Moment in Oddity - Sophia McLachlan Grave (suggested by: Tim McCrimmon)
Sophia McLachlan was a young girl who died in 1879. A plaque erected near her grave in Nova Scotia tells the sad story and odd circumstances around her death, "Sophia aged 14 apprenticed to a Mrs. Trask, dress maker, carrying on a business at what is now the site of 242 Lincoln Street, was accused by her employer of the theft of a princely sum of $10.00. Pleading her innocence Sophia became ill, often observed lying on her sister's grave near here. Sophia's grief was added to by her mother's acceptance of Mrs. Trask's story. Sophia's condition worsened, confining her to her room at what is now the site of 169 Pelham Street. At the insisting of a friend, a doctor was called, but he could not prevent her death. Amid much speculation by members of the community, a coroner's jury was summoned to hold an inquiry into Sophia's death. The unanimous decision for the cause of her death was by 'paralysis of the heart brought on by extreme agitation and peculiar circumstances.' The passing of Sophia was not forgotten and sometime afterwards, Mrs. Trask's son admitted to the theft. Mrs. Trask and her son moved from Lunenburg and no record of their place of residing exists. Sophia's family maintained their residence in Lunenburg where Sophia's father plyed his trade as a shipwright. Those who knew Sophia remembered her as a pretty girl who will not be forgotten." A young teenage girl dying from what was basically ruled a broken heart, certainly is odd!
This Month in History - "Battle of the Sexes" Tennis Match Held
In the month of September, on the 20th, in 1973, the "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match was held and Billie Jean Kong won. The match was held between Billie Jean King, who was the top women's tennis player at the time, and Bobby Riggs, who was a former No. 1 ranked men's tennis player. King was 29 at the time and Riggs was 55. Riggs was a self-proclaimed male chauvinist and that women couldn't compete against men and that even at his age, he could beat any female player. King took him up on that challenge and the event became a huge media event with over 50 million people viewing worldwide and 30,000 spectators watching in-person at the Houston Astrodome. Riggs road onto the court in a rickshaw pulled by female models and King was carried on a gold litter carried by men dressed as ancient slaves. Howard Cosell reported the match in which King won in straight sets 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. King continued her push for women's rights, which included fair pay and in 1973, the U.S. Open was the first major tennis event to pay both genders the same amount of prize money.
Haunted Hannibal (Suggested by: Christina Orf)
Hannibal, Missouri is known as "America's Hometown" and author Mark Twain helped to put it on the map as this was his boyhood home. This was a quintessential river town with many men traveling here to make their fortune and they did. Many stately homes that were built during its heyday are still around today, some of them are beds and breakfasts that you can book for a stay. And many of these have ghost stories to go with them. Join us as we share the history and haunts of Hannibal, Missouri!
Hannibal was founded using two land grants issued after the mighty earthquake of 1811 destroyed the small town of New Madrid in Missouri and caused the Mississippi River to change course and flow backward for a time. The town was surveyed in 1819 and Moses D. Bates cleared the land and started constructing buildings. Hannibal got its name around 1800 when Spanish surveyor Don Antonio Soulard drew a map of the area. The town had a slow start with only a couple of dozen people arriving to settle in its first decade. By 1860 it was thriving though, particularly with the arrival of the railroads. Lumber would become the top product coming through Hannibal. Logs would be floated down from Minnesota and Wisconsin and sawmills at Hannibal would mill the lumber and then float it south on the river or ship it by rail to the west. Lumber barons would build their mansions in the town.
But what really makes Hannibal a famous place is Mark Twain. He grew up here and based his book "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" on his childhood growing up in the small town. He writes about many of the superstitions and spiritual beliefs of both the white citizens and those of color, some of whom had been slaves. This is also a river town with lots of limestone. We talked about a limestone cave in Hannibal in Ep. 342 that featured Doctor McDowell who put his daughter in a copper tube in that cave. Mark Twain wrote of this, "There is an interesting cave a mile or two below Hannibal. In my time, the person who then owned it turned it into a mausoleum for his daughter, age 14. The body was put into a copper cylinder filled with alcohol and this was suspended in one of the dismal avenues of the cave. The top of the cylinder was removable, and it was a common thing for the baser order of tourists to drag the dead face into view and examine it and comment upon it." Perhaps because of the river and limestone, there are a few haunted places in this town!
