styled from a different period. She usually disappears into restricted areas of the cave. *Fun Fact: Dr. McDowell visited Mammoth Caves once and scratched his signature into a large rock called "Giant's Coffin," which you can still see today.*

Amanda would not remain here for the long term as the Doctor started hearing rumors that teenagers were daring each other to go inside the haunted cave and yank the head of Amanda out of her copper tube. A young Samuel Clemens may even have visited the Hannibal cave as he once wrote, "There is an interesting cave a mile or two below Hannibal. In my time, the person who then owned it turned it into a mausoleum for his daughter, age 14. The body was put into a copper cylinder filled with alcohol and this was suspended in one of the dismal avenues of the cave. The top of the cylinder was removable, and it was a common thing for the baser order of tourists to drag the dead face into view and examine it and comment upon it." The Doctor decided to move her to the family vault behind the college. There are those who think much of McDowell's beliefs on burial not really being a sacred thing came from his years of grave robbing and dissecting dead bodies. These just became objects to him and there was no such thing as "rest-in-peace."

McDowell had a son who had become a doctor as well and his name was Drake. When the Civil War broke out, both men pledged their support for the Confederacy. Drake took two cannons from the school and joined a regiment under General Meriwether Thompson. Dr. McDowell took on the commission to serve as the Surgeon General for the Confederate Army of the West. This left the medical college abandoned. The abandoned college was soon seized by Provost Marshall George E. Leighton for the Union and used for recruitment, but that would eventually change when General Henry Halleck transformed the hospital into a prison. During that renovation it was said that soldiers and several former slaves removed three carts full of human and animal bones. Many soldiers were superstitious and this lead them to believe that the college was haunted. And perhaps it was because those bones belonged to disinterred and thus, disturbed remains. There were many Confederate prisoners who claimed to feel as if they were not alone and they heard weird things.

Life in the prison was harsh. It was overcrowded and filthy. This was not only full of Confederate prisoners, but also Union deserters and criminals, spies, bush whackers and women who helped the Confederacy. Prison guards were described as pure devils and one inmate said that the jail was hell on earth. The sick and dying were just left on the floor and food rations were very low. Many people died inside the jail. Despite reports of the horrible conditions and calls to close the prison, it remained open until the end of the Civil War. Doctor McDowell returned to his former medical school and was devastated to find its condition. The stone floors were so dirty that they appeared to be dirt covered floors. The gallows were located in his gardens. He was committed to fixing things and asked several doctors for help and eventually the place was cleaned up for reopening. He didn't live long after that, dying from pneumonia in 1868. He was buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery with his first wife and daughter who were moved to be next to him.

The school was then left abandoned until the Terminal Railroad Association demolished it and built their new rail yard in 1882. Workers on the railway claimed to have haunting experiences. They would say they saw the spirits of Confederate soldiers. The same is said of the parking lot at the Ralston Purina headquarters when it comes to the ghosts of Confederate soldiers. But the reports of hauntings started even before the medical school was torn down. Neighbors would cross themselves when they passed the college because they feared the place and were superstitious. There was the sound of disembodied screams and cries coming from the abandoned building. Ghosts appeared in the windows. When people would go to investigate, they would find no one inside.

Troy Taylor shares a story he was told in his book Haunted St. Louis, "The descendant of a German man who once lived nearby told me a story that had been passed down in his family. As a boy, his ancestor had played inside of the building with his friends on several occasions. An acquaintance claimed that he had come face-to-face with a ghost inside - and would never return - but the other boys didn't let this stop them, especially on a warm summer afternoon. But they soon found that the bright sunshine outside was not enough to penetrate the darkness of the building. The gloomy, thick atmosphere made them realize they might have made a mistake by going inside. They wandered about, though, poking into rooms and walking up and down the dusty corridors - and then they heard the sound. It seemed to be coming from the octagonal tower. As my witness told me, his great-grandfather had recalled the sound as 'loud, screeching, banging and yelling that made the blood curdle.' It echoed through the whole structure. The boys had no idea where it was coming from - or what it was - but it sent them running out of the building. Many years later, he swore that he never went into that building again."

