Thursday, December 30, 2021

HGB Ep. 416 - St Briavels Castle

Moment in Oddity - Great Escaped Snake Scare of 1953 (Suggested by: Tammie Burroughs)

In August of 1953, a homeowner discovered a cobra in their yard in Springfield, Missouri. We can imagine they were pretty shocked because cobras are not naturally found in Missouri. The homeowner used a garden hoe to kill the creature. This wouldn't be too alarming if it was a one-time thing, but the following week, another cobra was found in a yard across the street. This time the police were called and they visited a local pet store to see if they were missing snakes. They said no. But someone was letting snakes go because week after week, snakes showed up in yards. There were at least 11 of them that were killed or captured between August and October. For years, people believed that the pet shop owner was responsible, but he maintained his innocence until the day he died. Then in 1988, a man named Carl Barnett confessed to the Springfield News-Leader: “I’m the one that done it.” He had stolen a crate of snakes from the pet shop when he was fourteen and released them. He said of the incident, “I realized what I’d done, and I was scared to death. Every time someone mentioned the cobras, I just wilted.” The great escaped snake scare of 1953, certainly was odd!

This Month in History - National Hockey League Opens First Season

In the month of December, on the 19th, in 1917, the National Hockey League opened its first season. There had been the National Hockey Association before that time, which started in 1909. Major disputes had forced the association to shut down operations. Hockey was relaunched as the NHL with four teams, all from Canada. Those teams were the Montreal Canadiens, the Montreal Wanderers, the original Ottawa Senators, and the Toronto Arenas. The Wanderers and Arenas played the very first game under the NHL with the Wanderers winning 10-9. Fifteen minutes later, the Senators and Canadiens began their game with the Canadiens winning 7-4. So the Montreal teams won the first two NHL games played. Only three teams made it all the way to the end of the season. The fourth had their arena burn down. There was another league called Pacific Coast Hockey Association at this time and the champions of each league played in the Stanley Cup finals. This makes the NHL over 100 years old.

St Briavels Castle

St Briavels Castle dates back to 1075 and is located in Gloucestershire, England. This isn't one of those grand and beautiful castles that Britain is known for, but it has an important place in history, serving as a hunting lodge for King John and a debtors' prison. Today, it is a Youth Hostel. And this castle is believed to be one of the most haunted castles in Britain. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of St Briavels Castle!

The Forest of Dean is a geographic and cultural region in western Gloucestershire bounded by the rivers Wye and Severn. This is one of the few surviving woodlands in Britain. Origin of the name is unknown with some historians claiming that it is Welsh and others that is represents a term meaning "land of the Danes" after Vikings came into the area. It was on the western edge of the Forest of Dean that St Briavels Castle was built. There was already a small village here before the castle was erected. It was a strategic position above the River Wye. Local limestone and red sandstone were used in the construction, which began in 1075. The castle was completed in 1129 and is a typical moated Norman castle that was fed water from a spring underneath the moat.

The castle keep was a square Norman design erected on a motte of stone and clay and was originally wood. As listeners know by now, this design was for defense putting a castle above the area where people would live. The bailey area was surrounded by a stone curtain wall. Many early elements no longer exist, but historians believe that there was a forge building, a gateway on a south wall and a small round tower on the south-east corner. The original hall and solar two-story building still stands as does a chapel built in the 14th century. The gatehouse is massive, flanked by two D-shaped towers and protected by three sets of portcullises, which are basically sliding gates. Those gates are usually latticed grille made of wood and/or metal. There was a drawbridge at this gate as well.

The royal custodians or bailiffs of the Forest of Dean were in possession of the land and they started the castle after a royal mandate to build one was issued. The Sheriff of Gloucester and his sons were overseers of the castle and used it for administrative purposes rather than defense. The civil war of the Anarchy started in 1138 and it was at this time that Miles de Gloucester, the son of the Sheriff was formally granted St Briavels Castle by Empress Matilda, daughter of King Henry I, and she confirmed him as the Earl of Hereford. Miles' son Roger Fitzmiles held the castle until the reign of Henry II and then the King took the castle and rebuilt parts of it, in particular, the wooden keep was rebuilt from stone.

One of the reasons the King wanted this castle was because of its location to the forest. This would give him access to an incredible hunting ground. But it was more than that. The forest provided charcoal and iron and this made the castle a metalworking center. King Henry II alone acquired 1,000 picks, 100 axes, 60,000 nails and 2,000 shovels from the work done at the castle. King John used the castle extensively as his headquarters for hunting. He had several buildings erected inside the bailey to be used as a lodge. It would also be at this time in the 1200s that the castle would start serving as a prison. Peasants who poached wildlife or did illegal wood-cutting would be hit with stiff fines and when they couldn't pay, it was off to the prison with them.

After King John's death, the castle became known for another specialty. So we finally have started binging The Walking Dead and we learned something about crossbows that we didn't know before. We thought you just called the projectiles arrows because that's what they are called with bows. Daryl points out that his crossbow shoots bolts. These bolts are also known as quarrel and the castle became a manufacturing hub for quarrel because the crossbow had just become really popular. We're sure when Richard I made this the favored weapon of the land, he had no idea how important the crossbow would become for killing zombies.

Hugh Despenser the Younger was placed in charge of the castle in the 1300s. The Despensers brought a harsh rule with them, but Edward II backed them. This would be his downfall because his wife, Isabella of France, deposed him and the Despensers. Isabella was known as the She-Wolf of France and she hated Hugh Despenser. Some believe she arranged to have Edward II murdered. She took the castle and held it until her son, Edward III overthrew her in 1330. The castle would spend the 1400s bouncing between ownership by the Duke of Bedford, the Duke of Warwick, William Herbert, Earl of Warwick, the 16th Countess of Warwick and finally Thomas Baynham. Then the castle went into decline.

Through the 18th and 19th century, there were many changes made with several buildings being knocked down. The keep fell apart. The castle was used after that point as mostly a court and prison. Most of those kept here were debtors until the Debtors' Act of 1869. The prison was not a place anyone wanted to be with no fresh water or firewood or exercise. Most people were here due to very small debts. They only got food if family or friends brought it to them and the constable charged prisoners a shilling a week for a bed. People used to say of the castle that it was "patched and cobbled like a worn-out shoe." The prison closed in 1842 and a school was run at the castle for a time.

In 1906, the buildings were renovated so that the castle could be used for habitation. In 1948, St Briavels Castle became a Youth Hostel and it remains so still with 9 rooms, two of which are dormitories. The moat was filled and turned into a garden. The Solar was named King John’s Bedroom in his honor. Inside is a huge fireplace that features notches in the stone. It is said those were made every time someone was sentenced to death because the room had been a courtroom at one time. A fun tradition is carried on at the castle every Whit Sunday. That is Pentecost for Christians. On that day, locals dress in medieval costumes for St Briavels Bread and Cheese Dole. A Dole Claimer would pay a penny to the Earl of Hereford so they could gather firewood from the Hudnalls Wood in the past. Today, bread and cheese is blessed by the vicar and then tossed from the wall for the Dole Claimers to collect. The villagers believe these pieces are imbued with magical properties and good luck. Upturned umbrellas are often used to make the catching easier.

And then there's the ghosts. We did say that this is thought to be one of the most haunted castles in Britain. Many of the rooms have apparitions and strange things hanging around. There have been many times that people have not stayed for the whole night. The castle keep no longer stands, but the area where it once was has a resident spirit. This ghost wears a full suit of armor and usually appears at night. Once people see it, the spirit disappears. The top corridor has a lady in grey that is often seen gliding up there. 

The Constables Room leaves guests feeling lightheaded. Perhaps it is the phantom smell in here that gets them. Some guests have had the pleasure of smelling a strong putrid odor that comes on very suddenly. Sound sleep is difficult because the beds will sometimes vibrate. And the door swung open by itself once so violently, that it tore off its hinges. Maybe we should call this the Exorcist Room? The Chaplains Room isn't much better. There are unexplained flashes of light and big orbs that appear in the room. Several dark figures hang out in the room and often block the doorway. The beds sometimes move and people see indentations on them occasionally as though a spirit is sitting on them. People have also been touched in this room.

