Thursday, May 26, 2022

HGB Ep. 437 - Pfister Hotel

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Moment in Oddity - Lady Wonder the Psychic Horse

Claudia Fonda owned a very unusual horse named Lady Wonder. Fonda and the horse lived in Virginia and in the early 1920s, Fonda noticed that she and the horse almost seemed to share a psychical bond. Now, many of us probably think we have some kind of psychical bond with our pets, but this one that Fonda had with Lady Wonder was proven with tests.  Fonda trained Lady to move lettered and numbered children's blocks with her nose to spell out words. For example, she showed Lady a tractor and then spelled out the word for the horse and when the horse saw the tractor, she would spell out the correct word. But then Lady started spelling tractor before she even saw the tractor. This type of thing happened so much that Fonda started thinking that her smart horse might by a psychic. Fonda made another contraption for Lady that was a piano-sized contraption with a double row of keys. Lady would push her nose on a lever and this would cause a tin card with a number or letter to pop up and spell words. She would test lady by wriitng a word Lady couldn't see and ask Lady to spell the word and she would do it. Soon word got out and people were flocking to the horse for counsel. This caught J.B. Rhine's attention and he came to test the horse. He would write words and hide them and see if Lady could guess them and she was right. Rhine even used bigger words like "Mesopotamia" and "Carolina" and she got those too. Lady predicted the winners of boxing matches, the sex of unborn children, elections and she even guessed the maiden names of married women. Her biggest success came when she told the police where they could find the body of a murdered child. The words she spelled were a bit confused, but when rearranged they matched an abandoned quarry where the body was found. Skeptics believed the horse was just well trained and cued by Fonda. Lady Wonder wasn't always right, but the fact that a horse was able to be right many times, certainly is odd!

This Moment in History - The Ra II Expedition

In the month of May, on the 17th, in 1970, Thor Heyerdahl conducts his Ra II Expedition. Heyerdahl was an explorer and ethnographer and he wondered how Polynesia came to be populated. Most historians thought that people traveled from Southeast Asia to Polynesia, but the currents run east to west and South American plants were found in Polynesia. Heyerdahl believed that ancient peoples could have contact with each other from even farther locations, thousands of miles away. He put action behind his theories. In 1947, he successfully conducted the Kon-Tiki Expedition in which he sailed 5,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean in a hand-built raft of balsa logs from South America to French Polynesia Tuamotu Islands. The Ra II Expedition had Heyerdahl sailing across the Atlantic Ocean from Morocco to Barbados in a papyrus reed boat, built by traditional boat builders. Ra I had been built in the same way, but foundered before finishing the voyage. Ra II was loaded with a multinational crew of seven and they made the 4,000 mile trip in 57 days. The voyage was documented in a book and in a documentary called The Ra Expeditions. Despite his success, his theories have not been accepted by mainstream anthropologists.

Pfister Hotel (Suggested by: Brad Brancel)

The Pfister Hotel sits three blocks from Lake Michigan in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and once advertised itself as the only fireproof hotel in the city. The hotel was built to be the "Grand Hotel of the West" and it really was a gorgeous hotel with Victorian artwork, beautiful chandeliers and gold trim that still exist. This started as the dream of one man and was completed by his children. Today, guests can experience a lavish stay and perhaps even a few bumps and creaks in the night. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Pfister Hotel!

Milwaukee is Wisconsin's largest city  and sits where three rivers converge on Lake Michigan: the Milwaukee, Menomonee and Kinnickinnic Rivers. Native American tribes had lived here for 13,000 years before French explorers first came to the area. Fr. Jacques Marquette was the first to write about the area in 1674. It wouldn't be until 1795 that a structure was built, a trading post constructed by fur trader Jacques Vieau. He transferred ownership to his son-in-law, Solomon Juneau, and Juneau is considered the founder of Milwaukee. He built a log cabin and then a frame building and in 1835 he partnered with Morgan Martin to plat out streets and plots of land to sell to settlers. Juneau took on the mantle of mayor and held that for two decades. In his time, he served as postmaster, established a newspaper and built a hotel and courthouse. The city was heavily populated by Germans and rivaled Chicago for size and wealth. Through the years, the town would become a successful center of tanneries, brewers, foundries and grain merchants. The city had a large hotel that burned down and it was in need of another large hotel in the downtown area.

Anna Lardinois of Gothic Milwaukee did some research and discovered that the land upon which the Pfister Hotel was built had a private burying ground there. The bones were found when they began digging the foundation. A house had also been on the property and this is where the first white male born, Charles Milwaukee Sivyer, in Milwaukee lived. Now this was a big parcel of land because the house was said to be on East Water Street, which is about five blocks away and Water Street runs North to South today. So whether this has anything to do with the hotel is subjective. 

Prominent Milwaukee businessman Guido Pfister had a vision for a grand hotel. He had made his fortune in the tannery business and in 1871, he purchased the land on which the hotel was built at the corner of Wisconsin and Jefferson Streets for $200. It wouldn't be until 1888 that the land would be optioned and a hotel company was established. Unfortunately, Guido died a few months after that and the plan for a hotel was put on hold. But Guido's son Charles and daughter Louisa were not about to let their father's dream die, so they gathered a group of businessmen together and the plan for the hotel was back on with double the budget. This hotel was going to be more lavish than even Guido dreamed. The Pfister Hotel was designed by Milwaukee architect Henry C. Koch in the Romanesque Revival style. There were squat columns and decorative wall carvings and round arches.

May 1, 1893 was opening day for the Pfister Hotel. The hotel boasted features not seen in many hotels at the time like electricity, fireproofing and each guest room had thermostat control. There were two billiard rooms, a formal dining room and gentleman's lounge. The hotel was lauded for its lavish furnishings and tessellated floor. Tessellated floors are small tiles inlaid to create mosaics. The walls were lined with paintings in gold frames and the lobby had marble columns, a glass ceiling that was four-stories up and beautiful glass chandeleirs. Two large bronze lions flanked the entrance known as Dick and Harry. These were a gift from businessman T.A. Chapman who bought them in Rome. The total cost of construction came to $1,000,000. Despite the opulence, the hotel struggled in the beginning to make a profit, particularly because the Stock Market crashed four days after the opening. 

A Republican Delegate Convention in 1894 helped to boost the visibility of the hotel and more tourists were drawn to Milwaukee and specifically, the Pfister. Conventions started eyeing the city as a powerful place to host their events. President William McKinley visited the hotel in 1899 with his family and cabinet. And he really started something because every President since McKinley has stayed at the hotel. Former President William Howard Taft was at the hotel when he got word that World War II had ended and reporters arrived at his door at the Presidential Suite to get his reaction. His initial response was, "What is going on?!" He apparently had been sound asleep. 

The year 1926 brought a major renovation to the hotel. More would be added to the hotel by Charles Pfister during Prohibition when they did away with the Turkish Baths and opened the "English Room," a modest little pub in that area, that served up Indian Punch. Indian Punch was very popular. So popular that Pfister started bottling the stuff for nationwide distribution. Charles had a debilitating stroke and handed the keys over to his longtime friend and colleague Ray Smith. Smith had actually started at the hotel in 1896 as a bellboy and worked his way up to hotel manager and the Smith family held the hotel for two decades. Things changed again in the 1950s with part of the lobby being closed off so that a new lounge could be built. This was called The Columns where waitresses wore togas and a centurion watched the door. The Columns eventually became Café Ole.

The years after the Smith Family were tough and by 1962, the hotel was in bankruptcy. A movie theater operator named Ben Marcus bought the hotel, so that it would not be demolished. Marcus wanted to add more rooms, so he expanded the hotel, adding a new 23-story guestroom tower. The tower included an ornate bar called the “Crown Room,” which became a hot spot for the city. The club offered up dancing and live performances by renowned jazz musicians like Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae and Al Jarreau. The restoration cost $7,000,000, which was seven times what it cost to originally build the hotel. Rosemary Steinfest became General Manger about this time, making her one of the first female general mangers in the nation. Rosemary said it wasn't easy because it was a man's world at that time, but she stood her ground. It was under her guidance that this became the place to stay for visiting MLB teams. And Elvis Presley stayed here once. Rosemary said that he had a special kind of bacon flown in and it had to be cooking at all times when he was in the building. She managed to reroute him through the hotel when the press was hounding him and when she got him to his room, he looked at her and said, "Thank you, baby."

For the hotel's centennial celebration in 1993, it was decided to restore the hotel to its former glory, so the lounge was taken apart and the lobby once again was like it had been when the hotel first opened. This is one of those hotels that once you enter the lobby, you can't help but gasp.  The ornately painted barrel vault ceiling had once been that giant skylight. During this 1993 renovation, Milwaukee's Conrad Schmitt Studios designed a mural for the ceiling. The mural features cherubs positioned amidst the clouds framed by 26 red shields and highlighted with Dutch metal lead that looks like gold leaf. The carpet was pulled up to reveal the original marble floors, but most of it had been crushed. The only original marble still left is in from of the fireplace.

Today, the Marcus Family still owns the Pfister Hotel and it is a member of Historic Hotels Worldwide. The Victorian art collection put together by the Pfisters is still here and can be explored with a self-guided tour or a scheduled tour with the hotel’s current Artist-in-Residence. The collection is actually worth more than the hotel itself. The hotel boasts 82 suites that have their own wet bars and sitting rooms and 307 standard rooms. A martini lounge is located on the 23rd floor named the Blu Bar and Lounge and features fondue. The Mason Street Grill is also at the hotel and is one of the best restaurants in Milwaukee serving up sandwiches, steak and craft cocktails. Turn down service greets the guests at bedtime with chocolates and this sweet dream poem, “Because this hotel is a human institution to serve people, and not solely a moneymaking organization, we hope that God will grant you peace and rest while you are under our roof. May the business that brought you our way prosper. May every call you make and every message you receive add to your joy. May this room and hotel be your 'second home.'" But sweet dreams seem to be hard to come by for some guests. The hotel also features several spirits. The Travel Channel named it the creepiest place in Wisconsin. The Pfister Hotel, however, doesn't embrace its haunted reputation, so don't ask them for official commentary.

The ghost of Charles Pfister is thought to walk the hotel. Pfister's apparition appears as a portly man and seems to be good-natured. He hangs out mainly on the hotel’s grand staircase where he can watch the lobby.  observing the lobby, watching the living go about their business at hand. He likes to stroll the Minstrel’s Gallery above the ballroom too and he's been seen up on the 9th floor. Charles had dogs and their spirits seem to be here at the hotel with him as well. The sounds of dogs are heard in the hallways. The Pfister Hotel is a favorite for visiting MLB teams who are going to play the Milwaukee Brewers. In 2010, two starters on the San Francisco Giants starters, Pablo Sandoval and Edgar Renteria, claimed that Charles Pfister haunted them for two nights in a row and it got so bad that they relocated to another hotel down the street. 

