Thursday, September 23, 2021

HGB Ep. 403 - Butterworth Building

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Moment in Oddity - The Devil of Scott County (Suggested by: The haunted Scott County Jail in Tennessee)

The town of Helenwood got its name from a tragedy. In 1935, the town suffered a horrific explosion and the townspeople referred to it as "Hell in the woods" and that name stuck and became Helenwood. This name seems oddly appropriate since the Devil came to Helenwood and Scott County in the 1920s. Cruis Sexton was a resident of Scott County who had recently come back from China. He had been fascinated by the statues he saw in China and decided to build his own. He found some clay near an abandoned coal mine and he started building a demon-like statue that was taller than any man and very detailed with horns, the muscles were outlined and there was a chain from an arm to a leg. Sexton's mother soon found out what he was doing and after the man moved the statue to a relatives house, word started to spread that the Devil was in Helenwood. So many people wanted to see the Devil that Sexton and his relative set the statue in a massive coffin and took it to the railroad station. People came from all around the country to see it. They paid 25 cents for a 20-minute view. Some people fainted at the sight of the creature. The Devil eventually ended up getting sold to the World's Fair. The Devil of Scott County certainly was odd!

This Month in History - Washington Lays Capitol Cornerstone

In the month of September, on the 18th, in 1793, George Washington laid the cornerstone for the Capitol. The United States had no official capital building as a new country and members of Congress had met in eight different cities. Washington probably had no idea that the building would take a century to build and that he would feature in the center of the dome rotunda with Constantino Brumidi's The Apotheosis of Washington. This is a weird and highly symbolic artistic rendering of Washington rising to the heavens in glory surrounded by the gods of mythology. The dome was made from cast iron. The original design was created by Scotsman William Thornton, but a series of project managers and architects would work on the capitol through the decades. Some people may not realize that the Capitol's dome is meant to serve as the womb to the Washington Monument's phallic symbol and that it was inspired by the way the Vatican is set up. The cornerstone laying ceremony was headed by the Masons of which Washington was a member and he wore full Masonic regalia. Many people probably also do not know that the building was going to be called the Congress House, but Thomas Jefferson insisted on calling it the Capitol after the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus on Capitoline Hill, one of the seven hills of Rome. That's why you sometimes hear the Capitol referred to as the Temple of Democracy. And now all state's have a capitol too.

Butterworth Building

The Butterworth Building in Seattle, Washington is home to Kells Irish Restaurant & Pub. This building had once been home to a mortuary and the man who built and ran that is credited with creating the terms mortuary and mortician. Nearly all of Seattle's dead at that time passed through the doors here and with that many dead bodies, there is little surprise that this building has many ghost stories connected to it. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Butterworth Building!

The Butterworth Building is uniquely designed because it is on a hill. The part of the building on First Avenue has three stories while the side on Post Alley has five stories. To us, the building almost looks like it is squeezed between two other large and taller buildings. The building is close enough to Pikes Place Market that it is included in that historic district. There is a great history here for us HGB people. We love our cemeteries and mortuaries. And this building was specifically built to be a mortuary. How lovely is that? Edgar Ray Butterworth had the building made and he was the first mortician and this guy is going to be fascinating to talk about because he never meant to be an undertaker.

E. R. Butterworth was born in the Boston suburbs in 1847 and as a teenager worked as a hatter there. Then he studied law. With that start, no one would think he would end up as a cattleman in Kansas, but that is what happened. While in Kansas, he met up with a settler whose wife and newborn baby had just died. The settler needed to make a coffin, but there was no lumber around. Butterworth tore wood off of his own wagon and fashioned a coffin for the man. In 1881, Edgar moved on to Washington and found that this was not a place for cattle, so he built a steam-powered flour mill. He and his family, which consisted of his second wife - the first died in childbirth - and a son, moved to Centralia, Washington. Butterworth started a furniture shop and got involved with politics serving as mayor and then in the state legislature. Then an epidemic of black diphtheria hit and Butterworth was called into action with building coffins and his life as an undertaker was under way.   

