Thursday, September 10, 2020

HGB Ep. 351 - The Ghosts of Bermuda

Moment in Oddity - Dying Banned in Longyearbyen                                                              Suggested by: John Michaels

While it's not a law on the books, so its not illegal to die in Longyearbyen, Norway, for all intents and purposes, one is not encouraged to die there. This little village is located on the archipelago of Svalbard and is thought to be the most northerly town in the world. There are not many services on the island. The hospital can only handle non-life threatening conditions and there are no nursing homes. For this reason, any residents of the island must also have an address on the mainland. When they get to a point where they can't care for themselves, they have to leave. Some people do die here though in accidents and the 1918 Spanish Flu even hit here. But one cannot be buried here in a coffin because the bodies don't decompose since it is always so cold here. There are actually victims of the 1918 Spanish Flu buried here with remnants of the virus that were sampled and studied in 1998. So while dying isn't banned here, it is uncommon and that, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Bobby Fischer Wins World Chess Championship

In the month of September, on the 1st, in 1972, Bobby Fischer wins the World Chess Championship in Iceland. This was the most publicized and still the most famous chess title match in history. American Bobby Fischer faced Russian Boris Spassky and since the Cold War was going strong at this time, there were many political undertones. Fischer had started early with chess. He was playing professionally by the age of eight and he won the U.S. Open Championship when he was only fourteen. When Fischer won, it was the first time an American won the competition since it started in 1866 and the Russians had not been defeated in 24 years. So Fischer was a hero in some circles, but he definitely had his flaws. He was arrogant, demanding and only agreed to play in the tournament after the prize money was doubled and Henry Kissinger begged him to go. Fischer took home over $156,000, but would lose his title three years later when he had to forfeit his title because he wouldn't show up for the competition when his demands were not met. "The Ballad of Bobby Fischer" was a song he inspired and he became the subject of many movies and books.

The Ghosts of Bermuda

Most people think of the island of Bermuda as a tropical getaway with turquoise water and pink sand beaches. And while that is true, Bermuda has been known as the Isle of Devils. Much of the reason why was because of the stormy weather that has throttled the island, along with the treacherous ring of coral that has surrounded it. This also happens to be the eastern point of the Bermuda Triangle. Thus the island has become a place of lore and there are many tales of hauntings. Join us as we share the history and hauntings of Bermuda! 

Juan de Bermúdez was a Spanish explorer who was the first to discover the island of Bermuda in 1505. He was sailing back to Spain after bringing provisions to Hispaniola. The island would be named for him and he would return to it a few years later to drop off some pigs in case anyone ever got marooned there. In 1609, Bermuda would finally be settled by the British, but this was not a planned development. Their ship The Sea Venture was headed to Jamestown when it wrecked on those treacherous corals around the island. Three people stayed here while the rest continued to Jamestown. It would take three years before the island was officially British territory and it has stayed that way up until our current time. The Town of St. George would be named the capitol and is considered the oldest continually inhabited English town in the Americas.

Bermuda has seen a lot of action through the years. The British used this as a launching point during the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. The Confederates used it during the Civil War. When Prohibition was in full swing, Bermuda was the scene of rum running. And while Bermuda is a British territory, it has been allowed to self-govern and British troops left in 1952. Agriculture and salt trading were early parts of its economy and these grew into shipbuilding and exporting lilies and onions. Fun Fact: Bermudians are sometimes called Onions for this reason. And, of course, the island's main enterprise is tourism. There is a mix of cultures here with a melding of British colonialism, the slave trade and immigrants from other islands and countries. There are many people on the island who speak Portuguese and Bermudians have unique idioms. For example, a "regular Sally Bassett day" means a hot summer's day and "Aunt Haggie's children" means slow or confounding people. 

For many people, when hearing the name Bermuda, they immediately think of the strange triangular portal referred to as the Bermuda Triangle. Christopher Columbus documented some of the earliest anomalous incidents in his logs, in which he describes compasses moving about erratically and strange lights in the sky. The Bermuda Triangle is also known as the Devil's Triangle and stretches from Miami, Florida to San Juan, Puerto Rico to Bermuda and could encompass up to 1.5 million square miles. This is one of the most heavily trafficked areas in the world by planes and ships, and several of those planes and ships have gone missing under mysterious circumstances. There are those who believe that the disappearances are tied to something paranormal like UFOs or some kind of portal or vortex. But science has a very different opinion.

