Thursday, May 27, 2021

Ep. 387 - DeSoto House Hotel

Moment in Oddity - Charfield Railway Disaster (Suggested by: Mike Rodgers)

In this episode, we will be talking about a Lady in Black spirit and synchronistically, we have another story here about a Lady in Black connected to a couple of mysteries connected to a train crash. A passenger train was heading from Leeds, England to Bristow on a foggy night in October of 1928. The train was traveling fast and scheduled to arrive early at a railway station in Charfield, Gloucestershire, which it was just supposed to pass through. A freight train was backing off the track when the Leeds train arrived and there was a horrible collision that killed 16 people, burning them so they were unrecognizable. Family members managed to identify the victims, save for two children: a girl of 12 and a boy of 5. Nobody ever came forward to identify or claim the children. No one knew where these children came from and they were buried together in a common grave with no names on the tombstone. While the country worked to identify the children, investigators tried to figure out how the crash happened. The Leeds train was in perfect working order. The conductor and fireman both survived and claimed that all the lights coming into Charfield had been green, while the signal man said he had turned them to red. And even though there was fog, there had been no fog signal man. No one was ever charged and the cause of the crash remains a mystery. The third mystery connected to the crash entailed a woman in black who would arrive by limousine and place flowers on the grave of the children two or three times a year. She was frail and wore a veil, so no one ever saw her face. Some people claimed that she was a ghost who would disappear and that the car sometimes disappeared too. These things remain mysteries connected to the the Charfield Railway Disaster and that, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Brooklyn Bridge Opens

In the month of May, on the 24th, in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge Opens. John Roebling was a pioneer in steel suspension bridge design and he solved a major problem with them that caused failure. New York State accepted Roebling's design for a bridge that would connect Brooklyn and Manhattan. This would be the world's first steel suspension bridge and spanned 1,595 feet. Roebling wouldn't live to fulfill his duty as chief engineer. A boat smashed his toes while he was doing compass readings for the bridge and he died of tetanus three weeks later. He would be the first of two dozen people who would died building the bridge. His son Washington would take over and two granite foundations would be the first parts of the bridge built. The bridge took fourteen years to complete. Thousands of residents turned out for the dedication ceremony that was headed by President Chester A. Arthur Governor Grover Cleveland. Washington was injured by the bends while working on the bridge and partially paralyzed, so it would be his wife Emily that would take the victory lap across the bridge. She rode in a car with a rooster, which was a symbol of victory. By the end of that first twenty-four hours of being opened, 250,000 had walked across the Brooklyn Bridge.

DeSoto House Hotel (Suggested by: Amanda Allen and Jennie Douglas)

The DeSoto House Hotel sits at the corner of Green and Main Streets in downtown Galena, Illinois. This building has claims that it is the most haunted hotel in Illinois and with a history that includes President Abraham Lincoln, that reputation seems fitting. This was a beautiful hotel hosting grand balls until the economy hit it hard, but it has risen once again to provide the finest in accommodations. And with a Lady in Black who wandered the dining room so much that they left a hole in the wall for her, who wouldn't want to stay here? Join us as we share the history and hauntings of the DeSoto House Hotel. 

Galena, Illinois was once the principal river port of the Upper Mississippi Valley. The hills, bluffs and valleys make this area very scenic and with nearly 85% of Galena's buildings being on the National Register Historic District, this town should be on everyone's bucket list. The Sac and Fox tribes were some of the first people here and they mined the lead deposits found here. French traders arrived in the late 1600s and they established a trading post. Others came for the lead deposits and in the early 1800s, Congress established the Upper Mississippi Lead Mine District. This is where Galena got its name because that is the technical term for sulphide of lead.

By the 1850s, Galena became a shipping port with the Galena River flowing into the Mississippi River. The population grew to 14,000 and Galena was shipping 54 million pounds of lead a year. The Illinois Central Railroad brought a line through town and hotels were built to accommodate the travelers.  The Galena Hotel Company was formed by a group of investors and they made their first project the DeSoto House, which they named for Hernando de Soto who discovered the Mississippi River.

The DeSoto House Hotel opened on April 9, 1855 as the “Largest Hotel in the West” and featured five stories with 225 guest rooms, a 300 seat dining room and other smaller dining rooms, Ladies' Parlors, Gentlemen's Reading Room, a saloon, huge kitchen with the modern appliances of the time, gas lights, offices, retail stores and a bowling alley. John C. Parks stepped up as the first proprietor of the hotel and the deal he made with the hotel company was that he would furnish the building in exchange for a two year rent-free contract. He spent $15,000 on furniture made from rosewood, velvet carpeting, satin damask curtains, marble-topped tables and a beautiful rosewood hand-carved piano.

Both Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas visited the hotel and spoke from a balcony that overlooked the main street. Lincoln was there on July 23, 1856, and he campaigned for John Fremont who was seeking the presidency. Stephen Douglas was a senator when he spoke from the same balcony on July 25, 1858. Fifteen thousand people held a rally in front of the hotel when Lincoln ran for president. President Lincoln wasn't the only president connected to the hotel. William Jennings Bryan was also a guest here. Ulysses S. Grant was from Galena. This was his hometown and when he returned home victorious from the Civil War, 25,000 people lined the streets to welcome him and a grand reception ball was held in his honor at the DeSoto's ballroom. When Grant ran for president, Rooms 209 and 211 became his presidential campaign headquarters.

These were big historic moments for the hotel. Good times. But the hotel would have some major issues. The first thing to befall it was a fire on June 2, 1859 that destroyed a dozen rooms on each floor. The entire hotel was damaged from the smoke and water. Ten years later, a boiler down in the basement exploded. The owners at the time decided to call it quits and auctioned off all the furnishings and by December of 1870, the hotel was closed. The closure wouldn't last long as W.H. Blewett purchased the hotel in 1871 and he redecorated the hotel and refurnished it to better reflect that time period. Some well known guests during this period were balloonist Silas Brooks, Duprey and Green's Minstrels and General and Mrs. Tom Thumb. The top two floors of the hotel were removed in 1880. Hot and cold running water would soon follow and bathrooms were added to all floors. When economic times were down, the hotel served as a boarding house. 

New renovations would be completed in the 1970s, but the hotel would still find itself facing demolition. There was an outcry from the town people and Mayor Frank Einsweiller began an effort to fund a complete restoration, which would take seven years to gather $7.8 million in funds. This renovation took place for a year between April 15, 1985 and April 19, 1986. When this was done there was a four-story atrium Courtyard dining room, the Generals' Restaurant with original brick walls and beamed ceilings named for nine Civil War generals that were from Galena, the Green Street Tavern, 55 guest rooms with private baths, ballroom, specialty shops and conference and banquet rooms. The front lobby has this great wrap around front staircase that you can imagine Lincoln once walked up and down. The furnishings and decor harken back to the Victorian era.

This town that time forgot has not been forgotten by its previous residents. Ghosts wander many places in Galena and several ghost tours are offered. The DeSoto House Hotel has lots of ghost stories connected to it with the first ones dating back to the 1800s. In one newspaper article, a woman claimed that a black figure came to her window. Guests for years have caught the scent of cigar smoke and strange perfume. Disembodied voices are heard in the hallways and full-bodied apparitions in period clothing have been seen. The third floor seems to have the most activity with Room 333 being the most haunted, although the Green Street Tavern gives it a good run for its money with its Lady in Black who wears a period dress. People claim to hear sounds from the fourth and fifth floors, which no longer exist.

