Thursday, August 27, 2020

HGB Ep. 349 - Haunted Saratoga Springs

Moment in Oddity - The Lost Tomb of Queen Hetepheres

The tomb of Queen Hetepheres was once lost. Its discovery started in 1925 with a photographer's tripod. He was setting up a shot near the Great Pyramid of Khufu in Giza, Egypt, when the leg of his tripod slipped into a crevice. This crevice led into a hidden shaft that led into a hidden staircase that emptied into a limestone filled vertical shaft. The limestone had been used to seal the grave from grave robbers. It would take 10 years for archaeologists to excavate the tomb and what they found was amazing. The tomb was filled with the finest examples of ancient Egyptian jewelry and furniture. There was gilded wooden furniture and silver bracelets full of jewels  and precious stones like lapis lazuli and turquoise. Queen Hetepheres was the mother of Pharaoh Khufu. The strangest part of the discovery was that the Queen's body was not in the tomb. Archaeologists have no explanation as to the mystery of the missing body and that, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Mona Lisa Stolen

In the month of August, on the 21st, in 1911, the Mona Lisa was stolen. The Mona Lisa was painted by Leonardo da Vinci around 1517 and is considered to be the most well known work of art in the world. The work was acquired by King Francis I of France and eventually became the property of the French Republic. In 1797, it was put on permanent display at the Louvre in Paris. It was from the Louvre that the Mona Lisa was stolen in 1911. The heist was pulled off by an Italian handyman named Vincenzo Peruggia who worked at the Louvre making the protective glass cases for the artwork. The Mona Lisa was one of the pieces. Peruggia hid the painting under his clothes and left the building after a plumber unlocked the door for him. It took 24 hours before the painting was reported missing and another two years before it was recovered. Peruggia was arrested, tried and sentenced to seven months in jail.

Haunted Saratoga Springs
 
Through the years, we have covered many locations with the word "springs" in their name. These sites all seem to have one thing in common: they have been places considered special because they were sacred or spiritual or healing. The Native Americans held them in reverence. Saratoga Springs in New York is another one of these places. Many have claimed that areas like this are portals that attract spirits. And it does seem that there are many haunted locations here. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Saratoga Springs!
 
Saratoga Springs has a deep and rich history starting with the Native Americans who used the mineral springs here for healing and ritual. These were the Mohawk, Mahican and Haudenosaunee. High Rock Spring was the most famous spring here and the Native Americans called it the "Medicine Spring of the Great Spirit." The Native Americans called the area "Sarahoga," which means "place of swift water." Sir William Johnson was the first European to test the healing reputation of this spring. He had suffered a battle wound at the Battle of Lake George in 1755. The wound left him unable to walk, but after visiting High Rock in 1771, he was said to be able to walk back to Johnstown. The spring's reputation spread and even George Washington visited the spring in 1783. 
 
The Dutch and British were the first Europeans in the area and the British built Fort Saratoga here in 1691. There was much conflict in the area between the Dutch, British and native tribes. The first European to settle what would become Saratoga Springs was Alexander Bryan in 1787 and eventually many people followed. They gave the town the special name of "Town of the Springs Near Saratoga." The town would be officially established as Saratoga Springs in 1819 with the village incorporating in 1826. The Saratoga and Schenectady Railroad brought in many tourists to the springs. Many hotels were built at this time too. One of these was the Grand Union Hotel, which was the largest hotel in the world at one time. This started out as Putnam's Tavern and Boarding House, built by Gideon Putnam in 1802. This hotel was demolished in 1953, unfortunately. But there is another hotel named for Gideon Putnam and this one is apparently haunted! 

