Thursday, November 19, 2020

HGB Ep. 361 - Fort Delaware

Moment in Oddity - Nixon's Half-Eaten Sandwich (Suggested by: Scott Booker)

Inside Steve Jenne's refrigerator, one will find a Musselman's applesauce jar with a half eaten sandwich wrapped in a plastic bag inside. Seems pretty strange, but it does contain a bit of a treasure. Steve was a 14-year-old Boy Scout on Sept. 22, 1960 when his troop was asked to serve as an honor guard for a very special visitor to their town of Sullivan. President Richard Nixon had come for a visit. The President was scheduled to make a speech at Wyman Park, but before doing that he was served a barbecue buffalo sandwich at the cookout where Steve was serving as honor guard. He tells the story this way, "He took a couple of bites and commented on how tasty, how good it was. Once he left, I just looked down at the picnic table and everybody else was gone and that half-eaten sandwich was still on the paper plate. I looked around and thought, ‘If no one else was going to take it, I am going to take it.’” He took it home to his mom who asked what she was supposed to do with it and he told her to freeze it. So she put it in the plastic bag and in the jar and for sixty years it has been frozen with a label that reads, "Save, don't throw away." The sandwich even got him an appearance on the "Tonight Show" in 1988. Keeping President Nixon's half-eaten sandwich in the freezer for sixty years, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Nixon's Last Press Conference

In the month of November, on the 7th, in 1962, Richard Nixon gave his so-called "last press conference." Nixon had run for Governor of California against Democrat Pat Brown in the 1962 California gubernatorial election. The state had traditionally been a Republican state, but Governor Brown was an incumbent and he won. Nixon sat before a group of 100 reporters at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, a displeased man. He angrily told the reporters, "You don't have Nixon to kick around any more, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference." As history would later prove, this was definitely not his last press conference and certainly not his most famous one. Experts believed he had permanently damaged his political future, but he won the presidency in the 1968 election. This was a nearly impossible political comeback that would later end in Nixon resigning the office because of the Watergate Scandal. Nixon wrote in his memoir, "I have never regretted what I said in 'the last press conference.' I believe that it gave the media a warning that I would not sit back and take whatever biased coverage was dished out to me. I think the episode was partially responsible for the much fairer treatment I received from the press during the next few years. From that point of view alone, it was worth it."

Fort Delaware (Suggested by: Anthony Ramirez)

Fort Delaware started as a defense for the Delaware River on Pea Patch Island in Delaware. During the Civil War, it would serve as a prison camp for Confederate soldiers that was considered a death camp. The Fort would also be used during the Spanish American War and the World Wars. Today, it is a state park featuring re-enactments, tours and other events. Many groups have investigated there including Britain's Most Haunted, Ghost Hunters Academy and Ghost Hunters used it for one of their Halloween episodes. Join us as we explore the history and haunts of Fort Delaware!

Pea Patch Island was surveyed as a military site by French military engineer Pierre Charles L’Enfant in 1794. How the island obtained its name is a bit of legend. It was said that it was the site of a shipping accident in the mid-1700s when it was just a large sandbar. The ship was carrying peas and the crew knew they could not get free from the sandbar unless they off loaded weight, so they left the cargo of peas on the island. The peas rooted and grew and latched onto more silt and the island grew. Thus it was called Pea Patch. Whether that is true or not, one thing that was true was that a New Jersey man by the name of Dr. Henry Gale owned the island as his private hunting ground when L'Enfant suggested it as a military site to the United States military. Dr. Gale had no interest in giving up his island. He should have taken their offer of $30,000 because Delaware got involved at the military's request and after some political wrangling it was found that New Jersey had no right to deed the island to Dr. Gale and that the Delaware River and all the islands within a twelve mile circle around New Castle's Court House were owned by Delaware. Delaware ceded the island to the United States government in 1813 and the government sent Dr. Gale packing, with no payment.

No fort was built right away, but the island was fortified during the War of 1812 with a seawall around the island. A wooden fort was originally begun in 1814, but a more permanent fort was begun in 1817. The design was a star shape. This fort was designed by army engineer Joseph G. Totten and construction was supervised by Capt. Samuel Babcock. The first commander at Fort Delaware was Major Alexander C. W. Fanning. A later commander was the older brother of President Franklin Pierce, Major Benjamin Kendrick Pierce. Now one can imagine that the island was not a good place to build upon if it really was a sandbar that was loosely held together and that would prove to be true. The land was very marshy and shortly after the star fort was completed, it started to sink. Even before completion a section of around 43,000 bricks had to be taken down and the concrete removed and then replaced because of huge cracks that developed. The Army Corp of Engineers was working on a plan to stabilize it when a wood stove in Lieutenant Stephen Tuttle's quarters set the wooden wall of his room on fire in 1831. The fire quickly spread to the rest of the fort and it was a complete loss. An interesting story connected to the fire claims that Brevet Major Benjamin Pierce's wife had recently died and was in her coffin in the fort. Pierce risked his life to save her coffin and body. The garrison at the fort had to walk across the frozen Delaware River to Delaware City.

A new man was brought in to design a new fort, Captain Richard Delafield. His design would take on a polygonal form with bastions built from brick. This fort was to be much larger and Delafield proclaimed it would be a marvel of military architecture. What remained of the star fort was torn down and the rubble was used to reinforce the seawall. In the middle of laying down the base of the fort, Dr. Gale's descendants came along and claimed that they had legal right to the island. A decade long legal battle ensued, so the new fort would have to wait to be completed. The legal fight got so big that President James Polk had to get involved, along with the Secretary of War. In the end, it was ruled that Delaware did indeed own the island and the title given to the US government was valid. Delafield's fort would never be completed. A new pentagonal shaped fort was designed by Army chief engineer Joseph G. Totten, and the construction was supervised by Major John Sanders. The pentagon was slightly irregular and each corner had a tower bastion. There were 4,911 piles driven into the compressed mud to solidify the base. The masonry consisted of granite, brick, cement and gneiss, which is a metamorphic rock made from mica, feldspar and quartz. That type of stone was not used much because it proved to be very difficult to cut and slowed construction. Bricks were used to build the soldier barracks, underground cisterns, officer quarters, casemates, powder magazines, bread ovens and the fort's breast high wall. As is the case with many of these types of forts, masonry arches were used to provide stability. Most of the construction was completed before the Civil War, but it was not officially declared complete until 1868. This is the fort that stands today.

Major Sanders died during the construction in 1858 from complication of "carbunculous boils." The Civil War would be the time when Fort Delaware would get its most use. The fort was fortified with lots of firing power. The seacoast fronts of the fort alone could house 123 heavy cannons. The bastions could hold another 15 cannons and they also had 20 short-range howitzers. The long rear front gorge wall had 68 loopholes for musket firing. As an added protection, the fort had a moat. Captain Augustus A. Gibson took command in 1861. Despite the fort clearly being a place of firepower and defense, it would basically just become a prison. This became a prisoner-of-war camp for Confederate soldiers, but it also held pirates, political prisoners and federal soldiers convicted of crimes. Some of the Confederate soldiers left their marks behind on the walls of the casements and powder magazines where they were held. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the fort "contained an average population of southern tourists, who came at the urgent invitation of Mr. Lincoln." Confederate Brig. Gen. Johnston Pettigrew was the first Confederate general to be housed here. About a dozen more would follow him.

During the war, a hospital was built inside the fort that had 600 beds. Barracks that were basically wooden sheds were also added and were said to be able to hold 10,000 people. Bunks inside were arranged in three tiers. The death rate for prisoners was 7.6%, which we guess for the time and conditions is probably pretty good. The main cause of death was an epidemic of smallpox that came through in 1863. Others died from malaria, scurvy, pneumonia, dysentery and erysipelas, which is a bacterial infection of the skin also known as St. Anthony's Fire. The first Confederate prisoner to die here was Captain L. P. Halloway and he was given a full Masonic funeral by Jackson Lodge in Delaware City. A total of 33,000 prisoners were held at the fort during the war. Many of the people who died here are buried at Finn's Point National Cemetery in Pennsville, New Jersey. Their bodies were taken to the cemetery via a slow moving barge that was called the "Death Boat."

