Thursday, March 3, 2022

HGB Ep. 425 - Hannah House

Moment in Oddity - Oldest Drawing of a Ghost in Babylon (Suggested by: John Michaels)

In one of the vaults at the British Museum, one can find the oldest drawing of a ghost. The curator of the Middle Eastern department at the museum and a world authority on cuneiform, Dr. Irving Finkel, said that the artifact had been overlooked until now. Part of the problem is that it has never been on display and the other reason is that it needed to be viewed in the proper lighting. Under the right lighting, a faint outline of a figure appears on the Babylonian cuneiform tablet. Dr. Finkel thinks the tablet has been misinterpreted since being acquired by the museum in the 19th century. He describes the carving as showing "a male ghost and he’s miserable. You can imagine a tall, thin, bearded ghost hanging about the house did get on people’s nerves. The final analysis was that what this ghost needed was a lover. You can’t help but imagine what happened before. ‘Oh God, Uncle Henry’s back.’ Maybe Uncle Henry’s lost three wives. Something that everybody knew was that the way to get rid of the old bugger was to marry him off. It’s not fanciful to read this into it. It’s a kind of explicit message. There’s very high-quality writing there and immaculate draughtsmanship. That somebody thinks they can get rid of a ghost by giving them a bedfellow is quite comic." The tablet was created about 3,500 years ago and is believed to have been part of a library of magic. The palm-sized tablet also contains directions on the back for exorcising an unwanted ghost and that, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - OK Enters National Vernacular

In the month of March, on the 23rd, in 1839, OK enters the national vernacular. Apparently, the young people of the late 1830s liked to misspell words on purpose and then abbreviate them, which doesn't seem much different than today. For example, "no use" would be spelled "know yuse" and then abbreviated to KY. "No go" was similar being spelled "know go" and abbreviated to KG. "All correct" became "oll korrect" and this was abbreviated to OK. On that day in March, OK made it into the limelight when it was printed in the Boston Morning Post as part of a joke. It gained even more popularity when it became part of Martin Van Buren's re-election campaign. People called him "Old Kinderhook" because that was the name of his hometown in New York. He had a group of thugs helping to convince people to re-elect him and the group was called the OK Club for both Van Buren's nickname and the now popular term OK. American linguist Allen Walker Read was the man to figure out where OK originated and now you know!

Hannah House (Suggested by Ed Jones and Sarah Silver) 

The Hannah House in Indianapolis, Indiana was the family home of Alexander Hannah. This home was meant to be a place of refuge for runaway slaves along the Underground Railroad. Tragedy struck when a lantern that a group of the formerly enslaved people were using tipped over. A fire erupted and they were trapped in their hiding place and none survived. Their bodies were more than likely buried on the property. This event has led to hauntings in what is now a museum. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Hannah House.

The Hannah House is located in Indianapolis, Indiana at 3801 Madison Avenue in Marion County. The county had originally been home to the Lenape tribe. The county was organized in 1822 and named in honor of American Revolutionary General Francis Marion. Alexander Ralston had assisted in laying out Washington, D.C. and he assisted laying out Indianapolis, which is why it has a circular common in the center of town that is known today as Monument Circle. Indianapolis became a major stopping point in the 1830s and the capital of Indiana. The city eventually became a major manufacturer of automobiles and this connection to vehicles continues today with the Brickyard 400 and Indy 500.

Alexander Hannah was the man who had the Hannah House built. He was born in the southern part of Indiana in Wayne County in 1821. He learned the trade of harness making, but when the California Gold Rush started, he decided to find his fortune. Hannah did manage to find some gold and bought a ranch while he was in California. When the rush died down, he chose to return to Indiana and decided to live in Indianapolis where he worked for the Indiana Central Railroad. His father Samuel was president of the company and owned hundreds of acres in the area. Hannah eventually bought 240 acres for himself, just south of Indianapolis. He decided to build his mansion on that land in 1858.

The Hannah House was built in the Italianate architectural design with elements of Greek Revival. The exterior was constructed from red brick. The house was two-and-a-half stories tall with a smaller two-story wing connected to the main block house. The roof was a low hip style with wide eaves and had four chimneys. The central doorway is pretty plain with a rectangular transom, so this element is clearly Greek Revival. The windows were tall and thin and had shutters. The second floor had taller windows that opened onto an uncovered balcony that no longer exists. The original porch no longer exists either, but there had been porches on the north and south facades.

The interior featured 24 rooms with a wide central hall floored with poplar, laid in 8-inch boards, at the entrance of the house. There were two formal rooms on either side of the hallway with fireplaces. One was a double parlor and the other was a sitting room and dining room. The connected wing had the kitchen and a pantry. The kitchen had its own fireplace, which is the largest in the house. The kitchen also has a cool secret passage that is concealed in a dining room cupboard that passes from the pantry to the dining room. The doors and windows were decorated with acanthus forms, which are like ornamental foliage. There was a main staircase that led up to the second floor with four bedrooms and a sitting room. Three of the bedrooms had fireplaces.