Gideon Putnam Resort
 
Gideon Putnam was born in Massachusetts in 1763 and he was considered the founder of the hotel business in Saratoga Springs. The name Putnam is big in Saratoga Springs. He married Doanda Risley Putnam and they moved to Saratoga Springs in 1789. Putnam was not impressed with the area and referred to it as a "forest with a few log houses and a mineral spring." He and his wife chose the upper village to settle and they would have nine children. Putnam started his first business and he became a lumber baron. He started a sawmill and made barrel staves and shingles, which were sold in New York City after being floated down the Hudson River. Putnam became a rich man and he bought a tract of land surrounding Congress Spring. In 1802, he built the 70-room Putnam Tavern and Boarding House, which the local folk called "Putnam's Folly." We heard this about Orleans Waterfront Inn too.

This was anything but folly though. The boarding house flourished and in 1810, Putnam added on to the boarding house and renamed the place Union Hall. The hotel grew to the size of a whole city block and was renamed the Grand Union Hotel and was operated by the Putnam family until 1864. As we said before, this was demolished in 1953 to make way for a grocery store and parking lot. Putnam died at a young age. He was only 49 when he died from injuries he sustained when another hotel he was building called Congress Hall, had a section of scaffolding collapse on him. He was the first person buried in the cemetery that he founded, Gideon Putnam Burial Ground. 
 
The city continued to flourish with the vision that Putnam had put forward and eventually in 1935, another hotel was built dedicated to the man by using his name, The Gideon Putnam Hotel. This hotel did not have the size of the Grand Union with only 87 rooms compared to the Grand Union's 600 rooms. The hotel was designed in the Colonial Revival/Neo-Georgian style by prominent architect Marcus T. Reynolds. This was a convenient and modest hotel that was not overly ornate. And by modest, we aren't just talking about the accoutrements. Sleeveless dresses were prohibited in the dining room. Well known interior decorator Dorothy Tuckerman Draper designed the interior decor with bright colors and internationally acclaimed artist James Reynolds painted the murals in the dining room. These murals featured Saratoga scenes. 
 
In that first decade, the Gideon Putnam Hotel was always booked solid and many people would stay for the recommended three weeks to properly enjoy the spa and springs. Many celebrities came to stay as well like Fred Astaire, Cary Grant and Bob Hope. And then things changed as the automobile made long stays at resorts less popular and modern medicine took care of ailments that used to bring people to the springs to drink the water to cure. The hotel would be redecorated in 1953 and later bring in a new clientele with the Saratoga Performing Arts Center being built in 1966. This brought in other famous people like the Grateful Dead and opera star Beverly Sills. In 1969, a $750,000 remodel added a cocktail lounge and more guestrooms and in 1979, a 9,000 square foot convention center was added. *Fun fact: that convention center was named after Sir William Johnson. Today, the hotel offers 123 guestrooms and is listed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's guide to Historic Hotels of America. Many refer to this as the "Jewel of Saratoga." It also is reputedly haunted by several spirits.

Both staff and guests have experiences to share. They claim to have experienced cold spots and breezes and unexplained noises. One employee went up to the attic to fix light fixtures that would not turn on up on the roof. He found that the lights somehow had turned themselves on by themselves. He was shocked when he then saw the face of an old woman staring back at him from a window in the attic.

Witch of Saratoga
 
Angeline Tubbs was known as the Witch of Saratoga. She reputedly died on August 16, 1865 at the age of 104. She had lived in a shack just north of Saratoga Springs and the story of how she came to be here was a sad one. She had been a beautiful young woman engaged to a British soldier when the Revolutionary War started. He brought her across the ocean with him and then abandoned her after his company was defeated at the Battle of Saratoga. She made her way to the mountains to find a place to live and built a shack there where she was surrounded by cats. The first cat lady? Tubbs made a living telling fortunes and trapping. People claimed to see her out on the mountainside waving her arms around with her hair flying all about whenever there was a violent thunderstorm and they said it seemed as though she were conversing with spirits. Red lightning was said to flash all about her. And that is how she came to be known as the Witch of Saratoga. She eventually ended up in a local poorhouse where she died. A doctor who knew her at that time said that she was probably ten years younger than the 104 that was claimed about her. She still lived to be an old woman. And there are stories that for years after her death, the image or spirit of a wild-haired woman dancing on the mountain during bad storms was seen.