Life was actually fairly good at the fort. Prisoners got two meals a day and were allowed to purchase extra food. Meals usually consisted of a small piece of meat, three hardtack and bean soup. Rations were cut for a short time by the War Department because it was mad about how their northern prisoners were being treated by the Confederates. Capt. Robert E. Park of the 12th Alabama Infantry Regiment described eating at the fort in this way, "The mess-room is next to [Division] 22 and near the rear. It is a long, dark room, having a long pine table, on which the food is placed in separate piles, either on a tin plate or on the uncovered greasy table, at meal hours, twice a day. The fare consists of a slice of baker's bread, very often stale, with weak coffee, for breakfast, and a slice of bread and a piece of salt pork or salt beef, sometimes, alternating with boiled fresh beef and bean soup, for dinner. The beef is often tough and hard to masticate."

After the Civil War, the prisoners were released and a small garrison of the 4th U.S. Artillery was left behind. A large hurricane hit in 1878 and destroyed the buildings on the south side of the island and a chapel built by the Confederate POWs. A few years later, a tornado and took out the hospital and did more damage. New guns and batteries were added before the Spanish American War. This would use the new Endicott program created by Secretary of War William C. Endicott. This system spread batteries over a wider area and concealed them behind concrete parapets flush with the surrounding terrain. The new guns had a range of 10 miles. The three-gun battery here was one of two three-story Endicott batteries in the United States. During the Spanish–American War, the 14th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment was stationed at the fort. It saw no action. During World War I, Fort Delaware was a back-up fort. Soldiers started dismantling the fort at this time and burying some of the guns.  World War II would find Battery C, 261st Coast Artillery Battalion, a unit from the Delaware Army National Guard garrisoned at the fort. By 1942, the last of the guns were removed from the fort so it was unarmed. The electrical wiring was stripped out as well and at the end of the war it was used as surplus. 

Since the government decided that the fort site would just be surplus, the state of Delaware took back the site in 1947. They transformed it into Fort Delaware State Park and they run a seasonal passenger ferry to and from Pea Patch Island. They offer programs, re-enactments and the thing we always love when it comes to forts is the firing of weapons. This one is an 8-inch Columbiad gun. The island is also a migratory bird rookery, which  is the largest such habitat north of Florida. They host a triathlon in June as well called "Escape from Fort Delaware." It seems that 52 men escaped from Fort Delaware and the path they took is the one followed by the triatholon. It is closed for the season and will reopen in April 2021. We wonder what the ghosts do when all the people are gone. Because clearly, there are real possibilities of hauntings at Fort Delaware.

The Delaware Ghost Hunters lead paranormal investigations of the fort. Ghost Hunters visited for a Halloween special in 2008. During that episode, the team caught the thermal image of a man peeking around the corner at them. One of them also had his jacket pulled so hard that it pulled him backwards. The spirits of Confederate soldiers have been seen in many areas. One such place is on the parade grounds and under the ramparts. They are often seen running. A visitor to the fort captured a Confederate soldier on camera, standing in an archway. Sounds of moaning and clanging chains are heard in the dungeon. This could be the imprisoned soldiers or it could be one of the pirates who were kept here before the Civil War started. A park ranger once saw the apparition of a pirate dressed in a green silk shirt and white silk pants looking out of a window.

General James Archer was a Confederate General during the American Civil War and he had a role in many major battles from Harper's Ferry to Fredericksburg to Sherperdstown to Chancellorsville to Gettysburg. Archer came from a wealthy military family, but he did not seem automatically meant for that life in that he was a very slight man. In school, they called him "Sally" for this reason. He graduated from law school and went into practice, but this all changed when the Mexican-American War erupted. He served bravely doing that and moved to Texas after the war where he ended up fighting a duel. He went back to his law practice, but decided that he preferred the military and was stationed in the Pacific Northwest. When the Civil War erupted, he resigned his commission and went south where he joined the Confederate Army. In 1862, he was given command over three Tennessee regiments. His men gave him a different nickname, "The Little Gamecock," because although he was built small, he was a fierce fighter.

The thing that would prove to be his downfall was sickness. Starting in September 1862, Archer was so weak that he had to direct his troops from an ambulance. He would recover slightly and led his troops to victory in a couple more battles, but the summer heat of 1863 took their toll and by the time his regiments arrived in Gettysburg, he was very ill. The Iron Brigade pushed his men back and Archer sought cover in a thicket, too exhausted to continue. It was here that he was captured by a Union soldier named Patrick Maloney. Archer was sent to Fort Delaware. There he made plans to escape with the other men. They had heard of a plan to ship 600 of them to Morris Island where they would be used as human shields to get the Confederates to stop shelling the fort there. And indeed many of them would end up there and a few were starved to death because they would not pledge allegiance to the United States. Legend claims that Archer was imprisoned under Fort Delaware in the tunnels for a couple of years. The experience drove him mad. He actually was exchanged for a Union prisoner. He returned to the fight, but eventually died from his illness in October 1864. He was buried in Hollywood Cemetery. Because of the legend, people claim that his spirit haunts the tunnels under the fort. This spirit is said to be shy and rarely is seen, which means it could be another spirit.

Prisoners are not the only ones haunting the fort. Guards are here as well. There was an Italian immigrant who joined the Union Army named Private Stefano. He died when he slipped on some wet stairs that he was running down. He broke his neck and cracked his skull. His apparition is seen often near the stairs. He appears most often when people are talking about his story near the stairs. He also will appear sometimes when people call out his name at the stairs.

There is a spirit that likes to clean in the Mess Hall. There was apparently a mantle piece in here at one time and that is what he seems to be cleaning. When he exits, he goes through a bricked up door. He is thought to have been a servant that is carrying on in the afterlife in a residual manner. Right next to the Mess Hall is the kitchen and it has its own ghost. This spirit is a female and she walks into the kitchen and checks all the equipment. Some re-enactors had an interesting experience with her. They were making soup in the kitchen as a demonstration of life in the fort and the ghost suddenly appeared and smiled, checked the equipment and checked the soup. She stirred it for a while. She must have seemed real because the volunteers weren't scared, until she walked through a wall. Perhaps she had once been a cook here at the fort.

A member of the team was taking a group through when they heard a noise near the stove. a metal item that had been sitting on the stove had been picked up and tossed on the floor. In the area where the guns are located, people have been poked and pulled. A local TV station visited in 2009 and they captured a flashlight turning on by itself and it also rolled a small distance as it sat in the middle of a table. A girl on the same tour told the reporter that something had poked her on the elbow. She turned to ask her boyfriend if he done it, but before she could, the tour guide said that spirits liked to poke people in this area and she hollered out, "Yeah!"

A woman named Chris Polo told station WBOC, "All of a sudden, the oil lamp slides across the window sill and crashed to the floor right next to me, I ended up with glass all over. I won't go back up in there, it scared me too badly, it really did." A guy named Scott Debski heard noises his first night on the island. He said, "A short time later, we heard dogs barking and we're a mile from land, there are no dogs on the island, but there were several years ago."

A guy named Kyle McMahon joined Diamond State Ghost investigators for an overnight at the fort in 2018. They got some K2 activity, specifically when they asked for spirits to light it up. The group later hears a voice coming from upstairs audibly. A flashlight turned on by itself in the Mess Hall. This group said that the cook's name is believed to be Susan. When one of the guys asked if she would cook him something because he was hungry, the flashlight turned on by itself. They heard disembodied footsteps and more audible voices in conversation.

