Thursday, July 28, 2022

HGB Ep. 445 - Ringwood Manor

Moment in Oddity - The Giant's Playground

We think it's safe to say that most of us enjoy a friendly game of Jenga. Trying to keep the blocks balanced CAN be a challenge. Now picture that game but with boulders that range between 3 and 10 meters! These formations are why a location near Nambia Africa is labeled The Giant's Playground.  This location was believed to be formed around 180 million years ago during the separation of Pangea which resulted in some hectic disturbances on the lands surface. This area is thought to have had molten magma push through cracks in the ground which in turn surrounded dolerite boulders. After a couple of million years, the sedimentary rocks eventually eroded leaving behind the rock formations known as dolerite dykes. In addition, there were thousands of years of wind, heat and water which smoothed and polished these rock formations to give them the very clear appearance of Giant Jenga games in progress. Although there are a variety of natural wonders in this world to enjoy, seeing perfectly stacked and balanced boulders from millions of years ago that are reminiscent of a giant's family game night, certainly is odd.

This Month in History - Hiram Bingham Visits Machu Picchu For First Time

In the month of July, on the 24th, in 1911, American archeologist Hiram Bingham arrives at Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu means "Old Peak" and a farmer who lived nearby, told Bingham's team that there were ruins at the top of the mountain. This was in the Urubamba Valley northwest of Cuzco in Peru. Archeologists believe that this megalithic ruin was once an Inca settlement, probably one used as a summer retreat. The Inca had no written language, so there are no clear records about them or the places they built. Radiocarbon dating has the site inhabited from 1420 to 1532 and research from recently here in 2022 seems to indicate that the Inca called it Huayna Picchu. Archeologists named the three main structures on the site: The Temple of the Sun, The Room of the Three Windows and Intihuatana. The Inca died out in the 16th century after Spanish invaders arrived. The site is a network of stone terraces with 3,000 stone steps that stretches over five miles. Machu Picchu has been under continuous restoration since 1976 and is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular tourist destination that hosts around 300,000 visitors every year.

Ringwood Manor (Suggested by: Todd Bouverot)

The Ringwood Manor that stands today was constructed over a period of a hundred years and features a variety of architectural styles. This was a country estate for a number of industrialists who spent their summers in Passaic County, New Jersey. The Ringwood area was sacred to Native American people and one has to wonder if digging into the earth and pulling out resources from an area like this can cause supernatural activity. Is that why there are spirits here? Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Ringwood Manor!

The area where Ringwood State Park now sits was occupied by Native Americans for years. For a long time, the Munsee-speaking Lenape peoples hunted and farmed here along the Ringwood River Valley. They had a belief about this land. That it held a certain energy and this energy fed supernatural forces. The Ringwood area was sacred for them. Beginning in the Colonial Period and running through the early 20th century, ironmasters came to collect the rich magnetite iron deposits. These iron veins not only jutted up out of the ground, but also ran thousands of feet into the ground. On top of having all this ore available, the land was richly forested and there was water available, so this was a perfect place for the iron industry to set up shop. A Welsh miner named Cornelius Board was the first to come to the area and mine for ore. The first structure on this site was an ironworks built by the Ogden family who founded the Ringwood Company. A German named Peter Hasenclever founded the American Iron Company and the company purchased the Ringwood property in 1764.

A Scottish engineer named Robert Erskine was hired in 1771 to run the ironworks. Erskine was born in Scotland in 1735 and was an engineer, ironmaster, land surveyor and inventor. His inventions even earned him a Fellowship in the Royal Society of London. It was through this group that he met Benjamin Franklin. He immigrated to America to manage the ironworks, which had over 500 employees. The house that was on-site for him to live in was unimpressive to him. He said of the Federal style and clapboard-sided house that "it was patched together at different times creating an awkward architecture." Erskine continued his work through the Revolutionary War. He not only managed the ironworks to make sure the American cause was supplied, but General George Washington appointed him as his first Geographer and Surveyor General of the Continental Army. In that position, Erskine drew more than 275 maps and Washington visited Ringwood several times to discuss roads on those maps. Erskine also manufactured that Hudson River Chain that we talked about in the last episode that featured West Point. He was given a commission to Captain a local militia and those troops drilled on the Ringwood property. Death would bring Erskine's career to an early end on October 2, 1780. He was only 45 and had apparently caught a cold with a fever, so probably died from pneumonia. History claims that General Washington was at his bedside. Erskine was buried at the cemetery at Ringwood and Washington planted an oak tree by the grave. Eventually the cemetery would be filled with Revolutionary War soldiers, early pioneers to the area and iron workers.

Erskine's wife stayed on at Ringwood until 1782 when she remarried to a man named Robert Lettis Hopper, Jr. and they moved to Belleville, NJ. The American Iron Company maintained the running of the ironworks and later sold it to a Pennsylvania business group in 1795. We're not sure what kind of group this was, but they their business savvy with the ironworks didn't go well and they declared bankruptcy. James Lyle acquired the property in 1804 and he sold it to Martin J. Ryerson. Martin J. Ryerson was born to a Dutch immigrant family in 1751. They had traveled over from Amsterdam in 1646 and arrived in Hackensack, eventually making their way to Long Island. Martin was born and raised on a farmstead and left in 1778 when he married Frouche Van Winkle. They moved to the Pompton area and Ryerson got involved with the ironworks business, purchasing the Pompton Ironworks in 1797. With the wealth he was building, he opened up forges in two other towns. The Ryersons had three sons that were also involved in the ironworks business. Ryerson purchased the Ringwood property in 1807 for $27,500. The records about the house that was on the property are murky, but the Ryersons didn't move into the house Erskine had lived in. They either tore that down or it had burned in a fire. 

The family began building the first section of the manor house that stands today in 1810. This section was two-stories, had ten rooms, an attached kitchen wing and was built in the Federal and Dutch Colonial styles. Typical of the style at the time, the floors were set up with an entrance hall stairway off to the side and two rooms to the left. There were two parlors, separated for men and women by an elaborate screen made from a large set of pocket doors and pantries. Ringwood was a headquarters for Ryerson and his sons as they ran several forges in the area. During the War of 1812, the Ringwood Ironworks was called upon to keep the war effort supplied. Martin Ryerson died in 1839 and the business began to struggle. Jacob was running the iron business on his own as his brother John had died even before their father. He finally came to a point where he was going to have to sell the ironworks and property.

Peter Cooper was an inventor and industrialist who learned from his father that a trade was better than an education. He married Sarah Bedell in Hempstead, NY in 1813 and they had six children. Only two would live to adulthood. Many of his inventions were ingenious and grew from necessity. He came up with the self-rocking cradle after many nights of rocking his own baby after a long day of work. He also made a machine for shaping hubs of wheels, a rotary steam engine and a way to siphon power from ocean tides. And probably the most important invention he created was made with his wife. This was the first widely-used package table gelatin in America now known as "Jell-o." He purchased Ringwood Manor in 1854. He paid $100,000 for the 19,000 acre site and ran the ironworks under Trenton Ironworks. This business was managed by his son Edward and his son's business partner, Abram S. Hewitt, who eventually married Cooper's daughter and Edward's sister, Sarah Amelia. The Cooper & Hewitt iron business was one of the largest iron businesses at the time and supplied the Union side of the Civil War heavily. 

Cooper built a large addition in the Romantic Revival style in 1864. There was a cupola in the center of the roof and gothic trefoil carvings. Carved trefoil designs were also added to the interior. Abram Hewitt would be the last ironworker to live in the house. He hired architect Edward JM Derrick in 1878 to modernize and enlarge the 1864 wing. Derrick liked the Queen Anne style and he added many of those elements to the house. An expansive living hall replaced the side-hall-with-stair arrangement and the back of the house was expanded to include a kitchen and dining room. Lots of wood was added to the house and the floors with accents of cherry, maple, chestnut and walnut. The columned porch was added as was an oriel window at the front of the Federal wing. An oriel window projects out from the wall and is a bay window. Cooper died in 1883 at the age of 92 from pneumonia. The Hewitts took over the manor as a summer home and made more changes. Abram got involved in politics and helped shut down Boss Tweed and reform Tammany Hall. He gave the dedication speech for the Brooklyn Bridge and eventually was elected mayor of New York City.