Yaddo Gardens

Yaddo Gardens makes the perfect setting for a horror movie. The mansion is set back among large pine trees and resembles a gothic mansion of old, built from stone. The gardens surrounding the property are dotted with statuary, much of it adding to the creepy vibe. The wrought iron gate leading onto the property at 312 Union Avenue features the word "Yaddo" fashioned in the iron in a quirky form of cursive. That is the first indication that one is about to enter a very unique property. Before the mansion and gardens were at this location, there were Native Americans here and they believed the land to be special. The first European to own the property was Jacobus Barhyte who was a Revolutionary War veteran. He built a farm house, gristmill and tavern on the property and a fun legend about that tavern is that Edgar Allan Poe supposedly wrote part of "The Raven" at Barhyte’s tavern!

The mansion here was built in 1893 by the Trask Family. Spencer and Katrina Trask had bought the property in 1881 because Katrina felt a spiritual connection to it. The couple let their daughter, Christina, name it and she came up with Yaddo. She wanted something that rhymed with shadow. Sadly, Christina would not live to adulthood. And even more depressing is that she was not the only Trask child to die young. The Trasks had already lost their eldest son, Alanson, when they bought the property. A few years after the mansion was built, Christina died along with her brother Spencer. They had caught diphtheria from their mother. The doctors had thought that Katrina was going to die, so they brought the children in to say goodbye and that's when it is thought they caught the disease. It was all very tragic.

The youngest Trask child was named after her mother Katrina and she died shortly after her birth. The poor Trasks could not catch a break when it came to their children. Katrina would take the pain of her loss and write. A Tiffany stained glass window in the mansion features an epiphany that she had in the garden. She was a Theosophist and believed in an immense creative spirit and part of that spirit was here at Yaddo. The Trasks had followed that spirit in the design of the gardens. They had consulted landscape architects, but the design was entirely their own. These gardens are situated on lower and upper terraces that are divided by a pergola. The lower part is formal with a Rose Garden and reflects Italian and French Renaissance influences. The upper part is a woodland rock garden, which was a style that came into fashion in the late nineteenth century. Both gardens have fountains and statuary. There are four statues inspired by the four seasons. Another statuary features a sundial that bears the inscription, "Hours fly, Flowers die, New days, New ways, Pass by, Love stays." In 1893, the original mansion burned down, but the Trasks rebuilt and that is the mansion that is there now.

The mansion at Yaddo has been an artist community since 1926 and most artists who have made this their home base at some point, describe the location as paradise. Changing this into an artist retreat was Spencer's idea as a gift to his wife. It offers residencies to artists working in choreography, film, literature, musical composition, painting, performance art, photography, printmaking, sculpture, and video. Collectively, artists who have worked at Yaddo have won 66 Pulitzer Prizes, 27 MacArthur Fellowships, 61 National Book Awards, 24 National Book Critics Circle Awards, 108 Rome Prizes, 49 Whiting Writers' Awards, a Nobel Prize and at least one Man Booker Prize. Since this is an active retreat, the public is not granted access to the mansion. For a time in the 1980s, the gardens fell into disrepair. In 1991, Saratoga Springs resident and Yaddo board member Jane Wait founded the Yaddo Garden Association. Under her leadership, the all-volunteer association brought the gardens back to life and raised funds to restore statuary and ornaments. The gardens have been vandalized in more recent years too unfortunately. There are many who believe the property is haunted.
 
