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:

Alden Wiygul video:

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!

Thursday, April 14, 2022

HGB Ep. 431 - Twin Bridges Orphanage

Moment in Oddity - Beetles as Clothing Decoration (Suggested by: Jenny Lynne Raines)

The Kyoto Costume Institute collects and preserves western clothing. Parts of their collection date back centuries. They not only exhibit the clothing, but research and study the clothing trends to better understand human culture. Some of the clothing in their collection reflects the use of the wing casings of various types of wood boring beetles to enhance and decorate clothing. For example, they have an 1850 dress and shawl made from white cotton mull that is decorated with thousands of beetle wings. Using these wings was a standard practice in countries like Japan, India, Thailand, Myanmar and China. The favored beetles came from two varieties: the sternocera aequisignata and the chrysochroa fulgidissima. The wings were collected humanely after the beetles had gone through their brief life cycle. The wings are so hard that a tiny hole needs to be bored into them to stitch them in place. Some pieces have as many as 2000 wings attached to them. The coloring of the wings was beautiful and gave many dresses an iridescent look with green and blue hues. The 19th century was the most popular time for these types of garments. We imagine most people in the 21st century would not be interested in wearing the wings of dead bugs because that certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Black Hawk War Begins

In the month of April, on the 6th, in 1832, the Black Hawk War began. Black Hawk was a Sauk warrior who was born in 1767 where the state of Illinois would eventually be. His people called him Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak by his people and they considered him a fierce and courageous fighter. He proved himself valiant in battles the Sauk had with the Osage. In the early 1800s, Black Hawk turned his attention to the white people that were pushing his people out of their land. He was angered when the Sauk and Fox tribes signed a treaty that ceded their territory east of the Mississippi River to the United States in 1804. He would eventually sign his own name to the treaty in 1816, but later claimed he didn't realize that meant he was giving up his home village of Saukenuk. The US Army started building forts nearby and settlers moved into the village. Black Hawk refused to leave and prepared to fight. He gathered his people and left the disputed territory, but soon returned with his forces believing that other tribes would be joining them, as well as the British to the north. Those reinforcements never showed, so Black Hawk knew he would need to surrender. Before that could happen, his truce bearer was killed and the war was on. Black Hawk had early victories, but eventually almost had his entire warrior group annihilated and he finally did surrender. Almost 600 Native Americans had been killed during the war in comparison to 70 settlers and soldiers. Black Hawk was taken on tour in an attempt to dissuade other tribes from fighting back and spent the last six years of his life under the supervision of another Sauk chief whom he considered an enemy because he had cooperated with the United States government.

Twin Bridges Orphanage

There is not much out there more heartbreaking than a child with no parents because their parents have passed away. Except for perhaps, children who still have living parents and yet end up in an orphanage. In the state of Montana, many of these orphaned and abandoned children ended up in an orphanage located in the city of Twin Bridges. This was the Montana State Orphan's Asylum that was also known as Twin Bridges Orphanage and later, the Montana Children's Center. It opened in 1894 and housed children for 81 years. Today, it is closed and privately owned and is reputedly one of the more haunted locations in the state. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Twin Bridges Orphanage!

Montana is known as Big Sky Country and for good reason. This is a state of wide open spaces and a small population of people. Montana had its big boom and an infusion of people starting in the mid 1800s when mining came to the state after mineral rich hills were discovered. Miners pulled out quartz, iron, copper and silver. Butte, Montana became known as "the richest hill on earth." Nearby Twin Bridges had its share of mining operations with 12,726 mines opening. The area was located at the confluence of the Ruby Beaverhead and Big Hole Rivers which formed the Jefferson River, so it was a great spot to build a town. Judge M.H. Lott and his brother John T. Lott, would be the first white men to settle in the Ruby Valley in 1864. The brothers built two bridges across the Beaverhead River and this is where the name for the town came from. The Lotts continued to add onto their little community and M.H. Lott served as its first mayor after it was incorporated in 1902. 

As was the case for all mining towns, the people eventually left and things went bust. For those that stayed, times were tough. Many families were left in poverty after the boom. The need was so great in the state that the legislature passed an act in 1893 that established the Montana State Orphan's Asylum for the "care and education of orphans, foundlings, and destitute children." The orphanage was initially governed by a board of five trustees. They chose a site on which to build and hired a superintendent and a matron. The superintendent was then tasked with hiring nurses and other attendants. The board also was responsible for education in the area and made responsible for establishing schools and vocational training shops.