LulaBelle's Bed and Breakfast
LulaBelle's Bed and Breakfast had been a fine dining establishment and bed and breakfast located at 111 Bird Street. It is our understanding that this location closed in 2013. This establishment has an infamous history as a brothel that was built in 1917 and run by a madame who had arrived from Chicago. Her name was Sarah Smith and men could not only enjoy the ladies here, they could gamble and drink during Prohibition. Obviously, this business flourished. When Sarah died in 1932, another madame named Bessie Heolscher bought the bordello and refurbished it, decorating with a lavish Spanish motif. Bessie took good care of her girls and paid well. The ladies here were highly sought out because of their discretion. The ladies were respected in the town and the women were happy to spend their money on the finer things.
Things went well until the early 1950s when local church leaders made it their goal to shut down the brothel and it was plagued with many police raids. Eventually, Mike and Pam Ginsberg bought the property and opened it as LulaBelle's Bed and Breakfast and a fine dining restaurant. The upper floor had six rooms with heart-shaped whirlpool bathtubs and queen-sized beds. The Ginsbergs expanded their business by buying two nearby properties. One they named the Painted Lady with two bedrooms and the Main Street Bed and Breakfast that had three rooms. Business was great for a while and people raved about the food at the restaurant, but eventually the economy just proved too hard to keep the establishment open.
While it was open, there were stories of haunting activity. Guests who stayed on the upper floor claimed to hear disembodied footsteps and voices, to see shadowy and misty forms, to see small balls of light, to have their doors locked and unlocked by something they couldn't see, to be touched and to have furnishings and objects in their rooms moved around. Employees and guests claimed to see a Lady in White as well. One area with a lot of activity was the kitchen. Metal cooking utensils would be moved, equipment would turn on and off by itself, disembodied voices were heard, shadow figures were seen especially out of the corner of the eye and objects were thrown in the kitchen. Spirits have been seen in the mirrors that were in the dining room as well.
The Paranormal Task Force and a crew from KZZK investigated in October of 2008 and they stayed overnight. They reported on their website, "Some heard the voice of a lady who they could not see while others heard unexplained footsteps. Moving areas of notable temperature decreases were also documented along with intelligent interaction by the unseen with an investigator's electromagnetic field (EMF) meter. One investigator was actually touched by the unseen when something softly stroked his arm with that special cold touch. A crew member of the KZZK team actually became so frightened that she ran outside the building screaming! Intelligent communication was also received through an experimental device called the Ovilus, which was being field tested by our team at this location. The words "sex" and "pain" were said by this device multiple times. It even said the name of a KZZK crew member when he was near it on more than one occasion. Multiple Class B and C EVP's were captured."
Java Jive Coffee & Tea Shop
Java Jive Coffee & Tea used to be Java Jive and before that it was Haydon Hardware. And that is what our ghost here seems to be connected to, the hardware store. It was named for Percy Haydon who was the owner and described as a man who was a little gruff and never without a cigar in his mouth, but kind. He loved his store, which he had started in 1919. When he passed away, Jerry Adkins took over the reins and he was the first to start experiencing weird events. He was in the restroom one night when he heard someone walking loudly outside of the door. He thought an employee was fooling around and so he thought he would surprise them by jumping out of the door. He swung the door open and found that there was no one near the restroom. Adkins was closing up one evening with an employee when they heard a really loud sneeze. They looked at each other and realized that neither of them had sneezed. They checked the store for another person even though they knew they were the only ones there and, of course, they were right.