Seattle had a problem with bodies piling up from mining accidents, epidemics of diphtheria, tuberculosis and Spanish Flu, crime and poor sanitation. The situation was so dire that bodies would regularly just appear on the streets of Seattle and the city issued a standing offer to any undertakers that they would be paid $50 for each body they took off the street. Call this a morbid community clean-up program. Butterworth had relocated to Seattle and he saw a real opportunity here because he already been offering coffins through his furniture business. He purchased a controlling interest in the Cross & Co. Undertakers that was located in the Masonic Temple on the northeast corner of Second Avenue and Pike street and had five of his sons join him in business. These would be Gilbert Butterworth and his half-brothers Charles Norwood Butterworth, Frederick Ray Butterworth, Harry Edgar Butterworth, and Benjamin Kent Butterworth. Butterworth named the business E. R. Butterworth & Sons. There are claims that Butterworth would pocket half of the $50 for every body brought to his mortuary, if a regular citizen brought the body in and there are even claims that there was some kind of undertaker race that the Butterworths took part in as they tried to be the first to get to all the dead bodies. Descendants say that any claims of corruption are just wrong.

Butterworth decided he needed to build a bigger location specifically made to handle the dead, so in 1903 he hired English architect John Graham. Graham's firm would go on to build the Space Needle. For this project, he designed a five-story building with a chapel that could hold up to 200 people, a casket showroom, a crematorium, a columbarium and the very first elevator on the West Coast. It took eight design changes before Butterworth saw what would become his perfect palace of death that he would later dub a mortuary. The building was built in the Beaux Arts architectural style of the era and featured four sculpted lion heads on the facade and the inside had lavish embellishments of bronze, mahogany, brass, stained glass, Flemish oak and Victorian filigree. The bottom floor held the horses and hearses and was level with Post Alley, so that the moving of bodies was discreet. The heating plant for the building was located here too. The first floor was above the grade of Post Alley, but still below the First Avenue grade and this had what they called the "stock room." There were fireproof vaults here for storing bodies. This was the first time Seattle had a place to properly store the dead while families made decisions about what they wanted to do as a memorial for their family member. 

The main floor faced First Avenue and had the chapel complete with a choir balcony, an embalming room, morgues, private offices and a storage room with flourish items like pedestals, canopies and laying-out beds. There was a private room for clergy and family to meet as well. A best show room featured the high end caskets that could cost as much as $890, which was pretty expensive for that time. The upper floor had three flats for employees to live in and right below them was the main showroom. On this floor, there were women's burial garments, a consulting room, a showroom for child coffins and a private reception. The variety in burial clothing and coffins revealed that this was a mortuary for everyone in the city, whether they were poor or rich. And Butterworth & Sons was the main mortuary for everyone in the city. Some of the bodies that came through here reputedly belonged to victims of Doctor Linda Hazzard who we covered on our episode about Starvation Heights. She starved her patients to death. There is a scandal connected here because Butterworth cremated the emaciated body of Claire Williamson quickly and presented a different body at the funeral. The mortuary had also picked up the body without a license and one of the employees plead guilty to that charge. The Butterworths were never charged with any wrong doing, but people in town did whisper and despite E.R.'s protests, papers claimed they were friends with Hazzard.