The story behind the Lady in Black is that she has regularly been seen walking into a wall near the fireplace in the Green Street Tavern. She even seems to have been captured in this photo:

Contractors were repairing plaster in the restaurant after a flood and discovered a doorway behind a wall. The place in the wall that the Lady in Black would walk into. So they decided to leave this area of the wall open and put plexiglass over it. Then they hung a sign next to it reading:

Guests claim that the hotel is haunted, but in a nice way and most stories seem fairly benign. Connie wrote on the Midwest Wanderer website, "The desk clerk I spoke with said she never believed in the paranormal until her experiences at the DeSoto House.  First was a cold chill followed by a bright ball of light that zoomed past her as she worked on the third floor late at night, with no explanation as to where the light could have come from.  Then there were the reports from several guests that they felt someone sit on the edge of the bed.  The reports were always from guests staying in the same room."

A woman named Mary wrote, "My husband and I stayed at the Desoto House 2012 and I can tell you that I did think someone sat on the bed next to me. I was so surprised to see no one was there when I looked up from my phone. I called out to my husband and he was in the bathroom at the time. There was definitely someone with me but I couldn’t see or hear anyone. Creepy feeling. Later that same night when we were getting into bed I reached out to shut off the lamp and before my hand got near the lamp the light went out. That did it for me. I knew someone was in our room with us. Our room was on the second floor. We never heard a sound or voices but that was enough for me to be sure there was someone with us that night."

On the Illinois Haunted House website, "I love Galena in general, and always wanted to stay at the Desoto House. I had always heard about the haunted history, and thought since I was finally staying there I’d bring my Spirit Box for fun to investigate a bit. Sometimes it’s hard to make out voices on the SB 7, but these were some of the clearest responses I have ever heard/gotten. Was really cool just sitting in my room communicating. Turned my skeptic girlfriend into a believer real quick! Can’t wait to go back! Don’t remember the room number unfortunately, but the whole town has spirits. Was just last year 2019. All around a great place to spend the weekend! "

Lynn wrote, "My husband and I stayed here in January about 5 years ago. I can’t remember if we stayed on the second or third floor. We too had a couple of strange things happen. The first night I turned the TV off manually and it came back on– twice!! The second night I woke up and saw this strange light slowly moving around the coffered ceiling! It wasn’t a ball of light, more like wave of light. I must not have been too scared though cause I went back to sleep!"

Christina wrote, "We stayed nearby over this past weekend, but stopped in the Green Street Tavern for lunch. I hadn’t read about any of the haunting stories or anything in advance. As we were waiting for our lunch, something distinctly brushed my cheek. I was astonished that there wasn’t something actually touching my face. I thought it must be a few long hairs grazing me (my hair is very short), and even wondered if the woman behind me had swept her hair back off her shoulders inadvertently brushing my cheek, but my significant other said nothing/nobody had come near me. Just a moment later, as I was still trying to figure it out, the same sensation occurred near my collarbone on my chest. I was startled and kind of unsettled, but it made me laugh almost uncontrollably – very out of character for me to begin such a giggling jag."

Gale Schultz, food and beverage supervisor at the Desoto House Hotel, claims she saw the Lady in Black. She said, "I was walking with another server one day and I stopped dead in my tracks and I saw her just walk right past me and go up the stairs. And I turned to the server and she said 'Oh my God, I just saw that too.' So she did see the lady in black as well." Schultz described her as wearing black clothes and she had a smokey type of figure.

Elizabeth wrote, "I stayed there with my husband about a year ago. In the middle of the night I was woken up by the feeling of my husband getting into bed on the right side of the bed, laying down next to me, and putting his arm around me. i bought it was a little strange since he always sleeps on the left side of the bed and isn’t much of a cuddled when he sleeps. But I didn’t think too much of it and drifted back to sleep for a bit. I woke up a little while later and was surprised to see my husband back on “his” side of the bed. In the morning I asked if he had gotten up during the night at all and switched sides of the bed and he said he didn’t. He isn’t prone to sleepwalking. It was very strange. Definitely could have been a dream on my part but it was so vivid!"

Mary Earl wrote, "First of all i want to say i would never stay at any other hotel in Galena! It`s smack dab in the middle of town so you can literally park your car in the attached parking garage and start having fun. Second i`d like to share a paranormal experience i had on the first floor ladies restroom. I was in the stall and the restroom was empty except for me. Suddenly i was shocked to hear an infant crying since i didn`t hear the door open and anyone enter. Then as the baby continued to cry i heard a womans voice hushing the child, i came directly out of the stall and to my surprise no one else was in there with me! I later heard from the desk clerk that what i had experienced was a paranormal happening and others had reported it happening to them also. I feel very happy that i got to experience the phenomenon!"

Sue wrote, "Last month we stayed in room 331. No action either night but the morning we were leaving, a light went out on its own. we tried to fix it and couldn’t. Then it went on, and off, and on, and flickered for a minute before staying on. Our friend was in the shower at the time. She came out and told us she felt a presence in there and asked it to turn the lights on and off, or even just flicker them, to let her know someone was there. She was so bummed out nothing responded to her continued requests when she had such a strong feeling. We were SHOCKED when she told us the requests she was asking, while they were actually occurring in the room instead of the shower! CREEPY!"

Vera Wrote, "My husband & I stayed at the DeSoto this past summer. Cannot remember our room number, but our corner room faced the Main Street. I got up middle of the night to use the bathroom. After returning to bed, I had difficulty falling asleep, feeling like something strange was going on. At first, I didn’t want to open my eyes, but thought, “That’s silly.” I opened my eyes, and saw a very thin woman in a black, somewhat sheer dress, walking past the foot of our bed. I actually tried to scream out my husband’s name, but was unable to utter a sound. The woman kept walking, towards the street side wall, but glanced at me, just as she disappeared through the wall."

Stacy wrote: " I fell asleep early, but was awakened by a vivid dream and the feeling of something hovering over my bed, it seemed black and frilly-like. In my dream I was running through an old building with tons of doors and I was getting lost and calling out for my sister-in-law. Then as I woke up I felt or saw a black figure hovering over me. I quickly jumped up- went to the rest room, grounded myself, and went back to bed! I was startled for a few moments. I didn’t wake my sister-in-law, but the next morning I told her that I had a scary dream about a black ghost. She laughed and said, “oh so it wasn’t Casper”? I replied, no it was black, and that was one freaky dream!!! I didn’t find out until two nights later that the hotel was famous for “The Lady in Black”, ghost. We took a ghost tour and learned about the many ghosts of the Galena hotel, and the infamous “Lady in Black. I was pretty freaked out for a for a few days, and I can’t explain it….. but I was visited by something that night. I can still see the figure as I awakened from my dream. I could not see a face, but it was over the end of my bed and seemed black and frilly, like a curtain, or dress. An experience that I have never had before, and so very vivid to me."

