Thursday, August 4, 2022

HGB Ep. 446 - Southgate-Thompson House

Moment in Oddity - The Leatherman (Suggested by: Mike Rogers)

The Leatherman was a famous vagabond who wore a hand made leather suit including his clothes, shoes, scarf and hat. He traveled regularly between the Connecticut River and the Hudson River from approximately 1857 to 1889. This mysterious man walked a route of 365 miles year after year and was believed to be a French Canadian. Although he was fluent in French, when spoken to he would rarely reply with anything but a grunt or gesture. He would generally return to the towns along his path every five weeks. Residents often considered it an honor that he would chose to accept food and supplies from them, often eating the offerings on their doorsteps. Ten of the towns he traveled through passed ordinances exempting the Leatherman from the state "tramp law" passed in 1879. Despite surviving foul weather and frostbite with all ten fingers and toes intact, his final demise was due to cancer of the mouth because of years of chewing tobacco use. His body was found on March 24, 1889 in Mount Pleasant, New York. He was buried in Sparta Cemetery, on Route 9 in Ossining, New York with his original tombstone reading as follows: FINAL RESTING PLACE OF Jules Bourglay OF LYONS, FRANCE "THE LEATHER MAN" who regularly walked a 365-mile route through Westchester and Connecticut from the Connecticut River to the Hudson living in caves in the years 1858–1889. On May 25, 2011 the Leatherman's remains were exhumed to be moved to a different location within the cemetery. With this exhumation no remains were found so only coffin nails and soil were reinterred within a pine box and the new tombstone simply reads "The Leatherman". Although the original tombstone bared the recorded name of Jules Bourglay, researchers and the death certificate still list this man as "unidentified". A man trekking 365 miles continually for 31 years through harsh weather and being welcomed as an honored guest while barely speaking a word, certainly is odd.

This Month in History - Sue the Tyrannosaurus Rex Discovered

In the month of August, on the 12th, in 1990, the skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex was discovered in South Dakota. This is a fairly recent bit of history, but its cool so we wanted to share it. The incredible find was at the hands of fossil hunter Susan Hendrickson who saw three huge bones jutting out of a cliff. Hendrickson worked for the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research and they paid the man who owned the land, Maurice Williams, $5,000 so they could excavate what turned out to be the largest Tyrannosaurus Rex ever discovered. The Institute planned to build a non-profit museum to display the fossil they named Sue, in honor of the discoverer. They were stopped in their tracks by the U.S. government who sued claiming that the bones had been on federal land. It was found that Williams had traded his land to the Cheyenne River Sioux to avoid paying property taxes and the deal with the Institute was declared invalid. Sue was sold at public auction for $8.36 million to Chicago's Field Museum. Scientists found that the bones were so complete and well-preserved that they were able to find out more about the dinosaurs. One of those things was that Sue had a wishbone, meaning their theories that birds are a type of living dinosaur might just be true.

Southgate-Thompson House

The first image we saw of this place featured this grande dame of a home at night with uplights illuminating the front. With its concave mansard roof and center three-and-a-half-story tower, we could imagine the Addams Family feeling right at home within the walls. For 200 years it's sat above Newport, looming down over the Ohio River. Today, it is a music venue and place for the arts. Stories claim there are at least three spirits in this house. The city of Newport itself has ties to gangsters and a few other haunted places as well. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Southgate-Thompson House and Newport, Kentucky!

Newport, Kentucky is located at the confluence of the Ohio and Licking Rivers and is today known as an entertainment hub for northern Kentucky. The area was first settled by James Taylor, Jr. in 1791. The official founding of the town came in 1795 and was named for Admiral Christopher Newport who was the commander of the first ship to reach Jamestown, Virginia. One might wonder why they would choose a name connected to Virginia. Taylor's home state was Virginia. The Newport Barracks was established in 1803 and was a center of activity during the Civil War for both sides. Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee and Union General Ulysses S. Grant all served tours of duty at the Newport Barracks. The Campbell County Courthouse went up and eventually became the site of public hangings in the late 1800s. Newport grew so much that by 1900, it was the third largest city in Kentucky. The city was the place to be for speakeasies and illegal alcohol during Prohibition and earned the reputation of being called "Sin City." Gangsters loved this place and some of the main mobsters here were Moe Dalitz, George Remus, Dutch Schultz and Pete Schmidt. A flood wall was built in 1948 because of a catastrophic flood in 1937 that flooded much of the city. There are many bridges in the town that were built to connect to neighboring communities. A little fun fact about the Daniel Carter Beard Bridge is that it is nicknamed "Big Mac" bridge because of it resembles the McDonald's arches.

