Thursday, February 24, 2022

HGB Ep. 424 - Thomas House Hotel

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Moment in Oddity - Seneca Village (Suggested by: Jennifer Guthrie) 

Central Park in New York City breaks up the metropolitan expanse of skyscrapers with a natural space. Back in the early 1800s, lower Manhattan had become a dangerous place and very crowded. Plots in the open countryside that would eventually become Central Park were very cheap. John and Elizabeth Whitehead had owned the farm land here and they started selling plots. The first man to buy a plot was a black shoe shiner named Andrew Williams. Several hundred people of color bought up more plots and they founded Seneca Village. Irish and German immigrants came to the area as well. This village was a perfect example of racial harmony for a middle-class group of people. On July 21, 1853 that all ended when New York City used eminent domain to take ownership of Seneca Village, so they could make Central Park to satisfy the wealthy New York families. And the history and evidence of Seneca Village just disappeared. And what was allowed to be told about the village were lies, claiming that it had been home to squatters and was swampland offering little more than squalid conditions. This changed in the 1990s when historians began to piece together the truth. Archaeological digs have also taken place to ascertain where the village was and to uncover more information. Managing to disappear a whole village and hide the truth about it for over a hundred years, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Tenley Albright Becomes First American Female to Win World Figure Skating Championship

In the month of February, on the 15th, in 1953, Tenley Albright became the first American female to win the world figure skating championship. Tenley began her skating career as a young girl on a man-made flooded and iced over area behind the family home. Her father had created the space for her and her friends. She started entering competitions when she was 11-years-old. And then polio hit. Tenley's case was mild and rehab honed her skating skills. She won a silver medal at the 1952 Olympics, but eclipsed that with her world championship win. She performed feats never performed by a female skater before. In an age when we have women that are performing quads, it may not sound impressive that Tenley pulled off a double axel, double loop, double rittbereer and double solchow, but at the time it was amazing. Many thought that she would go on to become a professional skater, but she opted for school. She competed at the Winter Olympics in 1956 and became the first American female gold medalist in figure skating and then entered Harvard Medical School, following in the footsteps of her surgeon father. She became a noted surgeon. Today, she is 86 and lives in Massachusetts.

Thomas House Hotel

The 1880s were a time of great interest in the healing powers of mineral springs and one of those springs we haven't covered yet was Red Boiling Springs in Tennessee. Hotels often were built near these springs and one of them that was constructed here is today known as the Thomas House Hotel. This seems to be an incredibly haunted location that has been featured on several paranormal television shows and the hotel regularly offers ghost hunts. Join us for the history and haunts of the Thomas House Hotel!

Red Boiling Springs is in a valley on the Highland Rim in Macon County in the Upper Cumberland region of Middle Tennessee. This is about 70 miles northeast of Nashville. Mineral springs were not the first things to bring people into the Red Boiling Springs area. A salt lick attracted animals and Native Americans and so the area was named Salt Lick Creek. Attracting animals was good fro hunting and men like Daniel Boone traversed the animal trails leaving their mark behind. He carved 1775 and his name on a beech tree here. Land grants were issued starting in the 1780s. The city of Salt Lick Creek was officially founded with a post office in 1829. By 1847, the town had been renamed Red Boiling Springs in honor of the red-colored sulfur mineral water that bubbled up from springs. 

There were several types of mineral waters here, differentiated mostly by color names. There was Red Water, which had iron and sulphur and high levels of calcium and magnesium with a somewhat agreeable taste. Black Water had the same minerals, but had a horrible taste and turned silver coins black. The White Water was used for dyspepsia. Freestone Water had very little mineral content so tasted pretty good. The Double and Twist Water apparently made drinkers do that, so we imagine it was pretty gross. People not only drank the waters, but also soaked or bathed in them.

Attention was brought to these springs by a woman named Aunt Sooky Goad. She claimed that she drank from the sulfur water and that it cured her issue with dropsy. Dropsy was a term used for an accumulation of excess water in body tissue. Basically this would be like edema from congestive heart failure. She developed a salve from the water that she called Aunt Sooky's Salve and she sold it as a medical product. Aunt Sooky's brother, John D. Kirby, also claimed that the mineral water had healed his sore eyes. People started coming to the area and setting up tents, so they could partake of the healing waters.

Most of these springs were on the Jesse Jones farm and he happily sold a 20 acre plot surrounding the springs to a businessman named Samuel Hare. Hare envisioned a great enterprise. He had seen other businessman around the country buy up land near mineral springs and then build inns to bring people in to partake of the health benefits of the water. And we love that these entrepreneurs did this kind of thing because it seems like nearly all of these hotels connected to these mineral springs have hauntings. One has to wonder if the use of these waters that were considered sacred by the indigineous people who lived near them led to these hauntings because elemental land and water spirits have been angered. Samuel Hare did go on to build his inn in 1844, but he didn't focus on the roads which were very poor. Those poor roads and the remoteness of his inn, led to it being closed by the 1870s.

