Thursday, February 25, 2021

HGB Ep. 374 - The Legend of the Count of St. Germain

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Moment in Oddity - The Iceman Curse

Two German hikers discovered a well-preserved human mummy in the Ötztal Alps in September of 1991. This was on the border of Italy and Austria and was the oldest mummy ever found in Europe. Evidence revealed that the Iceman had met with a violent end. He was shot with an arrow and then his head was crushed. Scientists believed that he was a shaman who had been killed by his enemies. Perhaps that is why there are claims that the Iceman is cursed. Seven people who were connected with the discovery died in the thirteen months that followed. Some of those deaths were violent or odd themselves. Rainer Henn was the first to die. He worked as a forensic pathologist and he put the Iceman in a body bag with his bare hands. On his way to do a presentation on the Iceman, he was killed in a car crash. The guide who lead Henn to the body was next. An avalanche got him. The man who filmed the recovery was the third to die and this was from a brain tumor. One of the hikers who discovered the mummy went missing in 2004 and when he was found he was at the bottom of a 300 foot cliff, face down in a stream. A man on that rescue team dropped dead of a heart attack after the hiker's funeral. The next victim proclaimed the curse a bunch of rubbish and said, "The next thing you will be saying I will be next." And he was. The final victim initially got sick in 1992 right after he started working with the Iceman, eventually dying in 2005. Having all these deaths occur in connection with discovering the Iceman, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Mary, Queen of Scots Beheaded

In the month of February, on the 8th, in 1587, Mary, Queen of Scots, was beheaded at Fotheringhay, England. Mary Stuart had been born in 1542 and was the only surviving legitimate child of King James V of Scotland. She accended to the throne when she was only six days old because her father died. She would reign over Scotland from December 14, 1542 to July 24, 1567. She grew up in France and married Dauphin of France, Francis. He died in 1560 and she went to Scotland where she married her half-cousin and became Mary Stuart. They had a son named James.This new husband was nurdered two years into the marriage and Mary then married James Hepburn whom it was thought helped plan the murder. The country rose up against the couple and Mary was thrown into Loch Leven Castle and imprisoned. She abdicated the throne to her son and fled to England for protection under her cousin Queen Elizabeth I. The Queen of England thought that Mary was actually coming to take the throne, so she had her imprisoned. Over the next 19 years, she was moved from manor house to castle to manor house. During the Protestant Reformation in England, Mary got caught up in the events surrounding that and she was charged with complicity in a plot to assassinate Elizabeth. She was sentenced to die, but her legend continues as one of the most complicated characters in British and European history.

Legend of the Count of St. Germain (Research Assistance from Scott Booker, Suggested by Abby Richmond)

One legendary person in history that has been fascinating to us is the Count of St. Germain. This was a man who not only claimed to be hundreds of years old, seemingly finding the secret to eternal youth via alchemy, but sightings and stories about him throughout the centuries seem to indicate that he may have been telling the truth. Who was this man? Was he even a Count? Could he have been a time traveler? Was he a vampire and that is why he never seemed to age? Join us as we explore the legend of the Count of St. Germain.

The Comte de Saint Germain went by many aliases and has been known as several men through the centuries. There was the Marquis de Montferrat, Comte Bellamarre, Chevalier Schoening, Count Weldon, Comte Soltikoff, Graf Tzarogy, Prinz Ragoczy, Marcus S. Garmin, Master “R” and Jacque St. Germain. Regardless of what name he was introducing himself by, he was always described with similar traits as a man with a head full of black hair, appearing to be around thirty years old, handsome, robust and of medium height with barely a wrinkle on his face. The Count was rich and dressed elegantly and knew how to throw a party. The Fourth Earl of Oxford, Horace Walpole, wrote to his friend Horace Mann about the Count, "An odd man, who goes by the name of Comte St. Germain. He had been here these two years, and will not tell who he is, or whence, but professes that he does not go by his right name. He sings, plays on the violin wonderfully, composes, is mad and not very sensible. He is called an Italian, a Spaniard, a Pole; a somebody that married a great fortune in Mexico, and ran away with her jewels to Constantinople, a priest, a fiddler, a vast nobleman. The Prince of Wales has had unsatiated curiosity about him, but in vain."

Historians disagree as to the biography of the Count of St. Germain with good reason. There seem to be no definitive records about him and he refused to give his true name. Most historians agree that he was born in the late 1600s. Biographer and Theosophist Isabel Cooper-Oakly reported in her book, "The Comte de St. Germain, the Secret of Kings" that he was born the son of the Prince of Transylvania, Francz-Leopold Racoczi, and his wife, Princess Charlotte Amalia of Hesse-Wahnfried, in the late 1690s. She claimed that he was probably born in Bohemia. His parents were unable to raise him because the political environment was becoming dangerous and he was sent to Gian Gastone, who was the last of the Medici Family, to be raised. This was his mother's brother-in-law. Under the care of Gastone, the Count would receive a great education. But there are those who disagree with this origin story.

Some historians claim that his father was Comte Adanero and his mother was Marie de Neubourg, the  widow of King Charles II of Spain. Others believe that he had been a Portugese Jew. P.T. Barnum wrote "The Humbugs of the World" in 1886 and in it he related about the Count, "The Marquis de Crequy declared that St. Germain was an Alsatian Jew, Simon Wolff by name, and was born at Strasbourg about the close of the 17th or the beginning of the 18th century; others insist that he was a Spanish Jesuit named Aymar; and others again intimate that his true title was the Marquis de Betmar, and that he was a native of Portugal. The most plausible theory, however, makes him the natural son of an Italian princess and fixes his birth at San Germano, in Savoy, about the year 1710; his ostensible father being one Rotondo, a tax-collector of that district."

The Count spoke so many languages, it was as if he was from everywhere. These languages included: French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian and English. As part of his education, he he also was experienced with Chinese, Latin, Arabic, Greek and Sanskrit. The Count was accomplished in so many ways. One area was music and many pieces of music are attributed to the Count, It is said that he contributed some of the songs to L'incostanza delusa, an opera performed at the Haymarket Theatre in London. The Count was an artist with a gift for painting. And he could write, but no one knows for sure if works attributed to him really were written by him. One of these would be La Très Sainte Trinosophie, The Most Holy Trinosophia, or The Most Holy Threefold Wisdom. This was a French esoteric book. There are those who claim the Count authored it, but others give Alessandro Cagliostro credit for the work. The only reason this has been connected to the Count is that there was a handwritten note on the inside cover of the original manuscript claiming that it belonged to St. Germain. The material could be his as well as we will soon discuss his interest and seeming expertise in alchemy, the esoteric and the mystical. This 96-page book written in the late 18th century is divided into twelve sections representing the twelve Zodiac signs and inside is information about masonic, kabbalistic and alchemical mysteries. Another tome attributed to him was the The Triangular Book of St. Germain or The Triangular Manuscript. This was an untitled 18th-century French text written in code and the book is literally shaped like an equilateral triangle, hence the name. The contents feature information on how to extend life and find treasure via magic. One has to decipher the code to uncover that.

Everywhere the Count went, people loved him. They wanted to be a part of his circle and attend his parties. He traveled extensively throughout Europe in the mid to late 1700s. He mesmerized people with his knowledge of jewels and since he was rich, he made jewelry a big part of his dress. He even studded his shoes with jewels. He claimed he could grow pearls to large sizes. He had perfected a technique for painting jewels and developed a special pigment that could reflect light and make jewels gleam in such a way that they were life-like. His knowledge with jewels is traced to five years that he spent in the Shah of Persia's court in the mid 1700s where he learned the jeweler’s craft. And we should mention that although the Count was famously rich, he held no bank accounts anywhere. As a matter of fact, a French ambassador in London wrote that the Count had to be a spy because "...he has cut a fine figure here, receiving great sums and settling all bills with such promptitude that it has never been necessary to remind him. Nobody can imagine how a man who was simply a gentleman could dispose of such vast resources, unless he were employed as a spy." Although he clearly would have been a catch for any woman, he never married or had any children. 

