Thursday, December 2, 2021

HGB Ep. 412 - Haunted Anchorage

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Moment in Oddity - Mycenaean Bridge of Kazarma (Suggested by: Chelsea Flowers)

Between the Acropolis of Mycenae and the plain of Nafplio, the Mycenaean civilization built 17 bridges that earned them a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. The most well known is the Mycenaean Bridge of Kazarma, which dates to 1300 BC. This is the oldest preserved bridge in Europe. It is located in the village of Arkadiko in Greece and is one of the most important monuments of the civilization. The bridge features a single arch and was built from large raw limestone boulders and there is no binder. The construction method is known as Cyclopean Masonry. The bridge is completely stable and has lasted for hundreds of years due to the weight of the limestone boulders and their symmetrical placement towards the vertical axis of the bridge. The sophisticated layout of the bridge featuring curbs, along with the military road network, have led historians to believe these were made specifically for chariots. This world record breaking bridge is not only still functional, but it certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Suez Canal Opens

In the month of November, on the 17th, in 1869, the Suez Canal opens. The Ottoman governor of Egypt, Muhammad Sa'id Pasha, came to an agreement with then former French consul to Cairo, Ferdinand de Lesseps, in 1854 to build a canal 100 miles across the Isthmus of Suez. The construction began in 1859 under the Suez Canal Company. In the beginning, forced laborers had to dig out the canal by hand, but eventually European workers brought steam shovels and dredgers. The canal was completed four years behind schedule - and you complain because your kitchen remodel took an extra couple of months. When it was completed, the Suez Canal connected the Mediterranean and the Red Seas. The inaugural ceremony was attended by French Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III. The Suez Canal Company was formed and granted the right to operate the canal for 99 years after completion of the work. Later control of the canal would switch hands between Britain and Egypt and faced a shutdown during hostilities between Egypt and Israel. Peace talks in 1975 reopened the Suez Canal. Today, dozens of ships navigate the canal daily, carrying more than 300 million tons of goods a year. 

Haunted Anchorage  

Alaska is a land just ripe for hauntings. Darkness cloaks the land for much of the year and thick pine forests spread across the expanse. There are legends that have filtered down through the various cultures and time periods, passed around by the Inuit, the gold miners, the trappers, the explorers or the soccer moms. Anchorage grew from a tent city to a major American city. The city has experienced much history and this may be why several locations here are rumored to be haunted. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Anchorage, Alaska!

The Alutiiq People were the first to live at the Cook Inlet. They arrived via large kayaks around 5,000 years ago. Several groups of Alutiiq followed them over the next 3,000 years. The Chugach Alutiiq were the last of that group and they left the area in 500 AD. The Dena'ina Athabaskans came through the mountain passes and they migrated throughout Alaska based on the seasons, usually wintering near trading junctions. The Ahtna tribe was also in the area. The first European to arrive was Captain James Cook. He was seeking the Northwest Passage and ended up in the inlet between two landmarks he would name Mount St. Augustine and Cape Douglas. He anchored his ship there and called it Anchor Point for that reason. This would eventually become Anchorage. Cook went on to map the Alaskan coastline. He named many of the areas and they still have those names today.  

Alaska would become an American territory in 1867 when U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward brokered a deal to purchase Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million. Many people called this "Seward's Folly," but he was laughing later when gold was discovered in 1888. Alaska became an organized US territory in 1912. Surprisingly, the area surrounding Anchorage wasn't any good for mining because there are no significant metal minerals. So the city actually grew from a need for the railroad. This railroad construction began in 1914. The workers built a tent city as they worked on the railroad. A couple hundred families from northern states in the continental US were offered land and a chance to be part of an agricultural community in Anchorage. Many didn't make it for long and left, but some thrived and those farms still are around today.

One of the business men in Anchorage was Simeon Esia, who was known as Basdut or Chief Ezi. He was a respected Dena'ina Athabascan Indian elder who was born in 1870. He was one of the last recognized chiefs of upper Cook Inlet. Large ships in Anchorage needed to get their supplies across the water to the smaller communities of Cook Inlet, so Basdut started using a small boat to deliver those supplies. He became a rich man, but not because of that business. His son told the story that floods came to their area often and one time a store drifted on to Fire Island, bringing with it a safe that got buried under the sand. Basdut's wife was the daughter of a powerful medicine man and he told Basdut to go out onto the sand with a pole and prod where he told him. Basdut did that and found the safe filled with twenty-dollar gold pieces. He packed that gold home in several loads. He held a feast for his community after this called a potlatch. This is a true historical account, but there are many legends connected to the Inuit people of Anchorage.

Inuit legends have been used both to entertain and to instruct. Inuit mythology embraces the belief that their are multiple worlds that are a part of our planet. Worlds exist inside the Earth - very similar to Hollow Earth Theories that still exist today. Worlds lie beneath the sea and in the sky. These indigineous people have shaman or what they call angakoks that are able to journey to these worlds in dreams and trances. Some of these places are a part of the afterlife as well. A prominent Inuit legend tells the story of the Sea Goddess Sedna, who is also known by the names Taleelayuk, Nuliayuk and Taluliyuk. This is a creation myth and Sedna becomes the ruler of the Inuit underworld known as Adlivun. How she comes to this position is interesting. She apparently was a giant and the daughter of the creator-god Anguta. Sedna is not a nice girl and has a pretty bad temper. She eventually attacks her parents and so Anguta takes her out in a kayak and throws her overboard. Sedna clings to the side of the kayak, so Anguta cuts her fingers off and she sinks down to the underworld. Her fingers turn into seals and walruses. Inuit hunters depend on Sedna's goodwill to give them success in hunting for food. They offer broken knives, bones and pieces of meat into the sea for her.

Qayaq is a legendary hero who is a wanderer using a kayak or dog sled to travel. He encounters bears, sea monsters, giants, spirits and cannibals along his way. Qayaq has supernatural powers that he uses to defeat these creatures. He has lived a long time and had many lives. The legend of Lumiuk tells the story of a young boy who was abused and lost his sight. He seeks refuge in the sea and is befriended by a loon. The loon tells him to hold onto his back and he pulls the boy through the water. The loon instructs Lumiak to keep his eyes open and when they emerge from the water, the boy can see.

There are many supernatural beings that are part of the Inuit myths as well. Scaly, human-like creatures that kidnap children and drag them into the sea are known as Oallupilluk. The Mahaha is a demon that terrorizes its victims by tickling them to death. The Inupasugjuk are giants who kidnap humans and Ijiraat are shapeshifters that can change into animals of the Arctic. Their giveaway is their red eyes. And the Taqriaqsuit are shadow people that are heard more often than they are seen. Along with the legends of the land are stories of hauntings. Here are some of the places that are reputedly haunted in Anchorage.

Oscar Anderson House

The first wood-frame house in Anchorage was built in 1915 at 420 M Street and it still stands today as a museum. This was built by Anchorage resident Oscar Anderson, the town's first butcher. Oscar had arrived from Sweden, stopping first in Seattle and making his way to Seward and finally to the settlement on Ship Creek. He was a pioneer here being the eighteenth person to arrive. In his account he wrote, "Everyone talked about the new settlement starting across Cook Inlet from Knik. I had to find a way to cross over, which was no easy matter, as there was a lot of ice on the Inlet and no one wanted to risk it. Finally, a 19-year-old youth who had a boat volunteered to row me across. It was no pleasure trip. At one point, the boy fell in the water. We pulled onto a large block of ice. I took out some dry clothes from my suitcase and we changed his clothes. After that, I had to finish rowing." He lived in it until 1974 when he died at the age of 91. 

The house has been restored to its 1915 appearance. Oscar's widow, Elizabeth, moved to Washington after selling the house and she was thrilled when she heard stories that people believed the house was haunted. Oscar had loved this home and she said he would never want to leave and the paranormal activity proved that. The first people to report activity were a young couple who moved into the house right after Oscar died. They heard disembodied footsteps coming from upstairs. Later, they couldn't open the door to his old room. Eventually they wedged it open enough to see that a chest had slid in front of the door, blocking it from opening. Adam wrote on TripAdvisor, "I went there years ago. It's a nice little house, some interest'n old stuff. When I was taken up stairs I shot a photo from one room into the other room. I did not see anyth'n when I was there but when I got my photo, there was an image of a man about the size of Oscar."

Snow City Cafe

Snow City Cafe is located on 4th Avenue and opened in 1998. This is a breakfast, lunch and brunch place. The Anchorage Ghost Tour kicks off from this spot. Rick Goodfellow, who founded the tour, says of this location, "The short story is that a very prominent woman of her day, in 1976, was killed by a car bomb. She was a travel agent, and in those days, there was no Snow City. Her office was where Snow City is today." This woman now haunts the location and according to Goodfellow, she is friendly. She likes to pull pranks during food prep and plays with turning off and on the water. 

Briana Goldman was a Front of House Supervisor at Snow City and she had an experience with the female ghost. She said, "There's so much daylight at that time of the year, but I came in about 20 minutes early that day. I was just like, yes, it's beautiful, I can get some things done early. And then I hear someone laughing. I heard a cabinet close in the back, by the bathroom. And I was just like, 'Is someone here?'" There was no other employee at the restaurant and she was really creeped out.

The Hotel Captain Cook

Kelly took the Ghost Tours of Anchorage tour and they stopped at the Hotel Captain Cook. The hotel was built in 1964 by Alaskan governor Walter J. Hickel. An earthquake had leveled much of Anchorage and Hickel saw this as an opportunity. The hotel originally had only one tower, but a second and third tower were added in the 1970s. The hotel has 546 rooms and is a member of Historic Hotels of America. This is usually the second stop on the ghost tour and Goodfellow believes that there is a spirit at this hotel that is very territorial and that territory encompasses...the ladies' restroom, of course. As Goodfellow tells it, "The operations manager told me why there's one stall that's always locked: It's because there was a suicide in there shortly after that tower, Tower 2, was opened. She gets into bad moods sometimes. Over the course of Ghost Tours, I've seen her go from very quiescent for months, until she's very active night after night after night." People have even passed out in the restroom, near the stall.

The story goes that a woman was really upset about something and took a gun with her into the posh and elegantly decorated restroom. Out of the several black stalls in here she chose the last stall on the left - how fitting! This stall is now permanently latched because it is reputed to be quite haunted. The female spirit usually appears as a woman in white. Not only has her apparition been seen in that bathroom and particularly in that stall, but there is a great sense of unease in that stall. Some women have become violently ill when in the restroom and others have fainted. The stall walls have been shaken violently and women have been touched, sometimes feeling as though something is grabbing their ankles. After a few too many of these more violent experiences, management decided to make the stall off-limits and that is why it is latched.