James Bennett was the next businessman to step up and try his hand at running a resort at the springs. In 1876, he opened up his resort, which was several log cabins and a dining hall. A stagecoach line had been developed between Gallatin and Red Boiling Springs, which helped this endeavour to be more successful. New York businessman James F.O. Shaughnesy bought the tract of land from Bennett in the 1880s and started developing a bigger resort. Zack and Clay Cloyd were general store owners in Red Boiling Springs and they decided to take advantage of the growing reputation of the town as a mineral spring resort. They built the Cloyd Hotel in 1890. This was a two-story white weatherboard building with long two-story verandas. In 1905, the Red Boiling Springs Water and Realty Company was formed and bought the initial tract from Shaughnesy. Ten years later they replaced Shaughnesy's hotel with a bigger and more lavish hotel they called The Palace.

Several other hotels would be built including the Central Hotel and the Donoho. The springs here did well into the 1930s, which was better than most areas, and there was plenty of entertainment too. Lots of games were played and circuses would come to town, as well as minstrel shows. Red Boiling Springs had its height of popularity during World War I and II. Eventually, people lost interest in the springs and the hotels fell into disrepair. The town became a shell of its former self and then a large flood in 1969 destroyed many businesses and homes and killed two little girls. But the former Cloyd Hotel, now known as the Thomas House Hotel, is still here and apparently, crazy haunted. The current hotel is not the original. That one burned down in 1924. It was rebuilt by Joseph H. Peters in 1927. He had purchased the hotel from the Cloyd's in 1916 when they could no longer afford to run it and he continued to call it the Cloyd Hotel. The hotel was kept at two-stories with 50 rooms and two community bathrooms, but this one was built from red brick and had an arcaded portico, as described by its application for historical designation. This confused us a bit because arcades and porticoes are different, so we aren't sure why this verbiage was used. Porticoes have horizontal beams across the top versus the arches of arcades. The red bricks were made on-site. The hotel offered patrons three meals a day served family style.

The hotel was bought by Dr. A.T. Hall in 1950 and he updated the hotel, adding a bowling alley, miniature golf course and swimming pool. Unfortunately, Edwin Ward Rush, would drown in that pool in 1961 at the age of seven. Professional wrestler Lester Morgan bought the hotel in 1973 and he held onto it for a short period of time. He was foreclosed on in 1974, unable to make the hotel profitable even though he kept a live bear inside the hotel as entertainment. Evan Moss bought the property and opened up the Mossy Creek Summer Camp for children in 1983. The camp closed in 1988 and the Anzara Corporation bought the building and renamed it the Anzara Hotel. This was not a real business group, it was actually a religious cult. This hotel and the other two still open in Red Boiling Springs were used as basically a commune. Not much is known about this group, but they are described as an Armageddon cult that liked to summon the dead. 

Penni Goode Evans wrote of her time with the cult in her article "My Time with a Cult, "We stayed at all three hotels in Red Boiling at different times, but for a few months we lived at the Anzara.  I was seventeen then and very naive, I knew nothing of cults or anything like that, and wasn't even sure they WERE a cult until we'd left and Dateline or one of those shows did a piece on them, somewhere around 1990.  By the time they did the piece, the cult had picked up and split.  Anyway, my boyfriend and I got a room at the Anzara.  At that time, there was a very big, hard-nosed woman who owned the hotel (she was the leader of the cult) and in the beginning, I thought they were just Baptists or something and I remember telling her, "I'm a Christian......Baptist?" - She just looked at me like I was stupid. Our room was downstairs by the laundry room. I remember some strange people staying there, which I chalked up to just people being strange.  My seventeen year old mind was blown, though, one night, very late, when my boyfriend went down to the kitchen (we were allowed use of the kitchen)  and saw the people staying at the hotel, naked, and dancing in the dining room.  He ran back to our room, like, "What the fuck did I just see?"  ---- I remember, also, there was a very rich lady staying at the hotel.  I now know the cult was milking her for her money, but back then, I wasn't hip to people and their motives.  Anyway, so this fancy pants lady was from New York City and she had a little white dog and she and I would sit on the swing on the front porch and I would smoke her Pall Mall filterless cigarettes with her (and almost die because they had no filter!)  and we had a lot of long talks.  I don't remember now about what but, I really liked this lady. I do remember that she was sad and she seemed very lonely. It was summer then, and I recall that she drank a lot of sweet tea. -- Funny, as I think of our time there, I also remember that there was a front desk in the foyer, with an old fashioned cash register, and back then, it cost fifty dollars a week to stay at the hotel and my boyfriend would pay our fee, and then, when the cult leaders were out of sight, he would go back and hit the NO SALE button, and take our money back."