The Butterworths revolutionized the funeral business and introduced many of the rites that we still carry on today. Funeral packages included transporting of the body via a hearse service; washing, embalming and dressing the body; publishing death notices; providing flowers; a choir and musicians; burial permits and an air-sealed vault. Everybody in town seemed to love the Butterworths and there were always plenty of handshakes and pats on the back when they walked the streets. They were a part of the elite class of Seattle, members of the Masonic order and regulars at the Arctic Club, which was a cognac-sipping and cigar-smoking salon where the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition was planned. This club is today a DoubleTree Hotel by Hilton, but it still features the walrus head carvings that decorate the outside. And wouldn't you know, this place is supposedly haunted. The Arctic Club was started by two men who made their fortunes during the Yukon Gold Rush. This would become a club where adventurers traveling to and from Alaska could stop in to drink and share their stories. Later, the offices of congressman Marion Zioncheck would be here and this guy was quite the character, given to outrageous antics and even some mental health breakdowns, the last of which led to him leaping to his death from the fifth floor. His spirit is said to haunt the building now. People feel cold spots, hear a disembodied male voice and disembodied footsteps. And the elevator can be erratic and likes to stop on the fifth floor even when nobody has pushed that button. Some people even claim to see the residual body of Zioncheck on the street.

Gilbert and Frederick would continue on in the business after the passing of their father and several of their own sons joined them in the business. The Butterworth Building would lose its death anchor in 1923 though, when the business moved to a different building on Melrose. This had more room. The former chapel at the mortuary hosted the second funeral of Bruce Lee and would go on to become the Chapel Bar and then The Pine Box Bar. This location is apparently haunted by to ghosts: an angry older man and a little girl. White Noise Paranormal investigated in 2013 and they caught an EVP of a little girl asking, "We're asleep?" and a whispered, "Go home." And they heard an audible "no." A chain mechanism that was installed in the basement was attached with a screw that takes 47 turns to get it to come free and one night the staff heard it crash to the floor. They have no idea how it came undone, but when they counted to see how many turns it took to release they were blown away wondering how a ghost managed to do that.

The Butterworth Building now no longer was a mortuary and ownership gets a bit murky. Unfortunately, much of the interior was lost over time. On the first floor where the old chapel and mortuary office once was, there was a restaurant here for a bit called Cafe Sophie owned by Scott and Sue Craig that lasted until 1997 and then a restaurant called Avenue One owned by Arnie Millan was here from 1997 to 2002 and then a Chinese Restaurant owned by John David Crow called Fire and Ice Lounge, which opened in 2003 and finally the Starlite Lounge was here until 2007. Restaurants had a hard time staying in this space. Patrick McAleese and his sister Karen opened Kells Irish Restaurant and Pub in 1983 in the basement, which has managed to stay here through the decades. The stock room is used as a private banquet room. Word is that this pub holds the city’s largest collection of single malt scotch. Throughout their time here, they have done a lot of renovations which stirred up activity. During one period of renovation, Kells lost their construction permit because construction was going on in the building at 4am. Karen explained that it was just the ghosts and the city responded by taking their permit away for a year.

It is not surprising that a former mortuary has ghost stories. There are at least two spirits in the building according to most employees and patrons. One is a little girl who appears to be eight-years-old with long red hair. She seems to like to play, but this playing usually comes off as pranks. She is most active during the day when there are other kids in the restaurant and she likes Irish music and appears when that is playing. It is believed that she died during the 1918 influenza outbreak. One reason people believe that is because the paranormal activity here seems to ramp up in November and it was during November of 1918 that the flu hit Seattle especially hard. 

The other ghost is thought to be male and has the name Charlie or according to another account we read, Sammy. Charlie seems to be attached to a mirror for Guinness beer. He'll show up in the mirror and then quickly disappear. He is always wearing a derby hat. Some say that you'll see him in the mirror looking right at you and then he'll vanish and then if you look away and then look back again, his visage reappears and this time he will be smiling at you. He can leave the mirror too though because musicians claim he is more active when live music is being played and they have witnessed his dark shadow near the stage.