The Count was friends with many well known people like Giacomo Girolamo Casanova, who said of St. Germain, "This extraordinary man...would say in an easy, assured manner that he was 300 years old, that he knew the secret of the Universal Medicine, that he possessed a mastery over nature, that he could melt diamonds... all this, he said, was mere trifle to him." Madame d’Adhemar wrote "Souvenirs de la Marie Antoinette," which was published in 1836, and in it she wrote that her maid once quipped about the Count, "I thought, with all due respect to Madame la Comtesse, that the devil had long since made a mantle out of the skin of this personage." St. Germain knew King Louis XV of France and his wife Marie Antoinette and advised the king and conducted secret missions for him in England. He also seemed to be able to see into the future and he told the King that the French Revolution would be coming. This was fifteen years before it actually did happen. King Louis's chief mistress, Marquise de Pompadour, was friends with the Count as well and he visited her in 1750. The Count knew Catherine The Great and is said to have played a part in the conspiracy to get her on the throne and he advised her on the war with Turkey. He knew the philosopher and writer Voltaire whom he met in 1758, and while Voltaire found him entertaining, he thought the Count talked far too much. The last five years of his life were spent at Prince Charles of Hesse-Cassel's castle in Eckernförde. The co-founder of the Theosophical Society, Madame Blavatsky, met with the Count many times in the 1890s, clearly after he should have been dead. And even more remarkably, he claimed to have had conversations with the Queen of Sheba and Cleopatra.

The pieces of the Count's life that are very interesting to us are those that deal with the occult and his abilities with alchemy, which is a mixing of chemistry and philosophy to transmute baser metals into gold and find the elixir of life. Legend claims he discovered the true secret of Alchemy. He developed some kind of powder that turned lead into pure silver or gold when either of these metals was heated to its molten form and the powder was added to it. This same powder was also the key ingredient in his elixir of life and legend also claims this would impart immortality on those who drank it. Legend claims he could turn rocks into precious stones, take imperfections out of diamonds and even fashion diamonds out of thin air.

President of the Theosophical Society, Annie Besant, wrote in the Foreward of Cooper-Oakly's book, "The great Occultist and Brother of the White Lodge, fragments of whose life are herein given, was the greatest force behind in the intellectual reforming movement which received its deathblow in the outbreak of the French revolution.  Phoenix-like, it has re-arisen, and it reappeared in the 19th Century as the Theosophical Society, of which this Great Brother is one of the recognized leaders.  Still living in the same body the perennial youth of which astonished the observers of the 18th-century, He has fulfilled the prophecy made to Mme. d 'Adhémar that he would show himself again a century after his farewell to her, and, in the growing spiritual movement which is seen around us on every side, He will be one of the acknowledged Chiefs. Profoundly interesting, therefore, must be every detail that can be gathered of His eighteenth century life, and much is gathered here."

Annie is sharing here about the Masonic background of the Count. He was also believed to have connections to several other secret societies, including the Rosicrucians, Society of Asiatic Brothers, the Knights of Light, the Illuminati and Order of the Templars. Perhaps it was through the rituals of these groups that he perfected his special magic. The Count was so dedicated to his alchemy pursuits that he would set up elaborate laboratories wherever he traveled. He didn't just work on life elixirs and precious metals though. He made cosmetics, anti-aging cremes and hair-dyes. And many times his dyes were used for clothing as well.

One key indicator that someone has lived is the existence of a burial. Of course, that also indicates that the person died. The Count was reportedly buried on March 2, 1784 in a private grave at Nicolai Church at Nikolaikirchen in Eckernforde. The stone was rumored to read, "Deceased on February 27th, buried on March 2nd, 1784. The so-called Comte de St Germain and Weldon. Further information not known." A great storm destroyed the church on November 13, 1872 and all the indoor tombs were filled with sand. Most of the large tombstones were removed leaving the location of his body unknown. Which also leads people to believe that he is not buried in the church. No one had attended the funeral of this clearly well-known and liked man. He had nothing of value to his name at the time of his death save for some clothing and toiletries. Of course, the main reason we are talking about the Count is that many people believe he couldn't die, either because he had discovered an elixir that kept him young or he was a vampire. Reasons why people have believed that the Count had lived for centuries are the stories of him attending many key events in history. Granted, many of these are stories he told himself.

The Count claimed to witness Jesus change water into wine at the wedding of Cana. The First Council of Nicaea was convened by the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great in 325 AD and St. Germain claimed he was present at that. The Count claimed that in 600 BC he received the Staff of Moses from one of Moses’ Great Grandson. This was the time of Cyrus in Babylon. St. Germain claimed that he had rooms at the Tower of London under King Edward II’s rule between 1307 and 1327. He also claimed to have spent time studying Speculative Chemistry with Francis I from 1501 to 1540. The Count was seen at the Coup D’état when Napoleon Bonaparte overtook the French Consulate in 1799. In 1821, he seems to disappear from history and this is when legends claim he started using aliases.

Around this time, Albert Vandam, who was an English journalist wrote about a man he met named Major Fraser, "He called himself Major Fraser, lived alone and never alluded to his family. Moreover he was lavish with money, though the source of his fortune remained a mystery to everyone. He possessed a marvelous knowledge of all the countries in Europe at all periods. His memory was absolutely incredible and, curiously enough, he often gave his hearers to understand that he had acquired his learning elsewhere than from books. Many is the time he has told me, with a strange smile, that he was certain he had known Nero, had spoken with Dante, and so on." Vandam said the man looked just like pictures he had seen of the Count of St. Germain. Major Fraser eventually died with no family. His possessions were sold and given to the poor. If he died, then he probably was not the Count. Jessie at the Finding Count Germain website, posted a possible obituary for Major Fraser.

Napoleon was suspicious of the Count, so he had people start investigating him. This started in 1870 and this special commission stored the information that it collected at the Hotel de Ville. The investigation ended in 1871 when the hotel burned down. The cause of the fire was a mystery.As mentioned earlier, Madame Blavatsky met the man in 1890 and the two stayed in contact for ten years. How would that be possible? At this point, he would be 200 years old. There is supposedly a photo that was taken of the two of them together, but we haven't seen it. In the 1920s and 1930s he appeared to other people and in 1972 he made his final appearance. A man named Richard Chanfray came forward and claimed that he was the Count. When he was pressured to prove it, he went on French television and changed lead into gold using a camp stove while the cameras rolled. He committed suicide in 1983. Chanfray did favor the count. He had a similar nose structure and the same cleft in his chin. But the similarities stop there. Chanfray had a clear biography of being born and growing up, becoming a thief and spending time in jail and he seemed to have none of the other talents of the Count. He read about the man and then became a magician and psychic after getting out of jail. Just before joining into a suicide pact with his lover, he was seen in public looking very thin with white hair. Actor Kevin Pollack favors the Count a bit too, but well, if everything we've heard about the Count is true, Pollack is definitely nothing more than a doppelganger for the famous Count.

