Thursday, March 25, 2021

HGB Ep. 378 - Thornewood Castle

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Moment in Oddity - William Cosper and Lightning (Suggested by: Breanne Sanford)

We live in the lightning capital of the United States here in Florida. We've even had a scary incident in which one of my managers, whom also is a neighbor that lives a couple of blocks away, had his house struck by lightning. The bolt went through the roof and hit his son's bed, whom thankfully was not in the bed at the time. It was a reminder of how dangerous lightning can be. But your chances of being hit by lightning is about 1 in 500,000. Unless you are William Yeldell Cosper. Then you might be hit more than once and even have issues in the afterlife! Cosper was born in 1844 and and died in 1919 at the age of seventy-five. In that year, he was struck by lightning while standing on his front porch. He was injured, but survived.After recovering, he went home and more than likely stayed off the front porch. That wouldn't save him from being struck again. He was hit this time while inside his house and this strike proved to be fatal. His family was devastated and had him buried in the Childersburg Cemetery in Alabama. The darn lightning would not leave Cosper to rest in peace. His headstone was hit and destroyed by lightning. The family pooled their funds and had another tombstone made. And guess what? Yep, the headstone was struck by lightning and destroyed again. The family couldn't afford to replace it, so it still sits in bits to this day. Being struck by lightning four times, twice while in the grave, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - First Liquid-Fueled Rocket Launched Successfully

In the month of March, on the 16th, in 1926, the first liquid-fueled rocket successfully launches. The Chinese had developed the first rockets out of gunpowder in the early part of the 13th century and these were probably glorified firework rockets. Europe would follow later that same century with gunpowder-propelled rockets. There was a man named Robert H. Goddard whom had big dreams and found inspiration in the writing of H.G. Wells. He wanted to build a rocket that would go to space, but clearly gunpowder rockets were never going to be able to do that. He was a physics teacher and he proved that rockets could propel in an airless vacuum-like space. After that, he started experimenting with various liquid fuels like hydrogen and oxygen. Goddard made his test rocket out of thin pipes. It was ten feet tall and he filled it with liquid oxygen and gasoline. On that 16th day of March, Goddard launched his rocket in Auburn, Massachusetts and it traveled for 2.5 seconds at a speed of about 60 mph. It reached an altitude of 41 feet and landing 184 feet away. Goddard was initially ridiculed in the press for his ideas as they scoffed at the idea of a rocket to the moon with the New York Times writing in 1920, "[Dr. Goddard] seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools.” Goddard continued working on rockets until his death in 1945. He never got to witness the work of NASA and all they would accomplish, but his name does appear on NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Thornewood Castle

Thornewood Castle is located in Lakewood, Washington. The English Tudor/Gothic mansion is the only private castle on the West Coast and is known as the house that love built. The property and castle are so gorgeous that they have become a popular venue for weddings and have been featured in several films and series, including Stephen King's "Rose Red." Which makes us wonder, is the castle really haunted? The answer seems to be yes. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Thornewood Castle!

Lakewood, Washington was originally known as The Prairie, which was a beautiful area that the Nisqually and Steilacom Native American tribes used as a gathering spot and hunting ground. Before long, settlers and trappers arrived in the area and the Hudson Bay Company built a fur trading post here known Fort Nisqually in 1833. As fur trading declined, Fort Nisqually closed and was sold to the United States in 1869. Uprisings between settlers and the Native Americans occurred throughout these decades of the fort and settlers building farms and the Nisqually Chief Leschi would be wrongly accused of murder and hanged in 1858. Several mills would be built in the Praire, along with a schoolhouse and the western terminus of the Northern Pacific Railway would make its way to nearby Tacoma. Homes would eventually erase the Prairie and many estates would be built along the shorelines of the lakes that remained. One of those stately manors would be The Thorne Mansion. 

The Thorne Mansion would be named for the man who had it built, Chester Thorne. Chester had been born in New York City to Edwin and Charlotte Thorne in 1863. The Thorne family went back to 1645, when William Thorne settled on Long Island. Chester's father worked in the leather trade, but Chester had his sights set on other things. He went into civil engineering getting his initial training at a military school in Poughkeepsie, N. Y. and then he attended Yale. His first big job was with the Missouri Pacific Railway. He eventually moved to Tacoma in 1890 and got involved with the National Bank of Commerce and later became its president. The Panic of 1893 took many people and banks down, but Thorne had such good financial prowess, he kept the bank stable and eventually it flourished again. He co-founded the Port of Tacoma and became involved with a variety of Pacific Northwest Companies through the years from Pacific Alaska Navigation Company to Tacoma Savings Bank & Trust Company to Alaska Pacific Steamship Company to Pacific Cold Storage Company and even helped in the development of Rainier National Park. Chester had pushed to have Mount Rainier named Mount Tacoma. He became the first president of Rainier National Park Company.

A few years before moving to Tacoma, Chester married Anna Hoxie in New York City. The couple would have four children, a son named Edwin and three daughters, Charlotte, Anita and Patricia. Based on Find-a-Grave, it seems that only one daughter was still alive when Chester passed away. Chester had always dreamed of having a uniquely designed country estate and he made that dream a reality in 1908 when construction started on Thornewood Castle. The architect was Kirtland Kelsey Cutter and the style was in the Tudor Gothic. To make sure this estate was authentic, Chester actually purchased a 400-year-old  Elizabethan manor in England and then had the whole thing dismantled and shipped across the pond. And since this was the early 1900s, there was no Panama Canal. So three ships had to make their way down the Atlantic Ocean and around Cape Horn and up through the Pacific Ocean to Washington State. This included the front door, an oak staircase, oak paneling, red brick. There were also 100 pieces of stained glass that were salvaged from European churches dating back to the 15th and 16th century. This collection of art glass had belonged to an English duke who collected it over forty years.

The initial construction started with a three-foot-thick foundation. The exterior walls were built from concrete and the imported brick was then reinforced with steel. They were ten inches thick. The floors were made from eighteen inches of concrete. Construction took three years and when the house was completed, it had fifty-four rooms, twenty-two bedrooms and twenty-two bathrooms covering 27,000 square feet. It had cost a million dollars to build. There are seventeen chimneys made from sandstone, but only around half of them are actually connected to fireplaces fashioned from Florentine marble. The other half are ornamental. Forty servants were employed at the house to meet the needs of the family.

The manor was not only grand, but so were the grounds. Frederick Law Olmsted was a renowned landscape architect who designed Central Park in New York City and was credited with being the Father of American landscape architecture. He must have taught his sons, the Olmsted Brothers, well because they became renowned landscape architects in their own rights and they designed Thornewood's landscape. There were 100 acres total that made up the estate and they would turn 37 acres into an English Garden. Nisqually River soil was laid out over that acreage, eighteen inches thick. Wisteria, pillar roses, purple clematis and climbing hydrangea were planted. Sculpted fountains and many pieces of statuary were also included. The "Kingsdale Hounds" are part of this collection. This garden is part of the Smithsonian Institute Heritage Exhibit. A special sunken garden was designed for Anna, which she dubbed her secret garden. This garden was featured in several publications. Nearly all rooms had lake views, but Anna's sitting room view was her garden. Twenty-eight gardeners had to be employed to keep up with the grounds and one in particular was known as the color gardener. That person's responsibility was to coordinate color schemes according to the seasons.

Two presidents visited the manor, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. Chester, or Chess as his friends called him, had left his mark on Tacoma by the time he died in 1927. The Tacoma Times wrote of him after his death, "He was one of this city’s best loved men, a great leader in industrial and civic enterprises, a true friend to hundreds in all walks of life. He was the father of the Port of Tacoma and to it he gave much of his time during the later years of his life, serving as Port Commissioner." Anna and Chester had been married forty-one years at the time. She would continue to live another twenty-seven years and passed away in 1954. The Thorne's daughter, Anita, married and she and her husband, Cadwallader Colden Corse, lived at the mansion with their son and Anna. Just three weeks after Chester passed Cadwallader was taken to the hospital by ambulance with a serious injury. A bullet from a rifle lodged in his head behind his right eyeball, which had to be removed. The claim was that this was an accident that occurred while he was carrying the rifle, but no one knows for sure what happened.

Anita eventually divorced Cadwallader and married Major General David Stone who was building the nearby Fort Lewis. He was eventually tranferred to the Panama Canal and Anita left Thornewood Castle in 1937. Her mother, Anna, found the big house too much and too lonely and she moved into a smaller Georgian home in Tacoma that she had built. Eventually, Anita and the General came back to Thornewood and Anna joined them once again and she died at the manor. When General Stone died in 1957, Anita sold the house to Harold St. John. He left the mansion on four acres and sold the rest of the land for 30 home sites. Parts of the house were turned into apartments. St. John sold the property in 1965 to Frank McMillan and he later sold it to Perry Palmer. Steve Redwine bought it in the 1980s and it was added to the Register of Historic Places. Richard and Debbie Mirau bought Thornewood in 1995 and they would be the ones to bring the manor back to its former grandeur. Deanna and Wayne Robinson bought the house in 2000. 