Historic Anchorage Hotel 

This hotel was built in 1916 at the corner of 3rd Avenue and E Street, so it is over 100 years old. This was a posh place with meals served on fine china with beautiful linens and real silver utensils. By 1936, the hotel needed to expand to accommodate all the tourists traveling to the city of Anchorage. The Anchorage Hotel Annex was built at that time across the alleyway on 3rd Avenue. To connect the two buildings, a sky bridge was constructed. Celebrities and dignitaries stayed here including Wiley Post, mountain man Bob Marshall, artist Sydney Lawrence who actually lived at the hotel and had his studio in the lobby and Will Rogers. The boom time dissipated over time and the original structure was sold and razed. The Annex building still operated as a hotel, but over time it fell into disrepair and changed names frequently. New life was breathed into it in 1989 when it fell under new ownership. Extensive renovations were done and it was reopened as The Historic Anchorage Hotel.

The hotel embraces its reputation of being haunted. Ghost stories have been told about the hotel for years. Pictures are said to come off the walls and fly across rooms. The curtains seem to move on their own. One of the ghosts here is believed to be Anchorage’s first Chief of Police, Jack Sturgus. Just outside the hotel, he was found shot in the back by his own gun. This happened on February 20, 1921. He never got justice and perhaps that is why he remains. There are other spirits here and the hotel even keeps a log to track guests' experiences.

Our Lady in White is seen here and she is, of course, in a wedding dress. The story here is that she was set to wed in the 1920s, but he jilted her the day of the wedding. Apparently, he struck it rich in the gold fields and took off. She hanged herself in her wedding dress and is now said to walk the hallways. The front desk has often gotten complaints about children running around in the hallways making a bunch of noise. Every time the staff has gone to find the kids, they find none. They usually find that no one has registered with any children with them. Another child ghost has been reported hiding in a closet in 2011. The guest claimed they opened the closet door and the child smiled at them and then disappeared. The children could be connected to an outbreak of influenza in 1938 that killed a large group of children. They died in a building that had been nearby. Some people think they might have played at the hotel and that's why they returned here. 

One time hotel manager, Terri Russi, was working the front desk when she witnessed a shadowy figure in a white dress reflecting in a mirror that was in front of her. She spun around to see what had just walked behind her and there was nothing but a picture behind her. But she knew she saw a figure pass behind her. She also had a shared experience with a guest that was reported in The Anchorage Daily News in 2004, "Later on in the week, a boyfriend of an employee passed the time with a self-guided tutorial on how to tie a tie. He was seated in a chair next to the narrow lobby fireplace, with Russi, again, behind the front desk. As he practiced, a framed picture of notable Alaskan artist Sydney Laurence spontaneously catapulted itself from the mantel across the room, shattering a glass coffee table on impact. Russi was stunned. Assuming it was an earthquake, she looked around to see what else was shaking. The chandelier was still. The room was quiet. The man turned to her, his untied tie hanging from his neck, and casually suggested, 'Maybe it's your ghost.'" Another male ghost likes to latch onto certain guests and then follows them around throughout their stay.

Anchorage has a long history, much of which is filled with legend. It's not surprising that the city has places connected to ghost stories. Are these places in Anchorage haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, November 18, 2021

HGB Ep. 411 - Miss Molly's Bed and Breakfast

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Moment in Oddity - Yemen's Well of Hell

There is a peculiar hole in the al-Mahra province of Yemen known as the Well of Barhout, but most people call it the Well of Hell. For years, locals have claimed that this is a gateway to the underworld and that the Djinn live within the depths. The truth is that this is a natural sinkhole and in September of 2021, 10 explorers made their way all the way to the bottom. The explorers found dead animals, snakes, frogs, beetles, waterfalls and stalagmites. Another claim about the hole is that it is part of a supervolcano that could one day wipe out the Earth, similar to the one that is claimed to be below Yellowstone National Park. The explorers found no evidence for that either. The most unusual find were cave pearls, which are very unique and rare because they need a completely flat surface in order to form. These are formed when dripping or flowing water gathers around a nucleus of loose material and deposits minerals in concentric layers. Since the nucleus is loose, the shape of a pearl forms. The Well of Hell may not be a prison for the Djinn, but it certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Lawrence Joel Awarded Medal of Honor

In the month of November, on the 8th, in 1965, Lawrence Joel was awarded the Medal of Honor, becoming the first living person of color to do that since the Spanish-American War. Lawrence Joel was serving as a medic with the 1st Battalion, 503rd Airborne Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade during the Vietnam War. He was with his unit in the Iron Triangle northwest of Saigon when his heroism earned him the medal. The unit was outnumbered and under heavy assault and Specialist Joel received a severe leg wound. This didn't stop him from taking care of his wounded comrades and he continued his work despite being hit a second time with a bullet lodging into his lung. He didn't stop treating the wounded until his evacuation was ordered. President Lyndon B. Johnson presented the Medal of Honor to Specialist Joel on March 9, 1967, at the White House.

Miss Molly's Bed and Breakfast (Suggested by: Amy Martinez)

Miss Molly's Bed and Breakfast has been on the suggestions list for quite a while and we decided to produce it now because our longtime listener and Executive Producer Amy Martinez's daughter recently visited the location and had a chance to investigate. A sign outside one of the rooms reads, "Street ladies bringing in sailors must pay for room in advance." So clearly, this wasn't always a simple little hotel. This was once a brothel and many of the spirits from that time back in the early 1900s are still sticking around the bed and breakfast. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Miss Molly's Bed and Breakfast!

The most famous and popular spot in Fort Worth, Texas is the Stockyards. This is a National Historical District in what was once dubbed "Cowtown" because four million head of cattle were driven through here between 1866 and 1890. When the railroad came to town, it only made sense to establish Fort Worth as a shipping point for livestock and the Union Stockyards were built. Wealthy Boston businessman Greenleif Simpson decided to invest in the stockyard and he renamed it the Fort Worth Stockyards Company. Simpson sought out other investors and one man he approached suggested that they build meat packing plants in the city, rather than shipping the cattle off to other markets. Two large meat packing plants would be built around 1900. Around this time, the Wall Street of the West would be built too, which was the Livestock Exchange Building that housed the railroad offices, telegraph offices and livestock commission companies. In 1907, the Cowtown Coliseum was built for rodeos and stock shows.

In 1911, the Stockyards became their own city known as Niles City, which eventually was annexed into Fort Worth. Droughts, floods and fires would come. The Stockyards would be rebuilt with flame-resistant materials. The business prospered through it all until World War II. At this time in America, the railway business was in decline and the highway system was growing with a trucking business that made small stockyards and meat packers able to pull business their way. The first meat packing plant, Armour, closed in 1962 and the other, Swift, closed in 1971. In 1976, the district earned protection and restoration began on various landmarks with the Exchange Building becoming a museum in 1989. The area has become a shopping and dining district with the Star Cafe in the midst of it and the restaurant has Miss Molly's Bed and Breakfast located above the eatery.

The building that houses the bed and breakfast today was built in 1910 as a high-class boarding house and was called The Palace Rooms. By the time Prohibition rolled around, the building had changed hands and reopened as The Oasis with rooms and a speakeasy. The authorities looked the other way most of the time, but there was the occasional raid. The nice boarding house was gone by the 1940s and replaced with a bordello called The Gavatte Hotel. All types came through from cowboys to businessmen to real shady types. Eventually, Texas outlawed prostitution and the building was on the market once again. It reopened as the Star Cafe on the ground floor and Miss Molly's Bed and Breakfast on the upper floor.

The Bed and Breakfast has eight rooms with one communal bathroom. The former madame's room is known as Miss Josie's Room and this has its on private bath. The other rooms are Cowboys, Miss Amelia, Cattlemen's, Rodeo, Gunslinger and Railroader. The rooms are decorated in a manner that takes one back with lace curtains, antique oak furniture and historic quilts, iron beds and shutters. Miss Josie's Room has elegant Victorian decor with elaborate wall coverings and window dressing and the ceiling is draped fabric. The bathrooms have iron tubs, pedestal sinks and pull-chain toilets.

Stories of unexplained experiences have plagued this location for years and many claim that it is one of the most haunted spots in Texas. Guests and employees claim to see shadow figures and to feel cold spots. The scent of perfume is on the air occasionally. Coins apport into rooms that have been cleaned. Belongings disappear or are moved around and found in odd places. Sometimes after they disappear, they reappear in the spot from which they had been missing. Toilets flush on their own, lights turn on and off by themselves and doors lock and unlock by themselves. Sometimes doors won't open as if blocked by an unseen force. A reporter staying overnight once awoke to find a beautiful blonde woman sitting on the edge of the bed. There is a young girl's spirit that has appeared in the private rooms of the owners. She appears to be around eight-years-old.

Innkeeper Paula Gowins told CBS 11, "I’ve had many reports from the guests of seeing things: transparencies, smoky apparitions. Like in this room, Ms. Josie King was the last madam. She had been sighted many times, usually at 3:00 in the morning at the foot of the bed watching the people sleep. (We) only had one couple jump out of bed.”

Texpart Paranormal LLC had investigated at Miss Molly's in November of 2008. They have great notes on their website about that investigation. One passage reads, "Entered room 5 at 8:08 PM we encountered a female spirit who was 42 yrs of age and she believed the current year was 1946. She said she entertained men in this bedroom. This female spirit thought she was still alive. After initial connection with the spirit my hair in the back of my head was caress. At one point Rosie’s right elbow was touched. She mentioned she was upset that her daughter was not with her. She stated that her grandparents raised her daughter who is still alive and that she was there waiting for her daughter. At one point she laid down in the bed in front of us. We did not find out what her name was. We exited the room at 8:30 PM." Another says, "Investigators reported hearing loud talking and clanking of dishes below them. Interestingly enough, they heard these noises at approximately 9:30 pm and the business below had closed at 7:00 p.m. Upon inspection, no one was left in that business to make such noises. Both investigators also reported hearing someone talking, walking around and shutting doors in room number 8 next to them. No one was ever- at any time in room number 8. It was shut off as a control room for recording." 

Amy shared in the Spooktacular Crew: My daughter and her fiancé took his little girl to Miss Molly’s, a haunted hotel, in the Fort Worth Stockyards last night. His 9-yr-old is into that which make her my kindred spirit. Anyway, Ross (the fiancé) lost his dad a few years ago. I get this text from my daughter this morning:


Jayde and Ross talk about the spirits of two little boys and how they seem to be able to leave the room they usually occupy, while the other spirits seem to stick to just the one room they always occupy. And they also relate how the madame would occasionally lock girls in closets. (Jayde Ghosts) They mentioned the cowboy Jake and how his spirit manifests too. He is known to hang out in the stockyards in multiple places. The innkeeper Carey thinks her brother is there and protecting the little girl spirit named Emily and one guest even felt hands closing around his neck one time!