As open-minded skeptics, of course we need to look at theories as to how the Count of St. Germain came to be known by all of us as this strange figure in history. Passports have been around a long time and early on, these passports were blank so that people could travel under assumed names. Is it possible that various people claimed to be him as they traveled? It's not like they had magazines and televisions back then, so some people would not have known what he looked like. The English mime and comedian, Mi'Lord Gower, often impersonated Saint Germain in Paris and he would tell wild stories of his exploits like he had been an adviser to Jesus. Magicians would claim to be the count as they traveled around performing. Teachings in the I Am Movement by Guy Ballard and Summit Lighthouse, that were run by Mark and Elizabeth Prophet, claim The Count Of Saint Germain as an Ascended Master. Elizabeth wrote many things as she claimed to be channeling the Count. The Ascended Masters, known in the East as Bodhisattvas, were once human beings on the Earth. These teachings lead people to believe he was reincarnated over and over until he reached ascendancy. 

A more fun theory would be that he had figured out how to time travel. It would explain his ability to provide such great advise to kings and other nobles. Time traveling would explain how he has been seen through various decades and always appearing to be around 45 years old. We've never heard anybody put forward the idea that he was a spirit, but couldn't that be a possibility as well? Some believe the Count was a vampire for several reasons. As we said, the Count loved to host parties, but one curious thing that people noticed about him was that he rarely ate at the parties. As a matter of fact, he was rarely seen eating food in public. When asked about this, the Count would respond that he so enjoyed regaling guests with stories that he didn't have time to eat. When asked what kinds of foods he liked to eat, the Count would answer oatmeal and white chicken meat. In 1760, the Count met Countess van Georgy and when he introduced himself she said she knew of a man named Count of Saint-Germain in the year 1710. Imagine her shock when he claimed to be that man. She then said that would make him around 100 years old and he responded, "That is not impossible."

Diane first heard this theory of the Count as a vampire on a vampire tour in New Orleans. The tour group stood outside of a two story building in the French Quarter with red double doors at 1039 Royal Street as the guide shared the story about a man who claimed to be named Jacque St. Germain who arrived here in 1903. He was a handsome, rich, eccentric man who liked the ladies. Whenever he strolled the streets of New Orleans, he had a pretty girl on his arm. And like the Count, he loved to throw a good party and his affairs were always lavish with the finest food and drink. He too, regaled his guests with fantastical tales of his exploits and travels. All while not eating a bite of food. Guests noticed that his stories had intricate details that would not be known to most people. And some events he spoke of happened hundreds of years in the past. And he almost seemed to indicate that he had been at the events. But that couldn't be possible.

Jacque also looked very much like the Count. Shortly after arriving in Louisiana, he started claiming that he looked similar to the man because he was a direct descendant. People were skeptical, but the picture that they had seen of the Count favored their new friend and he looked to be about forty years old. When people started to wonder if he was not just related to the Count of St. Germain, but actually might be the mysterious man, Jacque didn't discourage them. He would not confirm or deny the suspicions. Another odd thing about the man was that he clearly was very wealthy and yet he didn't seem to have the accouterments of other wealthy people like servants and monogrammed silverware. Most wealthy people in the city made a point of flaunting their wealth through highly decorated and monogrammed utensils. Jacque would pay to have his parties catered and this would include renting the fine china and silver service.

Some people started wondering if Jacque were a vampire. He never ate any food and perhaps that is why he didn't have utensils. He didn't need them. And what was that red stuff he drank from a goblet? Was it wine or something else? Jacque had been in the city for several months when a horrible event would force him to flee the city and leave New Orleans with another legend about a vampire. Jacque had brought a beautiful young lady of the evening home with him. He offered her some wine and excused himself to get comfortable. She stood in the main room where a large mirror hung on the wall and admired herself, taking great pleasure in watching herself drink from the wine glass. She heard Jacque come back into the room and before she could turn to him, she felt his lips graze her neck. The woman dipped her head back, enjoying the attention, until she felt his teeth against her neck and then he was biting her neck, his teeth digging in. She glanced into the mirror and swore she could not see Jacque's reflection. The terrified girl managed to rip herself away and she ran for a set of double doors on the upper balcony, burst through them and jumped to the street below, breaking both her legs.

Bystanders stopped to help the poor woman who was horribly injured and losing blood fast. They called for the police and then listened as she screamed erratically about having been attacked by a vampire. They thought she was delusional because of her injury. She was taken to the hospital and died later that evening. The police paid a visit to Jacque St. Germain. He was a well-respected man and seemed quite upset that the young lady had been hurt and he claimed there was a misunderstanding, so the police told him that it would be fine if he came by the police station in the morning to do an interview. He, of course, didn't show. When the police went to his house, they found him gone, but he had left nearly all his belongings. He was never seen or heard from again. While the police inspected his house, they found a bunch of uncorked wine bottles. A few had wine, but most were filled with blood, what they assumed to be human blood. People started referring to him as Vampire Jack.

Was the Count hundreds or even thousands of years old? Did he have some kind of ancient wisdom and did his practice of the lost arts lead him to create the elixir of life. He was one of the most interesting men to have ever lived. Does he still live? That is for your to decide!

Show Notes:

The Comte de St. Germain, The Secret of Kings by Isabel Cooper-Oakley:

Great blog: 

Marita Woywod Crandle's book: "New Orleans Vampires, History and Legend," published 2017 by Haunted America.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

HGB Ep. 373 - Big Bend and the Ghost Lights of Texas

This episode's sponsor is HelloFresh. Go to and use code bump10 for 10 free meals, including free shipping!

Moment in Oddity - The Serrated Teeth of the Mosasaur

Last month, in the journal Cretaceous Research, a new discovery by a group of phosphate miners in Morocco's Khouribga province was reported. A paleontologist from the University of Bath named Nick Longrich wrote, "Those teeth are just unlike anything I’ve seen in a lizard before." What he was talking about was a mosasaur. These were marine reptiles related to snakes and monitor lizards that are now extinct. Mosasaurs had these conical teeth that could pierce and grip slippery prey. This mosasaur was different then all those found before. Rather than a mouth full of conical teeth, this discovery had short, serrated teeth packed tightly in such a way that they resembled a serrated knife edge. Nathalie Bardet, who co-authored the report, is a paleontologist at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris and she wrote, "I have been working on mosasaurs for over 20 years...I must admit that among the 10 species that I know, this one has a so unusual and extraordinary dentition that at the beginning I thought it was a chimera reconstructed with different fossils!” That is quite a statement! It was so odd, she thought it was different creatures put together. All other known reptiles have pointed or cone-shaped teeth, but this variety had teeth more like a shark and that, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Malcolm X Shot and Killed

In the month of February, on the 21st, in 1965 former Black Muslim leader Malcolm X was shot and killed while delivering a speech in a ballroom in New York City. Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little in 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska to Baptist Minister Earl Little and his wife. The family moved to Michigan and when Malcolm as six, his father was killed when he was hit by a streetcar. There are those who believe he was murdered. His mother was sent to an asylum in 1939 and he and his siblings ended up with family members and in foster homes. Despite these hardships, Malcolm enjoyed school and did well, but he quit after the eighth grade when a teacher told him he would never be a lawyer and should focus on manual labor. He lost his way for a time, falling into drug dealing and street hustling and eventually he became a leader of a gang of thieves in Harlem. In 1946, he found himself in jail and while he was there, he converted to Islam. He joined the Nation of Islam that combined Black nationalism and Islam. He started educating himself again and gave up pork, smoking and gambling. He changed his last name to X, which was tradition for Nation of Islam followers. This was to ensure they were not carrying a slaveholder's name. Once out of jail, he helped grow the group, opening temples and started a newspaper. Malcolm eventually rose to the level of second in rank. By the early 1960s, Malcolm was at odds with the leader of the Nation of Islam. He also disagreed with Dr. Martin Luther King's work on obtaining civil rights. Malcolm left the Nation of Islam and became a Sunni Muslim. This lead to animosity with the Nation and death threats ensued. Three members of the Nation of Islam assassinated him on that February day. His voice was not silenced that day as his ideas and passion continue on today. 