Conditions at this prison camp were far better than in many other prisons, but many people still died here. There spirits still seem to remain. Is Fort Delaware haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, November 12, 2020

HGB Ep. 360 - Cripple Creek

Moment in Oddity - Cricket Fighting (Suggested by: Scott Booker)

We've all heard of cockfighting, bullfighting, dog fights and other such animal cruelty for sport. But there is a form of animal...or well...bug fighting in which animals don't get hurt. Cricket fighting! This started more than 1,000 years ago under the Tang Dynasty, but soon moved down to the commoners, which caused the Chinese Communist government to ban cricket fighting in the 1960s. But young people have been bringing it back. Only male crickets are fought against each other. These crickets have pedigrees and a specialized diet incorporating red beans, goat liver, shrimp and uh, maggots. The night before a fight, female crickets are dropped into the clay pots that hold the crickets to invigorate their spirit. The crickets fight according to weight classes. A cricket loses when it stops chirping or runs away or is thrown from the fighting container. Some crickets are so prized that they become famous and have elaborate funerals when they pass and are buried in carved coffins. The sport is so popular that in 2010, $63 million in American dollars was spent on crickets. The sport of cricket fighting, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Haiti Wins Independence

In the month of November, on the 18th, in 1803, Haiti won its Independence. The Haitian Revolution had started in 1791 as an attempt to break free from French rule. As is the case for all revolutions, there were many reasons that this rebellion erupted. Steep tariffs caused planters to look to independence as did the fact that they had no representation in France - sound familiar? At the same time, the slave population was planning another uprising, so they were the first to strike with a fight against the planters. The French tried to squelch things, but they lost traction and the British came to help. The slaves were able to push back against both. The final major battle of the war was The Battle of Vertières. The French had been so decimated that they had only 2,000 men to face 27,000 Haitians. The French army had 1200 casualties from that conflict and they decided they were done and left the island. Historians say that the man who led the fight and became the first Emperor of Haiti, Dessalines, had accomplished something not even Spartacus could and that was a successful slave uprising. One of the things that helped the Haitians with their victory were mosquitos. They helped spread yellow fever to the French troops and about 20,000 died. Haiti would get its name at this time and emerged as the first black republic in the world.

Cripple Creek (Suggested by: Jon Venezia)

This episode has it all! Cripple Creek is a spooky old mining town with a ton of history and many haunts, leading it to be thought of as the most haunted Colorado mining town. We have haunted hospitals, hotels, jail, schools, brothels, saloons and even Nikola Tesla. Diane grew up visiting this mountain town long before it became a haven for gambling. Cripple Creek is on the south side of Pikes Peak and was once considered the "Greatest Gold Camp on Earth." Many people would find their fortune here, but some would find tragedy and death. There was a murder nearly every day. Violence, mining accidents and natural disasters plagued the town. And that may be why spirits plague the town now. Join us as we share the history and hauntings of Cripple Creek.

Cripple Creek got its start in 1891 when gold was discovered by a cowboy named Bob Womack. This was in an area where the Ute tribe had lived called Poverty Gulch. Eventually homesteaders moved in with their livestock, but when gold was found, this peaceful area went crazy. Two men named Horace Bennett and Julius Myers bought land in the area and platted a town they called Fremont. This would eventually be called Cripple Creek, which got its name from a frightened calf that jumped over a fence, landed in a gully and broke its leg. So Womack found gold and got an investor interested and soon people were moving to Cripple Creek. The hotels were filled up quickly and they even started setting up chairs and renting them for the night for one dollar. Lots that used to cost $50 soon were selling for $5,000. By 1892, the population had risen to 5,000. 

The town was built from wood which would prove to be a bad idea when fire broke out in April of 1896. This fire started at the Central Dance Hall when a bartender and his girlfriend got in a fight and knocked over a coal stove. The fire burned down the south side of Bennett Avenue and took out three parlor houses or brothels, the opera house, a big chunk of the business district and the Topic Hotel. Another fire broke out later that week and burned up many residences. It was decided to rebuild everything in brick. The early 1900s would bring mine disputes and some ended in death, one in which 13 miners were killed in an explosion. One of the largest gold mines in the country, the Portland, was here and it mined out $62 million in gold. By the time the mines had been run out, more than 22,400,000 ounces of gold was extracted from more than 500 mines in the Cripple Creek and Victor region. Interestingly, the former Cresson Mine was reopened in 1995 and produces annually over 250,000 ounces of gold and is the largest mining operation in the continental United States. Before this, Cripple Creek had really dwindled, but 1991 brought legalized gambling and reinvigorated the town. Many of the original buildings still stand today. Let's look at some of these locations that are reputedly haunted.

The Colorado Trading and Transfer Building is today part of the Cripple Creek District Museum. You'll start getting a feel here that these old buildings have either transformed to casinos or museums. This is one of the oldest buildings in Cripple Creek because it survived the fires even though it was built from wood. The museum features mining artifacts, mineral displays, western firearms, maps of the mines and rare photos. Originally, this building was erected by Albert Carlton and his brother Leslie in 1893. They used this to run their business of moving freight that included gold and they also sold coal and wood. The brothers eventually sold the building to the Midland Terminal Railroad in 1899. Blevins Davis, Richard Wayne Johnson and Margaret Giddings founded the museum in 1953 and it not only includes this building, but also an assay office, a one-room home owned by French Blanche LeCroix -a lady of the evening, a miner's cabin and the Midland Terminal Depot.

There have been a few experiences in this location. A man standing in the gift shop watched a book fly off a shelf all on its own. Linda Wommack wrote, "Haunted Cripple Creek and Teller County" and she shared an experience she had at the museum, "My mother and I were taking a quick tour of the museum grounds after having spent several hours doing research in an upstairs room in the depot building of the museum. While we were inside the [building], I walked toward a bookshelf that held extremely old books. Just as I knelt to read the volume titles, I instantly became chilled. I looked around for some sort of explanation." She experienced it again several years later while there with a friend and this person felt the same icy chill. Many people have claimed to experience this same phenomenon. Another weird thing is that strange stains and markings on the wall will bleed through anytime the walls are painted. No one knows what these spots are from. Could be something natural. Diane once lived in an old apartment that seemed to bleed brown stuff from the top of a couple of walls.

The Midland Terminal Depot is today also part of the Cripple Creek District Museum. This train depot operated from 1895 to 1949 and received an average of ten passenger trains daily. The rail line was started in 1895 after several mine owners decided they needed to bring down the cost of shipping their ore to smelters. Harry Collbran was the general manager of the Colorado Midland Railroad depot at Hayden Divide and he was the one to go out and seek financial backing for the rail line and he found it with millionaire Harlan Lillibridge who gave him $100,000. That money ran out before the line was finished and Collbran brought on another man named W.G. Gillett and they got more funding. They also decided that their initial idea of building this as a narrow-gauge was not a good idea and they ripped up the line and replaced it with the standard-gauge. They were able to expand as well when the Carlton brothers offered up land next to their building and the depot was built there. It has three floors with the top floor being used for offices, the second floor was for passengers with separate rooms for men and women and children and the bottom floor was for loading and unloading freight. Passengers paid $2 for a round-trip ticket. Some trains offered Pullman service. 

Employees and visitors both have reported strange things. Much of the activity centers around the spirit of a young girl wearing a white dress who has been seen playing on the third floor. Her voice has also been captured on EVP by paranormal investigators. People also claim to catch the scent of cigar smoke in the air. One of the teams who has investigated here is Mountain Peak Paranormal Investigations and one time they heard a music box on the mantel started playing on its own. They set up a recorder to capture the sound and also took a picture. Later, they reported the experience to staff who were perplexed. They said that the museum did have a music box, but that it was not in that room. When the investigators played their recording, the staff claimed that the song playing was not the song the music box played. Everyone went to the room and there was no music box in there and even weirder, when the film was developed, there was no music box in any picture. 