Katrina Trask was buried on the on the grounds and visitors have said that they’ve felt her presence around the property. Tour guide Leslie Leduc has worked here for over 20 years and she said that many artists who completed the residency program have claimed to have seen or felt Katrina. One memorable story involved the artists getting together and forming an impromptu band they called The Trask Children. As they played and sang, the windows started slamming and they believed that Katrina was unhappy with them. Leduc said it was like Katrina was shaking her finger and saying no, no, no. People who volunteer in the gardens claim to have felt her presence through unexplained sounds or sudden cool breezes. Some artists believe that Katrina has inspired their work by guiding them through dreams. There are other spirits here too. There were Native Americans who were on the land previously and they have been known to make an appearance. And Jacobus Barhyte is said to haunt his former property too. One other ghost that is said to haunt the grounds is Allena Pardee, who worked for and was very close to Katrina. According to Leduc, she’s usually in the gardens where she was happiest. Dowsers have investigated the property and been drawn to the four statues, which represent the four seasons and play a key role in the ghost tours.
 
The Olde Bryan Inn
 
In 1773, Dirck Schoughten built a simple log cabin on the bluff overlooking High Rock Spring and this spot would eventually become home for The Olde Bryan Inn, which was built in 1832. Today, this is a very popular restaurant in Saratoga Springs. Schoughten left his cabin shortly after building it because of conflicts he had with the Native Americans. John Arnold moved his family into the cabin the following year and expanded it. so that they could operate it as an inn. A man named Sam Norton purchased the inn in 1777, but his efforts in the business were short lived because the Revolutionary War started and the British pushed him out as they took control of Saratoga Springs. Sam would never return, but his son did after the war and he ran the inn for a decade. 

The inn was then sold to Gilbert Morgan in 1787 and he turned around and sold it to Alexander Bryan who was a hero of the Revolutionary War. He had served as a spy on the British. He worked his way into a British camp and found out the plans of the British. Bryan then made a run for it, but was pursued and chased on horseback for three days. He then had to leave his horse and make his way down a river with only his mouth above the water. He succeeded and the information he had helped the outnumbered Americans to win the Battle of Saratoga. This man was never given the credit for what he did at the time, but many believe that he was the reason the Americans ultimately won the war because this was a huge turning point. Bryan expanded the property where the inn sat even more, adding a log house across the street that served as an inn and tavern and he also added a blacksmith shop. These two inns were the only hotels in Saratoga Springs until Gideon Putnam built the Grand Union Hotel. Bryan's son, John, inherited the property and he built a stone house where the tavern had been in 1825. This structure remained in the family until the 1900s.

The Bryan home was sold to the LaMountain family in 1925 and they added a brick addition and Burnhams hand laundry was opened up there. In 1954, this became a family home for the Veitch family and they remained until 1979. Dave Powers and Joe Wilkinson purchased it at that time with the goal of restoring the Olde Bryan Inn. When Steve Sullivan joined them in 1981, that vision came to fruition. Little did the men know, but this location was haunted. Many locals think of it as the most haunted place in Saratoga Springs. There are a number of spirits here. The first is a man who has been seen in colonial era clothing. Another is the Lady in Green. It is believed that she is a Civil War widow named Beatrice, but there is no story about how she died. She is usually seen in the upstairs women's room, hich is believed to be her former bedroom. She is referred to as the Lady in Green because she is wearing a high neck Victorian green dress. To add believability to the story, a green Victorian dress was found in a trunk in the attic. 

The official website of the restaurant shares some ghost stories. The first is "The chandelier hanging now is not the one we used to have – it used to be an old, giant one. The power was out one afternoon, but we all came in for the night just in case, because if it came on we would open for business. We were all sitting in the main dining room chatting and we started joking and making fun of the portraits on the wall, and the idea of a ghost, when one of the servers suddenly gasped and pointed – the chandelier was swinging in circles! I did a head count and we were all there. The owner stood on a chair and stopped the chandelier. As soon as he let go it started swinging again!"

Another employee said, "One night I was coming from the third floor with a box of things from storage. As I took a step down something snagged my pants leg, hard. I took a couple more steps down and turned to look and see if there was a crooked nail or something, and there was absolutely NOTHING there. Another night I was about to leave for the evening, and nobody was in the restaurant but me and the manager, who was in the office on the second floor. When I turned my reports and cash in to him and went back down to leave, my keys were in a glass of water."