Even though many claim that the spirits are not evil here, that hasn't always been the case and Jayde and Ross shared these experiences from the Innkeeper and a housekeeper at Miss Molly's. (Jayde 2)

Jayde and Ross decide that they want to do some investigating and they borrow equipment from the innkeeper. And what happens reminds us of being at the Clay County Jail where the woman named Joe that was with us seemed to have the spirit of her father there. (Jayde 3) A couple things that didn’t make it onto this recording was Ross asked his dad if he was happy and the answer was yes. Then he asked “do you miss us?” and Charlie said “no.” So Ross asked, “is that because you’re always with us?” And Charlie said “yes.” Ross also said that his Mom said there were things moving around behind them and he mentions a picture of an orb going into him. Amy sent that pic and we'll see if we can upload it to Instagram. Normally, we would just be like, this is a dust orb or something, but because of what is going on with the communication and his Mom seeing stuff, maybe this orb was paranormal in nature.

Karen wrote on TripAdvisor, "OMG - I stayed there Friday night and what a night it was! I saw a door move even with the door stop on. We listened to white noise and spirits spoke through the white noise and guessed cards that we picked from a deck. I saw an orb or something follow one of the young girls that was staying with her Grandmother. You've got to see the little bear. When it's turned on and you touch it, it speaks.... well, it was speaking without anyone touching it! I would recommend anyone that is interested in the hereafter to check it out!! Shelly was awesome. She stayed the night with us along with a couple other ghost hunters. Check it out! There are no TVs or phones in the hotel. It truly is like stepping back in time. Do not expect to sleep too much as there is activity all night long."

Mamie wrote on TripAdvisor, "My friend and I decided to stay at Miss Molly’s because of its close proximity to the nightlife and also because we had heard of the ghost stories. We stayed in the Cowboy Room and were the only guests there that night. Within the first 10 minutes of being there we had the cowboy room door close on us and the closet doorknob rattle when I made a joke about wanting my friend to go open the closet door. We immediately went to dinner and when we came back our keys were moved across the room. From then on we knew the ghosts were definitely just pranksters. Later we found the leather review book that people write in and started reading their stories on the couch and kept hearing banging and shuffling in the 2nd bathroom. We never checked because we were chicken but we later found it that someone was found stabbed in the bathtub a long time ago."

dancepatti wrote on TripAdvisor, "Miss Molly's is a cozy old bed and breakfast (they do NOT serve breakfast anymore so perhaps it is a BED and BATH now). We stayed because we wanted to stay in a haunted hotel and we got our wish. We stayed in room #3 one bed had a spirit sit on it in the middle of the night, the other bed was shaken by a spirit in the middle of the night. The cowboy room gave a good scare as we entered it the door slammed on us- and I do mean slammed. Later our inferred picture showed a silhouette of a cowboy by the furthest bed. It was an exciting night!"

Former brothels have a tendency to be haunted because of the nature of the business and the violent history that can be connected to them. We don't know much about that history here, but clearly there are some unexplained things happening here. And on top of that, it seems that Ross got the opportunity to talk to his father through the veil. Good golly is Miss Molly's Bed and Breakfast haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, November 11, 2021

HGB Ep. 410 - Cerro Gordo Ghost Town

Moment in Oddity - The Steamboat Arabia

The Arabia Steamboat Museum is found in Missouri and remembers the Steamboat Arabia tragedy. The Steamboat Arabia was built in Pennsylvania in 1853. The steamboat spent its time transporting passengers along the Missouri River and she also carried cargo like merchandise for stores and the mail. The Arabia didn't  work very long as she sank on September 5, 1856. The Missouri River was a treacherous river and one of the biggest dangers were fallen trees that were hard to see because they would lie just under the surface of the water. On that fateful day, the Arabia hit one of those trees and sank in a matter of minutes. The 150 passengers and crew on board managed to make it to safety, so no one died. Over time, the Missouri River shifted. That didn't reveal the Arabia though as it had sunk 45 feet underground. A group of four men led an effort in 1988 to excavate the steamboat and they found a large collection of pre-Civil War artifacts and glass bottles that still held their contents. Some of those contents were preserved pie fruit and pickles. One of the excavators ate some of the preserved pickles and found them to not only be edible, but still fresh and that, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Sistine Chapel Opens to the Public

In the month of November, on the 1st, in 1512, the Sistine Chapel ceiling opens to the public. The Sistine Chapel is the chief consecrated space in the Vatican and someone very talented was needed to paint frescoes on the ceiling. Michelangelo, the greatest Italian Renaissance artist in human history, got the call from Rome in 1508. He had started his life in art at the age of thirteen working as an artist's apprentice. His talent was soon discovered and nurtured. Michelangelo crafted such works as the Pieta and David before he was called to paint the ceiling of the chapel. The frescoes he created were epic and featured nine panels of Biblical history, starting with The Creation of the World. Other panels feature the Creation of Adam with God and Adam stretching their arms out towards each other, the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden and Noah and the Flood. Figures from the Old Testament can be found along the sides of the panels and Michelangelo used fictive architectural molding and supporting statues to pull everything together. The work took four years to complete and is a masterpiece.

Cerro Gordo Ghost Town (Suggested by: Julie Shjandemaar)

The ghost town of Cerro Gordo is found in California's Inyo Mountains. This fairly prosperous mining town was established in the mid-1800s and had been mostly abandoned for decades. New life was breathed into it recently after being purchased in 2018 for almost $1.5 million. This mining camp had been a dangerous place to live. People died from gunfights, disease and mining accidents. And now it would seem that spirits still remain because of all those deaths. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Cerro Gordo Ghost Town!

Cerro Gordo was founded in 1865.  The name in Spanish means “fat hill" and the peak sits eight miles east and 5,000 feet above Owens Lake, which had actually been a lake at one time, but is dried up now. Pablo Flores is credited with discovering silver ore here and he began mining and smelting operations. Growth for the mining town was slow as Native American populations kept people from coming. Fort Independence was built nearby and the soldiers here expelled the Native American populations. Everything was very primitive with this early operation. The ore was smelted in adobe ovens. Another miner named Jose Ochoa was pulling as much as 1.5 tons of ore out of the San Lucas Mine every 12 hours. As word about the silver ore got out, more miners came. 

The quality of the ore caught the attention of a Quebec-born sutler at Fort Independence named Victor Beaudry. He was a businessman and he decided to open a general store in the town. Beaudry was a smart man and he would trade provisions with the miners in exchange for portable silver and lead that the miners had smelted together. Beaudry also extended credit to the miners and this enabled him to eventually foreclose on their claims and he soon owned most of the Cerro Gordo mines. This included a half-interest in the largest, the Union, perched above the camp. Beaudry built two modern smelters in the town with his money as well.

The road in and out of the town became treacherous with bandits waiting to grab ore from miners heading down into other towns. Tiburcio Vasquez was a highwayman who worked in California from 1854 to 1874 and the Vasquez Rocks north of Los Angeles was a frequent hideout for him and so they named this for him. He was a real ladies man and considered handsome and a great dancer. His trademark was to bind the hands of his victims and leave them face down in the dirt. Vasquez was captured in 1874, tried and sentenced to hang. This execution took place on March 19, 1875. He had a lieutenant named Cleovaro Chavez and they would stop people to ask for "tolls." This became a lucrative business with dozens of teamster teams taking the route to Los Angeles with ore and then back to Cerro Gordo with liquor and sundries. The teamsters would try to warn each other if they ran into bandits and some would stash the ore along the road to come back for later. Vasquez and his crew left the area after stopping a stage coach near Cerro Gordo and shooting and wounding a man.

In April 1868, mining engineer Mortimer Belshaw arrived from San Francisco with plans to build a smelter. He bought a one-third interest in the mountain's largest galena lode, which is silver-bearing lead ore. Many of the mines, including the large Union Mine, were tapped into this vein of silver ore. He and his business partner Abner B. Elder built the Yellow Grade Road that led up to the mines. He also built the Belshaw House, a two-bedroom, 1-bathroom house that still stands in the mining camp and has served a variety of purposes from a private residence to a bed-and-(cook-your-own)-breakfast that sleeps up to five. Belshaw and Elder found a third partner, President of the California Paper Company Egbert Judson, and they formed the Union Mining Company. The group went forward with building a steam powered smelter and ran the thing 24/7. The smelter produced 120 silver and lead ingots a day, each weighing 85 pounds.

At this point, Beaudry and Belshaw were in competition, but they realized if they worked together, they could control the whole town. They produced so much ore that it couldn't be hauled down the mountain fast enough. Remi Nadeau was a French Canadian freighter they hired to haul the ore to Los Angeles in a trek that took three weeks. The ore would be separated at the refinery in Los Angeles.

As the town grew into a boomtown, trouble came with it and law enforcement tended to stay away from the town, which had about 5,000 residents at its height. There was at least one murder every week and shootouts were a normal occurrence. The danger was so bad that miners would stack sandbags in their beds in order to take the impact of stray bullets that might be flying when they were sleeping. A horrible mining accident happened in the 1870s when a mine collapsed and trapped around 30 Chinese miners. They were never rescued and are still buried underground. 

A man named James Brady took over the shipping contract in 1871 and he had a new method. He had established the town of Swansea on the east side of Qwens Lake and launched an 85-foot steamer he named Bessie Brady after his daughter. This saved at least two days in transport, so more money was being made. At least for a little while. Rain is not a usual thing in California, but at this time, torrential rains fell and Brady fell behind. Then Brady and Belshaw got into a fight over mining rights that ended up in court. Brady won, but he lost the shipping contract. Nadeau took over the freight again in 1873, but he wanted in on the action this time and so he was made a full partner in a freighting company they called Cerro Gordo Freighting Co. It was also decided to build stations along the route to make the trip easier.

Belshaw and Beaudry were considered Bullion Kings at the height of the mines' output. In total, the mines produced $17 million in silver and lead ore. That equates to $400 million in today's dollars. The mining industry helped to build Los Angeles. It's sad to think that this town became a mostly forgotten ghost town after spending nearly $350,000 on local farmers feed crops like barley and hay. The town was diverse with a large mix of Hispanics, Chinese, Whites and Native American, most of whom worked the mines for $4 a day and had a life expectancy of five years. John Simpson and his wife had built the American Hotel in 1871, there were two dance hall/brothels, blacksmiths, assay offices, a couple of general stores, saloons, restaurants and bunkhouses. Interestingly though, there were no schools, churches or a jail. 

Commerce slowed down in 1877 when the Union burned down. It was rebuilt, but left Belshaw in debt and he shut down his furnace and cut the pay to $3 a day. Many miners left and the Union closed down in 1879, Beaudry shut down his furnace after that and sent the last shipment of ore in November of 1879. Beaudry died in 1888 and Belshaw died in 1898. The best story is Nadeau's. He was smart and invested his money in wine grapes, barley and sugar beets. He bought land in downtown Los Angeles and built the Nadeau Hotel in 1886. This hotel was demolished in 1932 and a new building was built that is the Los Angeles Times Building that is part of Times Mirror Square today. 