Carr Manor is a boutique hotel and bed and breakfast that had once been the town's high school. At the height of its mining success, Cripple Creek and the surrounding mining district had 17 schools. The former Cripple Creek High School is one of only two original schools still standing. Construction was finished on the first phase of the school in 1896 and the second was completed in 1905 in the Romanesque style. The parking lot had once been a pool that was added in the 1940s. The school closed in 1977. Ted Heiliger and his family bought the school in 1982 and converted it into a hotel that opened in 1983. They ran it for twenty years and then sold it to Gary and Wini Ledford. They restored the hotel and expanded it, so that it now has fourteen rooms and suites, a Grand Ballroom and a conference center. There was a Carr Avenue, two Carr families that had lived in town and governor of Colorado was Ralph Carr whom had graduated from the school, so they named the hotel Carr Manor. The lobby is glorious with a wood burning stove, exposed brick, antiques and statuary of children. There are not many paranormal experiences described in regards to this place, but guests claim to see weird orb anomalies and strange lights particularly on the second floor landing and they feel as though they are being watched and like there is a presence that they cannot see.

Gold Mining Stock Exchange Building was built in 1896 from red sandstone following the fires. The exchange ran from 1896 until December 1909, when the Cripple Creek Stock Exchange was combined with the Colorado Springs Stock Exchange and moved down to Colorado Springs. The vacant building was bought by the Elks who had been meeting on a top floor of another building in town. They remain in the building to this day. When this was first opened it was considered one of the most elegant lodges around with oriental rugs, call buttons for staff, velvet draperies, polished hardwood floors, electric lights and lamps and hot and cold running water. There was also a bar, a banquet hall, a room for cards and billiards, a cigar and brandy room and a reading room. The Newport Saloon that had once been on the first floor was the scene of the murder of Sam Strong in 1901.

The former Newport Saloon is the scene of most of the paranormal activity in the building. Objects fly around the room and orbs have been witnessed. Objects are seen and then disappear. The lodge has hosted ghost tours and people on these tours have claimed to see shadowy figures in doorways. People claim a man has been seen walking through walls and a female spirit is heard laughing in the lounge. 

Johnny Nolon's Saloon & Gambling Emporium is the oldest bar in Cripple Creek. The place is named for Johnny Nolon who had relocated here from St. Louis, Missouri. He opened his first saloon in 1890 and like many of these buildings, it burned in the fire. Nolon partnered with Jacob Becker and they rebuilt a two-story building on the same spot. Johnny's saloon and gambling place was on one side of the first floor. The Cripple Creek Bank was in the other half. Nolon had an office on the second floor as well. In 1903, Nolon moved to Nevada and Becker took over operations. Not much is known about the history from that point until gambling came to town. When that happened, Nolon's reopened.

The main spirits in this location seem to belong to children. They run up and down the halls. A little boy has been seen holding a red balloon...really, like It? Little girl spirits are seen wearing Victorian dresses and standing near the stairway. Another little girl was seen in white buckle shoes and a blue dress. An employee asked if she was lost and she responded that she was waiting for her father. The employee held out her hand and offered to go looking with the girl and she just faded away.

Mousie wrote on the Legends of America website in 2011, "I just started working at Johnny Nolon’s in the restaurant. One night when I was closing up I saw a little girl with a blue dress and white buckled up shoes just standing by my supervisor’s office holding a stuffed animal of some kind. I believe it was a bunny or something like that, it was really old and cheap looking. I asked her what she was doing over here since it was apart from the main floor where guests would normally be. She said she was looking for her daddy. I thought maybe the supervisor was her dad, I didn’t know. I put my hand out and asked to her come with me and I’d help her find him. She just looked at me and said she couldn’t leave or she would get into trouble. At that time, my supervisor was walking up behind me so I turned around and asked if this was his daughter. He looked at me and laughed. I didn’t get what he was laughing at until I turned back to the girl, that wasn’t there anymore! My supervisor asked if I was ok. I started rambling confusingly about what had just happened and he asked me if I wanted to hear a story. He then told me about a man that had owned the building back in the early days. He had lost his wife to some disease and was very protective of his daughter. He would go to work every day and leave his daughter home alone. He had told the girl that it very dangerous to go outside without her father and that the only way she would be safe was to stay inside and play with her toys until he came home. Well, she did that every day of her life. Then, one day there was a couple that lived in the same building that got into a huge argument and somehow a lamp got knocked over. The lamp broke and started a fire. The whole building went up in flames. The little girl never made it out because she was told the only way she would ever be safe was to stay inside until her father came home. To this day she has never left. That was the one and only time I had ever seen her while working there."

The Turf Club was a place started by William Bonbright and was set up as a club for the wealthy businessmen of Cripple Creek. The first floor had rooms for meetings and billiards, while the second floor had smaller meeting rooms and rooms for rent. The building was completed in 1896 and was done in the Italianate architectural style. This had a rounded edge design and was the first in town to use brown brick to accent the center window, which would be duplicated in other buildings. In 1897, the club was bought by John Harnan who had just become "new money." He ran the club successfully until 1909. And then we don't know much else about the history other than it mostly sat vacant until legalized gambling and then the building got a refurb and is today Buffalo Billy's Casino.

We don't know of any deaths at the Turf Club, but one thing seems to be pretty certain to people who have had weird things happen to them in this building. The ghost of a little girl haunts the place. They call her Lilly because an employee claimed to have a conversation with her and told this woman that Lilly was her name. She appears about the age of six-years-old, carries a rag doll and is very friendly. An employee who saw her asked if she was lost and she said, "No, I’m not lost, I live here." Clearly, this was not a home so he went to get a security guard and when they returned, Lilly had disappeared. People will leave balloons for Lilly and if it is purple, they will see it float around the casino. If the balloon is blue, she will pop it. She has a favorite color apparently. Lilly has been seen peering from an upstairs window. She occasionally leaves her handiwork on the walls with pens and crayons. The drawings sometimes reappear after being washed off the walls. A tourist sitting at a slot machine lost track of her daughter, as one does when gambling, and she later found her perched on the staircase appearing as though she were talking to someone. She asked her daughter what she was doing and she said she was playing with Lilly. She was alone on the stairs.

The Imperial Hotel is today the Christmas Casino and Inn at Bronco Billy's. This is the oldest hotel in the city. The three-story building was constructed from red brick and completed in 1896. A widow named E. F. Collins leased the building and opened the Collins Hotel. She ran that until 1906 and then a Mrs. M.E. Shoot bought the hotel and the building next it, remodeled, connected the buildings and opened the New Collins Hotel. This place boasted innovations like steam heat, electric lights and porcelain bathrooms. It was a grand hotel, but not very successful and she went into foreclosure. The owner of the note moved to Cripple Creek with his wife and they ran the hotel for nearly forty years. These were the Longs and George Long received a stipend from the British Crown, so he had some money to burn and he poured it into the hotel turning it into a Victorian Hotel he called the Imperial Hotel. After thirty years of running the hotel, George fell down the basement stairs to his death, His wife continued running the hotel for four years, but she finally gave up in 1944 and padlocked the doors.

Perhaps she was uncomfortable with the rumors that her husband haunted the place. People claimed to see a male spirit in the windows. People suspected that George had actually been killed by his daughter Alice, but it was never proven. Could that be why he roams the stairs and basement? Alice is said to haunt the place because she was often locked away in her room because she had mental challenges. Wayne and Dorothy Mackin bought the building in 1946, refurbished and reopened the hotel. The hotel hosted a melodrama group out of Idaho Springs, dubbed the Imperial Players, who performed in the hotel's Gold Bar Theater. They've performed for over fifty years.They also opened a restaurant and bar called Red Rooster Room. This area had been Alice's room and staff claimed to hear weird noises, especially scratching.

Once gambling was legalized, limited-stakes tables were added and the name was changed to Imperial Casino Hotel. George likes to play with the slot machines and flirt with women. A chambermaid claimed that her bottom was pinched by someone she could not see. Security guards hear the sound of the machines paying out when the place is closed. No malfunctions are ever discovered. The Gold Bar Theater is said to be haunted by former performers too.