A patron say the Lady in Green and described it this way, "It was 2001 and my first time coming to OBI. I had just moved to the area and didn’t know any of the history. I was having dinner in the main dining area in the front. I looked up and there was a woman in a green old fashioned dress standing on the catwalk, looking over the railing. I asked the waiter if there was a reenactment event taking place that evening and he said no. It was puzzling but we left it at that. At the end of our meal I went upstairs to the restroom and heard someone else come in. I could see a green dress under the door of my stall. When I exited there wasn’t anyone in the restroom. I never heard anyone open the door to leave. I had chills all over."

Batcheller's Mansion Inn

The Batcheller Mansion Inn is one of the most outstanding pieces of architecture in not only Saratoga Springs, but the state of New York. This was the former home of George Sherman Batcheller who had it built in 1873 by NY architectural firm Nichols & Halcott. The architecture featured several styles: French Renaissance Revival, Italianate and Egyptian. The Victorian style features a mansard roof and a tower topped by a minaret. Batcheller was born in 1837 and he attended Harvard Law School. He came from a line of well-known historical figures including Daniel Webster and Roger Sherman, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He would be the youngest person elected to the New York State Assembly. He was only 21 at the time. Batcheller married Catherine Cook in 1861 and they would have three children. Only one of them would survive infancy. 
 
The couple had their magnificent home built for $100,000 and they named it Kaser-el-Nouzha, which means "palace of pleasure" in Arabic. There were three floors and the home had so many unique features that the design was copyrighted. There were two steam-vapor furnaces, eleven bedrooms, five bathrooms, a large basement kitchen fed food to the butler’s pantry via dumbwaiters and there was a music room. The Batcheller family didn't get to enjoy their mansion for long because President Ulysses S. Grant asked George to be the Judge and American Representative in the Court of First Instance in Cairo. The Batchellers spent the next ten years in Egypt, returning in 1885 and George then served in the New York State Legislature until 1888.

The Batchellers loved to host big social events and they did so often. The family had to leave their home again when George was appointed minister to Portugal in 1891. He served in Europe until 1902, when President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him to the Supreme Court of Appeals in Alexandria, Egypt. Catherine would pass away in Egypt in 1903 and a grand funeral was held for her and she was buried temporarily in Egypt. George would bring her back to Saratoga Springs and have her buried in their Egyptian style pink granite mausoleum in Greenridge Cemetery. He would join her five years later in 1908. Kate Batcheller decided to sell the family home in 1916 to D. Walter Mabee. He moved out in 1937 and it sat vacant for three years. Edward and Pauline Muscovier bought the house in 1940 and they ran it as a boarding house. This started the destruction of the interior and this continued when Meyer Goldman bought the property in 1952 and remodeled it into a 28-unit retirement home for orthodox Jews named Goldman’s Park View. His daughter inherited it when he died in 1965 and she left it basically abandoned. And as happens with most abandoned properties, this one was vandalized.
 
The damage was so extensive that the City of Saratoga Springs Department of Public Works condemned the house in 1973. A local attorney named Eugene Turchi and his partner Ray Marshall convinced Goldman's daughter to sell them the wrecked house for $40,000.00. After removing nearly 100 dump truck loads of trash and debris, the men poured $250,000.00 into the restoration. Part of that work included the addition of three 23’ windows in the kitchen. In 1983, Turchi sold the house to
Bruce J. Levinsky for $500,000.00. He continued restoration work and used the house as his home until 1994, when he opened it as an inn and named it for the family who originally built it. The house is considered the Crown Jewel of Saratoga Springs.
 
When the mansion started being rehabbed into the bed and breakfast a strange thing started to happen. Objects started showing up out of thin air. There would be a piece of molding that no one had seen before just laying in a room. Then there was a mantle piece that appeared out of nowhere. This was followed by a mirror. To this day, no one knows where any of these items came from. The Albany Paranormal Research Society, was part of the TAPS Family and they investigated here twice. They caught an EVP they believed belonged to George Batcheller with him saying, "Come find me." Guests claim to have seen weird orbs and feeling as though something unseen is watching them or near them.