In 2018, the St. Louis Cardinals were in town and the team stayed at the Pfister. Several players and coaches all ended up in the same room together after they experienced paranormal activity. Marcell Ozuna told Carlos Martinez that he had seen an apparition in his room. Pretty soon a couple of coaches claimed they were scared by something too. They all headed to Francisco Pena's room and Martinez made a video that he posted to Instagram. In the video he said, "We are here in Milwaukee. I just saw a ghost. In Ozuna's room, he saw another one. We are all here. We are all in Peñita's [Francisco Pena] room. We are all stuck here. We are going to sleep together… If the ghost shows again, we are all going to fight together." 

Other MLB players who claim to have had experiences at the hotel are Ji-Man Choi who felt a spirit in his bed, Brandon Phillips had the radio in his room turn on by itself and then did it again after he turned it off and Carlos Gomez heard voices when he got out of the shower. Colby Lewis had the terrifying experience of seeing a skeletal apparition at 1:30am. He was so scared by it that he missed a radio appearance the next day to visit the team's chaplain. Adrian Beltre shared several experiences he had with Sports Illustrated. The TV in his room turned on and off on its own, he heard knocking on the door when no one was there and he was awakened from a dead sleep by pounding on his headboard. He was so afraid for the three days that he stayed in the hotel that he only got two hours of sleep and took a bat to bed with him. And Michael Young wasn't shy about sharing his stories with ESPN the Magazine in 2013. He said, "Oh, f--- that place. Listen, I'm not someone who spreads ghost stories, so if I'm telling you this, it happened. A couple of years ago, I was lying in bed after a night game, and I was out. My room was locked, but I heard these footsteps inside my room, stomping around. I'd heard all these stories about this hotel, so I was wide awake at that point. And then I heard it again, these footsteps on the floor, so I yelled out, "Hey! Make yourself at home. Hang out, have a seat, but do not wake me up, okay?" After that, I didn't hear a thing for the rest of the night. I just let him know he was welcome, that we could be pals, that he could marinate in there for as long as he needed to, just as long as he didn't wake me up."

Bryce Harper also told the magazine, "One time last summer, before I went to sleep, I laid a pair of jeans and a shirt on that table at the foot of the bed, those things in hotels that you sit on to put on your shoes. I just laid 'em out, simple as that. When I woke up in the morning -- I swear on everything -- the clothes were on the floor and the table was on the opposite side of the room against the wall. I was so flustered. I honestly thought there might be someone in my room. I had no idea what the hell just happened, so I actually looked around, and then I checked to see if the door was still latched, and it was. I thought someone -- maybe [Jayson] Werth -- came into my room during the night and moved everything around, and I knew Tyler Moore and Lombo [Steve Lombardozzi] were both near me too, but they said that no one had done anything like that. Now, they could be lying to me. That's possible, and no one else seemed to have a weird experience, but it really creeped me out. I went downstairs and changed my room immediately. Different room, different floor. I said, 'I just need to get out of that room. I don't want to talk about it, I just need to get out.' So they moved me to a higher floor."

C.J. Wilson told the magazine, "I've had lots of experiences there. I was on the computer one night, doing my typical shtick -- surfing the web, sending an email, editing a photo -- and then all of a sudden the lights started flickering. I'm thinking to myself, I'm going to be so pissed if my computer dies. Then the light just shuts off. And then the TV shuts off. And then the light turns back on, but the light at the front door turns off. I just yelled out, 'Really?'... I went back to whatever I was doing on the computer, but then 30 minutes later there's scratching in the walls. Now I'm thinking, Okay, it's the Midwest, there could be a possum or something in the wall, right? That's possible, isn't it? All I knew was that there were definitely noises coming from the wall...The next day, we all show up at the park, and everyone has this uneasy feeling, like we had bad Chinese food or something. I said to one of my teammates, 'You wouldn't believe the s--- that was going on in my hotel room last night." And another guy said, 'Oh my god. Are you talking about that s--- you heard?' Everybody had a story. One dude got locked in his bathroom and he had to get the hotel to get him out. Another guy had the lights turn off when he was in the shower. Another guy saw something."

If there is something that makes the hauntings at the Pfister more believable, it's that dozens of baseball players claim to have had experiences and some of them have been scared enough to leave and never return. We're not sure why they seem to be the main ones plagued with these experiences, but maybe its because they have more visibility, so their ghost stories get out more than just the regular guest. Is the Pfister Hotel haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, May 19, 2022

HGB Ep. 436 - Belvoir Winery

Moment in Oddity - The Armageddon Highway

Inside the Angeles National Forest, in the San Gabriel Mountains above the city of Azusa in California, one will find the Shoemaker Canyon Road. Sounds like an inocuous road until you hear its nickname: The Armageddon Road. This is a road that was never finished. Construction began during the early part of the Cold War in the 1950s and was meant to give the citizens of Los Angeles an escape route if there was ever a nuclear attack. What has been left behind are two abandoned long tunnels that measure less than 4.5 miles long. The project was left undone when funds just ran out. People can still drive the first 1.8 miles of Armageddon Highway and then walk or mountain-bike the remaining graded-dirt section that ends at the pair of tunnels. The tunnels are very dark so be careful if you visit. An incomplete highway built through a mountain that was meant to escape a nuclear Armageddon, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Battle of the Coral Sea

In the month of May, on the 3rd, in 1942, the Battle of the Coral Sea begins. The four-day battle between American and Japanese forces was the first air-naval battle in history. Allied forces had intercepted a message that revealed that the Japanese were planning to invade Port Moresby in southeast New Guinea. This would give Japan control of the Coral Sea. The Japanese were surprised by an attack of American planes from aircraft carriers when they entered the area. Both sides would suffer losses with the Japanese losing 70 warplanes and America lost 66, but the victory went to the Allies because the Japanese were left without enough planes to carry out the invasion on Port Morseby. This strategic victory would also help the Allies in the future Battle of Midway. That battle would end Japan's advance and lead to the final surrender of Japan. The greatest lost for the Allied side was the USS Lexington. Two hundred sixteen crewman died when the aircraft carrier was destroyed. We covered the USS Lexington in Ep. 114.

Belvoir Winery (Suggested by: Seth Ackerley)

There are three historic buildings that still stand on the property that is now home to the Belvoir Winery in Liberty, Missouri. The buildings were originally built as the Odd Fellows Home and served as an orphanage, a nursing home, a hospital and now the winery. Claims of unexplained activity started in the 1950s and the paranormal activity has only ramped up over the years. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Belvoir Winery!

Liberty, Missouri is the second oldest incorporated town west of the Mississippi and the name was inspired by one of the unalienable rights in the US Constitution. Settlers started arriving in the early 1800s and the town was officially incorporated in 1829. Liberty was considered the jumping off point for people wanting to head into the frontier. Westward expansion would launch from here and Liberty Landing became an important dock. Fun fact: Steamboats fired a cannon before they arrived at the dock to give the town a head's up. Joseph Smith was in jail here during the winter of 1839 after the Mormon War.

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows, IOOF, is one of the oldest and largest fraternal orders in America. They are also a secret society and have there own set of rituals. The group was formed in the United States in 1819, but originally got started in Europe in the 18th century. They commit themselves to elevating the character of the person and embracing diversity. The command of IOOF is to "visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead and educate the orphan" and they dedicated themselves to helping those less fortunate. They built various homes around the country for orphans, widows and the elderly and one of these places was Liberty, Missouri. The IOOF got started in 1835 and by the end of the century they had built their Odd Fellows Home on a plot of 240 acres. The process got started in 1883 with the first petition to establish a state Odd Fellows Home. Bids would be taken starting in 1894 to locate a site and Liberty was selected on the 4th ballot. It probably helped that Liberty offered $17,000 in money and the Liberty School Board offered free tuition to Liberty High School for children who would be living at the orphanage. 

The IOOF were basically going to upgrade the almshouse, which had been popular in the country previous to this time. These buildings would be more modern and have heating and plumbing. The first structure built here didn't last long. The pipes had frozen one winter and in an attempt to unthaw the pipes, the entire building was burned down. The order put out a call to architects who could design fireproof buildings. One of these architects was William B. Ittner who specialized in the Jacobethan Revival architectural style. This is a unique style that mixes Renaissance Revival with Elizabethan and features high chimneys, cusped Tudor arches, steep roof gables  and terra-cotta brickwork. For those of you who have watched Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle is an example of this style. Something else that Ittner specialized in was designing schools. His firm had designed hundreds of schools in 25 states. He designed the main Administration Building. J.H. Felt & Co. of Kansas City designed the School Building in 1904 in the same style as Ittner's building. That was eventually torn down in the early 1950s. Architect E.C. Eckle built the Old Folks Pavilion in 1907. The Old Hospital was designed by Samuel M. Hitt of Kansas City and built in 1923. Both of these buildings also had similar styling to the Jacobethan Revival style.

So there were four buildings on the property by the 1920s: the main building -which served as the orphanage - an old folks home, a hospital and the school building. A bunker would be added that served as a storm shelter and was one of the favorite places for the kids to play. There was also a farm on the property and a cemetery. The farm produced really well and as an example, in 1901 it produced 838 bushels of oats, 2,000 bushels of corn, 500 bushels of Irish potatoes, 3 tons of hay, 7,863 gallons of milk, 1,714 Ibs. of butter, and 325 dozen eggs. Most of the food was kept on site for feeding the residents. For the order, these types of homes provided a type of health and life insurance. There was a promise of care for yourself and your loved ones. The Old Hospital was built in 1923 on the north side of the property. Unbelievably, at that time, this was the only hospital in Liberty. And even more unbelievably, this only choice for a hospital was pretty much outdated from the moment it opened with narrow doors and hallways. Equipment and patient beds couldn't be moved through them.

The property started out as kid heavy, but as the years progressed there were more adults and by 1951, there were no more children. But when the kids were there, they would often perform plays and give recitals for their elderly neighbors. The nursing home was built in 1955. As part of the complete care at the Odd Fellows Complex, burial was provided, along with a headstone. Most of the elderly had no other arrangements, so they were buried at the cemetery on the property. Any current IOOF members could be buried in this cemetery as well. They didn't have to live on the property for that. In total, 10,000 people died on the property, but only 600 people are buried here. Just outside the cemetery gate sits a memorial dedicated to Liberty IOOF members who were killed in World War II.

Jesse Leimkuehler's family bought the property, which only has 36 acres now, in the late 1990s. They started with refurbishing the main building and making the first floor their winery. Today, the Belvoir Winery is an inn and a preeminent wedding venue. They are open seven days a week for wine tastings and tours. They host lots of special events, including paranormal investigations and there is enough unexplained stuff going on here to attract Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures and Kindred Spirits to investigate the property on their shows. The inn opened in 2017 with eight rooms and one large bridal suite. In the following two years, sixteen rooms were vacated in the middle of the night due to unexplained activity. Jesse has been here for more than 25 years and in that time he has heard voices, had doors open and close by themselves and seen three apparitions. One of those was a young boy wearing clothes dating to decades ago. He told KMBC, "I looked down at my arm and it had, like, big goose bumps. When they say, like, your hair stands on end, I mean, it's like a comb. It stands directly on end."