The Old Debtors Prison Room has disembodied whispering. There is also a dog growling that is heard and that is probably from a big black dog that manifests and roams about this part of the castle. A poltergeist in the room moves the furniture around and something likes to grab people roughly by the arm. Perhaps an old prison guard trying to lead them somewhere? The Porters Lodge is behind the kitchen and has had the odd occurrence of a misty form that hangs around the front of the fireplace. Guests also claim to hear dragging noises. The State Apartment is in the oldest part of the castle and features disembodied footsteps and a shadow entity that walks across the room. Someone also saw the apparition of a little girl dressed in white standing in here. The sounds of loud banging and scratching have also been reported, as well as violin music.

The most haunted area is King John's Bedroom. Many people who are staying in this room complain about hearing an unseen baby crying. The source of the sound was found one day when a worker was cleaning a chimney. The remains of an infant were found wrapped and tucked away in a niche in the chimney. The baby was thought to be have died centuries ago. The remains were given a proper burial. This was related to a bizarre custom we had not heard of before. Apparently, there were some who believed that evil spirits could get into homes through chimneys. If a baby passed away, the corpse would be put in a special niche of the chimney because it was thought the purity of a baby would keep the evil spirits out. Supposedly the recess was made specifically for this purpose.

There is a room called the Hanging Room. This is where those who were sentenced to die were left to await that fate. People often feel as though their throats are closing up in here. This even comes across like a gripping sensation around the throat. The scariest thing in this room is a large black mass. It likes to block people from leaving the room. People who try to get past the mass are usually given a sudden, violent shove. And remember that haunted college we talked about on an episode where they heard the sound of marbles dropping above them in two different locations? Well, this room features something that sounds like dropping and rolling marbles. Muttering, humming and crashing sounds also manifest.

The Guard Room is one of the dormitories. It is in here that people see the Praying Woman. She is dressed in peasant's robes that are dirty and tattered. She's called the Praying Woman because she walks from the doorway to the middle of the room facing the back window and kneels down as though in prayer and then she gets up after a few moments and walks straight out of the window. Prisoners were hanged out of that window in front of the crowds.

Like most castles, this one had an oubliette. Some captives were thrown down here and left to die. The room above this dungeon is called the Oubliette Room and a rug conceals the wooden trap door leading to the oubliette. People in this room have felt things tugging at their clothes. And several guests have been awakened when their blankets are yanked off them and thrown across the room. One man reported being pinned to his bed by something he couldn't see.

Chris Andrews, a manager at the castle, told Spooky Isles that he was doing his final checks one night around five in the evening. It was dark outside already. He could see the curtains swaying dramatically as though a strong wind was blowing. But there was no open door or window and no breeze coming from anywhere. When he went near the curtains, he felt something brush by his arm. He also heard the latch on a door rattle five times in a row when no one else was in the castle.

Castles always have a creepy vibe to them. St Briavels Castle has more than just a vibe to it. There seems to be a lot of activity going on here. One night in this hostel may be all a guest can take. Is St Briavels Castle haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, December 23, 2021

HGB Ep. 415 - The Ramsey House

Moment in Oddity -The Great Windham Frog Fight (Suggested by: Bill Richardson)

In May of 1754, the French and Indian War broke out and tensions were running high all throughout New England. That summer, something peculiar occurred in the town of Windham, Connecticut. In the middle of the night, residents were awakened by a horrifying scream. Not just a scream. A shrieking roar. There were many voices in the sound. Some thought it was an attacking group of Native Americans. Others thought enemy forces were coming. Windham's militia leader, Eliphalet Dyer, called the militia to form. They fired their muskets into the darkness until daylight broke. Then a scouting group was sent out to see how successful they had been. What they found were hundreds of bullfrog bodies laying belly up everywhere. A large group of bullfrogs had descended on a large puddle, which is all that remained of a pond on Dyer's property. The people of Windham realized that the cries they heard were bullfrogs crying out for water. The incident is known as the Great Windham Frog Fight. Three ballads were written about it and even an operetta was performed in 1888. The Windham Bank even issued banknotes with an image of a frog standing over the body of another frog and that, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Guess Who's Coming to Dinner Debuts

In the month of December, on the 12th, in 1967, the movie "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" debuted. The movie starred Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy as the parents of Katharine Houghton's character, Joanna Drayton. This was the last film Hepburn and Tracy made together. It was a pivotal film for its time because it showcased an interracial couple in a positive light. This was a romantic comedy-drama from director Stanley Kramer and Sidney Poitier starred as Joanna's fiance. In 1967, interracial marriage was still illegal in 17 states until the Supreme Court passed anti-miscegenation in June of that year. In 2017, the film was added to the National Film Registry as being culturally, historically and aesthetically significant. Joanna's parents disagreed with each other about how they felt about the relationship. Poitier's character tells the  parents he will leave the relationship unless the couple gives their blessing. Joanna invites her future in-laws to dinner and they are shocked to find out that their son is engaged to a white woman. In the end, both sets of parents support the marriage.

 The Ramsey House (Suggested by: Tammie Burroughs)

The Ramsey House has also been known as Swan Pond and is located in Knoxville, Tennessee. It was built by a prominent man in the town, Colonel Francis Alexander Ramsey in the late 1700s. The house has a unique stone look to it and was the main home on a plantation that was held by the Ramseys until the Civil War. Today, it is a historic museum on 101 acres that includes gardens and a visitor center. And apparently this is still home to several family members in the afterlife. Join us for the history and hauntings of the Ramsey House!

Knoxville, Tennessee is located at the headwaters of the Tennessee River in the heart of the Great Valley of East Tennessee that was once the hunting grounds of the Cherokees. A burial mound is evidence of an even earlier indigineous group James White founded the town in 1786 and he built several cabins and a fort he named White's Fort. The Knoxville name came in 1791 and the city grew quickly becoming the first capitol of Tennessee. Early on the town had seven taverns and no church, so that tells you a little something about how raucous it could get around there. The railroad and river made Knoxville into a distribution center. The city found itself split during the Civil War and was occupied at different times by both the Confederacy and the Union. The University of Tennessee was founded here as well, starting as Blount College. Francis Ramsey would move here and build his home.

Francis Alexander Ramsey was of Scotch-Irish decent and was born in Pennsylvania in 1764. He joined the cause during the Revolutionary War, fighting alongside General George Washington and working his way up to Colonel. When he was nineteen, he set his sights on East Tennessee and relocated to Greene County. Ramsey joined an exploration group that included James White to search out new areas of settlement and he helped found Knoxville. On one of the trips to the area, Ramsey found a pond that had been dammed by a beaver and it was full of fish. He named the pond Swan Pond and asked for a land grant in 1786. He served as an official with the early State of Franklin that failed in 1788. Ramsey would continue his work in the government of the Southwest Territory and the State of Tennessee, which earned statehood in 1796. 

In 1789, Ramsey married Margaret McKnitt Alexander, whom everybody called Peggy. In 1792, he decided it was time to move Peggy and their children to Swan Pond and they built a log cabin to live in while the mansion was being constructed. The mansion was completed in 1797. During the construction, Ramsey had the pond drained because he was worried about malaria. Possibly a bit of precognition because malaria would be what eventually took his life. Architect Thomas Hope designed the house. Construction began in 1795 and local pink marble was combined with blueish-gray limestone was used as the main material. The house is two stories and done in the Late Georgian style. This included hand-carved cornices and window arches that have nine narrow stones each. The kitchen is attached to the main house via a dogtrot, which is a breezeway between two wings of a house. The house has six fireplaces, but only three chimneys. This was the first house in Tennessee to have an attached kitchen.

The interior is similar to many historic mansions with a front door that opens into a hallway with a dining room on one side of the hallway and a parlor/library on the other side. There are two bedrooms on the second floor and mysteriously, there is another door on the second floor that is an entrance. There are two stories on the kitchen wing. We don't know this for certain, but the house slaves probably lived on the second floor of the kitchen wing. The Ramsey slaves didn't work the land. They had indentured servants from the North for that. 

Peggy didn't get to enjoy the house for long. She died in 1805 at the age of thirty-nine. In 1806, Francis married his second wife Ann Agnew Ramsey. She died in 1816. In 1820, he married for the third time to a woman named Margaret Christian Russell. This was also her third marriage. Francis died that same year from malaria. Five months after his death, Margaret gave birth to their son, Francis Alexander Ramsey, Jr. Ramsey had three other children that made it to adulthood: James Getty McCready, William Baine Alexander and Eliza Jane. Another son, who had also been named William Baine, died when he was eight years old. Eliza Jane became one of the few women in the area to be college educated. William became Knoxville mayor and later the Secretary of State. 

