Thursday, July 22, 2021

Ep. 394 - Quebec City

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Moment in Oddity - Devil's Throat Cave

There are many places in the world that have the word "devil" in their names and we have talked about many of them on the podcast. One that we recently learned about is the Devil's Throat Cave in Bulgaria. This is hidden deep in the Trigrad Gorge in the Rhodope Mountains. The cave dates back around 175,000 years. There are a few legends connected to the cave and one of these is about Orpheus, the Greek poet and musician who was taught to play the lyre by Apollo. Orpheus descended into the underworld through the Devil's Throat to find his beloved Euredice. He found her, but Hades wouldn't let her go unless Orpheus promised not to look at her until they were on the surface. Unfortunately, he did look back once to make sure she was still with him and her shadow slowly faded. Orpheus wept for seven days and those tears created a spring in the cave, which reputedly has healing properties and can grant wishes. There is a waterfall inside the cave in this area that is so loud, the room is called the "Booming Hall" and this is the highest underground waterfall. This room is big enough to fit a two-story building inside. The natural entrance to the cave resembles a devil's head and inside there is a devil's head carved near the entrance. There is also a relief of a man and people claim that the figure of the Virgin Mary can be seen in the spring. A really scary thing about the cave is that anything that falls into the spring is lost in a 492 foot tunnel. Nobody has been able to figure out or map the water labyrinth and one attempt to do this in 1970, killed two scuba divers, whose bodies were never found. To get out of the cave, visitors have to climb down 301 steep steps. The Devil's Throat Cave has some very unique features and it certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Hank Aaron Hits 500th Home Run

In the month of July, on the 14th, in 1968, Hank Aaron hit his 500th home run. Last week, Kelly and I watched baseball's All Star Game and they started with a dedication to Hank Aaron who was one of the greatest baseball players of all time. Unfortunately, Aaron passed away at the beginning of this year, which at the time of recording is 2021. He was born in Alabama in 1934 and was a star athlete in school. He was still a teenager when he signed with the Negro League's Mobile Black Bears. He moved onto the Indianapolis Clowns and in 1953 he got a contract with the National League's Milwaukee Braves. When he debuted with them on April 13 in 1954, he was the last Negro league baseball player on a major league roster. Aaron mostly played right field and he played for 23 seasons, 21 of them with the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves. He and his family endured racial threats throughout his career and he became active in the Civil Rights Movement. Aaron went on to hit 755 home runs in his career, breaking Babe Ruth's record along the way. He retired in 1976, but continued with baseball in the front offices. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002.

Quebec City

Qu├ębec City is the capital city of the province of Quebec and sits along the Saint Lawrence River. The city is mostly French speaking as it was established by the French. This is an area of natural beauty and centuries of history. Several locations here that incorporate those two elements are reputedly haunted. These locations include Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, Plains of Abraham, Chateau Frontenac Hotel and Montmorency Falls. Join us as we explore the history and haunts of Quebec City in Canada!

The Algonquian People called this area Kebec, meaning "where the river narrows." This was the Saint Lawrence River and it brought Explorer Jacques Cartier here in 1535. An Iroquoian settlement was already here and Cartier would return in 1541 to establish the first French settlement in North America, Fort Charlesbourg-Royal. The settlement didn't last long. It wouldn't be until 1608 that French explorer Samuel de Champlain would establish another settlement. He would build fortified city walls that still stand today and are part of a World Heritage UNESCO site. English privateers captured the fledgling city in 1629, during the Anglo-French War. Champlain would manage to negotiate a return to French hands with a very unique agreement. French King Louis XIII had to pay the dowry of English King Charles' wife. Despite being the large capital city it is today, Quebec City grew slowly and was dominated by members of religious orders in those early years.

Quebec City would face more conflict. The French and Indian Wars would use the city as a launching point for raids on New England, the English would attack in 1690 and the Seven Years' War would leave the city captured by the British in 1759. One of the battles of that war, Battle of the Plains of Abraham, would leave spiritual residue behind, which we'll cover in a bit. The city would be lost permanently by the French. The British would later agree to let the original Quebecois to maintain their Catholic roots and to speak French. This would be a good move because it kept these original citizens from joining the American rebels during the American Revolution. That didn't stop the Americans from trying to take Quebec City in 1775. The British Regulars and Canadian Militia held them off and the Americans would not attack again, not even during the War of 1812. The Citadelle of Quebec was built in 1820 to further protect the city. Quebec City eventually grew to the third largest port city in North America in the early 19th century. 