The Palace Hotel started as the Palace Drug Store, but it was renovated into a hotel in 1892. This burned in the fires and Sam Altman who owned it rebuilt with brick. He decided to go with lavish and it was more successful than its first run. We've read a couple of things about the hotel. One seems to indicate that the hotel was on the upper two floors while the bottom level had a pharmacy and soda fountain. This was owned by Dr. William Chambers and his wife Kitty. Another version that I read said that the doctor and his wife took ownership of the hotel after the turn of the century. We're not sure which is true, but the key to remember is that Chambers had a wife named Kitty. She left Cripple Creek in 1903 and sold her interest in the pharmacy to the doctor. The doctor himself left in 1910. Shortly thereafter, the hotel burned to the ground. Other stories on the Internet claim that Kitty died in the hotel in 1908. Mary Hedges took over ownership of the hotel until 1918. We're not sure what happened after that, but in 1976, Robert and Martha Lays bought the hotel and they eventually passed it on to their sons. When gambling was legalized, the hotel became a casino that eventually went bankrupt in 2001. It reopened under the Century Casino Corporation, but this also bankrupted in 2003. There have been efforts to renovate, but as far as we know it is still vacant.

There were stories that Kitty haunted Room 3, but since she didn't die here, that probably is not true. Ms. Hedges lived in that room, but she also didn't die here. Whomever it is, she is a hospitable host who would turn down beds and light candles in rooms. At least while the hotel was open. The Lays reported table candles relighting themselves when the hotel closed for the night. There are other spirits here too. People claim there is a blind piano player, a short fat man and a tall woman. Some people claimed to be pushed when on the stairs. Strange anomalies appear in photographs and crashing sounds are heard when no one is in the area where the noises come from. The History Channel featured this location and a paranormal group captured EVPs.

Mousie wrote in 2011 on the Legends of America website, "My first experience happened at the Palace Hotel. The women’s restroom is where I saw my first ghost. I would always get a weird feeling when I went in there and never went in alone. On one occasion while my sister and I were in there, I was washing my hands when I saw in the mirror behind me, a woman sitting in the old antique full back chair that sat in the corner of the restroom. She had on an old-style black and green full-length dress and had her hair done up on top of her head. I knew instantly that this was Miss Kitty that I had heard about from stories. I was standing there frozen when I heard my sister calling my name and realized the woman was gone."

Probably one of the coolest looking buildings in Cripple Creek is the Teller County Jail, which still has bars on the windows. It was built in a "T" shape out of brick  and rises two stories. Today, this is the Outlaws and Lawmen Jail Museum. This jail had a long run, opening in 1901 and closing in 1991. The reason for it finally closing is that the requirements for a modern jail were not met here including no exercise yard. The receiving area and office was built from wood and serves as a gift shop today. Both men and women were housed here and there was a female jailer to oversee the women. She had a room on the second floor. The women's cells were on this level too. The cell system was set up in the middle of the building with upper and lower steel 14 cell units stacked on top of each other. This was state-of-the-art at the time. The building was very secure with jail breaks a rarity. Each cell held four to six men, a bed and a heater. Prisoners were issued a standard uniform that was white and black striped. The jail once held a member of Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch and a man named J. Grant Crumley, who blew off half of Sam Strong's head, who was a wealthy mine owner.

There were two deaths in the jail. One was a prisoner who fell over the railing of the catwalk at the top of the steel stairway on the second level. No one knows if it was an accident, a suicide or a murder. This person's spirit may still be here at the jail. Heavy breathing is heard in the spot where this prisoner fell. All different types were thrown into this from criminals, people who needed to sleep off a drunk and the criminally insane waiting to be moved to another facility. This is where the second death comes in. A woman named Olga Knutson was placed in a cell in a straightjacket. She screamed all night, but at some point she went quiet and when the matron checked on her in the morning, she was dead. There are spirits of former jailers who seem to think they are still on duty. They present themselves through disembodied footsteps and dark shadowy masses. These, of course, could be former prisoners too. These figures are most often seen in the last two cells of the first floor cell block. For some reason, the spirit of a little girl has been seen in the jail. People think this could be because she died while one of her parents was in the jail and she is looking for that parent. 

A docent at the museum claimed that she was getting ready to lock up for the day when she saw a man's face looking through a window at her. She opened the door to talk to him, but he had disappeared. She described the man to a co-worker and he said it matched a former night jailer. Employees also tell a story about a main security door that is between the gift shop and the jail, which has flown open all on its own a few times. A spirit identifying herself as Rosie has been encountered in the female jailer's room and she claims to still be watching over her prisoners. Michelle Rozell was a paranormal investigator and director of the museum and she told the Ghost Adventures crew that they think a spirit named Joe hangs out in solitary confinement and that he had been a child molester. He threw two of her team members against the wall. Her team also heard an audible voice say something like "Get me out" that was also caught on a recorder. The GA crew picked up a figure on the SLS camera that they asked to wave and it did. That was it for their evidence there, so Zak said they could not conclude that the jail is haunted.

The Old Homestead Parlor is on Myers Avenue, which was Cripple Creek's red light district. Pearl DeVere was the madam who ran this brothel. She was thirty-one and ran her place as a high class establishment with ladies who wore fine clothing. Pearl paid them very well. She was described as a fun woman with a kind heart who regularly rode sidesaddle down the street on her horse or sometimes she was on her single-seated phaeton driven by a team of black horses. The fires of 1896 burned down her first parlor and she rebuilt in brick. Today, this is the only parlor that still remains. It had been decorated with expensive European furnishings, velvet drapes, lace curtains, crystal gaslights, electric chandeliers, hand-painted French wallpaper and hardwood tables. There was running water in two bathrooms. Clients needed references to even get inside the door. Pearl would not enjoy her success for long. She hosted a grand party on June 4, 1897 and was so amped before going to bed that she needed a little help to sleep so she took some morphine. It was too much and one of her girls found her unresponsive and breathing very shallowly and called the doctor. He tried to help her, but it was too late. She was declared dead the following morning. 

Pearl's family was ashamed to find out about her profession and they would not bury her, so Johnny Nolon held an auction to raise money for the funeral. She was buried with a bunch of pomp and circumstance with the fire department band leading the procession. Her former brothel is now a museum, only one of three in the country. Many of the fixtures and wallpaper are original. Pearl still seems to be at the place she built and people claim she is heard crying. The chandeliers sway when no wind is blowing in the house. Objects move and sometimes even disappear for days.

Hotel St. Nicholas was the St. Nicholas Hospital, which opened in 1898 under the Sisters of Mercy. This not only served as a hospital, but the nuns lived there and a small school ran out of it. A ward for the mentally ill was added later. The hospital closed in the mid-1970s and sat vacant for several years. Then some business owners tried opening up businesses inside, but nothing seemed to stick. Then Noel and Denise Perran and Susan Adelbush bought the property and refurbished it into an inn they named it for the former hospital. There are fifteen guest rooms and great views of Cripple Creek as it sits atop a hill. There is a bar and restaurant called Boiler Room Tavern, which serves Mexican food and drinks while live music plays.

The hotel is said to be haunted by the former nuns and the children who used to be here and, of course, some of the patients. A spirit nicknamed "Stinky" is seen lurking near a back staircase and he got his nickname because he gives off a raw sewage smell. The lower part of a miner's body is seen as a ghost too. A little boy spirit named "Petey" likes to steal cigarettes and move objects in the tavern.

Fairley Brothers & Lampman Building is today the Colorado Grande Casino and Hotel and its one of the locations investigated by Ghost Adventures. The building once housed the town's mortuary, so it is no wonder that people claim there is paranormal stuff going on inside. There is also a restaurant inside called Maggie's Restaurant. The Fairley Brothers were C.W. and D.B. and they opened a furniture store at 300 East Bennett Avenue in 1894. The Lampman part of this name came in after the fire that burned part of the city. The Fairley Brothers were nearly ruined, so they asked Oscar Lampman to partner with them. Lampman was an undertaker and the three men built a three-story brick building that covered the block. The brothers reopened their furniture store, Lampman had his mortuary and several other businesses moved in like a millinery, a lawyer and a drug store. The Elks opened a lodge on the third floor. In the 1960s, the first floor was remodeled and turned into an ice cream parlor called Sarsaparilla Saloon. 