There is a ghost tour that starts in the lobby of the DeSoto, which seems to be a good indication that some paranormal activity is going on here. Is the DeSoto House Hotel haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Ep. 386 - Bishop's Stortford

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Moment in Oddity - Knocking On Wood (Suggested by: Mary Bright and Memory Burcalow)

The superstition of knocking on wood has very interesting origins. There is an ancient belief that Hamadryads or Dryads live inside trees. Hamadryads are creatures found in Greek mythology that live in trees. These nymphs are born bonded to a specific tree and will be with that tree until the tree dies. It was believed that the gods would punish people who harmed trees for this reason. The Deipnosophistae of Athenaeus lists eight hamadryads who were the daughters of Oxylus and Hamadryas and these were Karya associated with walnut or hazelnut, Ptelea associated with elm, Ampelos associated with vines, Balanos associated with oak, Morea associated with mulberry, Kraneia associated with dogwood, Aigeiros associated with black poplar and Syke associated with fig. The Cracker Butterfly is part of the genus Hamadryas, which is named for these nymphs, and it is fitting as this butterfly spends all its time on trees and its coloring causes it to completely blend into the tree. Ancient priests and priestesses would knock on trees to summon hamadryads when they needed help. This could be help with getting rid of evil or sometimes the Dryads would fulfill wishes. Perhaps like rubbing a lamp to get three wishes from a genie? So if you knock on wood out of superstition, just know that you might be summoning a tree spirit and that, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Operation Chastise and Bouncing Bombs

In the month of May, on the 16th, in 1943, Royal Air Force Lancaster bombers hit Nazi German industry hard by destroying two huge dams in Operation Chastise. These bombers accomplished this feat by using bombs designed by Sir Barnes Neville Wallis who was an English scientist and engineer. These bombs were called bouncing bombs and what they did was bounce across water towards a target and this bouncing action kept them from getting caught in torpedo nets and other obstacles. The bomb has backspin, which causes it to bounce on the water several times before dropping under water and going off near the target. The official name for the particular bouncing bombs used during this raid was Upkeep. The RAF bombers dropped the Upkeep bombs close to the surface of the lake at the Mohne and Edersee dams, flooding the Ruhr Valley. Two hydroelectric power stations were destroyed, along with mines and factories. It would take months for the Nazis to get production back to normal. They tried to frame the attack as a minor inconvenience, but it boosted British Morale and had they used a thousand bombers, they would have had even more success. Sir Wallis was disappointed that there were not follow up attacks to keep the dams from being repaired.

Bishop's Stortford

Many of the buildings and homes in Bishop's Stortford have changed very little since medieval and Tudor times. This is a historic market town in Hertfordshire, England with a history dating back to Roman occupation and Norman conquest. Many locations claim to have ghosts from churches to pubs to hotels and so much more. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Bishop's Stortford!

Early on, the area where Bishop's Stortford would be established was a small Roman settlement that was mostly used as a stop along a well-traveled road. After the Roman Empire fell, the Saxons moved into the area. The village would first be mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 with the name Esterteford. This was named for the Steorta family that built a manor here and ruled over the area. That manor was sold in 1060 to the Bishop of London who was named William. Putting Bishop with Steorta gave the town the new name of Bishop's Stortford. The nearby river would take on the name River Stort as well. The Normans would build Waytemore Castle shortly thereafter, but the castle would not survive as King John had it destroyed in 1208 and now only a mound remains, as this was one of those motte and bailey designed castles. There are many tunnels that seemed to have run from the castle to various places in the town and these were once opened for historical tours until demmed unsafe. During medieval times, Bishop's Stortford became a market town and remains that today. The corn exchange brought malting, which brought brewing and the river canal was used to transport all kinds of goods from coal to timber to food supplies.

Death was a common occurrence in the town. Three plagues swept through starting with the Bubonic Plague in 1349, which killed half the town. This was followed in 1582 by the Black Death and then the Great Plague of London in 1665. Bishop's Stortford managed to avoid most of the bombing raids of the World Wars, but there was a prisoner-of-war camp in the town. Fires have swept through and there have been the tragedies that all towns face. Many places in the town claim to have spirits and the center of the town seems to be a hotspot. Let's explore a few of them! 

St. Mary's Catholic School

One of the most famous ghosts in the village is the Grey Lady and she is literally everywhere. We've never heard of a ghost getting around this much. This first stop is where many people believe she originates from and the legend behind her is that she is a nun who jumped from an attic window after she was disgraced, but no one knows what that means. We would imagine if the story is true that she more than likely was pregnant. This originally was a convent founded by five nuns from Belgium in 1896 and is located at the top of Windhill on Bell's Lane. These nuns had a goal of establishing a school, but the people of the village were suspicious of the women and their unusual dress. They bought Windhill Lodge and carted all their belongings up the hill. They started with nine pupils. This original building serves as administration offices today and another building built later is the school. Interestingly, even though the origins of the Grey Lady are traced to here, there are no stories of hauntings here. None that they are talking about.

St. Michael's Church

St. Michael's Church is located at 1 Windhill and is at the center of the town. This is a beautiful church with many medieval touches that give it a castle-like look and it has a churchyard. The first priest in Bishop's Stortford was John De Stratherne and he arrived in 1332. The Normans built the first church here, which eventually fell into disrepair and was pulled down in the late 1330s. The 1400s would see this new church built in the perpendicular style of English Gothic with lots of windows and bigger than most parish churches. As we have covered on other episodes, Henry VIII began a war of sorts on the Roman Catholic Church and pronounced himself head of the Church of England. He sent Thomas Cromwell out to dissolve monasteries and bring the wealth that the Catholic church had been accruing by buying up land and renting it out, back to the nobility. St. Michael's was used as a barracks by Cromwell's men for a time. The church had to be fumigated after the men finally left. The churchyard harbors spirits. People report seeing a mysterious figure in black and this has taken place for a couple centuries, all the way up to the mid-1980s. A woman was walking by the churchyard early one morning when she saw a woman wearing a long dress walking amongst the tombstones. She at first thought the woman was visiting the graveyard, until she disappeared.

Boar's Head Inn

Across from the church is The Boar's Head Inn, located at Number 30 on High Street. This was built in 1420 and when the church was transferred over to an Anglican church, Queen Elizabeth I ordered the Rood Loft to be taken down that had been built under her sister Mary's reign. Wood from this was used at the Boar's Head Inn and a huge wooden beam that goes across the fireplace is one of those pieces. This is thought to have been the Church House for St. Michael's and used for the brewing of Church ales. Now before you get to thinking that the church was getting into an early form of craft brewing, the term ales was used for any festive gathering or fund-raising event. During a church ales, a warden would beg for or buy malts and then sell it to the public to raise funds for the church. The Boar;s Head has records showing that it paid rent to the church, which makes sense because the church owned a ton of property here. The pub was built in the Tudor style and features exposed timber framework. The inn  has changed hands many times over the years and was almost destroyed in a fire in 1991.

The Grey Lady is such a strong presence here that the pub has been exorcised multiple times. There are those who say that she is harmless and that there are other malevolent entities here. During a Ouija Board session, people felt that they communicated with the Grey Lady and she told them that her name was Sarah and that she had been raped and murdered by the squire's son several centuries before and the date that this occurred was the day of the seance. A grey misty vapor has been seen in the pub and an entire bar full of patrons witnessed the Grey Lady float through. Other paranormal activity includes chairs being dragged across the floor, trash cans in the back rattle on their own, loud bangs are heard on the doors and a dog refused to go down into the cellar. A man is thought to haunt the cellar, but no one knows his identity. An apparition of a woman has been seen many times sitting at the bar. And Ruth Stratton who wrote Haunted Hertfordshire: A Ghostly Gazateer claims that a ghost people call "Captain" is possibly Captain Winter who had owned the Windhill House. 

Windhill House

Captain Winter raised a band of yeomanry and he gave permission for them to camp on the grounds of Windhill House. This was in the early 1800s when there was a fear that Napoleon might invade England. The Captain decided to test the soldiers one night to see how alert they were and this turned out to be a bad idea. One of the soliders was so alarmed that he fired his musket and killed the Captain. The property is now business offices and occupied by Pellys Solicitors. People have claimed to see the ghost of Captain Winter on this property too as well as a phantom army marching around.