The renovations they continued on the house were painstaking and amazing. The great hall had been blocked off into rooms to make an apartment. The fireplace was bricked in to about half its size. Ceiling molding was damaged in many places. They redid everything, opening up the hall once again, restoring the fireplace to its original size and redoing the wood floors and wood paneling . They used a special technique to restore the ceiling molding. To make sure it all matched, they taped off areas that were undamaged and used a rubber compound to make a mold they could use to make new ceiling molding.

Today, Thornewood Castle is a bed-and-breakfast featuring suites filled with antiques and historical pieces. There are also vacation rentals on the property and special events like weddings and corporate retreats are hosted here. The manor has also appeared in several movies and television series. Stephen King’s "Rose Red," a made-for-television movie set in Seattle, was filmed at the castle in 2001 and aired on ABC-TV on January 27, 28, and 31, 2002. A lot of restoration and construction was done for the movie and paid for by the movie. The Robinsons have collected memoribilia from the filming that is at the manor. Guests can watch their copy of Rose Red too. The prequel to Rose Red was "The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer," which was written by Ridley Pearson and this series was filmed mainly at Thornewood Castle. Daniel Day Lewis' film "There Will Be Blood" used exterior shots of the house. Bly Manor from the series "The Haunting of Bly Manor" seems to favor the castle as well, especially with its grand gardens.

And this has inspired us to go down a little rabbit hole. For those who don't know, the Haunting of Bly Manor was inspired by several works written by Henry James, in particular The Turn of the Screw. James was inspired to write that story after he heard about a haunting at an estate called Hinton Ampner in Hampshire, England. There had once been a Tudor mansion that stood about fifty yards from the current structure there today. That house had acquired a sinister reputation. It seems the guy who had once lived here, Lord Stawel, was thought to be an evil guy. After his wife died, he took her younger sister as his mistress. The two were rumored to have had a baby, but the child disappeared. The mistress died and many said it was some kind of revenge from the dead wife or some type of karma. Lord Stawel died a year later. Shortly after that, people started reporting hearing strange sounds coming from the house. Locals also claimed to see the apparition of Lord Stalwel. The Ricketts family moved into the manor in 1765. 

They had a few strange things happen, so they resolved that something was haunting the place. Mr. Ricketts went away fro business and the activity increased dramatically. Mary Ricketts reported hearing the swishing of a woman's dress, a disembodied shrill female voice and then a man's voice that she found unsettling. The male and female voices would continue throughout the nights. Mary said they would start when she went to bed and continued until daybreak. She became so frightened that she asked her brother for help and he brought a friend. The two men searched every room with pistols and found nothing. But soon, they heard disembodied groans and felt unseen things pass by them. Mary's brother said the house was unfit for living in and Mrs. Ricketts and her children fled it. By 1797, the manor was an abandoned wreck and so it was torn down. Workers found a box full of bones and a small skull under the floor. Could this have been the baby of Lord Stalwel. Was this why the place was so haunted? One can see why Henry James was inspired by the location and its stories.

But how about Thornewood Castle. Does it have stories? The answer seems to be yes and it all starts back with the construction of the manor. Native Americans helped to construct Thornewood Castle. Just like slave builders we have talked about on previous episodes, the Native Americans had certain customs that they followed when building to help prevent bad energy or spirits from coming into a home. These Native Americans made these hanging sticks that form the shape of a wishbone and that is what some people call them, "Wish Bone Sticks." They placed them in various places along the foundation wall in the basement. The hope was thought that these would not only protect the Thorne's, but bring them good luck. It's really cool to think that despite having five owners, no one touched or removed those sticks. The Robinsons went so far as to host a 2004 Smudging Ceremony to recharge, if you will, the sticks. Rayna and Bob Bearclaw conducted the ceremony. From the Thornewood Castle website, "White sage and cedar are burned and the smoke is then fanned over the object with eagle and hawk feathers. This is to cleanse, purify, and bless objects, homes, and people. It works to lift and dispel negativity and darkness, similar to lifting a burr off an animal’s fur. In the same manner, we as humans sometimes allow and engage depression, negative thoughts, despair and the weight of daily rigor to stick to us and weigh us down. This ceremony helps us to actively dislodge these encumbrances and frees us to once again allow the positive forces and light to renew our spirit."

Anna Thorne loved this home and she loved her garden. She would sit for hours at the window, gazing on that secret garden. Today, Anna's former room is the Bridal Suite and it has been a center of activity for years. Guests and staff have reported seeing Anna seated at the window, looking out at the garden. A mirror that is original to the house sits in this room and there are several people who have claimed to see Anna's reflection behind them. And man and lady have been seen on the main staircase wearing clothes from another era. The man smells of old leather and is wearing a leather outfit. The woman wears an Empire style dress with a high waist and some garland in her hair. Could this be the Thornes? Chester is said to be seen both inside the house and on the grounds wearing riding attire.

The Smoking Room has activity connected to the lighting. The spirits in the manor don't seem to like much light and it is in this room that they have attempted to fix the lighting to be more suitable. Owner Deanna Robinson had noticed on several occasions that when she entered the room, she would find a random light bulb unscrewed. She would screw it back in only to find a different light bulb unscrewed. Another lamp in a different room had arms that could swing and a guest witnessed those arms swing erratically on their own until they crashed into each other and shattered the light globes. The glass fell into a pile right under the lamp. Weird Washington visited the manor to interview Deanna and they wrote, "When I visited Thornewood Castle, we talked in a side parlor. In the middle of our interview, I noticed that one of the light fixtures was not working. Sure enough, the light bulb was unscrewed just enough to turn it off. I am reasonably certain that it was lit when we walked in. Deanna believed that this is Mr. Thorne’s way of getting people’s attention. He got mine."

Out by the lake, the apparition of a child has been seen. It so startles guests that many rush out to grab the child before they drown, only to find that the child disappears. It is believed that this is the grandchild of  former owner who drowned in the lake. Activity seemed to pick up during the filming of Rose Red. Several scenes of the miniseries Rose Red were filmed at Thornewood, and the crew found the filming didn’t go that easily, possibly due to the hauntings there. Workers reported that their tools went missing. Sometimes they’d find them again, other times not. There were odd power outages, and doors opened and closed on their own, sometimes interfering with filming certain scenes.

Almost like a scene from "The Others," Deanna felt as though she were the ghost during an experience she had when alone in the the great hall. The Thorne's loved to host cocktail parties in this room. Deanna was reading a book in there when she suddenly heard the sounds of a cocktail party going on around her. There was the sound of music, the clinking of glasses, the noise of people dancing and disembodied conversation. It was as though she were sitting at a cocktail party hosted at her house, but she was the only one in the room. She felt unnerved as though she were the ghost. She decided to get out of the great hall and leave them to their party. Deanna believes that the great hall is more than just haunted. She thinks there is some kind of vortex in there. And that is because she saw it one night on the grand staircase. She then saw several spirits come through.

AGHOST Paranormal Team investigated in February 2020. They tried various experiments and captured a couple of EVP. One features a female voice saying, "Behind you" and the other a male voice saying "Mark" when asked what his name was. They got nothing in the great hall. They captured some disembodied footsteps as well. What was interesting is that they were staying in a lakeside apartment and that is where they caught most of their evidence.  

One guest wrote, "The hotel is beautiful, I was staying the night for a wedding. I stayed in a colonial style room. Occasionally you would get a scent of smoking tobacco or a cigar, and I went into the “media room” just a room with a bunch of dvds to pick from, and no one was in there with me. The floor creaked right behind me and I could feel as if someone stepped right behind my right leg. I ran back to my room and my sister in law said I had no color in my face."

Other activity reported by guests include a guest looking at something in the third floor closet when she felt someone behind her. When she turned, she saw a man in period clothing with his hands on his hips as though he were perturbed that she was going through the closet. She turned away and looked back and he was gone. A white-haired female apparition has been seen going into the office, but no one is in there when she is followed. There is a hall of mirrors with a carpet runner down the middle. This runner is always off center. Employees put it back to center and even though no one is in the house, they'll find it off center once again. A man wearing a gray suit has been seen in the Music Room. And this story is funny. Apparently a woman and her daughter were looking at a portrait painting and insinuated that the woman in the portrait was ugly. They both felt a need to apologize as though someone had over heard them. Later, they went to go down the stairs and the woman fell down right in front of the portrait. Her daughter laughed and then proceeded to slip down several stairs before catching herself. Perhaps they were clumsy. Or was it the picture?