For as out there as Dr. McDowell seemed to be, he was integral in changing the American way of thinking about doctors in his time. People were very skeptical of the medical profession and there were very few skilled doctors. He changed that with his teaching and his school. He was also a very complicated man being a professional doctor on one hand and a man deeply intrigued with Spiritualism and a highly respected man even though he had xenophobic ideals and dug up dead bodies in his free time. Was his former college haunted. Is the parking lot where it used to stand haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, June 18, 2020

HGB Ep. 341 - Mass Murder at Taliesin

Moment in Oddity - The Phantom Fortress
Suggested by: John Michaels

During World War II, a Royal Air Force antiaircraft unit that was stationed in Belgium had a really weird experience. They watched as a B-17 appeared in the air over them with its landing gear down and slowly descending , ending its flight with a crash into a nearby field. The unit was perplexed. They had not been advised that a plane was coming in for a landing. The fact that it crashed was even more perplexing. The group rushed over to offer assistance. Major John V. Crisp reported what they found after opening the hatch, "We now made a thorough search and our most remarkable find in the fuselage was about a dozen parachutes neatly wrapped and ready for clipping on. This made the whereabouts of the crew even more mysterious. The Sperry bomb-sight remained in the Perspex nose, quite undamaged, with its cover neatly folded beside it. Back on the navigator’s desk was the code book giving the colors and letters of the day for identification purposes. Various fur-lined flying jackets lay in the fuselage together with a few bars of chocolate, partly consumed in some cases." There was absolutely no crew aboard! The B-17 had no other damage than what occurred during the crash. Clearly, the crew had not bailed out using parachutes since they were still on the plane. So where was the crew? Apparently, they were in Belgium. They claimed that enemy fire had damaged the bomb rack and taken out an engine, so they bailed. Only, the damage they described had not happened. People started calling the B-17 the Phantom Fortress and no real answers were ever given. There were many theories, but nothing plausible, leaving this as one of the biggest mysteries of World War II and that, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Fabricius Observes and Publishes on Sunspots

In the month of June, on the 13th, in 1611, Johnannes Fabricius published the first work on sunspots. Fabricius was a German medical student when he decided he would rather look at the stars like his father who was a well-known astronomer. He took several telescopes with him when he went to visit his father in Osteel. It would be here that he would see the black spots on the sun. Johannes wasn't the first to see the sunspots. The Chinese had done that before and an Englishman had recorded them in 1610, but Johannes was the first to publish a scientific treatise on the sunspots. Further studies would prove that the sun rotated and that sunspots have an 11-year cycle.

Mass Murder at Taliesin

Frank Lloyd Wright is one of the most celebrated architects in America. His designs were ahead of their time and he was a true architectural visionary. Wright's ultimate design and build would be his 37,000 square foot home in Wisconsin that he named Taliesin. This would be the scene of what is considered the worst mass murder in Wisconsin's history. Most people know the successes, but not many know this dark spot in Wright's life and the event that has left one of his homes possibly haunted. Join us as we share the details of Wright's life, this tragic event and the haunts that are connected to this famous architect!

Frank Lloyd Wright was born Frank Lincoln Wright in Wisconsin in 1867. In 1876, Wright's mother Anna would make a purchase that would forever mold his future. Anna bought a set of blocks created by Friedrich Wilhelm August Fröbel when she visited the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. The blocks were called Froebel Gifts and they were geometrically shaped and could be assembled in various combinations to form three-dimensional compositions. Wright loved those blocks and would spend hours playing with them. They had such an effect on him that he wrote in his autobiography, "For several years I sat at the little Kindergarten table-top ... and played ... with the cube, the sphere and the triangle—these smooth wooden maple blocks ... All are in my fingers to this day." The family moved from their small farming community to Madison in 1877 and Wright began spending summers at his uncle's home, which was in a rural area that provided Wright the opportunity to gain a real love for nature. And that would be key in his future designs. His architecture would be referred to as "organic architecture."

When Wright was 14, his mother asked his father to leave and after the divorce was final, Wright never saw his father again. He took on the responsibility of financially supporting the family. He also changed his middle name to Lloyd to honor his mother. Wright attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, but did not graduate. He was bored with school and moved to Chicago to find employment, which he did with an architectural firm that gave him the position of draftsman. Wright would move on to another firm, Adler & Sullivan, where his architectural prowess would blossom. He considered Louis Sullivan to be his teacher and he had great respect for the man, although he did not like his management methods. He also didn't like his fellow draftsmen and fist fights were a regular occurrence. Not something one would usually expect inside an architectural firm.