The city would take center stage during World War II with two meetings between the Allied leadership as they planned the D-Day invasion. The Chateau Frontenac was one of the locations they used for these meetings. It's one of our haunted locations as well. With such a long history and battles being fought here, it's not surprising that some of the historic locations in Quebec City have ghost stories. There are several ghost tours offered here, one of which looks like a fun scavenger hunt.

Cathedral of the Holy Trinity

The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity was the first Anglican cathedral built outside of the British Isles and it is located here in Quebec City. The cathedral was built between 1800 and 1804 under the direction of King George III, who donated religious objects to the church. A special pew was made for him in the cathedral. The architects were William Hall and William Robe and they used London's Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields as their model. The spire atop the cathedral made it the tallest structure in Quebec City for many years. The building was constructed from grey stone and in the shape of a parallelpiped, which has three sets of four parallel edges. There are oval-shaped windows that had once been cartouches bearing the royal coat of arms. Bells were added in 1830 and these are the oldest change-ringing bells in Canada. These kinds of bells are very unique and rare in Canada and are rung in elaborate changing sequences. The same foundry that cast the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, Big Ben and the Jean-Baptiste bell of the Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal - Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London - cast these bells. The spirit that haunts the cathedral is thought to have been attached to a body that was supposedly buried underneath the building. This spirit likes to play the organ. People will be sitting in the church and hear organ music when no one is sitting at the organ. There is another legend that claims that the body buried under the cathedral was a baby and that the spirit is that of the mother looking for her child. A female spirit is sometimes seen floating in the balcony. Organists claim to hear a woman crying when they practice. If a toy is placed on the organ, the church stays quiet.

Plains of Abraham

The Plains of Abraham was the setting of the battle named for it during the Seven Years War that took place on September 13, 1759. The name of the area came from the farmer who owned the land, Abraham Martin. This was a battle between the British and the French and didn't last long. American colonists, Canadian militia and First Nation tribes also took part and those of us in America are more familiar with the name French and Indian War. James Wolfe was the commanding officer of the British forces and he and his men arrived in June of 1759 and held positions along the St. Lawrence River. This wasn't going to be easy for the British. In order to attack the French, they would have to cross the strong flow of the St. Lawrence River and get past the battery of guns at the fort. Wolfe led his men in their first attempt in July, but were quickly rebuffed. 

The leader of the French was Louis-Joseph, Marquis de Montcalm. He was resistant to coming out in open attack and Wolfe thought perhaps he could get him to move if he cut off supplies to the city. When that didn't work, he had his forces start hitting spots in the countryside around Quebec City. This still didn't work, so he made a bold move  to sail several ships past the fort batteries and it worked. They made it upriver and this gave Wolfe the opportunity to attack from a better position. In the wee hours of the morning on September 13th, Wolfe's men quietly made their way to a plateau and stretched across the Plains of Abraham in a horseshoe formation.

The French made their move and started firing as they approached the British, while the British waited until the French got closer and released such a volley that the French quickly retreated. Wolfe was hit three times in the exchange and reputedly said that he would have peace since he knew the French were in retreat. He then died, as did several other British officers, leaving the battle without much direction. The French countered with a relief force, which quickly pulled back as well. Montcalm's army was allowed to escape, but he had been mortally wounded and died the next morning. In total, the battle lasted about an hour, but would be one of the most significant of the war as the British captured Quebec and would never lose it again. About 180 men were killed with over a thousand wounded.

Like so many other battlefields, this one is said to be haunted and some even claim that this is the most haunted site in Quebec. The battle had been fought at midday and this is when many apparitions have been seen, mostly as residual troops still carrying on a battle. There are also solitary spirits of soldiers from the British and the French seen. They are usually wearing battle-scarred uniforms. There are tunnels near the field and these are particular hotspots for paranormal activity. People claimed to be touched by something they can't see in the tunnels and there is the strong smell of gunpowder sometimes detected. One person recounted a tale of walking in the tunnels and all of a sudden a soldier appeared and started running toward him, brushing past him with such force that he was nearly knocked down. The date of the battle, September 13th, is when many experiences are reported and these include not only the smell of gunpowder, but sulphur and there are also strange noises like gunshots, cannon fire and screams.  