Employees at Haydon’s Hardware heard disembodied footsteps, particularly on the stairway leading to the ground floor and the lights would turn on and off by themselves. Percy seemed to be a prankster and whenever something would go wrong in the store, employees would blame Percy. One such prank disturbed a female employee when she was closing up one night. Her name was repeatedly whispered in her ear. When Java Jive moved into the space, the haunting activity continued. Those employees heard disembodied footsteps too, but their experiences went beyond just Percy. They heard women talking, the laughter of children and music that seemed to belong in a dance hall or saloon. A woman's crying is heard near the restroom. Baristas claim to have been touched by something they can't see on many occasions. The bell at the front counter rings on its own and an employee heard a male voice yell in her ear. The shadow of a large man has been spotted and Percy was said to have been an overweight man. Another employee had her purse disappear when she stopped by one night after hours. She had set it down while she used the restroom. She and her boyfriend looked everywhere for it and eventually found it in a crevice down in the basement.
Garth Woodside Mansion
The Garth Woodside Mansion was built in 1871 and at the time of our recording in September 2021, it was up for sale for $1.9 million, which is down from its original ask of $2.4 million. This is a beautiful Victorian built in the Second Empire Italianate architectural style with a large wraparound veranda. There were originally six buildings on the property, but two were barns that have been torn down. Three cottages on the property were built in the 2000s and the entire property covers 36 acres. Weddings were also hosted here. The mansion was opened as a bed and breakfast in 1987 with 11 rooms in the main house and five in the three cottages. The larger cottage has two fireplaces and the main house had fourteen. Eighty-five percent of the furnishings are original to the house. The most recent owners were John and Julie.
The mansion is named for John Garth. He is thought to be the inspiration behind the character of Tom Sawyer. He was born to John and Emily Garth in Virginia in 1837. The family moved to Hannibal in 1844 where John's father got into the tobacco business. In Hannibal, John met Helen Kercheval and Samuel Clemens. The group were all students at Mrs. Elizabeth Horr’s school and later at that of J. D. Dawson. They remained friends into their adulthood with John and Helen even getting married on October 18, 1860. They had two children, John David and Annie. John went away to college, but returned to help run the tobacco business with his brother after their father died. When the Civil War broke out, the Garths left for New York and stayed there until 1871 with John making a fortune working in banking and manufacturing.
When the Garths returned to Hannibal, John started several businesses and became vice president of the Farmers and Merchants Bank, eventually becoming the president. The Garths purchased a farm southwest of Hannibal and built their summer home there, dubbing it “Woodside.” They raised and bred shorthorn and Jersey cattle. John got into lumber and other business prospects. They exchanged letters with Clemens and hosted him in their home. John was probably one of the boys who provided Clemens with inspiration for the character Tom Sawyer. When Twain's book "Life on the Mississippi" was released, he sent the Garths a copy and John wrote to Twain, “Thanks for the book. Each and every one at Woodside has enjoyed it greatly.” Twain also had a copy of "Huckleberry Finn" sent to the Garths upon its release. John Garth died in 1899 and Helen died in 1923. Helen was successful in her own right, getting involved in the same businesses as her husband and she was even elected to the board of the Farmers and Merchants Bank in 1910 making her the first woman bank director in Hannibal.
Mark Twain wrote in his Autobiography about Garth’s cigars, “In those days the native cigar was so cheap that a person who could afford anything could afford cigars. Mr. Garth had a great tobacco factory and he also had a small shop in the village for the retail sale of his products. He had one brand of cigars which even poverty itself was able to buy. He had these in stock a good many years and although they looked well enough on the outside, their insides had decayed to dust and would fly out like a puff of vapor when they were broken in two. This brand was very popular on account of its extreme cheapness. Mr. Garth had other brands which were cheap and some that were bad, but the supremacy over them enjoyed by this brand was indicated by its name. It was called ‘Garth’s damndest’. We used to trade old newspapers for that brand.”
Mark Twain seems to have really loved visiting this home because his spirit is said to haunt the place. The room that has been named for him is where his apparition is seen most often. There are eerie orbs of light in there and the smell of pipe smoke.