On June 1, 1889, Wright married Catherine Lee "Kitty" Tobin. Wright had expensive taste and his funds were always low for that reason, so he decided to start a little side hustle. This enterprise would be designing several private homes that he affectionately dubbed "Bootleg Houses" because his contract with Alder & Sullivan forbade any side work. When Louis Sullivan passed by a newly built home near his townhouse, he recognized Wright's style and Wright found himself getting the boot from the firm. The two men would not speak for 12 years. Wright decided this would be a good time to strike out on his own and he worked out of a couple of office buildings, before finally moving his practice into his home. The space was pretty cramped as Kitty and Wright had six children, so he added a studio onto the house.

Wright designed both buildings and homes, but his preference was the family home. His fame was growing and his designs were in demand. He was well on his way to becoming the most famous American architect in the world and he was changing the way Americans looked at architecture. Wright believed that design should be creative and geometric shapes would jut out of his buildings and the light of nature would flood the interiors. In his time, he designed 1,114 buildings and saw 532 of them built. And while he seemed like a god in the world of architecture, Wright was a man and men have flaws. Wright's main flaw was his desire for women other than his wife. He was not what one would describe as a family man and he wanted to leave Kitty. The opportunity would come when he decided to design a home for his neighbor Edwin Cheney. The project began in 1903 and through this, he got to know Cheney's wife better.

Her name was Martha, but she went by Mamah and she was a highly intellectual woman and a strong feminist. Wright was immediately enamored by her and considered her his equal in intellect. Mamah had similar feelings and the two fell in love despite the fact that they both were married to other people. This was not Wright's first dalliance outside his marriage and Kitty assumed that this woman would fall by the wayside like all the others. That did not happen. Wright asked Kitty for a divorce, but she would not grant him one. Mamah left for Europe and after two years, was able to get a divorce from her husband on the grounds of desertion. By 1909, both Wright and Mamah were living in Europe where Wright hoped he could get away from home design and into bigger projects. In 1910, he had his mother buy him property in Spring Green, Wisconsin and he built his dream home on it and named it Taliesin. Taliesin was the name of a poet and magician in Welsh mythology. The story was about an artist's struggle for identity. Just in 2019, a group of eight buildings designed by Wright were designated as World Heritage Sites along the lines of Stonehenge, the Grand Canyon and The Great Pyramids. Taliesin was one of those eight.

This has been described as Wright's autobiography in wood and stone. The site features the Midway Barn, Hillside School, the Romeo & Juliet Windmill, Tan-y-Deri and the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center. Construction on the home was completed in 1911 and followed the Prairie Design or Organic Design and was low and snug like the land on which it sat. This would be the first of three versions of Taliesin and would have two broad portions connected by a narrow loggia that covered 12,000 square feet. One side was his studio and the other was the living quarters. Local yellow limestone was used and was laid to Wright's specific directions as long, thin ledges. This gave the home a golden hue. Shingles were colored to match the trees and every room had windows that would allow lots of sun all day long. The grounds had lots of fruit trees and berry bushes. There is a tea circle in the middle of the courtyard, inspired by Japanese wabi-sabi landscaping, that is rough cut from limestone with a curved stone bench and there is a pool in the center.

Mamah was an angry and mean woman and treated people according to where she thought their station in life was, meaning that if you were the help in her home, you were treated as the help. And if she decided that she no longer wanted a servant working for her, she just fired him or her with no cause or reason. Mamah moved into Taliesin and her children visited her there often. Society did not approve of the living arrangements since Wright and Mamah were not married and the press denounced Wright and Mamah in editorials. In 1914, Julian and Gertrude Carlton of Barbados were hired to work at Taliesin. One of Wright's friends had recommended the couple. Gertrude took on the cook responsibilities and Julian worked as a butler and handyman. Julian had a temper and so this set him at odds with the similarly tempered Mamah. He also did not get along with a draftsman who worked at the home named Emil Brodelle. The two openly fought. Julian took to sleeping with an axe next to his bed and this worried Gertrude. She noticed that he started acting very strangely. After a few weeks, Mamah asked the couple to leave, meaning they were fired. She gave no reason. But it is believed that Wright and Mamah had seen Julian Carlton sitting up at night holding a butcher knife and they may have even experienced some of his paranoia.