Many guests and staff have experienced stuff on the property. A guest named Danny was in the bunker with a group and a woman suggested that they sing "Ring Around the Rosie" and see if they got any interaction. Right after the first line was sung, the group distinctly heard a child's voice sing, "A pocket full of posies." The sound even echoed. A man in black has been seen looking out of the windows of the nursing home building. The inn keeps a log where guests can enter their experiences. Ruthie W. wrote in August of 2018, "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine!" So we put this song on my phone last night, turned off the lights and began to record. Little white orbs danced around the room. They really loved that song. Thanksfully we recorded it so we can share it with friends. This place is magical and we really love coming here. The wine and appetizers are wonderful too!"

Ghost Hunters visited in 2013 and Jesse told the crew that he himself had experienced the sound of children playing on the third floor. He also brought his daughter with him one day and while he was in the ballroom, she wandered down the hall and he heard her say, "Mommy, mommy" and then he heard a female voice say, "Well, hello little one." Jesse went into the hallway to see who his daughter was talking to and there was no one else in the building. A photographer named Brian told Jason that he had left his camera bag in a room on the first floor, which he locked, before he went up to the third floor to look around. When he came back down, he found the door ajar and the stuff in his camera bag had been rearranged as if someone had been going through it. He was the only one in the building at the time. The hair on the back of his neck stood up. 

A woman told the crew that she had a chilling experience in the nursing home. She felt something pressing down on her and she suddenly couldn't move her arms. She could feel them, just wasn't able to move them. She felt that it was something dark and negative. Piano music is heard in the ballroom when no one is in there playing. Amy and Adam were with the Ghost Hunters in 2013 and they heard music playing. Adam sat at the piano and played a few keys and then they heard the piano again, but coming from somewhere else. They did find another piano. Two other people on the team asked the spirits if the upcoming demolition that was coming for the nursing home would result in the dark energies in that building moving to the other buildings. The REM Pod indicated at two different times that this would be the case.

Ghost Adventures visited the winery in 2015. The guys had interference with their equipment and heard disembodied singing of children and a growl. The Ovilus said, "NICK", "SEND", "NICK", "PAULA", "OUT" and "FUNERAL." They also heard knocking and saw a misty apparition. The Spirit Box said, "You take it", "How ya doin", "I murder", "I'm back" and "Several." Zak felt something grab his wrist at one point. Billy conducted an EVP session by himself for two hours and supposedly slipped into a catatonic state while doing that.

Kindred Spirits visited in 2019. At this point, the Nursing Home was still standing and the activity in here had increased, especially in the Morgue. The energy on the whole property seemed to be getting meaner. Women were getting their hair pulled and people were being pushed and pinched. Jesse said that he was in the Old Folks Home with another person and they both saw something down one of the hallways. It looked like somebody had reached out from a room and put their arm around the door frame. And then the spirit peeked out. This was Room 37. They set up cameras in the Nursing Home and totally caught a creepy shadow figure, so they rushed over there to see what was going on. The batteries in their recorder were immediately drained and so they replaced them and Amy took the recorder down to where the shadow figure had been and she left the recorder. They heard an audible voice behind them as they started an EVP session. They also saw a figure climbing along the ceiling in the way a human would not move. Very chilling!

Chip Coffey and John E.L. Tenney joined Adam and Amy. As they all investigated together in the Old Folks Home, Amy was touched on the back. An EVP led them to check out Room 19. They had found out through their research that there was a violent man who had committed suicide in the Old Folks Home and they believed they were speaking with this apparition. They had several names and an EVP verified that this was Fred. And another EVP verified the last name as Lietze. But nothing about this spirit was negative, so they believed that something else was causing the negative experiences guests were having. The group then went to the Nursing Home and the negative activity started manifesting. There was an audible child's voice. Amy and Adam had heard the same voice the night before and they believed it was trying to lead them out of the Nursing Home. Chip felt the entity was low level demonic and after the kids and they captured that weird ceiling crawling thing on the SLS camera.  Amy and Adam got Jesse and his family and employees to help banish this negative thing with positive energy. 

For people who don't know, a skeleton was very much a part of the ODD Fellows rituals. The first one was a member named George and he donated his skeleton to the lodge. Now every skeleton inside an ODD Fellow building is named George. The George that was at Belvoir Winery is still there in a case.

The Belvoir Winery is a beautiful property. This was home for a variety of people through the years. Have the spirits of some of those previous residents decided to stay here? Is Belvoir Winery haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, May 12, 2022

HGB Ep. 435 - Rapid City and Hotel Alex Johnson

Moment in Oddity - Kailasa Temple (Suggested by: Karen Miller)

Megalithic structures are found all around the world and they are all fascinating. It is hard to comprehend that human beings could construct such things with their hands and basic tools. One of these renowned structures can be found in India. This is the Kailasa Temple and is technically a cave temple. Rather than being a temple that was built, it was formed by excavating 200,000 tons of volcanic rock from a single block of stone. The temple is one of 34 stone temples that make up the Ellora Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Not much is known about the temple. It is thought to have been built between 600 and 1000 BC, but nobody knows who ordered it built. A legend claims the king became ill and his queen prayed to Shiva to cure him. She promised to have a temple built to Shiva and that she would fast until the shikhara, or very top, was built. Little did the queen know that this construction could take years. An engineer recommended that they carve down into the stone and build the top first. And that's what was done. Whether this story is true, we'll never know, but the temple was indeed carved from the top down. When finished, the temple was three stories with lots of ornate decoration that could have been added a little at a time over the centuries. A herd of carved elements at the base of the structure seem to be carrying the temple on their backs. Both Vishnu and Shiva are honored by the Kailasa Temple, which is an outstanding example of Indian art and an engineering marvel and the fact that it was carved from the top down, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Calamity Jane Born

In the month of May, on the 1st, in 1852, Calamity Jane was born. Calamity Jane was born as Martha Jane Cannary in Princeton, Missouri. She moved with her family via wagon train to Montana in 1865. Her mother died the following year from pneumonia and the family moved to Salt Lake City. Jane's father died in 1867 when she was 14. She took her siblings to the Wyoming Territory and worked a variety of jobs from cook to nurse to dance hall girl to ox team driver and even some sex work. There are legends about how she received the nickname Calamity Jane. The story she told was that she helped during military conflicts with Native Americans and saved a Captain Egan who had been shot in his saddle and as he fell, she grabbed him and pulled him onto her saddle and road to the fort where he was saved. He dubbed her Calamity Jane, the Heroine of the Plains. Another story claimed that she told men that offending her was to court calamity. Another questionable story about her includes her being married to Wild Bill Hickok and having a child with him. She joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show 1893. Jane died from an inflamed bowel and pneumonia in 1903. She was buried next to Wild Bill Hickok in Mount Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood.

Rapid City and Hotel Alex Johnson

Rapid City, South Dakota is full of great eats, history and culture. The Hotel Alex Johnson has been opened for nearly 100 years and is located in downtown Rapid City. The hotel has hosted celebrities, presidents and even a couple of ghosts. Today, the hotel is run as a part of Hilton's Curio Collection, so the interior has been modernized, but that hasn't chased away the spirits of the past. And this city has a couple of other haunted spots as well. Join us for the history and hauntings of Rapid City and the Hotel Alex Johnson.

The Black Hills Expedition came to the Black Hills in search of gold and they found it in 1874. The announcement of this find brought a rush of people to the Dakota Territory. Not everyone was successful and a few of these discouraged prospectors decided to found a city. The spot they chose was near a limestone spring and so they called their settlement Rapid City. The group, led by John Brennan and Samuel Scott, platted the town with six blocks in the center for a business district. They advertised the settlement as the Gateway to the Black Hills to attract families to relocate. And the people came and continued to come, making this South Dakota's second largest city today. The 1800s brought more commerce and industry and the 20th century would make it a tourist destination. President Calvin Coolidge and the First Lady visited Rapid City in the summer of 1927. He set up an office there and announced he would not seek reelection in 1928. And a little fun fact, Al Capone was invited by the Rapid City Chamber of Commerce to live in the Black Hills in 1930. Capone declined. It was about this same time that Alex Johnson decided to build a hotel here.

Alex Johnson was born in Crawford County, Pennsylvania on May 20, 1859. He went to school to become a teacher and obtained his teaching certificate in 1878. He married Ida Devore and the couple had three children. The family moved to the Dakota Territories looking for an opportunity to make more money.  Johnson got work as a traveling auditor for elevator companies and attended law school. He passed the bar in South Dakota and later became a special agent for the Chicago & North Western Railroad. Johnson continued his work with the railroad throughout the rest of his life, reaching Vice President of CNW, holding that role until he retired in 1929. During that time, he decided to build a hotel, which he hoped would be a showplace of the West.

The timing was perfect for this hotel. The day before ground was broken for the Hotel Alex Johnson, work began on Mount Rushmore. Construction continued from October of 1927 to July 1, 1928 when the hotel officially opened. The hotel was designed by Chicago architects Oldefest & Williams and done in the Germanic Tudor architectural style. This style is clearly reflected in the half-timber work and multiple roof gables at the top of the hotel and the large groups of rectangular windows. The hotel rises 122 feet and has 11 stories. The hotel featured standard guest rooms and suites, a total of 143 rooms. Today, those suites are the Executive Suites, a Presidential Suite and a Bridal Suite. Johnson wanted the interior of his hotel to reflect the land upon which it was built, so he insisted that the Lakota Sioux Tribe be represented. There is a chandelier that has hung here from the beginning made from the tribe's war spears. The Native American symbol for the four sacred corners of the earth is represented in several places as well. The lobby has brick flooring and ornate woodwork, particularly on the banisters of the upper level that looks down on the lobby.

There is a bar off the lobby called Paddy O'Neill's and this was named for the first official guest of the hotel. Good thing his name wasn't John Smith. There is also the Vertex Restaurant & Bar that is on the top two floors of the hotel and is members-only. The hotel has hosted six US Presidents over the years: Calvin Coolidge, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. The 1959 Hitchcock movie "North by Northwest" was filmed at nearby Mount Rushmore and the hotel served as lodging for director Alfred Hitchcock and stars Eva Marie Saint and Cary Grant. The hotel is mentioned several times in the movie as the Sheraton-Johnson Hotel because that was its name at the time. This was the place the mysterious George Kaplan was staying. North by Northwest is considered one of the greatest movies of all time and features a plot where an innocent man is mistaken for being someone with the government trying to prevent a mysterious organization from smuggling out microfilm that contains government secrets. The climax of the movie takes place at Mount Rushmore.

Twenty years after the hotel opened, it changed ownership to the Eppley Hotel Company. It then fell under ownership of the Sheraton company and was called the Sheridan-Johnson Hotel when Sheridan acquired the Eppley Hotel Company. That lasted nine years and the hotel took on its original name again in 1965. Hilton took over the hotel in 2015 and made it part of its Curio Collection managed by Liv Hospitality. The hotel announces its name with a glowing red rooftop sign. This place is not shy about their haunts and even offers a Ghost Adventure stay, which includes a reportedly haunted room, a K2 Meter, free parking and a dining credit. The website also includes information about the three spirits thought to be here and the lobby keeps a ghost book. The hotel has seen its share of death with reportedly eight deaths at the hotel. 