James became a doctor and wrote “The Annals of Tennessee,” which was a historical documentation of the state’s early years. He also founded the East Tennessee Historical Society and established the region's first medical society. James also got into banking and became president of the Bank of East Tennessee. It was in this position that James got into some trouble. Parson Brownlow was publisher of the Knoxville newspaper and he accused the bank's directors of defrauding clients of the bank. He also accused James' son John of creating false pension funds for employees and Brownlow described him as "a few degrees removed from an idiot." The accusations really hurt the family and cost James' son the district's Congressional seat.

James and William both lived in the house at various times up until the Civil War. They supported the Confederate cause and when the Union took the city of Knoxville, they burned James' house, Mecklenburg. It is believed that Brownlow convinced the Union to do this. He not only was a anti-secessionist, but James' son John had Brownlow arrested on charges of conspiracy to burn railroad bridges and he pushed for him to be hanged. The Confederate Army was worried about backlash, so they didn't do that. After James' house was burned, he lost his spirit and the Ramsey family left the city for South Carolina. The Ramsey House was sold in 1866 by a Ramsey grandson, who shared the same name as his grandfather, to a man named William Spurgien. The house started to fall into disrepair after that. In 1927, the Bonnie Kate Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution placed a historical marker at the Ramsey House in honor of it being James Ramsey's birthplace. The Historic American Buildings Survey documented the house for a decade. Despite this attention, it wouldn't be until 1952 that the Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities would purchase the house.

The APTA began the process of restoring the house. They started with the windows and roof and then restored everthing else to its former glory. They also hauled an old log cabin onto the property to represent the first Ramsey home. They filled the house with period furnishings that included two original Chippendale chairs given to Francis Alexander Ramsey and his wife, Peggy, as a wedding present. In 1969, the house was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Today, it is a museum that also hosts weddings and other events. 

At Halloween, the house has hosted an event called "The Spirits Within." And for good reason because apparently this house is haunted. There are stories of a Revolutionary soldier walking by a window and members of the Ramsey household continue to live here in the afterlife. The house was formally investigated and had a documentary produced about the findings. This investigation took place in May of 2013. J-Adam Smith and Lindsey Whatley of Haunted Knoxville Ghost Tours conducted the paranormal investigation and Patrick Watson of Mapletree Productions produced the documentary. It is called, "Historic Hauntings - A Paranormal Study of Ramsey House." The film features Smith and Whatley communicating with spirits in the second-floor master bedroom with a flashlight. They ask the spirits to turn on the flashlight and it blinks several times on its own. They also play several EVP that they captured. 

Kelley Weatherly Sinclair was the Executive Director in the house in 2019 when WATE 6 visited for a Halloween segment. She told the reporter that they have experienced many things in the house. "It can be anywhere from seeing a shadow walk by to hearing footsteps. There are several that we think we have identified. One is Billy, the 8 year-old. Another is Anne, Francis' second wife. Another we think is Reynolds and another one is Seth. And those are all different walks of life: a child, a mother, a grandfather and we think one of the slaves that was here."

Sue Jones was a museum assistant and she said, "I heard the guy in the other room go, 'Oh my.' I go 'What's the matter?' 'Well, somebody just swore at me.' I said, 'Oh that's just Seth. Don't worry about it.' So we go, 'Seth, what do you want?' And the box said 'stairs' so we all go over to the stairs." Those stairs are the ones that lead up to a dormitory, but no one ever goes up there anymore. The door there will shut on its own and Seth has something to say. Jones also said that Billy has occasionally tapped her on the arm to let her know he is there.

Cars driving past the house when it is closed have called saying that they think someone has broken in because they'll see a figure looking out of a window. After the security company received calls four times for the same thing and each time finding nothing and no one at the house, everyone finally had to admit it was a spirit. The spirit is described as a tall, thin woman with her hair up in a bun. They believe this is the second wife of Colonel Ramsey, Anne. There are also descriptions of a woman in black looking out a window. Not sure if this is the same entity.

The Ramsey House is a very unique looking home. A definite one-of-a-kind. Is the Ramsey House haunted? That is for you to decide!

Another interesting haunted location in Knoxville is a bridge. This isn't like the Cry Baby Bridges all over the country. The Gay Street Bridge crosses the Tennessee River. It was completed in 1898 and is the oldest vehicle bridge in the city. The bridge was designed by Chief Engineer Charles E. Fowler with a steel spandrel-braced arch and a concrete deck. The deck is 42 feet wide with two vehicle lanes, although when it was first installed, it had trolley tracks. Those were removed in 1938. This was a challenging spot for a bridge. There had been four other bridges here previously: a temporary pontoon bridge, a stone bridge washed away by a flood, a covered bridge blown down by a tornado and a wooden Howe truss bridge that was demolished when the Gay Street Bridge was completed. During the construction of the final bridge, the plans had to be altered because getting materials was hard during the Spanish-American War. Major repairs were performed from 2002 until 2004.

One of those repairs was to the electrical system on the bridge because it seemed something was haunting the bridge. The story goes that in 1815, on one of the previous bridges, a man was running from a lynch mob. We're not sure what he did, but he ended up falling off the bridge. And for that reason, he haunts the bridge and usually shows his presence by playing with the electricity. The third light on the bridge has continually gone out for over one hundred years. The city has tried different methods to keep the light from going out, but nothing has ever worked. They rewired everything when they made the major repairs, but it still goes out to this day and even when it doesn't go out, it flickers.  The light likes to flicker especially when tours go by and talk about it. 

And not too far from the bridge is Knoxville's City County Building. The structure is located at 400 Main Street. Knoxville was a rough city at one time and the Old City area was full of saloons, brothels and crime. The area where the building sits was once the site of hangings. That past has left a residue. People see shadows around the building and doors inside the building slam open and closed on their own. Disembodied footsteps are heard. It's unnerving enough that people dislike working there at night. 

Haunted Knoxville Ghost Tours

Thursday, December 16, 2021

HGB Ep. 414 - Haunted Petersburg, Virginia

Moment in Oddity - The Highest Court in the Land (Suggested by: John Michaels)

If you were asked what is the highest court in the United States, your answer would probably be the Supreme Court, but you would be wrong. There is a court that sits even higher than the Supreme Court. It happens to be in the same building. And that term "higher" actually refers to location. You see, the highest court in the land is a basketball court that sits on the fourth floor of the SCOTUS building. Meaning that it is located above the courtroom. Courthouse workers decided in the 1940s that they needed a recreational area to blow off steam, so they decided to take over a store room on the fourth floor and they installed wooden backboards and baskets and a weight room and full service gym were also included. Employee clerks, off-duty police officers and Supreme Court Justices have used the less-than-regulation size court including Byron White and Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. Sandra Day O’Connor even used the gym for yoga classes. No one can use the basketball court when court is in session, of course. One can only imagine that the justices don't want to hear dribbling balls and squeaking shoes as they are making some of the most important decisions for America. A basketball court being the highest court in the land, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Dissolving Bathing Suits Hoax (Suggested by: John Michaels)

In the month of December, on the 4th, in 1930, newspapers reported a story about dissolving bathing suits that turned out to be a hoax. The name of the journalist who first wrote the story was changed to protect his identity. The story read, "The newest and naughtiest fad of the ultra-smart young set on the Riviera is magic bathing suits which dissolve in water. The bathing suits meet all the legal requirements until they come in touch with water. Then they mysteriously disappear. The costumes are used only for moonlight bathing. Made of a tissue which melts in water, they are selling at a premium." When the journalist's editor cabled him to ask that he ship several suits because the head of a bathing-suit manufacturing company that advertised in the paper wanted some of the suits, the journalist soon discovered he had been duped. There were no such suits. But to save face, he wired back that the suits couldn't be shipped because the salt sea air would dissolve them. The editor replied, "Put them in a tin box and have it hermetically sealed." The journalist pulverized some cereal and put it in a tin box and the editor was convinced they couldn't be shipped. Vanishing bathing suit stories would continue to pop up through the years all the way up into the 2000s.

Petersburg, Virginia

Petersburg, Virginia is about 21 miles south of Richmond. Not many people know that this city has been thought of as the graveyard of the Confederacy. Anyone who has seen the movie Cold Mountain is familiar with the horrific scene of Union soldiers being slaughtered in a pit that is surrounded by the Confederates. That really happened. And Petersburg was the scene. The town still carries the residual energy from that moment in history. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Petersburg, Virginia!