Hannah came up with another line of revenue after buying his land. The first toll road to be built in Marion County crossed his land. This was the Indianapolis-Southport Toll Road that stretched from Indianapolis to Madison. That street still reflects this history in its name, Hannah Avenue. Alexander collected tolls from people who used this section of road. He also got into farming and raising livestock. The property grew hay, wheat, corn and oats. Cattle sheep and pigs were raised on the land too. Hannah also served the Indianapolis Southside as postmaster, sheriff, Circuit Court Clerk and a member of the Indiana General Assembly. 

Alexander married late in life. He was fifty-one when he married Elizabeth Jackson in 1872. She had been born in 1835 and was 37 years old. The couple had wanted children. There are claims that Elizabeth did become pregnant, but that she either miscarried or the baby was stillborn. There are no records for either of these, but there is a small unmarked gravestone at the family burial, which seems to indicate an infant burial. The couple added onto the property with a service building that included a summer kitchen, smoke house, wash house, milk cooling room and servant's quarters. The couple were very active in civil events, especially since Alexander had his fingers in many political arenas. They loved to entertain and often opened up the parlors to celebrate. 

But the couple had a secret that would have brought ruin to their social lives. They were staunch abolitionists and their property was located in such a place that it worked well for the Underground Railroad. There were acres and acres of wooded area and not many people living in close proximity. Our research claimed that Alexander was a conductor, but that term doesn't seem to be accurate. Conductors were people like Harriet Tubman who actually guided people personally along the tracks, which was the term for the routes. Station Masters hid escaped slaves in their homes, which were referred to as stations, and that is what the Hannahs did. They hid these enslaved people in their cellar, which had lots of room.

The cellar obviously would have been chilly and dark and oil lamps would have been supplied to the fugitives. A devastating story connected to the mansion claims that one of these lamps got knocked over and the cellar was quickly set ablaze. The fugitives were unable to get out as the room filled with smoke and flames. They were all killed. The Hannahs clearly would have been very upset about this development. They would have wanted to give these people a Christian burial, but doing anything public would reveal their secret and they both could have been jailed. They also needed this station along the railroad. The house servants decided to bury the bodies in the floor of the cellar. We have no proof of this story, but it certainly was something that would be kept tight-lipped within the house and family. And a partially-collapsed tunnel leading towards the Hannah property seems to lend credence to the home being a station. 

Elizabeth died in 1888 at the age of 53. Alexander did not remarry and he died in 1895 at the age of 73 and joined Elizabeth at Crown Hill Cemetery. His monument is a large obelisk. The house sat abandoned for four years and then a German immigrant named Roman Oehler bought the house and 21 acres in 1899. He owned a jewelry business in Indianapolis. He built some outbuildings for the property and put a new porch on the mansion. The house stayed in the family with his daughter, Romena Oehler Elder, being the last. She was in the house until 1962, but the house stayed in the family for another six years, although it was vacant. From 1968 to 1978, a couple by the name of O'Brien, lived in part of the house and ran an antique shop out of the rest of it. The house was placed on the Register of Historic Places in 1978. In 1980, the house was used to host a haunted house-themed fundraiser, which seems fitting since the house is reputed to be haunted. It was a museum for a while and then a private home again and now today, it is a museum again that offers tours and hosts weddings.

Alexander and his wife Elizabeth have been seen in the house and there are even claims that there is a foul smell that is connected to the stillborn baby. We're not sure why that would be the case since there is a grave for the baby, so it wasn't holed up in the house somewhere. And with the story of burying the fire victims in the cellar, we would think that any smell of decay would be linked to that event. The house even has the nickname "The House That Reeks of Death." Elizabeth wears a variety of clothing. Sometimes she is seen wearing a black dress and other times a peach dress. She likes to peek out of an upstairs window. Alexander once told a guest to go back downstairs and mind their own business.

There are claims of cold spots, disembodied voices, flying utensils, electrical equipment going haywire, pictures flying off walls, doors opening and closing on their own and strange noises. The staircase leading to the second floor has carpet, but that doesn't stop people from hearing the sound of footsteps of varying loudness moving up and down the stairs. Rustling clothing is also heard on the stairs. The house has been investigated by many paranormal investigators and the mansion embraces this by offering ghost hunts. It's very reasonable running $500 for a group up to ten people. News crews have come through as have psychics. They have all reported unexplained occurrences in the house. The ghosts of the formerly enslaved people have been seen as well. Their wailing and moaning has been heard in the cellar and whispers have also been heard. Bad smells aren't the only phantom scents. The scent of roses and lavender have also been detected, as has the scent of burning wood.