Interesting story connected to this location from Haunted Places by Dennis William Hauck:

This wasn't the end for Cerro Gordo. Low grade silver ore continued to be pulled from the area mines into the 20th Century. High-grade zinc ore was discovered in 1907 in the Union Mine and a different kind of smelter was built at the base of the mountain and the ore was moved in buckets on a cable tramway. The operation was slightly successful until Louis D. Gordon bought the title and incorporated the Cerro Gordo Mines Co. Business started booming as 20 tons of zinc ore were mined daily. The ore was shipped via railway to the United States Smelting and Refining Co. in Utah for processing. Silver and lead were still being pulled between 1911 and 1919. Many of the tunnels were extended and while they aren't safe to enter now, there are 37 miles of tunnels snaking through the mountain.

American Smelting of Utah took over the mines from Gordon in the 1920s and then the U.S. Army came during World War II to get zinc out of the mines for the war effort. The zinc was used to make pennies because the copper was needed for war equipment. The pennies were steel and coated with the zinc to prevent rust. By 1959, the mines were no longer in use. W.C. Riggs had bought the property after the war and he hired a woman named Barbara and her boyfriend to work as caretakers. Barbara had previously worked for RKO Pictures and had been married to an assistant director. So apparently she ran away to a ghost town with her boyfriend. Riggs went bankrupt and didn't pay the couple, so they took him to court and were awarded ownership of Cerro Gordo in 1949. Eventually the boyfriend died and Barbara married Jack Smith. They sold the property to Jack Smith's niece Jody Stewart and she and her husband Mike began restoring the buildings and turning the ghost town into a tourist attraction.

They turned the general store into a museum and reopened the American Hotel. The Belshaw House was turned into a bed and breakfast where the guests make their own breakfast. A bunkhouse dating to 1904 was also opened as a place for up to 12 guests to bunk. In 2001, Jody died and Mike followed in 2009 and Mike's son Sean Patterson inherited the property. Sean hired a caretaker to continue the restoration and give tours. On July 13, 2018, a man named Brent Underwood spent $1.4 million to purchase Cerro Gordo along with some partners. There were twenty-two structures still standing of the 500 that were once here. These included the mining operation, Belshaw House, the American Hotel, a general store, an assayer’s office and Lola’s Palace of Pleasure. Underwood is the current owner and actually spent part of the pandemic snowed in on the property.

Underwood has spent 2020 and 2021 exploring his ghost town and refurbishing buildings. He has rappelled 1,100 feet underground into the tunnels and posted the videos on YouTube. Many parts of the Union Mine hadn't been seen in decades and Underwood found lots of artifacts in the mines and in the town. Many of these items told the story of the miner's lives. There were love letters, mining claims tobacco tins, old newspapers, divorce settlements and bank documents. There was even still some dynamite down in the mines. Things were really moving along for Underwood until tragedy struck. The historic American Hotel, the Crapo House and the Ice House at Cerro Gordo burned down in what is thought to have been an electrical fire in an early morning fire on Monday, June 15, 2020. In a weird coincidence, the American Hotel had originally opened on June 15, 1871. Interestingly, Underwood told the LA Times that he thought the cause of the fire could be paranormal. He said, “The caretaker here told me that he and another person saw a shadowy apparition moving in the hotel kitchen at 4 p.m. the previous day.” The Crapo House had belonged to William Crapo, who had gunned down a postmaster as he walked along the dirt road near the American Hotel. 

Fun Fact: Jeff Goldblum has been by the ghost town. He was there to film an episode of his TV show "The World According to Jeff Goldblum" that featured the history of denim. Many California silver miners wore them since they were specifically invented for them by Levi Strauss in 1871.

Caretakers for years have told stories of having strange experiences in the ghost town. Many believe the place is haunted. Lights switch on and off in unoccupied buildings on the regular. Underwood has experienced this himself. He said, "I went in, turned them off, re-locked the building, and they were turned on again that night." The strange happenings seemed magnified when Underwood was snowed in and around to notice them more. Books would spontaneously fall off of shelves. When its once or twice, it probably is nothing, but having it happen on the regular seems weird. Underwood's wallet moves around. He'll find it in places he knows he didn't put it.

In 2019, Zak Bagans and the crew of Ghost Adventures paid Cerro Gordo a visit and concluded paranormal activity here could be the result of two child spirits trapped in Belshaw House, an 1800s structure Underwood was living in. Roger Vargo and his wife Cecile talked with Bagans about their experiences staying in the Belshaw House. They were sleeping in the bedroom and something pounced on his wife that she couldn't see. Other people had similar experiences there. Robert Desmarais was a caretaker and he felt something jump on his chest and it knocked the wind out of him. So he knew it wasn't a dream. Another investigator captured an EVP of a child's voice and there were no kids in the town. Could these be children jumping on the people?

Alphonse Benoit was shot and killed in the poker room in the house. Zak thought he heard something coming from that room. There is a bullet hole with blood stains on the floor in there. Right near that area, Billy and Zak felt a definable cold spot. The EMF meter spiked there, a really big spike. Billy felt as though his fingers were really cold all of a sudden. Zak got out the thermal camera and it was clear that Billy's fingers were blue while the rest of his hand was the normal human red, orange and yellow and Zak's hand right next to his was completely red. And then they caught something bluish-green in the form of a human torso manifesting on the other side of the table.

Aaron and Zak heard footsteps in the house when they were lying on beds and their cameras did catch very faint footsteps. The ghost of Mr. Belshaw had been seen in the house. He appeared as a portly man, as described by eyewitnesses. Billy had set up a rig with a deep sea fishing pole where he sent an audio recorder and GoPro down into a very deep mine shaft. Billy felt a sharp tug at one point that he described as feeling like a fish on his line and the camera showed the line bobbing as if tugged. Billy was really shaken by the experience and it seemed legit. They also caught two long and interesting EVP on the recorder while in the shaft. One said, "Can anybody hear me?" and the other "I'm going to work." Aaron and Zak were investigating in the poker room and caught an EVP that they said sounded like, "You both just walked to me," but Kelly thought it sounded more like, "Do you want to fuck with me?" That sounds more accurate based on what happened here. They put an Ovulus near the bullet hole and the word "Slain" came up. A game camera seemed to pick up a figure that is not solid because the guys showed what they looked like crossing in front of a game camera.

Ghost towns are notoriously haunted because they were usually notorious places. That would be the case for Cerro Gordo. There are many reasons for this town to be haunted. Is the Cerro Gordo Ghost Town haunted? That is for you to decide!

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Bonus - St. Augustine Lighthouse Investigation 2021

We arrive at the lighthouse and check in, do the bug spray thing and prepare our equipment. There were 25 of us - the largest ghost hunt we have ever hosted. We not only had our co-hosts Jerry and Tracy Paulley of Hillbilly Horror Stories, but Nick McGirr who hosts tours and investigations in Charleston also joined us and he had some nice equipment with him. We also had our hunt regular Dolly with us and she brought her new SLS camera with her. Many of the listeners also had equipment and we think everybody not only had a good time, but also had some unexplained things happen.

Everyone was invited to climb the lighthouse. The view from the top is so amazing, especially at night. Our host Amber and Diane talk about being locked in the lighthouse by something unseen. (Lighthouse 1) And Amber shares about being touched by a ghost at the lighthouse. (Lighthouse 2) Then we did a formal intro (Lighthouse Intro)

And we were off to investigate in the lighthouse. All the stories about the children who died here, do not give a specific date for their accident. The closest we've come is to a year, 1873. We never thought much about it until investigating this time and this came up on the Ghost Radar App. (Lighthouse 3) We got "summer," "real" and "research." Also the name "Adam." We also later got the name "Ellen" and the word "Florida."

Kathy Thomas was our spirit magnet in the lighthouse. She told us about hearing the little girls giggle when she was here before. (Lighthouse 4) Kathy felt the spirits more than once when we were at the base of the stairs in the tower and then we were able to verify her experience with equipment. (Lighthouse 5) So you hear there Kathy saying she feels cold spots, and then Kelly is using the temp gun and getting readings of colder temperatures near Kathy, especially her hand hanging by her side. Nick is capturing readings on his devices too. Then whatever this was leaves. Diane wanders down to the display cases and talks with one of the listeners about what she is experiencing. (Lighthouse 6) So she was feeling a cold area from her kneecap down and that's exactly the area that Kathy was getting her feelings of cold. Then whatever was around Kathy comes back and Diane is able to verify what Kathy is feeling not only with the EMF, but her own body. When you hear Diane talking about this, she has walked over to Kathy and crouched down with the EMF held up to Kathy's dangling hand. (Lighthouse 7) So Diane felt the same prickly feeling as Kathy and the EMF went off when we asked, pinging to orange and then red when asked. To Diane, this was the coolest experience of the evening. 

Next, we headed over to the Keeper's House and we started down in the basement where the most activity is usually reported. The creepiest thing down here was a mannequin in scuba gear. Dolly sat down next to it with her SLS and she captured something that was not the mannequin. (Lighthouse 8)

Then we started a series of Estes Method/Spirit Box sessions. Diane conducted the first one and unbeknownst to her, when she responded to questions or said something, other pieces of equipment started going off. (Lighthouse 9) What I liked on this was that I was getting nothing at the same time as the equipment stopped registering anything. And then the conversation picked back up with Nick asking questions. And Kelly felt something cold on her hand. Nick's equipment seems to support that. Kelly also described a spider web feeling and Kathy said she had that too. Then Diane blurts out Cornell. Diane did a little investigating about Keepers and wonders if this was Cardell, rather than Cornell. Second Assistant Cardell D. Daniels (1911-1914) Head Keeper: (1935 – 1943) Cardell had two kids, a boy named Cardell Jr. everyone called Cracker and a daugther named Wilma. In a previous St. Augustine episode we shared how Cracker launched his sister's cat Smokey out of the tower with a parachute, but the cat survived and showed back up a few weeks later. This was in the 1930s. In 1941, the Coast Guard took over the lighthouses and Cardell was given the option of retiring or putting on a Coast Guard uniform and he gladly accepted. The lighthouse also moved to being electrified during his time there. Wilma returned to the lighthouse for a visit in July 2021 at the age of 90 and climbed all the way to the top. She said of her father, "He'd sit on the railing with his butt. He was a real tall, thin fella. … He'd sit there and hold his feet up and slide all the way down." Cardell's wife Grace planted the yellow lilies that still grow at the lighthouse.

Kathy took over the Estes Method. (Lighthouse 10) She said "Rick" three times and this is after calling for help. We focused on a name, but that changed later when we went upstairs. Shantel pulled Diane aside and asked, "Do you think Rick could actually be wreck?" Then she pointed up and at the top of a display were these giant letters spelling WRECKED. We didn't stop to think of why the lighthouse was there. Because of shipwrecks. I don't know if we caught an EVP here, but I'll play it to see what you think. (Lighthouse EVP 1) Sounds like "job" to me. 