Richard Southgate was born in 1774 to Captain Wright Southgate and his wife Mary in Manhattan, New York. The Southgate family name came from the ancestors who had been keepers of the south gate in London, England. Richard went to William and Mary College to study law and had the opportunity to hear at the bar men like Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. He moved to Newport in 1795 and was licensed to practice law in 1797. A few years later, he got involved in politics and was elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1803. He then moved on to the Senate for many years. He married Anne Winston Hinde in 1799, who was the daughter of revolutionary war officer Dr. Thomas Hinde. They had eight children and they all lived to adulthood. Squire Grant purchased 1000 acres of land from a William Kennedy in August 1796. This was on the east side of the Licking River. He assigned the land to William Mosby Grant, who, the next day assigned it to Richard Southgate. The Southgates originally built a log house on the property.

Southgate was prosperous enough by 1814 that he was able to build his family a mansion to replace the original house. Construction took until 1821 to complete the house at 24 East 3rd Street. At the time that construction commenced, there were British prisoners at the Newport Barracks who had been captured during the War of 1812. It is believed that some of these prisoners were brought to the property and used to help build the mansion. The entire Southgate property took up a complete city block. The mansion was three stories tall when completed. The first floor had a parlor, library, and dining room. The second floor had bedrooms and ladies’ sitting rooms. The third floor had more bedrooms. The basement had storage and the ballroom. The Southgates enjoyed entertaining people and even hosted future president Abraham Lincoln and a company of soldiers who would fight under Captain Sherman in the Battle of San Jacinto for Texas independence. 

Southgate died on July 24, 1857 at his mansion. He was eighty-three years old and had endured a long illness. Southgate House was passed on to his eldest daughter Frances Mary Taliaferro Parker. Frances and her husband added the entrance tower to the house, as well as the widow's walk and the mansard style roof. Frances bequeathed the house to her eldest daughter, Julia Thompson, in 1869. Julia had married James Thompson in 1855 and they had a son named John. James had attended West Point and graduated in 1851. He went on to become a colonel for the Union during the Civil War. John would follow in his father's footsteps and attend West Point as well, graduating in 1882. He became a 2nd Lieutenant and was assigned to the army Ordinance department in 1890. He later served during the Spanish-American War and got very familiar with the Gatling gun. Automatic firearms fascinated him and he decided to focus on that and became a famous weapons inventor. He helped develop the Springfield 1903 rifle used in World War I and the .45 caliber Colt 1911.

But Thompson's most famous invention was the Thompson submachine gun, which we all know more commonly as the "Tommy Gun." He developed this after World War I and while it was popular with the military during World War II, it was more popular with gangsters. Crime gangs in large cities in the 1930s were able to outgun the police, who eventually started using the guns too. Outgunned, police forces also began using the weapon. John Thompson retired from the military in 1914, after thirty-two years of service. He was buried at West Point when he died in 1940. The Southgate House was sold to Fannie and Lewis Maddux in 1888, so it was no longer in the Southgate/Thompson Family anymore. In 1894, the first meeting of The Keturah Moss Taylor Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution was held at the house. The Knights of Columbus of Campbell County purchased the mansion in 1914. They restored the house and after a fire in 1948, they added a brick porch and a large backroom. A balcony overlooking the basement was also added and this allowed people to overlook the main stage that was installed in the basement. The Thompson House has maintained much of this look from the Knights tenure. 

The Thompson House is today a music venue where up and coming rock and roll bands or musicians perform and even some well known acts perform here. The former ballroom has a horseshoe balcony around it and it is said that all the seats have a great view of the stage from either the balcony or main floor. The first floor was converted to the bar and billiards rooms, known as June's Lounge.  The second floor was converted to a smaller stage for concerts known as The Parlour. The third floor hosts an art gallery. The house is also popular with paranormal enthusiasts Rarely a week goes by without some kind of unexplained activity. Both guests and employees report many experiences and the most common accounts shared entail the movement of inanimate objects. Decorations move along the floor and walls. The bar is probably the most active with these sorts of things as glasses rattle regularly and move across the bar and liquor bottles shake and move. A couple were hanging out in June’s Lounge when a beer slid across the table and ended up in the lap of the young man. Disembodied footsteps and voices are heard as well. And the front door has a way of opening and closing by itself. A piano at the venue likes to play itself when nobody is nearby and knocking is heard on the walls.

People who have had experiences claim that there are three entities in the house. We have our very common Confederate Civil War soldier. During the Civil War, Newport was a gateway to the South. The Newport Barracks was controlled by the Union, but loyalties were divided in the city. Where the barracks used to stand is now General James Taylor Park and it is only a half mile away, so its possible that a soldier spirit could have wandered over from there. During the war, the barracks also served as a hospital and some of the worst casualties from the Battle of Shiloh were brought here. This ghost has made many appearances all throughout the house and has even manifested so well that people have conversations with him thinking that he is just dressed up in a costume. He seems to have a particular fondness for the men's bathroom on the first floor. A man's disembodied laughter is attributed to him too.