Thornewood Castle has to be one of the most beautiful manor houses we've seen. And it has the perfect creep factor to be used in any horror movie. Does it have real creeps? Is Thornewood Castle haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, March 18, 2021

HGB Ep. 377 - The Eastland Disaster

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Moment in Oddity - Pink Lemonade Origins (Suggested by: Scott Booker)

Summer has made lemonade a very popular beverage. It's quite simple, a little sugar, some water and fresh squeezed lemon juice. Lemonade was enjoyed as far back as the 17th century and grew in more popularity in the 19th century. At this same time, pink lemonade came onto the scene. An article in an 1879 issue of West Virginia’s Wheeling Register was one of the earliest mentions of pink lemonade and it was something created by traveling circuses. There are a couple of narratives about how pink lemonade was invented. Henry E. Allott had run away with the circus when he was a teenager. He was working the lemonade stand and enjoying some cinnamon candies died red and he accidentally dropped a bunch into the vat of lemonade. There was no time to make a new batch, so he served the lemonade that was now pink. That sounds pretty good, but the other story is just gross. Supposedly, a circus performer had washed her pink tights in some water and a man named Pete Conklin grabbed that water because he needed to make a batch of lemonade. The lemonade had a pink hue because of the tights. Today, pink lemonade is sometimes made with strawberries or red raspberry or grenadine or watermelon or cranberry juice. But generally, pink lemonade is just like regular lemonade, only with a pink hue. We love that pink lemonade is connected to the circus, but its origin, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Michelangelo Born

In the month of March, on the 6th, in 1475, artist Michelangelo was born. Born Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni in Caprese, Italy, he was often referred to as the divine one. Michelangelo got his first apprenticeship at the age of thirteen. By the following year, he was being paid as an artist. He would paint and sculpt, but also wrote poetry and became an architect. He was the quintessential Renaissance man and many of his works are the most famous in the world. The Pieta and David are two of them and both were completed before he was thirty-years-old. I didn't realize until I saw the original David in Italy that the statue features David right before he kills the giant Goliath. You can see the rock in one of his hands and the sling over his shoulder and if you look closely, there is a vein sticking out in his neck as though he is stressed and his eyes are intense. One of the greatest frescos is his work that appears on the Sistine Chapel, all of which he painted while laying down on his back. Major parts of St. Peter's Bascilica were designed by Michelangelo in his seventies. He lived to be eighty-eight, dying in 1564 in Rome. He was buried in Florence at the Basilica of Santa Croce.

The Eastland Disaster (Suggested by: Kimmie Page)

The Eastland Disaster was the most deadly shipwreck in Great Lakes history. More passengers would die in this disaster than in the sinking of the Titanic. This was supposed to be a fun excursion to the grounds of a company picnic. The annual employee appreciation event had become a much anticipated break from the six-day work weeks that the lower middle class employees endured. On this fateful day in 1915, hundreds would die including whole families and leave a mark forever on Chicago. Locations that housed the dead until they could be identified are still haunted by the tragic event, both figuratively and literally. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Eastland Disaster!

The S.S. Eastland was nicknamed the Speed Queen of the Great Lakes. The ship had been commissioned by the Michigan Steamship Company in 1902 and was built by the Jenks Ship Building Company of Port Huron, Michigan. That speed that her nickname indicated was not an original part of her make-up. The steamer was actually top-heavy with no keel and the ballast tanks were poorly designed. The steamer would later be outfitted to run faster, but these additions would cause issues with her stability. Metacentric height is the distance between fully upright and the point at which a ship will capsize. It was said of the Eastland that fully loaded, it would need a metacentric height of two to four feet. With the changes made, its metacentric height had been reduced to four inches. In 1904, the Eastland had her first issue with nearly capsizing. The steamship company lowered the capacity limits and did away with some cabins in response. The ship would continue to list through the years when cargo was being loaded. The steamer was sold four times before 1914 and ended up on Lake Michigan.

The weather was cool and damp on the morning of July 24, 1915 when the excursion steamer Eastland was loading up for a trip across Lake Michigan. Captain Harry Pedersen was at the helm. Within minutes she would have 2,573 passengers and crew on the steamer. The atmosphere aboard the steamer was festive. A band played in the main cabin while passengers leaned against the railings to wave goodbye to friends. Everyone was dressed in their Sunday best with the women sporting wide-brimmed hats, long dresses, corsets, stockings and fancy boots. Employees of the Western Electric Company's Hawthorne Works were being shuttled from downtown Chicago to Washington Park in Michigan City, Indiana that was 38 miles across the lake for a grand picnic. There were five vessels in total that had been chartered by the company to carry some 7,000 people. This was not a cheap treat for the employees who paid $1 per ticket when the best paid people in the plant made $17 a week.

A light drizzle chased many of the women and children below deck. Surely they had to have noticed that the ship was beginning to list from side to side after boarding was complete. Some may have thought it was a little bit of an issue, but most ignored the danger, including the Captain. The ship was only carrying 53 more passengers then it was built for, but there may have been another issue no one had considered and ironically, it was a safety measure. After the Titanic sank, it became important to make sure that there was room for all passengers on lifeboats. This made sense on transcontinental ships, but for a ship sailing on the Great Lakes, it was overkill. The added weight of the lifeboats became problematic. The Eastland listed to one side and then the other. The sway grew deeper. The open gangways soon had water pouring in and the engine room was flooded. The crew from the engine room ran for the main deck realizing that the steamer was taking on too much water. Within five minutes, the Eastland listed to a 45-degree angle.

The angle was enough that objects inside the boat started shifting drastically. A refrigerator slid across the steamer and pinned a woman. The piano on the promenade deck rolled and crushed two women. Two minutes after the 45-degree list, the Eastland capsized. The time was 7:30am and the steamer was still tied to the dock, but now lying on its side in 20 feet of water. No lifesaving equipment could be launched. Some of the passengers were able to climb over the starboard railing and walk across the hull to safety, but many more were in trouble of drowning. And imagine being on a dance floor and being rocked violently to one side and then rolled over. Many people would be severely injured just from that action, much less the fact that water was rushing into the steamer. The Eastland's captain, Harry Pedersen, was one of the lucky people who just walked across the hull.


Harlan Babcock wrote in the Chicago Herald, "In an instant, the surface of the river was black with struggling, crying, frightened, drowning humanity. Wee infants floated about like corks." The good people of Chicago went into action. Some onlookers jumped into the water to try to save the drowning. Helen Repa was a Western Electric nurse who had her ticket for the picnic and was riding the trolley to the dock when she heard the screams. She ran off the trolley when it stopped and hopped into the back of an ambulance to get to the scene quicker. She said, "I shall never be able to forget what I saw. People were struggling in the water, clustered so thickly that they literally covered the surface of the river. A few were swimming; the rest were floundering about, some clinging to a little raft that had floated free, others clutching at anything they could reach – at bits of wood, at each other, grabbing each other, pulling each other down, and screaming! The screaming was the most horrible of all." A warehouse worker made the same observation, claiming that he finally had to cover his ears because he couldn't take the trauma of the sound. The nurse asked a department store to send over 500 blankets and then asked several restaurants to send soup and coffee. She loaded the less injured into cars, asking the drivers to take the people home and not one driver refused. 

Other people on the dock started throwing anything that would float into the water to give victims something to hold on to until they were rescued. Within thirty minutes, all the survivors had been rescued and now the rescue effort turned to recovery. Priests stood by to give last rites, but that would be in vein because people were either alive or dead. Trucks were brought to the dock to help transport the dead because there was clearly not enough ambulances to handle the numbers. The Second Regiment Armory was converted to a morgue. Bodies were in rows of 85 and family members were invited inside in small groups, so they could identify their loved ones. Some jerks made their way in as well to gawk or steal jewelry. People who walked through reported horrifying scenes of couples locked into death grips with one another, mothers clutching their babies, little children lying in rows together and everyone dressed in their white Sunday best that was now muddied and stinking of the foul water of the river.

Many of these families were Hungarian, Polish or Czech and soon those communities would be awash in black crepe as they mourned their dead. Fifty-two grave diggers working twelve-hour shifts could not keep up with the demand. The same trucks that hauled victims from the tragedy, now hauled bodies to their funerals and to cemeteries. A Model T Ford hauled all the caskets of the Sindelar family, seven of them. The Red Cross was in town for days bringing relief to victims. The Coroner's Office formed an inquiry immediately after securing all the bodies and awarded those who helped in rescue efforts with a star that read "Valued Services Rendered." These heroes also received a letter that read, "I trust that you will accept this little token not for its intrinsic value or worth, but in memory of this terrible of all disasters which should teach us the lesson of 'Safety First' and of extending to our fellowman kindness, courtesy and consideration."

How was it that the Eastland was repeatedly certified as safe by inspectors? Apparently, since the listing of the Eastland would only occur during loading and unloading and everything was fine once she was underway, they figured she was a safe ship. Who would think that a steamer would capsize when still at the wharf? Maybe nobody thought that would happen, but Chicagoans nicknamed the Eastland a "hoodoo boat." They knew the boat was dangerous, but we imagine that the Western Electric employees were so excited for a day off and a picnic paid for by their company that they thought nothing of the fact that they were boarding a ship that many knew was not up to par. In the end, 844 died. More people than had died in the Chicago Fire of 1871, making this one of Chicago's deadliest catastrophes. 