The George Hotel

The George Hotel is another place where the Grey Lady is seen. This hotel just recently came under new ownership and was also renovated. The George Hotel is thought to be the oldest inn in the town. The original foundation was built at the end of the 14th century and Thomas Petworth may have been the first owner, as he was running it in 1417. The Hawkins family were the next owners and they held onto it for 300 years. During the 15th century they held their manorial courts here. The central location made it a prime spot for people to stay. King Charles I ‘dyned at ye George’ in 1629. This was such a big moment for the little town that the bells were rung at St. Michael’s Church in honor of the occasion. King Charles II visited often because he loved the races at the Newmarket and The George was the place he stayed with his entourage.

William Layer of Cambridgeshire became the owner of the George after the Hawkins family. He leased the George to Thomas Doncaster and Philip Mills along with an adjacent barn. The barn was eventually demolished after 1800. Five cottages were added to the property and when the original building was expanded, these cottages became part of that and the hotel was raised to three stories. It became the Bishop Stortford Excise Office and a terminus for stagecoaches coming from London. In the early 1800s, the hotel became a masonic lodge followed by an auction house in the 19th and early 20th century. Today, it is a hotel sitting above a popular Italian restaurant called Prezzo.

Guests and staff claim to have had strange experiences here from doors that open and close on their own, strange noises, beer taps and water taps that turn on by themselves and the feeling of being watched. The Grey Lady is here and seems to like Room 27 the best. Could it be because of the mysterious cupboard set into the wall? This is something that hasn't been opened for reputedly 200 years and the reason why is because the handle is stuck and no one wants to force it since the building is historically protected. According Jenni Kemp's "Haunted Bishop's Stortford," there are some who believe this opens onto a balcony where a murderer hid before jumping out of the cupboard and murdering a woman in the room. But we would think that a balcony would be visible from outside? The feeling in the room can be malevolent and a grey mist is sometimes seen, which is why the Grey Lady is thought to be here. She has appeared to a few as a full-bodied apparition, usually standing over the bed with her arms raised. Many guests have left this room in the middle of the night out of fear, including a military officer who felt safer sleeping in his car.

The Star Inn Pub

The Star Inn probably dates back to at least 1636 and was a timber-frame structure that is now covered with bricks. John Ward was the first owner and in 1808, a brewer named Hawkes and Co. The small pub garden here was once a stable yard that became a car park and then finally the garden. Unexplained activity here includes noises and knocking in the small bar of the Star Inn. The Grey lady has also been seen here. A person cleaning the place ran into the Grey Lady and fled, never to return. Right outside the pub, a male apparition was seen walking, three feet in the air!

Black Lion Inn

Across the road from The Star Inn Pub is the The Black Lion Inn, which was used for coffin storage during Tudor times. The Black Lion gets its name from the emblem of Edward III’s wife, Queen Philippa, the daughter of the Count of Hainault, which was a province in Belgium. The word black was ominous in the life of Philippa. She was a victim of the Black Death in 1369 as was her daughter Joan. Her son, Edward, Prince of Wales, was known as the Black Prince. Bishop Bonner held prisoners here that were accused of heresy and these prisoners would cross the bridge from here to the bishop’s Court House for their hearing. Local builder Joseph Glasscock bought the Black Lion in 1899 and removed every inch of the plaster that covered over the interior timber work. The two story building attached was once a stable.  There are a couple of ghosts here. A ghost haunts Room 6 and once joined a man in bed. There is also a mischievous little girl ghost dressed in Victorian clothing that has been seen and guests and employees have heard what they think are her footsteps. She likes to turn off the lights and hide people's keys.

Cooper's Department Store

Across from the Black Lion Inn is Cooper's Department Store. This timber framed building is basically the Sears of Bishop's Stortford, if there was still a Sears. Residents can find everything for the garden, gifts, glassware and tools. They also might find some ghosts because this is a very old building. The hanging judge Bishop Bonner's nephew owned a house that was once part of the building that houses the store. There is plaster ceiling decor that dates back to the early 16th century at the entrance of Coopers, giving a glimpse into its past. This store had been called Maslens in the 1980s and employees complained about poltergeist activity. There are thought to be three spirits here: an angry woman who is hostile, a male spirit in a brown uniform and our Grey Lady who is spotted as an apparition that disappears into walls. The angry ghost is blamed for throwing tools when the building was being renovated. She also gashed the fresh plaster. Human bones were discovered in a cupboard during the refurb and it was thought that perhaps burying them would tamp down the hauntings, but that has not been the case.

The Oxfam Shop, Tissimans and Pearsons Department Store

The Oxfam Shop is another haunted shop in town. The basement is the most haunted location in the building and a woman working there claims that she felt a tap on her shoulder and when she turned around, no one was there. That seems tame, as do the stories of stock being moved around down in the basement, but the story of an ominous shadow figure on the stairway scares many people. Pearson's Department Store had been located at Numbers 15 and 17 on North Street and this was yet another favorite of the Grey Lady. A woman claimed to see her in the basement stockroom as a grey misty figure. And yet another haunted shop is Tissimans, which is a men's clothing store dating back to 1601. The building itself dates back as far as 1360, so Tissimans claims to be the oldest men's clothing store in the world and had served the Royal Family. That was until it closed in 2013. Tissimans had been something else at its start. They did more than dress the living, they dressed the dead. This was also the local undertaker and had been named Slaters. The Grey Lady had been seen there on many occasions. Mr. Tissiman himself claimed to see the apparition multiple times, usually at night. There were also the claims of the smell of smoke in the building.

The Cock Inn

The Cock Inn dates back to 1540. There were four inns on this corner and this is the only one to remain, making it the oldest one here. The building is timber-framed with three gables and crooked windows. This became a tavern in 1620 under the name The Black Lion and was renamed Vernon's Head in 1749. That name was for Admiral Edward Vernon who captured all the military installations at the port of Portobelo in the West Indies in 1739. Many pubs renamed themselves in his honor. That was right after the event. It took The Cock Inn ten years before they did that. The pub eventually took on its current name. This inn was the place for the average person. The rich and nobels stayed elsewhere, while The Cock Inn was for servants and employees. Funny thing, the more elite Crown Inn or Red Lion Inn that were on this corner, no longer exist. The notorious highwayman, Dick Turpin, stayed here in between bouts of robbing wealthy travelers along the nearby road. Wanted posters at the time read, "Wanted. Knowne highwayman and rogue, Dick Turpin. For robberie and grievous offence upoune travellers on ye London to Cambridge coach. He has been espied in company at ye Cock Inn." Ironically, on the south side of the building, there was a courthouse and jail. Coal merchants moved in and there was a shop here until the 1960s when it was demolished to make room for more road.

The publicans daughter was playing in the cellar one day when it suddenly became very cold around her. The cellar door then banged shut loudly and locked itself, leaving the poor girl locked in the cellar. She screamed for a bit before she was finally heard and rescued. The culprit is said to be a mischievous little girl ghost named Emilie. Strange lights have been seen as well as shadow figures and a man in Civil War clothing has been seen. A young female ghost is seen crying and people believe she is waiting for her husband's return. Renovations in the 1970s escalated the haunting activity and employees would come in to find table overturned, lamps broken and the energy in the place began to feel malevolent. The bad energy seemed to leave when they started decorating with beautiful fresh flowers in vases everywhere.

The Police Station

The police station opened in 1940 at Basbow Lane across from St. Michel's Church. Supernatural activity started to be reported in the 1970s. Two officers were hanging out in the cell block and enjoying good conversation as they had been told that there were no prisoners in any of the cells. There easy evening ended at 3am when they both jumped at the very loud slamming of a cell door. They both jumped up and ran to the cells and found cell door number 2 vibrating as though it had just slammed. There was no one anywhere in the cell block. The magistrate's court is in this building too. A few weeks after this incident an officer called two of his colleagues to return back to the station from a call because he felt that there were intruders in the courtroom that was above where he was sitting. There had been a crash and some bangs, which led him to believe there were multiple people. The group went up to the courtroom and looked through the window and saw that all the tables and chairs had been turned over. All the doors were locked. There was no one in the building. They could not figure out how the furniture got that way other than that something unseen had done it. 