Nick takes over the Estes Method and things take a mean turn. (Lighthouse 11) Nick was firing off answers. He got Rick too. And we loved the "count to 3" and "smart." We went upstairs and did some work with the dowsing rods and Kelly got touched again. The REM pod also went off. Then our two hours was up. It went really fast and we had a great time! We really enjoyed Nick. He had a respectful investigation technique and he asked unique questions that were more personal.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

HGB Ep. 409 - Gaither Plantation

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Moment in Oddity - Coffin in Golf Course Pond Complete with Skeleton and Axe (Suggested by: Mike Rogers)

Just another day out at the golf course...until you find a coffin in a pond and well, it wasn't empty. The coffin was discovered in 2018 in a pond at a golf course in Lincolnshire, England. Archaeologists estimated that it dated back to the Bronze Age. The coffin was made from a hollowed out oak tree trunk. The even more amazing part was what was found inside the coffin. The remains of a 4,000 year-old man, who was of high status, were inside along with a well preserved axe. And this was no ordinary axe. It was very rare, one of only twelve discovered in Britain. The coffin and axe are on display at the Lincoln Collection Museum. The Tetney Golf Club also has a tribute to the discovery made on the property. They have a photograph of it up on the clubhouse wall. An axe makes a pretty unique golf club and finding one in a coffin with a 4,000 year old skeleton, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Cherry Valley Massacre

In the month of November, on the 11th, in 1778, the Cherry Valley Massacre took place. Cherry Valley was just east of Cooperstown, New York and a man named Colonel Ichabod Alden was in charge of the 7th Massachusetts Regiment there. He had a long career in the military. He served in the Plymouth militia and then served in the 25th Continental regiment after the Battle of Lexington and Concord in 1775. But when it came to this moment during the Revolutionary War, he was out of his element. Alden had been warned that Native Americans were preparing to attack, but he ignored them. Chief Joseph Brant showed up with 600 Iroquois. He was joined by 200 Loyalists serving under Major Walter Butler. Alden had less than 300 men and they were quickly dispatched. Forty Patriots were killed, including Alden and all the members of the Wells family, and seventy were taken prisoner. The attack came to be known as the Cherry Valley Massacre and was one of the most horrific frontier massacres of the war. A monument was dedicated at Cherry Valley on August 15, 1878.

Gaither Plantation

Covington, Georgia is nicknamed Hollywood South due to the number of movies and television shows that have been filmed there. One location that not only hosts weddings and other events, but has also served as a set for films and TV shows is the Gaither Plantation. The house dates back to 1850 and there are two cemeteries on the property along with other historic buildings, one of which is an old church that was moved to the property. Several of the buildings, especially the main house, have paranormal activity. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Gaither Plantation!

Covington, Georgia is about twenty-six miles east of Atlanta. This is the seat of Newton County and was incorporated in 1854. The city is named for United States Army Brigadier General and United States Congressman Leonard Covington, who was a hero of the War of 1812. General Sherman marched through the city on his March to the Sea in 1864 and several buildings were looted and burned, but a few antebellum homes were spared, one of which was the Gaither Plantation. The plantation is now known as Gaither's at Myrtle Creek Farm. 

The Gaither Family has a long history in America with most descendants tracing their roots back to John Gater who arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in 1620. Dr. Henry Gaither passed 875 acres to his son, William Hubert Gaither who built the farmhouse on the property in 1850. Gaither married Cecilia Billups Wood in 1855 and the couple had four children: Sara Clara, Mary Jane, Henry and William Jr. Tragedy struck for the family when Sara Clara died at the age of nine. She was buried in a plot in the family cemetery on the property. The farm was set up as a cotton plantation and the family owned 130 slaves. The plantation did very well for years, even after the Civil War, when the slaves were freed. 

In 1888, the Gaithers son Henry got into a deadly conflict with a neighbor named George Smith. We have read two versions, but both end with George Smith dead. One version claims that Henry destroyed some turkey nests on Smith's property and the men fought with Henry using a big stick to club Smith. The other version claims that Smith was clearing land with fire and accidentally burned some of the Gaither turkey nests that were scooped up in the brush heaps. When Henry found out about it, he grabbed a shovel and hit Smith over the head, killing the man. Regardless of what the facts were, Henry went on the run and ended up in Texas somewhere, never to be seen again. 

In 1890, William Gaither died and the property passed to Cecilia. She had him buried in the family plot next to their daughter Sara Clara. Cecilia only stayed with the property for a few years after her husband's death, moving into Covington proper in 1906 with her son William Jr. Boll weevils hit in the early 1900s, devastating the cotton crop. This is a little grayish beetle with a long snout. These traveled up from Mexico to the United States in the late 1800s and by the 1920s, they were in all major cotton-producing areas. At the time, one third of the insecticide used in the US was just to go after the boll weevil. The boll weevil has been eradicated in all states except Texas. The Gaither Plantation couldn't make their tax payment in 1921 and had to declare bankruptcy. The Gaithers lost the family farm over twenty-eight dollars.

Through the next several decades, the property was sold to farming families, including the McIntoshs, Siegfrieds and Welchels. The buildings on the property changed over the years. The property started with the plantation house, outdoor kitchen, barn, outhouse and slave quarters. The barn was replaced in 1950 by Ralph Welchel. (Read p. 47 from Ghosts of Atlanta, Phantoms of the Phoenix City by Reese Chrisitan.) 

Some buildings burned down or fell apart and other buildings were brought to the property, including the Harris Springs Primitive Baptist Church. The church brought some bad history with it. Legend claims that the pastor of the church caught his wife having an affair and murdered her. He then killed himself. Newton County took over the site in 1996 and they host events, weddings and tours there, as well as renting it out for film and TV production. Paranormal investigations take place here too because there are several spirits on the property.

One of the events that had been hosted at the farm were re-enactments. The Union marched on the plantation looking for Confederate soldiers they believed were being hidden there. Supposedly, Cecilia had hidden Confederates in a secret passageway. Re-enactors who have camped out on the farm claim to have seen a man's spirit walk from the fireplace to the front window in the parlor. The scene replayed itself over and over in a loop. The apparition of a solider in a gray suit has been seen in the basement appearing to be trying to hide. The re-enactors also saw someone in the windows when no one was in the house, as did people who attended the Hummingbird Festival.

East Georgia Paranormal Lead Investigator Bobby Bishop was interviewed by The Covington News in 2007 and he told the paper that he was skeptical of most ghost sightings, but Gaither Plantation was one of three sites he believed was a hotbed of paranormal activity. They have done many investigations at the property over the years. On one of their first investigations, a sensitive on their team said they were uncomfortable on the stairs leading to the attic and they later found that they had captured an EVP at that same time that said, "Don't go up the stairs."

Jerry Love was once the Chairman of Friends of Gaither and he had people who rented the property tell him that they saw a man in a grey suit down in the basement and a woman who was rocking a baby in an upstairs window. He said, "Every time someone would ask me, I would unlock the house and go and look for the person they were seeing. Sometimes it was the face of a woman in the attic window. Other times they would say they saw someone looking out of the downstairs window. There was never anyone there when I went to look." And people have claimed to hear the laughter and playing of children when no kids are around. There are three other children buried in the graveyard where the Gaither daughter was buried. And there is a slave cemetery too, so this could be where the children are coming from.

There is a handle on the indoor well that is located on the ground floor of the farmhouse and it has been seen turning on its own. The spirit of Cecilia Gaither is believed to be here, possibly because she was not buried with the rest of her family and is troubled by that. The name Celie has been heard coming through and that was nickname that the children used for Cecilia. Cecilia's room is on the second floor and is probably the most haunted area of the house. The pages of a Bible that belonged to her have been seen turning on their own and a rocking chair in the corner is rumored to rock with nobody in it and it is too heavy to be rocked by wind. This chair did not belong to the Gaithers and is on loan from another location and the legend connected to it is that the woman who owned it had lost her baby. Occasionally there have been reports of people who have seen Cecilia sitting in the chair and rocking a baby, but perhaps it was the mother.

A volunteer and caretaker were in the kitchen when they heard voices coming from the front porch. They went to the door to see who was there and when they opened it, they found the porch empty. There was no one nearby who could have made the sound of voices they heard. The show "Vampire Diaries" filmed at the Gaither Plantation. Star Nina Dobrev claimed that a piano started playing on its own during a 2010 shoot. One of the Assistant Directors hollered, "Stop! Whoever that is stop the music. We're rolling. Cameras are on." When they went into the room where the piano was located, they found it empty. Nina also had the unnerving experience of having the lights go on and off erratically while she was in the bathroom. She thought the crew or some co-stars were playing tricks on her, but everybody denied playing with the power.

The Tyler Perry movie "Madea’s Family Reunion" was shot at the Gaither farmhouse and they experienced some activity. The director had called for quiet on the set as they prepared to film a scene. Suddenly, there were loud footsteps on the widow walk. The director yelled "cut" and was not pleased. He told an assistant to go find out who was up there and tell them to come downstairs. The assistant found no one, so they started the scene over again. Footsteps interrupted once again, only this time they were coming down the stairs. The director hollered for the person to come down and quit walking around. There was no response. A couple of people went and looked around and saw that there was no one on the stairs or near them. Just before the director yelled "action" to try filming for a third time he yelled, "Will the ghost of the house please cooperate!" They managed to film the scene without any further issues.

Central Georgia Paranormal Society investigated in 2013 and captured EVPs. In one recording, the group asked if there was a spirit in the house and it answered, "Hey!" In another capture they got the voice of a child saying, "Hello." They heard an audible heated discussion between two women coming from the empty attic. The front screen door also opened on its own and slammed shut. They investigated the church too and picked female voice in an EVP saying, "Willa." The group also has heard yelling, screaming and a choir in the church.

The Ghost Hunters investigated during Season 5 on episode 6. Judy Gaither Dial, the great-great-great granddaughter of W.H. and Cecilia Gaither, met the team and told them she has encountered the ghosts before. She told the guys that the doors on the buffet open and close on their own. And this isn't because the floor is unlevel because the doors will swing shut after they have opened. Judy also thinks that she was touched by Cecilia in Cecilia's bedroom. She felt a hand on her back when she was telling some friends about her great-great-great grandmother. The rocking chair in that room also moves on its own. The attic scares her and she won't go up there. Judy took the team out to the Baptist church that was moved onto the property and she told them that the chair behind the pulpit has vibrated and had an apparition of a man sitting in it. Marty Roberts, Jr. was the caretaker at the time of the investigation and he told the guys he had seen shadow figures and heard disembodied voices at the house. TAPS heard a voice in the attic and footsteps and shuffling. Jason put flour down on the floor to see if they could catch any footprints, particularly rodent footprints. This old school technique got them three footprints. They didn't match any of the patterns on their shoes. The team captured on video, the buffet doors opening on their own.

Judy has shared other experiences that she has had. She enjoyed sitting on the front porch swing and one time when she was sitting without swinging, she felt something unseen sit down next to her and then the swing started moving. Her feet couldn't reach the ground, so she knew it wasn't her moving the swing. Judy jumped off the swing and ran inside to tell Tracy, the caretaker at the time, what had happened. She expected Tracy to be shocked, but she only said, "It's happened to me too." Judy has heard many strange sounds in the house. Judy also claimed that a decorative bowl would move around. The Georgia Paranormal Research Team out of Dublin, Georgia investigated the house and they had an experience that backed up Judy's claims about the bowl. They placed a flat piece of paper under the bowl and then went to investigate the other rooms of the house. When they returned, not only had the bowl moved, but the piece of paper was crumpled up next to the bowl. They also recorded spirits knocking to let the investigators know that they were there. 