Some of the victims: Twenty-one year old William Holtz had lived at home with his parents and siblings. He had been planning on quitting his job so he could stay home and help care for his blind mother. Jethro Richard Beel, Jr and his wife Marguerite were dancing aboard the steamer when it capsized and they both survived that initial issue. They made their way to a porthole window and Jethro pushed Marguerite through, but he could not follow because he was too big to get through. Marguerite managed to get to the surface of the water and was pulled to safety. The couple had a two-year old son who was not with them. Charles Bender was aboard the Eastland because he was going to visit his girlfriend Pauline Olach in Shallowboy, Michigan. He died on the steamer and his parents wouldn't speak to his girlfriend because they blamed her for his death. Raymond and Ione Ehrhardt would survive the tragedy when their uncle saved them, but their parents passed away. They were ten and six at the time. Bessie Dvorak was an ace swimmer, but she was no match for people drowning around her who clawed her and took her below the surface. Her parents saw that Bessie's skin was shredded by fingernails when they found her at the morgue.

Edward Gatens and his fiancee Anna Quinn, died together on the ship. Harry Foster and his wife Rachel had invited Rachel's sister and brother-in-law to join them at the picnic. Fate stepped in and forced the brother-in-law to have to work, so the couple skipped the picnic and were not with Harry and Rachel when they died in the tragedy. Willie Guenther didn't work for Western Electric, but a friend invited him to the picnic. Willie almost missed the train that day as he was running late, but the conductor saw him running and stopped the train. It is believed that Willie was crushed by something large inside the ship as he did not drown. Marenka Homola was three and half years old when she was left clinging to her father in the Chicago River. Her mother and younger sister had already perished. She and her father would be rescued, but she would never get on boat or swim in water for the rest of her life. She was one of the last known survivors of the tragedy when she died at 91 in February of 2003. All the members of 22 families perished in the tragedy.

Now that victims were buried, the people of Chicago wanted answers. And because many wanted blood, Captain Pedersen and much of his crew were taken into custody for their own protection. Chief Engineer Joseph Erickson was represented by Clarence Darrow when the trials finally got underway. He was the one that would take much of the blame because he was in charge of the ballast tanks. It was said that his mismanagement kept the ship from righting itself. But as we already pointed out, this ship was built and remodeled in a way that made it unsafe. And this was known. Erickson became a convenient scapegoat as he died during the trial. The Captain was not prosecuted. The owners of the steamer were not prosecuted either and no inspectors received any blame.

As would happen in our modern era, families filed civil lawsuits for wrongful death and injury. There were around 800 suits and very few ended up paying out anything and the amounts were miniscule. The Eastland was said to only be worth $46,000 and the salvage company had to be paid first. The Eastland was raised on August 14, 1915 and eventually sold to the Navy in 1917. The steamer became the USS Wilmette and served as a training vessel and gunboat from 1918 to 1945. She saw no combat and was scrapped out in 1946. This event was not as famous as other maritime tragedies probably because no one famous or rich was aboard, but the Eastland Disaster left a mark on Chicago's low and middle-class immigrant working families. And perhaps that is why many spirits of the victims have not been at rest. There are ghost stories connected to the Eastland Disaster, although many of the original sites have been altered.

The Second Regiment Armory, that served as the central morgue, no longer stands. In 1990, the building became home to the Oprah Winfrey Show and Oprah's production company, Harpo Studios. Oprah's show went off the air in 2011 and she shut down the studios in 2015. Demolition on the building began in July of 2016 and the site is home to the McDonald's Headquarters. It will be interesting to hear if hauntings continue at this site. When this was Oprah's empire, there were many paranormal experiences. Visitors, staff, maintenance workers and security have all had stories to share. Some claimed to hear disembodied whispering, perhaps echoing the voices of the grieving family members who had passed through to identify victims. There were also disembodied sobs and screams and moaning noises. A staircase in the lobby often gave off the sound of disembodied footsteps. Doors in the building would open and close on their own. Music from another era was also heard playing throughout the building. An apparition that was nicknamed "The Gray Lady" was seen often by people. She wore a long, gray dress and often walked the corridors in a sullen way and many times would disappear into a wall. If employees attempted to approach the woman, she would disappear as well. It is thought that she was a grieving family member and perhaps residual. Security cameras were said to have caught this apparition a couple of times.

The Excalibur Nightclub was also rumored to have been used as a temporary morgue. At that time, it had been home to the Chicago Historical Society. The television show Sightings filmed at Excalibur in 1997 and a psychic named Tim White reported on the episode that he had encountered the ghost of a little girl who said, "Stop and watch me." Employees claim to have seen the same little girl looking over the railing in the Dome Room. A blue-colored mist has been seen floating up the stairs as well.

The Eastland itself would have claims of being haunted. When it was docked near the Halsted Street Bridge before the Navy acquired it, a caretaker named Captain M.L. Edwards lived on the ship and he often complained of being awakened at night by the sounds of moaning and screaming.  He also heard loud banging noises. The area along the river that was the scene of the disaster also has stories. People dining at riverside cafes sometimes are shocked to watch a surge of water come out of the river and flood the river walk for no apparent reason. Almost as though an invisible ship has capsized, pushing water up over the walk. People walking along the river walk have claimed to see faces staring up at them under the water. The sounds of splashing and disembodied screaming have also been heard. This is not only from the walk, but also from the Clark Street Bridge. Flailing apparitions have been seen in the water and caused people to call for emergency services, only to have those figures disappear minutes later. One man reportedly jumped into the river to save someone he thought was drowning. When he surfaced and looked around to locate the drowning person, he found he was the only one in the river.

Our listener Kimmie Page, who suggested this topic, shared her own experience, "I am also Eastern European and from the Chicago area so the victims of that disaster would have been of similar backgrounds. I’m a spiritual person and I always say something kind or hello or I’m sorry that happened to you when I go to a cemetery or a site where something happened. I’ve read a lot about the disaster and gone to the memorial in bohemian national cemetery many times! My paranormal experience though was when I was kayaking in the river and my tour guide told us we were in the same spot and I did my usual 'I’m so sorry this happened' and a massive SMACK hit the bottom of my boat twice. There is wildlife in the river but the rapid succession of the smacks made me think otherwise. I felt very calm during it but it’s really meaningful to me."

Many families were looking forward to a fun day of relaxing and picnicking in July of 1915. How could they have known that many of them would never make it home that evening? Are the spirits of the victims of the Eastland Disaster still haunting parts of Chicago? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, March 11, 2021

HGB Ep. 376 - Fox Hollow Farm

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Moment in Oddity - Jack the Baboon as Railroad Assistant (Suggested by Scott Booker)

James Edwin Wide was a railway signalman in South Africa back in the 1880s. James had lost both of his legs in a work accident, so he had a real tough time of it. He caught an incredible break when he went to the market and saw a chacma baboon driving an oxcart. James was so impressed he bought the baboon, named him Jack and trained the animal to push him to and from work in a small trolley. Soon he was training Jack to sweep floors and do other household duties. This is all really impressive, but Jack was able to do something even more amazing. When trains would approach the train station, they would toot their whistles to indicate which track they needed changed. James would pull on the levers to change the tracks. Jack watched James do this and Jack figured out the pattern. Jack became so proficient that James didn't even have to supervise him anymore. One day, a train passenger saw that it was a baboon at the station controls and they freaked out and complained to the authorities. The railway managers came to the train station thinking they would be firing James until they saw the baboon working. They decided to test his abilities instead. Railway superintendent George B. Howe said, "Jack knows the signal whistle as well as I do, also every one of the levers. It was very touching to see his fondness for his master. As I drew near they were both sitting on the trolley. The baboon’s arms round his master’s neck, stroking James' face.” The railway insisted that Jack the baboon be paid, so he was given an employment number and received 20 cents a day and a half bottle of beer every week. Jack made no mistakes in the nine years he worked at the train station. His record ended when he developed tuberculosis and passed away. A baboon working the rails with a perfect record, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - First Siege of Rome

In the month of March, on the 2nd, in 537, the First Siege of Rome started. Also in March, on the 12th, in 538, that siege ended. This was a part of the Gothic War. Roman commander Belisarius was one of the most most well-known and successful generals in Rome and he led Roman forces against the siege of the Ostrogothic army under King Vitiges. The Goths had a force of nearly 30,000 men as compared to the initial Roman force of 5,000 that were later reinforced by another 5,600. King Vitiges had recently been elected as the new king and he knew that his enraged people wanted action. They were tired of the attacks by the Romans and now they took action. As they entered Rome via a bridge, the Roman forces there abandoned their positions, unbeknownst to Belisarius. He took his forces to the bridge and was surprised to see it occupied by the Goths and he was hit hard. The Goths continued to have wins, but as disease and famine hit not only the beseiged Romans, but the Goths, they began to lose. Soon the Goths were surrounded by Roman detachments. The seige had now been going for 374 days and the Goths decided to abandon Rome and burned their camps. Belisarius pursued them and waited until half the Gothic army had crossed the Milvian Bridge before attacking the remainder and many Goths were drowned in the river or killed. The siege was finally over.