Montmorency Falls

Near to the Plains of Abraham are the Montmorency Falls. These falls are on an ancient continental margin that is about 7.5 miles from the heart of old Quebec City and are part of the Montmorency Falls Park. They are sourced from the  Montmorency River and drop over a cliff into the Saint Lawrence River and are 272 feet high, which is nearly 100 feet taller than Niagara Falls. Samuel de Champlain named the falls for the Duke of Damville, Charles de Montmorency-Damville, Admiral of France and Brittany. There are many things to see and do at the park. General James Wolfe had built installations near the falls that can still be seen today. There is a cable car that visitors can ride from the foot of the waterfall to the top. A suspension bridge stretches across the entire width of the falls that people can walk across. This is with the water roaring just below your feet. To get back down, people have the option of going down a 487-step panoramic staircase that is along the cliff. There are also zip lines and something called the Via Ferrata, which is a hybrid of hiking and rock climbing. Hikers use metal holds and a steel cable to traverse the rock and there are different levels of difficulty so even kids as young as eight can get in on the fun.

The ghost that is seen here is a Lady in White that is also referred to as the White Lady. She dates back to the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. The legend connected to her claims that her name was Mathilde and she was engaged to marry a young man named Louis in July of 1759. This was at the same time that the British launched their attack near the falls. Louis was a member of the militia and he was killed in the battle. Mathilde was so devastated by his death that she put on her wedding dress and threw herself over the falls. People who see her spirit, claim to see her walking near the top of the falls and others actually see her throw herself into the churning waters at the base of the falls.

Chateau Frontenac Hotel 

One of the most famous hotels in Canada is The Fairmont Chateau Frontenac Hotel. This hotel was one of Canada's railroad hotels, built to attract wealthy tourists to ride on the Canadian Pacific Railway. The building is gorgeous and rises 262 feet and sits prominently on a hill in the historic district of Quebec City, which had once been home to another hotel built in the 1780s. The chateau was named for a former governor of the colony Louis de Buade, count de Palluau et de Frontenac.The hotel was built in 1892 and designed by American architect Bruce Price. The part that catches one's eye right away is the central fortress-like tower that was inspired by medieval chateaus found in France. There are tall chimneys, ornate gables, fancy dormers and large circular and polygonal towers and turrets. The exterior was fashioned from Glenboig bricks out of a region in Scotland and grey stone ashlar. Interior embellishments are just as fancy with wrought iron, carved stone, mahogany panelling and marble staircases. The whole place is just very Gothic.

The Chateau Frontenac opened in 1893 and is one of the most photographed hotels in the world. The Citadel Wing was added in 1899. Several modifications would be done in the twentieth century with a 1926 addition of the central tower designed by architects Edward and William Maxwell. The rue Mont-Carmel was added in 1908. In 1993, the Claude-Pratte Wing was built and this added an interior swimming pool and fitness center. Today, the hotel is run by the Fairmont Hotel chain and features 611 rooms on 18 floors. This hotel also features several ghosts. Apparently, the second floor has the most activity.

It seems only fitting that the namesake of the hotel would be banging around in the hallways. Louis de Baude de Frontenac could be one of the specters you run into if you stay here. He was the third Governor General of New France, which is what they called Quebec. He did this for ten years from 1672 to 1682 and his former home was close to, if not on the actually spot, where the hotel was built. That is why people think he is haunting the place. Either he is mad they built over his home or maybe he just is sticking to the place near his home. He is most often seen in 17th century garb, pacing in the hallways. He had died in his home and before dying, he asked that his heart be mailed to his fiance who was still in France. You can imagine that the poor girl was horrified and had it sent back. And that's why they think Frontenac is at unrest. He is most often seen on that second floor and in the ballroom.

The hotel is near the Plains of Abraham, so as you might suspect, some of those battle-torn spirits from the battlefield have wandered over to the hotel on occasion. They have been spotted both inside and outside of the hotel. And there is a Lady in White here. Not much is known about this spirit other then she wears a white nightgown and is very sad. Her favorite thing to do is to join guests in bed. She just needs a little comforting. Sometimes people wake up and find her just staring down at them from the side of the bed. She is not attached to any particular room, so she could pop up anywhere. 

Someone posted on TripAdvisor, "I am just wondering if anyone has seen a ghost in this hotel. I am staying in the Roosevelt suite and it has a presence I'm sure of it. I've never even believed in ghosts until today as I'm sure I saw I saw a man pass by our living room area!! Let me know if anyone else had anything similar please?"

Quebec City is a very old city with wonderful historic buildings. Are these particular historic spots haunted? That is for you to decide!

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