Thursday, July 8, 2021

Ep. 392 - Lyceum Hall

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Moment in Oddity - Abandoned Town of Disneyesque Castles (Suggested by: Gail Frederick)

Near the Black Sea, in Turkey, stands a very unusual abandoned village. Turkish real estate developers, the Yerdelen Brothers bought this land and plotted out a sprawling village that any wanna-be monarch would be happy to buy into. They dubbed their development Buri Al Babas and set out to selling and building 732 mini-castles. This was near the town of Mudurnu, full of curative hot springs, which added another selling point. Each castle would have Gothic-style rooftop terraces and under-floor heating and Jacuzzis on every level. And, of course, they looked like mini-castles complete with turrets and pointed roofs. This place looked like a gnome village from afar, but it was meant for wealthy foreigners and it might have been successful if it had not been for the faltering of Turkey's economy due to terrorist attacks, political coup attempts and the Covid Pandemic. Investors and buyers pulled their money out and the brothers had to declare bankruptcy. Now the abandoned village just features half-completed castles, destroyed landscaping and unfinished dirt roads. An abandoned Disneyesque village in the Turkish forest, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - The Niagara Movement Forms

In the month of July, on the 11th, in 1905, members of the Niagara Movement meet for the first time. This meeting took place on the Canadian side of the Niagara Falls. The Niagara Movement was a group of African American men, made up of entrepreneurs, scholars and lawyers with W.E.B. Du Bois being one of those men. The meeting lasted for three days and the men laid out plans to push back against racial segregation and hate crimes. This would be the precursor to the later civil rights movement. Booker T. Washington had pushed more of an appeasement plan, while the Niagara Movement decided to focus more on agitation and forming state level chapters. They fought for fairness in health care, education, voting rights and employment. The Niagara Movement didn't grow as they hoped and disbanded within five years, but the basic principles would be adopted by the NAACP that formed shortly before the Niagara Movement ended.

Lyceum Hall

Lyceums were part of an educational movement in the New England area during the Victorian era. These were places that hosted some of the greatest orators of the time and one in particular was the scene of Alexander Graham Bell making the first successful long distance phone call. This would be the Salem Lyceum Hall. Today it is Turner's Seafood Grill and Market. This sits on land once owned by Bridget Bishop who was the first to die during the Salem Witch Trials. Is this land cursed? Is that why there are ghost stories connected to this property? Join us as we explore the history and haunts of the Lyceum Hall.

Salem, Massachusetts has made it into several of our episodes. We've talked about the Salem Witch Trials, the Witch House, House of Seven Gables and haunted Derby Street. This is considered one of the most haunted cities in America and it seems to live up to that reputation. Salem had originally been known as Naumkeag, which means "peace." That moniker certainly didn't match those early years for the Puritan-controlled town that put a couple of dozen people to death for alleged witchcraft. And curses still seem to haunt the area for those early sins. The Great Fire of 1914 in Salem only added more fuel to the negative vibe with half of the city burning down. But on a second glance, Salem is a beautiful New England town with wonderful architecture and history that embraces the Irish, Italian, Polish and French-Canadian immigrants who helped to build it. All of New England was a diverse area and it would be here that lyceums would originate.

Lyceums were a completely American movement and they launched in 1828 when Josiah Holbrook started the first lyceum in Milbury, Massachusetts, Milbury Lyceum No 1 branch of the American Lyceum. The Holbrook family emigrated to America from Derby, England in the late 1600s to New York and eventually spread down to Connecticut to a town they named for their original town in England, Derby. It would be here on the family farm that Josiah would be born in 1788. Holbrook eventually went to Yale College where he studied chemistry and geology. On the family farm he would set up the first industrial school in the United States. This first school of industrial training for men would inspire the first national education association and would lead to an upgrade in school books and materials, more government support for public schools, better skills taught to teachers, natural sciences would become part of the regular curriculum and start women getting early education for careers. This first industrial school eventually became that first lyceum that Holbrook started. Holbrook defined lyceums as places where groups of people interested in obtaining self culture and knowledge could go to study agriculture, geology and mechanics and later the study of languages was added. After that all levels of math were introduced along with history and geography. Holbrook devised teaching aids as well.

