Thursday, May 26, 2022

HGB Ep. 437 - Pfister Hotel

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Moment in Oddity - Lady Wonder the Psychic Horse

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

This Moment in History - The Ra II Expedition

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

Pfister Hotel (Suggested by: Brad Brancel)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 19, 2022

HGB Ep. 436 - Belvoir Winery

Moment in Oddity - The Armageddon Highway

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

This Month in History - Battle of the Coral Sea

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

Belvoir Winery (Suggested by: Seth Ackerley)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 12, 2022

HGB Ep. 435 - Rapid City and Hotel Alex Johnson

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

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

This Month in History - Calamity Jane Born

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

Rapid City and Hotel Alex Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elks Theater

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

The Old Hanging Tree

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

Sioux San Hospital

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

Hookey Jack

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

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

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

Thursday, May 5, 2022

HGB Ep. 434 - Old Hospital on College Hill

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

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

This Month in History - Katharine Hepburn Born

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Show Notes:

Paranormal Quest video: