Thursday, August 26, 2021

HGB Ep. 399 - Korner's Folly

Moment in Oddity - Titus Carvilius Gemello's Ring (Suggested by: Jenny Lynne Raines)

The tomb of Titus Carvilius Gemello was discovered near Rome at the Grottaferrata Necropolis in 2000. This tomb is known as Hypogeum of Garlands and is the final resting place of Gemello who died young at the age of eighteen. This discovery revealed a number of things, one of which was that the Romans embalmed bodies and so this is one of the few Roman Mummies. Another thing was that the Romans knew about microorganisms and did things with their burial practices to help with preservation. They had corporeal leakage drains under the body, air ventilation and a filtering cloth system to prevent necrophagous bacteria, spores and keep out moisture. But the most amazing discovery was a ring that was inside the tomb. Titus' mother was devastated when he died and she ordered the expensive marble sarcophagus in which he was buried. And then she had the ring made. It features a bust likeness of her son that is a gold micro-fusion on a wax model done via a technique called "a cera persa." Then a polished clear quartz crystal was set on top of this, giving the bust likeness a hologram effect. It's really quite creepy. His mother wore the ring on occasion, but mostly locked it away so as not to spoil it. She died a few years later at the age of forty and was buried next to her son and the ring was placed in the tomb. A ring dating back to the Roman Empire that has a unique hologram effect, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Roanoke Colony Deserted

In the month of August, on the 18th, in 1590, the Roanoke Colony is found deserted. John White was the Governor of the Roanoke Island colony and he had left for England on a supply run, but was delayed by the war with Spain. He had led the second group of colonists to settle at the colony. And earlier group didn't fare well and ended up returning to England. White brought his group in 1587. What the group didn't know at the time was that they were arriving at the start of a two-year drought. There were 100 people in this second group and when White returned, everyone had disappeared including his daughter and his granddaughter who was the first English baby born in America. White and his men searched as much as they could, but the only clue as to what happened was the word CROATOAN carved into the palisade around the settlement. They thought perhaps this meant the colonists went to Roanoke Island, but no one was there. Most historians believe that the colonists were facing starvation and a lack of water and that the nearby Croatans took them in and absorbed them into their tribe.

Korner's (pronounce Kerners) Folly

The house that is nicknamed Korner's Folly is also thought to be one of the strangest houses in America. This is a large mansion with 22 rooms that was built in a whimsical way leaving some people scratching their heads in a similar way as the Winchester Mystery House. Jule Korner was a creative genius who wanted this house to be a visual experience and the house was under renovation most of the time to make room for new design ideas. Today, it is not only a museum, but the mysterious house harbors spirits. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Korner's Folly!

The first person to settle Kernersville was an Irishman named Caleb Story. He was given a land grant of 400 acres by the Royal Colony of Carolina. Eventually this acerage would make its way into the hands of another Irishman named William Dobson and he would buy more tracts until there were over 1100 acres. He would build Dobson's Tavern where President George Washington stopped in to have breakfast in 1791. Kernersville would get its name from Joseph Kerner who bought the land in 1817 and people started calling it Kerner's Crossroads. A village developed before the American Civil War and in 1871 it was incorporated as Kernersville. This town is considered the heart of the Triad in North Carolina. Julius Korner would be born here and build his mansion here eventually.

Julius Gilmer Körner was born in 1851 in Kernersville, North Carolina, a town his grandfather settled when he immigrated in 1785 from the Black Forest region of what would become Germany. The family would own 1,000 acres in Kernersville. The family owned slaves and when Jule's mother passed away when he was two-years-old, one of their slaves named Clara that the family called Aunt Dealy raised him. She came by that nickname because she called the Korner children “dearie” and one of them tried to call her the same, but had a hard time saying it and dearie usually came out as dealie, so they all started calling her Aunt Dealy. Jule was her favorite and she spoiled him and he considered her his second mother. She had been bought by the family after her original owner had died. Clara's family was facing separation at auction and her mother, Charity, quietly asked the community of Kernersville to buy her three daughters so they wouldn't be sold further south and separated. Some Quakers bought Clara's sister Mary and sent her North to freedom. No one knows what became of Clara's sister Ailse, but Charity unfortunately was taken by traders further South and Clara would never see her mother again. Jule went to Kernersville Academy and then attended a Quaker School in Indiana. He loved all forms of the arts and would carry this into his life and eventually the home he would build. He studied under J.E. Bundy, the noted artist and Civil War photographer. In 1869, he returned to his hometown and moved in with his brother Joseph where the two bachelors lived with Aunt Dealy. 

Kernersville had a chance for real growth in 1871 when the Western NC Railroad was looking to expand, but they weren't sure about this smaller town. That was until the citizens decided to a build a 4-mile section of track that would bring the railroad through town. The Korner family got in on the action and Joseph went to work for the railroad and he assigned Jule to supervise a group of thirty men set aside to build that section of track. Once that was done, Jule went to Philadelphia where he studied design and interior decorating and served as apprentice to Charles Fischer. When his father passed away in 1875, Jule returned to Kernersville and started a sign painting business. This area of North Carolina was becoming home to the tobacco barons. Blackwell’s Bull Durham Tobacco Co. in Durham, NC hired Korner to do their marketing under his company that he had named Reuben Rink Decorating and House Furnishing Company. Reuben Rink was his brush name or pen name if you will. 

At this same time in 1877, Korner started designing his future home. Construction on Korner's Folly began in 1878 and not only was his home, but also his studio and office. A farmer walking by one day noticed how haphazard the different stories appeared to be and he declared, "Surely this will be Jule Korner's folly!" The name stuck. The construction was said to be completed in 1880, but that was never really finished as Korner made this a place to showcase his design work for clients, much like an in-person catalogue. Describing the architectural style of Jule Korner's former home is difficult. The windows are long and narrow, framed by arcing shutters and no two are exactly alike. The same is true for the doorways, no two are alike. The exterior is brick, but even that is weird because there are eight different sizes of bricks. The roof rises in A-frame peaks on each side. A really odd thing is that the house appears to be three-stories tall, but once inside, one finds there are seven levels. There are twenty-two rooms of various sizes from little nooks to medium-sized bedrooms to a grand reception room and several of them have fireplaces. There are fifteen fireplaces in total, none of which were ever used, and each has a unique design. Some of the ceilings rise to six feet and others to twenty-five feet in height. The house had a unique air distribution system with pivoting windows and interior openings.

Aunt Dealy moved into Jule's house with him even though she owned her own property that had been gifted to her by Jule's father. She rented the property to make her own money. In 1885, Jule built a cottage in the back for her. That cottage still remains on the property and Clara lived there until her death in 1896 at the age of 76. Jule wanted her buried in the Moravian Church graveyard, but segregation prevented that, so Jule purchased the land next to the cemetery and made it a private Korner family plot and buried his Aunt Dealy there. He engraved her headstone with, "Clara Körner, Honest and faithful to every trust by the loss of our mother at an early age, she assumed the special care and training of we the children of Philip Kerner for which we all place this stone to her memory.”

Six years after Korner's Folly was completed, Jule married Polly Alice Masten of Winston, who went by Alice. The couple courted for five years before marrying and it was mostly long distance. They shared a love of the arts. Unfortunately, Alice contracted Typhoid Fever shortly after they wed and she would spend the rest of her life in ill health. She and Jule would have a son and a daughter, Jule Gilmer Körner, Jr. who went by Gilmer and Allie Doré Körner, who went by Dore. In 1894, the Korners co-founded the Kernersville Orchestra and then Alice created The Juvenile Lyceum, a drama club for kids. The first meeting of the club took place at Körner’s Folly and the group would produce plays and perform them in the long room of the house for two years. Alice wrote and directed the plays and made the costumes too. In 1897, Jule designed and built Cupid’s Park Theatre for Alice on the top floor of the house. The plays were performed from there and this came to be known as the “First Private Little Theatre in America.”

Julian Carr, who was a tobacco baron and head of the Bull Durham Tobacco Company, gave Jule more responsibility and an unlimited expense account. He also hired the artist to paint frescoes on the ceilings of his mansion known as Somerset Villa. On a side note, this place is reputedly haunted by a female ghost that is claimed to be the former lady of the house. The legend claims her son drowned in an irrigation canal and that she still mourns him by crying and screaming. Anonymous wrote in June of 2021, "When I was a middle school student me an my boy scout troop stayed the night here camping. Me and some buddies went out walking late one night down a trail near where the slave houses once were. We experienced a sudden scream or shrieking seemed all around us. And then he seemed to turn to wind and went through the trees all around us again. He all took off running and lucky it was the last night there for us. We never went and most of us to this day don't like speaking about it. Don't know what it was but it sure wasn't normal, animals, and no breeze except that sudden blast of wind." The Carrs had three sons who lived into their later years beyond forties, so we're not really sure how true this legend may be, but clearly this person heard something pretty creepy.

Jule was hired by other properties to paint frescoes in their homes too. He continued to work for Durham Tobacco until it relocated to New York in 1888. He was not about to leave North Carolina and said of his decision, "Better is one’s own path, though imperfect, than the path of another well-made." That decision would be a good one as his company prospered and landed ever bigger projects. In 1892, he renovated and decorated the Kernersville Moravian Church. Jule passed away in 1924 at the age of seventy-four. Alice would follow him in death ten years later. The Korner children were homeschooled and taught art and how to play the piano and violin. They participated in the plays their mother directed and adopted an abandoned racoon cub they named Bob. Gilmer went on to serve in the military and become a lawyer. Once he left Kernersville, he never returned. He collected artwork, which is on display at Korner's Folly. Dore went to college and then traveled throughout Europe. She married in 1916 and had two children. Her family would use Korner's Folly as a summer home and then eventually rented it out. It sat abandoned for a time and then a group of people in Kernersville formed the Korner's Folly Foundation and bought the property in 1970.

Major restoration would take many years to start. It wasn't until 2012 that the real work would begin with the foundation being repaired, the roof was replaced and the three porches were restored. Much of the interior is done, but there are several rooms that still need work. The foundation wants to restore the house to its 1890-1915 appearance. Ninety percent of the furnishings in the museum house are original. And perhaps some of the spirits here are original to the house as well. Groups who have investigated the house think there are three ghosts here: a man, a woman and a child. The hauntings are both intelligent and residual. A woman who cleaned the house when it was vacant claimed that she heard footsteps coming down the staircase. She was unnerved thinking someone had broken into the vacant house, but after looking all around, she found that she was indeed alone.

Winston Salem Paranormal Society investigated the house in October 2011 and had a reporter, Veronica White, from WXII 12 News join them. They started in the mini theater upstairs where an apparition had been seen previously. Two flashlights that they set up near the stage responded to requests to turn on and off as the video rolled. The master bedroom gave them the most evidence over the course of the evening. Veronica asked if there was more than one person with them to turn off the flashlight and it went off. She then asked for the flashlight to be turned on if there was a female with them and the light clicked on. One of the flashlights rolled off the desk later and there was no explanation for that since the desk appeared to be level. One of the camera batteries completely drained in the bedroom as well. The children's playroom also had activity and they caught an EVP saying "turn" after one of the investigators said, "You can turn the light out." Every one felt the atmosphere was friendly.

The little Cupid's Park Theater has been used by the Kernersville Community Theater for rehearsals and several actors have claimed to see the lights turn themselves back on after they have been switched off. This is usually after they have left the house and turn to see the lights ablaze again. Then someone has to walk up the seven flights of stairs to turn them back off, only to have the same thing repeat itself after they exit once again. A guy working on the air conditioning on that level also had an experience. He was tapped three times on the brim of his hat. It scared him enough that he left his tools and never returned. A male paranormal investigator had a similar experience only it was his shoulder that was tapped on three times while he stood on the stage. When the temperature was measured around him, there was a ten degree difference. The apparition of a little girl has been seen several times at the house. A local resident claims to have seen her several times standing on the front porch at night. Others have seen a little girl ghost on the stage in the theater. The giggling of a little girl has also been heard.

Deonna Kelli Sayed was the house's paranormal advisor and she worked with Haunted North Carolina and she joined an investigation in 2009 conducted by SPARS Paranormal and wrote, "One of the most distinctive EVP samples captured was in the Children's Play Room of a little girl saying "peek-a-boo." Interestingly, two digital audio devices shut off just before the only working device caught the EVP. Likewise, a light anomaly was recorded on IR cameras in the area at that same time. I have personally obtained EVP in the middle of the day and in numerous locations throughout the house. One was caught in the Children's Play Room and coincided with an EMF spike and one digital audio device failure. The working audio device recorded a male voice saying "haunted." This was in response to me jokingly requesting for new evidence to present at an upcoming public lecture." Deonna also shared another interesting EVP that was captured during that early investigation. They had just turned on a recorder and the investigators were saying to each other that hoped they caught some EVP and when they played back the tape, right after that is an soft voice asking, "What is EVP?"

The grand reception room has also had activity. The Haunted NC investigators were conducting a hunt in April of 2010. They had set up an EMF Meter in the room and started an experiment that worked great. They asked the spirits to spike the meter a certain number of times and the spirits obliged. So when they asked for it to spike 5 times, it spiked 5 times. During the time when the house was rented out, it served as both an antique store and a funeral parlor. Employees of the antique store would arrive in the morning to find the furniture all rearranged.Volunteers have never had the furniture rearranged for them, but maybe that is because 80% of the furnishings belonged to the Korners, so they are happy with the set-up. There was a separate room for smoking and often cigar smoke is smelled in there. But this sometimes happens throughout the house, so apparently a ghost is walking around smoking. An it's not just cigar smoke. There is cigarette smoke too. Apparently, Alice was a closet smoker and perhaps is still carrying that on in the afterlife.

Michael Renegar and Amy Spease wrote "Ghosts of the Triad, Tales From the Haunted Heart of the Piedmont" and in that Michael shares that he was interviewing Deonna for the book. He asked her how many spirits were thought to be in the house and they both audibly heard someone else answer "Five." The only other people in the house were upstairs and the voice had not come from there. Amy is a medium and she felt that the house was warm and friendly. She described the house as a "welcoming embrace."

Korner's Folly is open year round and they offer guided tours are offered by appointment or you can just pop-in Thursday through Saturday and wander around by yourself. Perhaps you will have your own experience to share. Is Korner's Folly haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, August 19, 2021

HGB Ep. 398 - Fort McClellan

Moment in Oddity - Cave of the Crystals

The Cave of the Crystals is also known as Giant Crystal Cave and is located Naica, Chihuahua, Mexico. This is connected to the Naica Mine there and is a chamber of limestone with giant selenite crystals jutting out in all directions. And when we say giant, we mean giant. The largest one has been measured to a length of over 37 feet. These crystals were formed because there is an underground magma chamber below the cave that heated water full of sulfide ions, then mixed with cooled oxygenated water, gypsum crystals formed and then the temperature in the cave dropped and over 500,000 years, these crystals grew. The cave is a fairly recent discovery. Two brothers, Pedro and Juan Sanchez, discovered it in April of 2000 when they were drilling in the mine. The cave has been hard to explore because it is intensely hot in the chamber. Scientists designed their own exploration suits with reservoirs of cold water and ice that gave them about 30 minutes at a time of exploration. They explored the cave in detail in 2006. The cave was re-flooded in 2015 and can no longer be explored, but the crystals might grow more because the water is rich in the minerals needed to do that. A cave full of giant crystals, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Son of Sam Arrested

In the month of August, on the 10th, in 1977, David Berkowitz, also known as the Son of Sam, was arrested. Berkowitz had terrorized the people of New York City for over a year, starting on Christmas Eve in 1975 when he nearly stabbed to death a fifteen-year-old girl named Michelle Forman. He continued to fall deeper into paranoid schizophrenia and claimed that his neighbor's German Shepherd was talking to him, as were other neighborhood dogs. Berkowitz was convinced the dogs were possessed by demons as were his neighbors. The dogs ordered him to kill attractive young women. He moved to a new apartment with a neighbor named Sam Carr who had a black Labrador that also told Berkowitz to kill. When Berkowitz started referring to himself as the Son of Sam, he was referring to Sam Carr. His killing rampage left 6 people dead and 7 others wounded. He plead guilty to eight shootings and was sentenced to six life sentences, which he continues to serve at Shawangunk Correctional Facility. Berkowitz later claimed that he was part of a violent Satanic cult and that he had been helped with some of the murders, which were rituals. No evidence of this was ever proven and Berkowitz now claims to be a Christian.

Fort McClellan (Suggested by and Research Assistance from Jules Schlosser)

Fort McClellan is located in Anniston, Alabama at the foothills of the magical Appalachian Mountains. We've always found these mountains to harbor a supernatural energy and that seems to be the case here at the Fort, which closed in 1999. The Fort had a strong presence during World War II, training half a million troops and was home to the Women's Army Corps. Several people have died on the former base, including several foreign prisoners of war who are buried on the property, and ghost stories abound. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Fort McClellan!

The town of Anniston was originally founded as a company town for the Woodstock Iron Company in 1872. This area had many advantages for manufacturing with endless supplies of coal and timber and railroad lines branching out into all directions. Furnace No. 1 was started in 1873 rising forty-three feet high. Furnace No. 2 was completed in 1879 with Furnace No. 3 and 4 being added quickly thereafter. The Brown Hematite Woodstock ores produced were considered the best and strongest iron for all purposes, made in the South. By 1883, Woodstock was renamed Anniston and opened to the public and grew to a population of 10,000. The Spanish–American War ended in 1898, but there were concerns that hostilities would erupt once again and the government felt they needed a military reserve force in Alabama. Because of its great location, Anniston was chosen to establish Camp Shipp.

Camp Shipp was named in honor of Lt. William E. Shipp who had bravely led his troops in a charge in the Battle of San Juan Hill and was killed during the skirmish. An artillery range was placed on the nearby Blue Mountain and 10,000 troops of the 3rd Alabama Volunteer Infantry were stationed here by October 1898. An influenza epidemic turned parts of Camp Shipp into a makeshift hospital for a time. There was no action for the camp and by March of 1899 the post was phased out. And that was it for a decade. The Choccolocco Mountain range of the Appalachians was such a great area for training though that in 1912 Alabama's Third District congressman Henry D. Clayton Jr. petitioned the Department of War to set up a new military training facility in Anniston. As a trial run, 20,000 National Guardsmen were sent for artillery training. The government was so pleased with the results that they purchased 18,952 acres in March of 1917 and it was perfect timing because America would declare war on Germany on April 6, 1917. 

Camp McClellan was officially established on July 18, 1917 and named in honor of Major General George B. McClellan, General-in-Chief of the Union Army from 1861 to 1862. The duty of the base was to quickly get men ready to fight in World War I. For this reason, all the early buildings were constructed from wood and rows of wooden floored tents were used to house the troops. This hasty building didn't mean that few buildings were erected. Quite the opposite. There were 1,500 buildings with 118 of them alone reserved for the base hospital. A terminal piece of the railroad was extended right into the camp. Men arrived from Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware and Washington, D.C. These men would become the 29th Infantry Division, commanded by Major General Charles G. Morton, and they would fight in France. On a side note about the 29th Infantry Division, they would be part of the first Allied assault on Normandy on D-Day during World War II and would be one of the 36 divisions recognized as liberating units because they liberated Nazi Concentration Camps. And Fort McClellan is where they were created.

There were other troops here as well including the 157th Depot Brigade, the 11th and 12th Training Battalions, the 6th Division, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Development Regiments and the 1st Separate Negro Company of Maryland. This latter group would later be absorbed into the 372nd Infantry Regiment and fight in the Champagne region of France during World War I. This was a black regiment with white officers. The unit was extremely well decorated. Urbane F. Bass was their black medical officer who was killed in action on October 6, 1918, and received the Distinguished Service Cross. After the war, most mobilization camps like Camp McClellan were closed, but it managed to make it onto the "caretaker status" list. This led to Congress approving funds to update the buildings at the camp in 1926 and these structures included barracks, a headquarters, officer quarters and a central hospital. On July 1, 1929, the post was officially designated as Fort McClellan and it would be permanent. 

In 1933, more funds were allocated and the Fort McClellan Army Airfield was built along with a radio facility featuring the call letters WUR and this mostly was used for Morse-code communications. Additional buildings were added and these featured Spanish Colonial Revival architecture. Troops that trained here were the Alabama Army National Guard, the Army's Reserve Officer Training Corps, the Army 22nd Infantry Regiment and District "D" of the Civilian Conservation Corps. This group was known as the CCC and it was a voluntary public work relief program for the unemployed during the Great Depression. It was advertised as "a young man's opportunity for work, play, study and health." This was a key part of Roosevelt's New Deal. Towards the end of 1940, the 27th Infantry Division of the New York National Guard was activated and sent to Fort McClellan. A year later, these men would be deployed to the Pacific Theater of Operations because America had entered World War II.

The new war prompted more construction at the base and any remaining buildings from the previous war were upgraded. The base also acquired more land, buying part of the Talladega National Forest and growing to over 42,000 acres. Fort McClellan was now able to house up to 50,000 troops. Hundreds of hutments were set up for those troops and as creature comforts, five theaters and an amphitheater were built. A firing range for mortars, artillery and tanks was set up and called Morrisville Maneuvering Area. That name was later changed to Pelham Range to honor a local hero named John Pelham, from the American Civil War. During World War II, 500,000 men were trained here and the basic training included handling live artillery fire, fighting from foxholes and hiding from tanks. Fort McClellan became unique among bases as it welcomed two detachments of the Women's Army Corps, also known as WAC. And they also trained special black troops that were sent to fight in Italy.

Fort McClellan had another designation during World War II and that was prisoner of war camp. This part of the base was built in 1943 and could house 3,000 prisoners. Unlike previous wars that featured harsh conditions for prisoners-of-war, the Prison Internment Camp here was really quite nice. The 1929 Geneva Conventions laid out rules for prisoners-of-war. There were plenty of provisions and there was lots of recreation. One German prisoner found the prison so comfortable that he wrote home and described Fort McClellan as a "golden cage." And as hard as it may be to believe, the nearby residents were having to ration food, so they began to resent how good the prisoners had it at the base. There were prisoners who made a run for it and did attempt to escape and they were killed. There is a cemetery here for the dead prisoners that includes 3 Italians and 26 Germans. Fort McClellan had 2,546 prisoners in total.

When the war was over, Fort McClellan trained occupation forces and then became a Recruit Training Center. By 1947, the base was moved to inactive status with just a small group left behind to maintain everything. A new war, the Korean War, would breathe new life into Fort McClellan and it was once again used for National Guard training. More funds brought more restoration and Brigadier General Theodore R. Wessels became the Commander and was nicknamed the "Father of the New Fort McClellan." A Chemical Corps would be formed and trained here. The training was made up of basic training for 8 weeks and then 8 weeks of chemical warfare training. Operation Top Hat was started in 1953 and the highly secretive operation tested nerve agents, biological warfare and sulfur mustard gas. The Chemical Corps name would change in the 1960s and be expanded with the U.S. Army Combat Development Command Chemical Biological-Radiological Agency moving to Fort McClellan. One can imagine that having all this chemical stuff on the base would not be a good thing and that will prove to be true when the base is closed. As a matter of fact, H.R. 3666 was introduced in Congress in 2017 and was called The Fort McClellan Health Registry Act. This was to register people exposed to chemical agents during their military service at Fort McClellan.

A Military Police Corps was trained at the base in the 1970s. Around the same time, the WAC that had Fort McClellan as its beginning and home, would officially be disestablished and its flag retired. The last director of the Women's Army Corps, General Mary E, Clarke, became the first female Commanding General to command any major U.S. Army installation and that was at Fort McClellan. She was in charge from 1978 to 1980. So this was a very important place in women's history. During the Vietnam War, the base would again train men for war. This training would be deactivated in 1970. A small satellite academy for the Border Patrol would call the base home in the 1980s for a very brief time. The end for the base would come in 1995 when the Base Realignment and Closure Commission voted to permanently close Fort McClellan. The closing ceremony took place on May 20, 1999. Major General Ralph G. Wooten summed up Fort McClellan in his speech during that ceremony saying, "For more than 81 years, Fort McClellan set the standard of excellence in training America's sons and daughters to defend freedom in two world wars and a myriad of conflicts and operations. In the last generation, we were singularly responsible for providing our Army with the world's finest military police and chemical soldiers. Our pride is justified by our spectacular success!"
The Alabama National Guard still trains at Fort McClellan and the Center for Domestic Preparedness headed by the Department of Homeland Security is here. Something that started up in the 2000s was a huge clean-up project so that the base could be used for other purposes. This place is sometimes referred to as "the most toxic place on the planet." It would take 11 years for that clean-up to be completed. Fort McClellan has over 900 residents, has become a workplace in industrial, retail, education and technological fields and the Mountain Longleaf National Wildlife Refuge has been opened. An important part of Fort McClellan's history came in the form of a race riot. Although Fort McClellan has always been a smaller base and fairly peaceful, there was a moment in time in late 1971 when a race riot started here. It was the largest WAC base in the world at the time and 20% of the WACs were black. Some of them were run down one evening by a white driver. They were not seriously injured, but major trouble followed. Tensions had already been building on base with a few racial disputes on both sides. A list of black grievances was submitted to the race-relations officer and this was followed by a mob gathering on an athletic field. The group of blacks shouted down a white race-relations officer and a black major and MPs were brought in to break everything up and 140 people were arrested.

There have been deaths at the base. An article in the New York Times published on May 29, 1983 reported a horrible accident at the base. It reads, "A tank resembling an oxygen container but faintly labeled "argon," a gas used in welding, was examined by investigators today after the deaths of two patients who breathed the gas at the Army hospital here. Military officials confirmed early today that two patients died and a third lapsed into a coma Wednesday because the argon tank was connected to the main oxygen supply system at Noble Army Hospital on Fort McClellan in Anniston. The 100-bed hospital's operating and delivery rooms had been closed for three days while investigators determined what killed a sergeant and a premature infant and left the wife of another Army sergeant near death.
"It is apparent that we were supplied argon in place of oxygen in a tank normally used for oxygen," said Col. Edward M. Johnson, a doctor and the commander at the hospital. "Subsequent administration of argon to the patients resulted in suffocation." The patient who lapsed into a coma was Charlotte Huddleston and she ended up dying the following day from a heart attack. She was only 28 at the time. A person wrote in 2019 on the Internet that, "Inside this Hospital a ghost named Charlotte lives. She is not hostile or friendly. There is a video of “Charlotte” appearing on YouTube. This is a real story and Charlotte is real, however do not look for Charlotte because she does not like to be hunted or filmed." Charlotte really likes to mess with lights.

There are parts of Fort McClellan that are like a ghost town and that is an appropriate term because Charlotte is not the only spirit here. There are a lot of spirits that seem to surround the area at Fort McClellan. Visitors to the area have reported some strange sights, including shadowy figures, apparitions, and odd lights. Others have felt cold spots and seen doors closing by themselves. Footsteps have also been heard in the old Patton Building. The most frequently seen ghost is the spirit of a soldier who committed suicide in one of the lodging buildings by hanging himself. He is known to be a full apparition or a dark shadow figure always standing by the water fountain on the top floor of the building. He has been seen by employees, and his death does have documentation. Another spirit here is one belonging to a young girl who is wearing an old fashioned white nightgown and she likes to wonder the grounds after dark.  

The most haunted location on the base is around Buckner Circle. Buckner Circle is the street where all of the officer mansions were located. These homes have a very high turn over rate. One of those places was the home of Jim and Sandra Coxwell who moved into their house in 2005. During their first night in the house, they had a weird experience and a type of bizarre light show. Sandra said, "There was a circle of crystals that dropped down from the ceiling and it was just spiraling, spiraling and spiraling. We didn’t know what that was. We heard stories about ghosts and so we just assumed that was the ghost saying hello."

Our listener Jules who suggested this location wrote, "The spirits that Peyton and I are most familiar with are the German POWs. They actually constructed the rock cottages as part of their "imprisonment" while at the Fort. On base families have lived in these cottages. I've heard whispering in German. I was an opera major in college so it was pretty easy to recognize the voice was speaking German. When Peyton was one and a half, I walked in to check on him and he was fully engaging in a conversation and pointing at someone I couldn't see.  I've seen doors open and close, and the TV turn on and off. I always felt a presence with me more than anything."

From 2016, "In September of 1991, I was undergoing basic training at Ft. McClellan, AL. Our platoon/company was outside conducting P. T., at approx 6 or 7 pm. I clearly saw a younger woman in a white, tattered dress move across a field directly in front of us. She was semi-transparent and was no more than 100 ft away. One distinct fact that I remember is that the woman was moving, but had no legs/feet. It was the kind of thing that you shake your head at and keep going. I never asked or told anyone while I was there because I was scared of what they would say (especially during basic training). I share this story often with friends and family. It was the one and only time that I have ever experienced anything like that."

From 2019, "My friends and I come to Fort McClellan to take pictures. We’ve had previous experiences here. Once we heard the voice of a woman. Today while taking pics there, the door behind us squeaked open and there was not the slightest breeze out so we left because we got creeped out and moved on to another spot there. At that spot, almost as soon as we got out of the car, we heard things falling from the higher levels of the building. Creepy!"

Anonymous wrote in 2021, "On 18 September, 1972 while attending Basic. I woke up to go to the Latrine at midnight. It was thunder and lightening storm that night. I heard a strange sound like someone was singing. I could not figure out where it was coming from. Then I saw a white figure standing at the end of the hall. I think it was looking at me, then it disappeared into the darkness. I decided to get the hell back in bed! I remember this because I kept a journal. I was in Alfa Company, 2nd Bn. What ever building that was back then."

As we've said before, it's always great when our listeners have actually had experiences at these locations that we share. Did Jules and her Spooktacular toddler really experience ghostly activity? Is Fort McClellan haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, August 12, 2021

HGB Ep. 397 - Ghost Hunting New Orleans and Beyond

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Moment in Oddity - Corpse Flower at Abandoned Gas Station (Suggested by: Scott Booker and Paula Mitchell)

The Titan Arum is most famously known as the Corpse Flower and first became known to the world in 1878. It is thought to be the world's largest flower and it most definitely is the stinkiest. This is a tropical plant that is native to the rainforests of Sumatra, Indonesia. The Corpse Flower starts as a bulb that likes lots of water and to stay above 60 degrees. The nickname comes from its foul stench it exudes that is similar to rotting meat. The plant gives this off to attract nighttime pollinators like sweat bees, flesh flies and carrion beetles. The Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens in California has several plants that it brings out on occasion so everyone can enjoy seeing a very rare sight. There is no predicting when these flowers will bloom. One of these Corpse Flowers recently caught some attention in May of 2021. A gardener named Solomon Leyva lives in Alameda, California and he raises succulents and rare plants, one of which was a Corpse Flower. He noticed one day that a stalk had shot up and he knew that soon the flower would bloom. He decided he wanted to share this delight with people, particularly because of the Covid Pandemic. He loaded the huge plant onto a wagon and wheeled it through town. He found a patch of asphalt in front of an abandoned gas station and off-loaded the plant for people to come see. It was quite a treat since this only happens every few years and the bloom only lasts for a couple of days. It really is quite beautiful and extraordinary, but it certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Maggie Kuhn, Gray Panther founder, Born

In the month of August, on the the 3rd, in 1905, elder rights activist Maggie Kuhn was born. Kuhn was born in Buffalo, New York and she never fit into the social norms of her time when it came to women. She began her social activism in the 1930s and she started teaching some controversial stuff at the YWCA. This included unionizing and women's issues and then she really pushed the limits by starting a human sexuality course that discussed mechanics, birth control, pregnancy and she also promoted that being single was okay in a society that pushed marriage. But her real claim to fame came when she hit the age of 65 and was forced to retire. In 1970, there was a mandatory retirement law. Kuhn was so angry she formed the Gray Panthers. Their motto was "Age and Youth In Action." This was because they welcomed teenagers into their movement to help with the activism. The group advocated for nursing home reform and fought ageism. She died in 1995 at the age of 89.

Ghost Hunting New Orleans and Beyond

One thing History Goes Bump knows is ghost tours. We've been joined by several tour guides on the podcast and on this episode, we are joined by our favorite, Cedric. Cedric has served our country in the military, worked as a Firefighter/Medic and founded a company creating leathercraft for the movies. He and his wife Eevie are also tour guides in New Orleans and he is an amazing storyteller. On top of that, Cedric and Eevie have their own paranormal investigation group called N.O.P.E. Cedric joins us to share his techniques and experiences while ghost hunting and to talk about some of the haunts in New Orleans, particularly in the French Quarter. Join us as we discuss ghost hunting New Orleans and beyond!

We may not know until we ourselves are spirits how all of this works, but the questions and the search for answers is interesting and fun. Are any of these places that Cedric talked about haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, August 5, 2021

HGB Ep. 396 - Westminster Abbey

Moment in Oddity - Rivers of Mercury in Tombs

In 2016, archaeologist Sergio Gomez representing Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History found liquid mercury in three chambers of the Feathered Serpent Pyramid. Liquid mercury is a rare find in tombs. When mercury is found in Mesoamerican tombs, it is in the form of cinnabar, which is a powdery red pigment. Mercury in a liquid form would have been rare at this time as the cinnabar needs to be crushed and heated to a high temperature and then the vapor collected, which is the liquid mercury. Mercury was found in Egyptian tombs dating to about 1500 BC and it is believed that the first Chinese emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi, who had the terra cotta soldiers built for his tomb also had rivers of mercury in his tomb. Sergio Gomez believes that the mercury in the tomb in Mexico was there as a representation of the geography of the underworld. The mercury would have indicated where lakes and rivers were in the realm of the dead. There are some who think that leaders like China's emperor would drink the mercury thinking that it led to long life or even immortality. Clearly they didn't realize the toxicity of mercury. The humidity and lack of oxygen in the tombs helped to preserve the mercury in liquid form. Flowing rivers of mercury in tombs, certainly are odd!

This Month in History - Woodstock Starts

In the month of August, on the 15th, in 1969, Woodstock began. Woodstock was a three day concert billed as "An Aquarian Experience: 3 Days of Peace and Music" that was hosted in a field near Max Yasgur's Dairy Farm at Bethel, New York. The event almost didn't happen with multiple venue changes as promoters scrambled to find somewhere willing to host the concert. Bad weather turned the field into a giant mud pit. There were 32 rock bands and singers that participated including Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Santana, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Crosby, Stills Nash & Young, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Iron Butterfly, Joan Baez, Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Grateful Dead. More than 400,000 people showed up for the event. This was a defining event for the counterculture. This was a concert to promote peace and it was remarkably peaceful considering its size. There were two deaths during the three days along with two births and 742 drug overdoses.

Westminster Abbey (Suggested by: Leah Barnes and her sister Liz) 

Westminster Abbey is an iconic structure that has stood for hundreds of years. More than 3300 people are buried here, seventeen of which are monarchs and this location has hosted royal weddings and every coronation since 1066 AD. There are hundreds of memorials, statues and art pieces inside this once stronghold of the Catholic Church that is now a Protestant and British symbol recognized throughout the world. Not surprisingly, there may be a few ghosts lurking in the shadows. Join us as we share the history and hauntings of Westminster Abbey!

Starting in the 6th century, a Benedictine monastery was built here. King Serbert of the East Saxons had just converted to Christianity and he had it dedicated to St. Peter and consecrated by the first Bishop of London, Mellitus. A legend claims that St. Peter dedicated his own church himself. He appeared as a cloaked stranger and asked a fisherman to row him across the river. As they neared the church it lit up with a celestial brilliance and angels appeared in the sky singing. Then St. Peter anointed the church's walls with holy water. And yeah, that probably didn't happen, but the monastery here would be an anchor for 500 years.

The first version of the Abbey dates back to 1065 AD. Only parts of it still exist within the present Abbey. That first structure was an enlargement of the small Benedictine monastery that was re-endowed by King Edward and dedicated to St. Peter the Apostle. There was a cathedral on the eastern side of London that was known as East Minster, so this church became West Minster. King Edward died a few days after it was consecrated and he was buried in front of the High Altar. Harold would be crowned king, but that didn't last long as he was defeated by William the Conqueror and he would be the first monarch to be coronated in Westminster Abbey. This happened on Christmas Day in 1066 and that started a tradition of coronations that continues today. The parts of this original Abbey that remain today are the large supporting columns of the undercroft, some of the round arches and the Pyx Chamber in the cloisters. The undercroft was where the monks had their quarters.

After 200 years, it was decided to rebuild the Abbey and this was undertaken by King Henry III who wanted Westminster Abbey to represent the Gothic style of architecture. This new church was consecrated on October 13, 1269. The next thing King Henry III did was to move the body of Edward the Confessor into a grander tomb behind the High Altar. Over the years, this tomb has been joined by the burial of several medieval kings like Henry III, Edward I, Edward III, Richard II and Henry V. There are many memorials in the Abbey made up of 600 monuments and wall tablets. The ancient coronation chair is still here, which is remarkable considering its age. But its not the only real old item still at the Abbey. Britain's oldest door is here in the Abbey in the passage leading to the Chapter House and dates to 1050 AD. It was one of the things that King Henry III retained in the rebuild and scientists who have studied the door believe it came from a tree that grew in eastern England, maybe from Essex. The door is constructed in a unique way, not typical of the medieval period, with five vertical oak planks held together with three horizontal battens and iron straps in a flush manner. It is thought that it was originally nine feet high, but has been cut down to 6.5 feet and the rounded arch at the top was removed. There is still cow hide that is part of the door and an old legend claimed that it was human skin that had been flayed from someone robbing the church and it was nailed to the door.

King Henry VII was the first of the Tudors and he added the Lady Chapel to the Abbey, which is a magnificent space. For people who don't know, many cathedrals have a Lady Chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The most spectacular part of this space is the ceiling. This is described as fan-vaulting and we've never seen anything like it, but it really does look like lace fans that have been carved, coming out of the ceiling. The floor is black and white checkered with carved wooden seats lining the walls. Banners of the current Knights Grand Cross line the walls above the chairs. There is lots of stained glass in here too with the Battle of Britain memorial window, along with other themed windows. Speaking of the stained glass, there had once been many medieval pieces in the Abbey, but little of that remains. A few can be seen in the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Galleries. The King's tomb is here and was designed by Italian sculptor Pietro Torrigiano who crowned the tomb with gilt bronze effigies of the king and his wife. The tomb is encircled by a bronze screen made by Thomas Ducheman. The chapel was consecrated on February 19, 1516. There are fifteen kings and queens buried in here as well, including Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I and from the Stuart line, William and Mary and Queen Anne.

In 1540, King Henry VIII dissolved the Catholic hold on the Abbey and set-up a bishop, the first of who was Thomas Thirlby. Westminster Abbey was made a cathedral by an Act of Parliament in 1550 and Queen Elizabeth I refounded the church as a Collegiate Church, which is a Church of England outside of the jurisdiction of the diocese and under the direction of the monarch. The Westminster School is here as well. And speaking of Elizabeth I, her tomb is creepy as hell with her likeness carved into the marble that makes it look as though she is lying down on her tomb with her eyes open. There is a bejeweled crown on her head. 

The two western towers were designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor and built between 1722 and 1745 out of Portland stone in the Gothic Revival style. An earthquake in 1750 damaged one of the piers on the north side of the Abbey and crushed several houses and the Abbey suffered damage during the Blitz on November 15, 1940. There was also damage by some bombs in 1941. Notable things connected to the Abbey in our lifetimes are the wedding of Prince Andrew and Fergie in 1986, the funeral of Princess Diane in 1997, Prince William and Kate Middleton were married in the Abbey in 2011 and Pope Benedict XVI was the first pope to set foot in the Abbey and he did that in 2010.

There are ten change ringing bells that were cast in 1971 by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. The first bells here were installed in the mid 1200s. King Henry III ordered that a bell be made for the Abbey bigger than any bell that had been made before and this was joined by a small bell that was in tune with the great bell. By 1255, there were five bells in use. Eventually there would be six bells and that number would remain constant until the twentieth century. A bell from 1310 is on display in the Jubilee gallery. The bells are rung during coronations, major church festivals, saints' days, Royal and Abbey anniversaries, civic events, special occasions and chimed daily prior to evening service. The tenor bell is tolled upon the death of a member of the Royal family. The Westminster Abbey Company of Ringers are responsible for ringing the bells. When the bells ring out in a peal, there are 5,000 changes without a break.

The Nave is at the western end of the Abbey and took 150 years to complete. It was completed in 1517 and features the graves and memorials of many famous people. One of those people is Sir Isaac Newton and his burial is right in front of a decorated screen leading into the Quire. The Quire has stalls for the choir, who sing daily during choral services. And that makes sense because quire is just another spelling for choir. Other stalls in here are for clergy. There is a black and white checkered floor that dates to 1677. Another famous person interred here is Geoffrey Chaucer and his burial would be the start of Poets' Corner, which houses the burials of other poets, writers and musicians like William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling and Thomas Hardy who Diane has an affinity for. Abolitionist William Wilberforce was buried here in 1833 and Charles Darwin was buried here in 1882. Stephen Hawking's ashes were interred on June 15, 2018. The majority of interments at the Abbey are of cremated remains. The Deans of Westminster decide who gets buried. There are also memorials dedicated to C.S. Lewis, Sir Winston Churchill and President F.D. Roosevelt. The western window is stained glass featuring Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and fourteen prophets. There are beautiful Waterford crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and glass doors were installed in 1990 and have various inscriptions and shields.

Clearly, Westminster Abbey is not only a location of significant historical value, but this is a graveyard. A burial ground for well known creators and royalty. So it's not surprising there are many ghost stories to go with this location. John Bradshaw presided at the trial of King Charles I and ordered his execution. He was buried here and his spirit is probably at unrest because of something King Charles II did. He disinterred the bodies of all those responsible for the death of Monarchs and Bradshaw was one of those people. His decomposing body was taken to the Tyburn Gallows and hung up. His head came off and stuck on a spike outside of Westminster Hall to serve as a warning. People claim to see him walking Westminster Abbey's Triforium where he had an office. This usually takes place on the anniversary of Charles I execution.

There is a statue of Daniel Pulteney in the South Cloisters that is holding a book and visitors sometimes think they see it turn a page.There is a Tomb to the Unknown Warrior here. This is dedicated to soldiers who died during World War I and was dedicated on November 11, 1920. An unidentified soldier was given a royal funeral and buried beneath a marble stone from Belgium. Soil was brought from the battlefields of France as well. Visitors have sometimes spotted a see-through soldier standing near the tomb with his head bowed before he dematerializes. 

One of the specters that has been seen here many times belongs to Father Benedictus. He was a monk and even though he is now a spirit, many people think he is still alive because he appears very solid and carries on conversations. Many times he is seen floating off the ground and that is for a good reason. Over time, the floor of the abbey has lowered, so it Father Benedictus is walking on where the floor had originally been. He usually appears in the evenings around five or six. One of the first recorded interactions with the monk came in 1900 and the story goes that a group of visitors saw him and watched him for twenty-five minutes before he backed into a wall and disappeared into the fabric there. Two Americans were visiting the abbey in 1932 when they got lost. It was close to closing time and they feared they wouldn't be able to work their way back out of the hallways when they ran into a helpful monk. He helped them find their way and told them he was Father Benedictus as they left. The next day they decided to return to thank him for his help and when they asked after him they were told that no monks were living in the Abbey.

A woman named Lilian Carpenter was in the Abbey one evening when she saw the solitary figure of someone in the robe of a Benedictine monk. He had his head bowed as he walked as though in prayer and she immediately wondered if this was the ghost she had heard about because no Benedictine monks should be here. The spirit made its way through the deanery and into the Nave before passing under the organ screen. Lilian followed it and saw it go into the Quire and as it entered a stall, it faded away. In the Quire, she knew she had seen a spirit because the figure was floating eighteen inches above the black and white pavement. The floor hadn't been at that height since the Reformation.

The On The Tudor Trail Blog shared an experience a reader named Katherine had here in 2009, "I had gotten there early and had to wait about half an hour. Eventually they opened. I paid my admission fee and was actually the first visitor in that morning. Those who have been there know you enter through the north transept door and are kind of channeled around up through Henry VII’s Chapel, back down again, out through the cloisters, then back through the nave and out the west door. I usually just follow the flow as it goes to all the places I want to go to anyway. That morning though I wanted to see Frances Brandon Grey’s tomb. She is buried in St. Edmund’s Chapel on the south side of the Abbey, just east of the south transept. I had found the tomb on a previous visit, but had neglected to write down the inscription on it. I decided to do that first, so I went directly there. St. Edmund’s Chapel is very small and nobody famous (e.g. anybody whose name would be known to the general public) is buried in it. Like most Abbey chapels, it has gates that can be shut to close the chapel. The best way I can describe the gates is that they look like the saloon doors in every western movie you’ve ever seen — two small doors that could pushed open to enter. Unlike the saloon doors though, they aren’t on springs. Instead they could be pushed all the way back to lock on the wall so they would stay opened. When I got there, they were already open. I found Frances’s tomb again against the far wall of the chapel from the doors, wrote down the inscription, and then spent some time studying the decoration and design. I was there for maybe 10 minutes total. During that time I believe only two people came in. Both stayed only seconds before wandering out again. When I was ready to leave, I turned around to walk to the door and noticed that the gate that was closest to me was closed. And even as I watched, the other gate lifted up from the wall and very slowly started closing! I was too astounded by this to even move. I just stood and stared at it for about fifteen seconds or so until it was completely closed. The hair on the back of my neck and on my arms was standing up. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so creeped out by anything in my life. Finally I scooted over to the gates and pulled them both open. Fortunately they weren’t locked — I’m sure I would have screamed bloody murder if they had been! I wasn’t about to stay around long enough to try to lock the doors back in place. I just rushed out and made sure I didn’t go near there again during that visit. I can’t say I really believe in ghosts. I’m pretty much an open-minded skeptic on the subject. But I did make sure before I left the Abbey to stop and light a candle for poor Frances. I doubt she gets many visitors."

Leah and Liz's experiences: "My twin sister and I are definite believers of the paranormal, with my sister being more of an empath than I, but it doesn’t make me any less of an enthusiast. We visited England and Scotland back in March 2017. This was the first time we had ever been overseas, and man, was this the trip of a lifetime. We got to visit so many beautiful palaces and castles during our trip, including Hampton Court and Westminster Abbey. While we were visiting Westminster Abbey, (which by the way, is MIND BLOWING!) we were walking down to the older portion of the abbey and walked into what used to be a prayer room/classroom and my sister instantly felt a presence. A very OLD presence. She said it was probably the oldest spirit she’d ever encountered, older than old from her words. She felt a sense of immense peace and clarity in that moment, and she said, "It’s a monk. It’s definitely a monk.'"

We love it when listeners have personal experiences at some of these historical locations that we feature because it makes the ghost stories more real. Many people have had unexplained experiences here. Is Westminster Abbey haunted? That is for you to decide!