Twin Bridges was selected for the location of the orphanage and the site started with a Victorian structure known as The Castle. Any child under the age of 12 was eligible for admission. Older kids were surveyed on a case by case basis. The goal for many of the children was to get them into a private home. Unfortunately, many of the children that would call the Asylum home were not actual orphans. Some were abandoned and others had parents who couldn't take care of them. There was no welfare programs or foster programs at the time. Life at the orphanage was very rigid and scheduled. Every morning bed-wetters were whipped. Matrons started tying shoes to their hands because they thought they wet the bed because they were playing with their private parts. Kids tried to hide their wet sheets by getting up when the furnaces kicked on at 5am and drying their sheets in front of them before bed checks at 6am. Meals were always the same. Tuesdays there was stew, beans on Wednesdays, hash or chipped beef on Thursdays and fish on Fridays. 

One of the stories we found while doing our research was on the Freedman family. Alice Freedman and her husband had gotten a divorce and he left the family. Alice worked as a research editor, but there wasn't much money in that and she soon found that she couldn't handle the six mouths she had to feed. She felt she had no other choice when she walked her kids into the Butte-Silver Bow County Courthouse in 1938. She sat the children on the granite steps inside and told them to behave and that she would be back for them later. She added that the state was babysitting them. So the six siblings, who ranged in ages from eight to fifteen, waited. And they waited. Some county workers noticed that the children had been sitting for several hours and when there was no parent to fetch them by noon, they went and bought some sandwiches for the kids. The juvenile court was contacted and the Freedmans were taken to a receiving home that night. When no parent came forward for the children, they were taken to the orphanage in Twin Bridges. Harold Freedman was one of those children and when he was interviewed as an adult he said, "It was in some ways a rather shocking be put in an orphanage, but I felt a lot of pressure lifted off me because I had worried so much about our situation." He was an older brother and felt responsible for his younger siblings. Alice worked hard to get her children back and eventually got her four eldest children released to her. The final two, who were twins, were reunited with the family in 1945. Noel Freedman wrote a book about his experiences at the orphanage called "Dumped."

The property at the orphanage grew and expanded. The original two room schoolhouse and nearby theater were combined into a ten room schoolhouse in the 1940s. Barns were added, as was a chicken coop. There was a butcher shop and a shoe shop and a steam plant and gardens. Everything was run by the kids. They would compete on sports teams like track and basketball. There were fun times too. The Junior League would bring in shows featuring puppets or stage plays. The kids played marbles and other games. And although they worked a lot, they were given plenty of sleep. One former orphan felt that they did better in state matches because they were strong from work and good sleep and were fed healthy food. Harry Murphy hated his time at the institute though. He claimed that children were beaten and locked in dark coat closets. Some children were hung up on coat hooks as punishment. The children wore uniforms of overalls and denim jackets. 

The state of Montana started to change things for widows and orphaned or abandoned children in 1916. One of the first women elected to the state legislature, Maggie Smith Hathaway, championed the creation of the Montana Mother's Pension. This helped provide money for single or widowed mothers, so they could keep their children with them. Another of the first female legislators, Emma Ingalls, helped create the Bureau of Child and Animal Protection. This gave oversight to orphanages and placement homes. Soon, the Montana State Orphanage became more of a first stop holding place, rather than a long-term placement location. A cottage system was also started to make the orphanages seem more like home. The Twin Bridges location soon had four Colonial styled cottages that could house up to 200 children. The institute hit its peak during the Great Depression with 300 children living there. The 1930s would bring more federal and state programs and this lowered the population at Twin Bridges to 282 children.

The number of children housed at the orphanage continued to decline in the 1950s and by 1959, there were only 156 children in residence. The Montana Children's Center closed its doors in 1975 with 50 children awaiting placement in foster care. Over five thousand children had passed through the doors of the Twin Bridges Orphanage. Many of those children had been failed along the way. There are reports that claimed that 100 children died here during that time. As was the case with asylums for adults, there was not enough staff for proper care. And children need more affection and individual treatment, which they didn't receive. Siblings were not kept together either. Fred Wentz spent time at the orphanage and he said, "The problem was that I knew I had brothers and sisters somewhere...I just didn’t know why I was in the orphanage and not with them. That hurt me. I’ve carried that throughout my life." Yes, he had brothers and sisters who were still at home, so its not surprising he was hurt by his placement.