Guests and staff have reported seeing shadow figures, particularly in unusual places. Doors open and close by themselves. Cold spots are felt, people feel as though they are being watched and they feel someone unseen sitting down next to them. Knocking is heard as well as growling and there are reports that one entity here does seem to be aggressive, so perhaps that is who is growling. This mean spirit has also shoved, bitten and pinched people. Chairs are pushed from one area to another or sometimes heaved across the room by something unseen. One of the ghosts here is believed to belong to Alex Johnson himself. He died in the hotel in 1938. His full-bodied apparition is seen in various locations. There is a young female ghost here as well that is believed to be Alex Johnson's niece who died of an incurable disease. She likes to wander the eighth floor and has been seen running through the hall and knocking on doors. She vanishes once seen. Her disembodied giggling is heard too. 

Domico Rodriguez worked as a general manager of the hotel in 2018 and he told the 605 Magazine, "People say they hear kids running up and down the hall. Well, we don’t have a lot of kids that stay here, particularly not young children. But that’s one of the things that they often talk about. They hear them playing in the hallway.” Raz Goldman was a hotel lobby clerk and he told the Black Hills Fox in October of 2020, "There’s something I always feel a little creeped out on the 8th or 3rd floor. For me in room 812 the safe would not open. We did everything we could and it would not open. Finally, before I called maintenance the safe just opened. I don’t know why or how that happened but it did.”

The most famous ghost here is our Lady in White. There are two stories told about a bride who killed herself. This could either be two totally different brides or just two legends connected to one woman. Both stories claim that the bride was jilted. She had been staying on the eighth floor and threw herself out of the hotel window, falling to her death. Or she hanged herself inside her eighth floor room from the telephone cord. This second story actually has a crime scene photo to go with it, so it isn't just legend. Some people claim that she was murdered, particularly her friends who say that she had a large inheritance. The police never found evidence for murder, so it was ruled a suicide and remains that way. She died in Room 812 and so this is the most active room. She opens and closes drawers in here and even turns the drawers upside down and puts them back in that way. The Lady in White's disembodied crying is heard and guests have awakened to find the window open in the morning. This ghostly bride is seen floating down the hallway of the eighth floor as well.

Ghost Hunters investigated the hotel in 2011. Jamie Paul Koehler, a gift shop employee at the time, saw a dark figure out of the corner of his eye, walk up from behind him and then past him through a locked door. It freaked him out good. The general manager says people hear people yelling "Let me out of here!" down in the basement. He lived in Room 304 for a month when he first got to the hotel and one night he felt something shift on the bed and then lean on him. Something he couldn't see. Bob Almond was the Director of Maintenance and he could never get plumbers to go into a crawl space between the 9th and 10th floors where much of the major plumbing was located. One plumber got very nauseous and another heard an audible growl. He also lost a painter who was touched by a ghost and refused to return. The guys thought they debunked this as the heating pipes making noise, until the thermal camera picked up a figure. They did debunk a claim that a man got out of the shower and "Help Me" was written on the steam of the mirror. As we know, someone could have written something before and then it would show up and the Ghost Hunters proved that with an experiment.

The team brought their dog Maddie with them. She refused to go in the room where the crawl space was located and they got high EMF readings. Grant and Jason heard the sound of something like a box dragging across the floor. Tango went into the crawl space and asked something to knock after he knocked and something did. He repeated it and there was knocking again. Later, Jason and Grant would be in the same space and hear disembodied footsteps. Amy and Adam were in room 304 and they captured a deep voice on their recorder. Tango and Steve were sitting in the balcony of the ballroom and they captured some kind of a white mist travel several feet around the tables on a camera. It was very creepy. They also asked the spirit to make a banging sound and it sounded like some soft knocking. They debunked it as dust, but I'm not so sure because it shifts twice. Jason felt something blowing on the back of his head in Room 304. They looked for a vent, but couldn't find anything that would cause that. Amy and Adam had also felt like something touched their hair when they were in this room. Adam sleepy in Room 802 and caught a female voice on EVP a little after 4 am.

Elks Theater

The Rapid City Elks built the building that now houses the Elks Theater in 1911. This was to be their lodge and opera house. They sold the Elks Lodge in 1920 to a man named Art Rose and he held onto it for five years before selling it to Black Hills Amusement Company. Talkies came to the theater in 1929. In 1969, Common Wealth Theaters bought the theater and they sold it to United Artist 1988. We're not sure why, but the company locked up the theater within a year and left it abandoned. Burst pipes severely damaged the interior. Doug and Lori Andrews bought Elks Theater in 1992 and began refurbishing it. They sold it to Curt Small in 2008 and he still owns the property. There is one benevolent spirit here that everybody calls Jimmy. Curt Small doesn't believe in ghosts, but he has said that patrons claim to have seen the apparition and that they see the seats set down and flip up on their own.

The Old Hanging Tree

Along Skyline Drive one will find the stump of a very large old oak tree. This is reputedly what is left of Rapid City's hanging tree. Several historical records do describe a hanging tree being used to execute criminals, but no one knows for sure if this is the exact location. That doesn't keep this spot from being haunted. A woman who lived in a house on the hill near the tree claims to have seen the spirit of a cowboy pass into her house and he walked through the hallway. She also once heard a disembodied voice tell her to "Get out!" And people who have been outside near the tree have claimed to hear the sound of a horse and even felt the horse rush by them. On one occasion, a dozen people all heard the sound of the horse as if it were struggling.

Sioux San Hospital

The Sioux San Hospital originally started as a boarding school for Native American children. It opened in 1898 and was called the Rapid City Indian School or School of the Hills. The goal was to teach Native American children how to read and write and adapt them - read that as conform them - to English culture. Some of the children were mistreated and we can imagine that they were not very happy being away from family and being forced to learn things they may not want to learn. There are stories that some were beaten to death or neglected to death and that they were buried on the property. The boarding school closed in 1933 and reopened later as the Sioux Sanitarium to help Native Americans who had tuberculosis. Those who died at the hospital and had no family were buried on the property. The hospital closed in the 1960s. It reopened as the Rapid City Indian Health Service Hospital. Unmarked graves still exist on the property. The crying of children is heard on the property. And the apparitions of Native American children have been seen and they slowly fade away after being seen.

Hookey Jack

There was a legendary character from Rapid City we wanted to share with you. His name was John Leary, but every one knew him as Hookey Jack. Now, when we first heard this story, it just sounded like a legend. Miner loses his hands to dynamite, replaces them with hooks, works as a cop for decades and dies after being hit by a car. He then went on to haunt his old 7th Street apartment building, which later became a nightclub, restaurant and church offices. But this wasn't just a legend. It was all true as this article from the Lead Daily Call dated November 8, 1926 reveals.

Employees working at the businesses claimed to see strange orbs and saw objects that moved on their own, like billiard balls and tables and chairs. They also heard disembodied footsteps and some customers claimed to see an apparition. Most of the activity takes place on the third floor where Hookey Jack once lived and employees would refuse to go up there. No one would work in the building alone. Security cameras on the third floor picked up flashing lights when the building was empty. Bartenders claimed to see the spirit of Hookey Jack come towards the bar as if to order a drink and then he would just disappear. And people claim to see him looking out the glass doors at the front.

Several places in Rapid City seem to be haunted. The city is definitely a historic place and with its location so close to the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore, it makes a great tourist destination. Are these locations in Rapid City and in particular the Hotel Alex Johnson haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, May 5, 2022

HGB Ep. 434 - Old Hospital on College Hill

Moment in Oddity - The Belchen Tunnel White Lady (Suggested by: John Michaels)

The Belchen Tunnel is a motorway tunnel in Switzerland that runs over 10,000 feet that links Eptingen with Hagendorf. The tunnel officially opened in 1966. For years, the Eptingen side of the tunnel has had rumors of a mysterious happening. A phantom hitchhiker walks the shoulder until a vehicle picks her up and then she disappears from the car when the car enters the Belchen Tunnel. They call her weisse Frau or the White Lady. She appears as an elderly woman all dressed in white. The first paper to report about these sightings was Blick on January 6, 1981. The police started logging dozens of calls reporting the mysterious woman. The most popular shared experience occurred on September 26, 1983. The White Lady was picked up by two female jurists in Eptingen. They described her as being middle-aged and pale. The two women said that they inquired if she was ill and she said that she was and then she told them something terrible was going to happen. One of the women spun around to ask more about that revelation and she discovered that the White Lady had disappeared. We're not sure if something dreadful did happen later. Was she remembering her passing perhaps? Did it happen in the tunnel? Whatever the case may be, the White Lady of the Belchen Tunnel, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Katharine Hepburn Born

In the month of May, on the 12th, in 1907, Katharine Hepburn was born. Hepburn was born and raised in New England and was brought up to be an independent thinker. And in the world of old Hollywood, she certainly was that. She broke the rules about glamour, rarely wearing make-up and sporting trousers. She was outspoken and strong-willed. Her acting career spanned 60 years and garnered her 12 Best Actress Oscar nominations, a record not broken until 2003 when Meryl Streep received her 13th nomination. Hepburn won three of those Oscars for the films Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), A Lion in Winter (1968) and On Golden Pond (1981). She didn't pick up any of the awards in person. Many thought of her as arrogant and self-absorbed because she refused to grant interviews, sign autographs or pose for pictures. Hepburn carried on a love affair with Spencer Tracy for 27 years. He refused to divorce his wife because he was Catholic, yet the couple lived together for years before his death. They made nine movies together. She only discussed the relationship after Tracy's widow died. Me:Stories of My Life was her candid autobiography that was published in 1991. Her last acting gig was in 1994. She died in 2003 at the age of 96.

Old Hospital on College Hill (Suggested by: MaryAnn Farley)

The Williamson Memorial Hospital was named for the town of Williamson in West Virginia. Most people know this location as the Old Hospital on College Hill. People were born here and they died here and remnants from the past are everywhere inside the dilapidated buildings. The property is set deep in the mystical West Virginian Appalachian Mountains overlooking the town. Entities of all sorts have been experienced here. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Old Hospital on College Hill!

Williamson is the county seat of Mingo County in West Virginia. The town sits along the Tug Fork River and was named for the man who originally owned the plot, Wallace J. Williamson. He founded the first bank and first hotel here. The town was incorporated in 1892 and began to grow with the founding of the rail yard here, which was built by the Norfolk and Western Railroad. This railroad would provide a means for transporting the coal that was pulled out of nearby coal mines. Coal mining is still one of the main industries of Williamson. The town is also the scene of the Hatfield-McCoy Marathon every June. The Hatfield-McCoy Reunion Festival takes place at the same time. And that is because Williamson is involved in that feud, which took place along the Tug Fork River.

The McCoy family came from the Kentucky side of the dispute, while the Hatfields were from West Virginia. These families descended from Joseph Hatfield and William McCoy. The feud began with the Civil War even though both families mainly fought for the Confederacy, except for Asa McCoy. When he was returning home after being wounded, he was ambushed and killed by Confederate guerillas lead by Jim Vance who was an uncle to Anse Hatfield, the leader of the Hatfield family at the time. Thirteen years later, land disputes started between the families. They also fought over moonshine territory. Several family members were killed on each side, many times these altercations left behind bullet-riddled bodies. The feud reached its peak with the New Year Massacre in 1888. Things finally settled down in 1901.  

There are ghosts connected to this feud. The Hatfield Cemetery in Sarah Ann, West Virginia is about 30 minutes from Williamson. Devil Anse Hatfield and his sons are buried here and their spirits are said to still be sticking around. On foggy nights, their spirits are said to rise from their graves and make their way down the mountain toward Island Creek, which is at the bottom. William Garrett was a well-known mountain preacher and he baptized the Hatfields in this very creek in 1911. It's said their spirits are heading to the creek to re-enact their baptisms. They then fade away. The Dils Cemetery is on the Kentucky side of the feud and was the first racially integrated cemetery in Eastern Kentucky. Randolph McCoy is buried here, he was the head of the family, along with his wife and a couple of their children. Shadow figures have been traveling between headstones and trees.

A hospital was built in downtown Williamson in 1918, but that structure burned down in the winter of 1926. No one died in the fire thankfully. A woman, Mrs. Leonard Chafin, on the third floor threw her newborn out of a window and a man on the street named Raymond Edwards caught the baby. A doctor and several nurses jumped to safety on a pile of mattresses. A new hospital, which would eventually be known as the Old Hospital on College Hill, opened March 3, 1928 at 728 Mullberry Street. Unlike the former hospital, this one was state-of-the-art and had 75 beds and 32 private patient rooms. The business owners of Williamson were the ones to fund the construction through the purchasing of bonds and the hospital had paid those bonds off by 1939. The hospital was four stories with a basement. The fourth floor had the pharmacy, the third floor had medical and surgical rooms, the second floor had the maternity ward, the first floor featured the ICU and the basement had a cafeteria, lab, radiology department and emergency room. And there were incinerators located here as well for dispatching of bodies and body parts from amputations. In 2020, ashes left from that were still in the building. 

Eventually, it was more practical for the emergency room to move to the street level and this place saw a lot of action. There were nearby coal mining operations and accidents occurred occasionally. One of those accidents from the Williamson Coalfield took place at the Cinderella Mine owned by the Sycamore Coal Company. This mine opened in March of 1911 and became one of the largest mine operations. On June 30, 1914 a mine fire at Cinderella suffocated five miners to death: George Seibold, James Collins, Benjamin James, Henry Lyons, and Marion Lyons. Twenty other men made it to the surface. Rescuers worked feverishly for hours digging a rescue shaft. An explosion at Burning Springs Mine in 1951 killed eleven miners.

The Norfolk & Western Railway was headquartered in Roanoke, Virginia and started in 1838. The coal train was nicknamed King Coal, but it wasn't just coal that was carried on the trains. There were passenger trains as well. Four passenger trains in each direction stopped at Williamson station every day in 1957. The last passenger trains left Williamson in 1971. On January 23rd 1956, a Norfolk & Western Passenger Train named The Pocahontas derailed and crashed in South-Eastern Mingo County. The engineer was killed, nine passengers were hospitalized and 14 others were injured with more minor issues. Those 23 individuals who were hurt in the crash were brought to Williamson Memorial Hospital. 

Violent injuries from the Matewan Massacre were brought to Williamson Memorial on May 19, 1920. The miners working under the Stone Mountain Coal Company tried to organize and the company hired enforcers from the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency to evict miners and their families. A gun fight followed some of the evictions and which side fired first is not known. What is known is that the sheriff, Sid Hatfield, shot lead detective Albert Felts. This was after Mayor Cabell Testerman was wounded by either Felts or Hatfield - no one knows the answer to that either. But Hatfield did marry Testerman's widow twelve days after Testerman died. And the day before that marriage, they were caught in a hotel room and charged with improper relations. Anyway, the gunfight continued between miners and detectives. Seven of the detectives were killed and two miners were killed. Many others were wounded.

*Fun Fact: A Dr. Salton had a horse that he really loved and it became sick and needed emergency surgery. He brought it to the hospital, walked it in and loaded it into the elevator. They then went up to the fourth floor. Staff on the third floor heard the clopping of horse hooves and thought they were hearing something quite strange, but later discovered that there was indeed a horse up on the fourth floor undergoing surgery. We're not sure how the horse fared.*

In 1979, the facility was sold to Hospital Managements Association, Inc. and continued to operate until 1988. Then it was closed after 60 years of service because a more modern facility was opened up the street. The building was converted to physician offices and was used for that purpose until 2014. Then the hospital was used for storage. As nature began to take back the building, wrapping it with vines, and the infrastructure began to crumble, the building took on a real creepy mystique. Rumors of hauntings had plagued it through the years. So it seemed fitting that it was decided to host paranormal tours during the Halloween season. Williamson Memorial Hospital partnered with the Tug Valley Area CVB to conduct those tours in 2018 and 2019. There was a real treat for tourists after several of the tours in 2019 when actor Tony Moran, who played the original Michael Myers in John Carpenter's 1978 Film "Halloween" was there to greet them. Thousands came for the tours. 

In November 2020, the facility was purchased by Tonya Webb, a Mingo County Chief Probation Officer, and businesswoman Sabrina Hatfield. Hatfield, unfortunately, died on February 28, 2021 from cancer. Her husband, Charlie Hatfield, is the mayor of Williamson. Webb has been nicknamed the "Queen of Halloween" in the town. She was born at the hospital and two of her grandparents died here. Their goal is to restore the buildings and make this a tourist destination. In 2021, the facility was reopened to the public as a host to both paranormal and historic tour opportunities. There is much unexplained activity reported here.

Residents of Williamson have often seen lights turning on and off in the building when it is empty. They also claim to see people staring out of the windows and shadow figures pass by windows. The Williamson Police Department had been called out repeatedly when the building was abandoned and they would never find anyone inside and no signs of a break-ins. The apparition of a female spirit has been seen floating in the basement between the two x-ray rooms at the end of the hall and an EVP was captured down there in 2018 saying "Help me!" An employee was down in the basement, she looked over her left shoulder and saw a face sticking out of the wall. It made her cry and she looked to be a woman in her late 50s/early 60s, so it really must have scared her. She hasn't returned to the basement since and says she won't return. Others claim to have seen this face in the wall as well. 

The mayor, Charlie Hatfield, had been on the property many times with his wife and he experienced some unexplained stuff. He was working by himself on a window when he clearly heard voices. Charlie looked around and no one was near him. On another occasion, he and a friend named Wes were working on a window in the basement and they heard a door close abruptly. There was no breeze or wind, so they couldn't explain how that happened. They left quickly. Tonya Webb was checking the building one night after an investigation and she heard a male voice say, "Hey!" loudly. It startled her and was so clear that she went looking for the person. She was alone in the building.

The apparition of a nurse has been seen as though she is still doing her rounds and it is thought that she is a nurse who died in the hospital either during one of her shifts or in the operating room on the fourth floor after being involved in a car accident on her way to work. Before the hospital closed, a woman had a run-in with this nurse. She had just given birth and was resting in a room, looking forward to seeing her baby. A nurse came in and told her she could go home and that she wouldn't be able to see her baby until the next day. So the woman dressed and headed for the door when another nurse ran up to her and asked where she was going. She responded, "The nurse told me to leave." This nurse looked at her strangely and said, "What nurse? I’m the only nurse on the floor today." For years, doctors and nurses reported seeing this ghostly nurse. A contractor saw her on the fourth floor when he was doing renovations. He claimed to see her glide down the corridor. He ran after he to find out who she was and she had just disappeared. There were no exit doors she could have gone out. He refused to return to the fourth floor. This nurse has been photographed. One of the pictures was taken by a woman named Sheena Daniels on one of the tours on Halloween night in 2018. We'll share that picture on Instagram.

Many ghost stories originate from the time when this was a working hospital, but even more came out starting in 2018 when paranormal tours started. During one of those tours, the elevator did something strange. This elevator is the oldest in operation in Mingo County. Visitors were transported to floors that were open for the tour. A couple of the floors were locked and were not to be accessed. The elevator stopped on those locked floors without the button being pushed. There was no one on those floors to call the elevator and again, they were locked. The elevator has windows and these closed floors should've been dark, but the lights were on and some people saw shadow figures. One tour guide got ill while giving tours, many days in a row, whenever they entered the left X-ray Room. The flashlight batteries would die in this room as well. A medium later informed the crew that the spirit of a man was behind the X-ray control panel and didn't want anyone in that room. Many believe that it is his face that people see in the wall. And he definitely gives off an unfriendly vibe.

There are moans heard on the third floor and a shadow figure. Many people believe this is the spirit of Mose Blackburn. The story behind this starts in the wee hours of the morning on Saturday, July 21, 1962. Mose and Ora Blackburn owned a restaurant on Pike Street and they got in a domestic dispute there. The police were called and the first to arrive were Lt. Garnet Richmond and Patrolman Howard Hatfield. As we all know, these kinds of calls are the worst for police. They found the couple sitting in two separate cars outside of the restaurant and so they approached the vehicles to find out what happened. They both headed towards the vehicle holding Mose Blackburn first. They had no idea that Mose had a .22 pistol sitting in his lap. Mose picked up his gun and aimed it at his windshield and pulled the trigger. The bullet hit Lt. Richmond below the left eye. Hatfield dove to the ground and called for back-up. He them exchanged fire with Blackburn and around 20 bullets were fired in the gun battle. Mose was struck once in the arm. He was subdued after more officers showed up.  

Both Richmond and Blackburn were taken to Williamson Memorial Hospital, but the officer was declared dead when he got there. Blackburn was treated for his gunshot wound and spent several days in the hospital under armed guard. He was a cop killer and his arraignment would be in a week. Lt. Richmond had been a veteran of World War II and he left behind a pregnant wife, two daughters and a step-daughter. The two deputies who took turns watching him were Enoch Fillinger and Morrie Blair. On the evening of July 29th, Mose complained about being thirsty and Deputy Fillinger went to the nurse's station to get him some water. Once he left his sentry, the story goes that Mose took off running down the third floor hall towards a window and he leapt out that window. The fall didn't kill him, but it broke him up pretty badly. Mose broke his femur, fractured his mandible and had multiple contusions. He eventually died on August 24, 1962. His death certificate lists "empyema" as the cause of death. This is a malady where pus builds up in the area between the lungs and inner chest wall. Mose had this condition due to a fractured rib from his fall. Mose was buried in Davis Memorial Gardens in Stone, Kentucky. 

Many wonder if Mose did indeed jump out that window of his own accord. Could he have been pushed? The police surely would've wanted retaliation for losing one of their own. But he didn't jump out of the window in his room, so its possible a nurse or another patient would have seen him being thrown out of a window by someone else. But this also begs the question, why would he run down the hall to jump out a window when he had one in his room? Mose had told his nurses that he was afraid for his life and that he was having horrible nightmares. Was he being haunted by his victim? Was he just afraid of facing the electric chair? What made him run in terror out a window?

Destination Fear was the first investigative team allowed to overnight at the Old Hospital. They did this in 2020. Their visit was fairly uneventful. There were strange sounds heard on each floor as each member spent an hour alone in the building. Dakota and his sister Chelsea were awakened from sleep by the sound of broken glass and Dakota did find broken glass on the floor in one of the rooms. The Ovilus did give the word "malevolent" once too. Many people believe that something dark is in the building. Was this the entity letting itself be known. It certainly had no interest in talking to the group. The only EVP picked up seemed to be an angry, growling type of voice.

Spectral Research and Investigation team, SRI, visited and they spent much of their time trying to communicate with Mose. They got some interaction using the Ovilus. They described it as "communication was brief and abruptly stopped after only a short time, but not before we were able to establish that Mose seemed to feel at least some level of remorse for what he had done, but also felt that he was a victim too." Paranormal Quest investigated the hospital in the Spring of 2021 and on the Mose floor, one of the investigators felt something pass by him several times. Several pieces of equipment were activated in the hallway that was Mose's route as well. One cool thing they rigged up was a REM Pod attached to an IV rack, so if anything touched the IV rack, the REM Pod went off. That happened a couple of times for a lengthy period of time.

The Old Hospital was no stranger to birth and death. Does the afterlife have a place here too? Is the Old Hospital on College Hill haunted? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes:

Paranormal Quest video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sV9OilJF5mQ

Thursday, April 28, 2022

HGB Ep. 433 - Waverley Plantation House

Moment in Oddity - The Lost City of Derinkuyu (Suggested by: Chelsea Flowers)

A man in Turkey was doing some renovations on his house in 1963 when he made an amazing discovery. He broke through an exterior bedroom wall and discovered a tunnel entrance. What he didn't know at the time would soon be figured out by archaeologists. He had discovered the lost ancient underground city of Derinkuyu that dates to the 8th century BCE. This city extended to a depth of 200 feet and there were a series of rooms that rose to multiple levels. These rooms were carved into the soft volcanic rock of this region of Turkey and featured living and sleeping quarters, store rooms, rooms for livestock and even a school. Ventilation holes were carved up to the surface for ventilation. The city was able to hold up to 20,000 people and was believed to have been built by the Phrygians. These were an Indo-European group from the Balkan region. This was believed to be a place of refuge from Arab armies and the entrance tunnels were hidden in the hills surrounding Derinkuyu. This would serve that purpose during the Byzantine Era from the 5th through the 10 Century CEand then againin the 14th Century. The idea that this ancient underground city of refuge was found during a house renovation, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - "Annie Hall" Wins Best Picture

In the month of April, on the 3rd, in 1978, the movie "Annie Hall" beats out "Star Wars" for best picture. Star Wars was an extremely successful action-adventure blockbuster directed by George Lucas, while Annie Hall was a small-scale romantic comedy directed by Woody Allen. Annie Hall was played by Diane Keaton and Woody Allen played the male lead, Alvy. They were a couple in real life and Keaton's character was based on her. and the wardrobe of hats, oversized jackets and baggy trousers, inspired other women to give the style a try. At this 50th Oscars, the film not only won Best Picture, but Best Director, Best Actress and Best Original Screenplay. It was the first time a director won an Oscar for a movie in which he starred. But Star Wars didn't need to feel bad. Look at the franchise it created and where would we be without The Child?

Waverley Plantation House (Suggested by: Bailey O'Brian)

The Waverley Plantation Home is located near West Point, Mississippi and is not only one of the most photographed antebellum homes in the South, but is very uniquely designed with an octagonal shaped cupola. The Robert Snow family took what had become a rundown and abandoned home and over a period of 25 years returned it to its former glory. It's a registered historic landmark that you can visit today. Be sure to bring your paranormal senses because this place reputedly has several spirits! Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Waverley Plantation House! 

West Point is located in what is considered the Golden Triangle of Mississippi. This triangle is formed from the cities of West Point, Columbus and Starkville. The land was sold to a James Robertson in 1844 by two Native Americans. A lesser battle of the Civil War was fought in the town in February of 1864 and West Point became the home of Mary Holmes College in 1892. This was a coeducational, historically black college for young black women, which closed its doors in 2005. It now is home for Community Counseling Services that provides services for mental health and addiction. It would be a few miles down the road that Colonel George Young would build his plantation home.

George Young was born on December 28, 1799 in Oglethorpe County, Georgia. His family were planters, but he had his sights set on the law. He graduated from the University of Georgia with honors. Young began his law practice in Lexington, Georgia and served in the Georgia Legislature as a representative for Oglethorpe County. Young married Lucy Woodson Watkins in 1825 when he was 26 and the couple would have ten children, six boys and four girls. They all survived into adulthood too. In 1833, Young moved the family to Lowndes County, Mississppi. He purchased thousands of acres of land at the Pontotoc Land Office, which was selling Chickasaw tribal land. Part of this purchase was near the Tombigbee River. Young was now going to go back to his roots and be a planter rather than a lawyer.

Young proceeded to set up several plantations fully staffed with slave labor. The Tombigbee River also provided revenue through boat transportation, which not only helped him transport his crops, but the crops and goods of other services. In 1842, he built a two-story dogtrot cabin near the river for the family to live in and a brick plantation office. He continued to save up his money because he had a dream of building a showcase mansion for his wife and he started that endeavor in 1852. This would become the Waverley Plantation House. Unfortunately, Lucy didn't get to enjoy the new house for long. She died shortly after it was built, she was only 52-years-old.

The mansion was designed by architect Charles Pond and built in the Greek Revival style and was very unique with two giant white columns rising on the front porch of a house that featured four-stories with a two-story main house and two-story cupola on the rotunda. The interior is awe-inspiring with a central spindled staircase that winds around in a circular path up all four floors. Each of those floors has a wall-less floor walkway. The rotunda had a sparkling chandelier hanging from it. Entering into this wide open octagonal foyer must have been something for guests and the Waverley had plenty of guests as this home became a center for the social activity of the nearby towns, hosting weekly dances. The first floor had four rooms: a formal parlor, dining room, library and a guest room, which was the biggest room in the house. A rosewood Steinway piano sat in the parlor and was one of only eight made that had an off-center keyboard. The second floor had four bedrooms. The top floor of the cupola was a ballroom. The kitchen was outside as was the custom of the time. The house was 8,000 square feet.

The grounds were magnificent with gardens and orchards. There was a cotton gin, brick kiln, ice house and a swimming pool with bathhouse. Later, a leather tannery, lumber mill and hat manufacturing plant would be added. The first American-made saddle blankets were produced here. There was also a few homes built by plantation owners who farmed nearby plantations. Two of these owners would be James and Thomas Young, George's sons. And there were, of course, slave quarters. Sir Walter Scott wrote a novel named Waverley and that is what inspired the name for Young.

Lucy wasn't able to enjoy years in the home, but the rest of the Young family did. Things would change with the Civil War. All of the boys signed up to fight for the Confederacy. George and his daughters opened up the home as a hospital and recuperation house. One of the people who stayed here was Belle Buchanan Edmondson, who was a Confederate scout and spy. At the time, a warrant was out for her arrest because she had been running supplies and letters to the Confederates. She hid out at the house. She died in 1872 at the age of thirty-three. Another person who stayed at the house was Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was wounded while leading his troops in stopping the Yankee invasion of Columbus. He recuperated for three weeks in the Egyptian Room at the house. He also used Waverley as a headquarters because the cupola made a great lookout. He and George's son, Col. George Hamilton Young, became friends and Forrest would continue to visit the house in the future.  

Beverly Daniel Young was George's third son and he joined the 11th Infantry Regiment in May of 1861. He fought in several battles: First & Second Manassas Battles, Battle of Seven Pines, Cold Harbor action, Battles of Petersburg & Gaines’ Mill and the Battle of Gettysburg. It would be at Gettysburg that he would be seriously wounded with a shot in his leg. He was taken as a prisoner and placed at the David’s Island Prisoner of War Camp in New York. This location was severely overcrowded and clearly the medical care would be lacking and he soon had a gangrene infection that took his life on August 28th, 1863. He was initially buried at Cypress Hill Cemetery in Long Island, but the family eventually disinterred the body and he was brought home and buried in the family plot at the George Hampton Young Family Cemetery. Thomas Young survived the war, but died in 1869 at the age of 38 years.

After the war, the enslaved people at Waverley were free and obviously more changed at the plantation. Families in the area were hit hard during Reconstruction and some of the homeless families were invited to stay at Waverley Mansion. Some of these people were given work at the tannery and mills. Colonel George Young eventually died in 1880 and Waverley Mansion passed down to two of George's sons who were bachelors still, Captain William and George Valerius whom they called Val. Captain Billy was what we would call a party animal and he had no interest in settling down with just one woman. Val was a gambler and regularly hosted card games at the house and cock fights in the yard. Val died in 1906 and Captain Billy died in 1913. He was the last Young child to live at Waverley Mansion.

Now the family had to decide what to do with the property. They couldn't agree on whether to sell it or keep it, but no one could afford the maintenance. They were able to afford to pay the property taxes, so that was all that they did and the house fell into disrepair and was abandoned for fifty years. And we all know what happens to amazing old mansions that are no longer loved. People who don't love them move in and turn them into party pads. The local fraternities had some fun here. And maybe that wasn't so bad for the two Young sons that were the last to live here since they liked a good party. Then nature moved in and vines wrapped themselves up the beautiful double staircases and bees built a hive in the cupola that weighed 200 pounds.

The mansion would get a second chance in 1962 when Robert and Donna Snow saw the house and fell in love with it. The house came with 35 acres that included a stocked pond and hundred-year-old trees and the brick plantation office. Many of the boxwood bushes decorating the property today were from cuttings of the originals planted by the landscape gardener who first designed the gardens on the property. The Snows were antique dealers, so they easily were able to fill Waverley House with period antiques and some of the Young descendants donated original pieces from the family. And the original gas-powered chandelier still hangs from the dome of the rotunda. The rotunda and cupola took 7 months to restore with the biggest project being removing the bees. The kitchen had fallen into ruin in the 1920s, so the Snows built a new one in the same spot. Waverley Mansion was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. 

Donna Snow died in 1991. Robert started his journey to transition in 2016 and the Snow children knew they needed to do something with the house that their parents had been so dedicated to for do many years. They were all getting up in years themselves and didn't have the energy to maintain the property, so they sought out someone who would bye the property and continue to upkeep it and have it open as a museum for the public. Along come Charlie and Dana Stephenson, who were excited to have the house and built a separate home on the property for them to live in so the entire house could be a museum. The Snows had actually lived in the house even though it was also a museum. The Stephensons replaced former HVAC system which was eight fireplaces and open window ventilation with a geothermal system.

So Waverley Mansion has been home to only three families in its 170 years. And there are reputedly a bevy of spirits who call this home as well. As of April 2022, the house is closed for renovations, but hoping to open in the next few months. Jimmy Denning is the tour guide who has been with the house for more than a decade and he meets people at the gate on Saturdays from 9am to 5pm to answer questions and share about the house. Neighbors, guests, the Snows and many more have experienced strange things on the property. Neighbors had claimed to hear music playing that sounds like it is from the late 1800s when the house was abandoned. Loud crashes have been heard in the house. Nothing is ever found disturbed. Doors slam shut on their own.

Alabama author Kathryn Tucker Windham wrote "13 Mississippi Ghosts and Jeffrey" in 1974 and in there she shared the story of the ghost of a little girl whose voice has often been heard calling out "Mama, Mama." The Snows saw her several times and she usually appeared on the grand staircase. They described her as looking to be about four-years-old, wearing a high neck gown that is white. Donna Snow once noticed the impression of a child-sized person on an upstairs bed. She told Robert about it and they watched the bed together the following night and sure enough, the depression appeared on the bed as if a child climbed up and went to sleep. She likes to move pennies around. Mrs Snow also heard the girl call out, "Mama?" So she squatted down and asked, "Can I help you? What is the matter?" She didn't get an answer and the girl disappeared. It's said that the spirit was not seen again after this exchange. Interestingly, Mrs. Snow's spirit has been spotted on the stairs, smoking.

A man was visiting Waverley Mansion with his young daughter Sandy at a time when renovations were underway. There was a film of dust on the stairs and he noticed the bare footprints of a child that were fresh, going up four or five steps. He pointed them out to Sandy and she wanted to leave and he agreed that they probably should go. Who could this child be? There are a couple of options. During the Civil War, a young girl died of Diphtheria when the house was used as a hospital. A relative of the snow family, Susan Hamilton, died in 1874 in an accident on the staircase when she fell and broke her neck. Perhaps they are both here.

The spirit of a Confederate soldier is seen here and many believe that this is Beverly Young. But there were many soldiers treated here and we assume some of them did die at the house. Whoever this ghost may be, his favorite prank is to scare people by appearing behind them in a mirror. Captain Billy's drinking buddies have been seen by men who visit the mansion as well. Colonel George Young seems to be watching over his dream home and who could blame him. He apparently likes to make appearances in the mirrors as well.

L. Sydney Fisher, bestselling author and paranormal researcher, visited the Waverley mansion in September of 2016. She had experienced paranormal activity on a previous visit, so this time she brought equipment with her. Her previous experience was hearing piano music coming from the parlor even though no one was in there playing. She hoped to catch a glimpse of the ghost, but it never materialized. For this 2016 visit, she carried around an EMF detector. In the first three rooms she entered on the first floor, nothing registered. In the parlor, a couple of the lights turned on and then the tour guide started to tell her about the love affairs and courtships of the people who visited and the EMF started lighting up like crazy. Sydney said she wished she could hear the spirits telling their stories.  

Alden Wiygulm made a video of her visit to Waverley Mansion in February 2020. Tour guide Jimmy Denning shared with her that college students claimed to see a man on a dark horse galloping down the old dirt road. And he said the eyes of a portrait of Donna Snow follow people. Alden was also told that the Snows children would often run to their parents and claim to hear the voice of a little girl in distress and they would ask their mom if she was okay. Denning claims to have never experienced any ghosts in the house.

North Mississippi Afterlife investigated the house and captured what they thought were two images in two different mirrors. One was of someone wearing red and another seemed to be of a small child. They heard unexplained noises and their batteries drained. Also, a rope that was blocking off one of the rooms started swinging on its own and hit one of the investigators in the legs. This is when they noticed it moving and they thought maybe someone had hit it, but then it sped up and suddenly came to a dead stop.

And apparently Colonel Young knew he was going to die. Kristina Domitrovich interviewed Denning for an article in Mud and Magnolias and he told her this weird story about George, "He died in November 1880, just a few weeks short of his 81st birthday, he was born Dec. of 1799. He had his haberdasher come out and he said, ‘I want a black suit.’ As he measured him, the haberdasher said, ‘Well, wait a minute, I’ve never gotten you a black suit before. Why not get a gray suit with pinstripes like I normally get you.’ He (Young) said, ‘No, no, no, I’m going to be buried in this one.’ About a week after his black suit was delivered by his haberdasher, he died. Must have had some kind of knowledge that he was going to die.”

This mansion looks just beautiful in past pictures, which we'll put up on Instagram, so we assume it will look even better after being fully restored. This unique house is not to be missed, if for nothing else than to see the staircase. Is Waverley Plantation House haunted? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes:

https://cdispatch.com/opinions/2015-05-16/ask-rufus-the-ghost-and-playboy-bunnies-of-waverly/

Alden Wiygul video: https://thevisionmsms.org/22265/multimedia/video/hauntings-of-the-south-waverly-mansion/

Thursday, April 21, 2022

HGB Ep. 432 - Haunted Harvard

This episode sponsored by Best Fiends! Download Best Fiends FREE today on the App Store or Google Play!

Moment in Oddity - Refrigerator-sized Asteroid Only Fifth Detected in History

Asteroids hit the Earth all the time. It is estimated that this occurs every ten months. Would you believe that only five asteroids have been detected before hitting Earth. Number five happened last month, March of 2022. The asteroid was named 2022 EB5 and was first seen by astronomer Krisztián Sárneczky, who was at the Piszkéstető Mountain Station at the time. This location is part of Konkoly Observatory in Hungary. The asteroid was estimated to be about the size of a refrigerator. The asteroid impacted the Earth at 39,600 mph around two hours after it was first detected. The system that is set-up for tracking asteroids, rolled into action after detection. NASA's impact hazard assessment system that is known as Scout began tracking the space rock. NASA then contacted the Center for Near Earth Object Studies, CNEOS. This team then predicts a fairly exact location of impact. And they were right on this one, predicting it would hit the Earth's atmosphere above an unpopulated volcanic island 310 miles east of Greenland. It's hard to believe this is only the fifth asteroid detected before impact, but even weirder is that the first one only happened as far back as 2008 and that, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Apollo 13 Oxygen Tank Explodes

In the month of April, on the 13th, in 1970, an oxygen tank aboard Apollo 13 explodes. Apollo 13 was the third manned lunar landing mission and was carrying three astronauts: John L. Swigert, James A, Lovell and Fred W. Haise. The spaceship was 200,000 miles from Earth and on its second day of the mission when oxygen tank No. 2 blew. Houston, there indeed was a problem and engineers on the ground scrambled to come up with a solution as the spacecraft was left crippled. Apollo 13 made it to the moon, circled it and started for home. The astronauts must have been pretty sad as they watched the moon go by, knowing they couldn't land and that they would be lucky to make it home alive. Several untested maneuvers and cobbled together repairs managed to give the astronauts enough air to make it home and enough energy was provided to the fuel cells to allow reentry. On April 17th, Apollo 13 touched down safely in the Pacific Ocean.

Haunted Harvard

Harvard University is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This is America's oldest university and was established in 1636. This was meant for the education of clerics, but moved on to becoming an Ivy League College of higher learning. Presidents, esteemed authors and pioneers in medicine and engineering have all been educated here. This is a place of science. And yet, many students and staff have come away with tales of ghostly experiences. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Harvard University!

In the early 1600s, thousands of Puritans were migrating to the New England area and there was a real need to have enough clergy to serve them all. This new institution to train up clergy would be a "church in the wilderness." The Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony voted in 1636 to establish New College for this purpose. A house and an acre of land were bought from Goodman Peyntree. This area was first known as "Cow-yard Row," then became "College Yard" and finally "Harvard Yard" and this original patch sits at the southern end of the Old Yard. Buildings were erected and the first printing press in America would find its home here in 1638. In 1639, New College would become Harvard University, taking its name from Reverend John Harvard who had bequeathed half of his estate and his entire library to the school upon his death. All but one of those books would burn in a fire at the school in 1764. In 1642, Harvard conducted its first commencement with nine graduates. 

In those early years, there was a very small teaching staff and these professors were considered the most learned men of their time. The curriculum focused on rote learning drills. The 18th century would bring a broader range of subjects and several of the buildings still standing today were built at this time. Anything built before this century was demolished. Harvard would have some strong connections to the Revolutionary War and the founding of America. In 1775, Continental soldiers would be quartered in buildings on the campus. In 1776, eight Harvard alumni signed the Declaration of Independence. In 1787, Future President John Adams graduated from Harvard. 

Medical studies were added in 1782. Law would come in 1816 and divinity followed in 1817. Harvard's new shield and motto of "Veritas" were introduced in 1843. Also at this time, rote learning was replaced with lectures. Many people identify the color crimson with Harvard, but it actually wasn't the official school color until 1910. Apparently, school colors weren't really a thing until then. Crimson was an unofficial color though starting in the mid-1800s when a couple of rowing team members wore crimson scarves so they could be seen from afar. In 1870, Harvard would graduate its first black man. This was Richard Theodore Greener. Women would come to Harvard in 1879 when the Harvard Annex was added. There were 27 women in that first enrollment. Harvard Annex would later be known as Radcliffe College. The first woman on the faculty wouldn't come until 1918 with the appointment of Alice Hamilton.

The 20th century would bring more diversity to the university as financial aid programs were implemented. Interestingly when it comes to diversity, Harvard had an Indian school early on. Matthews Hall sits where the Indian College had been from 1655 to 1698. John Sassamon was from a Massachusetts tribe and in 1653, he became the first Native American to study at Harvard. He worked with Indian Bible translator John Eliot and later became a scribe and interpreter to Wampanoag Chief Metacom, better known as King Philip. It would be Sassamon's murder in 1675, because he was an English informant, that started the King Philip’s War.

Harvard University has continued to grow through the years and currently enrolls 17,000 student in regular courses and an additional 30,000 in non-degree courses. An interesting true crime case is connected to Harvard, dating back to 1849. John White Webster was a lecturer at the new Harvard Medical College in 1849. Webster was described as a nervous man who delivered tedious lectures for non-scientific minds. His students enjoyed many of the lectures because he would include pyrotechnics and they nicknamed him "Skyrocket Jack." The President of Harvard wasn't very pleased with those lectures. Webster didn't present himself as a man who would commit a heinous murder. He was horrible with money though and had recently had to give up the Cambridge mansion he had built. He was also in debt to several friends. George Parkman, on the other hand, was great with money and he came one of Boston's richest families. He was well-known and was a hard worker. Oliver Wendell Holmes said of him, "He abstained while others indulged, he walked while others rode, he worked while others slept."

Webster went to Parkman for a loan in 1842 that would be equivalent to nearly $11,000 today. He paid a bit of it back, but then asked Parkman for more. There was a promissory note equivalent to $67,000 today, which represented the unpaid balance and another loan. Webster offered as collateral, a cabinet of minerals and some other personal property. In 1848, Webster needed more money, so he borrowed from another friend and used the already promised mineral cabinet as collateral on this loan. When Parkman heard about it, he became enraged. He went to a lecture Webster was giving and demanded the money from ticket sales. Later, Webster visited Parkman at his house and suggested the men have a meeting at the Harvard Medical College on November 23, 1849. Parkman entered the college at 1:45pm and was never seen alive again.

The following day, he was reported missing. Ephrain Littlefield was the janitor at the Medical College and he was experienced in helping the professors set up their rooms and he even sold them cadavers for dissection. He noticed that Webster had filled his furnace with fuel several times and that it was burning really hot. When Webster left, he let himself into the room through a window. He returned later with his wife and equipment to break into a vault that the police had not searched and he found a human pelvis, a right thigh and a lower left leg. The police found other evidence and body parts throughout the lab. Webster was convicted and executed. Interestingly, Parkman's widow led a fund drive to support Webster’s wife and children. We don't know if Parkman is hanging out at Harvard in the afterlife, but plenty of other spirits are and here are some of the reputed haunted locations.

Thayer Hall

Harvard Yard holds all the dormitories and these are only for housing freshmen. Thayer Hall was built in 1870. Housing prices were really rising at that time and this dormitory was meant to offer a cheaper place for students. Some well known people who have stayed here include Walter Isaacson, E. E. Cummings, Conrad Aiken, Microsoft's Steve Ballmer and Hamzah bin al Hussein - the former Crown Prince of Jordan. The ghosts that haunt this dorm are from former mill workers. This had once been a textile mill. These spirits are seen as misty apparitions that are clothed in Victorian garb. What really makes witnesses know that these are ghosts is that they'll enter the building through walls, rather than doors. Inside the dorm, they also walk through walls. Writer Fiona Broome was told by a professor that he had seen spirits pop in and out of walls. It seems that the spirit workers are more active in the winter. 

Weld Hall

Weld Hall was built in 1870 as well. The dormitory was designed by Ware & Van Brunt in the Queen Anne architectural style. It was a gift of William Fletcher Weld who paid for the building as a memorial gift for his brother Stephen Minot Weld and that is where the name comes from. John F. Kennedy stayed at this dorm during his time at Harvard. A woman named Audris Wong stayed in Weld Hall in the mid-1980s. Hurricane Gloria was coming through at the time and Wong had gotten some candles in case the power went out. She decided to have a seance later with one of the candles. She describes what happened in Matthew Swayne's "America's Haunted Universities, "My eyes were transfixed at the space between my two roommates, when I saw an old woman with a dark cloak and grayish hair. It wasn't like the mist that you see in the movies, but it was very vague - like an impression. I couldn't see any of her features. She was just leaning against the wall, listening to our conversation." Other students claim to hear strange knocks in the building. It is thought that a fire that burned down the dorm in the 1960s and that was later rebuilt and restored, may have trapped some spirits.

Wadsworth House

Wadsworth House is more commonly known as "The President's House." This building was constructed in 1726 for Benjamin Wadsworth and his family. From 1727 to 1846, nine Harvard presidents lived in the house. For a brief time in 1775, this was a temporary headquarters for Generals George Washington and Charles Lee. Later, students would live here, including Ralph Waldo Emerson. Then Harvard offices were here. This is the second oldest surviving building on the campus. Clark Schuler was an IT specialist at Harvard and he was in Wadsworth House one night during the winter. He was the only one there in the building and he was in a downstairs office with his back to the door. He felt like someone was standing behind him and then he heard someone clear his throat. He spun around to see who was behind him and there was no one there. Schuler logged off the computer and left the building. Apparitions in colonial garb have been seen in the building. A cleaning lady was alone in the house vacuuming when she witnessed a spirit that looked quite grim and was wearing a tricorn hat and cloak, walk down the stairs and exit through the door.

Lowell House

Harvard's housing for upperclassmen are called Houses and they are a series of buildings with each cluster having its own senior faculty member called a Master. This system is unique in American academics. One of those houses is Lowell House, which was built in 1929. This is named for the Lowell family, which included Harvard President Abbott Lawrence Lowell - who instituted the House system at Harvard - his Pulitzer Prize-winning sister poet Amy Lowell, brother Percival Lowell, who was an astronomer who spearheaded the search for Pluto and grandfather John Lowell. This would become the first Harvard House to be lead by a same-sex couple, which occurred in 1998. The House would introduce the idea of weekly teas, High Tables and opera galas. The Lowell House Opera is the longest continually-running opera company in New England. One of the spirits here is believed to belong to Amy Lowell. She wasn't a student at Harvard, but she spent much of her life on the campus and her portrait hangs in Lowell House. Her full-bodied apparition has been seen and the phantom scent of her thin, hand-rolled cigars is smelled. Another ghost here is thought to belong to former House Master Elliott Perkins. He and his wife Mary, served as Masters from 1942 to 1963. His spirit is believed to attend Thursday teas. His wife Mary reputedly said, "For instance, I believe in ghosts and all kinds of things of that sort, as you know," so we're betting she would believe her husband was still here in the afterlife.

Adams House

This is said to be the most haunted of the House system. Three former dormitories were joined together in 1931 to make Adams House. These were Westmorly, Apthorp and Randolph and had been luxurious dorms for upperclassmen. Famous former residents include President Franklin D. Roosevelt, John Lithgow, Fred Gwynne and Peter Sellers. The Master's residence is in Apthorp and that seems fitting since the Battle of Bunker Hill was planned here. British General John - Gentleman Johnny - Burgoyne was held here as a prisoner after surrendering at the Battle of Saratoga. It is believed that he haunts the house. A student named Hannah Bouldin heard unexplained noises in the attic in the 1980s. Other students claim to have seen the spirits of Revolutionary War soldiers.

Massachusetts Hall

Massachusetts Hall is the oldest surviving building on Harvard’s campus and the second oldest academic building in the United States. This was built between 1718 and 1720 in Harvard Yard and was designed by Harvard President John Leverett and his successor Benjamin Wadsworth. The building served originally as a dorm and today still houses freshman on the fourth floor. The rest of the building is office space. Some time ago, a man claiming to be Holbrook Smith and a member of the Class of 1914, started appearing to students. He would chat them up in their first few weeks at the college and many of the incoming freshmen found the elderly man a comfort. They did start noticing though that they never heard doors open or close when he was around. It was as if he just walked through the wall. And no one ever found any records for a Holbrook Smith. Students soon started going to the assistant dean, William C. Burriss Young, to tell him about this man who seemed to be impersonating a former student. Dean Young decided to confront the man and he found him in the B-entry section of the building. He told Smith that he needed to leave. Smith got very sad and said, "You've ruined a perfectly good thing." Every one was convinced this was a ghost and students will invoke the name of Smith when weird events occur in Massachusetts Hall. Many believe this residual energy remains as a protector. And students claim that there are other phantoms in the building.

Widener Library

The Widener Library's stacks are described as "vast and cavernous." There are around 3.5 million books here. This is considered Harvard Library's flagship location. We heard about this location in Haunted Cemeteries 22. Harry Elkins Widener has his memorial at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia, which is next to his parents whom he joined on the Titanic on its maiden voyage. Harry went down with the ship and his body was never recovered. If you recall, we shared that his mother survived and had the library at Harvard built and dedicated for her son. She bequeathed his collection of rare books to the library in 1915, along with a portrait of her son, which was created by the French painter Gabriel Ferrier. There is a memorial room dedicated to Widener in the library and fresh flowers are placed there daily. 

The portrait of Harry hangs above the fireplace in the Memorial Room. In the early 2000s, the library was renovated and the portrait was removed to protect it and to have it cleaned. In its place, a piece of plywood was hung and research material was moved into the room temporarily. This apparently angered the spirit of his mother. Barbara Burg was a librarian at Widener and she said, "Not long after we moved into the memorial room, a few pieces of plaster dropped from the ceiling onto several of our desks. While nobody was hit on the head by the plaster, it did get our attention. We therefore surmised that Harry Widener’s mother was unhappy that Harry’s portrait wasn’t hanging in the room, so we photocopied a photograph of the portrait and taped it onto the plywood over the fireplace. After that, there were no other unexplained occurrences that I can remember."

Cabot Library Suite

And speaking of libraries, the Cabot Library Suite has a spirit as well. The spirit hanging out here is said to belong to Radcliffe alumna Margaret Coleman Waites. A collection of her books and antiques are housed here. Harvard's paper "The Crimson" writes in October 2003 of this space, "Besides the standard party-room essentials like the Beirut table and beer funnel, the Cabot suite librarians have equipped their room with a 'library lounge,' which is a second large common room wall-papered with tin foil and blue and red construction paper accents. With dimmed lighting and accessories like incense, a Lite-Brite and old-school Super Mario Brothers played to the sounds of classical symphonies, the room is decidedly trippy...The boys say that the classic dark wood bookshelves, which came complete with several volumes of Shakespeare, not to mention about 30 rotting CUE Guides, add a touch of sophistication to their party scene." A former student named O'Malley claimed to have been visited by then ghost of Waites in his sleep.

And a little library fun fact, the death masks of pioneering Harvard ghost hunter William James and former Harvard professor Archibald Cary Coolidge are house at the Houghton and Pusey Libraries.

Sanders Theater

After the Civil War, The Harvard Corporation decided that they needed to create a memorial for students who fought for the Union. They decided to make this a building. They raised $370,000 and the former college steward, Charles Sanders, bequeathed $40,000 to the college. A spot on The Delta was chosen and Harvard alumni who were prominent architects designed the building. The construction started in 1870 and the cornerstone was laid on October 6, 1870. The Memorial Hall was completed in 1874. The Sanders Theater was completed in 1875. The tower was completed in 1877. Spirits are seen looking out of the windows and full-bodied apparitions are seen walking around outside. The basement is said to be the most haunted area in the theater. Sam Baltrusis writes in his book Ghost of Cambridge: Haunts of Harvard Square and Beyond about a picture sent to Cambridge Haunts, "One photo, shot in early October 2012 and submitted to Cambridge Haunts captured a spirit photo of what looks like a man from the Civil War era. He's wearing period garb and sporting facial hair indicative of the mid-1800s. The image is dark yellow in color and [it is believed] it's one of the Southern students who left during Harvard's winter break in 1860-61 during President Cornelius Conway Felton's stint." 

The Ghost of William James

There is a white skyscraper in the center of campus that is named for William James as is the Psychology department. James is known as the "Father of American Psychology." He was the brother of writer Henry James and came from a wealthy family headed by Swedenborgian theologian Henry James, Sr. He devoted a good portion of his life to the study of parapsychology. He started looking into the paranormal and evidence of life after death after his baby son Herman died in 1884. Much of his life was dedicated to proving the existence of the paranormal. He befriended a medium named Leonora Piper who seemed to know things about him and Herman that he didn't believe she could know without some kind of supernatural gift. He studied her abilities up until his death in 1910. He co-founded the American Society for Psychical Research in New York. Harvard actually supported him in his studies and one professor even helped him test Piper. He gave her a false name and asked her to reveal to him what was engraved inside a ring that he got from his mother. Piper gave him the right information and he was completely baffled. Students claim that the spirit of James is still on the campus.

And as an aside to this, Harvard has a strong history with psychical research. The man who took over James' Psychology chair after his death was British psychologist William McDougall and he had an interest in parapsychological phenomena. He sat on a panel of judges that included Harry Houdini to judge mediums on their abilities in a contest hosted by Scientific American in the early 1920s. Psychic Mina "Margery" Crandon was part of this contest and she also was evaluated over the years by a group of Harvard students and faculty. The Crimson even reported on these sessions. They eventually declared her a fraud after a magician gave them the same results. But clearly, the Ivy League Harvard was open to paranormal activity.

And a final fun haunting goes back to the Rebellion of 1818 that took place at University Hall. A residual sound of the melee was heard in the hall until the 1960s. Harvard University has a long and enduring history and clearly many hauntings to go with that history. Are these locations on the campus haunted? That is for you to decide!