In the 1880s, toilets were added to the manor, along with coal fired furnaces and outbuildings were expanded. The 1900s brought more changes under the hand of Stanford White, of the firm McKim, Mead and White. This was a firm that specialized in the Beaux-Arts style. The name Stanford White might be familiar to you as we've mentioned him on the podcast before in regards to his murder at Madison Square Garden at the hand of  Harry Kendall Thaw. White had drugged, raped and started an affair with his wife, Evelyn Nesbit, before the two had married. The trial was one of those "Trials of the Century" and Thaw was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Although his firm specialized in a different architectural style, White was embracing the neoclassicism that was becoming popular in the beginning of the 20th century. The clapboard walls were covered over in stucco and an Ionic-columned veranda was added. A gambrel roof was added over much of the manor and an east wing was added with a symmetrical 2 and 1/2 half story gable-roof. All of these changes were meant to make the house look more uniform and get rid of the quirks, but it didn't completely work, which is good because the Victorian style would have been lost. 

In 1910, a piazza replaced the Victorian porch on the west side of the Manor and the chimneys were simplified. The woodwork and trim on the interior were painted white and French styling was brought in with furnishings and decor. By the time the Hewitts were done renovating and adding to the manor, there were 51 rooms. The house was full of many collections the Hewitts had put together over the years and they had enhanced the gardens with sculptures. Ringwood's iron mines eventually closed and the Hewitt family decided to donate the manor to the state of New Jersey in 1938 and this included its contents. The state turned the manor into a museum and opened Ringwood State Park. The property was listed as a National Historic Landmark District in November of 1966. There is a carriage barn on the property and these were signs at the time that the property owner had great wealth. It's kinda like having a really large garage, clearly you have several horses and carriages if you have a large carriage barn. This barn would be the first thing visitors saw when they arrived at Ringwood Manor. Sarah Hewitt had more than 40 horse-drawn carriages and nearly all were custom made. She owned hundreds of additional reins, bridles, blankets, saddles, whips, and tack and all of this was donated to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. This barn was fairly luxurious with heated grates to keep the horses warm, twelve regular-sized horse stalls and three double-sized rooms for the thoroughbreds. 

Tours are offered of the manor, including Enchanted Evening Tours, and one of the people to visit was none other than ghost hunter Hans Holzer. He said that it was one of the most interesting haunted houses he had ever visited. He brought a psychic named Ethel Johnson Meyers with him and she claimed that she had contacted three separate entities. The first was a man named Jackson White who was both Native American and black and was a 19th century servant at Ringwood Manor. Legend claims he was beat to death by a white worker who caught him stealing from the pantry. The second spirit was also a servant, but he had served the Erskines and was named Jeremiah. He told the psychic that he had been abused. The final spirit was Mrs. Erskine and she spoke through Ethel and told Holzer he needed to get off her property. Holzer concluded that the area of the manor that had the most activity was Mrs. Erskine's former bedroom from the house that had stood there before. The bed in here is often rumpled.

Someone else that experienced Mrs. Erskine was said to be Martin Ryerson. He told people that someone kept opening locked windows and he felt cold spots. Ryerson would make sure to check every window and door at night to make sure things were locked up tight. It never mattered. He would find the windows and doors opened in the morning. Visitors to the house felt as though they are being watched in the upstairs and downstairs hallways. Cold spots are also felt by people in these areas.

In a New York Times article in 1986, the museum curator at the time, Elbertus J. Prol, said of one of the ghosts, "He or she - we don't know the identity of this particular person - is said to pass through the door, slam it, bound noisily through the hallway and up the stairs, where it vanishes atop the second-floor landing. If you ask me, whatever it is certainly is going nowhere in a hurry. It kind of falls in the realm of a poltergeist, since it's always heard but never seen." A Superintendent of the Manor named Alexander heard disembodied footsteps and they sounded as though they came from two different spirits. He also would lock everything up at night and then come back in the morning to find all the doors opened wide, just like Martin Ryerson. 

It's not just Mrs. Erskine who is here though. Her husband is said to be here as well. Curator Prol said of this spectre, "Legend has it that Erskine sits upon his tomb, and he also has been known to escort travelers late at night to the wooden bridge at Drink Brook. It has been said that he appears carrying a pale-blue lantern that smacks against his shinbone. Upon reaching the bridge, he vanishes." Erskine isn't the only one to rise in the cemetery. A group of French soldiers who fought under Rochambeau during the Revolutionary War were buried here. People have claimed to see the spirits of these soldiers rise at night and they walk around the pond. Disembodied whispers in French are also heard, not just near the pond, but also in the house. 

A female spirit enjoys the pond as well. She likes to be alone there and will chase away anyone who encroaches on her solitude. Several fisherman who have come to the pond claim that their fishing tackle and rods will mysteriously disappear and then reappear some time later or in a different spot, usually their vehicles. It's like she is packing up their stuff and telling them to leave. A fragrant perfume is smelled here as well. An old mining road is near the house called Margaret King Avenue. Near the road is a large rock nicknamed "Spook Rock." Another unknown female spirit rises from this rock and she wails and moans. Then she vanishes back into the rock. People call her "Mad Mag" using the road name for inspiration. 

The Native Americans called the forest here the Haunted Woods. This land is a place of iron and water. It's no wonder that there may be some supernatural activity here. The Manor played host to many families. Are the spirits trapped here? Are there ghosts that have chosen to stay? Is Ringwood Manor haunted? That is for you to decide! 

Martha wrote: "I used to work as a housekeeper once or twice a week at an older refurbished home built in the early 1900s called Nehapwa. Located on rt 23c, in Tannersville NY. One day, after I cleaned the dining room, I took a picture of it. There, leaning against the table is a ghost of the original houseboy, with his haircut parted in the middle, a red tie, white shirt and light brown pants. He just loves that home, and you'd love it to, because it’s beautiful."

Thursday, July 21, 2022

HGB Ep. 444 - West Point

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Moment in Oddity - Crakow Shoes (Suggested by: Michael Rogers)

Ever heard of a Crakow shoe? You more than likely have seen them if you have ever looked at period artwork. For nearly 150 years, during the 14th and 15th centuries, poulaine shoes, more popularly known as Crakow shoes, were worn. These are those long and pointy shoes that seem quite impractical to our modern minds. And they really were impractical. The points of these shoes usually measured between four and twenty inches. Taking a step with twenty inches of extra toe space seems downright dangerous. Especially for someone who has trouble walking like me. And keeping that pointy area from flopping around required the wearer to stuff the toe with moss or some other kind of filling. And some people even had to tie a string or silver or gold chain around their knee and attach it to the tip of the shoe to keep from tripping. Who would wear these monstrosities?! Well, the rich and famous of course! These were the elite shoes of their time because the material was expensive, so having extra material revealed a certain status. Longer shoes meant more wealth. These shoes were often elaborately decorated and embossed as well. So eat your heart out Air Jordans, Jimmy Choo, Louis Vuitton and Stuart Weitzman. Seriously though, the thought that a shoe that looks like it should be worn by a clown were a status symbol, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - President Eisenhower Starts Helicopter Travel

In the month of July, on the 12th, in 1957, President Eisenhower became the first US president to fly in a helicopter. It is now common place for Americans to see the President hop aboard Marine One, a helicopter, on the South Lawn of the White House and fly off to other destinations. But this was not a thing until Eisenhower boarded a Bell H-13J on the South Lawn to travel to Camp David in Maryland. Other members of his staff were taken in helicopters that came in rapid succession to the White House. President Eisenhower felt this was a better form of transportation because there was no need for road blockades and got him where he wanted to go faster. He started using the helicopter weekly to fly to either Camp David or his farm, north of Gettysburg. This action forever changed transportation for future presidents. Joint Base Andrews is where the Air Force fleet that services the President and his cabinet is kept. The main Marine One is operated by the Marine Helicopter Squadron One Nighthawks. This helicopter is part of a fleet of large white topped VH-3D Sea King helicopters. While there are a couple of main helicopters known as Marine One, any helicopter that a President is aboard is referred to as Marine One, just as any plane the US President aboard is referred to as Air Force One.

