Thursday, December 24, 2020

HGB Ep. 365 - Marshall House Hotel

Moment in Oddity - The Rock People and Houses of Kinver (Suggested by: Sandra Latham)

Starting in the late 1770s, people began living in rock houses in the United Kingdom's Kinver Edge. Joseph Heely was the first person to report about these rock houses. A storm was brewing and a family that Heely described as a “clean & decent family” took him in and he was amazed by their dwelling. These homes were carved out of the soft red sandstone in the area. They were preferable to the local cottages because they were high above the flood level and they were warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The rock houses were equipped with water and gas and earth closets provided sanitation. The homes had furniture, stoves, windows and doors. By 1861, eleven families were living in the rock houses at Kinver Edge. By the early 1900s, the houses had become famous and were a tourist attraction and tea was served at a cafe. On one day in 1905, 17,000 people came by the cafe. This closed in 1967 and the property fell into disrepair. The houses were restored in the 1990s and opened for tours in 1997 that continue today. One of these is Nanny's Cave, which had layers of carvings and graffiti on the walls with occult symbols, runes and sigils. A chimney chute at the front had been affectionately named "The Devil's Chimney" and reputedly became the means by which Satan crawled in and out of this house. Generally we think of prehistoric or cave men living in rock houses, so these rock houses certainly are odd!

This Month in History - Leicester Codex Auctioned

In the month of December, on the 12th, in 1980, a notebook penned by Leonardo da Vinci was bought at auction by American oil tycoon Armand Hammer for $5.1 million. This was the highest price paid for a manuscript at the time. A couple years early,  a copy of the legendary Gutenberg Bible had gone for only half as much. This manuscript was written in 1508 and was one of thirty books that da Vinci penned during his life on various subjects. The topic of this one was water. This book had seventy-two loose pages with 300 notes and detailed drawings. Parts of this are thought to have inspired parts of his work the Mona Lisa. He used his mirror-writing technique to pen the booklet and used brown ink and chalk. The work is officially known as the Leicester Codex.

Marshall House Hotel

The Marshall House Hotel has stood in the heart of historic downtown Savannah for nearly 170 years. This was not only a place for weary guests to the city, it also served as a hospital before and during the Civil War. A nod to the history of the Civil War can be found on the third floor. We stayed here for one night and based on the haunted reputation of the place, we decided to do a little paranormal investigating. The activity started practically the minute we walked in our room. Join us as share the history and hauntings of the Marshall House Hotel! 

Savannah is one of our favorite cities. This was Kelly's second time here and it was her first chance to really get a feel for the city. We started with a visit to Bonaventure Cemetery and wandered around for a couple hours before heading to the Marshall House Hotel. (Kelly shares what she thought about the cemetery.) The Marshall House is located at 123 Broughton Street and is Greek Revival architecture in style. One of the first things people notice about the Marshall House is the iron veranda that is 120 feet in length and 12 feet wide and high and was placed on the hotel in 1857 by Ralph Meldrim, who was the proprietor of The Marshall House at the time. This gives it a real New Orleans feel. The minute we walked into the lobby we not only noticed the gleaming marble everywhere, but we also saw a large oil painting of Mary Marshall on the wall behind the reception desk. This work had once been owned by Jim Williams who was the main person in John Berendt’s book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.  The Marshall House is named for her because she founded the hotel in 1851. The location was very important in that it was in the heart of the shopping district of Savannah. Mary remained a prominent figure in Savannah and her family's history in the city started with her grandparents. She inherited a large sum from her father and built upon that by buying property, two others of which still remain in the city: A double-tenement house found behind the hotel on Oglethorpe Square and the Marshall Row that lies on Oglethorpe Street across from Colonial Park Cemetery.

The hotel is four stories with winding hallways leading to rooms and a large library sitting room on the first floor where they host wine socials and then a restaurant area off that for the morning buffet. As stated before, there is a collection of Civil War memorabilia on the third level that is part of a self-guided tour. There are also displays of artifacts found during restorations. Our room was fairly small with antiques and some modern conveniences that included a small bathroom. It was all very quaint. It was room 203 and we were a little startled by that because we also had room 203 in Wilmington.