The owners of the ice cream parlor were the first ones to claim that there were ghosts in the building. They would hear footsteps at night coming from the upper floors. This could be residual as a ballroom was eventually built on the third floor. The Spanish Flu swept through Cripple Creek in 1918 and bodies were stacked up inside and out of the mortuary. Possibly some spirits go back to this moment in history. There are some other people who had been at the mortuary that could be haunting the place. Pearl DeVere, who was the madam at the Old Homestead Parlor, lied in state for a couple of days before her funeral because she had been so beloved. There was also a rich mine owner named Sam Strong who had half of his head blown off while he sat at a saloon drinking who was brought to the mortuary. The owners of the ice cream parlor decided to have a seance to find out who was haunting their building. They saw a group of men sitting in a corner in dark suits. They also saw the apparition of a woman who claimed to be named Maggie. 

Maggie usually appears on the top two floors of the casino. She appears to be twenty-five years old, wearing high heeled shoes and a dress from the turn-of-the-century. She leaves the scent of rose perfume in her wake. Maggie has an Irish accent and is heard singing with a soprano voice. She often dances as well and it's possible the disembodied footsteps are from her high-heeled boots. One of the owners of the ice cream parlor saw Maggie wearing clothes that she described as something a Gibson Girl would wear. She stood on a stairway above her and there was a strong scent of roses. An artist named Charles Frizzell rented the third floor and he said, "After a long day in the studio, I would climb the wide staircase to the third floor. The double doors would almost always be open, even though I had locked them every morning. So my friend Jerry Hollings and I would lock the doors each morning and then fasten a wire coat hanger around the door knobs. Still, the doors would be wide open when we arrived back on the third floor." The security cameras at the casino have caught what looks like ghostly images and security guards claim to have seen the apparition of Maggie, sometimes even accompanied by a male spirit after hours. The restaurant is named in honor of Maggie.

The Tesla Brownstone is a legit haunted house in the city. We call it by that name because we don't know what else to call it and Nikola Tesla once lived there. The home is located at 315 Carr Street. The house was built in 1898 by an accountant from New York looking to work for some of the rich mine owners. It is pretty obvious that this was a home designed by a New Yorker because this two-story brownstone would fit right in in Greenwich Village. Eventually, the mines started to dry up and the accountant rented out the home to none other than Nikola Tesla who it is said worked on some of his experiments in the home. He was a century ahead of his time and his research still fuels scientific projects today. Tesla had a lab in nearby Colorado Springs. While Tesla was in Colorado Springs, he experimented with the production of man-made lightning bolts and conducting electricity using the Earth itself. In 1907, the home seems to have been operated as a bordello. It changed ownership several times and then was purchased in 1968 by historian Leland Feitz. He fixed up the place and lived in it as his home. In 1978, he met author and famed astrologist Linda Goodman whom he invited to move to Cripple Creek and live in the house. She visited and loved the solitude the mountains brought versus her busy New York life. She bought what she called her "crooked little house on a crooked little street," which had been Feitz's brownstone. Goodman lived there until her death in 1996. The house was bought by Rick and Janice Wood and they turned it into a bed and breakfast, connecting it to the boardinghouse that was next door with a walkway. They sold it to Jason and Sofia Balas in 2013 and the home was sold again in 2017 and we believe it is a private residence now.  

There are some whom claim this place is haunted and others who have experienced nothing here. When Linda Goodman lived in the house, she claimed to have several odd things happen. Like big things! Music would lithe through the air in every room when no radios or other music players were going and it was an older variety of music. She also heard disembodied voices and she saw apparitions in Victorian clothing. Some claim she was an eccentric woman who practiced a weird cosmic religion and this is why she had these experiences. But friends who visited also claimed to hear voices and even the cries of a baby. People on the street would see lights flickering in the windows. There are people who believe that Goodman herself haunts her former home. Objects move on their own, cold spots are felt and a child's ghost is seen in the early morning hours. 

On the website Legends of America, Mike Warden wrote in 2006, "This encounter occurred during the summer of 1973 in Cripple Creek, Colorado. My father had fallen in love with the town, and consequently moved all six of us kids, lock, stock, and barrel to the high country of Colorado. We found a back door that was almost too easy to move and sauntered in. This house was a two-story Victorian, turn-of-the-century brick, with some of the original antique furniture still inside. We began to roam around the house, laughing, and making jokes. When I opened the door to the cellar...that’s when we heard it. I want to point out that all of this was occurring in broad daylight, with the sun shining bright, in the middle of the afternoon. It wasn’t midnight or the typical 3:00 a.m. 'ghost hunt.' At first, we heard the sounds of silverware clinking on plates, then a cacophony of voices, combined with music from a bygone era. I should also mention that there was no electricity being provided to this residence at the time. The sounds began to swell and before long, the entire house was filled with the din of what we later thought to be a party or a ball of some kind. The three of us then proceeded to set a land speed record for exiting a home during a crisis.

Months later, this very same house was purchased by a wealthy writer, whose name I can’t mention. Afterward, several parties were held there. One night, during a particularly raucous evening, a young woman ran from this house screaming. Once her friends caught up with her and asked her what had happened, she told her friends that the 'figure' of a miner had materialized by the fireplace. Others later reported seeing a 'distinguished' looking Victorian-era gentleman at the top of the stairs. Years later, when I was researching the eccentric inventor Nicola Tesla, I came upon an article that described how the unconventional electrical genius had conducted a number of experiments in Cripple Creek. The same writer who had purchased and was living in the house at the time confirmed it was, in fact, Tesla’s residence at one time, where he had conducted experiments. Despite his prolific inventiveness and eccentric lifestyle, Tesla was known to maintain a rather high social profile. His experiments in physics also upheld the belief and possibility of life after death. Could it be Nicola Tesla, himself, that remains in this house?"

Cripple Creek is clearly full of a rich history that could lend itself to many haunts. Are these locations haunted? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes:

Haunted Cripple Creek and Teller County by Linda Wommack, published by Haunted America, 2018

Thursday, November 5, 2020

HGB Ep. 359 - Zalud House

Moment in Oddity - Alice Blunden Buried Alive Twice (Suggested by: John Michaels)

Poppy Tea, or what was once called poppy water, was used as an analgesic, anti-diarrheal and it had sedative effects as it was basically a narcotic. Alice Blunden had the misfortune of consuming too much of this poppy water in 1674 at her local pub. She immediately collapsed into a deep sleep. Or was it a deep sleep? Her family summoned a doctor and he surmised she was dead when he put a mirror under her nose and no steam was blown onto the mirror. Alice's husband was a wealthy merchant and he was away at the time of her death. When he heard about her demise, he requested that the family wait for his return before holding the funeral. The doctor thought this was a horrible idea and so the family decided it would be best to bury her quickly. This was done at the Holy Ghost Cemetery. The cemetery was park-like and shortly after the funeral, a couple of boys were playing there when they heard ghastly sounds coming from a fresh grave. They ran to report this to their headmaster and he had them punished for making up stories. The man must have had second thoughts though because he went to check out the grave the next day. It had now been three days for Alice in the grave, but she was still making some weakened noises. The townspeople quickly dug her back up and found her covered in bruises and blood from her attempts to free herself from the grave. She had exhausted herself so much that the people thought that she was now dead for sure. We're not sure a doctor would have decided something different based on the record here. Mrs. Blunden was re-interred and a guard was posted, but he left in the middle of the night to do some drinking. The following morning, Alice was dug up again just to ensure that she was indeed dead and now her face and hands were clawed heavily as she had attacked herself finding that she was still in the grave. And now she really was dead. Her husband brought suit, but nothing came of it. A blue plaque at the Holy Ghost Cemetery now memorializes a story that certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Will Rogers Born

In the month of November, on the 4th, in 1879, American humorist Will Rogers was born in the Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory, which would eventually become Oklahoma. Rogers himself was 1/8th Cherokee. He got his start in entertainment as a trick roper in Wild West Shows. Then he moved onto Vaudeville where his true fame would start and he eventually ended up with Ziegfeld Follies. At this time he started incorporating some ad lib humor, which developed into his satire that he is most known for. Rogers would go on to act in twenty-one movies and write newspaper columns. His voice became well known as he appeared on the radio many times and he was easily recognized for his customary cowboy hat that he wore pushed back on his head. Rogers traveled back and forth across the United States doing lectures and he traveled to many countries. He said, "When I die, my epitaph, or whatever you call those signs on gravestones, is going to read: 'I joked about every prominent man of my time, but I never met a man I didn't like.' I am so proud of that, I can hardly wait to die so it can be carved." Unfortunately, his death would come at just fifty-five in 1935 when the airplane he was flying in with aviator Wiley Post crashed near Point Barrow, Alaska.