Fox Hollow Farm

We hear true crime stories like this all the time. A mild-mannered neighbor seems to be living a mundane life with his wife and kids, until he turns out to be a serial killer. That described Herb Baumeister perfectly. He was an entrepreneur who founded the successful Sav-A-Lot thrift stores, but beneath that successful veneer, he was also something quite sinister. He was suspected in the murders of at least sixteen men and more than likely, many more. His nickname became the I-70 Strangler. His home was Fox Hollow Farm and this would become his burial ground for victims. The farm has been rumored to be haunted by the killer and his victims. Join us as we explore the crimes of Herb Baumeister and the hauntings left in their wake at Fox Hollow Farm!

Puberty can be a real struggle. We suspect that nearly all of our listeners would not care to repeat that time in their lives. Hormones are raging as a young person is making the adjustment from child to young adult. For Herbert Richard Baumeister, puberty caused some kind of shift in his brain from which he would never recover. Baumeister was born in 1947 to Herbert and Elizabeth Baumeister and he grew up in Westfield, Indiana. By all accounts, his early childhood seemed to be good and he was joined by two brothers and a sister. As he entered his teens, he started to become obsessed with some really weird thoughts as his personality shifted. His behavior became anti-social and he started telling obscene jokes and pulling weird pranks. Herb would wonder what it would be like to taste urine and he became fascinated by dead animals. Walking to school one morning, he found a dead crow in the road and he picked it up and put it in his pocket. When he got to his classroom, he slipped the crow onto the teacher's desk when she wasn't looking. Another teacher got an even better present on their desk. Herb threw a fit once and urinated on that teacher's desk during class. 

One can imagine that his parents were frustrated by Herb's downward spiral of weird behavior and they took him to a doctor for psychological testing. The tests revealed that their was possibly a multi-personality issue and schizophrenic tendencies. Unfortunately, he was left untreated and he continued his descent into madness. His fascination with dead animals developed into squeezing the animals, so he could feel their bones crushing from the power of his hands. The sensation aroused him. Despite being schizophrenic, Baumeister managed to function at a high level. He graduated from high school and got into Indiana University. It would be here that he would meet Juliana Saitor, who went by Julie, and the two would start dating. Herb had not dated anyone before, but the couple got serious quickly. They shared conservative opinions and got along fairly well. Baumeister decided he was done with college after only a year and he dropped out and began working for the Indianapolis Star as a copy boy. In 1971, Herb and Julie married. What Julie didn't know, and perhaps Herb wasn't quite aware either, was that he had homosexual tendencies. 

Herb had other tendencies too in regards to his mental health and Julie would soon find out about that. They had been married for six months when Herb's father checked him into a psychiatric hospital and he spent two months there. Herb was suffering from deep depression and he would fly into unprovoked rages. He started working a variety of jobs and did well, but his co-workers thought he was very bizarre. He lost a job working as a Program Director for the State Bureau of Motor Vehicles after he urinated on a letter addressed for the governor. After eight years of marriage, Julie and Herb decided to start a family. Their first daughter, Marie, was born in 1979, followed by their son Erich who was born in 1981 and then their final child, another daughter named Emily was born in 1984. The following year, 1985, the body of a seventeen-year-old man named Eric Roetiger was found in Indiana. It is believed that this is one of Herb's first victims, so at some point previously he had started picking up men. Herb started having problems with the law. He got arrested for a hit and run while he was intoxicated. Later, he was arrested for conspiracy to commit theft and he managed to beat the charge.

Baumeister set his sights on starting his own business in 1988.  He had worked at a thrift store for a time and he and Julie discussed opening one of their own. His father had recently died and Herb went to his mother to ask for a $350,000 loan to open a SAV-A-LOT Thrift store. The store was wildly successful and Herb opened a second one in 1990. The body of twenty-six year old Steven Elliot was found shortly before this and this would be another possible victim of Herb. Despite clearly having some major issues, Herb was a good father. He tried hard to make sure his kids grew up in a "Leave it to Beaver" type home. That was the kind of childhood that he had, so the family spent a lot of time together, almost cloistered. The Baumeisters had few friends and we venture to think that was because Herb was odd in a bad way. The family had been successful with their three SAV-A-LOT stores, but their fortunes began to turn. Balancing the three stores and raising three kids was taking its toll. Herb was spending long hours away from work and no one knew what he was doing, but he would smell like alcohol when he returned. Herb burned out and asked Julie for a divorce in 1991.

The couple reconciled and even though their finances were not doing as well, they decided to buy their dream home. This would be Fox Hollow Farm in Westfield, Indiana, which was an 11,000 square foot mansion built in the Tudor style with an indoor pool that sat on 18 acres and had originally been built by a doctor and his wife. There were nine bathrooms, four bedrooms, a library, two massive stone fireplaces and an apartment. There was also a 4,000 square foot garage and two horse stables. The couple was happy that their kids would have plenty of room to play and not be in danger of getting hit by a car. The irony was that they lived every day of their lives with a very dangerous man. Their father had started cruising the local gay bars and was calling himself Brian Smart. Gay men were disappearing from those bars. 

Ten would disappear in a little over two years. This started in May of 1993 with the disappearance of twenty-two year old Michael Riley. That same month, twenty year old Johnny L. Bayer was reported missing. Thirty-one year old Jeffery Jones was reported missing in July. Richard Hamilton, who was twenty, went missing that month as well. In August, twenty-seven year old Alan Livingstone disappeared. Stephen Hale, twenty-six, was reported missing in April 1994. In June, twenty-eight year old Alan Broussard walked out of a gay bar and was never seen again. In July, thirty-four year old Roger Alan Goodlet disappeared. Virgil Vandagriff was a private investigator who had worked for the Marion County Sheriff's Department. The first case to come to Vandagriff was Alan Broussard's. Alan's mother approached Vandagriff in early June of 1994. She described her son as a heavy drinker and gay. He was last seen leaving a gay bar called Brothers. The investigator wasn't alarmed at first, but did his due diligence, putting posters up around the area. As more missing gay men were reported, all of whom were described having similar features, Vandagriff became more concerned. Mary Wilson was an investigator with the Indianapolis Police Department and she was also working on cases involving missing gay men in Indianapolis. The two investigators had begun to suspect that all these cases were connected to each other. We're not sure how they learned of each other, but they began communicating and were soon working together on the case. 

In 1993, a gay man came to them with a horrific tale. He claimed that he had met a man named Brian Smart at a bar and that he had joined Smart at his mansion. Smart had led him into the area of the house that had an indoor pool. It was oddly decorated with mannequins around the pool. When the man asked why Smart had the mannequins, he answered that he got lonely, so they kept him company. The man continued his tale, sharing that he swam naked in the pool and then Brian told him he had a neat trick to show him. He asked the guy to strangle him with a hose while he serviced himself. Then Smart put his hands on this victim's neck and began to choke him until he feigned passing out. Brian shook him until he opened his eyes. Smart said he was tired and he fell asleep, so the man scouted around the house trying to figure out who Brian really was and because he suspected that he had killed a friend of his that went missing. Perhaps it was an accident while practicing autoerotic asphyxia. Unfortunately, this man only found women's clothing and children's toys and no name. Smart had told him that he was staying in an empty house working on landscaping for a new owner who would be moving in soon. Clearly, he had lied. The man tried to fish the wallet out of Smart's jeans, but Smart woke up. The man asked him to take him back to the bar and Smart did telling him that he was a lot of fun and he would see him later in the week. The man was unable to give the address for the mansion he had been taken to and he also had no other information. The detectives could do little more than take down his report and they sent the man on his way, asking that he contact them if he saw Smart again. 

It would take three years, but in 1995 the witness phoned the detectives and he told them that he had seen Smart and that he managed to record his license plate number. This was the break that they needed. They traced the license plate to Herb Baumeister and paid a visit to his house at Fox Hollow Farm. Baumeister was there and they informed him that he was a suspect in the disappearance of several men and they asked to search the house. Obviously, Baumeister was not willing to allow them to do that and there was not enough evidence to get a search warrant. The detectives decided to try working on Julie and they approached her outside of one of the SAV-A-LOT stores. Despite being very unhappy in her marriage, Julie was also unwilling to allow the detectives to search the house and even got angry that the detectives suggested her husband was a suspect in the disappearance of gay men. She went home and asked Herb about it and he dismissed the whole thing as rubbish and she left it alone. But she had to be suspicious because in twenty-five years of marriage, Herb and Julie had only had sex six times.