West Point (Suggested by: Marco Coronigno)

The U.S. Military Academy West Point started out as a Revolutionary War-era fort that was commissioned by General George Washington. This would become the country's first military academy and still is considered the elite military academy in America. Graduates from West Point joined forces in numerous wars to achieve victory, but also fought against each other during the Civil War. Unnatural sightings and unexplained occurrences have led to numerous ghost stories. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of West Point!

High places with a broad vantage point have always been important when it comes to war. Forts are generally always built on these key strategic high places. West Point is no different. As the Revolutionary War waged, a spot on the west bank of the Hudson River caught the attention of General George Washington. He knew this was going to be a key strategic position for America. General Washington called on Polish freedom fighter and military engineer Thaddeus Kosciuszko to design Fort Arnold in 1778 for this spot they had dubbed West Point. Thaddeus found himself in America in August of 1776. He was a broken-hearted young man looking for new employment. The father of the girl he loved disapproved of him, so perhaps this move was to prove something to that man. Thaddeus would quickly make a name for himself in America. He started in Philadelphia becoming friends with Benjamin Franklin and building blockades for the Continental Army. He was given the rank of colonel and designed his first fort in 1776, Fort Mercer in New Jersey. He arrived at West Point in 1778 and stayed on there until 1780, fortifying the base and areas along the Hudson River. Thomas Jefferson said of the man, "As pure a son of liberty, as I have ever known, and of that liberty which is to go to all, and not to the few or rich alone." One of Thaddeus' closest friends was a black New Englander named Agrippa Hull and when he wrote his will with Thomas Jefferson, he requested that his estate be used to free as many slaves as possible, clearly proving that he truly believed in liberty for all. Unfortunately, those wishes were not honored and the executor who took over the will from an aged Jefferson, squandered most of the estate.

Back to the design of the fort at West Point, Thaddeus bickered greatly with a French engineer over the design because he wanted fortifications along the Hudson River, but eventually the fort was built and General Washington even transferred his headquarters to West Point in 1779. The fort was continually fortified and soldiers even extended a 150-ton iron chain across the Hudson to control river traffic. Fort Arnold was never captured by the British. That was no small feat because as part of Benedict Arnold's treasonous acts, he had shared the designs of Fort Arnold and was planning to give it over to the British. And yes, the fort had been named for him. After the treason, the name was changed to Fort Clinton. After the War, the fort fell into disrepair and was mostly demolished to help expand the United States Military Academy.

The United States Military Academy was established by Congress on March 16, 1802 and President Jefferson signed it into law. The institution was founded so that America could educate her own engineers and artillerists. Jonathan Williams was appointed as the first superintendent. He had been the Chief of Engineers of the Army Corps of Engineers. Fittingly, it opened on July 4, 1802. In 1817, Colonel Sylvanus Thayer became Superintendent and he stayed on in that role until 1833. He is known as the "Father of the Military Academy" and a monument on the campus is dedicated to him. The reason for that is all the upgrades he added to the academy. He emphasized honorable conduct, instilled more military discipline and upgraded the academic standards. In 1830, Sergeant Major Edgar Allan Poe was appointed to West Point, which was secured by his wealthy guardian John Allan. Poe did well with the higher academic standards, but the discipline and long marches were a bit much for him. He quit his classes and was court martialed and formally dismissed on March 6, 1831. 

The Civil Engineering program at West Point was so strong that many USMA graduates were tapped to design and build many of America's railway lines, bridges and roads in the early part of the 19th century. The only way to gain a commission to General in the Army was to graduate from West Point. That was until the Mexican American War where battle experience led to promotions. The Civil War would highlight the amount of generals that passed through the academy. On the Union side, 294 graduates served as general officers and on the Confederate side there were 151 West Point graduates that served as generals. There was a West Point graduate commanding at least one of the sides in all 60 of the major battles. The Civil War also highlighted the divide of the country at the time that not only separated families, but classmates took separate sides.

When the war was over, young men coveted appointments to the academy because of the prestige it gained from the Civil War. Former Confederates weren't allowed to enter the academy until 1868. The curriculum developed beyond civil engineering after the war. The first black cadet was admitted in 1870, but he would not graduate and was dismissed for grades, but because of harsh treatment he received while attending, the dismissal is considered controversial. This young man was James Webster Smith of South Carolina. The first black cadet to graduate would be Henry O. Flipper of Georgia and he did that in 1877. The Chief Engineer for the Panama Canal graduated from West Point in 1880. 

Hazing is an issue at most institutions of higher learning and West Point is no different. It is said to no longer be an issue, but after the Civil War, hazing became a real thing at the academy and it was harsh. Way beyond pranks. The death of cadet Oscar L. Booz, in December of 1900, after a hazing incident led to congressional hearings. The Sacred Heart Review, December 15, 1900, reads, "West Point Hazing to be Investigated. A resolution has been adopted in the House of Representatives at Washington for the appointment of a special committee of five members to investigate the death of Oscar L. Booz of Bristol, Pa., who died recently, it is alleged, as a result of hazing received while a cadet at West Point. This course was taken over the head of the military committee, which reported in favor of allowing the War Department to conduct the inquiry. The presentation of the resolution, and the reading of the reports of the Secretary of War and Colonel Mill, aroused great interest in the House. Mr. Driggs of New York declared that the practice of infamously hazing 'plebs' at West Point was notorious. He cited the case of Whittaker, who was hazed in 1880 and whose case led to a Congressional investigation. Mr. Driggs declared that he would be in favor of abolishing the academy if these brutal practices could not be stopped. Mr. Wanger of Pennsylvania, who appointed Cadet Booz, spoke in favor of a Congressional investigation."

Booz died two years after his hazing and his parents claimed it was from injuries he had received while being hazed. The San Francisco Call reported, "It is alleged by the young man's father that tobasco sauce was poured down his son's throat while the cadets were hazing him. The father also claims that red pepper was thrown In his eyes, hot grease poured on his bare feet, a tooth knocked out and that other fiendish methods were indulged in. Shortly after this, the father says. Oscar, because of his physical condition, was compelled to resign his cadetship. The young man grew steadily worse, but never would divulge the names of the cadets who mistreated him. His parents told him it was his duty to tell, but his only answer was: 'I went there expecting to take whatever medicine was given, and it would not be right to complain against the other boys.'" The investigation found that his death wasn't caused by hazing. Douglas MacArthur was a witness and he would later serve as Superintendent of the academy and make efforts to stop the hazing, but they would continue until later into the 20th century. MacArthur would diversify the curriculum and increased the standards of the athletic programs and physical fitness of cadets during his tenure. He also helped create the Cadet Honor Committee. 

In 1933, the academy started offering Bachelor of Science degrees. West Point would turn out many leaders for World War II. Not only MacArthur, but Patton, Wainwright, Bradley, Clark, Stilwell and Eisenhower. Five hundred graduates of West Point died in the War. Maxwell Taylor became Superintendent in 1945 and he decided the academy needed to get more updated and he abolished classes in horsemanship and fencing. The Class of 1950 graduated only two weeks prior to the outbreak of the Korean War. These graduates would suffer some of the heaviest casualties of any 20th century class. The first woman would join the faculty in 1968. The Vietnam War has West Point granting its first honorable discharge in 1971 and this was for a cadet who applied for conscientious objector status. Three hundred and thirty-three graduates from West Point died in the Vietnam War. Enrollment wasn't open to women until 1976. Sixty-two women graduated in the class of 1980. One of the women graduates of West Point happens to be my second cousin Donna Everson. She graduated in 1985 and I remember thinking how cool that was! 