Other towns latched onto this lyceum idea and before long there were 100 similar societies throughout New England. Lyceums also eventually opened in the mid-Atlantic states and the Midwest. By 1834, the number of lyceums in America had grown to 3,000. Salem would open its lyceum in January of 1830 and it was named the Salem Lyceum Society. It's goal was to provide "mutual education and rational entertainment" for the townspeople. Not only would there be educational courses, but there were dramatic readings, debates and lectures. Many famous orators would pass through the doors like Ralph Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Lectures covered things like anatomy, literature, politics, science and phrenology. These first lectures were hosted at the former Methodist Church on Sewall Street or the Universalist Church on Rust Street because the lyceum had no official building. That changed in 1831 when the Salem Lyceum Society bought land on Church Street and built a building there for $4,000. This wasn't just any land. This land had belonged to Bridget Bishop and this was where her apple orchard had been.

Bridget Bishop's orchard was on land she had inherited from her second husband, Thomas Oliver. Several girls, Ann Putnam Jr., Mercy Lewis, Mary Walcott, and Elizabeth Hubbard, claimed to be afflicted by witchcraft and Bishop was one of those they accused. She was taken to Ingersoll’s Ordinary in Salem Village to be examined. Her accusers were also there and they writhed on the floor declaring that Bishop was afflicting them. Bishop responded, “I never saw these persons before, nor I never was in this place before. I am as innocent as the child unborn. I am innocent of a witch.” Judge Hathorne accused her and sent her to the Salem jail to be put on trial. She of course was sentenced to die and she would be the first of those accused of witchcraft in Salem to be put to death. So keep in mind that the Salem Lyceum Hall was built on Bishop's land. 

The amphitheater-style seating could accommodate 700 people and had images of great orators like Demosthenes and Cicero on the walls. Lectures were hosted every Tuesday night with men paying an admission of $1 and women paid 75 cents. There was a catch for the women however. They needed to be introduced by a male in order to enter. So as you can imagine, women weren't invited to speak very often. Only a half-dozen women ever appeared on the Church Street stage. The most notable performance was by British actress Fanny Kemble and she did a dramatic reading of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" during the 1849-50 season. Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, and suffragist Mary A. Livermore also spoke here and despite the resistance to women, Salem’s Lyceum hosted the Woman Suffrage Club of Salem. In 1848, author Nathaniel Hawthorne was appointed the corresponding secretary of the Salem Lyceum. And although he held this important position, he himself never gave any lectures. Apparently, he had horrible stage fright. But he did bring in his friends Horace Mann, Ralph Waldo Emerson - who appeared here 30 times, Henry David Thoreau and Daniel Webster who spoke on "The History of the Constitution of the United States."

Early speakers were members of the Salem Lyceum and most did so for free so that the mortgage on the building could be paid more quickly. These men included Charles Upham, John Pickering and Henry K. Oliver. Other later lecturers would be Oliver Wendall Holmes speaking on "Lyceums and Lyceum Lectures;" former United States President John Quincy Adams spoke on "Faith and Government;" James Russell Lowell spoke on "Dante;" Richard Henry Dana Jr. spoke on "The Reality of the Sea" and "The Importance of Cultivating the Affections" and abolitionist Frederic Douglas did a timely speech on "Assassination and its Lessons" right after President Lincoln was assassinated. But the most amazing event to take place here happened on February 12, 1877. Alexander Graham Bell hosted the first public demonstration of a long distance telephone conversation. Bell made the call to his assistant Watson who was in Boston. This was so popular, they did it again a few weeks later.