Native Americans had been in the area where Petersburg, Virginia would be established since 6500 BC. The Appamatuck were there when Europeans first showed up. Rapids and waterfalls create an area on rivers called fall lines that are used as heads of navigation. The Atlantic Seaboard has a fall line and many cities were founded along this, including Petersburg. This was founded at the fall line of the Appomattox River by Colonel Abraham Wood. Fort Henry was built first and brought settlers and traders to the area in the mid-1600s. Peter Jones was the Colonel's son-in-law and he opened a trading post he called Peter's Point. The name of the city would be inspired by this name and the man who founded Richmond, Colonel William Byrd II, came up with the name Petersburgh. The Battle of Blanford would be fought here during the Revolutionary War and the Virginia militia took up the planks of the Pocahontas bridge to stop the British. Petersburg was eventually captured by the British. In 1784, the Virginia legislature chartered the town of Petersburg. In 1850, it became a city. The city was first an important port and then the railroad came through creating a transportation hub. Petersburg soon became the second largest city in Virginia.

Before the Civil War, the city of Petersburg had the highest proportion of free blacks in any Southern city and one of the oldest black settlements was on nearby Pocahontas Island. During the Civil War, the city hosted a battle and was under siege as a key location for the Union to capture the Confederate States. General Ulysses S. Grant targeted Petersburg during the Overland Campaign to cut off Richmond as Petersburg was considered the backdoor to Richmond. General Robert E. Lee arrived on June 9, 1864 and the 292-day siege of the city commenced. This was not a typical siege which usually left a city surrounded and cut off from supplies. Technically it was more of a campaign of trench warfare, with the trenches expanding and growing as the battles continued. The Federal forces were larger than the Confederates throughout the siege. 

A troop of the United States Colored Troops fought for the Union. General Lee countered by offering slaves their freedom if they agreed to fight and work for the Confederacy and this was backed up when the Confederate Congress passed legislation to enlist black soldiers. If the black men agreed to fight and their owner agreed to them enlisting, they were free men. This military policy was signed by Confederate President Jefferson Davis and read, "No slave will be accepted as a recruit unless with his own consent and with the approbation of his master by a written instrument conferring, as far as he may, the rights of a freedman."

The Battle of the Crater took place during this siege and is the one made famous in the movie Cold Mountain. An engineer with the Union devised a plan that they all believed would work. He thought that if they could dig a mine under the Confederate forces, they could get inside the fort known as Elliot's Salient and plant explosives. And so digging on the mine started and it was going fairly well with the Union even devising an ingenious way of pulling fresh air into the mine. Fire at one end drew air up an exhaust shaft while the open end drew in fresh air. This is called the chimney effect. When finished, the mine was in the T shape and the Union filled it with 8,000 pounds of gunpowder in kegs. This fire power was directly under the Confederate stronghold. The explosives were armed on July 28, 1864. Major General Ambrose Burnside was one of the main men in charge of the operation and he would be leading the Union in the assault after the explosion. He wanted to lead with a black regiment, but General Meade and General Grant both told him not to do this. Historians are not sure if it was because they lacked belief in the black troops' abilities or they didn't want bad press in the North when the regiments were wiped out. Whatever the case, Burnside put a white brigade at the forefront lead by General James Ledlie who would be drunk through the battle and leave his men without any direction. This was a fiasco in the making. 

The first problem was that the explosives didn't blow when set off. A few Union soldiers had to crawl into the mine and restart the fuse. When it did blow, it created a crater still visible today. Hence the name, Battle of the Crater. In that first blast, 278 Confederate soldiers were killed. The plan had worked perfectly. Now the Union forces could rain down hell fire on the stunned Confederates...only they didn't. Ledlie's men just stayed in the trenches for 10 minutes without any direction. They also hadn't prepared foot bridges to help them across the trenches on the landscape. When the Union finally arrived at the crater they thought it would be a great idea to use the crater as a giant trench from which to take cover and shoot. Only that was the worst idea on the planet at the time. They left themselves completely vulnerable as the Confederates surrounded them and blasted away. The Confederates described it as a "turkey shoot."

Clearly, Burnside should have called back the troops and cut his losses, but he sent in more men. He would be relieved of his command for the final time because of this fiasco. Some other Union troops managed to repel some of the Confederates before finally giving up the fight in a bad defeat. The Union lost 3,798 men to the Confederates 1,491. Many of the Union losses were to the United States Colored Troops. General Meade was also found to be at fault, but he didn't suffer the blow to his reputation that Burnside did. The movie Cold Mountain opens with this battle and is pretty accurate other than the fact that the explosion took place in the dark hours of the early morning. Despite this victory for the Confederates, at the end of the Siege of Petersburg, the Confederates would count their dead at 30,000.

When Petersburg finally fell, Richmond could no longer be defended. And the Civil War was in essence, finished. After the war, Petersburg and Richmond would become the two largest tobacco towns in the world. Cotton and flour mills were built, as well as iron foundries. It's a beautiful mid-sized city today that managed to build back during reconstruction, electing many black Republicans to office. The city later was dominated by Democrats that pushed Jim Crow laws into place disenfranchising their black citizens. The Civil Rights Movement was strong here though because in the 1960s, 40% of Petersburg's population was black. Economic decline came with cigarette factories shutting down and racial tensions flared over the decades through to the 1990s. Petersburg is one of those cities left scarred by its history. And there are many hauntings in Petersburg that date back to the Civil War. Here are a few of the haunted spots:

The Stewart-Hinton House

Robert Stewart, Jr. was a Scottish immigrant and tobacco merchant and he had the Stewart House built in 1798 for himself and his wife, who was the niece of Peterson Goodwyn, a United States Congressman from Petersburg. The house was built in the Georgian architectural style with Federalist detailing. There is a hipped roof with wooden shingles, Flemish-bond brickwork with glazed headers, a modillion cornice and water table. A water table is when the bricks at the bottom of the structure stick out beyond the structure, almost like a step. The interior has an unsupported staircase that features a carved walnut balustrade with a ram's horn and there is a double-pile parlor with two fireplaces with marble hearths. The rooms on the first level are twelve feet high and the floors were made from heart of pine. The Stewarts lived in the house until 1815. Over the next forty years, the house traded hands through several owners. There was Dr. John Gilliam, Frenchman Richard Furt, financier D’Arcy Paul, Dr. William Jones Dupuy and tobacco manufacturer E. J. Hudson. During renovations, two thousand domestic artifacts were found. The haunting here belongs to a Confederate soldier. He is seen peering out of a front window.

Centre Hill

Centre Hill was built in 1823 by Robert Bolling IV, an officer during the Revolutionary War. It's a charming two-story brick house with a long front veranda supported by six Greek Ionic order columns. The home features elements of Federal, Greek Revival and Colonial Revival architecture. In the 1840s, an extensive renovation added a tunnel for slaves to carry food in and out of the house. An east wing was added to the house in 1850. It has played host to two presidents. Abraham Lincoln visited Union General George Hartsuff here in April of 1865, shortly after Petersburg fell, and President William Howard Taft lunched at the mansion in 1909. Centre Hill remained in private hands until 1936. The home was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and it was deeded to the city of Petersburg at that time. Today, the mansion serves as a museum. The basement features memorabilia and photos on Petersburg's history, some antique furniture from the oldest black church in America and a stuffed bird exhibit featuring Australian birds. The mansion was featured on the series Turn and the series Mercy Street.

There are a few hauntings that take place here. There is a melodeon in the library - that is a type of button accordion - and it plays on its own on occasion. The apparition of a woman is seen on the second floor. Neighbors claim to see a lady in white looking out the window. And there was a residual haunting that occurred until the museum was opened. This happened every January 24th at 7:30pm. The door would open and an entire regiment of soldiers would march into the house. The group would go up the stairs and gather in a room and then a quarter of an hour later, the soldiers would descend the stairs and head out the door with a slam. The way the story reads about this, it sounds like this is only auditory, not visual. The boots are heard as well as the swords in scabbards rattling. There are those that claim the bricked in tunnel is haunted as well.

Central State Hospital

Central State Hospital was established to take care of blacks with mental health issues after a man named Dr. Frances Stribling pointed out at a meeting held in Philadelphia that there were no provisions on state levels to care for them. Private institutions cost more than slave owners were willing to pay to have a slave committed. And more and more slaves were thought to be mentally ill because a doctor named Samuel Cartwright had convinced people that there was a mental illness called Drapetomania, which was defined as a mental illness that caused slaves to flee captivity and seek freedom. The Freedmen's Bureau at Howard's Grove established Central State in 1866 in a former Confederate hospital to meet the need. The Commonwealth of Virginia took control of it in 1870. The place was pretty bad with holes dug for toilets and lighting was by candles. Patients killed each other or died and overcrowding was rampant. 