The curriculum at West Point is ever evolving and cadets can major in more than a dozen fields, from sciences to humanities. The campus has grown throughout the years, even more so after 1964 when President Johnson signed legislation increasing the strength of the Corps of Cadets from 2,529 to 4,417. Today, that number sits around 4,000 cadets and the grounds expand over nearly 16,000 acres. The majority of the academy has been declared a National Historic Landmark. Many areas of the campus are gorgeous and overlook the Hudson River. Charles Dickens visited in 1841 and wrote, "It could not stand on more appropriate ground, and any ground more beautiful can hardly be." Most of the architecture is neogothic and built from granite of gray and black hues. Older private residences feature the Federal, Georgian and English Tudor styles. The Old Cadet Chapel is neoclassical. There are numerous monuments and statues on the grounds and even a cemetery.

The West Point Cemetery is the final resting place of eighteen Medal of Honor recipients. It's also the burial place for Winfield Scott, Earl Blaik, General William Westmoreland, George Armstrong Custer and Egbert Viele, chief engineer of Brooklyn's Prospect Park. Revolutionary War heroine Margaret Corbin is also here. She had married a man named John Corbin and when he enlisted in the First Company of Pennsylvania Artillery during the American Revolution, she joined him and historians claim she was a paid enlisted soldier. The Americans were facing an attack by the Hessians in November of 1776 at Fort Washington in New York and John was manning a gun on the ridge. He was killed and Margaret immediately jumped up to the gun and continued firing until she was downed by grapeshot wounds. She eventually made her way to Philadelphia where she came to the attention of the Executive Council and they granted her temporary relief as she was left disabled by her wounds. The Continental Congress later granted her a lifetime soldier's half-pay pension. She mustered out of the Continental Army in 1783 and she moved to Westchester County in New York and lived there until her death in 1800.

Guided tours are offered of the academy. There is a visitor's center just outside the Thayer Gate in the village of Highland Falls. There is also a West Point Museum adjacent to the visitor's center. This had formerly been Olmstead Hall and this is the oldest military museum in the country. Items on display include George Washington's pistols, Napoleon's sword, a dagger carried by Hermann Göring when he was captured, a revolver that belonged to Göring, and a silver-plated party book, signed by Charles Lindbergh, Herbert Hoover and Mussolini, among others. And there is also a gold-plated pistol that once belonged to Adolf Hitler. And then there are the ghosts! Haunting tales are very much a part of the history of West Point. Dogs staying in officers' quarters have barked at things unseen. A member of a night cleaning crew was in Building 606 when he was thrown by a malevolent spirit. He was so frightened that he quit his job. The Army's website has even documented some of these cases, giving the stories a level of credence.

Quarters 100

Several investigators and demonologists were called in to study the Superintendent's house known as Quarters 100. Lorraine Warren was one of those people and the West Point Association of Graduates website even features a picture of Warren with the then-superintendent, General Knowlton. Knowlton had Lorraine walk through and give her psychic impressions and then he took the information to the librarian to see if any of the history matched up with her impressions. The librarian was eager for the challenge, but Warren's descriptions were not a part of the regular archives and would require an extensive search of written memories from past superintendents and those were hard to come by, so the librarian was unable to verify most of the details. An archivist was able to find information on one of the ghosts later.

People generally claim that there are two spirits here. There is supposedly the spirit of an Irish maid who has been seen kneading bread in the basement kitchen. Lorraine picked up on this spirit and said of her, "She is not old, very domineering, athletically inclined, and really not quite a lady. I get a feeling of no man; if she had a husband, he was dominated while at home." And that is the impression most people get of Molly. She is a mischievous ghost. Sgt. 1st Class Andre Rush told the Times Herald-Record in 2008 that Molly likes to mess up the bed and he pointed to a bed in the basement that always looks slept in and said, "She still wants to be noticed. She digs me." The rumpled linens is one of her trademarks. She also likes to knock over wine bottles.

Warren picked up on another ghost whom she felt was a black man named Greer who was tall and slender and wearing a gray uniform. She said that he was an orderly to a superintendent and had apparently murdered someone and was stuck here because of guilt and sorrow. He regularly moved objects around the house and Knowlton experienced that phenomenon often in the house. A guest at the house even had an experience with finding an object that had been moved. This was the former superintendent of the Coast Guard Academy. He and his wife stayed overnight at Quarter 100 and when they awoke one morning, they found a wallet that belonged to someone else staying at the house, in the bed between them. Chief of USMA Archives Stanley Tozeski thought Greer could possibly be Lawrence Greer, a Buffalo Soldier who turned out to be a criminal. He said of Greer that he was "General prisoner Lawrence Greer, was definitely black, formerly a private in Troop C, 9th Calvary. He escaped from confinement at Fort Leavenworth in June of 1931 and was apprehended the following April near Albany, New York. He was brought to West Point and court-martialed for his escape and subsequent desertion. Found guilty, he was sentenced to 2 1/2 years of hard labor. However, the sentence was disapproved by command of Maj. Gen. Connor because the prisoner was judged insane at the time of his trial. We have no record of what happened to Pvt. Greer after these events." 

Room 4714

One of the most well known ghost stories occurred in Room 4714 of the North Barrack's 47th Division in Ocotber 1972. Five members of Company G-3 documented their experiences in a report. Jim O'Connor was taking a shower on October 20, 1972. His bathrobe that he had hung on the wall, started swinging like a pendulum. His water turned ice cold at the same time. The robe then stopped swinging, so he thought maybe a breeze had blown it. He turned up the heat on the water and the bathrobe started swinging again. The water turned blazing hot and O'Connor jumped out of the shower. he decided to give up for the night. O'Connor's roommate, Cadet Victor, was using the restroom the following evening and before he could push down the handle of the toilet, it flushed itself. The toilet paper roll then began unfurling. He ran to get O'Connor and when the men returned, they found half the toilet paper roll unrolled. Things ramped up the following night when O'Connor noticed a figure sitting on the toilet seat when he had finished using it. The figure was 5'6" and dressed in a worn full dress gray coat and he was holding an old musket in his right hand. the eyes were the freakiest part, they were just white. The ghost stood up and faded.

The following night, the two men were sound asleep in Room 4714 when they were awakened at 2 a.m. A ghostly soldier had manifested and was floating near the radiator, five feet off the floor. The spirit stuck around for about a minute and then disappeared. On October 30th, the apparition appeared again coming out of the wall above Victor's bed. The figure walked around Victor's section of the room, then disappeared and reappeared in O'Connor's section of the room. The room got icy cold and the ghost faded again. This experience lasted nearly ten minutes. The men finally reported their experiences to the CO and the Platoon Leader. Both these men decided to sleep in the room to see if they could get to the bottom of what was going on here. Around 1:30 a.m., the room got very cold and Platoon Leader Terry Meehan saw an image on the ceiling. He wrote of the event, "It was not as if I had been staring at the ceiling for a long time trying to see something. I just looked up, and it was there, in a 3/4 profile of the head and neck. I could see one eye blurrily. Its mouth and nose were black, as if someone was shining a flashlight under its chin. It was very cold. This lasted for about two minutes. I called the CO, and he too noticed that it was cold. We then went to sleep and the next morning climbed to see if it were a spot, a water stain, or a footprint, but found nothing. I know it was not a shadow from the window. The windows and doors had been closed and the heater turned on; we had been sweating before the occurrence, in fact."