The other thing that should have had Julie suspicious was something that happened in the fall of 1994. A year before the police came knocking, Erich, who was thirteen at the time, had been playing in the woods when he stumbled across a human skull. He brought it back to the house and showed it to his mother who was horrified. She asked Erich to lead her to where he found the skull and he did just that. Julie was even more stunned when she sifted through the leaves and found a pile of bones. When Herb came home from work, she showed him the skull and told him about the other bones. Perhaps she hoped that he would explain them away as an old burial on the land that they didn't know about, but instead he told her a farcical story. His father had been an anesthesiologist and so Herb said that it was a medical school skeleton that his father had owned and Herb wasn't sure what to do with it, so he buried it in their backyard. Julie apparently bought the story because she didn't press him further.

Five months later, the police tried again to get Julie to give them permission to search the property and again she said, "No." But she clearly had to be thinking about what they had told her. Her husband was a suspect in murders and bones had been found on the property by their son. Her marriage was rapidly deteriorating and she had already suspected that he was stepping out on her. He had plenty of time for such things because for weeks and even months every summer, she would take the kids to a property that Herb's mother owned on a lake. Herb would never join them claiming that he was too busy with the stores. And now, his behavior was becoming even more erratic than it had been before and Julie found some of it to be terrifying. Julie decided she couldn't take it anymore and she filed for divorce. The detectives working the case had gotten their first break when their witness got the license plate of Herb's car. Now they were going to get their next break. In June of 1996, Julie invited the police to search the house and property and what they found was horrific. 

The 18-acre estate had become a burial ground. Several officers started in an area that Julie led them to and they began kicking up clots of dirt. After only a couple of kicks, a charred foot long bone popped up out of the ground. Then the officers noticed that what they had at first thought were rocks and pebbles strewn about, were actually bones. They found bits of bone and teeth everywhere. Clearly, the Baumeister kids had to have played all over the bones. They called in Forensic Anthropologist Stephen Nawrocki from the University of Indiana and he told them that the bones were indeed human, that they were recent and that they had been burned. The investigators dropped markers wherever they found bone and soon it looked like a mass disaster scene. When police searched the house, they found a hidden camera in the pool area. Dozens of volunteers helped collect bones over a two week period. The bones of eleven men were found, but only eight would eventually be identified.  

It was believed that Baumeister trolled the Interstate in Indiana and picked up young gay men there from bars he frequented and brought them back to his house. He also is believed to have killed missing gay men in Ohio. Julie told the police that Herb would take business trips into Ohio, but she was never sure exactly of what these trips were about. Nine bodies were found in rural areas along Interstate 70 on the corridor between Indianapolis and Columbus. Julie estimated that he had made at least a hundred business trips to Ohio. Authorities believed that Herb not only killed these nine other men, but that he could have killed up to fifty more. That makes Baumeister a very proficient serial killer.

While this search was being conducted, Baumeister was with his son Erich at his mother's lake home. Julie got a custody order and police brought Erich back home. No one knows if Herb suspected that the police were onto him or if he figured this was just Julie being mean because of the divorce, but he disappeared from Lake Wawasee. Five days later, he phoned his brother Brad and told him that he was on a business trip and desperately needed some money. Brad was already aware of what had been found at his brother's house, so he sent the cash and then called the police. Herb had made his way to Fennville and then Port Huron where he called his brother again, looking for more money. Brad told Herb that the cops wanted to talk to him. Herb hung up and drove into Canada. 

That was June 30th and the police estimated that he spent several days driving along Lake Huron towards Grand Bend, Ontario. He slept in his car at night and one evening a Canadian trooper knocked on the car window and asked why he was sleeping in his car. Baumeister claimed to be a tourist just resting his eyes. She surveyed the car and saw luggage and videotapes in the back seat. Perhaps these were tapes featuring the murders. We'll never know because it is believed he threw the tapes in the lake before he killed himself. On the evening of July 3rd, Baumeister drove into Pinery Park, ate a peanut butter sandwich, piled up some sand into a human sized mound, put some dead birds around it, put a .357 Magnum revolver to his forehead and pulled the trigger. He left behind a suicide note that said he was going to go to sleep now because he had failed at business and his marriage was irreparable. He made no mention of any murders.

Julie and the children moved away from the house. Vicki and Robert Graves bought the mansion and land in 2006 for $987,000, even though the asking price had been $2.3 million and the property was more than likely worth at least $5 million. Eight acres were purchased by Noah Herron who opened the Urban Vines Winery & Brewery in 2017. Herron put three acres up for sale in 2019 and we couldn't find anything on whether they sold or not. Also unknown is if Herron built a home on the acreage, which had been his plan. Vicki and Robert Graves still live in the house and Robert wrote a book with Richard Estep in 2019 called "The Horrors of Fox Hollow Farm, Unraveling the History & Hauntings of a Serial Killer's Home" about the property and the murderer. The book details the many haunting experiences the Graves have had while living at Fox Hollow Farm. 

The Graves realized shortly after moving in that there was something strange going on at the property.  They heard strange knocking inside the house and they heard disembodied voices and footsteps. They saw full bodied apparitions. On one occasion, Mrs. Graves was vacuuming gravel from around the pool and her cord kept coming unplugged for no reason. After the third time, she finally gave up on vacuuming. One of the full bodied apparitions seen by Mrs. Graves was that of a young man in their yard wearing a red t-shirt. That wasn't weird, but the fact he had no legs was. As he walked away, he disappeared. That is the most well known story about the property and this spirit wearing the red shirt has been seen by several other people. Rob claims that Herb haunts his former home, although his presence has become infrequent. There are investigators who think that a malevolent energy is at the house and that it impersonates Herb, but that Herb's spirit is not at the house. Estep caught a stick figure on his SLS Camera in the apartment.

The apartment on the property had its own entrance and a kitchen and Mr. Graves offered it to a co-worker named Joe LeBlanc when he was in need of a place to live. Joe reported having strange experiences from his first night there. His dog would react to things Joe couldn't see and one night there was an insistent knocking at the door and when he opened it, there was no one there. But the door knocking was up and then slammed down. He saw the door knob moving as well. Joe also saw the stranger in the red t-shirt on the property. He decided to try recording some EVPs and asked questions to the air to see if he could get a response. He asked who was in the kitchen and he caught a response. An EVP could be heard repeating the phrase, "the married one," over and over again. All of Baumeister's victims had been single, so it would seem that perhaps Baumeister has returned to his home and the scene of many of his crimes. Joe also claimed to be strangled by something he couldn't see when he was in the pool one day. He also claimed to see a spirit in the apartment that was a young man that was running as though for his life. Knife marks on the wall have led him to believe someone was killed in his apartment.

A documentary titled "The Haunting of Fox Hollow Farm" came out in 2015. During their investigation, several psychics walked the house and they used various pieces of equipment to collect evidence. EVP caught saying, "Go in my closet." Another EVP said, "You're so f**ked up. Turn it off." And another couple, "You know who I am" and "You know why I'm here." The most chilling EVP said, "You dare to come to my house." A couple of investigators saw a figure lurking in the woods when it was getting dark on the property. Could this be the elemental spirit that is said to haunt the woods there? Richard Estep claims that he heard an animalistic, guttural growl on the property, which could either be the malevolent spirit or the elemental spirit or perhaps they are the same. The documentary not only covers Fox Hollow Farm, but the crew went out to the lake where Baumeister killed himself. One psychic felt that he had thrown the videotapes in the water, while another believed they were burned.

Ghost Adventures investigated the property during Season 11. Vicki Graves told Zak about the spirit in the red shirt and she said that she felt like he was trying to show her something, but she wasn't sure what. Robert told the crew that he had seen a shadow figure move from the pump room to the pool room while he was cleaning the pool one day. They caught a male voice whispering "Help" on an EVP. The Spirit Box said, "I'm dead," "I don't know" when asked who killed him and "Herb did it!"