Sue Craig from Cafe Sophie once saw shoes in a stall in the bathroom that disappeared. Arnie Milan of Avenue One said, "Two wine bottles flying off the rack, narrowly missing a manager’s head. A long-missing vase inexplicably placed on a window table that had just been set; a diner who fled after he was sure he saw an old woman hugging a shawl disappear into a wall." When the Fire and Ice Lounge was here, Crow claims that he watched a hanger straighten itself and then rock like a seesaw on a door handle. The wife of his business partner was in the restaurant late at night and she heard a door shaking. She went to the door and put her hand on the door and it stopped shaking. When she pulled her hand away, it started shaking again. Crow decided to call in a Shaman and the Shaman claimed there were 19 ghosts in the building. The Shaman blessing did little to help. A pastry chef was working at 2am and witnessed a female apparition in an "unearthly white linen dress" float by. A restaurant manager claimed to see the same apparition at a different time. Michelle Mace, a former Fire & Ice manager who worked many late nights, said, "You always feel someone is there and no one is there."

The bartenders at Kells claim to see glasses move across the bar top all on their own and sometimes even slide off, crashing to the floor. Karen McAleese tells a story about a mirror in the bar. They came in to the pub early in the morning and they see the mirror on the floor shattered, but none of the pieces of the mirror had scattered. The mirror was still all together. Karen also said that they were watching security footage one day to see who had gotten into the pub at night. Their camera was motion sensitive and would come on if triggered. It was triggered many times, but they never saw anybody in any of the recorded footage. Karen has seen two full-bodied apparitions. She told the Seattle Times that on All Saint’s Day in 2005 she saw "a tall man who looked like he was part black, with a suit jacket on. He had very thin hands. He walked to the end of the bar and just kind of faded.” And she also saw the little girl. She described her as wearing a red taffeta+ dress carrying a Raggedy Ann type of doll.

A few people have seen hands pressed upon the windows that leave behind dirty hand prints even though there is no person attached to any of this. Mercedes Carraba, had run the Market Ghost Tours and she claimed to have spotted a pair of muddy, dirty hands pressed up in the windows of the First Avenue entrance to the building. Carraba says that area outside of the bar was near a Duwamish burial site and that a 19th-century settler’s graveyard is just a block away and perhaps this spirit is connected to either of those things. The Duwamish were the area's only indigenous tribe. There may be other spirits here though too. After all, how many bodies came through this place? Candles are kept all around a small, ornate whiskey bar in a back corner of the restaurant and they often all light up by themselves. Silverware levitates and a chef who worked at Cafe Sophie claims that he set a knife down on the butcher block and it started spinning around on its own. He took off his apron, threw it on the ground and left, never returning. And the stairs in the back seem to have a lot of activity. People catch orbs and hear disembodied voices. A contractor was once up on a ladder changing a light in the chapel and when he looked down, he witnessed a parade of people walk through the chapel as though it were a funeral procession and then it all just disappeared.

Ghost Adventures investigated the building during Season 4. As happens so often when Zac is interviewing owners, the guys had an experience. Nick Groff was running the camera and he thought he saw a male figure peek out from behind a corner that was down a hallway from where Zac and the owner were standing. They all thought that maybe it was the audio guy until he stepped out from where he was on the other side of a wall, which had no access to where Nick had seen the figure. They captured an EVP that said, "Get off that thing." Zac claimed that some people have seen the ghost of a miner on the upper floor and they used some gold they panned earlier as a trigger object. Nothing really happened with that. Karen joined the guys for an EVP session in the chapel and they captured an EVP that she actually was able to decipher and she thought it said, "Get me outta here."

I watched a video featuring a tour guide who regaled her tour group with a bizarre story. The Fire and Ice Restaurant had signed a seven year lease for the building. They lasted nine months. On their final night of business, something so horrifying happened that the owners ushered the patrons all out of the restaurant while they were still eating and they locked up the doors. People passing by for a time afterward could look in the windows and see the meals still sitting on the tables. Every one, including employees had left the restaurant in a hurry. Mercedes tried to find out what happened and they would not tell her.

Kells looks like a great Irish Pub to hang out at and have a pint and with a great history connected to mortuary history, it's right up our alley. Is the Butterworth Building haunted? That is for you to decide!

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