Leslie Adams is the current owner of the property. She bought the property with her father in 2005 with 25 buildings spread out over 100 acres. Many of the buildings are in a dilapidated condition. Several have been demolished. It looked like on Facebook that the property has been put up for sale. Adams claims that the property has some unexplained stuff going on. She has heard several times, the disembodied singing of children in some of the abandoned buildings. Large groups of children are seen playing in and around the gym building. The children disappear suddenly. The school has reports of disembodied voices and footsteps are heard. Objects move on their own. People feel a coldness that hits them to their core in this building. Small faces of children are seen looking out of the windows of The Castle. Disembodied singing of children is heard in here. The spirit of a matron has also been seen in this building. The bottom floor of The Castle is said to be the most haunted on the property.

In November of 2016, Adams invited the crew from Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures to come investigate. She confirmed with Zak that she has heard the children singing many times and it is usually when she is alone in some of the buildings. Noel Freedman talked to Zak and told him that he knew of one little girl who died out in the field because she got kicked by a horse. According to the show, there had been 30 headstones out in a field that mysteriously disappeared. Kurtiss Mathis is a friend of Leslie's and he was there one day walking the property when he saw a group of kids playing at the basketball hoops, only there weren't any kids on the property. In the sewing room, Zak stood between two full-body mirrors that faced each other and he claimed to feel an electrical energy. They brought in their equipment. Aaron got the word "electric" on the Ovilus and the Mel Meter spiked to 4.7, so there was something there. We'd love to know if there was electricity to the building.

There are tunnels running under the property and Jay went down there. He asked if there were any children there and you could hear unexplained children's voices in the distance. He also claimed to feel something run and brush by his leg twice and he was waist deep in water. He also said that he heard children singing. One has to wonder why there would be the sounds of children down in these tunnels that have water and are small and seem like they were for maintenance. Aaron and Zak heard multiple loud noises in The Castle that were picked up on the camera audio. It turned out to be a pidgeon. Aaron and Zak found footprints in the Castle. They started in the center of a room and went to a window. On closer inspection, they realized they were made by a raccoon. At this point, Zak and Aaron are figuring that there are no spirits in The Castle, but their minds are changed when they see a bluish glow in the main area of the house. They also caught an EVP at the same time saying, "I see you." Then they caught another EVP of a full sentence saying "Can't do nothing..." and they couldn't understand the rest. Diane thought the end said "can you?"

Jay later caught an anomaly on his camera. The Ovilus said "projection," "hide" and "return" right after the double light orb anomaly was recorded. So Jay and Billy thought they were being told to return to the area of the gym where they had been before. They heard three unexplained knocks when they were standing outside of the shower room and smelled sulfur and they felt something dark was in there. They moved on to the pool room and heard the voices of children. And there was singing caught on the camera audio. Zak and Aaron joined them and they heard a ball bouncing and when they shined their lights to the other end of the pool, a ball that had not been there before was on the bottom of the pool. They had a static camera shooting the entire pool area and they caught the ball rolling from a room into the pool area and then falling into the pool. The only issue for us is that we don't know that there weren't any production people back there. Then Zak asked the child they thought was there to move the ball and it did start moving. However, there was some water in the pool. It did go from completely stationary to rolling though. Zak took the Ovilus down to where the ball was and it gave the name "Carol." The guys got excited and then it said "laugh."

Destination Fear from the Travel Channel also investigated the property in 2021. The idea behind this program is to see ho fear affects hauntings. Dakota, who heads up the team, thought this would be a great place to investigate because these children would have felt a lot of fear, not only because of their treatment, but because they had nobody coming to get them or save them from the situation. Lisa Nyhart has investigated the property and she told the crew that her entire body went into fight or flight mode the minute she walked into The Castle. She felt light-headed and dizzy as well. The team is made up of four people and Dakota had them all start alone in separate locations to give them a feeling of loneliness and being abandoned like the kids. His sister Chelsea was in the High Girls' Cottage and she asked if anyone was with her. The Ovilus said "Ann" and then "Harriet." Dakota took the Music Box into the locker room of the gym and he got some interactions in response to questions. It seemed he was talking to a girl who didn't like her time at the orphanage. Tanner heard coughing in the school. 

They broke into pairs and Chelsea and Alex were in a room on the second floor of The Castle and a door slammed shut on its own. At least it seemed that way, but we couldn't see the bottom of the door. The word "friend" came across the Ovilus and "girl" when they asked what was there with them. Then things took a dark turn. "Hide" and "enemy" came across. There are stories that something dark resides in The Castle. The craziest thing happened in the school with Tanner and Dakota. They blew up three balloons, tied strings on them and hung them from the ceiling. They moved slightly back and forth because of a draft, so I told Kelly the balloons would have to move drastically to convince me there was something paranormal. One of the balloons exploded. 