Zalud House (Suggested by: Anna Frias)

The Zalud House in Porterville, California is like a time capsule glimpse into the life of a family. A family who suffered much tragedy in the house. This home is unique in that the Zalud Family were the only family to live in this mansion and it is furnished with their belongings. Several family members died here and it seems to have trapped their spirits. Paranormal tours are offered and Ghost Adventures has investigated the house. Some of the activity is fairly mundane, but there also is a darkness here that seems to be connected to a chair. Join us as we share the history and haunts of the Zalud House!

Porterville, California is a small town. The Butterfield Overland Stage Line established a stage stop at Goodhue’s Crossing near the Tule River in 1858, which would eventually become the City of Porterville. The city was named after Porter Putnam who founded it when he decided to start a ranch there. Porter described his journey to this spot in his jouranl, "Country damned rough. Weather very cold. Stage riding is disagreeable. Plenty of whiskey aboard, a jolly set." The Tule River was very important to the development of the town and to immigrants who passed through. Where the river is today is very different than where it was in 1861. A heavy rain came through for weeks and the entire valley was flooded. This caused the Tule River to permanently change its course and moved a mile south of its original river bed. That river bed still exists today. Porter came up with a unique idea to grow his nee town. He offered free lots to anybody willing to start a business. Porterville soon was known as wild saloon town. By the 1910s, Porterville was a city that was becoming very prosperous and growing quickly. Southern Pacific Railroad had laid down a line that passed right into Porterville at this time. Some of the prosperity for the city came from the fact that magnesia was in the hills surrounding the city. This rare mineral was used for the lining of furnaces and making paper.

John Zalud built the Zalud Home for his wife, Mary, and three children, Pearle, Annie and Edward, in 1891, which is located on North Hockett Street and Morton Avenue. The Zalud Family had immigrated from Bohemia, which is today the Czech Republic, and John started off with a restaurant called Delmonico Restaurant in the town of Tulare. This was half restaurant, half saloon. It thrived while the railroad had a yard in that town, but when it moved, business slowed and he decided to move. John opened the John Zalud Saloon, which had gambling in a back room. He joined in on some of the high-stakes card games and became wealthy, which is how he had money for building the home. The architectural style is Baroque French with a mansard roof and it was built from red brick. This wasn't the first home the Zalud's built in Porterville, but Mary refused to live in the southeast area where they built, so John had this new home built. The house looks to be fairly small and has only four bedrooms.

Pearle Zalud was the last family member to live in the house and she spent the last decade of her life in the house and when she died in 1970, she donated the house and grounds to the city of Porterville. It took some time for Pearle's wishes to be honored because a man named Joe Witt, his brother Marcus Witt Jr. and Marcus' son Marcus Witt III claimed that Pearle had willed the property to them. Joe claimed that he had befriended Pearle and she had grown so fond of him that she changed her will, so that he would get the Zalud House. The version of the will he presented was ruled a fraud and in 1973, the three men were arrested and convicted on fraud and forgery charges. Pearle had requested that the home be converted into a museum and that is exactly what happened. The museum opened on May 2, 1977. A friend of her's who was a longtime resident, Albert Konda, said of Pearle, "She was a very bright lady with a great sense of humor, but she was never a social butterfly around town. She had a few quality friendships and never saw a need for much more than that."

The house not only has a wonderful collection of antiques, but there was also donated one of the largest collections of clothing from the 1890s to the mid-1950s. One piece was a silk-ribbon dress that still had the tags on it indicating that it cost $450. Some of the furnishings and art work hail from the Orient. Annie and Pearle were creators. Annie was a painter and some of her work is on the walls. Pearle did needlework and the pillows and chairs in the house are upholstered with her designs. There are brochures in the house that are a testament to the sisters taking two trips around the world.  

Tragedy would hound this family. Mary Jane Zalud developed tuberculosis and in 1912, she succumbed to the disease. In 1917, William Brooke was married to Annie Zalud so he was John Zalud's son-in-law and he was at the Pioneer Hotel on this particular day, sitting in the lobby. He was confronted by a woman named Julia Howe. Brooke had been making disparaging comments about her and she was very angry. It is thought that he liked Julia and had started rumors that they were having an affair. And even further, that she was a loose woman. Julia had a nervous breakdown and got herself a gun that some thought she was going to use to commit suicide. Instead she used it when she confronted Brooke. She shot him four times and one of the bullets pierced through his back and went through the rocking chair he was sitting in. The chair made its way to the museum. The really crazy part of this story is that the newspaper reported that Julia Howe claimed that her subconscious mind directed what she had done. Her subconscious mind directed the fatal shot without her bidding. So basically her defense was that she had been possessed when she murdered Brooke. The court ruled that it was justifiable homicide. There are many stories of cursed chairs, so if that is what is going on with this chair, it is not unique. 

Edward would be the next family member to die and this occurred in 1922. The official story is that he was out riding a horse and got kicked in the head by the horse. However, there are some who claim that he was rustling cattle and a posse of local vigilantes killed him. Edward is thought to have been a guy who got himself into a lot of trouble. He ran liquor to local tribes, which was illegal at the time. The saddle that Edward was riding in when he died is on display in the house. This blow caused Pearle and her father John to leave the home and move to Los Angeles where Annie had moved after her husband William Brooke had been killed. They stayed there until John died in 1944. Pearle moved back to the house in 1962 and as we said, she died in 1970. On the upper floor is a spirit that is believed to be the malevolent energy in the house. Could that be why Pearle lived only in the downstairs portion of the house? She was older, so managing stairs could have been difficult, but Pearle actually believed her family members were haunting the house. It also would seem that Pearle herself haunts the house.

Ghost Adventures visited the museum for Season 13, Episode 10. Heather Huerta is the curator of the house and she co-founded Paranormal Movement Investigations, which has investigated the house since 2008 and host ghost tours in the house. She guided the Ghost Adventures crew and while the crew was interviewing her, Aaron accidentally hit a window shade, the kind that rolls up, and he broke it. This seemed to anger two of the family spirits, John and Pearl. At least that was according to a paranormal investigator in the house named Benny who is a sensitive. He had Zac sit in the haunted chair while holding William Brooke' cane. Zac claimed to feel back pains and that he was having trouble breathing. The spirit box said, "Need help," but it sounded a lot like Zac's voice on the replay so we aren't sure about that. One of many problems with Zac and the crew is that they focus on one thing and it makes many of their conclusions seem false. They don't give a full investigation of a site. All of the stuff in this house belonged to the family and several pieces are connected to tragedies, so imagine the energy that could be attached.

The crew then interviewed a paranormal investigator named Scott Gruenwald who had suggested the location to Zac. He had sat in the chair on a previous visit and he claimed to feel a pain in his shoulder that was like a pencil slowly being shoved into his shoulder. At first he thought he might be having a heart attack because he is middle-aged and when he breathed it got worse. Before Zac and the crew started their official investigation, Aaron started feeling really bad. He said that he felt as though he were going to pass out when he was sitting in front of one of the monitors. He looked at his FitBit and his heart rate was 141 bpm while sitting. Something was definitely affecting him and Zac decided that he should not be part of the investigation to protect his well being. Actually, that was not the case - lol! Zac sent him in all by himself since something as affecting him. Aaron did feel as though something electrical had passed through him before his heart rate went up. All the guys took turns sitting in the murder chair and each one claimed to have weird feelings and anxiety attacks. An SLS camera picked up an anomaly near the chair that Zac thought was a creature, but we felt it as the size of a child and it is possible that there could be some kind of child energy in the house. There were some interesting words on the Ovulus as well. Zac and the guys may have gotten some evidence or maybe not. The curator seemed to indicate in an article that they Hollywoodized  everything.