Big Bend and the Ghost Lights of Texas

Ghosts Lights are such an interesting phenomenon. They are seen all over the world and no one is really sure what they are or where they come from. There are many theories. Tim Stevens came in first place in our flash fiction contest in 2018 with his story "That Retched Sound." He co-founded Spectrograph Films in 2019 and the production company is currently finishing their first feature film, a sci-fi thriller called The Ghost Lights, based on a real phenomena that occurs in West Texas. Tim wrote and directed the film. He joins us to discuss the film, the Marfa Lights, his own experience with the lights, the ghost town of Terlingua, Texas where they filmed and legends and ghost stories connected to Big Bend, Texas.

The premise of the film is a journalist returns home after the death of her father and discovers a mysterious cassette tape describing strange disappearances and mysterious lights appearing in the skies of West Texas. In an effort to connect with the memory of her late father, she sets out on a cross-state road trip to discover the truth. Tim discussed the issues with making a film with only four people and during the year of Covid-19. They are running an Indiegogo campaign to help fund the post-production of the film.

The Marfa Lights appear most commonly at Mitchell Flat, which is an area east of Marfa. They appear as mysterious glowing orbs that take on various colors like yellow, blue, white, red and other colors. They are about the size of basketballs and they flicker, twinkle, merge, hover, dart around and float up in the sky. They have been reported for decades. The first mention of the lights was in 1883 when a cowhand saw flickering lights. He assumed they were from campfires built by the local Apaches, but no ashes were ever found in the area. Interestingly, the Native Americans always thought they were falling stars. Scientists who have studied the phenomenon have come up with the same tired explanations used for ghost lights across the country, they are car headlights. But how to explain the sightings long before cars were ever on the road? There's also the theory of swamp gas. Methane and phosphine can ignite when they come into contact with oxygen. There are others who think it is geological activity that creates electrical phenomenon. Or it could be aliens. Or ghosts. No one knows. Tim shared his crews' own experiences with seeing the Marfa Lights!

The ghost town of Terlingua, Texas is an old mining town that developed around a unique element, cinnabar. Quicksilver is extracted from cinnabar, something we know more commonly as mercury. This was the setting for the film. Tim shared with us some of the legends of the area and then he went on to tell some of the legends and stories connected to Big Bend, Texas.

In this same area is the legend of the Murder Maverick. This is a large black phantom steer with the word MURDER branded on one side in letters nearly a foot high. The Murder Maverick is an omen of death. The story behind the branding features two ranchers fighting over ownership of the steer and one man murdered the other. Cowboys who worked for the murdered man roped, captured the steer and branded it with the word murder, so that the owner would always remember what he had done. This steer then followed the murderer everywhere he went. He ended up leaving the country. The steer ran into the mountains of Big Bend and it is said that anyone who sees the steer and reads the word on its side, they will be murdered shortly afterward.

Logan Hawkes writes on the Texas Less Traveled Blog, "On this particular occasion we enjoyed the healing waters of the spring a little too long. Soon the shadows covered the river and its canyon walls nearby and we were quickly consumed by the black of night that is common to an area where there are virtually no cities or subdivisions or electric lights to disrupt the pure magic of night. Armed with an Ever Ready flashlight and a big walking stick, we began to count the first stars above, and then the millions that seemed to blossom as the night began to close. As the river flowed briskly by an unnerving revelation occurred. Where just a moment before we were sitting very much alone, chances are good with no one within miles around, the next moment we could vaguely make out silhouetted shadows of people standing on a narrow ledge that bordered the river maybe 50 yards up its banks. We sat in the hot water silent for a moment as our eyes attempted to focus in the starlight, what little there was. Like everything else in Big Bend, you find yourself looking hard at things you want to see in order to focus on them instead of the great distances and majestic landscapes of the land that seems to blur reality into a torrent canvass of colors and shapes. After waiting for this group, maybe five or six shadowed figures, to approach in our direction and listening intently for the murmured sounds of speech, we finally turned on the flashlight - actually more like a small searchlight, and flashed down river to where the figures were huddled. Except there were no figures revealed in the light. Turning the light off, the faint silhouette outlines reappeared. We turned the light on and off several times after that. We even called to the figures to identify themselves. In Big Bend, anywhere near the river, you must still be watchful and careful because of the drug smugglers and illegals that cross there frequently - the way it has been for centuries. But no one answered our challenge, and in spite of how many times we turned the light on and off, the figures would appear and seem to disappear respectively. Finally, and rather quickly, we pulled ourselves out of the water, slammed on our pants over wet suits and slipped on our shoes. We were distracted for only moments, but when equipped with clothing and turning our attention down river to where the figures lurked we discovered they were gone - with the flashlight on and with the flashlight off. To this day we can not say who or what they shadows were. But I can confidently tell you they were not living beings, for my trail companion and I went in search of those figures, looking over boulders and ridges and walking through the brush on the other side, listening intently and watching for signs. But no signs existed."

Big Bend is a vast area that is mostly unexplored, so it is not surprising that it has so many legends connected to it. Tim mentioned the Chisos Mountains, which literally means "ghost, spirits and/or enchantment" and Big Bend National Park also has the Canyon de Bruhas, which translates to "Witch's Canyon." Did Tim's crew really experience the Marfa Lights? Is the Big Bend area haunted? That is for you to decide!

To support Tim's Indiegogo until March 18, 2021:

Thursday, February 11, 2021

HGB Ep. 372 - Andrew Jackson Hotel and Napoleon House

Moment in Oddity - Andrew Jackson's Swearing Parrot (Suggested by: Scott Booker)

On this episode, we are featuring a location named in honor of Andrew Jackson. Most people know he was a great General and was a former President of the United States, but do they know he owned a parrot? A parrot with a very foul mouth. This was an African Grey that originally belonged to his wife Rachel, but when she passed away, the bird became Jackson's responsibility. The parrot's name was Poll and while no one knows for sure where he learned his colorful vocabulary, most people are sure it came from Jackson who was pretty cantankerous. When Jackson died, Poll was allowed to attend the funeral and this decision soon proved to be a mistake. Reverend William Menefee Norment described what happened, "Before the sermon and while the crowd was gathering, a wicked parrot that was a household pet got excited and commenced swearing so loud and long as to disturb the people and had to be carried from the house. [It was] excited by the multitude and … let loose perfect gusts of cuss words. [People were] horrified and awed at the bird’s lack of reverence." Many Presidents have had pet birds, but Jackson's was the only one to swear and that, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Sweet Rationing Ends in Britain

In the month of February, on the 5th, in 1953, the rationing of sweets comes to an end in Britain. Oh what a sweet, sweet day! I'm a total sugaraholic. How tragic it would have been to live at a time when chocolate and sweets were rationed. This rationing lasted for ten achingly long years. Sugar was in short supply. Each person was only allowed 12 oz. of sweets a month. Once the rationing ended, long queues formed at confectioner's shops as people enjoyed being able to purchase boxes of chocolates. Many other items had been rationed during World War II. Meat was still being rationed as sugar was taken off that list and wouldn't be removed until July of 1954. A fun fact about rationing, in 1939 researchers at Cambridge University tested how much rationing an adult could endure and they found that adults could survive on amounts of food much smaller than the rations. The test subjects did well, but the increased level of fiber and starch in the diet led to “remarkable” levels of flatulence!

Andrew Jackson Hotel and Napoleon House

We had just one night in New Orleans on a recent road trip and we made the most of it since it was Kelly's first time here. We booked a room at the Andrew Jackson Hotel, had dinner at the Napoleon House - one of America's most famous bars - and took in a couple of the local creepy stores before heading on a ghost tour with Haunted History Tours. Join us as we share the history and haunts of the Andrew Jackson Hotel and Napoleon House.