A woman named Agatha claimed to see a spirit looking out of a window when she drove by one day. A woman named Tiara attended a ghost hunt and they captured a recording of a child saying, "Save me, save me!" up in the attic. This is said to be the ghost of a boy named Tommy. Richard said, "I went on a tour of this house many years ago in the summer, hot as the devil. I was with my wife and daughter and was getting ready to descend the steps from the attic! I decided to venture around while they went down the steps. It is then the temperature in that steaming hot attic turned into a refrigerator, and the most horrible smell I ever encountered filled the attic. I never moved so fast in my life getting out of that house. My wife and daughter said I looked like all the blood left my face, they said I was white as a ghost. Needless to say I will never venture back into the Hanna House, I won't even look in that direction when I drive by it! God is my witness that house is definitely haunted, they say a ghost can't hurt you but a ghost can definitely make you hurt yourself!"

Cali said, "We went one year when it was a haunted house. It was like 5 of us and we started in what I think was the attic and worked our way down. At one point we heard some one say Kisha, Kisha. We were spooked because we're like who is saying my friends name we never told anyone her name. I was pretty much running at this point. Trying to get the hell out of there. I didn't care who I ran over. I have never been to another haunted house since that day."

A review in 2019 said, "I attended a tour and haunted house at this location years ago. While in one of the upstairs rooms on the tour, I was touched by what felt like a child running past and bumping into me. In the basement I was grabbed on the forearm by an unseen hand. There is definite activity here."

A review in April 2020 of the house claimed, "I visited the Hannah House with my family back in the late 60s when I was maybe 6 years old. It must have been an open-house because there were many people there touring the house. It was a sunny day as I recall. Two things I remember. I have a memory of a rocking chair on the porch, rocking it's self. The second is that I was in a line of people going down the stairs into the basement and I remember becoming hysterical with fright, even though I was surrounded by adults. I had to be taken out of line and calmed down. I never set foot in that house again until about 5 years ago when the H.House hosted the Indiana Paranormal Meet and Greet. I toured the house and finally made it into that scary basement, but had no experiences. I did find out, that the rocking chair is one of the reported phenomena at this house, so that was a "real" memory. I will say that as a historical home, it is worth taking a tour."

Daywalkers Paranormal Investigations investigated the mansion in June of 2012. They captured several EVP. There was a female saying "You're welcome" and a male voice that said "want help." Diane also thought one sounded like a child saying "come on." And there was one that sounded like "I don't like her." One group was at the house when they heard a crashing in the cellar. There were old canning jars that stood along a wall down there and they thought that is sounded like those had gone crashing, but when they got to the cellar, they found nothing amiss. 

A TV crew came through the haunted house hosted by the Jaycees in 1981. The camera man commented that it would be creepy if the chandelier started swinging in the room he was filming and the chandelier suddenly started swinging in a six-inch arc. They could find no reason for the light to be doing that. Later, they caught a picture falling off the wall. The nail was still in the wall and pointing upward. The string on the back of the picture was intact. The only way for the picture to fall would be if something lifted it up off the nail.

In the 1970s, an older couple lived in the house and sold antiques out of it. A man named Dan went shopping there once and shared the following experience, "The old couple who lived there sold 'Antiques'- more like accumulated house stuff. They let me roam all over the house looking for used furniture and usable things. Went up to the attic- the roof had caved in and though there were piles of furniture- all weather ruined. There was an old woman up there who asked what I was doing there. 'Looking for a bookcase,' I said. 'Well it ain't here,' she said. I went downstairs, having found one in a bedroom, and commented about other customer in the attic. The Mrs. laughed and explained thay she
was not a customer and thought that  still owned the house and did not like anyone upstairs. She was a house spirit and harmless. The old man was in an antique wooden wheelchair and they never went upstairs anyway. The Mrs. saw her sometimes and asked that I not go to the attic as the floor may not be safe from the weather coming in. Definitely a house ghost who had loved her life there and had not moved on. The old couple were used to the spirits there."

There definitely was a supervisor spirit while the O'Briens lived in the house. They hired a painter and he eventually left the job, but who could blame him once you hear what he went through. Doors would swing open as he walked by and pictures would slide on the wall when he passed as well. He heard an audible voice say, "You will not paint my house!" and "Do a good job painting my house!" The final straw for him was when a spoon flew across the room at him. Mrs. O’Brien’s son volunteered to finish the paint job. From his first night working, he could feel that someone was watching him and that unnerving feeling continued until he finished. Something else weird happened while he worked. On the second night, he brought his family with him, which included his wife and two daughters. Three of them worked on painting while the littlest girl played on the stairs. They heard her talking to someone and so Mrs. O'Brien's son went out to see who she was talking to. He saw no one, but she claimed to be able to see an elderly man. They all watched as she continued to carry on a conversation until she said the man went back up the stairs.

Mrs. O’Brien once looked up at the second floor and saw a man standing there in a black suit and she watched as he walked across the upstairs hallway. She thought maybe he was a customer, so she went up to help him, but when she got up there, she could find him nowhere. Mr. O’Brien saw something similar. He saw a transparent man, dressed in a period black suit standing at the top of the stairs on the second floor. He faded away slowly. 

The Hannah House sounds like an interesting place to investigate. Is it haunted? That is for you to decide!

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