The church is reputedly pretty haunted as well since it was the scene of a murder-suicide. Whenever women sit or stand on the pulpit and sometimes even when they just pass by it, unexplained activity will start up in the church and women feel very unwelcome. The chair in the pulpit will begin to vibrate. A man has been seen sitting in the chair and his head would move around as though vibrating too, so maybe the chair just has issues with people sitting in it. 

There is much history at the Gaither's Plantation. Are some of the family members still sticking around? Do objects and furniture on the property have attachments? Is Gaither Plantation haunted? That is for you to decide!

Sunday, October 31, 2021

HGB Halloween Special 2021

Happy Halloween! When one thinks of Halloween and Trick or Treating, more than just pillow cases full of candy come to mind. There's always that one creepy house in the neighborhood. The abandoned one. The one everyone claims is haunted. Maybe one with 999 ghosts and room for one more? Join us as we explore the history of the most famous haunted house in America, Disney's Haunted Mansion! Kindly watch your step as you board, please, and heed this warning - the spirits will only appear if you remain quietly seated at all times. Oh yes, and no flash pictures. Now, as they say, look alive and we'll start our little tour. There's no turning back now...

Every neighborhood has one, the haunted house. Walt Disney understood this and he knew eventually his main street would have one as well. The original concept was developed when Disneyland was being conceptualized. Marvin Davis at WED Enterprises drew a layout with a crumbling house on a hill overlooking Main Street. This idea was further expanded with Harper Goff, who is credited with being the very first Imagineer. Goff drew a panoramic view that he named "Church, Graveyard and Haunted House." These ideas were scrapped when a residential area was dropped from the plan for something better, a series of lands to visit. Imagine a time when Disneyland didn't have the Haunted Mansion. Gasp! But that was the case when it opened in 1955. 

The Haunted House idea was brought back in 1957 as Disney was looking for ways to expand his park. He put top animator Ken Anderson in charge of design. Anderson drew inspiration from the Shipley-Lydecker House in Baltimore as well as the Evergreen House there. Stanton Hall in Natchez, Mississippi also gave some inspiration. Anderson's creation looked much as one would expect, a dilapidated house that was dirty and old. Rather than putting the mansion on a hill in a residential area, the haunted house would be the centerpiece of a new land called New Orleans Square. This land was a way to embrace the influence of the south. Disney teased the idea with the BBC in London in 1958. He mentioned that he felt bad for all the ghosts that were probably displaced during World War II and announced that he was creating a retirement home for the world's homeless spirits at Disneyland.

The plan was presented to Disney who wasn't thrilled. Disneyland was a pristine park. He couldn't have a blighted plantation house in the middle of all of that. So the outside design was put aside as the team worked on the interior and it's not surprising that Anderson drew inspiration from a trip he made to the Winchester Mystery House. He also developed a good ghost story for the house that featured an old sea captain named Captain Gore who had disappeared under mysterious circumstances. (We can't help but wonder if Captain Culpepper Clyne who is featured in the WDW Haunted Mansion queque is a tribute to this concept.) The mansion was his house and guests would be guided through it by either a maid or butler. The tour would start on a moving platform that would take them down to the basement. The maid or butler tour guide would then take the group of guests around and point out secret passages, inanimate objects that would move and changing portraits. Special effects and illusions would be used to pull off the haunting activity. 

Guests started their tour in a picture gallery. The Captain had a bride named Priscilla and she would be in the next room. Guests would see her break into a treasure chest only to discover her husband was actually a notorious pirate named Black Bart. The tour guide would relate that Priscilla disappeared and it was believed that Captain Gore killed her. An ominous bubbling well would hint at her final resting place. Walt thought this was too much and Anderson came up with a second story about the Blood Family and their home Bloodmere Manor. This was an antebellum home moved from New Orleans and during its installation, a construction worker was accidentally walled up in the house. A third story was asked for and this one featured Walt Disney welcoming guests and then the tour guide known as the Lonesome Ghost would take over and share that a wedding celebration was underway until the bride, who could be seen at the end of a long hall, lost her head. Disney again shook his head as he thought that the tone wasn't right. 

Anderson then drew inspiration from Disney's version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. He decided that the tour would end in a graveyard with the Headless Horseman. He would appear riding through the bushes with only his cape visible above them. There would be lightning, the sound of hoof beats and the howl of a werewolf. A wedding party would start after the horseman arrived and guests featured Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster and other boogeymen. Sounds pretty cool and everybody decided they would go forward with this. Now it was time to start designing all the scenes. And so WED started making mock-ups of various scenes. And Disney brought over two other artists from the studio, Rolly Crump and Yale Gracey.

Crump was a master of illusion and he loved to build mobiles he called kinetic sculptures. Gracey was a mechanical genius and master model builder. These two men would bring the magic to our favorite attraction. They were inspired by the illusions of nineteenth century magicians and things like spirit cabinets. The men would read ghost stories to each other and built model after model of special effects. Jason Surrell in his book "The Haunted Mansion, Imagineering a Disney Classic" shares a story Rolly told him, "Yale had all his ghosts and magic strewn throughout the room. Once, we got a call from Personnel, asking us to leave the lights on because the janitors didn't want to come in if it was dark. Well, we did, but we rigged the room. We put in an infrared beam, and when it was tripped, the room went to black light and all the ghost effects came on. When we came in the next morning, all the effects were running and there was a broom lying in the center of the floor. Personnel called and said, 'You'll have to clean up your own room because the janitors won't go in there anymore.'"

Gracey and Crump finally got a chance to stage a full mock-up scene to present to Disney and the Suits and it was a magnificent scene featuring the angry captain and his dead wife and ghosts that disappeared and water that dried up. The only problem was that the scene ran three minutes. Not only was this too long for the suits, but this meant the mansion would have to be a walk-through attraction. Disney was really disappointed. He didn't want to to be a walk-through. He wanted it to be a ride. And he didn't want a run down manor, which is what the plan was still embracing. The Haunted Mansion was stalled until 1961. There were attempts to get the Haunted House Project back off the ground, but it was tabled again as the team of Imagineers started working on the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair. 

After the World's Fair was done, the Haunted Mansion got back on track with Marc Davis joining the team. Davis' focus became creating various gags and scenes and characters. He is the one who came up with the official host to replace the Lonesome Ghost, our disembodied "Ghost Host." The team developed the Stretching Room, which was originally called the The Elongating Room, the Portrait Gallery with a menacing character that crawled out of a picture, the Seance room with a full-bodied medium known as Madame Z, a Ghost Club Room and a room where a bride and her fiance were murdered. Claude Coats joined the team with a focus on designing the interior environments for Davis' characters to live within. X Atencio joined the team as a scriptwriter. He had just finished writing the script for The Pirates of the Caribbean ride. He would write our beloved Grim Grinning Ghosts song. 

In December of 1966, Walt Disney died and the creative leader for the mansion was gone. Marc Davis and Claude Coats were both placed in charge of the Mansion and creative differences cropped up as one thought the Mansion should be scary and the other thought it should be funny. And as we now know, the two camps collided. The first half of the Mansion has a spooky ambiance, while the second half is filled with whimsical characters. Although we know things have changed up a bit with the scary Hatbox Ghost making into the attic scene at Disneyland and the murderous bride Constance making it into the attic at WDW. Another conflict was whether this would be a walk-through or a ride-through attraction. The PeopleMover had a system called the Omnimover and this would be perfect for moving people through the Mansion quickly. These would become the Doombuggies we ride on through the attraction. This forced the Imagineers to change up some of their tricks and sight gags since people would be passing by very quickly. 

After all the ideas were combined with Davis' characters and Coat's backgrounds, it was left to X to write the story and it comes across as three acts. Act One features the foyer where we see some paranormal things going on, but no ghosts. We meet up with Madame Leota in the Seance Room who let's us know that the spirits are going to materialize and in Act Two, they do during our swinging wake in the Dining Room and our visit to the attic. In Act Three, the Doombuggy falls out of the attic window and into the graveyard for a wild ghost party and we meet our three hitchhiking ghosts at the end with the greatest gag of all. The ghost joins the guests in their Doombuggies. As we know, this got even better as technology got better and the ghosts pull all kinds of gags on the riders. Paul Frees became the voice of the Ghost Host and joins riders through most of the ride. Not many people know that a raven was supposed to be the first guide, but turned out to be too small. There are various ravens spotted throughout the ride that are a tribute to that original idea.

The Haunted Mansion officially opened its doors to the public on August 9, 1969 and with this came a record-breaking day for Disneyland. They broke their single-day attendance record with 82,516 people entering the park. Building on the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World had already begun and it was decided that the Haunted Mansion would be a part of this park as well, so two of everything was made when the Haunted Mansion was being constructed. The house for this one would have to be different because rather than having a New Orleans Square, the Magic Kingdom would have Liberty Square set up like colonial America. This mansion would be designed as a Dutch Gothic manor house. This mansion looks scarier than the one at Disneyland and that was on purpose. The ride was ready to go by April 1971, before the Magic Kingdom even opened, which wouldn't happen for six more months.

Tokyo Disneyland also was developed with a Haunted Mansion. This one was placed in Fantasyland to build a bridge to Westernland and is the same Dutch Gothic design as the one in the Magic Kingdom. Everything inside is the same as well. This opened on April 15, 1983. Disneyland Paris would host their Haunted Mansion in Frontierland and the name would change to Phantom Manor. The design was as a Victorian manor that was dilapidated and is the most sinister looking of the Haunted Mansions. A ghostly version of Thunder Mesa, which is the town found in Frontierland, replaces the Graveyard scene. Vincent Price's trademark laugh from Thriller plays throughout the mansion and he voiced the ghost host for this one until the park decided they wanted a French version of the narration. This attraction opened on April 12, 1992. 

Hong Kong Disneyland would have a version of the Haunted Mansion as well, this one is named Mystic Manor and has a really cool design. It was inspired by the Carson Mansion in Eureka, California. There is a Russian onion dome, Gothic arches and Cambodian temple features. Lord Henry Mystic would build this mansion and it holds his collection of artifacts he collected while exploring the world. Guests board his Mystic Magneto-Electric Carriage cars for a tour, which are not on a track like the Doombuggies and follow a path embedded in the floor. Mystic's monkey sidekick Albert leads guests through a wild ride through the mansion when a haunted artifact causes crazy stuff to happen. Mystic Manor features an Egyptian room, a Nordic room and a tribal arts room and music orchestrated by Danny Elfman fills the haunted house. This mansion opened on May 17, 2013. 

So what is your favorite part of the Haunted Mansion? When was the first time you climbed aboard a Doombuggy? Did anything scare you in the mansion? What is your opinion on the Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay at Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland? 