Living in an orphanage would have been very lonely and scary. But there would have been good times too. Lots of children to play with and lots of activities to help develop into a prepared adult. Most of the activity here seems fairly positive. Much of it seems female in nature. Is the Twin Bridges Orphanage haunted? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes:

Thursday, April 7, 2022

HGB Ep. 430 - Heard Opera House

Moment in Oddity - Mithridates VI Immune to Poison (Suggested by: Chelsea Flowers)

Mithridates VI was the son of the ruler of the Kingdom of Pontus, which today is parts of the countries of Turkey, Russia, Romania, and Greece. His father's reign would end in 120 B.C. when he was assassinated by poison that was served in some food at a feast. He and his brother weren't of age to take the throne, so their mother served as regent. Mithridates feared that his mother would kill him, so he went into hiding and while doing that, he came up with a crazy idea. He was going to try to make himself immune to poison. He was paranoid that he would be assassinated in the same way his father was killed. He regularly consumed small amounts of poison. When he was old enough to rule, he returned and had his mother arrested and eventually executed. He began attempting to build an empire and turned on the Roman Republic. He orchestrated a mass killing of 150,000 Romans and Italians. The Romans warred with him and he lost. He fled across the Black Sea. Mithridates tried to raise a new army and was harsh on the local nobles who decided to kill him. Mithridates figured this out and tried to take his own life by poison. Unfortunately, his plan to make himself immune to poison had worked and he didn't die. He then asked his bodyguard and friend to kill him with a sword. There is now a term for this practice of gradual self-poisoning to create immunity called Mithridatism and that, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Marian Anderson Sings at Lincoln Memorial

In the month of April, on the 9th, in 1939, Marian Anderson sang on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Marian Anderson had one of the most amazing singing voices in the world. It was described as a voice that is only heard "once in a hundred years." She sang throughout the world, but America was home. And it was here that she was not welcome in many places. Places like Constitution Hall. This was because of her skin color. The irony is not lost on us that a place named for a document guaranteeing the rights of every human was discriminating against a woman of color. The venue was owned and operated by the Daughters of the American Revolution and many women quit the organization in protest, including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. The Secretary of the Interior at the time, Harold L. Ickes, invited Anderson to sing instead on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. And she did on that Easter Sunday in 1939 before a crowd of 75,000 people and a live radio audience of millions. And it seems that this was a more fitting place as it honored the man behind the Emancipation Proclamation.

Heard Opera House

The Heard Opera House is located in Arcadia, Florida. This building has served a variety of purposes through the years from bank to theater to retail business. Artifacts, antiques and collectibles have come through. The history is murky for this spot, but something has caused there to be a lot of spiritual residue here. Is it all the years of ghost hunts that have been hosted here drawing spirits from other places? We joined a group paranormal investigation at this historic site and we are going to share the results of that on this episode!

Arcadia, Florida is in Peace River Country and sits about two hours south of where we are located in Central Florida and sits near the West Coast between Tampa and Fort Myers. The area where Arcadia would be started was industrialized early and was first settled in 1883. The town had several names early on: Waldron’s Landing, Raulerson’s Landing, and "Tater Hill Bluff." The Rev. James Madison Hendry named the town after the daughter of early pioneers Thomas and Fannie Albritton. Their daughter Arcadia had baked him a cake for his birthday and this was his way of saying "thank you." In 1886, the Florida Southern Railway was built through Arcadia that would connect Bartow to Punta Gorda. This was followed by the Charlotte Harbor and Northern Railway that came through in 1907 and then there was the short-lived East and West Coast Railway to Bradenton. So Arcadia was becoming a railway hub. We passed the old railroad depot at 24 W. Oak just before we got to the opera house. The town was incorporated in 1887 and is the county seat of DeSoto County. This decision was made after the residents set forth a proposition to build a courthouse at their own expense. Clearly, they really wanted this honor. That building was finished in 1889. A school was built in 1887 and a church in 1888. Arcadia was an industrial town built on the backs of slave labor that worked in the factories.