Many people claim that the activity is not as bad as it used to be. Herb Baumeister was a prolific serial killer who got away with his crimes for many years and was never brought to justice. Let's hope that justice has come to him in the afterlife. Is he still here and haunting Fox Hollow Farm? Are his victims haunting the property? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes:

Baumeister Timeline:,%20Herb%20-%20fall,%202005.pdf

Thursday, March 4, 2021

HGB Ep. 375 - Wyoming Frontier Prison

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Moment in Oddity - Potong Gigi (Tooth Filing Ceremony) Suggested by: Scott Booker

We're  not sure if Bali has an obsession with vampires or if they really think that canine teeth just look prettier when they are filed down, but they've created a pretty bizarre ceremony around this practice. The Tooth Filing Ceremony or Potong Gigi as people from Bali call it, is observed when a young person comes of age. This is considered a beautiful and sacred ritual in the country. The ceremony has taken place for hundreds of years and is considered the last duty of a parent when preparing a child for the move to adulthood. Early ones were conducted in private at home, but today are an elaborate affair. These ceremonies take place in a temple with lots of prayers, chants and incense and a priest or priestess does the filing. The canine teeth are sharp and thought to represent the animal side of humans that usually presents as aggressive or evil behavior. These could be vices that need to be controlled. Filing down the points of the canines is a symbolic gesture of removing the evil from the fangs. Now these young adults can be thought of as angels on the right path versus demons prone to following the lusts of the heart. The fact that smooth canine teeth symbolizes goodness, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - The Boston Massacre

In the month of March, on the 5th, in 1770, the Boston Massacre occurred beginning the road to the American Revolution. Tensions were running high between American colonists and the British when a group of Bostonians started protesting against a small group of British soldiers guarding the Boston Customs House. The colonists soon were hurling insults and snowballs. The soldiers were under orders not to shoot, but they fired into the crowd anyway. The first man struck was an African American sailor named Crispus Attucks. He would be considered the first hero of the American Revolution. Crispus had been working on whaling ships for 20 years after escaping slavery. Four other colonists were shot and killed, but their identities are lost to history. Paul Revere made a famous engraving depicting the event. British Captain Thomas Preston and eight of his troops were arrested and charged with murder. John Adams was a lawyer at the time and he defended the British. The Captain and six soldiers were acquitted, while two others were found guilty of manslaughter and punished with branding before being released. What started as a small event, made martyrs of the protesters and united the colonies in a desire for freedom from British tyranny.

Wyoming Frontier Prison (Suggested by Sandtrooper Mick)

Wyoming can be a beautiful state, but it can also be harsh, particularly in the winter. The Wyoming Frontier Prison was a brutal place with no heat during the savage winters and if a prisoner could manage to survive that, there were other threats to their life. Hundreds lost their lives via murder, suicide and execution. Enough men suffered and died here that a spiritual residue has built up and there are many ghost stories connected to the prison. Join us as we explore the history and haunts of the Wyoming Frontier Prison!

The city of Rawlins is where the frontier prison is located. Rawlins is located in the southern part of Wyoming and was originally part of an area that was called Carbon County that covered the entire width of the Wyoming Territory. The term carbon reflected the coal deposits found here. Every trail leading west crossed through here from the Oregon Trail to the Mormon Trail and even the Union Pacific Railroad. General John A. Rawlins was the chief of staff of the U.S. Army when he brought a group of his troops through to protect the surveyors laying out the first trans-continental route in 1867. It must have been hot because Rawlins kept wishing for a cold drink of water. A couple of scouts from his group went out and stumbled upon a natural spring with cool drinkable water. They brought some back for General Rawlins and he declared that the water was the most refreshing drink he had ever tasted. He then said, "If anything is ever named after me, I hope it will be a spring of water." And so the spring became Rawlins Springs and that is what the community that built up around it was known as until 1886, when the city was incorporated and the name was shortened to just Rawlins.

The land where the prison was built was bought from the railroad in 1888 and the cornerstone was laid that same year. The weather that we mentioned in the intro was so bad after construction on the prison started, that it took thirteen years to complete. Economic issues also factored in as funding was hard to come by from the state. Local granite stone was used as the construction material. The design was by Salt Lake City architect Warren E. Ware and is in the Richardsonian Romanesque style. There are two castle-like turrets with conical roofs on either side of the main structure that rises three and a half levels. The main building has a main entrance topped by a wide, semicircular arch with radiating voussoirs, which are tapered stones. The upper-story windows have similar decorative archways above them. Stepping inside the entrance, there is a massive iron-bar gate that shields the front door, sidelights, and transom. There is also a small, decorated, gabled dormer on the roof. This main building was the Administration Building that originally housed offices on the first floor, an infirmary and a few cells for women on the second floor, and a chapel on the third floor. There were women at this prison, but very few and only for a few years.

Annie Bruce was one of the women who did time here. Annie liked baking pies and on March 20, 1907, she baked five delicious pies. Well, maybe that one tasted a little different. And it should have because she poured a full bottle of Strychnine into that pie. Annie then put the pie in her father's lunch and after about three bites, he crumpled over in horrendous pain. His co-workers got him medical care, but it was too late and James Bruce died with enough poison in his body to kill five men. They traced it back to Annie and she was convicted of manslaughter, the first time a woman had been convicted of any degree of murder in Wyoming. Annie was also just fourteen years of age. She told the court, "While I was in the act of making the pies, a feeling or a wish came over me to kill someone and this feeling, I could not resist." She was sentenced to four years, but served only one of them at the Wyoming Frontier Prison. She was moved to the Colorado State Penitentiary by request of her family. She was the last woman to serve time at the Wyoming Frontier Prison.

Another female prisoner here was also named Annie, Annie Groves. She had worked in a nearby town as a lady of the evening and developed a bad relationship with one of her customers. His name was James Passwater and Annie blamed him for giving her a venereal disease. After a sore destroyed her lower lip, she decided to exact revenge and she got herself a gun. Annie's got a gun! She walked into the saloon where Passwater was sitting and she aimed for the back of his head. She missed, just grazing his hat and hitting another man in the shoulder. Annie was arrested and sentenced to a year hard labor at the jail. Her, uh husband...yes, Annie was married, got her a pardon after six months and the couple left the state.

The prison finally opened in December of 1901 and was originally known as the Wyoming State Penitentiary. This was Wyoming's first state prison. There was only the main Administration Building and Cell Block A that featured 104 cells at that time and there was no running water, no electricity and no heat. This jail was built to take some of the pressure off the federal prison in nearby Laramie and so the first prisoners brought in came from that facility. Work on expanding the jail started almost immediately as more room was needed. These additions would include guard quarters, water tower, boiler and pump houses, horse barn, warden's house,  storage buildings, a commissary and garages. Most continued the Romanesque style, but a view incorporated Mission style. Cell Block A didn't get running hot water until 1978. Overcrowding would always be an issue and in the eighty years that the prison was open 13,500 people would pass through its doors including eleven women. No women would be housed at the prison after 1909.

Cell Block B was added in 1950 and with this came solitary confinement cells. A plus would be that a heating system was a part of this cell block, along with hot running water. In 1966, Cell Block C was added, which included 36 cells that were set aside for inmates who were discipline issues. The roughest of the rough would be housed between these two cell blocks and this prison was not about rehabilitation. This place dished out the punishment. Solitary confinement was always full and there were various varieties of these. And there was a punishment pole. Men would be handcuffed to this and then whipped with rubber hoses. Security was not great for many years and there were many escapes. James Williams was an inmate who was killed while trying to escape. There were also suicides, mostly from men throwing themselves from upper floors. One guard that worked in Tower 9 was so stressed out that he also committed suicide. Two men died from freezing to death in cells that had no heat.

The Death House was added in 1916 for those who were sentenced to death. There were six cells and executions would take place inside as well. First there were hangings and then the gas chamber was added. The worst part of this prison probably would have to be the Julien Gallows. We've never heard of anything like this. Inmates were executed using this device from 1912 to 1933. This invention forced the inmates to kill themselves. What the inmate would do is step out onto a trap door and a stream of water was started that would eventually open the trap door, and the prisoner would drop through. The only problem with that was that the drop was not far enough to break the man's neck and they would then take several minutes to strangle. Nine men met their fate on the Julien Gallows. One has to wonder why this issue was never fixed. The gas chamber was added in 1936 when the state of Wyoming chose this as their new execution method. Hydrocyanic acid gas was used as the death agent. Five men would die in the gas chamber that had windows around it, so people could watch. In all, fourteen men were executed here. 

One of the more heinous events connected to the prison occurred in 1912. Details of inmate Frank Wigfall's biography are hard to trace. He died at the prison at either the age of 39 or 49. He was born in South Carolina and came to Wyoming when he was twenty-four. In 1901, Wigfall was arrested in Cheyenne on the charge of assault with intent to kill. He had gotten into a fight in a saloon and stabbed  Ollie Buckley who survived. Wigfall was arrested, convicted and sentenced to serve 18 months at the prison in Rawlins. When he was released, he moved to Laramie where he shared a room with a man who had a lady friend named Mrs. Kruppa. This woman had a twelve year old daughter named Helen and before long, Wigfall had been arrested for attempted rape of Helen. Wigfall plead guilty to avoid a trial and begged to be sent off to jail quickly because he feared lynching. He was sentenced to fourteen years. During his time in the jail, an older woman whom all the prisoners called Granny Higgins would bring fresh baked cookies for the prisoners. They all loved her. 

When Wigfall was released he went to Granny Higgins house and sexually assaulted her after breaking her door down with an ax. He ran away, but a posse tracked him down. Now while he had been put in jail before to protect him from lynching, this time the inmates would be the danger. John Neale was the Cell House guard and he was doing morning inspections of cells on Tier 3 when a group of forty inmates overtook him and locked him in a cell. This group then grabbed Wigfall and put a rope around his neck and marched him up the stairs to the top floor. They then threw him over the rail and hanged him. Newspapers across the nation reported, "Convicts Keep Secret Pact – Full details of Lynching May Never be Known." It was rumored that the inmates had threatened that anyone who squealed would be the next to hang.