The Assistant Brigade Adjutant, John Feeley, slept in the room the following night with O'Connor. Feeley claimed the room became very cold after 2:30 a.m. and that it felt like something was sitting on his chest. He then saw a figure manifest, wearing a coat with a high collar and said that this looked like an older man, not a cadet. The figure wore a tall hat and Feeley said, "I did not notice anything besides its lack of eyes. Rather than eyes, it had two white spots, I tried to sit up in bed twice but could not. I made the effort to scream, but the sound was cut off in the middle of my throat." He must have made some sound because O'Connor claimed that he heard Feeley yell and ran over and saw the figure just as it was going back into the wall. The spot on the wall where it disappeared was very cold. Other cadets tried staying the room and claimed to have similar experiences. They even documented the temperature changes with equipment. The psychic Jeane Dixon was best known for predicting the assassination of John F. Kennedy. She visited Room 4714 and when she started doing a cleansing, eyewitnesses claim she was lifted off of the floor and thrown from the room. She immediately left the campus and never returned. Some people thought the spirit was that of a man who died when his house burned down on a site adjacent to the 47th Division, while others blamed a seance conducted by the Warrens at Quarters 100. The building is now named Scott Barracks and the room is now a study area with no reported activity.

Quarters 107B 

Quarters 107B is a home overlooking the Hudson River on Professor's Row. The spirit that hangs out here is known as "The Lady." A professor moved into the home in the 1920s with his young wife. She became ill with a fatal disease that took its time taking her. Her mother came to live with the couple to help out with chores and to tend to her sick daughter. Apparently, the professor and mother were much closer in age and an attraction grew into love. The young wife was devastated when she heard of the affair and some say her death was quickened by a broken heart. Before she died, she made her husband promise that he would not marry her mother. He broke that promise shortly after her death and married the mother. The young wife returned in the afterlife with a vengeance. 

She made horrendous sounds described like big wheels rolling along the upstairs floor and she threw items. Other items were turned upside down and a broken clock gonged back to life. The bedroom she died in was her favorite haunt and for a time the room was sealed off because people were too scared to go inside. It was reopened in the 1950s. A family lived here in the 1970s and an 8-year-old and her sister slept in this room. There were many times that the little girl awakened her parents at night because they heard her talking to someone. The first time it happened, the parents went to her room to see who she was talking to and saw that there was no one there that they could see. Her parents asked who she was talking to and the girl answered, "The Lady." And that became her permanent nickname.

There are many haunted military bases, but West Point is probably the most prestigious. It definitely is the oldest. Having many members of the military sharing similar experiences, really gives the stories a tinge of truth. Particularly since many of them have been higher ranked. Is West Point haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, July 14, 2022

HGB Ep. 443 - Haunted Cemeteries 23 and That Last Ride

Moment in Oddity - Eliza Huger Grave

The resting place of Eliza Huger can be found in the churchyard of the Old Stone Church on Highway 76 in Clemson, South Carolina. There are legends connected to this very odd burial, which features a stone wall built all around the stone slab that marks her plot. The only burial with this feature. The first legend claims that she was a witch who was asked to leave the Old Stone Church, although her husband was allowed to stay. When she died, the church didn't want to bury her in their churchyard, but they relented and buried her on the far side of the cemetery. They put a wall up around the grave to keep the witch inside. The wall crumbles on occasion and people claim that Eliza cursed the church and that is why the wall won't stand and the church had to rebuild it every few years. Today, rebar holds it up. Another legend claims that Eliza had been a lady-of-the-evening and her brother busted her with a client and shot and killed both of them. She was walled in to keep her loose morals away from the church. No one knows if either of these legends is true, but what is true is that the stone slab over the grave has multiple cracks on it and has had to be replaced multiple times because it continues to crack, either because of her spirit or because it has been hit by lightning many times, and that certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Activist Wobbly Joe Hill Convicted and Sentenced to Death

In the month of July, on the 18th, in 1914 labor activist Wobbly Joe Hill is convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Hill had immigrated to the US from Sweden in 1879. He joined the International Workers of the World (IWW) in 1910. Members of this group were referred to as Wobblies and they held to beliefs that the capitalist system must be rejected. They helped fight against mistreatment of workers in the mining, logging and shipping industries. The ultimate goal, however, was to lead a workers revolution. Hill had a talent for writing songs and he was very witty, so he became the Wobblies' leading singer and songwriter. One of his songs introduced the notion of "pie in the sky." The IWW felt that music would help move their cause further and they published the Little Red Song Book. Joe Hill found himself gaining some fame, but it also put a target on his back. In 1914, grocery store owner and former policeman John G. Morrison and his son were shot and killed by two men during a robbery of their store. Hill was arrested for the crime and even though the evidence against him was very thin, the jury convicted him and he was sentenced to death. Apparently, Hill had shown up at a hospital night of the murders with a gunshot wound. He explained that he had been shot during a jealous altercation over a woman, but would offer no other details. Despite appeals and high-profile calls for leniency, he was executed by firing squad the following year. A biography written about him in 2011 details a letter that was found decades later that indicated the story Hill had told about how he was shot, was true. 

Haunted Cemeteries 23 

Cemeteries are the final resting place for many people. However that final spot is decorated is a matter of money and preference. All burial plots are important whether that patch is adorned with a simple flat plaque or an audacious mausoleum. We have found that many of these "cities of the dead" are haunted. In this episode, we cover cemeteries located in Pennsylvania, Maine, Australia, Indiana, Tennessee and Michigan. And then there is that little detail of how one arrives to that final resting place. A hearse usually gets the job done. Cheers to that final ride! 

The Hooded Grave Cemetery (Suggested by: Beth VanderYacht)

The rural cemetery movement began in the 1830s and for America, many of these garden-like places became the first public parks. These were wonderful spots for families to gather together, both the living and the dead. Cemeteries also bring together culture and history. Sometimes these elements are revealed in the symbols that adorn headstones and other times it may be seen in the implements that accompany graves. Mt. Zion Cemetery at 277 Longwoods Road in Catawissa, Pennsylvania is also known as the Hooded Grave Cemetery. The cemetery has that odd nickname due to a couple of these strange apparatuses found on graves there. This isn't a haunted cemetery, but when listener and Executive Producer Beth VanderYacht brought it to our attention, we were intrigued. The nickname references the hoods or cages found over a couple of the graves in this small cemetery.

We've discussed mortsafes on episodes before. These are those metal cages that are found over graves dating back to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that are believed to have been used to prevent grave robbing. These cages usually only rose about two feet above the ground. What makes the hoods or cages in the Hooded Cemetery unique is the fact that they rise over four feet high. They stretch the length of the plot and measure three feet wide. The hoods are found on two of the graves. One belongs to Asenath Thomas, wife of John F. Thomas, who died on June 26, 1852, possibly from complications during childbirth. The other grave belongs to Sarah Ann Boone, wife of Ransloe Boone and sister to the aforementioned John Thomas. She died a few days before her sister-in-law Asenath on June 18, 1852. An article in Medium by Annabelle Wagner claims that there had been a third cage in the cemetery until the 1930s when it was removed because it was falling apart. It was believed to be over a grave of another woman, Sarah's cousin Rebecca Clayton, who died in the same year. 

As to why these two cages are in this cemetery is anybody's guess. Some people wondered if the affluent Thomas family was showing off their wealth, but why wouldn't all the family members have similar structures on their graves? Could these be bigger mortsafes? That is possible, but this is a small graveyard, not one near a city where dead bodies would be needed for dissecting at medical schools. The cages are made from malleable wrought iron as well, so not real protective against saws or other tools. And the really odd thing is the fact that mortsafes are not found in America and these two are the only of their kind in the United States. Wagner puts forward the idea that maybe there was a fear of vampirism. All three deaths in 1852 from an unknown cause lends credence to that theory. But maybe the most likely theory is to prevent people from standing on the grave and causing a grave collapse as the ground here would have had that issue.