Many police officers claim to hear disembodied footsteps and doors lock and unlock themselves. Two police officers were playing cards one night when they heard footsteps coming down the back stairs. They turned to see who was coming, but no one ever showed up. A female police officer had similar experiences when manning the front desk. She started thinking that some of the male officers were playing tricks on her, so she would hide behind something to jump out...and she would wait...and wait and no one ever appeared. And probably the strangest story occurred during a refurbishment. The constable noticed that the lights had been left on in the men's and women's bathrooms. He tried to go into them to turn off the lights and they were both locked. He talked to the contractors the next morning to make sure they turned the lights off when they were done with their work. The men looked confused and took the constable into the bathrooms to show him that the lights had bare wires that had no power and were not hooked up. What has caused this place to be named the most haunted police station in England? It was built on a former slum property where much suffering probably happened.

The Grey Lady was said to pop up at a cottage on Basbow Lane and a grey mass was seen at Basbow Lane car park. A White Lady passes across from an old cemetery on the east side of Cemetery Road to the new cemetery. The disembodied sounds of horses and carriages are heard in various place. Some times the coaches are seen riding along the lanes in a spectral form. The shrieking lady runs along Water Lane. The mound that was once Waytemore Castle has given up its literal skeletons, mainly of children and babies, leading many to believe a hospital was once in the castle. Prisoners were kept in the dungeon. The energy is malevolent near the mound. Some even think the Grey Lady had actually been burned at the stake here. 

Most interactions with the Grey Lady have been negative in nature, but sometimes she is not in a bad mood which makes people wonder if there is more than one Grey Lady. Is there even a Grey Lady? Are these locations in Bishop's Stortford haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Ep. 385 - Old Clay County Jail

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Moment in Oddity - Infinite Pit Revives Animals (Suggested by Scott Booker)

It all started with a phone call to Coast to Coast AM when Art Bell was host. A Mel Waters was calling in to let George and his listeners know that he had a bottomless pit on his property in Washington state. The hole had been located on the property for decades with many indigineous tribes being aware of its existence. Many locals called this "The Devil's Hole." The hole was nine feet in diameter and the beginnings of it were shored up with bricks to about fifteen feet deep, but once past that, there was just dirt and darkness. Waters told Bell that he had tried to measure how deep the hole was by dropping a fishing line with weight down the hole, but he gave up after 80,000 feet and no slack in the line. Animals avoided the hole too. No birds flew over the top and Waters' dogs would dig in their paws to keep from being moved near the hole. A voice doesn't echo into the hole and a radio placed near the hole played music from another era. The strangest story Waters told was that his neighbor had thrown his deceased dog down into the pit and the neighbor later claimed to see his dog running in the forest wearing his collar. The government leased Waters' land and told him to leave the country. When he returned, the government claimed that they had bought the property and neighbors told him that black vans had been guarding the hole. Waters called into the radio show a second time and listeners started investigating him and found no records of any kind for any Mel Waters in Washington. People aren't sure he even exists. Whether Mel's Hole exists or not, the story certainly is odd!

This Month in History - First Wagon Train Leaves For California

In the month of May, on the 1st, in 1841, the first emigrant wagon train left Independence, Missouri heading for California. This wagon train was headed by John Bidwell and Captain John Bartleson, two men who had organized the Western Emigration Society. This first group included 69 adults, five of who were women, and a couple of children, traveling by Conestoga wagons pulled by horses, mules and oxen. This would be the blind leading the blind as Bidwell and Bartleson had never traveled to California before. The group managed to move around twelve miles a day. At Soda Springs, Idaho, the group split in two because half wanted to go to Oregon and half wanted to go to California. Bidwell led the California group of 33 people. Before reaching California, they had to leave their wagons because the terrain was too much for them. This group eventually made it to Tuolumne County in California on November 4, 1841, arriving nearly starved to death and lacking water. This would be the beginnings of the Oregon Trail.

Old Clay County Jail (Suggested by: Emily)

Listener Emily had contacted us and wondered if we would like to join her on a ghost hunt of the Old Clay County Jail in Green Cove Springs, Florida and we, of course, said yes. This would be our second hunt at an old Florida jail in a little over a month's time. Like the Old Hamilton County Jail, this one was the scene of executions and was open for almost 100 years. Several sheriffs lost their lives too, so the spiritual energy here was high. But we also had experiences with another spirit that none of us expected because this one should not have been at the jail, but might have tagged along knowing that the opportunity to get a message through would be possible. Join us as we share the history and haunts of the Old Clay County Jail and Courthouse.

Clay County is located west of Jacksonville and St. Augustine and was established in 1858. People would flock to Clay County in that earlier era because of the hot springs. Steamboats would bring them in to cities like Green Cove Springs, which is where the Old Clay County Jail and Courthouse are located. The Courthouse was constructed in 1890 and was designed by Ellis and McClure. The original jail was made from wood in 1874 and by the time the courthouse was built, it was falling apart. The  jail that stands today was finished in 1894, rises two stories, has one-foot-thick brick walls and was designed by the Pauly Jail Company. There were sixteen jail cells with maximum security upstairs. The jail held men, women, juveniles and the mentally ill. 

This is the second oldest jail in Florida, falling right behind the Old Jail in St. Augustine. The solitary confinement for this jail was a box out back that was like a sweat box and some liken it to an archaic form of torture. Food was cooked early on by the jailer's wife and was mostly fresh food. But that is where comfort stopped as the jail had no AC or heat, so prisoners were left to the elements. The Clay County Jail was used until 1973. Executions took place at the jail. At least seven hangings were documented and all took place on a scaffold. Abe Middleton was hanged in 1912 for the accidental murder of a man. Many people think his spirit is still here since the murder was an accident. 

Many sheriffs served Clay County and the jail. One of them, Sheriff John P. Hall, served for three decades, which is a Florida record. Three Clay County Sheriffs were killed in the line of duty between the late 1800s and early 1900s. Sheriff Joshephus Peeler was shot and killed on May 10, 1894 at a train station when he intervened in an argument between two men. He left behind a wife and five children. ranging in age from 6 months to 10 years. Sheriff Charles Wilson was shot and killed by a suspect during an arrest attempt aboard a train on July 10, 1906. Sheriff Theodore Cherry was shot and killed by a suspect during an interrogation interview on July 6, 1913. They brought the body of Sheriff Cherry back to the jail and laid his body on the floor of the booking room, which is today the archives. That Sheriff may still be here and one woman claims that just as she approached the double front doors of the courthouse, a man jumped out at her and startled her. He was dressed in period clothing of a sheriff and had come through the doors without opening them. 

Emily had invited us to dinner before the ghost hunt and this is where we met the rest of our team for the evening. No one from the group had investigated inside the jail, which was exciting so that we wouldn't be biased in any way. And as we would come to find out, not all the spirits at the jail were from that location. Our team included Emily's husband Mike and her two sons, Jake and Luke, and then three other women named Jo, Sarah and Christine. We had a great time talking ghosts with them at dinner and answering their questions. None of the three of them had ever investigated before. 