Some other little known facts about the Haunted Mansion. Pet cemeteries are a part of all the mansions and got their start at Disneyland in an enclosed garden at the side of the mansion. This was created in the early 1980s by Kim Irvine, who was a senior concept designer in Imagineering. She also was the daughter of Leota Toombs who was the model for Madame Leota. Irvine had bought a bunch of statuary from local nurseries and had a writer create humorous epitaphs for them. Stay in the Stretching Room as long as possible and you will hear the gargoyles whispering to each other and you. In Disneyland's Haunted Mansion, the floor of the Stretching Room actually does go down taking guests fifteen feet underground. At WDW, the Stretching Room's ceiling goes up, while the guests remain on the same level in which they entered. The candelabra in the Endless Hallway is painted completely black on the back to keep it from reflecting in the mirror that is at the end of the hallway. There is a thin black scrim across the hallway to obscure any reflection as well and to give the hallway a misty look. The chair that is here has a face purposefully sewn into the design. In the mid-1980s, cast members wandered inside the mansion at Disneyland and popped out at various times, but this proved to be too scary and also dangerous for the cast members. 

The spell book in the Seance Room has a picture of the Hatbox Ghost dressed a scythe-wielding death figure on one page and the spell Peter Ustinov uses to call forth Blackbeard's Ghost in the 1967 film is on the other page. One of the pistol-wielding duelists in the Dining Room has a familiar face. He is the Auctioneer from Pirates of the Caribbean. The name of the ghost swinging from the top of the chandelier is named Pickwick. The organ is from the movie 20,000 Leagues Under the SEa. People may recall that Captain Nemo played this pipe organ. Constance's husbands were Frank, Reginald, Ambrose, The Marquis and George. The Hatbox Ghost was always supposed to be part of the Attic scene. Marc Davis designed him and he was actually installed right across from the bride. But the illusion that was part of him never worked and he was removed before opening day. He would return to the attic in 2015 with technology that wasn't around until recently and it makes his illusion work perfectly. There is a tribute to him in the WDW Mansion in the form of a hat rack. And if the hatbox ghost's face looks familiar its because he and Ezra share a mold. The ghost that tells you to hurry back at the end of the ride is called Little Leota because Leota Toombs is also the model for this one.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

HGB Ep. 408 - Legends of Werewolves

Moment in Oddity - Death By Giant Umbrellas (Suggested by: John Michaels)

They say art is in the eye of the beholder. Sometimes art is meant to make a political statement. But art should never be deadly. Sometimes it is though and in 1991, it was downright bizarre. In 1991, husband and wife artist team Christo and Jeanne-Claude put up an environmental installation that consisted of thousands of giant yellow and blue umbrellas. The installation opened in California and Japan simultaneously. The giant umbrellas measured about 20 feet in height, 28 feet in diameter and weighed about 500 pounds. The California piece stretched for 12 miles and the one in Japan was 18 miles. People came from everywhere to see the art piece. Two months after the exhibit was installed, a ind gust uprooted one of the umbrellas and blew into a woman named Lori Rae Keevil-Mathews. The giant umbrella crushed her against a boulder, killing her. Christo ordered the umbrellas to be taken down after that, but the umbrellas weren't done taking lives. A crane operator in Japan named Masaaki Nakamura was electrocuted when the crane's arm touched a 65,000-volt high-tension line while he was removing an umbrella. Giant umbrellas killing people certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Sydney Opera House Opens

In the month of October, on the 20th, in 1973, the Sydney Opera House opens. The opera house is an iconic symbol for not only Sydney, but also Australia. The spot chosen for it alongside Sydney Harbor was a site once held sacred by the Gadigal people. The structure was designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon and took 15 years to finish. The opera house was funded from profits of the Opera House Lotteries and cost $80 million to build. The distinctive design features geometric roof shells and there are several large auditoriums inside. Queen Elizabeth II dedicated the Sydney Opera House on that day in 1973. The first performance in the complex was the Australian Opera’s production of Sergei Prokofiev’s War and Peace. In 2007, the opera house was included on the UNESCO World Heritage List, giving it placement along side structures like the pyramids in egypt, the Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal. That made it the youngest structure to be included on the list and only one of two that made the list during the life of its architect. Utzon passed away in 2008.

Legends of Werewolves (Suggested by: Wes Hawkins)

Werewolf lore has been a part of human history for centuries and some of the best horror movies feature werewolves. We've covered the hysteria that surrounded the witch hunts and trials in Europe and America. Not many people realize that there was a similar hysteria when it came to reports of werewolves. It is possible that 100,000 people were executed for being suspected werewolves in Europe from the 14th to the 17th centuries. On this episode, we are going to explore some of the legends of werewolves throughout the world. 

Universal's The Wolf Man, An American Werewolf in London, A Company of Wolves, The Howling, Wolf, Teen Wolf, Wolfen, Ginger Snaps, Silver Bullet, Dog Soldiers, Underworld, Werewolves Within (which just came out in 2021) and then that Twilight series thing, are just a handful of the movies that have featured stories of werewolves. Many of us cut our horror teeth on these movies and if Rick Baker's special effects and make-up in "An American Werewolf in London" didn't make you actually consider going into the business of movie make-up, you better check your pulse. All of these movies have been inspired by the legends and lore passed down through the generations. They built a traditional lore that holds to a few basic principles. A person becomes a werewolf after being attacked by a werewolf and surviving. The full moon brings about transformation and the human either transforms completely into a wolf or a bipedal man-wolf. The only way to kill the werewolf was with a silver bullet. For some cultures, werewolves have been a very real thing and stories of skinwalkers and dogmen have even been a part of modern day America. Where did all of this start?

The Epic of Gilgamesh is the beginning of so many legends. In this story, Gilgamesh turns away a potential lover when he learns that she turned her ex into a wolf. 1020 AD would find the first use of the term werewulf in English. There is the story of Niciros that other scholars claim is the first story of a werewolf. The website claims that this is the real first story because this is an actual transformation like what we are used to when it comes to werewolves. This was written by Petronius, who obviously was a Roman writer. He was a scribe in the court of Nero, so no wonder he was able to come up with a horror story of man becoming wolf. He included the story in his anthology titled Satyricon, which was written around AD 61. It tells the story of friends Niciros and a companion. They are traveling and need to relieve themselves. They are outside traveling and so naturally this needs to happen in nature, but they pick a bad spot, a cemetery. It clearly is disrespectful to urinate in a cemetery. Things get really weird when Niciros' friend rips off his clothes and urinates a circle around himself. He gives a maniacal laugh as he tranforms into a wolf and heads into a nearby town. While there, he kills a bunch of farm animals and is finally stabbed in the neck by a townsperson, killing him. So apparently, no silver bullet is needed here.

Probably the next werewolf legend would come out of Greek mythology. Lycaon was the son of Pelas, and he was called to serve a meal to Zeus. He served Zeus human flesh, which so outraged the god that he turned Lycaon into a wolf. This is where we get the term for the werewolf transformation, Lycanthropy, which is the supernatural transformation of a person into a wolf and sometimes other creatures like cats, goats, oxen and dogs. The full moon coming into play as part of the lore may have been inspired by the fact that some people go crazy when there is a full moon and reveal the beast inside them. Maybe that's why several serial killers centuries ago were thought to be werewolves.

There were medical conditions that may have led to some rumors and stories of werewolves. Pitt-Hopkins syndrome was officially discovered in 1978, but has been a condition for centuries probably that causes lack of speech, distinct facial features, difficulty breathing, seizures and intellectual challenges. Food poisoning sometimes caused people to act like an animal as did rabies. Hallucinogenic herbs could cause people to act out in strange animalistic ways. Medical lycanthropy is a psychological condition that causes people to believe they’re changing into a wolf. And hypertrichosis is a genetic disorder that causes excessive hair growth all over the body. 

Werewolves started making appearances in the lore of cultures around the world. Witchcraft and werewolves seemed to go hand in hand and their trials were very similar or sometimes held at the same time. People claimed that witches could shapeshift into wolves or that they would ride wolves to Sabbats. Let's look at some of these legends:

Nordic Werewolves

The Nordic people had shaman among them. Some of these shaman would go into the woods and abandon human contact and their identity. They would conduct initiation rites to become wolf-warriors. They would live their lives in the wild and people started referring to them as wolfmen. Nordic folklore has The Saga of the Volsungs. In this story, a man and his son, Sigmund and Sinfjötli, find wolf pelts that have the power to turn people into wolves for ten days. They use the pelts on themselves and they do indeed turn into wolves. Then they go on a killing rampage in the forest until the father ends up attacking his own son, leaving a mortal wound. A raven brings a leaf with healing powers and the son is saved. There is also Egil's Saga which features the character Ulf Bjalfason. At night, his mood would darken and he would isolate from people. Villagers thought his behaviour was suspicious and they started calling him Kveld Ulf, which means night’s wolf. We're not sure if he killed anyone, but people believed he changed his skin. And in Norse mythology, Loki's son is the Great wolf Fenrir who kills Odin during the events of Ragnarök. He symbolized power, wildness and chaos.

Irish Werewolves

In Ireland, a story about two werewolves was written as a treatise, which means it was treated as fact rather than legend. The story goes that a priest was traveling from Ulster to Meath when he was approached by a wolf. The wolf spoke to him and he wondered how a creature could look like a wolf, but talk like a man. The man said that he and his wife were from Ossory and that they had been cursed to be wolves. It seems that in Ossory, every seven years, a man and woman would be compelled to take the form of wolves. When the seven years was up, they returned to human and two more people would become wolves. He told the priest that his wife was sick and dying and he asked the priest to come to his wife and give her absolution. The priest was terrified, but followed the wolf. The male wolf peeled the wolf skin down his wife to the waist to prove to the priest that she was a human and the priest gave her the viaticum. The wolf rolled her skin back up and she returned to her wolf form. This was indexed in the Topographia Hibernica in 1188.

South America Werewolves

El lobizon is the South American werewolf. The legend is shared throughout Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay and was started by the indigineous people known as the Guarani. There was a belief that the seventh son in a family would turn into a werewolf on the night of a full moon. The creature symbolized death and eventually melded with the legends Europeans brought with them and became a half man and half wolf.

Mexican Werewolves

Mexican werewolves are called Nagual (Na'wal). Mesoamericans believed that the Nagual was a guardian spirit that lived in animals, but they also believed that it was something that gave men the power to transform into an animal. This was much like a magician who could disguise itself. A Nagual was a powerful man disguising himself as a wolf in order to cause harm.