Old York Cemetery in Maine

Old York Cemetery is also known as Old Parish Cemetery. It is found in York Village, Maine, across the street from First Parish Church. There are eleven noteworthy burials here that were recently showcased in 2020 by Boy Scout Tyson Matthews who coordinated the research and installation of a large panel featuring the information. There is a monument to the victims of York's Candlemas Massacre of 1692. The oldest grave dates back to 1705 and belongs to an infant named Lucy who died during child birth. The most interesting grave here belongs to Mary Nasson who died on August 18, 1774. Her image is carved on the crown of the gravestone. It's an odd image. For those of you who have seen Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 film "Bram Stoker's Dracula," there is a scene of an aged Dracula and he has these two buns on his head. That hair-do is how I would describe Mary's hair on her carving. On top of that, her eyes are bugged out, her lips are pouty and she is wearing a loose robe. But that's not what makes this burial interesting. Legend claims that this is the grave of the York Witch. A stone slab sits atop the burial and there is a claim that this was meant to keep the witch in her grave. She was said to be a white witch who helped neighbors with herbs and exorcised demons. Mary haunts the graveyard with people seeing her full-bodied apparition. She occasionally crosses the street and pushes children on the swings in the playground.

Ballarat Old Cemetery (Suggested by: Alex Ryding)

The Ballarat Old Cemetery is found in the Victoria, Australia city of Ballarat. This had been the land of the Wathawurrung Aboriginal People who were displaced as our Native Americans were. This third largest city in Victoria had auspicious beginnings with discovery of gold here in 1851. This sparked the Victorian Gold Rush and Ballarat became a boom town. In 1854, fights over gold licenses caused an armed uprising known as the Eureka Rebellion. Gold miners were becoming disgruntled with the colonial government and were demonstrating in increasing violent ways. The Eureka Flag was the southern cross flag and 10,000 demonstrators swore their allegiance to this flag at Bakery Hill on November 29, 1854 under the leadership of Irishman Peter Lalor. The oath they took was, "We swear by the Southern Cross, to stand truly by each other, and fight to defend our rights and liberties." This flag was flown over the Eureka Stockade, which the miners had built near the Eureka diggings, and remains a national symbol today. Government troops attacked the stockade on December 3, 1854, killing 22 miners, one of whom was a woman. Six soldiers were killed in the assault that lasted a mere 15 minutes. The rebellion led to Australian democracy and men were given the right to vote in 1857. The city remained a boom town well into the late 19th century. 

In 1854, the old cemetery was established with the first burial in May of 1856. The cemetery stretches over 17 acres with 35,000 interments. The grounds are beautiful with several garden areas: Conifer Gardens, Highview Gardens, Sunset Gardens, Birdsong Gardens, The Terraces and Tanika Lawn. There is a beautiful rotunda in the center of the cemetery dating to 1893 that has been restored. A gatehouse was added in 1920 and that has also been restored. There are burial areas for all different denominations of Christianity, Buddhists, Jews and there is a nursery for babies and children's corner for kids up to the age of 12 years. A Tree of Memories is a memorial sculpted from bronze featuring a tree with engraved leaves featuring inscriptions for babies lost prior to reaching one year and miscarriages, stillbirths and neonatal deaths. A Pioneer's Block is dedicated to the earliest settlers to the area. A Eureka Monument was built for those who died during the Eureka Rebellion. Many of those who died were buried in a mass grave, but were disinterred later to the memorial, which has a grey sandstone obelisk with a draped urn atop it, standing over the burial area. There is also a mass grave for over 10,000 gold miners. Many early burials were from Dysentery that swept through the diggings

A little known fact about Ballarat is that it became a mecca for spiritualism in the Victorian era. During the Gold Rush, there was this influx of spiritualists bringing their beliefs, but there were also Chinese immigrants coming who brought their beliefs and traditions around ghosts. Many of the residents thought that the hauntings happening in the town were due to the fact that the Chinese immigrants were unable to get proper burials. Thus, a special area at Ballarat Old Cemetery was set aside for them. Walter Craig was buried in the cemetery in 1870. He built the Royal Hotel in the 1850s. He owned a horse named Nimblefoot that was going to race in the 1870 Melbourne Cup. He told friends he’d dreamt that his horse Nimblefoot was going to win. There was something weird about the dream though. The jockey riding his horse wore a black armband. Craig's horse did win the race, but everyone soon found out what the black armband had meant in the dream. The jockey wore it because Craig did shortly before the race. As an aside, Craig's spirit is said to haunt his hotel and is seen wearing Victorian clothing. Ghost stories are hard to come by even though several ghost tour companies host tours through the cemetery. There are shadow figures seen at night in the cemetery as are floating orbs.

Springdale Cemetery in Indiana

Springdale Cemetery was founded in 1839 in Madison, Indiana. This is the oldest cemetery in the city and was established to take the place of the first Old City Cemetery that was built close to a creek and regularly flooded, raising the dead. With the risk of flooding on the mind of those who designed the cemetery, stone-lined drainage ditches were built along the cemetery. The design was heavily influenced by cemeteries in Europe. A Gothic Revival chapel with stained-glass windows designed by architect Frederick Wallick was built in 1917. The first burial here was for fifteen-year-old Frances "Fanny" Sullivan who died in October 1839. She belonged to the large Sullivan family. Her father Judge Jeremiah Sullivan sat on the Indiana Supreme Court. The Sullivan plot has both of Fanny's parents and eight of her siblings. The Sullivan family home still stands as a museum and is said to be haunted. The Old Public Grounds section here is the final resting spot for many burials brought over from the Third Street Cemetery, which had been the original cemetery that flooded. That former cemetery is a park now that is haunted with stories of cold spots and floating orbs probably because the bodies were moved. This also has lead to hauntings in the Springdale Cemetery because matching up of headstones with bodies wasn't complete and some bodies were completely washed away in floods.

Civil War veterans are buried here. One of them died during the Battle of Antietam and another was also a veteran of the Mexican-American War. Hanging Rock Hill is near the back of the cemetery and is home to a large Italian marble sculpture created by George Gray Barnard for his family plot. He made it in 1922 and it features a woman raising her outstretched arms to the sky. There is ghostly activity associated with this statue. People have claimed to see tears of blood flowing from the woman's eyes. Legends that fuel dares for young people claim that if you trespass into the cemetery at night and kiss the feet of the statue, she will come to life and chase you from the cemetery. Cold spots are felt throughout the cemetery and balls of light have been seen. And a strange spirit has been seen multiple times with only the torso and legs visible. The arms and head seem to be missing or just don't materialize. One of the causes for the hauntings could be a flood that hit the cemetery in 1978. Some coffins were washed away and finding their proper burial spot was impossible, so there may be bodies that don't match headstones.

Shelby County Cemetery in Memphis

The Shelby County Cemetery is located at 8340 Ellis Road in Memphis, Tennessee. This started as a potter's field before the county acquired the property in 1891 and added more acreage, bringing it to sixty acres. The name of the cemetery officially became Shelby County Cemetery in 1934. The cemetery moved to a new spot in 1965, but many bodies weren't transferred before the Ed Rice Community Center and Frayser Park were built over it. The new cemetery is said to be haunted because bodies weren't transferred. Memphis Paranormal Investigations have investigated here many times and they have named one of the spirits they have interacted with "The Cucumber Man" because the scent of cucumbers accompanies his manifestations. He seems to be quite fond of women and likes to touch them. 

Mouth Cemetery in Michigan

Mouth Cemetery is located in White River Township in Michigan, which is an area known for strange occurrences. White River Township is at the mouth of a river, so settlers nicknamed it "Mouth," which is where the name of the cemetery comes from. Native Americans had lived here and were involved in a massacre between warring tribes in the 1600s. Early settlers founded the settlement as a lumber town. And the first burial in the cemetery took place in 1830. The first marked date on a headstone though is 1851 and this is for Christian Merke. Native Americans, shipwrecked sailors, Revolutionary War soldiers, children and early settlers are buried here. The cemetery is really overgrown and fallen into a bit of disrepair and is thought to have 300 burials on three acres. The most famous burial belongs to a lighthouse keeper named Captain William Robinson who was buried here in 1919. He was the first lightkeeper at the White River Light Station, which was built in 1875. He served here for forty-seven years and only stopped working there when he was forced to because of his age. He oversaw the building and was there so long, it isn't surprising that he is said to haunt the lighthouse. But he also haunts his final resting place, which is near the lighthouse.