The city grew slowly and steadily until tragedy hit on November 30, 1905. A fire burned down four entire business blocks in the heart of the downtown area. The fire had started at a livery stable and an inadequate water supply gave little help in putting out the fire. No one died in the fire, but insurance didn't cover much and the city was completely devastated. Arcadia would rebuild over time with Oak Street becoming one of its main streets. Water works were established and all new buildings were required to be built from brick, stone or concrete. All sorts of commerce would build up in the downtown featuring stores selling furniture, jewelry, fruit, dry goods, hardware, general merchandise and meat. There were lawyers, gunsmiths, dentists, contractors, barbers and doctors. There were also restaurants, land and insurance agents and wagon makers. Later there would even be a rattlesnake meat cannery. 

One of the buildings in historic downtown had been the Jake Wey Rexall Drug Store. The name Jake-Wey is still emblazoned on the tiles in the doorway at 25 W. Oak Street. Jacob Way had come to Florida in 1889 and opened his first pharmacy in Punta Gorda. In 1893, he moved to Arcadia and opened the pharmacy there. Ziba King was a cattle baron who financed the First National Bank at 34 W. Oak. This structure survived the fire and had a really cool tower that no longer is on the building. The coolest building on the street was right across from the opera house. We shared a picture on Instagram. This is the flamboyant pink Art Deco structure. This is known as the Rosin Arcade and was built in 1926 by Simon Rosin. There was a post office here and Rosin's Boston store. Later, this became the Koch’s Drugstore and Soda Fountain. Today, these are studio apartments on the upper level and retail stores and a bar and restaurant below, which is called Rattlers Old West Saloon. Another of the historic buildings here was the first to be built after the fire in 1906. The Heard Opera House sits at 106 W. Oak Street. Today, the Arcadia Historic District covers 3400 acres with 293 historic buildings. If you love antiques, this is a great place to visit!

There are some who claim that an orphanage had sat on the spot where the opera house now sits and that it burned down in the great fire. We haven't found any proof for this and the only orphanage nearby that we did find was The Florida Baptist Orphanage that was located one mile north of Arcadia. This opened February 1, 1904. So what was here? It seems to be a mystery. Whatever it was, burned down in the great fire. We do know that the property was initially owned by three couples: John Jay and Mary Philbrick, Raymon and Florence Alvarez and Peter and Malvina Williams. They didn't live in the city, rather Key West. On June 22, 1891, the attorney representing the couples, J.W. Whidden, sold the property to Andrew Green for $50. He worked as Arcadia’s postmaster. Three years later, he sold the property to Samuel Joseph Simmons for $1,000. Since this was a huge increase from $50, people believe a structure was on the site. But as to what that was, we don't know. Simmons was a merchant and served two terms on the Arcadia City Council. 

John J. Heard, a citrus baron, would buy the property on Oct. 12, 1905 for a $2,000 promissory note. Heard wouldn't have whatever was on the site for long because the following month, the fire ripped through. Heard lost that, his "dwelling house" and citrus packing house to the fire. John was married to Lowe and they had four children. They pressed on and Heard built the Opera House in 1906 and opened the South Florida Loan and Trust Co on the first floor. Heard would also found the Arcadia Electric Light, Ice, and Telephone Co. and he also owned the Carlton Block, the Central Hotel and the Arcadian Mercantile Co. Heard left for Jacksonville in 1911 and founded the Heard National Bank there. It would go bankrupt in 1918 and he was arrested, along with four other businessmen. They managed to get the depositors paid in full and the charges were dropped.

As for the opera house property, the Dozier’s Department Store moved in, which was owned by A. J. Dozier. The name is in the tile of the foyer floor. Then there was an Eaton’s Department Store that operated on the first floor. The upstairs had offices and the stage continued to be used for performances and as a civic auditorium. Films would be shown here later. So this building was a social center for Arcadia. James Crosby opened up the Bizarre Bazaar in 2009, which featured 9,000 square feet with dozens of rooms of antiques, vintage art and thousands of vinyl albums. Crosby ran the store for 12 years, but the Covid pandemic took it out. Now the building is under renovations and is back to putting on plays and the various rooms host classes and other events. The original stage is still here along with the ticket booth and gallery. Crosby hosted ghost hunts too and there are some ghost stories. One legend claims that a little girl fell out of a window and died, a few years after the opera house was built, but we have nothing to substantiate that. James Crosby who owned the Bizarre Bazaar told a paper, "There's a good story of a woman who was sitting at the stop light on the corner of Oak and Polk, who looked up and saw a little girl staring at her. And she sat through three red lights until somebody finally honked and when she looked back, the little girl had disappeared from the window." Another death that might have happened here involved JJ Heard and a woman he was having an affair with, later. This woman gave him an ultimatum that it was either her or the wife and Heard chose his wife. The woman hanged herself from the corner rafters."