On August 15, 1914, Wright was away on business in Chicago. Mamah had her children visiting at Taliesin. At lunchtime, she sat down with her children on the screened in porch to have lunch. Wright's employees who worked at the home, sat down at the dining table in the adjoining room. Julian and his wife had not left yet, but he told Gertrude to go somewhere else. He then went around and locked all the doors and windows, except one. He poured gasoline all around, making sure it slipped under the door to the dining room. One survivor later said that he noticed “something flowing under the screen door from the court. We thought it was nothing but soap suds spilled outside. The liquid ran under my chair, and I noticed the odor of gasoline.”

Julian set fire to one wing of the home and then grabbed an axe and entered the screened-in porch. He killed Mamah and her son right away with the axe. Mamah's daughter tried to run away, but Julian caught her in the courtyard and killed her too. While this was happening, Wright's employees were trying to get away from the fire, but found the windows and doors to be locked. One of the draftsmen, Herbert Fritz, broke a window with his arm and escaped, but he had broken his arm in the process. Emil Brodelle was still in the room when Julian came in and he killed the draftsman with whom he had a rivalry. He then waited outside the door and ambushed foreman William Weston and his 13-year-old son Ernest. Both managed to get away, but Ernest had been mortally wounded and died hours later. Two of the other employees, laborer Thomas Brunker and gardener David Lindblom, managed to fight Julian off. They inhaled a lot of smoke though and had been badly burned and succumbed to their injuries days later. Of the nine people in the home, only two survived. The dead were 13-year-old Ernest Weston, draftsman Emil Brodelle, gardener David Lindblom, his laborer Thomas Brunker, Mamah Cheney and her two children John and Martha.

Neighbors ran to put out the fire, while Julian hid in the basement. He attempted suicide by drinking muriatic acid. He was found by a posse who wanted to lynch him on the spot, but they eventually carried him off to jail. Julian never gave a motive for the murders and he died a while later in jail from starvation because his esophagus was burned so badly by the acid. Gertrude had no idea of Julian's plans and had been dressed and packed for traveling, expecting to catch a train with her husband. She was found out in the field where we imagine she had run to get away from the burning house. She was released and left for Chicago and was never heard from again. Wright arrived home later that evening  and was overcome by the horror. He never did recover from the tragedy and never did another Prairie School design again. Taliesin was rebuilt and Wright would eventually move back there and bring another companion with him that he would later marry, but she eventually left him. Taliesin would burn again in 1925 and be rebuilt once more.

Taliesin still holds onto the tragedy. Spirits are restless here. When the bodies were pulled from the fire, they were taken to a cottage on the property, Tan-Y-Deri. Mamah Cheney's full bodied apparition, wearing white, has been seen here both inside and walking around the outside. She sometimes is seen washing clothes, which seems weird since she didn't live in the cottage and she had servants, so we can't imagine she would do the laundry. Doors mysteriously open and close at the cottage. The windows do the same. And she likes to play with the lights as well. Groundskeepers find windows and doors wide open the mornings after they lock up. One visitor arrived at the cottage and found the water running and no one else was there. He also heard disembodied footsteps. The scent of smoke is sometimes caught on the air as well. Frank Lloyd Wright is at unrest as well and it could be because his body was moved. He was originally buried on this property, but his daughter had him exhumed, cremated and moved to Taliesin West in Arizona. This was against his wishes.

To end on a more positive note, we would like to share about a place here in Florida with a strong connection to Frank Lloyd Wright and that is Florida Southern College. This is the oldest private college in the state and was founded in 1852 as a Methodist seminary. Dr. Ludd Spivey took over as the College's president in 1925 and he wanted to do something that would spice up the college and put it on the map. He wanted a "campus of tomorrow." What better architect to provide that than Frank Lloyd Wright? He visited the campus for the first time in 1938 and over the course of 20 years, he designed 18 buildings for the campus and 13 of them were built. Many of these buildings were built by the students. This is today, one of the 28 Wright projects that are National Historic Landmarks. This site is the greatest concentration of Wright's work on one site, for one client.