After dinner, we drove into Green Cove Springs to the jail, which is part of a bigger museum complex. The historic courthouse is across from it and there are several pieces of train memorabilia that included an old train depot building and a caboose on tracks. We took some pictures and walked around with the EMF detector to see if we would get anything and it did go up to yellow for a bit. Emily then familiarized us with the lay of the land. (Emily Tour 1) So yes, there was a school diagonally across the street, which would have been unnerving when the jail was in use. While the front of the jail is similar in design to the Old Hamilton County Jail, this one was painted white in 1963 and stretches back farther, so it was much larger with more jail cells. The warden's living quarters was also separated more. We didn't get to see much of that because this was also archive storage, but there were pieces from the jail in regards to stories and artifacts. One of these was a spoon that had been shaped into a key. Billy Joe Krebb had made this in 1964 and used it to unlock his cell and those of the other inmates. Unfortunately, the key wouldn't work on the front door and they all ended up back in their cells. 

In the warden's quarters, many children were born. The first female mayor of Green Cove Springs was one of those children. The Hinson brothers grew up in the jail and they went on to become prison guards and one of them was actually present at the execution of Ted Bundy at the Florida State Prison in Raiford, Florida. After our visit in the archives, we went into the jail, which just oozed creep. The walls featured peeling paint, the metal bunks were rusting, cobwebs clung to high places and the rusted and warped stairway was interesting to navigate. Throughout the jail, there are signs on the walls detailing bits of history, which was a nice touch. 

One of the most common forms of evidence that investigators capture at the jail are electronic voice phenomena and that would be the case for us. Other unexplained phenomenon include disembodied voices and Kelly thought she had heard something say "Hey" from a few cells down from one we had all gathered in for an Estes Method Spirit Box session. There is also the sound of shuffling feet, footsteps and the creaking of cell doors. Weird anomalies have been caught in pictures. And many people have been touched in the jail. Kelly felt as though something touched her hair and her calf in one of the cells and also her bracelets. When the Ghost Hunters investigated this location during Season 9, Amy Bruni was scratched on her arm.

Vishi Garig is the Archive Specialist at the jail and she witnessed an apparition standing at the end of one of the cell blocks by an open cell door.  This spirit was wearing a long gray cotton shirt that she could tell was wrinkled, but she knew this was a spirit because everything other than the shirt was transparent. Plus, she was the only person in the jail. A man had been walking on the maximum security side of the jail and something he couldn't see grabbed his elbow inside one of the cells.

Kelly and I started in an end cell where she felt like there was a presence. We set up an EMF and the flashlight and started a dowsing rod session. The spirit indicated that it was afraid of the EMF detector. (Dowsing Rod 1) A couple of the doors were weird in the jail as the window that would allow an officer to look inside a block without actually going in was pointing outward rather then inward, so we weren't sure of the purpose of the doors. Kelly saved a lizard we found in one of the cells and she put him outside. We then did an Estes Session with the spirit box. Christine and Sarah joined us. (Estes Session 1) We got some pretty amazing answers there with names and other responses, including that angry cursing one. We decided to move to a different cell upstairs and we were just visiting as we set up equipment and the flashlight turned itself on and then off. We did a second (Estes Session 2), so right after this point, Diane just started firing off answers, which made us wonder if she was answering questions being asked in a nearby cell. So we moved. We decided to use the Spirit Box in the open. (Spirit Box) I'm thinking that the "life" might have been Mike since I heard that name before. And then we got that clear five. Then Christine and Sarah tried their hand at the Estes Method. (Christine Estes) So Christine heard a female voice and she was clearly scared. Then Sarah gave it a try. (Sarah Estes) They got initiated good!

We all gathered in a cell together and turned on the Spirit Box. (Group Estes) We got a "yes" and "It's me." I decided to do the Estes Method because it was hard to hear. (Diane Group Estes) I loved that the response was "boo" to what you want to say to Jo. I find it interesting that we got Michael and Em, which could be Emily and her husband Mike? And I love when Christine asks why the dowsing rods keep pointing at Luke and I say "I don't know dammit." Emily picked up some EVP. On this first one she asks about the cell that they are in and I believe they are doing a dowsing rod session. (Emily Cell No) And here is is amped. (Emily Cell No Amped) Definitely sounds like a male voice saying no. And what is convincing to us is that if this had been Emily's husband saying that, it would contradict that she is saying that the rods indicate yes and she says something else again really quickly, which we don't think she would had her husband said the no.

We then investigated outside where the gallows had been located. We set up the EMF detector and flashlight and then Kelly started a dowsing rod session and Diane did the Estes Method with the Spirit Box. We seemed to be communicating with some other type of entity. (Gallows Investigation) There was that sentence "Go to the box" and now we wonder if it was the sweat box that was used for solitary confinement. We didn't know about the sweat box until Diane researched this episode after the investigation. And then the "That's Laughable." Flashlight turned on as well. And about 2 minutes after the flashlight turned on, it turned off again and then turned right back on. The rest of the group joined us outside and we talked to Jo for a moment. (Jo Dad) That part where we were talking about Sarah, we had a Sarah with us, but Jo's wife's name is Sarah too.

 Jo seemed to be the center of much of our activity, which was interesting because it seemed that her father was trying to communicate with her. He passed away when Jo was 13 and from talking to her at dinner, even though she was probably the same age as us, it still was painful for her. This revealed itself in dowsing rod sessions and perhaps this EVP that Emily caught. (Emily Jo EVP) It's really hard to hear what we heard, so here is the part we want you to hear amped. (Emily Jo EVP Amped) Sure sounds like a breathy Jo to us. Now later, Emily asks the spirit about this and we think there might be a couple of things here. (Emily EVP Hans) Now we will amp the two places we hear EVPs. (Emily EVP Hans Amped) We hear wow and Hans. Here's (Hans EVP) again. Hans is Jo's father's name.

We had some very interesting experiences at this old jail. It seemed as though we were getting communication with some former occupants and possibly Jo's father. Is the Old Clay County Jail haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Ep. 384 - Boston Common

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Moment in Oddity - The Green Mist of Chino Hills (Suggested by: Robert Kruse)

Supposedly, if one drives down Peyton Dr to where it dead ends into Woodview Road in Chino Hills, and then makes a right turn and then a quick left, they will come upon a very dark wooded area. There is a road through that area that curves back and forth as the darkness pulls the car deeper into the woods. There is a locked gate and security camera at the end of the road. It is in this area where people for years would claim to see the mysterious green mist. Teenagers challenged each other to brave the drive as they shared stories of urban legends. There were stories of satanic cults meeting up on the hill and making animal sacrifices. There were rumors of a government missile launch site. While those stories are fun, the latter is the closest one to the truth. A company named Aerojet was located on the property. They were a defense contractor during the Vietnam War. They didn't have any missiles on site, but they did build and test land mines. The tests involved using human cadavers to see how much damage the land mines would do and tamper them down so that they would maim rather than kill. They also tested gases by exploding them and occasionally when those gases mixed with the fog in the area, it would appear as a green mist. The mystery of the green mist might be solved, but the story behind it, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - German Instrument of Surrender Signed

In the month of May, on the 7th, in 1945, the German Instrument of Surrender was signed. This was the legal document that ended World War II in Europe and killed the Nazi Party. The first version of this was signed in a small red brick schoolhouse in Reims, Germany by General Alfred Jodl. The document called for the unconditional surrender of all German fighting forces and was witnessed by American, Russian, British and French ranking officers. General Jodl asked for a 48-hour grace period and this was granted, but Supreme Allied Commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, informed Jodl that he would be held personally responsible for any deviation from the terms of the surrender. A more formal signing was held the following day, May 8th, in Berlin. This required three members of the German High Command to sign the agreement. Western Allies consider May 8th, 1945 Victory in Europe Day, while the Russians, who wouldn't recognize the earlier Instrument of Surrender because it wasn't in Berlin, consider May 9th, 1945 as Victory Day.