From the NOAA website, "Environmental considerations could explain many, if not most, of the disappearances...And there is some evidence to suggest that the Bermuda Triangle is a place where a “magnetic” compass sometimes points towards “true” north, as opposed to “magnetic” north. The U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard contend that there are no supernatural explanations for disasters at sea.  Their experience suggests that the combined forces of nature and human fallibility outdo even the most incredulous science fiction. They add that no official maps exist that delineate the boundaries of the Bermuda Triangle. The U. S. Board of Geographic Names does not recognize the Bermuda Triangle as an official name and does not maintain an official file on the area. The ocean has always been a mysterious place to humans, and when foul weather or poor navigation is involved, it can be a very deadly place.  This is true all over the world.  There is no evidence that mysterious disappearances occur with any greater frequency in the Bermuda Triangle than in any other large, well-traveled area of the ocean." 

One of the most famous disappearances was Flight 19. This was a group of five TBM Avenger torpedo bombers out on a training flight on December 5, 1945. They never returned home and naval investigators assumed there was a navigational error and then the aircrafts ran out of fuel. There were 14 men lost with that disappearance. Radio conversations between the pilots of the planes was overheard by other aircraft. One of the students was asked about his compass reading and he said, "I don't know where we are. We must have got lost after that last turn." Another student was having the same trouble saying, "Both of my compasses are out and I am trying to find Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I am over land but it's broken. I am sure I'm in the Keys but I don't know how far down and I don't know how to get to Fort Lauderdale." A search and rescue aircraft with a 13-man crew disappeared while looking for wreckage from Flight 19. The theory is that this plane was overloaded with fuel and exploded.

Spithead House

Granaway Deep is a basin in Warwick, Bermuda. Along the shores of this location, one finds a house known as Spithead. This was the former home of Bermuda's foremost privateer, Hezekiah Frith. He was born in Bermuda and became a successful shipowner in the late 1700s. He made a fortune from smuggling and privateering. He ran a store next to the house where he sold treasures from two ships he had captured. Legend claims that he captured a Frenchwoman and kept her at his house. It is thought that he might have killed the young woman in the carriage house. And it is her and Hezekiah that are believed to haunt this location. American playwright Eugene O'Neill once lived in the house as did actor and director Charlie Chaplin. English playwright Sir Noel Coward lived here in 1956 and he claimed to have seen both apparitions on many occasions. 

The Ghost of Captain George Dew

Captain George Dew was a privateer who starting as a sailor working on the slave ships heading for west Africa. After this, he focused his efforts in Central and South America. In 1686, he took part in buccaneer raids on Panama City and the following year, he helped sack the city of Guayaquil in Ecuador. Bermuda would become a part of his life in 1691 when the country gave him a commission to privateer and he was told to focus on French ships. He partnered with William Kidd for awhile and also Thomas Griffin. They were pursued by pirate hunter Christopher Goffe, but he could never catch them as it was said "they could sail two feet to his one." Captain Dew returned to Bermuda in 1693 and got married and started a family. Soon he was off being a pirate again. He joined Thomas Tew for a bit and then he was off pioneering the Pirate Round route to Madagascar and then he pirated through the Caribbean. He settled down finally in 1699 and returned to Bermuda where he built his home that is now known as the Old Rectory. It took on this later name after Parson Richardson who was known as the "little bishop" lived here. Dew began a law practice of all things and was elected to a seat in the General Assembly. He died in 1703. The Old Rectory was eventually turned into a bed-and-breakfast and a Bermuda National Trust property. There are unique features like welcoming arms stairs and windows that are positioned high on the house, just under the eaves. (Those welcoming arms stairs are the ones that come up both sides. Legends claim that this was so a man wouldn't see a woman's ankles. Probably more about symmetry.) The Old Rectory is haunted by the ghost of Captain Dew and he is said to be seen most often sitting at a harpsichord and playing it softly.

Old Morgan

Some locals call this legend The Cloudy Captain, others refer to it as Old Morgan. Apparently, the Old Morgan is a long, low-lying raincloud that appears during the summertime over the island, but it is not actually a raincloud. This is supposed to be the spirit of a whaleboat captain by the name of Morgan. So, yes, Captain Morgan. One has to wonder if he was running rum. Legend claims that smugglers ransacked his boats in 1775 and he was so angry about this that even in death he cannot rest until the culprits are apprehended. That never seems to have happened, so this cloud will continue to show up and islanders will probably hope that the rain that is falling is actually rum. (When we researched further we did find that there was a Charles W. Morgan whaling ship that carried whaleboats aboard it. She is nearly 180 years old and has been restored and named for Charles Waln Morgan, a businessman rather than a captain.)