Garden House Bed and Breakfast
The Garden House Bed and Breakfast is part of Hannibal's Millionaire Row. This is a beautiful example of Queen Anne architecture and the house was built in 1895 by Albert Wells Pettibone Jr. who was heir to the Hannibal Saw Mill Co. and the Hannibal Sash and Co. Tragedy struck early for Albert and he died at the age of twenty-nine. The house was then bought in 1905 by Charles H. Trowbridge who owned the Duffy-Trowbridge Stove Manufacturing Co. The house was inherited by his son Charles Albert who lived in it in the 1920s. Will Griswold who was the founder of a furniture store was the next owner, so you can see that this home passed through many hands. The Garden House B&B opened in 2003 featuring old-fashioned feather beds and hand-sewed comforters. Today it is veteran owned and operated by Chris. This B&B was named by the Today Show as one of the top ten places to sleep with a ghost in America. Apparently they investigated the place themselves, but couldn't get their cameras to work in the attic.
The cool thing about this place is that they embrace their spirits even hanging a picture in the dining room the shows a man sitting at a table and what appears to be the ghost of a boy peeking into the side of the picture with just his face visible. The sounds of sawing are heard coming from the basement and the sound of piano music is heard on the first floor. Disembodied voices are heard throughout the house. A ghost hunter witnessed a shadowy figure walk in front of the television while investigating in 2006. Melissa Sexton was a manager at LaBinnah Bistro and she stayed a few nights at the Garden. She ended up leaving the bed and breakfast after a few nights and found lodging elsewhere because of the experiences she was having. She heard disembodied footsteps and smelled men’s cologne. Melissa had her Siberian Husky with her and he clearly started reacting to things she couldn't see. The final straw for Melissa was when she saw what she decribed as a “translucent figure which scrambled away in the kitchen that seemed to bounce off the walls and then to concentrate itself into a blue dot.” She left the bed and breakfast for other lodgings and soon after, left Hannibal.
Arif Dagin stayed at the bed and breakfast and helped out the Innkeeper Chris as an assitant from 2006 to 2010. Arif was left one weekend in charge. There was only one guest that first evening and Arif came down the following morning to find the usually fully set dining room completely amiss with silverware scattered all around the tables. He thought the guest had done it. That guest left and there was a new one that evening. Arif came down the following morning to once again find the dining room messed up and he knew it wasn't possible that he had two guests that rude right in a row. This happened on a third morning and Arif was the only person in the house, so he knew at this point that something weird was going on here.
Arif was home alone again in 2007 and he was awakened after midnight by the sound of footsteps stomping around downstairs. He was scared because he thought someone had broken into the house. Arif locked his bedroom door and grabbed a nearby bottle to use as a weapon. He listened as the footsteps came upstairs and went into the room next to his. He summoned his courage and went out into the hallway. The door was unlocked, so he pushed it open and flipped on the light. There was no one there. Arif called out "hello" and then he searched the room. He found no one in the house and so he returned to his room, but soon heard footsteps running down the stairs. He quickly ran to the stiars and heard the footsteps stop halfway down the stairs. There was no one on the stairs. Arif searched the house and when he went to the front door he found that the screen door was still locked from the inside. When Arif told Chris about this experience, Chris said, "You know that’s the ghost."
Someone wrote in 2019, "My wife and I slept in the West Room at the Garden House in Hannibal Missouri both Thursday and Friday nights February 21 and 22, 2019. Thursday night, both of us woke up hearing men in lengthy conversation in low voices downstairs. We were the only guests in the house and Chris, the proprietor assured us he was not in conversation with anyone that evening. My wife also reported to Chris that there was no spoon at her breakfast place-setting Friday morning...just after being told by Chris that it had been a common occurrence for guests to notice missing pieces of flatware the following morning at breakfast. We never felt threatened in this wonderful period mansion and would definitely like to return for another stay at the Garden House."
Rockcliffe Mansion is a gorgeous Gilded Age estate that sits on a limestone bluff overlooking Hannibal. The mansion was built by St. Louis architectural firm Barnett, Haynes & Barnett for lumber baron John J. Cruikshank, Jr. Construction lasted for two years between 1898 and 1900 and the house was done in the Georgian Revival architectural style. The house features double-bricked walls, so this house was built to last. No expense was spared on the interior. Windows featured Louis Comfort Tiffany stained-glass windows and there were also chandeliers by Tiffany. The fireplaces featured South African pink marble and the walls and stairways featured hand-carved and ornate woodwork made from walnut, mahogany and oak with lemonwood sideboards in the Reception Room. The plumbing fixtures were the finest made and the lighting fixtures were custom-made offering power via both gas and electric. Several rooms had gilded wallpaper and the Green Room had the added touches of gold leaf and garlands, lace and velvet drapes and white onyx around the fireplace. The Music Room had a grand piano on each end.