The Annie Pfeiffer Chapel was the first Frank Lloyd Wright designed and built building on the campus. The church was dedicated in 1941 and has been home to both Protestant services and Catholic Masses. Inside the chapel, one can see a full organ, baby grand piano, theater-style seating and an ornate choir screen made from handcrafted interlocking textile blocks. This choir screen was not put in according to Wright's directions and he has been angry about it even after death. Rumors have circulated that Frank Lloyd Wright’s apparition has been seen staring over the screen.

The Buckner Theatre was designed by Wright and is a theater in the round. Many students have claimed that the theater is haunted, which is not surprising since most of them make that claim. Students say that they have seen phantom hands in the curtains and seen doors open and close on their own. There was one student who was in the theater alone and claimed to have seen legs walking up on the catwalk, but when he looked more closely, he saw no body above the legs. Other people who have been in the building say that they have heard disembodied screams and strange music on the air.

Lily shared her experience with, "I had been volunteering with the theatre group for about a month. I felt like it was very obvious to everyone else on crew that I had no prior experience with sets. A majority of the hours I worked were actually spent correcting mistakes I had made with various backdrops. And that is precisely what I was doing when I had the most frightening experience of my life. It was late, and everyone else had gone home or back to their dorms. I  had just finished some detailing on a backdrop and I was the only one left at Buckner. The painting was finally finished, and I grabbed the supplies to take to the backstage area. I had my arms full of paint cans and brushes when I walked off the stage. As I passed by the curtains, the fabric seemed to move toward me in a swift lunge. It scared the crap out of me, so I began to run towards backstage—whatever it took to put the supplies away and get out of there. Furniture props were scattered everywhere, and as I scurried past a chair, numerous hands seemed to reach out and grab at my ankles. I fell and the paints went flying everywhere, but I was beyond caring at that point. I honestly can’t even recall driving out of Lakeland that night…and I never went back to work with the drama department again."

The Joseph-Reynolds Hall, or JR for short, is a female dorm that is one of the original buildings on the campus, built in 1922. It features beautiful chandeliers and white archways and was designed in the colonial-revival architectural style. An unidentified writer wrote in the LAL Today paper out of Lakeland on October 24, 2012, "And no ghost post could be complete without a personal testimony! Being a female student at FSC, I lived in Joseph-Reynolds Hall my freshman year and I had my own encounters with our resident ghost, Allan Spivey. Allan was the son of Mr. Spivey, a well-known figure on campus. At a young age, contrary to other stories, he was bitten by a rabid dog, causing him to die a slow and painful death. Stories tell that he passed in JR back before it became the freshman girls’ residence hall, but the truth behind that statement is unknown. Regardless, Allan passed and his presence continues to haunt the halls of JR. I lived on the third floor in a room previously used as a storage unit. Upon my roommate and I’s arrival, weird things started happening in our room. Our DVD player would turn on and off subtitles randomly, even though my remote was sitting on my desk, untouched. No matter what decoration we hung on the wall or what we hung it with, it was only a matter of days before it was torn off the wall, without anyone touching it (this happened several times while I was alone. Posters would be thrown at me from across the room where they were hung.) He would also walk around on our wooden furniture, making creaking footsteps as he moved around. He also liked to bang on our windows as we slept or when we had friends over. But every time we asked, “Allan, we don’t want to play right now,” the subtitles would turn off, posters would stop being torn down, furniture would stop creaking, the banging on the windows would cease. After we moved to another room the second semester to trade with a friend who wanted a bigger room, we never heard from Allan again. Coincidence? I think not."

Frank Lloyd Wright was an interesting man and a gifted designer. Is his former love, Mamah Cheney, still walking through the property where she met a tragic end? Is Taliesin haunted? Is the campus of Florida Southern University haunted and does Wright's spirit hang out there in the afterlife? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, June 11, 2020

HGB Ep. 340 - The Exchange Hotel

Moment in Oddity - Ancient Bone Wall in Belgium
Suggested by: Darren Koch

Saint Bravo's Cathedral in Ghent, Belgium decided that it was time to add a new visitor center. Because of the history connected to this site, archaeologists excavated the area first and they found something they were not expecting. Beneath the cathedral, they found bone walls. There were nine of them and they were fashioned mostly from adult thigh and shin bones. These were walls of leg bones and they encased an ossuary in a similar fashion as the catacombs of Paris. The residents of Ghent had dug up some burial grounds and needed some place to store these old skeletal remains and this what they chose to do. The lead archaeologist said of Belgium, "We have never seen structures, like walls, which are intentionally built with human bones." Parts of skulls and smaller bones were mixed into the walls, but oddly, no arm bones are anywhere in the walls. One has to wonder where they went. Full skeletons are buried in a layer of dirt above the bone walls. Carbon dating places the bones to the late 15th century. According to an article in Live Science, the bones were going to be removed to a research facility. Well, we all know how that's going to go. You just shouldn't disturb those bones yet again. Whether or not hauntings will erupt, one thing that is sure is that walls made from bones, certainly are odd!

This Month in History - Atomic Emergency Civil Defense Drill

In the month of June, on the 15th, in 1955, there was an Atomic Emergency Civil Defense Drill. After World War II, America entered a time known as The Cold War. A basic description of a very complicated time is that this was basically the United States and the Soviet Union facing off against each other in a power struggle and this lasted for decades. The Soviet Union was Communist and this made them untrustworthy even though we had been allies during WWII. This tension came out through an arms race with atomic and nuclear weapons. In 1955, it was decided to run Operation Alert 1955. This would be a test to determine our readiness and was so real, that even President Eisenhower was whisked away to a hidden location. Fifty-five cities were targeted, plus six cities in territories. Several cities had no advanced warning, The New York Times reported, "Vital centers of the nation were under the assumed blight of radioactive fall-out from hydrogen bombs that could paralyze them for weeks. In a recapitulation tonight, the Federal Civil Defense Administration estimated assumed casualties at 5,000,000 killed and almost 5,000,000 injured. It also estimated that 10,000,000 persons had been made homeless, creating serious welfare problems." The Times added that the results of the test "ranged from indifference and confusion in some cities to well-disciplined drills and even evacuations." People who refused to participate were arrested. Over all, the drill was considered a success.

The Exchange Hotel (Suggested by: Myra Wheeler)

The Exchange Hotel started out as a tavern along the railroad tracks in the quaint town of Gordonsville in Virginia. This would eventually become a forerunner to larger railroad hotels. As the Civil War erupted, the centralized location of the hotel and its proximity to the tracks, made it the perfect spot for a hospital. Soldiers lost limbs here and died here. More than 70,000 sick and wounded passed through here. Perhaps that is why this location has a reputation for being haunted. Join us, some of our Spooktacular Crew and Daryl Marston of A&E's Ghost Hunters as we explore the history and hauntings of The Exchange Hotel!

In 1839, five acres of land near the train depot was purchased by James Hunter. The Louis Railroad was building a track from Richmond to Gordonsville at the time and this would be a prime location. In 1840, Richard Omohundro built a tavern on part of the land near the depot and he would eventually buy the land from Hunter in 1849. The tavern not only served up alcohol, but it became widely known for its fried chicken and it started selling it to the people on the train when they stopped at the depot. Unfortunately, the Omohundro Tavern burned in 1859. The building was quickly rebuilt with the addition of porches and this would become The Exchange Hotel which was built in 1860 in the Greek Revival architectural style.

In March of 1862, the Confederate States of America took over the hotel because of its strategic location and this became part of the Gordonsville Receiving Hospital. There were many battles in the area and the wounded would be brought from nearby battlefields such as Cedar Mountain, Chancellorsville, Trevilian Station, Mine Run, Brandy Station, and the Wilderness. This treated mostly Confederate soldiers, but 26 Union soldiers died here. By the Civil Wars end, 70,000 men had been treated here and 700 would be buried on the nearby grounds and eventually exhumed and moved. Bodies were stacked up in the train depot to be sent elsewhere or to keep until buried. During Reconstruction, this would become the Freedman's Bureau Hospital and serve newly freed slaves. The building returned to its roots in 1870 and became The Exchange Hotel, running until the 1940s. It would serve for a time as a boarding house and then apartments. It was then left abandoned and fell into disrepair until Historic Gordonsville, Inc., acquired and restored the hotel in the 1970s. They transformed it into what it is today, The Exchange Hotel Civil War Museum. It's open for tours, both historic and ghost. We had the opportunity to join a ghost hunt here with Daryl Marston of Ghost Hunters leading the way, here's what happened!

We had an interesting evening for sure! Is The Exchange Hotel haunted? That is for you to decide!

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!