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!

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