John lived there with his wife and four daughters until his death in 1924 and then it seems that the family moved out and left the house abandoned. This wonderful mansion sat for 43 years with only a caretaker there. Parts of the house were deteriorating until three families bought it to prevent it from being demolished in 1967. These families restored the house and even got many original pieces from one of the Cruikshank daughters. The mansion was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980 and is open for tours and runs as a bed and breakfast with thirty rooms. It has passed through many hands through the years. There was Mary and Jerry McAvoy, then Ken and Lisa Marks and then Warren Bittner and Juan Ruiz-Bello of Florida who took over in 2010.
There are several spirits at the mansion. The main one belongs to John Cruikshank who died in the house. He appears as a small man wearing a brown felt hat and a period suit with a goatee and mustache. His ghost is seen all over the mansion and many guests report seeing him standing by the bar in the kitchen on the ground floor and floating through the grand music room. One of the first people to see John's ghost was Mary McAvoy who was caretaker at the mansion from 1993 to 2005. She was two years into the job when she was sleeping alone in a second floor guest room. Her husband had lived at the house too, but he was away on a trip. She heard someone open the door to the servant's entrance and she sat up and looked at the clock. It was 2am. She then heard footsteps walking up the back staircase and heading to John's old room. There was no one else in the mansion when she checked. This routine has happened several times in the house and people figure John is returning to the large canopy bed where he breathed his last breath. Many times tour guides come into the house in the morning and when they check the bed, they find the impression of a person left on the bed they had fluffed the night before.
Another spirit here is said to belong to Mark Twain. This is not an apparition that appears, but rather manifests in the odor of cigar smoke. Guides claim that sometimes they have to leave the room because the scent is so strong. Twain was only at the mansion once and that was in 1902 to deliver his "Farewell to Hannibal" speech. So it seems a bit strange that Twain would haunt this place as he was only there a brief time. And clearly, other people probably smoked cigars in this house. Perhaps this is something residual.
Ken and Lisa Marks have written the book Haunted Hannibal and they purchased Rockcliffe. Their experiences started almost immediately. They were careful to lock all the doors because lots of curious people would stop by the mansion. So they were perplexed when they started hearing doors slamming downstairs when they were on the second floor sleeping. These weren't just regular slams either. They were really loud as though the door was opening as wide as possible and then slamming shut. Other times they would be downstairs and hearing furniture moving upstairs and disembodied footsteps. One of the tour guides told the Marks that she had seen the ghost of John three times. Two times were very brief glimpses, but the third one lingered. John was standing by the pantry and then slowly disappeared and that is how the guide knew this was not a real man.
Lisa tells the following story in Alan Brown's "Ghosts Along the Mississippi River, "We were in the office one night and we heard a crashing sound. It took us twenty minutes of searching to find out what had happened. In the girls' bedroom is a closet containing a lot of dresses. We had placed a vase of artificial flowers on a shelf in the closet. When we walked into the room, we saw where the vase had shattered. But it wasn't like it had just fallen off the shelf in the closet. It fell into the room several feet away from the closet. I picked up the pieces of glass and put them at the base of the oak tree just outside the door, almost like an offering." The Marks have had guests leave in the middle of the night because they were scared by phantom music playing or ghostly footsteps.
When Alan stayed with his wife Marilyn at Rockcliffe, she had an experience. She got up to use the restroom around 2am. She returned to bed and heard footsteps out in the hallway. The kinds of steps that a child would make or possibly a woman. They were not heavy. And then the doorknob started to rattle. Marilyn decided not to open the door. They had been the only guests at the bed and breakfast and Lisa told them that it wasn't her or Ken either.
Hannibal has its mysterious caves and historic locations infused with history. Many think that this is one really haunted little town. Are these locations in Hannibal, Missouri haunted? That is for you to decide!