Boston Common 

Boston is one of the oldest cities in America and full of history. One center of this history is the Boston Common, which is considered America's oldest park. The Common has been around for well over 350 years and has been witness to some of the most important moments in American history from public hangings to wars to victories to protests to public mourning and so much more. Nearly every war since the city was established has had a connection to this central heart of Boston. So much emotion is wrapped up here, it's not surprising that strange experiences are reported all over the Common. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Boston Common.

When considering the age of cities in America, we calculate based on European settlement, but not only is this a fallacy when it comes to human civilization here, but anything connected to the land needs to be known to truly understand hauntings or spiritual activity. The first European to settle in the Boston area was a man named William Blackstone. He arrived in 1628. Many Native American tribes were already there. The state of Massachusetts takes its name from one of those tribes. Other tribes include Ponkapoag, Wampanoag, Naumkeag, Narraganset and the Nipmuc People who descended from the Algonquian and were known as the "fresh water people." And that is what this area provided, fresh water. So it was very desirable for settlers and shortly after Blackstone arrived in this plain that the Native Americans called Shawmut, the Puritans arrived. Blackstone had been living in a small house, at peace with his indigineous neighbors, and he soon felt crowded out by the Puritans even though he had actually invited them. He eventually left and moved west deeper into the woods. The Puritans changed the name Shawmut to Boston, in honor of an old Lincolnshire English city.

The Puritans bought Blackstone's land and laid it out as a common and this is one of the most famous commons in America today. The idea of having a common had come over with the Puritans. On royal and manor lands, acreage would be set aside for the townspeople to use. This particular common stretched from the tidal marshes of Back Bay to Beacon Hill and was initially used as grazing land since it was mostly grassy with very few trees. That original common had three ponds and four hills, but only one of those hills and one of the ponds is still there today. So the first use for this common was as grazing land, but eventually a military training field was set up here. New rules were set forth in regards to littering as such, "Stones out of ye bordering lots or any entrails of beast or fowls or garbage, or carrion, or dead dogs or cats, or any other dead beast or stinking thing." Apparently they had an issue with people throwing dead stuff away in open lands? City charters through the years have continued to protect this land.

What is unusual about these rules forbidding dead stuff in the Boston Common is the fact that this was a place for public hangings. A diverse group of people were hanged here. There were the thieves, pirates and murderers, but also Native Americans, religious dissenters (people who weren't Puritans) and, of course, witches. Military activity started with fights in 1745 between colonists and Native Americans. When the colonists repealed the Stamp Act in 1766, a party broke out on the Common. Less than two years later, British Redcoats set up a camp in the Common as tensions began to rise between the British and the colonists.  The Colonial militia mustered for the American Revolution in the Common and this would be an encampment for years with trenches being built. After one victory from nearby, General Washington gathered with his victorious troops to celebrate and once the Revolution was done, a bonfire celebration was held to celebrate the surrender at Yorktown. Not only would Washington be there, but also John Adams and General Lafayette. 

John Hancock helped to improve the Common by planting a row of elm trees on Beacon Street, near where he lived. An area called The Mall would follow that was also lined with trees and used as a promenade where couples would walk and people could enjoy tea with each other. BTW, at this point, cows were still grazing on the Common. In the 1830s, a new order was passed to stop that activity, which I'm sure the people strolling around appreciated. A handmade iron fence was set up around the Common. The Frog Pond was turned into a fountain lake, which had previously been mostly a mud pond. The Civil War brought anti-slavery protests to what had become the city square and recruitment for the war also occurred here. When the Civil War ended, a celebration happened here too. And when President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, the city of Boston publicly mourned here. Victory gardens would be built during World War I and the iron fencing would disappear when World War II started because it was needed for the war effort. The more recent era has hosted tennis matches, baseball games, speeches, protests and even the first Papal Mass in North America.

The Friends of the Public Garden and Common was formed in 1975 to help protect the Common. The Common has many statues and monuments that have been added to it through the years. The Brewer Fountain was installed in 1868. Boston merchant Gardner Brewer bought the fountain, which was designed by Paul Lienard with statues by Mathurin Moreau, at the Paris Exposition of 1867 and brought it back to Boston. The statues feature the figures of Galatea, Amphitrite, Acis and Poseidon. The Boston Massacre Memorial was placed in 1888 and features a bronze figure breaking the chains of tyranny. This was designed by Robert Kraus and depicts Crispus Attucks, who was the first to be killed at the Boston Massacre in front of the Old State House on March 5, 1770. In 1913, the Blackstone Memorial Tablet was added to honor the man who originally owned the land and the people of Boston who own the Common. It was designed by R. Clipston and includes an inscription taken from the words of four of the founders of Boston.

The Lafayette Memorial, that was designed by John F. Paramino, was added in 1924 and commemorated the centennial of Lafayette's visit to the Common in 1824. The Father of the American Navy, Commodore John Barry, has a monument that was designed by John F. Paramino that was erected in 1949. The Park Street Mall was renamed as Liberty Mall in 1917 to honor "Our Soldiers and Sailors in the Great War." The 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Infantry, which was the first free black regiment in the Union Army, is honored with the Shaw Memorial. This was named in honor of their leader Colonel Robert Gould Shaw who was killed, along with 32 of the infantry on July 19, 1863 during an assault on Fort Wagner in South Carolina. The memorial was designed by Augustus St. Gaudens and Charles F. McKim and placed in 1897. 

There are statues representing Learning, Industry and Religion in Parkman Plaza, designed by Adio DiBiccari and Arcangelo Cascieri. A Declaration of Independence Plaque was added in 1925. The Flagstaff, which is a 37 foot high pole made from one tree, has stood on the Common for over 150 years and had once been the only place people could smoke, so they nicknamed it "Smokers Circle." This is atop Flagstaff Hill, which kids love to sled down. The Holmes Path is named for Oliver Wendell Holmes. A Civil War memorial designed by Martin Milmore called Soldiers and Sailors Monument was added in 1877. There is a fountain with an angel carved on it near Arlington Street and many people like to rest near the fountain. Some of them have claimed to see the spirits of two women wearing Victorian era clothing, walking in a hurry near the fountain. No one knows who these spirits might belong to, but some speculate that they died in an accident nearby.

A Great Elm had once stood here and it was used for hangings in the seventeenth century. A storm in 1876 destroyed it, but its former use may have left behind some spiritual residue. And even if the story about the elm is just pure legend, there is no doubt that a gallows was eventually erected in the Common and executions occurred here for 150 years. The Puritans came here seeking freedom from religious persecution and the great irony of that was that they themselves didn't offer that kind of freedom. If you were a Quaker, you were a heathen. And while our former reviews of witch hangings in our nation's past has revealed that nearly none of those hanged for being a witch were really witches, they still should have been afforded religious freedom if they were not harming anyone. The Puritans didn't just persecute, they put people to death. One of those people was Mary Dyer. 

Mary Dyer had been a Quaker who lived in Rhode Island. Rhode Island was a haven for Quakers and the original colony had been established by Roger Williams after the Puritans had banished him for his beliefs. Dyer was not only a practicing Quaker, but she was an evangelist for the denomination, always seeking to bring people in and helping out fellow Quakers. Boston was her favorite place to visit to support fellow Quakers and evangelize. Obviously, the Puritans were not crazy about this. And that is putting it mildly because the Puritans had threatened to hang Dyer if she kept coming to Boston. And one day in October of 1659, they arrested her. Two other non-Puritan men were also arrested. All three were sentenced to hang. The two men were hanged first, but right before Dyer was set to have a noose around her neck, the governor commuted her sentence. Apparently, Dyer's son had pleaded her case before the governor.

