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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!