The Anzara Corporation collapsed in 1992. A fire in the 1990s destroyed one of the wings, but this was rebuilt. Today, the hotel is owned by the Cole family who acquired it in 1993, and features a 125 seat dining room with a stage that hosts events and shows. There are 15 rooms with private bathrooms for rent. And they offer Ghost Hunt Weekends. Chad Morin, owner of Ghost Hunt Weekends said, "We go every month and several times a month, and fans of the paranormal can join us. We have dinner. We show you our documentary that it took me about six years to produce, and it tells about the history and the haunts of the Thomas House Hotel and of the area.We’ve had doors opening and closing. We’ve had a ball captured on video roll across the floor. We’ve heard screams. We’ve hard talking. We’ve heard whistling. We’ve seen shadow people. We’ve seen the apparition of a little child and another one of a tall man, that the only thing we can figure out is that he’s the previous hotel owner from the 1900s that still wanders the halls. It’s a great time. There’s nothing evil or malevolent there. It seems like the spirits there are the previous hotel owner and some children. It seems like they enjoy being there and the company."

The most haunted room at the hotel is said to be Room 37. Loud crashes have been heard, the sound of bricks falling even though no bricks are found laying around and a shadow figure has been seen going through the front door and then it stood next to a chair before disappearing. The young daughter of one of the Cloyd Brothers, Sarah, died at the hotel and her spirit has been seen, mainly in Room 37. So that room is full of toys for Sarah. A guest who fell off a horse and died is thought to haunt the property too. Cherry Cole was so unsettled by things going on at the hotel that she was unwilling to be in it at night. Guests hear a man whistling through the hotel and guests sometimes wake up in the middle of the night to see a female apparition staring down at them.

In 2012 during Season 8, Ghost Hunters visited the location. Cherry told Jason and Grant that people regularly heard footsteps walking around above them when nobody is on the upper floor. Her husband Derrell claimed to have seen the apparition of an elderly man, but he didn't know it was a ghost until he asked him if he could help him and he disappeared right before his eyes. Apparently, Mr. Cloyd whistled all the time and so they think he is The Whistler. Their daughter-in-law Destiny said that one night she was looking down as she walked the hallway and she ran into something. She looked up and there was a tall, thin man standing there. She had never seen him before and when he disappeared, she realized he was a ghost. A lady dressed in pink has been seen by a member of the Cole family too. She had white hair, smiled and then faded away.

During the investigation, Jason and Grant heard disembodied footsteps on the second floor and like something being dragged. There was also audible whistling. It was really loud and I got chills listening to it. Adam and Amy asked for the spirit to knock to let them know it was there and there was a knock. They asked for two knocks and there were two knocks. This was in Room 16. Amy and Adam were whistling in the area where The Whistler made noise with Grant and Jason and they heard whistling in response. Tango and Steve heard a female voice moaning, They thought it might have been Sarah. Later, in an area that had a ton of dolls, Jason and Grant were calling out to Sarah and asking if she wanted to play with the dolls and they heard the audible voice of a little girl. We heard it too, very clear. Something like "those are my toys" or "I like toys." Amy did the flashlight experiment with Sarah and she turned off the flashlight when asked. And then she stopped playing with the flashlight. Amy asked if she stopped playing because she as told to stop and the light turned on. The spirit let her know that she was more than 5-years-old.

Katrina and Jack visited this location in Season 2 of Portals to Hell. They think they communicated with an Elemental. Katrina saw a tiny blue light and then shortly after that Jack saw a shadow move across behind their camera man Scott. As Jack was describing that, he, Katrina and a producer all saw another orb of light appear and then disappear. They caught it on camera and it was weird. A dark force has been traced to a hallway and the camera in that hallway shut off when they were in there. Jack claimed that this force kept waking him up in the middle of the night and Katrina said that it had pulled hard on her ear. They did a Geo Box session in the Cloyd Chapel that is also owned by the Cole family. This has been an ongoing restoration project for the Coles, Ghost Hunt Weekends and author Kyl Cobb. When they asked if someone was in there, "Hell no" came through the box. (Thomas 1) Then the name Rohepeshal came through the box and Katrina repeated it and the box said it again. It was said that Rohepeshal is an Algonquian word for 'spirit'. A whole group of coyotes started howling outside suddenly when they decided to go dark and silent. Maybe just a coincidence, but since they thought they were dealing with an elemental, it was a bit chilling to hear. This elemental seems to be connected to the water and possibly angry because the springs were sucked dry by people. So it isn't just the hotel that is haunted, but perhaps the entire area where the springs were.

This hotel seems like a quaint place to stay, but guests might get more than they bargained for. Is the Thomas House Hotel haunted? That is for you to decide!

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