As the listeners already know, New Orleans is THE destination for paranormal enthusiasts, particularly those who love history. Louisiana was clearly hard hit by two monsters of 2020: hurricanes and Covid-19. As we drove through Lake Charles, very few of the homes were without blue tarps over the roofs. This city on the Gulf was hit by two major hurricanes, Laura and Delta. Trees were shells of themselves. Damage was still evident everywhere and this was December. We continued our trek east as we headed for New Orleans. We drove the bridge across Lake Pontchartrain as we neared the historic city. Kelly got an overhead glimpse of one of the many cemeteries found in the city. The city is home to some of the coolest looking cemeteries with all the burials being above ground. We arrived at the French Quarter around four and lucked out in finding a parking spot right near the Andrew Jackson Hotel. 

The charming Andrew Jackson Hotel fits perfectly in the French Quarter with its iconic wrought iron on the upper balcony. This hotel is two stories with an exterior that is yellow with blue shutters and fronted with flags. The hotel is longer than it is wider. There are rooms both inside the main hotel and then outside along a courtyard that has a fountain, wrought iron tables and chairs and a cannon. Our room was on the far end on the first floor of the courtyard, which was just a bit magical because it was raining. The place is clearly old and in need of some updating, but we weren't here for comfort, we were here for ghosts. Which was a good thing because hot showers in the morning were elusive. The main lobby has an Old World theme with antique furniture and this carried over into our room with 18th century furniture and original wood floors. The real highlight of the hotel is that it is in the heart of the French Quarter, so in close walking distance to everywhere.

The site where the Andrew Jackson Hotel sits has a long history as is the case for the entire French Quarter. The first known building to stand here was used as a boys orphanage. The Spanish Colonial Government that was in control of New Orleans in 1792 was faced with a growing problem as Yellow Fever ravaged the city. Many children were losing their parents to the disease. Orphanages that also served as boarding schools was their answer. Things went well here until the fire of 1794 swept through and badly damaged the building. Stories claim that five boys lost their lives inside. Tracking down the truth on this story is difficult. Some tales claim the building was burned to the ground, while others say that it was one of the few buildings to survive the fire. Whatever the case may be, the energy of the boys who lived here at one time still carries on through the centuries. We'll discuss that in a moment. 

A U.S. Federal Courthouse replaced the orphanage after the fire. Again, we are not sure if the building was just repurposed or rebuilt, but it looked nothing like the traditional courthouse one would expect to see in a large city. The courthouse would be here until just before the turn of the 20th Century. It would have one very famous case that would involve General Andrew Jackson. He was held in contempt of court and charged with obstruction of justice in 1815. Jackson had come to New Orleans in December of 1814 to help defend the city against a British invasion. He declared martial law against the British. No one was allowed to enter the city and no one was allowed to leave. Shortly thereafter, the Battle of New Orleans was fought even though the War of 1812 had already come to an end. Word had not made it to New Orleans. After the battle, Jackson still refused to lift the order and a senator, Louis Louaillier, publicly called on Jackson to stop the order. Jackson's response was to have the senator arrested. When United States District Judge Dominick Hall ordered the senator released, Jackson had the judge arrested.

Jackson eventually lifted the martial law. When the judge was back in court, he charged Jackson with contempt of court and fined him $1,000. Jackson showed up out of uniform and looking shabby, demanded a trial by jury that was refused and eventually paid the fine. Many of the people of the city had offered to help Jackson pay the fine because he was a war hero, but he asked them to give the money to the widows and orphans who had suffered loses during the Battle of New Orleans. Congress would order in 1844 that the money Jackson paid for the fine be repaid to him. This was repaid with interest and Jackson received $2,700. The federal courthouse was demolished in the early 1900s and the building that would become the Andrew Jackson Hotel was built. It was added to the Register of Historic Places in 1965.

The Andrew Jackson Hotel is said to be one of the most haunted hotels in the city. There are several ghosts here reputedly. Obviously, with several boys losing their lives in the fire, there are claims of seeing young male ghosts and hearing the laughter of boys and sometimes even some screaming. It should be pointed out that this is mainly an adult hotel, so children are rarely staying at the hotel. One ghost that is seen most often has been nicknamed "Armand." He is a prankster who likes to wake up guests by either trying to push them out of bed or laughing loudly near their head. They sometimes feel a cold touch on their skin. No one is sure how Armand died, but it wasn't in the fire. Some believe he was thrown from the balcony, others claim he jumped himself. He appears most often in the most haunted room in the hotel, 208.

The former caretaker of the orphanage is seen fluffing pillows and cleaning. Sometimes furniture is rearranged. This was a female housekeeper according to various accounts. Televisions and lights turn on and off by themselves. Disembodied footsteps are heard. And there are some who claim that even the hotel's namesake, Andrew Jackson, has been seen roaming the halls. As for us, we had very little interaction. A recorder was left on all night and only picked up the occasional clicking on and off of the air.We did a brief dowsing rod session without much response. We think we were talking to a woman and wonder if she was the housekeeper or caretaker from years ago.

Jaime S wrote on Tripadvisor: The hotel is old and quaint. Rooms are extremely basic. The location is excellent for French Quarter activities and has an chic courtyard restaurant, Cafe Amelie, across the street. I did not believe in hauntings until I stayed here! They have a history of "friendly" hauntings, but I did not expect to experience anything. However, two nights in a row, we returned to our room to find my clothing moved. The first night, clothes thrown about with some folded in front of the door when we opened it. The second night my pajamas laid out like a person on the bed with a small hobbit door high above the bathroom that was open (it was definitely closed before and we could not reach it). Creepy to say the least...We thought the hotel staff may have been involved to perpetuate the haunted rumor, but they denied it. Also, cleaning staff comes early and leaves early. In the evenings there is only one hotel attendant who mans the desk so it seems unlikely that he would leave his post to mess with my clothes!

We had a ghost tour booked and decided to get some dinner and hit a couple of shops before the tour. Our first goal was to buy a large umbrella due to the rain that we had a feeling was going to be around for the entire evening. After accomplishing that, we hit two shops we were dying to check out, Marie Laveau's House of Voodoo and Boutique du Vampyre. Laveau's House of Voodoo was opened in 1988. This had been Marie Laveau II's house. The shop is full of wonderful things for learning and practicing spiritual and religious Voodoo ceremonies. There are talismans, charms, tribal masks, statues and t-shirts. They offer psychic and spiritual readings. And there are two altars inside, one dedicated to Marie I and the other to Marie II. Make sure to leave equal gifts at each altar, so as not to make either spirit jealous. It is believed that Marie II haunts this location. Visitors claim to feel her icy fingers on their shoulders. Readings are given in a backroom and her ghost has been seen at various times in there during spiritual readings.

At Boutique du Vampyre, Diane picked up the owner's book "New Orlean Vampires, History and Legend." Marita Woywod Crandle opened the shop in 2003. The About Us on the website is wonderful as Marita explains her entrance into vampire life in 1764 in Germany. She moved on to Transylvania and then over to New York and finally settling in New Orleans where her husband was originally from. The truth is that Marita is from Germany and lived in California before transplanting to New Orleans where she and her husband have rescued over 650 dogs. The shop is crammed full of goodness from books to oddities to candles to clothing to make-up to custom fangs to gargoyles, one of which Kelly brought home with us. We also learned about the secret speakeasy from a friend and asked about it while we were checking out. You need to make an appointment due to Covid right now, but it is a great gathering place for weirdos and vampires! We then headed off to find dinner, which is more difficult with Covid. Kelly got to hang out on Bourbon Street on a Saturday night, which was deserted compared to Diane's previous experience there. We finally happened upon the Napoleon House, which had a table available in the courtyard just shy of the pouring rain, which again made it a magical evening. Kelly had the Grilled Chicken and Brie and Diane had Gumbo. (Napoleon House Dinner)

The Napoleon House has stood at 500 Chartres Street for 200 years. New Orleans has passed through the hands of several countries in its history. By the time 1803 rolled around, New Orleans had gone from French control to Spanish and then back to French. Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was the ruler of France and he had told Spain that he would not give the territory of Louisiana to anybody else, but he lied. He worked out the Louisiana Purchase with the United States of America. Napoleon was popular in New Orleans, especially with Nicholas Girod, who was the mayor of New Orleans from 1812 to 1815. The mayor owned a mansion at the corner of Chartres and St. Louis Streets. His brother Francois Claude Girod bought the property on October 26, 1798 at an estate auction. Claude passed away on April 28, 1814 and left the property to Mayor Girod. The following year, the mayor was forced to resign over financial issues.