Montreal Werewolves

The First Nations people of Montreal had a rich tradition of stories about werewolf-like creatures that they called Waheela, Shukla Warakin, Amarok and the Wendigo. Werewolf sightings started in Montreal in the 1600s. The stories came over with the French colonists who had been dealing with werewolves since the late 1400s. One of the first legends was about a man named Jean Dubroise who had one of the most productive farms on Montreal Island. His neighbors were confused though because they never saw Dubroise working the land. A fellow farmer was walking home one night and decided to cut across Dubroise's property. His name was Alphonse and he was enibrated, so take that into account as we share his experience. He heard a very loud noise overhead and when he looked up, he saw a large flying canoe. This canoe landed in a field on Dubroise's farm and Alphonse claimed that the Devil stepped out of the canoe and he told the others in the canoe to get out as he cracked a whip. Twenty hunched-over wolfmen climbed out of the canoe. Alphonse jumped in the bushes to hide and watched the werewolves do all the work on the farm.

Later, when the werewolves, Devil and canoe left, Alphonse went to the church and reported what he had saw, also including that Dubroise had come out to talk to the Devil and that he thought the man had sold his soul in exchange for the work. The priest was alarmed and the next day led a group of parishioners to the the farm where they poured holy water everywhere. They hid and waited to see what happened that night. The Devil showed up with the canoe and when everyone stepped out onto the ground, they shrieked in pain. The werewolves ran away. The Devil believed that Dubroise had betrayed him, so he tore the door off the house and dragged the man to the canoe and took off. The Priest and other men rounded up the werewolves and pricked them with a knife, which was the only way to turn them back to men. The men asked for forgiveness and became devout.

Another interesting legend was about a miller named Joachim Crete who took in a French immigrant named Hubert Sauvageau. Not long after that, local sheep and cattle started turning up dead, clearly attacked by a wild animal. Crete figured out what was happening when he ran into a werewolf late one night walking home. He took out a scythe and cut the creature's ear off, causing it to flee. Crete found Sauvageau the next morning in the bathroom washing his head, which was bleeding. He saw that the man was missing an ear. In the 1880s, Montreal had a rash of sheep killings in which the poor animals had their throats torn out. The townspeople believed a local man was a werewolf and they searched his property. They found a wolfskin belt and when they confronted him, he admitted that he turned into a wolf when he put the belt on and that he had killed the sheep. The townspeople burned the belt and this stopped the killings. 

And there is this story that appeared in the Quebec Gazette on December 2, 1767 about the Kamasouraska area, “We learn that a Ware-Wolfe, which has roamed throughout this Province for several Years, and done great Destruction in the District of Quebec, has received several considerable Attacks in the month of October last, by different Animals, which they had armed and incensed against this Monstre; and especially the 3rd of November following, he received such a furious Blow, from a small lean Beast, that it was thought they were entirely delivered from this fatal Animal, as it some Time after retired into its Hole, to the great Satisfaction of the Public. But they have just learn’d, as the most surest Misfortune, that this Beast is not entirely destroyed, but begins again to show itself, more furious than ever, and makes terrible Hovock wherever it goes.—Beware then of the Wiles of this malicious Beast, and take good Care of falling into its Claws.”

Thiess of Livonia

Livonia was once part of Estonia that is found in the Baltic. This became a hotbed for werewolf persecution in the 1600s with 18 trials for 31 people accused of being werewolves. One of these people was an octogenarian named Theiss. The trial was held in Jurgensburg and Theiss made a full confession, claiming that he shapeshifted into a wolf along with other men and that they went to hell three times a year to guarantee a good harvest. He proclaimed they were the hounds of God and kept the evil ones from stealing their seeds, crops and livestock. He claimed that there were werewolves in Russia and Germany as well. His accusers tried to get him to admit he made a pact with the Devil, but he never did. He was sentenced to receive ten lashings. 

The Galician Werewolf

Sabine Baring-Gould wrote the hymn "Onward, Christian Soldiers" and he was a clergyman who talked openly about a case of werewolves in 1849. This happened in what would become modern-day Poland near a thick pine forest. A beggar named Swiatek lived in a hovel outside the church and the villagers brought him alms and food. He seemed particularly fond of one of the families young daughters. He gave her a ring one day and told her to go to a pine in the churchyard with it and recite an incantation. He said she would find more jewels after doing that. The young girl disappeared, as did the beggar. Then other children who played amongst the pines disappeared. The villagers believed that wolves were carrying off the children and they killed any wolves they saw. Swiatek was found some time later at a home with his wife and children. Villagers had smelled cooking meat and thought that Swiatek and his family had cooked a couple of ducks that had gone missing. When they busted in the door, they saw the man hiding something in his coat. They grabbed him and when they opened his coat, they found the head of a young girl. The beggar confessed to killing and eating six people. He was placed in jail, but killed himself before the trial for lycanthropy started.

Jean Grenier

In the early spring of 1603, the St. Severs district of Gascony, South-West France found itself the center of werewolf attacks. Boys and girls started disappearing and two girls claimed to have escaped the attacks of a wolf under the full moon. The local magistrate started an investigation and everyone was shocked when a 14-year-old boy named Jean Grenier stepped forward and claimed to have committed the attacks. He claimed that he had a wolf-skin and when he put it on, he would turn into a wolf. He claimed to be part of a pack of werewolves with nine members and that they hunted three times a week, usually feasting on young children. Grenier went on to say that another boy named Pierre de la Tilhaire, had taken him into the forest one night to meet "The Lord of the Forest." This creature marked Grenier's thigh and gave him an icy kiss and a wolf-skin to help him transform into a werewolf.

Grenier confessed to the murders and shared details no one else knew. The court took pity on him since he was young and poorly educated and sent him  to be with the Franciscans at the friary of St Michael the Archangel, Bordeaux, in 1603. A friend visited him seven years later and claimed that Grenier had hands with nails like talons, his teeth had become longer like fangs, his eyes were sunken and black and he ran on all fours. He would only eat raw meat. He died a year later with most people assuming that he had a mental disorder.

The Werewolf Demon Tailor

There is another tale that comes out of France and that ended with a tailor being burned at the stake in 1598 for being a werewolf. No one knows his name, but he came to be known as the Werewolf of Chalons or the Demon Tailor. Chalons is in the Champagne region and he owned a tailor shop here. It was said that the tailor liked to lure children into his shop with promises of treats. He would abuse the children, kill them and then cut up their bodies, consuming some of the flesh and storing the rest in barrels in the shop's cellar. He also committed crimes out in the forests, attacking travelers in the form of a wolf. Eventually, the bones were found in the barrels of his cellar and he was put on trial. He was sentenced to burn at the stake for being a werewolf even though he professed his innocence. His name and nearly all records of this case were then disappeared from history, but word-of-mouth kept the story alive.

The Bedburg Werewolf

In 15th century Germany, there was the Bedburg Werewolf. The story was passed down through pamphlets that finally made their way into Montague Summers work "The Werewolf." This was about a man named Peter Stubbe who was a wealthy farmer in Bedburg. Rumors started to circulate that he was turning into a wolf-like creature at night. Apparently there were some gruesome murders taking place and Stubbe was stretched on a rack until he confessed to practicing black magic and that the Devil gave him a magic belt that helped him turn into a large wolf. He would return to human after taking off the belt. He went on to claim that he had killed fourteen children and two pregnant women and eaten some of their flesh. He was sentenced to death and the execution was carried out on October 31, 1589. It was brutal. He was put on a wheel and had flesh torn from his body with burning pinchers and then his limbs were broken with the blunt end of an axe. He was beheaded and burned on a pyre. No magic belt was ever found.

Wolf of Ansbach 

This is probably one of the most famous werewolf legends in history. Here is a poem about this creature:

I, wolf, was a grim beast and devourer of many children
Which I far preferred to fat sheep and steers;
A rooster killed me, a well was my death.
I now hang from the gallows, for the ridicule of all people.
As a spirit and a wolf, I bothered men
How appropriate, now that people say:
“Ah! You damned spirit who entered the wolf,
You now swing from the gallows disguised as a man
This is your fair compensation, the gift you have earned;
This you deserve, a gibbet is your grave.
Take this reward, because you have devoured the sons of men
Like a fierce and ferocious beast, a real child eater.

So what really happened here? There was a Bavarian town called Ansbach that suffered a rash of animal killings that were followed by the killing of children in 1685. Wolves are not known to hunt alone. They work together as a pack, so to have a lone wolf is strange. Add to a lone wolf that it began hunting children and it wasn't a far leap for villagers to proclaim that a werewolf was among them. And the villagers knew exactly which of them was transforming into this creature.

There was a Burgomaster, which is like a mayor, of Ansbach who was named Michael Leicht. Everybody hated this guy and with good reason. He was a cruel leader and kept the town under a yoke. Nobody was sad when he died, but soon after his death, villagers started claiming that he had escaped death by transferring his spirit to a wolf. Drawn images of him in the form of a wolf wrapped in a white-linen shroud started circulating as people claimed that he visited his old apartment, scaring the new tenants. Villagers gathered together and decided to hunt down the wolf before their children were killed.

The hunters created a wolf pit, which was a hole dug in the ground with stone walls to secure it and then branches and straw were placed over the top to conceal it. They placed raw meat in the pit to attract the werewolf, but when they got no success with that, they switched to live bait and put a rooster in the pit. The wolf came along and fell into the pit and the hunters killed the creature. They then pulled the body out of the pit and paraded it through the streets. But before they did that, they cut off its muzzle and put a cardboard mask on the head with the features of Leicht drawn on it. They also put a wig and cloak on it. When the parade was over, the wolf was hanged by a gibbet on a hill, so that everyone in the village could see it.  

The villagers felt that this display represented several things. Number one, they were no longer in danger, but by skinning the beast and putting it in human clothes, it was like they were getting rid of their political enemy. It made them feel as though they took the Burgomaster out themselves. But they also felt that this sent a message to the Devil that they would take out any of his evil servants that he might send. Villagers had been killed by the beast, but there is no record as to how many that was and many still lived in fear believing that more werewolves were around them. One has to wonder though what they thought when the creature did not revert to being a human once it was killed.

The Beast of Bray Road

Probably the most famous modern day tale of a werewolf creature is the Beast of Bray Road, which is often referred to as a dogman. Diane interviewed Linda Godfrey several years ago who is the expert on this case and has written several books about this creature and other weird anomalies. The first sighting of this creature was in 1936 in Wisconsin, but it gained popularity in the 1980s. It was first seen on Bray Road, which is where its name comes from, but has wandered to the counties of Jefferson, Walworth and Racine. Godfrey was a reporter at the time and she was assigned by the Walworth County Week to cover the story. She was a complete skeptic and expected to find that the story was made up. The more people she interviewed, the more convinced she became that there was some kind of bipedal wolf-like/dog-like creature roaming Bray Road. The creature stood around 7 feet tall with brown or gray hair and left behind animal mutilations and scratches on cars. Sightings have been reported both at night and during the daytime and as recently as July 2020. The show Expedition X went in search of it in 2021. There are some who claim that this was actually just a wolf or black bear. But the way Godfrey described it as walking makes it sound as though it is very comfortable walking on two legs.

Tales of werewolves can seem pretty unbelievable. But there are so many first person accounts and the legends have been with us for so long, it seems as though there must be some truth to them. Were there such things as werewolves? Do these creatures still wander the earth? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes:

Montreal's Werewolves: