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!

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