That would be the end of this story had it not been for Mary Dyer's calling to preach her beliefs. She just couldn't leave Boston alone. When she was arrested a second time, the judge made a bargain with her. Leave Boston and promise to never come back and you are free to go. Dyer more than likely told him where he could put his bargain and she was sentenced to hang for a second time. And this time it stuck. Her body was buried in an unmarked grave on the Common. As a form of repentance, perhaps, the people of Boston have memorialized Mary Dyer with a bronze statue in front of the Massachusetts State House where she has a view of the park where she was unjustly put to death. The wailing of a woman is sometimes heard near the statue and in the area of the Common nearby. This wailing woman has also been seen as a full-bodied apparition wearing colonial garb walking through the Common. Dyer is sometimes thought to be an anniversary ghost, appearing every 25 years to a certain troubled young person and inspiring them to live a noble life. One such man had been a drunkard and what soon came to be known as the White Witch of the Common appeared to him and whatever she said to him, he never revealed to anyone, but he never touched a drop of liquor again and went on to have a very successful life. Many people believe Mary Dyer is that spirit.

Dyer was only one of perhaps hundreds hanged on the Common. Ann Hibbens was hanged for witchcraft in 1656, but even before her there was Margaret Jones who was hanged in 1648. Ann "Goody" Glover was hanged in 1688 for witchcraft. She had come over from Ireland and spoke mostly Gaelic. She was a strong-willed Catholic and so didn't get along with the Puritans. She washed laundry for her neighbor John Goodwin and one day she got into a fight with his teen-aged daughter. We imagine some Gaelic curse words were hurled and next thing you know, four Goodwin kids are accusing Goody Glover of bewitching them. When Goody couldn't recite the Lord's Prayer in English in the way the Puritans said it, she was sentenced to hang. 

People have claimed for decades to see the shadowy images of people hanging from trees and apparitions wandering where the Great Elm had once stood. And we wonder something else. If the elm had indeed been used to hang people, is that why it was taken out by the storm and afterwards, Bostonians clamored to the Common and tore the tree apart to have a souvenir of the former landmark. Could there be energy attached to those fragments that they then took home with them? We'll never know, but if your family has passed down some parts of the Great Elm and something is knocking around your house, let us know.

Another area of the Common that is reputed to be haunted is the cemetery that is here. No oldest park in America would be complete without one, after all. The Central Burying Ground is here. This cemetery is located on Boylston Street between Tremont and Charles Street and was founded in 1756. Members of the Sprague family are buried here. Father Samuel was a rebel who participated in the Boston Tea Party and fought during the Revolutionary War and his son Charles was one of America's earliest poets.  Composer William Billings, who wrote Chester, is buried here. And the Famous painter Gilbert Stuart is buried here. He made the most well known portraits of George and Martha Washington. That one of George you see all the time on the dollar bill. There is also Caleb Davis who was a Revolutionary patriot and many British soldiers were buried here, particularly after the Battle of Bunker Hill. 

Sam Baltrusis writes in his "Ghost of Boston: Haunts of the Hub" book, "While the nearby Granary Burial Ground earns top billing thanks to its Freedom Trail-friendly names, including Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, John Hancock and even Mother Goose, the Boston Common's lesser-known Central Burying Ground has something the other graveyards don't: ghosts." And Diane found this to be true after the Ghost and Gravestones Tour took her into three cemeteries in Boston and never shared one ghost story about any of them. While being in these utterly cool cemeteries at night was amazing, it was disappointing to not have one ghost story. Shadowy figures are often seen near the trees in the graveyard. People claim to have been poked or felt something brush their shoulders or even been grabbed by something they couldn't see. 

One such violent encounter happened to dentist Dr. Matt Rutger. He was in the cemetery on a rainy afternoon in the 1970s and he had bent down to look at a gravestone carving. He felt a violent yank on his collar and spun around. No one was there and he was so spooked, he quickly made his way to the gate. As he ran along, he noticed a red-haired girl with sunken cheekbones and a mud-splattered gray dress standing in the rear corner of the cemetery. She was staring at him intently. He started running faster and as he turned to face the gate, he saw her standing there. He buzzed past her quickly and headed down Boylston Street and suddenly felt something reach into his coat pocket and the next thing he knew, his keys were dangling mid-air in front of his face and then dropped. Rutger had always considered himself a skeptic since he was a medical professional, but his beliefs were profoundly changed that day. Adam Berry considers the Central Burying Ground to be one of the most haunted places he has visited.

There is also a mass grave and here is where some of our haunting issues start because this was not the original burial for the hundreds of bones re-interred here. These bones were originally in an adjacent area to the burial ground and were found in early 1895 when the city started building the nation's first underground trolley station known today as the Boylston Green Line Stop. Initially 100 bodies were unearthed. Bostonians came by in the hundreds to watch the gruesome affair of unearthing bodies. As further excavations continued, more and more bodies were discovered. There was never a clear count of bodies, but some historians claim that there could have been at least a thousand. The bones were moved to the new mass grave in the Central Burying Ground, but they had been disturbed nonetheless.

The Boylston Station was constructed in 1895 and this makes it the oldest rapid transport platform in America. The grand opening was in 1897 and it has been in use since. An old street car that was painted bright orange is on display on a side track. There are many abandoned tunnels down here, which makes for a very eerie setting. Trolley conductors claim to see the apparition of a British soldier down in one of the tunnels. He is in his full red-coat uniform and usually points his musket at the trains before dissolving into thin air. Some believe he is residual. It's so common of an occurrence that veteran conductors will send new recruits on this route to get a kick out of watching them slam on the brakes. People believe this spirit is connected to those disturbed bones from the station's early construction.

Located in the center of the Boston Common is the Parkman Bandstand. This is named for Dr. George Parkman who had a lovely brownstone facing the Common at 33 Beacon Street. Parkman had come from a prominent family in Boston and he had enjoyed a successful medical career. When he retired, he decided to buy buildings and rent them out as a landlord and he would lend money to people. One person he lent money to was a Harvard professor named John White Webster. Webster had asked for $400 and never made any attempt to repay the debt. So Parkman decide to pay him a visit at his Harvard laboratory and he was never seen alive again. Missing persons fliers were placed everywhere, but there was no sign of Parkman. All eyes were on Webster and he was eventually arrested and there was a sensational trial. Webster confessed and the torso of Parkman was found in a tea chest. As for the rest of Parkman, well, this is where the story gets really interesting.

Webster claimed that he killed Parkman in self-defense. The landlord and former doctor had come at him in a threatening way, demanding his money. Webster grabbed his heavy walking stick and clubbed Parkman. He said it only took the one blow to knock the man to the pavement and he didn't move after that. Webster chopped the body into pieces and then threw the remains into the privvy. This was the mid-1800s, so he wasn't flushing the body parts, just hiding them where no one would want to look. The torso wouldn't fit and that is why it was in the chest. There did appear to have been an attempt to burn the bones in a furnace. The case was so sensational that Charles Dickens became fascinated by it and even looked into it. Webster was hanged for his crime on August 30, 1850. 

The haunting connected to this is a strange one. And maybe it wasn't a haunting at all, but we don't believe in coincidences. On the anniversary of his death 150 years later, the Parkman House had a bad issue with plumbing. The toilet to be exact. A cistern broke on the third floor toilet and the tank overflowed. Water gushed everywhere and completely ruined the interior of the historic house. The director for the Parkman House figured that Dr. Parkman had come to pay a visit.

The Boston Common is a must-see for anyone visiting Boston. There is a little bit of everything represented in Boston's history here. And to have ghosts on top of that, just makes the place that more special. Is the Boston Common haunted? That is for you to decide!