A new location was sought and in 1885 the City of Petersburg built a new facility on the former Mayfield Plantation. This was designed with the Kirkbride Plan and built from red brick with gray granite trim. The original Mayfield Cottage left over from the plantation was used for storage. Later, the East and West buildings were added. In 1896, another building was added specifically for the treatment of epilepsy. A chapel built in the Gothic Revival style was added in 1904. Two more buildings were added in 1915, one for male patients and the other for female. In 1929, a building for girls who were delinquent or mentally slow was added and the following year, an actual medical hospital was built. So by the 1940s, this was a large property treating people of color for pretty much everything. Like many similar sites, there were also gardens here and places to ply a trade. Sadly, the original Kirkbride building no longer stands. No one knows when it was demolished as no record was ever made. The chapel also collapsed in 2017 after falling into bad disrepair. The hospital was desegregated in the 1960s. And amazingly, the hospital was open until the Coronavirus pandemic.

While the new property was an upgrade from the primitive original, things here were as bad as at any asylum with even more emphasis on sterilization of patients. Eugenics had gained real popularity in the late nineteenth century and this increased in the United States in the early 1900s. There was a real focus on dwindling the black population. For people who don't know, eugenics is a theory or set of beliefs that unwanted genetic traits could be pushed out of the gene pool by not allowing people with those traits to mate. Early supporters of the movement in America were the Rockefeller Foundation, the Carnegie Institution, the Women's Christian Temperance Union, Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger and President Woodrow Wilson. The sterilization of patients at this hospital continued up until 1980 with 1700 patients being sterilized without their consent. 

Reasons people were admitted to Central State:
Abortion
Desertion
Not getting along with an employee/employer
Emancipation
Marriage
Masturbation
Talking back to a police officer
Typhoid fever
On the wrong side of the street
Being too old with no place to go (as in the case of the first admission, Edith Smith)

The property is believed to be haunted. Staff, police officers and locals claim that unexplained things happen there. They hear disembodied wailing, crying, moaning and screaming. Objects move on their own and the lights flicker on and off. Apparitions haven't been seen very often and if they are, they appear to be shadow figures.

Petersburg National Battlefield

Petersburg National Battlefield is located off Virginia Route 36 east of Petersburg and was established in July of 1926. It covers over 9300 acres. The park incorporates several areas that include the Five Forks Battlefield, where the Waterloo of the Confederacy took place, City Point Unit, which was Grant's headquarters during the siege, Poplar Grove National Cemetery and the restored entrance to the mine from the Battle of the Crater. Fort Stedman Battlefield is here as well. The Battle of Fort Stedman was the last attempt by the Confederates to break the siege. By March of 1865, General Lee's men were outnumbered and very weak. Food and supplies were running out where the Confederates were gathered at Colquitt's Salient. General Lee went to Major General John Gordon and asked him what he thought they should do. His first suggestion was surrender, which Lee was not about to do. So Gordon planned a pre-dawn suprise attack on the Union at Fort Stedman. The fort was not as fortified and relatively close. 

The attack began in the early morning and was a surprise. There was early victory for the Confederates and they captured Brigadier General Napoleon McLaughlen. General Gordon apparently said that the initial success met his "most sanguine expectations." The garrisons of Fort Stedman had been defeated as were Batteries 10, 11 and 12. Major General John G. Parke heard about the assault on Fort Stedman and he ordered Brigadier General John Hartranft to take his men and close the gap while he took his troops up on a ridge east of the fort. And then the Union punished the Confederates with crossfire and shelling. They suffered heavy casualties and Fort Stedman was recaptured by the Union. The battle only lasted four hours. The next battle was the Battle of Five Forks and it was final defeat for the Confederates and the siege was over.

Near where Fort Stedman once stood, visitors sometimes see a line of Union soldiers standing, ready for battle. Perhaps they are reflecting a time right before they hit the Rebel lines. When visitors look away and then look back, the soldiers have disappeared revealing that this was not some kind of re-enactment. There are other hauntings at the park as well. A park supervisor would hear the sound of a military band. This would happen every day at 5:30am. The sound comes from where the Union would have camped, so he assumed it was a Union band. A ghost brigade is also seen marching along White Oak Road. It is thought that these are a regiment that was killed by friendly fire. One group was coming to relieve another that was exhausted and they mistook their fellow soldiers as enemies. The regiment appears on the anniversary of their deaths.

Petersburg has an important history when it comes to the Civil War, black history and Civil Rights. Are these locations in Petersburg, Virginia haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, December 9, 2021

HGB Ep. 413 - Jailer's Inn Bed and Breakfast

Moment in Oddity - Jonathan the Tortoise (Suggested by: Chelsea Flowers)

There has been a viral picture making the rounds claiming to be a tortoise named Jonathan who is going to be turning 190 years old in 2022. The picture actually features a male tortoise in his fifties at the Taronga Zoo in Australia. While the picture pings as false information, the claims about Jonathan are true and he really does exist. Jonathan is a Seychelles tortoise that was born in 1832, five years before the coronation of Queen Victoria. Jonathan eventually ended up on the remote island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic in 1882. Jonathan has made the Guinness Book of World Records and is not only the oldest animal alive today, he is the oldest chelonian ever. The previous holder of that title had been a radiated tortoise named Tu'i Malila who had been owned by the royal family of Tonga and lived to be 188 years old. Jonathan has seen a lot in his lifetime including 39 US presidents, two world wars and seven British monarchs. He lived before the first skyscraper was built, before the incandescent light bulb was invented, before the first postage stamp and before the first photograph of a person was taken. Jonathan was gifted to the governor of St. Helena and has lived on the grounds of the Georgian mansion originally built by the East India Company since 1882. An animal living to be 190 years old, even a tortoise, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Quantum Theory Born

In the month of December, on the 14th, in 1900, Quantum Theory was born. Quantum physics is fascinating to those of us that investigate and study the paranormal because it explains things that cannot be seen with the eye. Quantum Theory claims that energy can actually exhibit the characteristics of physical matter even though energy seems to be intangible. German physicist Max Planck demonstrated that radiant energy had particle-like components known as quanta. He published his findings and the quantum theory was born. Planck was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 1918 for his work with blackbody radiation. A blackbody is a surface that absorbs all radiant energy falling on it and absorbs all colors of light. The Quantum Theory helped explain things like how heat worked in solids and how light was absorbed. Quantum mechanics followed and was combined with Einstein’s theory of relativity to launch modern physics.

Jailer's Inn Bed and Breakfast

Bardstown is the second oldest city in the state of Kentucky. This capitol of bourbon making and town once voted "The Most Beautiful Small Town in America" has several haunted location. One of these is the Jailer's Inn Bed and Breakfast where guests can literally sleep in a cell. This was originally the Nelson County Jail and apparently, some of the former inmates are still calling it home in the afterlife. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Jailer's Inn Bed and Breakfast!

Bardstown is the county seat of Nelson County in Kentucky and gets its name from the brothers who founded the town. David Bard received 1,000 acres in a land grant in 1785 from Virginia governor Patrick Henry. David's brother William surveyed and platted the town and named it Baird's Town when it was officially chartered in 1788. The location of Bardstown made it prime real estate for Catholicism and the Diocese of Bardstown was established in 1808. This made the town the first center of Catholicism west of the Appalachian Mountains. Interestingly, despite having this kind of start, Bardstown is known for its distilleries. The town is literally known as the "Bourbon Capitol of the World." This was also the birthplace of John Fitch who built the first steamboat and operated the first steamboat service in the US. Fitch had to come up with his own design even though Scotland inventor James Watt had already devised the Watt steam engine because Britain wouldn't allow any new technology to travel over to its former colony. Sour grapes and all. He ran his steamboat business on the Delaware River near Philadelphia. In 1797, the town decided that they needed a jail and the Nelson County Jail was opened. John Fitch had a connection to this jail. He apparently became a drunk later in life and ended up at the jail where he died.

We aren't sure what the original jail in 1797 looked like since it was made from wood and no longer stands. Local legend claims that a woman had the sheriff arrest her husband during a domestic spat, but soon grew lonely without his company. She figured if she burned down the jail, her husband could come back home. And so, she burned down the jail, luckily without burning her husband to a crisp. However, she was busted and arrested. She was given the option of 40 lashes on her bare back in public or time in jail. She opted for the lashes.

The current structures were built from stone in the 1800s. The front building was constructed from limestone in 1819 in the Federal architectural style with 30 inch thick walls. All the windows were covered with inch thick iron bars and the ceiling had 18-inch thick oak beams. The back building was built in 1874 and is two stories with five bays and an attic. This was made from laurel dolomite and the walls are 30 inches thick. The roof is gabled. When the back building was completed, the front building was renovated to serve as the warden's home. To add extra security, a tall stone was built around the property. One of the architects of the structure was believed to be John Rogers who designed the St. Joseph Cathedral in town. Many people referred to the upstairs area as a "dungeon." This was only accessible by climbing a ladder and going through the only window to the room. A door secured the window, so that no light entered the dungeon. The walls were covered in thick hand-hewn timbers that were dark. A smaller stone structure was also constructed on the property to house female inmates with a private shower.

This jail had the distinction of having a female warden. Her name was Maxie McCay and she served as jailer from 1950-1962. Her husband had served as jailer before her and when he died, she was elected to continue his job. She ran the jail much like a mother. Good prisoners got home-cooked meals and time in the yard, which was a courtyard behind the jail. Bad prisoners were punished with bread and water, which we all know sits like concrete in the stomach. There were hangings on the gallows in the courtyard. One of those executed inmates was Phil Evans who was hanged for rape in 1894 while the townspeople sat on the stone wall and watched.

There were a few jail breaks during its time. One involved a woman in the 1970s. She was 18-years-old and had been arrested for passing bad checks. She figured she was thin enough to pass through the food portal in the iron jail door. So she took off all her clothes, soaped herself up and promptly got stuck. The police chief, who was also a doctor, soaped her up some more and managed to get her free. Soap was used in another jail break in 1986. Prisoners Wayne Greenwell and Doug Hamilton fashioned a gun from two bars of soap and painted it black. They covered it with a small rag and forced the deputy jailer to hand over the keys. They were apprehended a short time later. 

Frank and Jesse James supposedly visited the jail because the sheriff at the time was related to them. The James were kin to the Samuels (future creators of Maker's Mark Bourbon) and the sheriff married into the Samuels family. He offered them safe haven when they were being hunted for attacking Union sympathizers. John Dillinger spent a night in the jail while being transported to another facility located in Indiana. 

A poem on one of the walls reads,
"When I was young I used to mess around
In a little hick place called Bardstown
When one night I went to get drunk
And I ended up on the bottom bunk
When I woke I felt like hell
I was in the Nelson County Jail
The Nelson County Jail is no place to be
If you got a wife and a baby
So if you fell you hafe to raise hell
Stay away from the Nelson County Jail."

The jail operated until 1987 and had long been on the National Register of Historic Places. At the time of its closing, it was the oldest operating jail complex in Kentucky. It had been operating for 190 years! There was no plan for the property, so Nelson County put it up on the auction block. The lucky winners of the auction were Challen and Fran McCoy. They decided to renovate the old jail into a bed and breakfast of sorts. In 1989, they opened the Jailer's Inn Bed and Breakfast with six guest rooms that have been expanded to nine guest rooms with private baths. One of the rooms, the former women's building, even has bunks that were used by the prisoners and still resembles a cell. Tours are offered daily. TripAdvisor awarded it a "Top Ten Quirkiest Lodging" in 2012. The McCoy's son Paul took over in 1995 and he runs it with his wife Kim. The McCoys like to say that people pay to get in, rather than to get out and they refer to guests as inmates. When you leave, well, you're just breaking out.

And a fun story from the jail was reported in 2012 in the Kentucky Standard by Jennifer Corbett under the headline "Escapee from Jailer’s Inn Found." It reads, "The inmate who “escaped” from Jailer’s Inn last Saturday was found Monday afternoon. Joe Average Inmate” was found sitting inside the John Fitch memorial Monday. According to Paul McCoy, co-owner of the Jailer’s Inn, the mannequin, known as “Joe Average Inmate,” was found sitting inside the John Fitch boat memorial on Labor Day. “I’m glad Joe’s back in his cell,” McCoy said Tuesday morning. “Capturing him again is a relief for the town and community.” McCoy stressed that the disappearance and reappearance of “Joe Average Inmate” a week later was not a publicity stunt. “This was not a practical joke we did,” he said. “This is not something we did personally. Someone really did steal ‘Joe.’” “Joe Average Inmate,” who has been a fixture at the Jailer’s Inn for more than 20 years, was reported stolen after his cell was found empty at the Jailer’s Inn last Saturday. Reports stated that “Joe Average Inmate,” who was last seen wearing a black-and-white striped shirt and blue jeans, most likely was taken out the back gate. Throughout the years, McCoy said, “Joe Average Inmate” has caused some ruckus from his jail cell. “He was only supposed to serve a six-month sentence, but he has been here for 25 years,” McCoy said when the mannequin was first reported stolen. “His mischievousness kept him here for over 20 years.” Most of all, McCoy said they’re relieved to have the beloved Jailer’s Inn’s mannequin back in his usual jail cell, joking that they’ll have to keep a bear lock on his cell door now. “We’re glad to have ‘Joe’ back at the Jailer’s Inn,” McCoy said. “We’re glad he’s unharmed. We, at Jailer’s Inn, had nothing to do with helping ‘Joe’ escape for publicity. The humor of the event made for a good, fun story. I’m glad all came out well.”

The Travel Channel ranked the Jailer's Inn as one of the ten most haunted places in the United States in 2002, so clearly there must be some kind of paranormal activity going on here. This isn't surprising since most old jails seem to be haunted. This one was also formed from limestone and as we've discussed on other episodes featuring Kentucky locations, limestone runs under most of Kentucky. Bardstown is no exception. Unexplained experiences include disembodied footsteps and voices, objects moving or disappearing on their own and televisions turning on and off by themselves. A baby's cry is sometimes heard and there are even the notes of a piano that play on the air.

A maid had a terrifying experiencing one day. She was cleaning a room in the oldest part of the jail and when she looked up and glanced in the mirror, she saw a man glaring at her angrily. She spun around to face the man and found no one else in the room. She turned back around and started cleaning again trying to shake her uneasiness. The employee glanced at the mirror again and saw the glaring man once again. That was enough for her and she was done. One of the rooms is named the Colonial Room. This room seems to have a haunted red globe light that turns on by itself, usually around 3am. One guest actually was happy to have the light do this when he had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. It helped him see his way. Although it was also a little unnerving.

Patti Starr is a local ghost hunter who once managed the Old Talbott Tavern that is next to the Jailer's Inn. She owned and operated ScareFest from 2008 to 2016, she has written several books on ghosthunting, started the Bardstown Ghost Trek and Ghost Walk of Lexington and has taught paranormal investigating classes for years. So she knows a thing or to about haunted history. She felt spirits the moment she entered Jailer's Inn and one of those spirits seemed to be a female who was in charge and guarding the place. Possibly Maxie McCay? She is thought to be a friendly spirit, but several guests have been startled in the middle of the night to awake and find her standing at the end of their bed. Some of them have left in the middle of the night because they were so scared.

Another female spirit was felt in the dungeon. When Patti went to research females connected to the jail, she found a 1909 newspaper article headlined "Is the Bastille Haunted." The article detailed how prisoners had been complaining of hearing disembodied screams and the sounds of chains dragging. After doing the research, Starr thought perhaps this female energy might be the wife of Martin Hill because during a dowsing session, the female spirit claimed that she had not lived at the jail and didn't die there. Some other guests who stayed in this room, took some pictures of the decor. They were stunned to see what appeared to be the apparition of a woman standing in the corner in one of the photos.

Martin John Hill was one of the inmates at the jail. He had a bad temper and one day in a fit of rage, he killed his wife Esther Graves Hill in 1885. The couple had four children and lived seven miles southwest of Bardstown in Hill Neighborhood. Martin had been drinking for several days and he started getting abusive and he broke several household items. Esther was afraid and gathered the children and fled to a neighbor's house, which happened to be her brother-in-law. The group was warming themselves at the fire when Martin burst in with a whiskey bottle in his hand. He told two of his daughters and wife to have a drink and they all refused. He asked his wife if she was ready to come home and when she said "No," he pulled out a double action revolver and shot Esther in the stomach. His brother and another man subdued him, while another went to fetch a doctor. Esther had been mortally wounded and died the following morning.

Martin was arrested and showed no remorse and even thought he would be returned home soon. That changed when he stood before Judge Hardin and was charged with murder. Martin claimed it was an accident. He said that Esther had taken the whiskey and the gun out of his pockets and when she was handing the gun back to him, it accidentally went off. Nobody was buying that as Martin had been connected to the killing of a Bardstown man and he had also shot his brother Steve. A grand Jury indicted him and he was later convicted and sentenced to hang. He never did make it onto the gallows though. He became ill and passed away before his execution date. While he was feverish, he screamed out vile and obscene things.

Martin Hill is believed to be one of the spirits at the jail. One guest at the inn claimed to have seen the apparition of Hill and spoke to him for over fifteen minutes. Prisoners, guests and staff all claimed to experience the spirit of Hill. Mainly they would hear his obscene disembodied cries. According to the 1909 article, “Prisoners who have since been confined in the jail hear strange sounds in the cell where he died. He is heard, it is alleged, pacing up and down, as was his wont, during his confinement. He is also heard to groan and toss relentlessly upon his bunk, and, as a climax to the whole, the blood curdling scream he omitted while struggling in the throes of death, rings again through the stone corridors with thrilling distinctness.” Is his wife's spirit here too? Is she getting retribution in the afterlife?

Todd at the Witchery Arts blog wrote about his overnight stay at the inn, "The only troubling sound I heard the night I spent in the Jailer’s Inn in Bardstown, Kentucky was the sound of a cell door closing. There are two reasons I found that disturbing. First, the jail was shut down late in the twentieth century, so there are no inmates, and it’s unlikely the staff was strolling through the cell block at that time of night." 

The courtyard where the gallows were situated is also thought to be haunted. People feel as though they are being watched when sitting out there.One guest even claims to have had a conversation with a man in the courtyard. He was distracted and looked away and when he turned back to the man, he was gone. And some ghosts disappear into walls. A salesman came through town often and he always stayed at the Jailer's Inn. One day he was sitting in his room reading the newspaper when he noticed movement out of the corner of his eye. He looked over and saw a man walking to the other side of the room. The salesman glanced at his door, thinking that the man must have come through that, but it was closed and locked. He turned back towards the man and watched him walk through the wall. The salesman then scrambled outside, so that he could see if the man was on the other side and sure enough, he found him sitting on a wrought iron bench in the courtyard. He walked over towards the man and as he got closer and closer, the man faded and disappeared. The salesman was so moved by the experience that he returned every year for three years on the exact same day, hoping to see the specter again. Apparently, there had once been a door where the ghost walked through the wall, so perhaps this was a guard making his usual rounds in a residual way.

Staying overnight here sounds like a one-of-a-kind experience. Imagine sleeping overnight in a former jail cell. Experiencing a haunting would just be a bonus. Is the Jailer's Inn Bed and Breakfast haunted? That is or you to decide!

Thursday, December 2, 2021

HGB Ep. 412 - Haunted Anchorage

This episode's sponsor is HelloFresh. Go to https://HelloFresh.com/bump14 and enter code bump14 for 14 free meals, plus 3 free gifts!

Moment in Oddity - Mycenaean Bridge of Kazarma (Suggested by: Chelsea Flowers)

Between the Acropolis of Mycenae and the plain of Nafplio, the Mycenaean civilization built 17 bridges that earned them a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. The most well known is the Mycenaean Bridge of Kazarma, which dates to 1300 BC. This is the oldest preserved bridge in Europe. It is located in the village of Arkadiko in Greece and is one of the most important monuments of the civilization. The bridge features a single arch and was built from large raw limestone boulders and there is no binder. The construction method is known as Cyclopean Masonry. The bridge is completely stable and has lasted for hundreds of years due to the weight of the limestone boulders and their symmetrical placement towards the vertical axis of the bridge. The sophisticated layout of the bridge featuring curbs, along with the military road network, have led historians to believe these were made specifically for chariots. This world record breaking bridge is not only still functional, but it certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Suez Canal Opens

In the month of November, on the 17th, in 1869, the Suez Canal opens. The Ottoman governor of Egypt, Muhammad Sa'id Pasha, came to an agreement with then former French consul to Cairo, Ferdinand de Lesseps, in 1854 to build a canal 100 miles across the Isthmus of Suez. The construction began in 1859 under the Suez Canal Company. In the beginning, forced laborers had to dig out the canal by hand, but eventually European workers brought steam shovels and dredgers. The canal was completed four years behind schedule - and you complain because your kitchen remodel took an extra couple of months. When it was completed, the Suez Canal connected the Mediterranean and the Red Seas. The inaugural ceremony was attended by French Empress EugĂ©nie, wife of Napoleon III. The Suez Canal Company was formed and granted the right to operate the canal for 99 years after completion of the work. Later control of the canal would switch hands between Britain and Egypt and faced a shutdown during hostilities between Egypt and Israel. Peace talks in 1975 reopened the Suez Canal. Today, dozens of ships navigate the canal daily, carrying more than 300 million tons of goods a year. 

Haunted Anchorage  

Alaska is a land just ripe for hauntings. Darkness cloaks the land for much of the year and thick pine forests spread across the expanse. There are legends that have filtered down through the various cultures and time periods, passed around by the Inuit, the gold miners, the trappers, the explorers or the soccer moms. Anchorage grew from a tent city to a major American city. The city has experienced much history and this may be why several locations here are rumored to be haunted. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Anchorage, Alaska!

The Alutiiq People were the first to live at the Cook Inlet. They arrived via large kayaks around 5,000 years ago. Several groups of Alutiiq followed them over the next 3,000 years. The Chugach Alutiiq were the last of that group and they left the area in 500 AD. The Dena'ina Athabaskans came through the mountain passes and they migrated throughout Alaska based on the seasons, usually wintering near trading junctions. The Ahtna tribe was also in the area. The first European to arrive was Captain James Cook. He was seeking the Northwest Passage and ended up in the inlet between two landmarks he would name Mount St. Augustine and Cape Douglas. He anchored his ship there and called it Anchor Point for that reason. This would eventually become Anchorage. Cook went on to map the Alaskan coastline. He named many of the areas and they still have those names today.  

Alaska would become an American territory in 1867 when U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward brokered a deal to purchase Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million. Many people called this "Seward's Folly," but he was laughing later when gold was discovered in 1888. Alaska became an organized US territory in 1912. Surprisingly, the area surrounding Anchorage wasn't any good for mining because there are no significant metal minerals. So the city actually grew from a need for the railroad. This railroad construction began in 1914. The workers built a tent city as they worked on the railroad. A couple hundred families from northern states in the continental US were offered land and a chance to be part of an agricultural community in Anchorage. Many didn't make it for long and left, but some thrived and those farms still are around today.

One of the business men in Anchorage was Simeon Esia, who was known as Basdut or Chief Ezi. He was a respected Dena'ina Athabascan Indian elder who was born in 1870. He was one of the last recognized chiefs of upper Cook Inlet. Large ships in Anchorage needed to get their supplies across the water to the smaller communities of Cook Inlet, so Basdut started using a small boat to deliver those supplies. He became a rich man, but not because of that business. His son told the story that floods came to their area often and one time a store drifted on to Fire Island, bringing with it a safe that got buried under the sand. Basdut's wife was the daughter of a powerful medicine man and he told Basdut to go out onto the sand with a pole and prod where he told him. Basdut did that and found the safe filled with twenty-dollar gold pieces. He packed that gold home in several loads. He held a feast for his community after this called a potlatch. This is a true historical account, but there are many legends connected to the Inuit people of Anchorage.

Inuit legends have been used both to entertain and to instruct. Inuit mythology embraces the belief that their are multiple worlds that are a part of our planet. Worlds exist inside the Earth - very similar to Hollow Earth Theories that still exist today. Worlds lie beneath the sea and in the sky. These indigineous people have shaman or what they call angakoks that are able to journey to these worlds in dreams and trances. Some of these places are a part of the afterlife as well. A prominent Inuit legend tells the story of the Sea Goddess Sedna, who is also known by the names Taleelayuk, Nuliayuk and Taluliyuk. This is a creation myth and Sedna becomes the ruler of the Inuit underworld known as Adlivun. How she comes to this position is interesting. She apparently was a giant and the daughter of the creator-god Anguta. Sedna is not a nice girl and has a pretty bad temper. She eventually attacks her parents and so Anguta takes her out in a kayak and throws her overboard. Sedna clings to the side of the kayak, so Anguta cuts her fingers off and she sinks down to the underworld. Her fingers turn into seals and walruses. Inuit hunters depend on Sedna's goodwill to give them success in hunting for food. They offer broken knives, bones and pieces of meat into the sea for her.

Qayaq is a legendary hero who is a wanderer using a kayak or dog sled to travel. He encounters bears, sea monsters, giants, spirits and cannibals along his way. Qayaq has supernatural powers that he uses to defeat these creatures. He has lived a long time and had many lives. The legend of Lumiuk tells the story of a young boy who was abused and lost his sight. He seeks refuge in the sea and is befriended by a loon. The loon tells him to hold onto his back and he pulls the boy through the water. The loon instructs Lumiak to keep his eyes open and when they emerge from the water, the boy can see.

There are many supernatural beings that are part of the Inuit myths as well. Scaly, human-like creatures that kidnap children and drag them into the sea are known as Oallupilluk. The Mahaha is a demon that terrorizes its victims by tickling them to death. The Inupasugjuk are giants who kidnap humans and Ijiraat are shapeshifters that can change into animals of the Arctic. Their giveaway is their red eyes. And the Taqriaqsuit are shadow people that are heard more often than they are seen. Along with the legends of the land are stories of hauntings. Here are some of the places that are reputedly haunted in Anchorage.

Oscar Anderson House

The first wood-frame house in Anchorage was built in 1915 at 420 M Street and it still stands today as a museum. This was built by Anchorage resident Oscar Anderson, the town's first butcher. Oscar had arrived from Sweden, stopping first in Seattle and making his way to Seward and finally to the settlement on Ship Creek. He was a pioneer here being the eighteenth person to arrive. In his account he wrote, "Everyone talked about the new settlement starting across Cook Inlet from Knik. I had to find a way to cross over, which was no easy matter, as there was a lot of ice on the Inlet and no one wanted to risk it. Finally, a 19-year-old youth who had a boat volunteered to row me across. It was no pleasure trip. At one point, the boy fell in the water. We pulled onto a large block of ice. I took out some dry clothes from my suitcase and we changed his clothes. After that, I had to finish rowing." He lived in it until 1974 when he died at the age of 91. 

The house has been restored to its 1915 appearance. Oscar's widow, Elizabeth, moved to Washington after selling the house and she was thrilled when she heard stories that people believed the house was haunted. Oscar had loved this home and she said he would never want to leave and the paranormal activity proved that. The first people to report activity were a young couple who moved into the house right after Oscar died. They heard disembodied footsteps coming from upstairs. Later, they couldn't open the door to his old room. Eventually they wedged it open enough to see that a chest had slid in front of the door, blocking it from opening. Adam wrote on TripAdvisor, "I went there years ago. It's a nice little house, some interest'n old stuff. When I was taken up stairs I shot a photo from one room into the other room. I did not see anyth'n when I was there but when I got my photo, there was an image of a man about the size of Oscar."

Snow City Cafe

Snow City Cafe is located on 4th Avenue and opened in 1998. This is a breakfast, lunch and brunch place. The Anchorage Ghost Tour kicks off from this spot. Rick Goodfellow, who founded the tour, says of this location, "The short story is that a very prominent woman of her day, in 1976, was killed by a car bomb. She was a travel agent, and in those days, there was no Snow City. Her office was where Snow City is today." This woman now haunts the location and according to Goodfellow, she is friendly. She likes to pull pranks during food prep and plays with turning off and on the water. 

Briana Goldman was a Front of House Supervisor at Snow City and she had an experience with the female ghost. She said, "There's so much daylight at that time of the year, but I came in about 20 minutes early that day. I was just like, yes, it's beautiful, I can get some things done early. And then I hear someone laughing. I heard a cabinet close in the back, by the bathroom. And I was just like, 'Is someone here?'" There was no other employee at the restaurant and she was really creeped out.

The Hotel Captain Cook

Kelly took the Ghost Tours of Anchorage tour and they stopped at the Hotel Captain Cook. The hotel was built in 1964 by Alaskan governor Walter J. Hickel. An earthquake had leveled much of Anchorage and Hickel saw this as an opportunity. The hotel originally had only one tower, but a second and third tower were added in the 1970s. The hotel has 546 rooms and is a member of Historic Hotels of America. This is usually the second stop on the ghost tour and Goodfellow believes that there is a spirit at this hotel that is very territorial and that territory encompasses...the ladies' restroom, of course. As Goodfellow tells it, "The operations manager told me why there's one stall that's always locked: It's because there was a suicide in there shortly after that tower, Tower 2, was opened. She gets into bad moods sometimes. Over the course of Ghost Tours, I've seen her go from very quiescent for months, until she's very active night after night after night." People have even passed out in the restroom, near the stall.

The story goes that a woman was really upset about something and took a gun with her into the posh and elegantly decorated restroom. Out of the several black stalls in here she chose the last stall on the left - how fitting! This stall is now permanently latched because it is reputed to be quite haunted. The female spirit usually appears as a woman in white. Not only has her apparition been seen in that bathroom and particularly in that stall, but there is a great sense of unease in that stall. Some women have become violently ill when in the restroom and others have fainted. The stall walls have been shaken violently and women have been touched, sometimes feeling as though something is grabbing their ankles. After a few too many of these more violent experiences, management decided to make the stall off-limits and that is why it is latched.

Historic Anchorage Hotel 

This hotel was built in 1916 at the corner of 3rd Avenue and E Street, so it is over 100 years old. This was a posh place with meals served on fine china with beautiful linens and real silver utensils. By 1936, the hotel needed to expand to accommodate all the tourists traveling to the city of Anchorage. The Anchorage Hotel Annex was built at that time across the alleyway on 3rd Avenue. To connect the two buildings, a sky bridge was constructed. Celebrities and dignitaries stayed here including Wiley Post, mountain man Bob Marshall, artist Sydney Lawrence who actually lived at the hotel and had his studio in the lobby and Will Rogers. The boom time dissipated over time and the original structure was sold and razed. The Annex building still operated as a hotel, but over time it fell into disrepair and changed names frequently. New life was breathed into it in 1989 when it fell under new ownership. Extensive renovations were done and it was reopened as The Historic Anchorage Hotel.

The hotel embraces its reputation of being haunted. Ghost stories have been told about the hotel for years. Pictures are said to come off the walls and fly across rooms. The curtains seem to move on their own. One of the ghosts here is believed to be Anchorage’s first Chief of Police, Jack Sturgus. Just outside the hotel, he was found shot in the back by his own gun. This happened on February 20, 1921. He never got justice and perhaps that is why he remains. There are other spirits here and the hotel even keeps a log to track guests' experiences.

Our Lady in White is seen here and she is, of course, in a wedding dress. The story here is that she was set to wed in the 1920s, but he jilted her the day of the wedding. Apparently, he struck it rich in the gold fields and took off. She hanged herself in her wedding dress and is now said to walk the hallways. The front desk has often gotten complaints about children running around in the hallways making a bunch of noise. Every time the staff has gone to find the kids, they find none. They usually find that no one has registered with any children with them. Another child ghost has been reported hiding in a closet in 2011. The guest claimed they opened the closet door and the child smiled at them and then disappeared. The children could be connected to an outbreak of influenza in 1938 that killed a large group of children. They died in a building that had been nearby. Some people think they might have played at the hotel and that's why they returned here. 

One time hotel manager, Terri Russi, was working the front desk when she witnessed a shadowy figure in a white dress reflecting in a mirror that was in front of her. She spun around to see what had just walked behind her and there was nothing but a picture behind her. But she knew she saw a figure pass behind her. She also had a shared experience with a guest that was reported in The Anchorage Daily News in 2004, "Later on in the week, a boyfriend of an employee passed the time with a self-guided tutorial on how to tie a tie. He was seated in a chair next to the narrow lobby fireplace, with Russi, again, behind the front desk. As he practiced, a framed picture of notable Alaskan artist Sydney Laurence spontaneously catapulted itself from the mantel across the room, shattering a glass coffee table on impact. Russi was stunned. Assuming it was an earthquake, she looked around to see what else was shaking. The chandelier was still. The room was quiet. The man turned to her, his untied tie hanging from his neck, and casually suggested, 'Maybe it's your ghost.'" Another male ghost likes to latch onto certain guests and then follows them around throughout their stay.

Anchorage has a long history, much of which is filled with legend. It's not surprising that the city has places connected to ghost stories. Are these places in Anchorage haunted? That is for you to decide!