Another of the spirits seems to belong to a six-year-old boy. It is claimed that he died in the house, but we have no name for him, so this can't be verified. We only know for sure that the man who built this house died inside of it. The boy runs and plays throughout the house and when people try to chase him down, he disappears.  

The most well known apparition here belongs to a ghost everyone calls Elizabeth and there is an unverified legend connected to her. People believe she was a woman who worked in the house for either the Parkers or the Madduxs. She was married to a man who worked on a riverboat on the Ohio River. The widow's peak on the house gave her a vantage point that she could see the boats down on the river and many days she would find herself up there gazing down on the boat here husband was aboard. One day there was a horrible explosion aboard that riverboat and Elizabeth, unfortunately, witnessed that. The legend ends in tragedy as most do. She was so distraught knowing that there was no way he could have survived, that she hung herself right there in the house. What she didn't know was that her husband had been held up by something in the city that caused him to run late and he was unable to get on the riverboat before it left port, so he had survived. It is more probable that any female spirit here would actually belong to Francis Parker. She had lived here a long time, may have died in the house and loved the house enough that when she bequeathed it to her daughter, she specified that she would be allowed to live in the house until her death. The spirit is thought to be the one that opens and closes the door, as though she is going out for an evening walk. One of the most dramatic stories features a Christmas tree that was set up in between some French doors. This tree was pushed across the floor four feet and left in a corner of the room, without an ornament out of place.

Newport, Kentucky has enough haunts that they have offered ghost tours during the Fall season. We haven't heard any stories about the former Newport Barracks, but it would be a location we would definitely check out. Another spot that has activity for good reason is the memorial known as the World Peace Bell. This is the world's largest free swinging bell and weighs a whopping 66,000 lbs. and measures 12 feet in diameter and 12 feet high. The ring of the bell is described as powerful and awe-inspiring. And while it is meant to be a symbol of peace, spirits are not at peace here. The bell sits atop a former graveyard. One that only had the tombstones moved and not the bodies. The city didn't find out this little "fun fact" until they started digging to install the memorial and workers found bones. Newport was left with a challenge. How in the world could they match up bones with the tombstones that were moved to Evergreen Cemetery in Fort Thomas? They decided to just leave the remains here. So many times, people have had a feeling of unease at the memorial. 

The Newport Syndicate features dining, banquets, entertainment and a Gangster Tour. This was originally the Glenn Schmidt Playtorium, which housed a bowling alley, restaurant and casino. This was owned by local gangster Pete Schmidt who named it for his son Glenn. Schmidt also owned the Glenn Hotel where he ran a distillery out of the basement until police busted that up. After getting out of jail, he opened a casino in the hotel and called it the Glenn Rendezvous. The Cleveland Syndicate wanted to run all the crime in the city, so they offered Schmidt a deal on the hotel, which he refused. He then opened the Beverly Hills Club, which was bigger and better and when he wouldn't sell that to the Cleveland Syndicate, they burned it down. The Playtorium not only had the legal fun, it also catered to prostitution and illegal booze. It was rumored that Schmidt tortured and killed a member of the Purple Gang at the Playtorium. The Purple Gang was also known as the Sugar House Gang and they were out of Detroit. These were mostly Jewish gangsters who were hijackers and bootleggers. It was rumored they took part in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. The place was remodeled in the 1990s and became the Newport Syndicate and people claim it is haunted. There have been dozens of sightings of an apparition wearing a black suit and fedora. Many times, this ghost is acting as a Peeping Tom in the women's restroom. Stories about this spirit go all the way back to the 1960s, when a waitress reported that she was pushed into the sink while in the bathroom. She looked in the mirror and saw this fedora wearing man just before he disappeared.

Melissa Reinert took the ghost tour in 2016 and wrote about it in an article in the Cincinnati Enquirer. She wrote, "Our guide shared the story of a psychic who had taken the tour a few years back. When he reached this corner of the alley he kept saying, 'So many, so many, so many.' When she asked what he was talking about, he replied that looking out the windows of the buildings on either side of the alley were all those who had witnessed mob-related murders that occurred just up the street at Sixth and Monmouth. There were eight murders on that corner and no one was ever brought to justice for any of them. Their souls, the psychic said were stuck there because of guilt."

If all this isn't enough hauntings for you in Newport, Bobby Mackey's Music World is just five miles down the road. Are these places, especially the Southgate-Thompson House haunted? That is for you to decide!

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