We arrived in Arcadia around 7pm. We had traveled through some areas of Florida we hadn't been through before. This was definitely cattle country with lots of open space and small towns. We found Oak Street and parked a half block down from the opera house. The buildings here are really cool. We put some pictures up on Instagram. We went inside to check in and wandered around some of the rooms before the hunt began. There was a room that is clearly used by a chess club, another where stained glass is made, several with antiques inside them and then the main stage. We found some seats in front of the stage and listened to the customary introductions and such. We were on our own, which is fine and even preferable sometimes so the waters don't get muddied with wrong information. Our biggest disappointment was the number of people allowed on the hunt. This was a big building, but not big enough to handle a crowd of over forty people. We were thinking this was going to be around 25 people maximum. We did manage to find a couple of quieter corners though and we think we got some evidence.

Our first stop was a room that had padding on the floor that is used for karate classes. We were told a little girl spirit liked to hang out in here and so we set up the K2, the flashlight and Kelly got out her dowsing rods. The dowsing rods confirmed we were talking to a girl, but we weren't sure on age. We think we caught an EVP despite the noise contamination. There was only Kelly and I in this room. We had two recorders going because I had our more elaborate recorder on the entire time and then a smaller handheld doing brief sessions. Here is the recording from the session recorder. (EVP Opera 1) I'll play it again. Here it is on the better recorder. (EVP Opera 2) And then here it is isolated. (EVP Opera Isolated) Diane says, "Can you say your name again?" Kelly says, "We want to know your name." And we think there is a third voice there. Sounds like, "Do you really want me to?"

This spirit also indicated that another spirit was in the room and she pointed the rods towards the other side of the room to show us where it was. She also lit up the K2 a couple of times. We decided to wander around a bit after this. We stopped in one room where it looked like a couple of women were using a doll as a trigger item and they had a K2 next to it that was going crazy. That seemed exciting until we saw that one of the women had her cell phone right near the K2 and it clearly wasn't on airplane mode because it dinged the arrival of text messages and she started reading them. We searched for another quiet spot because we wanted to conduct an Estes Method with the Spirit Box and we found a staircase leading to a roll-up delivery door with a ladder type shoot on the side to transport stuff. It was pretty quiet, so we set up all our equipment. 

We started the first of three Estes Method Spirit Box sessions we conducted. (Estes 1) Kelly felt as though her hair was being touched. We continued the session. (Estes 2) We get the word monkey. Later in the evening we would find something that made us think this meant something. We found a monkey lamp in a room. (Estes 3) On this one, we hear Mom for the second time and it seems that we are talking to a seven year old girl and the K2 went off as well almost like it is telling us that was right. And how about the Laaadies? (Estes 4) I asked Kelly to ask something in Spanish because I felt like I was hearing voices talking in Spanish and we got adonde - where to? (Estes 5) We get Eve for the first time. There is "careful" and "okay" - are the kids talking to each other about the K2 and touching it? And then they pegged it to orange. And "careful" again. "Out on the street"- because of the siren going by? And then we get Chuck for the first time. It comes up a second time too. We actually get it again later.

We did some dousing rods and Kelly was having trouble because she felt like multiple spirits were talking at once. We ask if it was the toddler playing with Kelly's hair. (Dousing 1) So at the end there, it almost sounded like a name being said. We'll play it here again (EVP Em) and one more time. And now just that section amped up. (EVP Em Amped) On the stairs, we sang Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star with the children we thought were with us. (EVP Opera 3) And as you heard there at the end, they lit up the K2 to let us know they liked it. We then did our second Estes Session (Estes 6) We got the name Eden. And Kelly got touched again. Then we got (Estes 7) Apple! And the crazy thing is that we do this thing called a Human Pendulum later and the name Adam came up during that. We got Genesis going on here - lol! We continue (Estes 8) We got lots of names and there was Chuck again. 

We joined the group in the main room where the stage is and they did this thing called the Human Pendulum. I don't trust pendulums, so I really don't trust this. We did a Facebook Live in the Crew featuring this, so you can watch that and see what you think. We're going to play this little clip from it. (Pendulum Adam) And then we were told this story (Story 1) Pretty interesting.

It was nice to get out and investigate again and see some more of Florida we hadn't seen before. Our evidence seems to indicate that there was a number of spirits running through this place. There isn't much history to suggest as to why. Is the Heard Opera House haunted? That is for you to decide!