Prisoners did have work at the Wyoming Frontier Prison. The prison produced brooms over a period of sixteen years, but this ended in 1917 when inmates burned down the broom factory during a riot. The building was rebuilt and became a shirt factory, which brought in a ton of revenue for the state. This was closed in 1934 and transformed into a woolen mill in 1935. The mill won the “Navy E” in 1942 for the superior quality blankets they produced during World War II for the military. After the war, production switched over to license plates and this would continue until the jail closed in 1981. The property was abandoned after closing until 1987, when it was used as a film location for a low budget movie titled "Prison" starring Viggo Mortensen. Since the prison had not been set aside as a historic site, it wasn't protected and the film production caused some major damage. This got preservationists involved and a joint powers board was formed. They renamed the jail "The Wyoming Frontier Prison" and reopened it as a museum. The prison got its listing on The National Registry of Historic Places, and now offers daily tours. Approximately 15,000 visitors pass through the doors annually.

One of the inmates here was Bill Carlisle, who was dubbed the gentleman bandit. He was nicknamed this because he never shot anyone and didn't take money from women, children or servicemen. He started his criminal life in 1916 by robbing his first train, a Union Pacific passenger train. Carlisle put on a white mask and pulled out a gun, ordering a sleeping porter to collect money from the male passengers. The gun he used was actually a glass gun that had been filled with candy. He escaped the train by jumping off the top of one of the cars and rolling away into the brush. A posse went out after him, but he eluded them. He then went after the Overland Limited on April 4, 1916. He got away from that train too and went on to rob another train later that month. This time, Carlisle was captured and he was sentenced to life in prison. He was a model prisoner at the Wyoming Frontier Prison until he escaped. He worked in the shirt factory and hid himself in a packing crate full of shirts. Carlisle got out of the box, boarded a train and proceeding to rob the men. A posse was already after him and knew he was on the train. When he jumped from the train, he was shot in the wrist, but still managed to make a run for it. The posse caught up with him two weeks later and he had a bad infection from his bullet wound. He was returned to prison on December 18, 1919. He was paroled on good behavior in 1936 and married the nurse who took care of his bullet wound. They opened a hotel together in Laramie and eventually moved to Pennsylvania where he died of cancer at the age of 74.

Al Biscaro entered the prison in 1920 on charges of grand larceny. He went by several names. Charles Nichols and William Morgan were a couple of his other names. He was a lifelong criminal who had already served three prison terms and was considered a really violent guy. He did, however; prove to be a model prisoner...until he decided to escape and he did this in a huge way. Four months after he was put in the prison, he developed appendicitis. The doctor in the prison was Dr. Barber and he did an emergency appendectomy on Biscaro who stayed in the infirmary for nearly a month. Biscaro asked for a meeting with the Warden who was named Hadsell or with the Deputy Warden named Kiefer. Both said they were too busy and this seemed to set Biscaro off. 

A man named Rich Magor came into the prison to do some handyman work. Dr. Barber had told him that he would give him a ride back to ton and so when he was finished, he went to the infirmary to wait for the doctor to get off work. Neither Dr. Barber or Magor knew that Biscaro's wife had somehow gotten a gun to him. He pulled out this revolver and everyone in the infirmary at gunpoint. This included Magor, Dr. Barber, a guard and seven other convicts. He told the guard to take his demands to the Warden. He wanted a car brought to the infirmary door with four women inside and for all the guards to be removed. If these demands were not met, he said he would kill the doctor - who had saved his life - and Magor. Dr. Barber and Magor offered themselves in place of the women, so Biscaro agreed to take them hostage instead. The doctor also offered his own car, which was near the infirmary. The Warden agreed to have the guards stand down until Biscaro was two blocks away. Biscaro loaded up his hostages and held a gun to Dr. Barber's head as he ordered him to drive. 

A posse set off almost immediately and Biscaro told Magor to tell the Warden if they continued their pursuit, he would kill the doctor and then he kicked Magor out of the car while it was traveling at 45 mph. Magor managed to survive the tumble without much injury and relaid the message, but the Warden wouldn't have to worry about the doctor for long. Dr. Barber knew he was a dead man and so he did a brave thing throwing his weight behind the wheel and wrecking his car on purpose. The doctor made his way out of the wreckage and ran, nearly being shot as Biscaro opened fire. Biscaro ran into a nearby ravine to hide. The posse began searching for him and heard three shots. When they followed the direction of the shots, they found Biscaro dead with self-inflicted wounds to his heart and head. The third bullet was never found. Biscaro’s wife, Grace Nichols, later confessed to providing the gun for her husband saying, "I’d do it again." When she was allowed to see Biscaro's body she said to him, "Well, Old Scout, guess I will finish your sentence."

There are many ghosts stories connected to this site. Many visitors and staff have seen the spirit of a black cat roaming about the cells and there is a good reason for that. The staff needed to test the mixer for the gas chamber and most times they would use a pig, but on this occasion they found a stray black cat and put it in the gas chamber. A tour guide named Erin was in A Block and she came out of a cell when a black cat darted out in front of her. He went around the corner and another tour guide named Molly was standing there and she saw the cat and then it just disappeared. Solitary Confinement or the Dungeon House or the Black Hole - names used by all the inmates - has a lot of activity. A malevolent spirit resides here and threatens anyone who ventures here. 

There are those who call the whole prison a death house. More than 200 prisoners died here. Some of their spirits remain. Ted Ford was a former tour guide at the museum and he claimed to see the figure of a man one day. He was standing in a doorway, so Ted approached him and he disappeared. Another tour guide named Kaitlyn saw a similar figure. She too saw him in a doorway after turning around and she was shocked to see him there. She thought somebody had broken in, so she shouted "hello" to let him know that she saw him. She walked towards him shouting "hey!" and he backed away in a room and when she got to the doorway, he was nowhere in the room. The interesting backstory is that both of these guides saw this man in the same doorway and this was near where a guard was beaten and stabbed to death by two inmates. They were drunk on some prison hooch. They dragged him down some stairs that lead into the room where the ghost disappeared. Was this shadow man the murdered guard?

A full-bodied apparition of a man wearing a brimmed hat has been seen in the Death House where inmates were hanged. Most apparitions are seen out of the corner of the eye. And back to the story about Wigfall, when conditions are right his lynching is played over as if on a loop. The Destination Mystery Team investigated the jail in July of 2020 and they believe they captured an apparition in the upstairs area of the chapel. It's an interesting capture. We'll share a still photo an Instagram and you can see what you think. Tina Hill was Museum Director back in 2001. She claimed to hear booted footsteps outside the public bathroom. When she walked over to the area, no one was there. This had once been the guards' kitchen. Another former tour guide named Becky Munsinger once saw a dark-haired man wearing a gray shirt and gray pants while walking a cell block one day.

(Warning) Andrew Pixley was one of the most notorious prisoners. A family from Chicago was in Jackson Hole on a ski vacation and he raped and killed the two young daughters, 11 and 12. The beating was horrible and there was evidence of cannibalism. While he was in his cell, he carved the faces of his female victims on the walls of the cell and referred to them as his guardian angels. Those carvings are still visible in the cell. He was killed in the gas chamber in 1965 and he took longer to die than any other man in the Death House. Most inmates took 3 minutes to die in the chamber. Pixley took a full six minutes. A tour guide named Mike calls this cell the scariest one in the Death House and he liked to tell guests on his tours that it took longer to kill Pixley because it is harder to kill evil. He had a chilling experience one day. He was recording the dates all the executions in the prison and he went up to the hanging room to verify some dates because they have them posted on the wall up there. It was dark and he needed a flashlight. The minute the beam fell upon the black eyes of Pixley in his mug shots, Mike heard the sobbing of little girls. The sound was coming from the gas chamber. He was scared to death. Especially when he realized the date. It was the same day that Pixley had been executed. They light a candle in there during tours and it flares brighter all the time. Another tour guide named Susie says the hair on the back of her neck always stands up when she is in that cell and talking about this prisoner.

Ghost Adventures investigated the prison in 2013. They captured a lot of unexplained noises on their audio recorder. To us it sounded like banging on the cell bars. They had a camera spin out in a shower room and fall down by itself and they all heard a male voice audibly. They checked the prison to make sure nobody was in there with them and they were the only ones. Billy was sitting in a cell block by himself and saw a light. He described it being as if a guard was walking the block with a flashlight, but he was alone in that area. The guys felt like they got some good evidence. It was definitely interesting.

The Wyoming Frontier Prison was a harsh and cruel place that became the final home for some 200 inmates who would not leave this location alive. Is it possible that some of their spirits are still here, trapped or otherwise? Is the Wyoming Frontier Prison haunted? That is for you to decide!