A yellow fever epidemic swept through the city in 1854 and the hotel was converted into a hospital to treat the sick. Over 1,000 people died during that epidemic. In 1864, the hotel was occupied by Union troops led by General William Tecumseh Sherman. They stayed for several months and then the hotel became a Union hospital until the end of the Civil War. Then the hotel reverted back to a hotel. During the Reconstruction Period, Joel Chandler Harris, author of the famous Uncle Remus Stories, lived at the hotel. In 1880, the building that was next door was annexed and became part of the hotel. The hotel closed in 1895. 

The hotel reopened in 1899 and featured electric lights and hot and cold running water. At this time it was still the Marshall House, but the name would change to Gilbert Hotel in 1933 when real estate man Herbert W. Gilbert leased the building. He would expand it so that it had a new lobby, dining room, living room, reading room, 66 guest rooms, one suite, an apartment, and six storage rooms. In 1941, he sold the hotel and it reopened under new ownership in 1946 after a complete renovation. Fire codes changed and it was too hard for the hotel to update in 1957, so the top three floors were closed and the main level was opened as shops. This was the case until 1998. The hotel was renovated once again and reopened as The Marshall House once more in 1999 and this is said to be Savannah's oldest hotel. We should mention that during these modern renovations, body parts were found beneath the floor boards. This was treated as a crime scene and everything was carefully cataloged. Tests revealed the bones were from the Civil War. These were probably amputated arms and legs and such and they were just placed under the floorboards since they had nowhere else to put them.

We went to dinner at a brew pub that was next to the hotel and then we headed off for our ghost tour with Ghost City Tours. Our tour guide was great, but we would be hard pressed to recommend the company. This was another one of those big tour companies that offers tours in several cities. Diane had a bad experience with Ghosts and Gravestones and now she's added this one too. There were supposed to be two tour guides to break our group up into two small groups of 30, but our guide was informed right before we were supposed to head out that there was a screw up with the website. So this poor woman had to take out a group of 50 people, in the age of Covid. So clearly this was not according to healthy guidelines either. And for us, any group over 40 is ridiculous anyway.

We did another session with the dowsing rods after getting back from having dinner and doing our ghost tour. (Marshall House after Tour) The next morning Diane tried her hand at the dowsing rods. (Marshall House Morning) We continued with another dowsing session and we talked about religion (Marshall House Religion) Through all of our dowsing rods sessions, we formed a picture of the young woman we were speaking with. It seems that she was a young pre-teen girl and her family was from Ireland and were indentured servants. She had siblings, at least one brother and more than one sister. She more than likely died here when the hotel was a hospital with yellow fever patients. She does not leave the hotel and her family is not with her. We never figured out what her name was. Kelly did a little research and found that there was information that backed up the possibility that Irish indentured servants were in Savannah.

The city of Savannah was pretty new when a ship wrecked off the coast on January 10, 1734. There were forty survivors, thirty-four men and six women. These people were Irish indentured servants who had been sailing for New England. General James Oglethorpe who had founded Savannah had a motto, not for self, but for others. So there was no way he was going to turn these destitute and suffering people away. He wrote of the situation, "A sloop loaded with servants was forced in here through stress of weather and want of victuals many of them were dead. Forty only remained. As they were likewise ready to perish through misery. I thought in an act of charity to buy them, which I did, giving five pounds a head. I gave one of them to each of the widows which will render them able to cultivate their lands and maintain their families. I let each of the magistrates have one at a prime cost that they might not be behind hand in their gardens and plantations by reason of their spending much of their time in the public service. Of the rest, I have allotted Mr. Lafond five to help him in building a saw mill, four to the gardens, and four to the Island Hutchinson’s." These people stayed and urged the relatives to come to Savannah as well and a rich Irish heritage took root in the city. Particularly during the Irish Potato Famine.

While Kelly was in the bathroom getting ready, Diane started having doubts about what was causing the EMF gauge to go off. She had opened the blinds and realized that the room was on the far end of the hotel, which was the corner of the block and a large traffic light was outside the window. So she took the EMF to the window and, of course, it went off. And she noticed it went off around the TV. So she decided to do a test. There was a chair in the far corner. She put the EMF on the chair and there was no signal. She asked that if there was a spirit in the room that it would make the EMF light up. Nothing. She asked several times. Nothing. Diane picked up the EMF and when Kelly came into the room, she explained what had happened. As she said that she had put the EMF on the chair and it hadn't gone off, she set the device on the chair. And it lit up like Christmas! They got a good laugh. 