The Mayor decided to renovate the entire second floor of the house and offer it to Napoleon in 1821 as a refuge during his exile. Unfortunately, Napoleon would never make it to America because the British captured him and sent him into exile at St. Helena. Mayor Girod would not give up easily though. He put together a rescue mission and sent a ship to bring the Emperor to America. The mayor would watch for the ship to return from an octagon shaped tower on top of his mansion. The emperor died from arsenic poisoning in May of 1821, before the mission could be completed. Joseph Impastato rented the building for $20 a month starting in 1914 and he opened a grocery store on the first level and lived on the second floor with his brothers and sisters. Eventually "Uncle Joe" as everyone called him, bought the property for $14,000. There was a side room connected to the grocery store and Joe made that into a tavern that continued to run as a speakeasy during Prohibition. Joe was fond of opera and classical music and he would play opera records for customers on his Victrola and as you heard in our clip, that tradition continues today. 

Uncle Joe grew weary of the business after the end of World War II and he handed it over to his brother Peter Impastato in 1945. Peter's son Sal inherited the business when Peter died in 1971. Sal was only twenty-four at the time. Ralph Brennan took over the business in May of 2015. He is a third generation scion of the family known for their New Orleans restaurants. He actually stopped by our table shortly after we were seated. As we left, we snapped pictures of the iconic bar that has writing all over the walls and the beautiful tile entry way with "The Napoleon House" inlaid. The flooring in the bar is a melon and cream colored Carrera marble floor. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970. Napoleon House is said to have the best muffulettas in town. This is an Italian sandwich made with Italian bread and filled with olive salad, cheese, and a variety of meats like ham, salami, mortadella, and capicola. The restaurant and bar is aldo known for its Pimm's Cup. This is ginger ale mixed with fruit, cucumbers, mint, and a strong shot of gin. This was invented in 1823 by James Pimm, who served it at his oyster bar in London.

There are ghost stories connected to this property. The craziest ones claim that Napoleon himself wanders the building. These stories started in the early 1900s. The second floor had a reception hall at that time and their was a party taking place one evening. Several guests noticed a little man who was strangely dressed like Napoleon. They assumed he was a hired actor for the party and watched him walk around and then enter a coat closet. They waited for him to exit, but he never did. After twenty minutes, one of the guests went up to the manager to express concern that the actor may be in some trouble in the closet. Or getting into trouble in the closet and stealing their stuff. The manager looked at them confused and remarked that no actor had been hired, particularly one dressed like Napoleon. One of the guests worked for the newspaper and he wrote a brief article about the strange occurrence. Before long, the paper was flooded with letters from people claiming to have seen the same man who would disappear into the closet. All of these on different days. And no one had mentioned it before because they assumed he was a flesh and blood actor dressed in a costume. Had Napoleon come in spirit over to the city that had wanted him to come stay so badly?

Other spirits at this location are not nice to those who doubt the existence of ghosts. A woman was walking down the stairs one time and remarked that she didn't believe in ghosts, so this location certainly could not be haunted. No sooner had the words crossed her lips than she felt a hard smack on the back of her head and a heavy push on her back that almost sent her falling down the stairs. A woman ho had once lived in an upper apartment claimed to experience ghosts often. She said, "You get a creepy vibe from it. When you're there by yourself, you feel like someone is there with you, but no one is with you." Lights would flicker, she would get touched while she slept, which woke her up and sometimes be pushed by something she couldn't see. Other tenants claimed to have the same experiences.

An Executive Chef at the restaurant told Nola Weekend that they have three ghosts in the building and that a paranormal group has detected them. These spirits include an old sailor who drinks in the downstairs bar late at night, an old woman who likes to sweep the floor and a young woman who was murdered or died a bad death in the courtyard. The attic was a barracks at one time where sailors lived, so there is a possibility that a sailor might have lost his life here.

Then we were off to meet our tour. Diane's favorite tour company in New Orleans is Haunted History Tours. She had done a vampire one previously, but this time we were doing the traditional ghost tour. We checked in and then had to pop in to catch a classic cocktail to take along. (Tour Hurricane) The original hurricane cocktail was first mixed at Pat O'Brien's bar in New Orleans during the 1940s. There was so much rum in the city, they needed an easy way to get rid of it. While this cocktail has been remade over the years , the original was uncomplicated and had three ingredients: blend of rum, passion fruit syrup and lemon juice. The recipes of today are more complicated with many more ingredients. A typical recipe goes like this:

    1/2 lime, juiced
    2 ounces light rum
    2 ounces dark rum
    2 ounces passion fruit juice or purée
    1 ounce fresh-squeezed orange juice
    1/2 ounce simple syrup
    1/2 ounce grenadine
    Garnish: orange slice
    Garnish: maraschino cherry

Cedric was our tour guide and he was amazing. He had the coolest looking homemade face mask and was dressed in an amazingly creepy costume that we shared on Instagram when we were in New Orleans a few weeks ago. (Cedric Tour) We had a glorious time in New Orleans and can't wait to return for a longer visit. Are the Andrew Jackson Hotel and Napoleon House haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, February 4, 2021

HGB Ep. 371 - Charleville Castle

Moment in Oddity - Croghan Man 

We've featured bog bodies on a previous Moment in Oddity. These are bodies that have mummified after being buried in bogs and are found in various places in Europe. On this episode, we are featuring a haunted castle in County Offaly and it is here that Old Croghan Man was found in a bog in 2003. It is believed that this body dates back to the Iron Age and based on the state of the body, archaeologists believe that he was a man of high status who was murdered. Reasons for the believing that he quite possibly was a member of royalty include the fact that he had manicured nails, so he didn't do manual labor and he had a plaited leather band around his left arm. The body was buried in a bog at the foot of a hill that was used for kingship ceremonies. Croghan Man probably stood around 6ft. 6 in. tall, which was unique for the time period. It is believed he had a diet high in meat, although his last meal was wheat and buttermilk. The man was thought to have died two thousand years ago and it is thought that he was murdered as a Druid sacrifice. Kings were held responsible if a harvest was bad or if the weather was particularly poor. The body indicated that he was stabbed in the chest, decapitated and cut in half. This theory of sacrificial punishment is just one theory put forward. Another is that  
this was just a random member of the community chosen as a sacrifice to a fertility or harvest god to ensure good yields. The Croghan Man, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Director John Ford Born

In the month of February, on the 1st, in 1894, director John Ford was born. Ford was born in Maine to Irish parents and moved to California in 1914. He had followed his older brother here who had worked his way up to directing after working in vaudeville and starring in silent pictures. John would work as a handyman, assistant and stuntman for his brother. He did the occasional acting as well. Ford finally got his big break as a director and never looked back. He enjoyed using his own stock of actors, which included John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, James Stewart, Will Rogers and Henry Fonda. He took a break from making movies during World War II to serve as head of the photographic unit for the Office of Strategic Services and the Navy Department enlisted him to make documentaries. He later went back to directing. In a career that spanned fifty years, Ford made 140 films that included "The Searchers," "The Grapes of Wrath," "Stagecoach" and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" and he won five Academy Awards, four of which were for Best Director. He is considered one of the best directors of all time. He died at the age of 79 in 1973. He is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City.

