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!

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