A weird legend connected to the cemetery is about a chair that once sat at the cemetery. A young man sat in it and people thought it cursed him because he died in a car accident exactly one year later. People would dare each other to sit in the chair until it was removed. Disembodied footsteps are heard and strange mists are seen. Disembodied cries and screams are also heard, which might be connected to the massacre. The spirit of a young girl wearing a white period dress is also seen. A girl named Jennifer visited the cemetery and she told Amberrose Hammond, the author of "Ghosts and Legends of Michigan's West Coast," that she was standing outside the cemetery and saw an orange-colored ball of light form in the trees. It hovered above the cemetery and then disappeared. Jennifer had called her friends over and they said it was probably nothing, then at that moment the light appeared again in the trees and hovered for a bit before vanishing. The light appeared a third time and disappeared. All the people in Jennifer's group witnessed the ball appearing at least once.


When we come to the end of our lives, we are all pretty similar in that we want to go out in style. Whether we choose a casket or to be cremated, the vehicle that gets us there should be special. One thing hearses have always done, is drawn our attention to the procession. No one can watch a funeral procession drive by without contemplating the end of life. One day, we will all be there. Taking that final ride to our final resting place. If you could choose anything to be your last ride, what would it be? Pink Cadillac? Alfa Romeo - I know, a bit cramped, but talk about going out in style. A stretch limo perhaps? Strapped on a motorcycle? That sounds a bit outlandish, but I know about a guy who was buried that way. Billy Standley of Ohio was buried in 2014 on his beloved 1967 Electra Glide Harley-Davidson inside a Plexiglas casket. A metal back brace and straps were used to ensure that his body stays on that motorcycle through all time...well, okay, until his bones fall apart. His final ride was in a trailer in a procession to the cemetery with all of his biker buddies watching.

While many of us refer to the vehicles used to transport coffins to their final destination as hearses, the funeral industry refers to them as funeral coaches. The word "hearse" comes from the Middle English "herse." This herse was a candelabra of sorts usually placed on top of a coffin or the back of a coffin and a fun fact is that the reason funeral processions went slow was to prevent the candles from blowing out. The candelabras upside-down looked like the tool used to make harrows in the ground and herse was the term for harrow. Now if you expect me to tell you how a candelabra term eventually became what people called the horse-drawn carriages that carried the casket to the graveyard during a funeral procession, I'm going to disappoint you. Because I don't know. But for some reason, this reference started in the 17th century.

So you must be thinking, and if you weren't I'm going to tell you anyway, what was going on in the way of final rides before these first horse-drawn hearses? Carts with a flat frame were used and they were called biers. Many were as basic as a flat board on which a body would be placed, covered with a shroud and dragged to the graveyard. We actually do still see biers today during funeral processions for important political figures like presidents. Biers are also used when caskets are placed lying in state. The modern funeral industry calls their biers, "church trucks" and they are usually made from aluminum and collapsible with wheels. These fairly boring and simple modes of body transportation gave way to much fancier ones with the introduction of carriages.

Antique hearse carriages are gorgeous and we love them. Some can be very elaborate with carved wood that features birds like doves, flowers, angels and scrollwork. There was a magazine for funeral directors called "The Casket" back in 1909. One of the hearses featured inside had large angels on either side of the display glass windows. And those windows were a traditional feature of the carriage hearses, along with draping. The glass came as either straight glass or cathedral glass in design. The cathedral glass is shaped like pointed church windows and can have elaborate designs as well. Another common feature were lamps on either side of the carriages, generally up front where a driver might be seated as he drives the horses. And that was something added to these carriages that biers usually did not have: horses. Horses were used to pull the carriages as now heavy caskets were being used for burial.

We found this interesting article in The Morning Call back in 2001 that indicates that horse-drawn hearse carriages are still an option today. Joe Tetz owned the Tetz Coach and Hearse Company and he discovered in 1996 that people were still interested in horse-led funeral processions. He drove a wagon for the 1996 reburial of three Revolutionary War soldiers and people went crazy about it. So he thought it would be a good idea to gear his business towards that idea. In 1998, Tetz invited Robert B. Heintzelman, co-owner of Heintzelman Funeral Homes, to come see his funeral wagons and Heintzelman was so impressed, he commissioned Tetz to build a horse-drawn hearse for one their funeral homes. Heintzelman considers the wagon a "treasured masterpiece" and the funeral home had hosted several horse-drawn hearse funerals for Heintzelman customers.

So it seems that this kind of last ride could still be a viable option for some of you out there. We had not realized this was still a thing until researching this and now, well...we certainly would love this to be our last ride. Hearses remained horse-drawn until the first decade of the 20th century. As early as 1900, electric powered hearses were used. Yes, you heard that right. Electric hearses were a thing in the early 1900s. The gas-powered hearses came along in 1909 and the first was designed by undertaker H.D. Ludlow. He commissioned the building of a vehicle made from the body of a horse-drawn hearse and the chassis of a bus. This was used at the funeral of  Wilfrid A. Pruyn and became quite popular. At least with people other than funeral directors who found the vehicles to be too expensive. And for the time, they were running around $6,000 per hearse. By the 1920s though, the gas-powered hearses were the norm and directors found that the speed would increase the number of funerals they could host. And there was no danger of blowing out candles at this point, so why not!

The Crane and Breed Company of Cincinnati, Ohio became the first manufacturer of hearses. This company has a long history in the business of death. A claim to fame for them is that President Abraham Lincoln was interred in a Crane patent metal coffin. The hearses they built could hit speeds of 30 mph. These early hearses resembled the horse-drawn carriages with their box-like designs. Packard made a funeral bus in 1916 that was large enough to fit the casket, pallbearers and 20 mourners. The 1919 Reo Funeral Coach resembles the horse-drawn carriages of old minus the horses. There are the lamps on the side and large, interior draped windows on the side. Sayers and Scovill introduced the sleeker, limousine style in the 1930s. Many of these had a landau style to them meaning a simulated convertible. The landaus were the parts of the hearse coaches that braced the folding leather tops of the horse-drawn carriages. Those simulated landau joints are seen on the sides of modern day hearses. So they are not just a random decoration. They have a historical reference.

Some cities, like Chicago, had rail cars that were specifically used for transporting caskets. A special bureau operated these trolley cars, three to four days a week on the "L." Baltimore also had funeral trolleys for a time. Remote cemeteries in Australia and London made use of funeral trains as well. Today, most hearses fall into two categories. The first has narrow pillars and large windows on the side through which the coffin can be seen. The other is the more commonly seen one with opaque rear panels and a small window in back, so the coffin can barely be seen. These are the kind mentioned earlier with the mock landau bars and the roofs tend to be vinyl. Most are manufactured by Cadillac, which started making hearses in 1916, or Lincoln. *Fun fact: Until the 1970s, hearses were also used as ambulances since they had the bigger open rear bodies. The most popular Cadillac Commercial Chassis combo ambulance/hearse would be Ecto-1 from the Ghostbusters movie. That was a 1959 Miller Meteor model.*

This is mostly the case for America. In Europe, cars built by Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar are modified by coachbuilders. And some Japanese hearses get elaborate enough that they build mini Buddhist temples on the back. These Japanese-style hearses vary based on the region where they are used. The Kanazawa style has a red body with gilded ornaments. Some are black, but red is more common. The Nagoya style is decorated on both the upper and lower halves of the car body. The Kansai style is modest and unpainted. The Tokyo style features painted/gilded ornaments on the upper half of the body. Chinese hearses in Hong Kong and Singapore are generally glorified vans. But when it comes right down to it, you probably could choose just about anything as your final ride. 