Charleville Castle

Several years ago, we featured Leap Castle on an episode. This is not the only haunted castle in the Irish county of Offaly. Charleville Castle borders the town of Tullamore near a forest that was heavily used by Druids, thus the Druidic connection to this location is strong. This castle dates back to the early 1800s and is said to be the most haunted castle in Ireland with legends of devil worship, torture and mystical power. On this episode, we are going to explore the origins of Druids and examine the history and haunts connected to Charleville Castle! 

Offaly (oove all lee) County is said to be the home of High Kings and is known for its religious history, old castles and ghosts. For seventy years, the county was home to the world's largest telescope, which was originally built in the 1840s. Tullamore, which was originally part of the first English plantation in Offaly, is the county capital and has around 15,000 residents. The town shield depicts a phoenix rising from the ashes to commemorate an unpleasant piece of its history. In 1785, a hot air balloon crashed in the middle of town and burned down over 100 homes. This made Tullamore the scene of the world's first aviation disaster. Charleville Castle would be built near the town beginning in 1800.

Of particular interest in the woods near the castle are the remnants of a Druid Initiation Circle. This area was very important to the Druids. That circle means that this was a sacred ritual site. Many scholars believe that the term "druid" is derived from an Irish-Gaelic word for oak tree, "doire." For many ancient traditions, the oak tree is a symbol of knowledge. Many religions and groups have been influenced by the Druids from Christianity to Masonry. At its core, Druidism is a shamanic religion, incorporating contact with the spirit world and holistic practices with herbs and medicine. Druids were very focused on nature and their knowledge dates to megalithic times. The spiritual practice is polytheistic, but one won't find a pantheon of gods here. It differs depending on the Druid. And while many relegate Druidism to the ancient past, many people still practice some form of this today. Druids were said to be some of the first fortune tellers. 

Specifics of Druidism are a mystery. Most believe that Druidism came out of Celtic and Gaulish culture in Europe. Their origin dates to the 2nd century BC when they were mentioned for the first time in writing. Julius Caesar wrote of Druids in 59-51 BC. Druids served as philosophers, teachers, judges, scientists and, of course, priests. They were exempt from paying taxes and serving during battles. They actually were credited with preventing warfare as mediators. Of particular interest was that women were treated as equals. There are claims that they practiced human sacrifice, but no evidence for this has ever been found. Druids wore robes and they were color-coded according to rank. The wisest elder would wear gold and was called the Arch-Druid. Artisitic Druids were called Blue Bards and they wore blue. Sacrificers would wear red and were fighters. Most other Druids wore wimple white, unless they were new adherents. These wore brown or black. They believed in reincarnation and sins from this life would be paid for in the next.

Druids were similar to modern day Pagans and Wiccans who follow lunar and seasonal cycles. There were eight high holy days observed. Their New Year was observed on Samhain, which is our Halloween. This represented the last harvest coming in and the time when the worlds of the living and the dead were the closest, so this was a time of mysticism. The Winter Solstice was Yule and Druids would sit on mounds of earth through an entire night and when the sun rose, it symbolized rebirth. The Oak King would reign at this time. Imbolc was observed on February 2nd and their rituals would center around sheep's milk as they celebrated fertility and motherhood. Ostara fell on the spring equinox. Beltane was observed on April 30th and this was a festival of fertility. Litha was the summer solstice, which was a time where the Holly King took over from the Oak King. Lughnasa was observed on August 2nd and celebrated the first harvest. Mabon was the autumnal equinox. 

This forst near Charleville Castle would be considered one of the "Temples of the Druids." These were secluded and quiet areas in the center of nature. Some megalithic structures are thought to have been built by the Druids, like Stonehenge in Britain. This is shaped like a classic Druid Circle. But some historians disagree as to whether the Druids built this or just started using something that was already there. The Druids are thought to have come to Britain after Stonehenge was built. By the 2nd century, Druids were said to have died off from famine, warfare and disease after being oppressed by many societies, particularly the Romans. There are some who believe the Druids were converted to Christianity. But we all know that the Druids didn't disappear. They probably changed in some ways and in the 1700s, a Druid revival occurred in England and Wales. William Blake was an Arch-Druid.

A man named Thomas Lacy visited the castle in 1855 and he wrote of the forest, "While in Tullamore, the tourist should not forego the advantage of paying a visit to the magnificent castle and demesne of the Earl of Charleville, called Charleville Forest, a privilege which is conceded to respectable strangers. The demesne is of considerable extent, comprising an area of 1,500 acres, and possessing natural beauties of the highest order. The Clodagh river winds in a curving sweep through the beautiful grounds, and produces in many parts of them fine cascades, whose rushing sounds, as they descend into the deep glens, become subdued by the thick and overhanging trees, and finally subside into soft and agreeable murmurs. The widely-spreading lawns and rich meadows are studded and surrounded with timber of great age and large growth, while the more youthful plantations afford covert and security to the very large numbers of deer, hares, rabbits, and pheasants, by which they are tenanted; the latter, the beautiful pheasants, are to be seen in great abundance on all parts of the demesne."

The O'Molloy clan ruled an area called Firceall in County Offaly from the 5th to the 17th centuries. Firceall means "Men of the Churches" and was named such because of the number of churches there. The clan had descended from King Niall of the Nine Hostages or at least that is what legends claim. Historians are not sure King Niall ever existed. If he did live, he died before 382 A.D. After the 17th century, the lands of Firceall passed into the plantations of James I  and Cromwell. This would have been in the 1620s. The land was later given to Sir John Moore of Croghan by Queen Elizabeth I. The Moores relocated to Tullamore in 1697 and John Moore became the first lord of Tullamore in 1716.

Thomas Moore built the first mansion house on the site in 1641. The estate passed through the hands of Charles Moore who was the grandson of Thomas. When he died in 1674, the estate passed to Charles' sister who was named Jane. Jane married William Bury and they had a son named John who had a son he named Charles William Bury. John died in a swimming accident and his son Charles Bury would become the 1st Earl of Charleville, a brand new title, in 1757. He felt that a new home needed to be built on the property and this is when Charlesville Castle was constructed. Francis Johnston designed the castle in the Gothic Revival style after it was commissioned in 1798. Construction began in 1800 and continued until 1812. The castle looks like your typical castle, built from grey stone, with castellated towers. There is a small gothic chapel on the property and a dungeon below the castle for prisoners. The interior has a grand wraparound staircase rising several levels, there is a library and dining room, complete with stenciling by William Morris.

The 1st Earl was a antiquarian, landowner and politician. Much of his landholdings made up the village of Tullamore and he helped to develop much of it. The 1st Earl died in 1835 at the age of 71. His namesake son, Charles, would become the 2nd Earl of Charlesville. The 2nd Earl became a politician as well and was an Irish peer. He was an advocate for homeopathy. Ever heard of the Lord of the Bedchamber? It's a real thing and this Charles served in that position from 1834 to 1835. The duties fulfilled were helping the King get dressed, serving as a waiter, guarding the closet and bedchamber and being a confidant to the King. It was a very powerful position. The 2nd Earl was bad with money and during an economic crisis in Ireland in the 1840s. He had to sell off part of the family estates. He married a woman named Harriet Campbell, whom everyone referred to as Lady Charlotte, and they had three sons and a daughter. Lady Charlotte is credited with many of the interior design elements of the castle. The 2nd Earl died in 1851 at the age of 50 and the title passed on to his eldest son, also named Charles.