Eventually, the lyceums fell out of favor. And the history here gets a bit murky. The original lyceum burned down in the Great Salem Fire of 1914 and was replaced by the two-story brick building there today. A number of restaurants have called this spot home. The Colonial Cafe opened in 1935 and then there was Lyceum Bar & Grill and 43 Church Street. Turner's Seafood opened here in November of 2013. Turner Fisheries was started by James F. Turner in 1954. He had emigrated from St. John's Newfoundland to the Boston Fishing Pier in 1920. Turner became very successful as flying fresh seafood around the country became possible and many restaurants would advertise, "Today’s fish flown in fresh from Boston’s Turner Fisheries." Turner Fisheries became the nation's leading quality seafood house. In 1989, Jim's only son John started a new wholesale company, J. Turner Seafoods, in Gloucester, Massachusetts. J. Turner Seafoods Inc. continues today and now things have branched into the restaurant industry under John's four sons. In 1994, they opened Turner’s Seafood Grill & Market in their hometown of Melrose, Massachusetts. They opened another location in Gloucester. And then they opened this restaurant in the Lyceum Hall in 2013. And they not only embrace fine seafood, they embrace their ghost stories.

Lights here turn on and off by themselves and doors open and close on their own. Utensils get stolen with employees claiming that they sometimes have to bring patrons up to five spoons because they keep disappearing. Since this land once was an apple orchard, people claim to smell the scent of apples. Bridget Bishop's spirit is the one experienced here most often. Some employees and patrons claim to have seen her at the top of the staircase on the second floor. There are also several mirrors in the restaurant and people claim to have caught her reflection in them. Terri Colbert was a former employee and she claimed to have seen Bridget Bishop, “It was a busy night. When I came up the stairs and looked up, I saw another woman standing on the other staircase leading up to the loft. I was petrified. My initial thought was that it was a person breaking into the restaurant. When I realized she wasn’t a regular person, I ran back downstairs and almost fainted.” Colbert described the woman as wearing a seventeenth-century white dress. And that is how most people describe this woman, in a long flowing white dress. Colbert also saw chairs move on their own in the restaurant.

Tim Maguire ran the Salem Night Tour and he said, "It's very common to hear things like voices or footsteps when nobody is around. Many people watch a woman walk by who suddenly disappears. We've had dozens of photos of faces in the window looking out and hands up against the glass. People feel sadness. Bishop, when she was brought to trial wasn't treated very well. Spirits left behind would hang around and convey sadness if they were wrongly accused." There was also a Wiccan group that conducted a ritual on the second floor and they claimed to come into contact with a female ghost identifying herself as Annabelle. This spirit apparently hangs out in several buildings here and resembles the girl from "The Ring" movie.

When Ghost Hunters was there doing an investigation, they had something weird happen with an antique cash register. While they were investigating, the cash register all of a sudden printed a receipt and it was timestamped “Good Morning.” The register had not been programmed to print such a thing. There have been problems with other electrical equipment in the restaurant.

Ghost Adventures visited the Lyceum Hall in 2011. George Harrison was the owner at the time and he told Zak that they definitely have a presence in the restaurant and that they believe that it was Bridget Bishop. They hosted weddings on the second floor and several times, a female entity has showed up in pictures, which Diane took off the TV and will put up on Instagram. Zak also talked to contractors who had been putting in a sprinkler system at night. They joked about there being a ghost on the stairs cause they had heard the stories, but they stopped laughing when three boxes came flying down the stairs. They had a young man, Max, who had his own paranormal group, join them for their investigation. They sent him up those stairs by himself with an audio recorder and he captured a couple of EVP. The first came after he asked who hanged Bishop. The name Mary came through and Mary Walcott was one of her accusers. Then Max asked what kind of apples she grew and Zak said that it was weird he would ask that right then because he smelled apples. Max said he asked because he smelled apples too. They definitely captured a female voice later in an EVP and she seems to be saying, "You come back."

There is a courtyard behind the building and this often features unexplained activity. High levels of electromagnetic activity have been picked up in the courtyard. And, of course, apples are smelled here as well. Does the spirit of Bridget Bishop still hang around this location trying to prove her innocence? Is the Lyceum Hall haunted? That is for you to decide!

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