Canfield Casino
 
Saratoga Springs definitely has a darker side to its history. During Prohibition, gangsters were running booze and gambling in the back rooms of lake houses while famous performers like Bing Crosby entertained in the front rooms. Houses of ill repute were open secrets and New York madams traveled north to the springs in summer and paid local officials to look the other way. The Canfield Casino is one location that played host to much of this seamy side. This was originally called the Saratoga Club House and opened in 1870. This was founded by professional boxer John Morrissey who had learned all about politics, gambling, high society and fighting from Boss Tweed's Tammany Hall in New York. He started with a small gaming house when he first arrived in Saratoga Springs in 1861. 
 
Morrissey began building the Club House in 1867. The gambling hall had three rules when it opened: no ladies allowed, cash only and no locals. The main part of the casino was a three-story building topped by a flat roof, bordered by an ornate bracketed cornice. The windows had sandstone trim. The east wing is where most of the gambling took place and the north wing had the dining room and kitchen, which featured parkay floors and the ceiling had these beautiful stained glass hexagonal windows. There were also stained glass windows featuring horses along the walls. An office and library were in the west wing. There were private gambling rooms upstairs and rooms for living quarters on the third floor. The gambling room was elegant with statuettes and mirrors and much of this remains today. 

Morrissey did not operate the Club House for long. He came to an untimely end at 47 in 1878. Ownership went to two men, Charles Reed and Albert Spencer, and they joined forces with Richard Canfield in 1883. Eventually, Canfield bought them out of the Club House and he remodeled the gambling hall, pouring $800,000 into the building and the grounds of Congress Park that surrounded the establishment. He added an early form of air conditioning to the building and marble statues to the grounds. Canfield eventually was known as the King of the Gamblers and Saratoga Springs was known as the American Monte Carlo. This would all come to an end in 1907 when gambling became an illegal practice and he eventually sold the building to the village in 1911. There had also been the Congress Park Hotel here and a bottling plant, which were demolished.

Today, the Canfield Casino sits in the center of Congress Park on 17 acres and serves as the Saratoga Springs History Museum and was named a National Historic Landmark in 1987. Ghost tours are hosted here and this location has not only been investigated by Ghost Hunters in Season 6, Episode 18 in 2010, but it has also been featured on Most Terrifying Places on the Travel Channel. There are many ghost tales told about the former gambling hall. A visitor in the 1990s, claimed to see a woman dressed in a Victorian era gown walking through the corridors and then she climbed the stairs to the third floor. A man in Victorian clothing knocked on the office door in 2007 and a museum volunteer turned toface him. The man asked the volunteer a question and then disappeared. There is furniture here from the Walworth Mansion that seems to have spirits of that prominent family attached to it.

Night crews have had doors slammed on them mysteriously. In 2009, a visitor had a glass slapped out of her hand by something she could not see. The smell of cigar smoke wafts through the air when no one is smoking. Objects move about on their own and once an employee saw a garbage can lid go flying into the air and then it crashed to the ground on its own. Some of the energy in the building has even felt hostile. The costume exhibit had a candelabra that made a noise that several people heard from another room. When they investigated, they found no one. Linda Zimmermann is a friend of mine and she wrote "America’s Historic Haunts." In it she writes about the Canfield Casino and claims that there are spirits who hang around the roulette table on the second floor and spin the wheel. She also writes about a female ghost who has blonde hair. The Ghost Hunters caught most of their evidence on the third floor and this included EMF spikes. Some members had their hair pulled and were touched too. They heard things move and also heard an audible male voice and later the voices of a male and female who seemed to be having a conversation.
 
Saratoga Springs is clearly a village with a rich history and many original buildings that not only provide a testament to that history, but offer a final resting place for spirits. Are these locations in Saratoga Springs haunted? That is for you to decide!

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