We certainly are not the only people to experience strange activity here. We stayed here because of its haunted reputation. This hotel has been featured on countless lists and in countless programs. Guests claim to hear children running in the hallways when there are no children in the hallways or even in the hotel. Faucets turn on and off by themselves. Any many people claim to see full-bodied apparitions. A doctor was staying with his wife and he was awakened in the middle of the night by a tickling sensation on his feet. He looked down at his feet and saw a little girl smiling at him while she tickled his feet. She quickly vanished.

A woman wrote on TripAdvisor of her experiences at the hotel in 2006, "We were on the 4th floor. I never got much sleep while we were there I always felt very uneasy and utterly creeped-out at night in my guts and could not rest. Did hear some strange noises in the hall late at night around three am or so what sounded like a hard rubber ball rolling along the hallway and bouncing also what sounded like a marble rolling and bouncing also a VERY LOUD crash in the hall three am-ish almost like a body falling and hitting the floor and no one was out there. We also heard what sounded like walking around on the floor above us but there is only the roof. Also very unnerving feeling of being TOUCHED while in bed at night and I was completely awake...touched on the inside of my lower leg/ankle and buttock area. This made me nearly jump out of bed more than once! On the last night we stayed there we noticed a STRANGE SMELL in the room and the bathroom that we could find no source for. It was almost like a sweet burned-flesh smell combined with a slight sewery odor."

Kristin wrote in 2014 on TripAdvisor, "After a night out my girlfriend and I retired to room 409. After eating a late night snack and watching some television I had used the bathroom. Upon walking out of it I noticed the fan was off so I asked my girlfriend why she would shut the fan off on such a hot night. She replied "I didn't". I then noticed our channel was changed from watching CNN to ESPN. I asked her why she was watching the football game since I knew she had no interest. She again replied "I didn't". We searched for the remote which at one point was right next to us. The remote had gone totally missing. We threw off the sheets of the bed, and tore up the room only to be let down of finding the darn thing. At this point my girlfriend was very bugged out so I personally had asked whatever was playing tricks on us to please stop because I knew my girlfriend would have wanted to leave if she knew we were being taunted by some type of supernatural presence. As I lay my hand on her shoulder to reassure her everything was going to be ok, my black beaded bracelet was ripped off my wrist. That's right, ripped off my wrist. Not by myself nor my girlfriend. My girlfriend just starred at me with tears in her eyes as I looked back with complete shock. Needless to say we both started praying. We hopped into bed with every light on and there right before our eyes was the remote, all snug in the same spot we had just been sitting in. I held my girlfriend through the night as I watched the fan now turned back on rock back and forth till the morning. I made the woman at the front desk aware of this encounter and her reply was "Oh yea that's casper and he's sort of mischievous so it makes sense he would turn the football game on and taunt you like that." She went on to add the 4th floor is the most haunted of all the floors. Although I lost a bracelet and a night's sleep this was one of the coolest experiences of my life. I have believed in paranormal activity before but this solidified it for me. Oh and the room was beautiful too! Best wishes to you all who stay in room 409."

The strange smell is a thing many people report. It started during renovations in 1998 and people who stay in rooms 214, 314 and 414 complain often of smelling a strange odor. Not deodorizers have been able to get rid of it and neither have ozone machines. We did find a story that prayer seemed to help with rooms 214 and 314, but a radio playing Christian programs placed in room 414 seemed to be the only thing that worked in there. Clearly, people are still detecting some strange odors. The night manager's office is where the amputated limbs had been found and this is said to be one of the most haunted areas of the hotel. They hear disembodied footsteps and moaning. One manager claimed to see the spirit of a Union soldier who was missing an arm.

We hit the Colonial Park Cemetery after we checked out and wandered around the River Walk for a bit too. This is another great cemetery in the heart of Savannah that also happens to be haunted. We loved our visit to Savannah and we really enjoyed the interactions with our little spirit friend. Is the Marshall House haunted? That is for you to decide!

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