Somersalls is a home found at Orange Grove that was built in the late 1600s. This was built by William Manigan. His family had a Native American slave named John that they abused horribly. One day, John decided to kill the family, so he set the house on fire and then waited outside with a gun to shoot anyone who fled. After the deed, he was captured, tried and sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered. Legend claims that his spirit still roams the grounds, although we could find no records that this location still exists. John is heard chanting in a Native American language and holding a pistol.


Another weird story is told about a house called Bel-Air on Cobb's Hill. People claimed there were strange noises, disembodied voices and flickering lights here. The Helen Hays Repertory Theater visited in 1958 and while staying here, they felt very unsettled. They decided to use a Ouija Board to see if the place was haunted. It was said that they made contact with a female slave who had once worked on the property. She told them that another slave had stolen some jewelry from their master and that he was tortured as punishment. While that happened, he cursed the house and that had left the dwelling with an oppressive and negative energy. One part of the torture was that the slave's hand was burned in a kiln. The spirit gave them directions where they could find it and when they dug in the spot, they found an old kiln.

Fort St. Catherine 

Fort St. Catherine is the oldest and largest fort on the island and sits at the northeastern tip of St. Geroge's Island. As was the case with many forts built in the 1600s, this one was originally constructed from wood. A stone fort replaced it in 1614, but that would not be the final fort. This one was rebuilt five times with the final one being completed at the end of the 19th Century. The main issue for Fort St. Catherine was that it was fairly exposed, but its position did help it prevent ships that had entered through the open Atlantic from coming around St. George's Island and heading West. Ships had to get close to the fort because of the reefline, so they were easier to hit. Today, the fort is a museum and a fun fact is that Charlton Heston once appeared in a production of Macbeth in the 1950s at Fort St. Catherine's. The main spirit that haunts the fort is known as George. His apparition has been seen and heard in the lower chambers of Fort St. Catherine. Apparently, he got rather bothersome with his antics and an exorcism was performed, but it didn't work. Mainly because those are for demons. George is just cantankerous. 

Windswept Cottage

Hugh Gray was a hotelier in Bermuda and he owned the Cambridge Beaches property. On the property was the Windswept Cottage and this is where he lived with his wife. The Grays went to lunch with Inspector Dennis Alderson in the 1920s and the trio decided to go for a boat ride. The boat turned over and only Hugh Gray survived. He was rescued and a search was made for the bodies of his wife and the Inspector. Five days later, the body of Inspector Vernon Jackson was found at Spanish Point, but he had not drowned. His cummerbund was found tightened around his neck. Mrs. Gray was never found. An inquest was held, but Hugh Gray was cleared. Most people believe there was a love triangle and Gray killed his wife and her lover. Some time later, Hugh Gray was found dead at the bottom of the stairs at the Windswept Cottage. Rumors circulated that his wife's ghost had come back to get revenge. There are claims that Hugh Gray now haunts that cottage. Housekeepers are afraid to clean the cottage and there are claims that the disembodied whistling of Hugh is heard. His apparition is seen walking the coastline near the cottage as well.

Winton Estate

The estate known as Winton is said to be the scariest haunted property on the island. The Winton Estate is found on the North Shore and is over 200 years old. This home was built by Captain Thomas Dill who had been born in Devonshire Parish. Dill would start as a rifleman with the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps in 1895 and work his way up to lieutenant and finally Captain by 1914. He was the commandant and it was his duty to guard the Royal Naval Dockyard in Bermuda. He gave up his position to fight in World War I and the Bermudian contingent was strongly praised for their work. Dill later became Bermuda's Attorney General and served as a member of the Colonial Parliament. He married Ruth Neilson and they had seven children. Fun Fact: Their daughter Diana married Kirk Douglas and she was the mother of Michael Douglas. The haunting that takes place here is said to be from Mrs. Dill. Her misty apparition has been seen roaming the house and she touches people by tapping them. Her disembodied footsteps are heard and she appears hovering over people when they are in bed. She answers the phone too, but doesn't say anything, confounding the callers on the other end of the line. 

There are claims that the haunting is so intense that it has driven people to a nervous breakdown. Mrs. Doreen “Mac” Musson told The Bermudian about her time living in the house for 11 months in 1964, "We just couldn’t get any sleep at night. Even after the first week I began to notice something, though I didn’t believe in ghosts when I first moved in. There were sudden temperature drops in the house–even in the dining room–which couldn’t be explained away as drafts." She also claimed that her children saw the ghostly face of a woman looking at them and that objects would go missing. Orbs would travel up and down the stairs. Eventually, Mac Musson wrote a book with John Cox titled "Bermuda’s Favourite Haunts."