The 3rd Earl had five children with his wife, Lady Arabella, and she was described as being of "Hebrew extraction, with fine black eyes and dark hair, and an uncommonly beautiful cast of countenance." Her great beauty was well known. She passed away in 1859 at the age of thirty. He followed two years later, leaving the three girls and two boys behind. The Bury family seemed to have a real stretch of bad luck. Three of the children were dead by 1874. One of them was Lord Tullamore who had inherited the title, so he was the 4th Earl. When he died, the uncle that had raised the children became the 5th Earl. He died a year later. The last of the 3rd Earl's daughters, Emily, inherited then. Before the first World War, James Howard and his wife Lady Emily lived in the castle with their two children, Marjorie and Howard. James took on the surname of Bury in 1881 and he died in 1885. The couple had only been married for four years at that point. Lady Emily soon left the castle, but it remained in the family.

Their son Howard Bury was an adventurous man, He was a big game hunter and a mountain climber. He hiked the Austrian Alps and joined the King's Royal Rifle Corps. He joined the army during World War I and served as a Colonel. He served with distinction during the Battle of the Somme. Before heading off to war, he closed up the castle. It would remain empty for fifty years as he preferred to live at a smaller estate. He left a minimal staff to look after the place. In 1921, he was the leader of the Mount Everest Reconnaissance Expedition, organized and financed by the Mount Everest Committee. He published an account of this as "Mount Everest The Reconnaissance, 1921." In this account, he wrote of finding large loping footprints at high altitude that he assumed belonged to a large grey wolf of some sort. Their sherpa guides, however, said the tracks were from "metch kangmi," which means "filthy snowman." It is thought that this is where the term "abominable snowman" came from. This was written about by a man named Henry Newman who wrote for the Indian paper The Statesman. His account went out to several papers and one critic of this move was Ralph Izzard who published in 1955 "The Abominable Snowman Adventure" In it he writes, "Whatever effect Mr. Newman intended, from 1921 onwards the Yeti - or whatever various native populations choose to call it - became saddled with the description 'Abominable Snowman', an appellation which can only appeal more to the music-hall mind than to mammologists, a fact which has seriously handicapped earnest seekers of the truth." 

Howard Bury was awarded the 1922 Founder's Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society after the expedition. He died in 1963 with no family so the property passed to a cousin, Major William Bacon Hutton, who took on the surname Bury in 1964. A young Englishman leased it in the 1970s. By this time, parts of the roof were gone from the castle. Michael McMullen started the restoration on the property in 1973. Two women, Constance Heavey Seaquist and Bonnie Vance, took over after that and a charitable trust, Charleville Castle Heritage Trust" was established. This is managed by Dudley Stewart who oversees many volunteers. Tours are offered and we did read in a couple of forums that overnight stays were offered as well, but we aren't sure on that and even if that is the case, the setting is not like a hotel.

Eleanor Ridley writes in the Offaly History Blog, "The long winding avenue in Charleville was designed in the ‘Romantic’ age of sturm und drang and seems the perfect setting to meet a ghost. Perhaps we may meet that of the old Bishop Pococke of Meath who took a puke after a feed of mushrooms in Charleville and died next day. Or that of the second earl who went mad with upset over his lost fortune. Or that of the third earl who perhaps killed himself with over indulgence and want of exercise. Plenty of possibilities as we face into the many twists and turns in Charleville and of life."

This castle is a favorite of paranormal investigators. The location has been featured on "Ghost Hunters International" and "Scariest Places on Earth" and is said to be the most haunted castle in Ireland. One of the strangest things that happens in the castle, takes place in the red room and the library. Apparently, when visitors stand in a special spot in these rooms there is a weird magnetism that makes any necklace go around in circles by itself. Could this be a result of the practices of the Druids who used this site before the castle? Clearly, the Druid spirits cannot be happy that their old stomping grounds had been built over by a castle. For decades, people have claimed to see hooded figures on the castle grounds. Guests have claimed to see balls of light that dart around inside and outside of the castle. One of the spirits that is here in the afterlife belongs to the 1st Earl of Charleville. This apparition walks the tower as though he is still protecting his former home.

The most famous ghost on the property dates back to the 3rd Earl of Charleville. When he died, it was left to his brother to care for the Earl's five children. One of those children was named Harriet. The children were left to their own devices most of the time and they found great fun in sliding down the balustrade of the main staircase. Unfortunately, Harriet was making her way down the balustrade in 1861 when she lost her grip and crashed head first onto the stone floor. She was killed instantly when her neck broke. She was only eight years old. Her spirit has endured and is the one many people claim to have had experienced. The stairs are her favorite haunt and she is felt and seen often here. She reportedly is seen wearing a blue and white dress and has blue ribbons in her blonde curly hair. People claim to have caught her in pictures as a shadow or small mist.

Sometimes the spirit of a little boy joins Harriet and once a young boy who was three disappeared while in the castle. His family finally found him at the bottom of a stairwell. He claimed that a boy and girl helped him down the stairs safely. Bonnie Vance claimed to have a bevey of ghosts in her room one morning, these included Francis Johnston, Harriet, Charles Bury and a group of around seventeen Druids in black robes who encircled her bed. Most paranormal activity takes place in the library, at the stairwell and in the dungeon. Many prisoners are said to have died in the prison due to torture and the spirit of a sadist is said to be down here. People who go down there get scratched and a cameraman was once dragged halfway down a corridor.

A paranormal investigation group out of England named Haunted Earth, did an overnight investigation in 2009. One of the men on the team, Chris Halton, was a sensitive who could make out what he described as ectoplasmic forms. He believed that he saw something like this on Harriet's stairs. There was a heavy feeling every time the group came back to the stairs. They left an audio recorder in the nursery and caught several EVP, including the name "Brandy" and there was the sound of a woman humming. In another area of the castle, they caught the word "rocky." Two of the investigators had what they described as the shock of the night. A door very clearly slams loudly. The crew had a hard time figuring out which door had closed as most were either open or locked. Now, of course, someone off camera could have slammed it, but the group seemed legitimately startled by the noise. 

Scariest Places on Earth featured the castle in 2001. A family named the Ulriches had plans to stay overnight in the castle. This episode had some crazy information. It described the first residents of the castle as trying to harness the powers of the dead and doing demonic stuff, including cutting the limbs and fingers off people. The show claimed that since this was an ancient burial ground, the castle was infested with spirits. One of the caretakers at the time of filming said that every time she said the name of Harriet, a door to a tower room would slam shut and so she assumed that this had been the little girl's room. We did find this interesting as the Haunted Earth group was in that area when they heard a door slam loudly. Diane watched bits and pieces and it seemed like the Ulriches were a really jumpy family that screamed a lot. Most camera shots were up their noses - lol!

Another group investigated the castle in 2006. One of the members told a story about an earlier visit he had with his wife. They were walking away from the castle when they looked back to get a full view of the structure. They both saw a woman all dressed in white, standing in the lowest double windows on the tower. She appeared to be cleaning the windows in a circular motion. The couple walked back towards the castle and watched as this figure seemed to back away and disappear from the window. They knocked on the door and asked the woman who answered if there was someone up on that second floor cleaning windows. The lady looked confused and said there were only two of them there and no one was up on that floor. 

There are tales that the original Charles Bury chose this site because it was on ley lines. The castle's two towers have an eight-point star design, reflecting a freemasonry influence. Two of the Earls of Charleville were Grandmasters in the Freemasons of Ireland. And as the Scariest Places on Earth claimed, the original Charles was said to be fond of devil worship. Could these points have led to hauntings? Is Charleville Castle haunted? That is for you to decide!