We found another interesting legend out of Porterville. Jason Offut wrote on the Mysterious Universe website about this legend featuring a gnome in Porterville, "When Tammy moved herself and her three children to the country house by the Tule River near Porterville, California, she didn’t know something wicked waited for them. 'We always got the feeling of being watched,' Tammy said. One spot on the farm especially put her on edge, the barn. The family animals, dogs, a cat, turkeys, chickens, and ducks avoided that rickety, dark building. 'We had had a lot more chickens and ducks but they had started disappearing,' Tammy said. 'I also noticed that none of the neighbor’s animals, or stray animals for that matter, would go anywhere near that barn. It was without a doubt just creepy.' She soon discovered why. 'One evening my son, who was seven years old at the time, and I had just come back from grocery shopping,' Tammy said. 'We parked and got out of the car and as I was opening up the back to get the groceries out I noticed a movement out of the corner of my right eye.' As she lifted a grocery sack from the car, she saw the movement again. 'This time I heard a very freaky, very evil-sounding chuckle,' she said. 'I looked in the direction of the sound and there standing about 50 yards from my son and I was what I can only describe as a gnome.' The creature, about two to three feet tall, wore baggy black pants, and a gold-colored shirt. A salt and pepper beard ran from beneath a red, pointed hat. 'That thing grinned at us and the creepy grin spread from ear to ear and its teeth were a gross brown and pointed or jagged,' she said. 'It had a bulbous nose and large, deep-set eyes.'

She dropped the groceries, and grabbed her son, the wicked little man cackling after her as she ran to the house. Tammy burst inside through the kitchen and slammed the door. As she tried to tell her daughters about her panic, something moved outside the kitchen window. She looked, and saw the top of the thing’s red, pointed hat. It had to be about ten feet off the ground. The thing eventually disappeared from the window and Tammy retrieved the groceries from the car. She never saw it again, but until the day she moved, she heard the gnome’s creepy chuckle coming from the old barn. Although Tammy’s family had gone, the gnome wasn’t finished terrorizing whoever lived in that house. Charlie, her husband, their two-year-old twin girls and two golden Labrador retrievers moved into the two-story house by the river in March 2010. 'The house was perfect for us,' she said. 'Exactly what we were looking for, and we couldn’t wait to move in. There are three bedrooms, a huge kitchen, dining room and living room and lots of windows all around it.' The deck that opened off the back door overlooked the woods and the nearby Tule River. A deck in the front overlooked a pond. Charlie placed fairy, gnome, and toadstool yard ornaments around the pond, and stocked it with Japanese koi fish to make it feel more like their home. That feeling wouldn’t last.

One day, while walking back from the river to the house with her daughters and their dogs, the dogs became riled. As they approached a rickety outbuilding Charlie called “the shack,' the dogs began to snarl and bark, the hair in their backs standing up. 'Something told me to run so I grabbed a twin under each arm and ran for home,' she said. 'Something about that shack gave me the creeps, especially at night, but I don’t know why.' She began to notice none of the animals, not even wildlife or stray cats, would go near the shack, until the day she heard the fight coming from inside. 'It sounded like a cat was in a fight with something way bigger than it was,' she said. Her husband grabbed a flashlight and ran to the shed. 'Just as he got to the door the noise stopped,' she said. 'He went in and looked around with the flashlight. There was a cat. It was totally skinned on one side and its neck looked as though some thing had taken a huge chunk out of it.' He stepped outside the shack to catch his breath, and when he looked back in the cat was gone. 'There was no way that cat moved by itself,' she said. 'We were standing right there. Where did the cat go?' They discovered the cat was the least of their worries. One night around 3 a.m., a raspy, gurgling singing woke Charlie and her husband from sleep. 'It was without a doubt the most hideous sound I have ever heard,' she said. 'It freaked us out.' Charlie and her husband looked out their bedroom window and saw something that challenged their sanity. 'Standing by my pond holding one of my garden gnomes was what I can only describe as something out of a Grimm’s fairy tale,” she said. 'The thing that was standing in our yard was hideous and grotesque.'

A human-like creature stood under the bright light of the motion detector. It was two to three feet tall, with a long gray beard, maroon pants, baggy yellow shirt, brown vest, a dark waistcoat, and a reddish brown pointed hat. 'The thing that made this creature really hideous was its eyes and teeth,' she said. 'It looked like it was grinning and its teeth were jagged and pointed. The eyes were little beady and dark and mean.” As the creature stared at Charlie and her husband, it reached into the pond and grabbed a koi, dropped the fish into its mouth and swallowed. Charlie’s husband pushed the window open a few inches and screamed at the creature, telling it to leave their yard or he’d call the police. The gnome grinned, laughed, and gave them the finger. They told the police they’d had an intruder, but the officers looking around their yard at 4 a.m. found only shoeprints the size of a small child. The gnome came back night after night, holding a yard ornament and eating their fish. They eventually moved the ornaments and put the fish into a tank in the house. They instantly realized they’d made a mistake. 'One night after we had removed the fairies and gnomes and fish from the yard the creature showed up at the usual time, 3 a.m.,' she said. 'When it found that the yard ornaments were gone and the fish were gone it went crazy. It was yelling and screaming something that we couldn’t understand, but we did understand that this thing was pissed and wanted us to know it.' The gnome ran around the house, screaming and gurgling. Then Charlie realized the dog door was unlocked. 'It was big enough for our dogs to go through and it would be big enough for that creature to go through as well,' she said. 'I took off running down to the kitchen and as I got there the dogs had started barking like crazy at the doggy door.'

She shut and secured the dog door, then ran upstairs to shut the windows. 'A fear hit me like nothing I had ever felt and I ran back up to the twins’ bedroom where they were both sound asleep in their cribs,' she said. Neither parent slept that night; they decided to leave the farm at Porterville. 'The last we heard of that creature was a very loud screeching, cackling sound,' she said. “It was under one of the living room windows and when my husband went to check it out he saw the top of that creature’s hat under the window. Right then we decided that we were out of there. We couldn’t stay there with that creature.' Did Tammy and Charlie live in the same house? I wanted to know, so I told Charlie about Tammy’s experience. 'The description of that barn and everything else sounds just like it, and the Tule River runs behind the house,' Charlie said.

Her experience was too terrifying for her not to find out. 'It’s too creepy to think that there are more of those creatures,' she said. 'I would like to speak to those other people and find out if we were in the same house or close to it.' I put Charlie in contact with Tammy. 'Charlie sent me an email and she described the house that she lived in,' Tammy said. 'She started naming some of the side streets and then I knew it was the same house or really close to it.” The women eventually met and drove to the property. 'It definitely was the same place,' Tammy said. As Tammy stood, looking at the house where a three-foot tall man with pointed teeth, and evil cackle had laughed at her, she saw someone had torn down the barn. 'Even with that shack gone the whole place still had an eerie feel to it and I don’t know if that is because of what we dealt with while living there or just the place itself,” Charlie said. 'I don’t think I’ll be going back there again.' Before they left, the women approached their old house and knocked on the door. The current resident did not want them there. 'She was just hateful and when we tried to ask her about the barn she pretty much told us to get lost and not in those nice words,' Tammy said. Charlie was equally taken aback. 'We tried to ask about the shack and if she had ever experienced anything while it was there but she didn’t want to talk to us,' Charlie said. 'In fact, she told us to leave the property. She didn’t have to tell me twice. I was happy to get away from there.'" 

So is this story of a little gnome the real deal? Are members of the Zalud Family haunting their former home? That is for you to decide!