Orange Valley Road House

Devonshire Parish is one of the nine parishes that make up Bermuda and it lies in the very center of Bermuda. This was named after William Cavendish, 1st Earl of Devonshire. Within the parish, on 15 wooded acres, stands a 200 year old home known as the Orange Valley Road House since it sits on that road, but it should probably be known as the Cox House because that is the name of the family that has owned this house throughout those centuries. The house is well preserved and has some of the finest examples of Queen Anne furniture and there are painted portraits of all the generations who have owned the home. The house was originally built by Captain William Cox in 1796. Another member of the Cox family who lived here was named Laura. She was an avid horticulturist and took great pride in the gardens on the property. She died in 1861, but it is at unrest because her beloved flower garden was torn up and removed. She appears as a full-bodied apparition pointing angrily at the spot where her garden once was located. 

One of Cox's descendants, John Cox, is the current owner and he has experienced many things. He wrote an article in The Bermudian in October of 2019 and he wrote, "Although I have never seen it, I actually experienced it some years ago which caused me serious alarm. At the time, I was occupying the west bedroom upstairs. Night after night, I was awakened by strange steps pacing back and forth across my room. Eerie lights would also pass by the opened door which led into the day room and small objects on the bureau would move of their own accord. Sometimes I would feel that I could not breathe, as though I were being choked. Finally, after many unnerving encounters, I called out loudly, 'Please, whoever you are, stop this. You are frightening me!' In the next instant, I was aware of someone standing over me. A warm hand touched my neck. It was as real as if my own mother had touched me. After that night, I was never again troubled by the ghost."

John Cox also wrote of his cousin's experience that happened a couple decades earlier. She had brought her twin daughters over for a birthday party and was walking around the grounds when she ran into a Lady in White with her hair pulled back into a bun. His cousin said, "The mysterious woman seemed to want to communicate with me, but she said nothing. She just gazed intently at me. She next beckoned me towards the old rose garden. I looked toward the garden, some 40 feet away and then back at the mysterious woman but she had vanished as quickly as that! I knew then that I had encountered a ghost. For a while I had an odd feeling about it but I tried not to let it bother me." 

Laura Cox is not the only spirit reputedly on this property, which some claim is the most haunted in Bermuda. In 1974, John's brother and some of his friends decided to camp out in Orange Valley. When they returned to the house the following morning, they saw a man staring out of a window of the east bedroom. The boys turned on a flashlight to get a better look and they saw that the man was heavy set and wearing a dark cloak. They could all see the man clearly and they observed him for a while before he disappeared. The boys ran inside to search the house and only found the father sleeping in an upstairs room. John later figured out who the spirit belonged to and it was an eccentric uncle named Aubrey Cox. Aubrey had put in the larger window that is found in this room because he liked to wake up early and watch the dawn approach out that window. John's brother has also been awakened by the spirit of a young black man and seen him standing by the bed before he disappeared. For some reason, after he vanishes, there is a smell of bacon.

A young woman was taking a tour of the house and she told John, "You will probably think me crazy but do you know you have a ghost in the house?" John told her that they had several. She must have thought he was poking fun at her because she emphasized that she was serious and then she told him what she had just experienced, "I have communicated with the spirit of a woman of about 40 years of age. She says her name is Mary and she is very distressed because her husband is away at sea and he doesn’t know she is ill." When John looked through his family records, he found out that Captain William Cox was married to a woman named Mary who died of pneumonia in the house in April of 1806 while he was away, sailing in the West Indies. Objects have been known to move on their own around the house and there have been some disturbing experiences too. John and his cousin were both choked on the stairs when they were teenagers to the point that they couldn't breathe.

The Ghosts of New England Research Society investigated the house in 2013. They claimed to catch the sound of a woman sobbing uncontrollably in an upstairs bedroom. They also reported, "We also witnessed what appeared to be a black, shadow figure, appear near a coffee table in the main parlor of the house during an EVP session. In the interest of full disclosure, of the four people in the room, three could see it and one could not. However, at that very instant, an infra-red, motion activated camera tripped and took several pictures, none of which show anything unusual." They also detected the scent of roses when there were no roses in the house.

Bermuda is a beautiful island with a landscape dotted by hundreds of historic buildings. Are some of those buildings haunted? That is for you to decide!

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