So are these various cemeteries haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, July 7, 2022

HGB Ep. 442 - Wheeldon Manor

Moment in Oddity - The Legend of Taimur's Curse (suggested by Paolo Jay)

Taimur or Timur was a Turko-Mongol conqueror who brought most of the Muslim-ruled parts of Central Asia and India under his control in the 14th century. When he died, his body was embalmed and ceremonially buried in his capital, Samarkand. In 1941, Joseph Stalin sent a Russian anthropologist, Mikhail Gerasimov, to exhume Taimur's body to study it. Stalin wanted to use the body to make a replica of what Taimur looked like. When word spread of the Russian plan, local Samarkands warned the anthropologist of a terrible curse attached to Taimur's grave. Of course Gerasimov labeled the curse 'mumbo jumbo'. Once the grave was located, the anthropologist exhumed the body and found a curse inscribed inside the tomb that read, "Whomsoever opens my tomb shall unleash an invader even more terrible than myself." The curse was dismissed and Taimur's body was taken to Moscow. Within three days Hitler launched his surprise attack on Russia which took approximately 30 million Russian lives. As the Germans continued advancing, the anthropologist began to worry about the curse and shared his thoughts with Stalin. Being a deeply superstitious man, the dictator arranged a special aircraft to fly Taimur’s body back to Samarkand, where they gave it a reverential re-burial. A few weeks later, the tide of German invasion suddenly turned and the Russians were victorious at the Battle of Stalingrad. Today, Taimur's tomb in Samarkand is an important tourist attraction. So what about this curse? Is it real or is it just a legend followed up by some strange coincidences? Whatever the truth, the story of this curse certainly is odd. 

This Month in History - 24 Hour Power Outage in New York City

In the month of July, on the 13th, in 1977, New York City dealt with a power outage that lasted over 24 hours. At 8:37pm EDT a lightning strike hit the Buchanan South substation on the Hudson River. This in turn tripped 2 circuit breakers. The location was currently used to convert 345,000 volts from a nuclear generating station to a lower voltage for commercial use. Shortly after, there was a second lightning strike which caused the loss of two 345kV transmission lines as well. Then at 8:55pm there was a THIRD strike, this one occurring at the Sprain Brook substation in Yonkers that took out another two critical lines. During all of this, Con Edison had to  manually reduce the load on another local generator at their East River facility, due to problems at that plant. This made an already dire situation even worse. Throughout the evening, Con Edison continued to be asked to reduce loads from working stations due to thermal overloads and continued trips and drops in service. Con Ed could not generate enough power within the city, and the three power lines that supplemented the city's power were overtaxed. Just after 9:27 p.m., the biggest generator, Ravenswood Generating Unit No. 3 (also known as "Big Allis"), shut down and with it went all of New York City. The blackout occurred at a time of severe financial crisis as well as fear of The Son of Sam in the city. The 1977 blackout resulted in citywide looting and other acts of criminal activity, including arson. They say that lightning doesn't strike twice in the same place but New York City had the bad fortune of being struck 3 times that evening, resulting in a darkened city that is known for its nightlife. 

Wheeldon Manor (Suggested by: Cara Danelle)

Wheeldon Manor in Kentucky has stood for over 100 years and has played a variety of roles. Some of them as mundane as a post office and others along criminal lines featuring gang activity and a brothel. It's final function has been as a paranormal hotspot. Military Veterans Paranormal has investigated the location many times and founder Mellanie Ramsey joins us to share what she has found out about the history and the unexplained experiences that they have had there. Join us for the history and hauntings of the Wheeldon Manor!

Central City is located on the Green River in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky. The town was first known as Morehead's Horse Mill, named after an early settler to the area, Charles S. Morehead. He had built a steam-powered grist mill here. The name changed to Stroud City in 1873 when it was officially incorporated. This was in honor of John Stroud, a local landowner. A large mining business in the area was Central Coal and Iron Company and the city was eventually named Central City for that in 1882 and that one stuck. The town became an important regional hub for the railroad, which continues today. One of the rail lines actually passes by Wheeldon Manor.

*Rabbit Hole* In the interview with Mellanie that we are going to share in a moment, we discuss this idea that rail lines seem to have a connection to the paranormal. This theory first caught our attention on an episode of Kindred Spirits and an experiment Adam and Amy did with a railroad crossing and they got an amazing interaction. Then when we investigated the Villisca Axe Murder House, in the wee hours of the morning, just as dawn was breaking, the sound of a train passing nearby could be heard. At the same time, Kelly and I saw white streaks near the ceiling after I saw some kind of weird purple swirling anomaly. I wondered if the train had something to do with it. In 2011, Ghost Hunters Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson were interviewed by HuffPost and they said, "One thing we found is that you find more paranormal activity around flowing streams of water, railroad tracks and places with high limestone deposits." And there are, of course, numerous tales of ghost trains. Is there anything to this? We'll never know, but it is interesting!

The name Wheeldon Manor sounds quaint, like a fancy apartment building or old Victorian home. This location is a 23,000 square foot rectangular, multi-level brick building that basically covers the block. This was the perfect spot for a variety of businesses from a dealership to boarding house to apartments. Mellanie Ramsey joins us to share more. (Ramsey Interview)

Keith Fournier of Night Stalkers Paranormal Research said of Wheeldon Manor, "This place is a paranormal investigators dream!" In 2014, that haunted house Mellanie referred to was started, known as Sinister on Center. But before that, the owner had many of his own experiences. In 2013, the SURF KY website ran an article about Wheeldon Manor. The owner at the time was Jason Dillihay who purchased it in 2003 and rented apartments out of it. He was a skeptic when he first moved into 102 Center Street and shared an apartment with his wife. Dillihay told the website they experienced many weird things. "I had numerous complaints [from tenants], but I just always brushed them off. I just really didn't believe it until I lived here myself. My wife, Emily, first noticed smells, movements and other occurrences. Of course it was always when I was not home. She saw her purse straps move one day. Then the curtains, which were closed, opened wide by them self. She would see shadows and feel someone was standing right behind her. I would come in from work and she would tell me about it. But I was always, well, skeptical. It took a while, and it started ramping up. When I started believing was, one night while she was doing dishes. I went down to get something out of the car. I came back in, and she was calling 911. She said, 'I was doing dishes and I could see someone behind me.'

His wife went on to say that she felt something wrap around her and then something she couldn't see breathed in her ear. Dillihay says he told his wife, "I don't understand why it only messes with you when I'm not here. When I said that, it was like a train locked up its brakes on the tracks. There was screeching, grinding, metallic sounds. It kept getting louder and louder, circling the whole apartment. Then it was like the sound of someone running as hard as they could, into the closed door of our apartment. When that happened, the sound stopped cold. Nobody else in the apartments heard it. Nothing was there. My wife said, 'I told you so'... and I didn't argue. That's when we moved out." Dillihay also commented that tenants reported experiencing stuff too. "One of the last people to move out said they say a little girl running down the hall. One family that had a little boy with toys scattered all over the floor, and when he was not home, they could see and hear a small child sometimes sitting, playing with his toys." The spirit of an elderly man was seen in one room and an older female in another.

Western Kentucky Paranormal Investigators did some research at the building in 2013 and the co-founder Cameron Hesson said the city told them that 19 people had died in the building. Hesson told SURF KY,
"We have captured some pretty good evidence from this building. We're not a huge fan of 'orbs', aka paranormal balls of lights floating in midair, but we have captured some video evidence here in the back hallway. The camera was facing down the hall. We heard a loud noise and asked, 'Is anyone down here?' About that time there was another loud knock and a brief flash of light, like someone turning a flashlight on and off quickly. We stopped the video, and analyzed it frame by frame. It does have the characteristics of an orb."

 Wheeldon Manor sounds like an interesting place. Is it haunted? That is for you to decide!