Thursday, January 26, 2023

HGB Ep. 471 - Flight 401

Moment in Oddity - Glass Frog

Some of us may be fearful of frogs. I, for one, have always loved them and have spent a good portion of time outdoors in search of them. I was always especially happy as a child, to find congregations of tadpoles so that I may bring some home to watch their metamorphosis into full sized frogs. Finding frogs in nature however can sometimes prove to be challenging. To this day, my favorite species of frog that I have witnessed in nature has to be the glass frog. These can be especially difficult to see due to their transparent nature. These fantastic, fragile frogs tend to sleep attached to leaves. With their eyes closed they are quite imperceptible, as they camouflage so incredibly well. What is so unique about these translucent amphibians, is their bodies ability to control their red blood cells. While they are sleeping, their blood is sent into their liver, swelling it to twice its size. This renders their bodies, virtually invisible keeping them safe when sleeping. Many creatures have unusual adaptations to ensure their survival, but being able to control the flow of blood certainly is odd.

This Month in History - Miracle on the Hudson

In the month of January, on the 15th, in 2009, Captain Chesley Burnett Sullenberger III safely lands a commercial airliner on New York City's Hudson River. This was US Airways Flight 1549 and it had just taken off from New York's La Guardia Airport when it hit a flock of geese. Both engines lost power and when Captain Sullenberger told air traffic controllers what had happened, they directed him to land at nearby Teterboro Airport. He replied back that he would be unable to reach any runway and that, as a matter of fact, they were going to be plunging into the Hudson. He then informed the crew and passengers to prepare for impact and maneuvered the Airbus A320 onto the surface of the Hudson as gently as he could. Flight attendants then got passengers in life vests and out onto the wings of the plane as it floated on the surface of the water. Sightseeing boats, ferries and rescue vehicles all converged on the scene and everyone was rescued with no lives lost. This has been dubbed the "Miracle on the Hudson" and Captain Sullenberger went on to receive numerous honors and was invited to President Barack Obama's presidential inauguration. 

Flight 401 

In December of 1972, the second deadliest single plane crash at that time occurred in Florida. Eastern Airlines Flight 401 had taken off from New York and was heading to Miami. The crew became distracted as the plane neared Miami and the flight went down in the Everglades. Miraculously, not everyone on board was killed. The plane was not a total loss and pieces of it were salvaged and used on other planes. And that is when the legend of Flight 401 began. It seems that a spirit attached itself to those pieces and people started reporting unexplained phenomenon.

Man's desire to fly goes back to the beginning of human history. One of the earlier myths that reveals this desire is the Greek tale recorded by Roman poet Ovid in his work Metamorphoses about Daedalus and Icarus. Daedalus was an inventor and he believed that he could make wings just like those of birds. He used feathers and wax to create the wings. This was not only just to fulfill a desire to fly, but he and his son Icarus were being held captive by King Minos in Crete. The wings would bring escape. So father and son strapped on these wings, but before leaving the ground, Daedalus warned his son that if he got too close to the sun, the wax on the feathers would melt. The men were successful in becoming airborne, but Icarus didn't listen to his father and he flew too close to the sun and his wings fell apart and he fell to his death. This myth reminds us that any of us can fall from the sky and sometimes planes do crash to the ground. 

Leonardo DaVinci was making designs of flying apparatus in 1485 and one of these inventive drawings inspired the helicopter. The hot air balloon was created and gave humans the first taste of sustained presence in the sky. That first balloon was created in 1783 by Joseph and Jacques Montgolfier and after a test with animals, they started sending men up. A man named George Cayley designed a glider in 1799 and he spent 50 years making improvements to various gliders. German engineer Otto Lilienthal furthered the testing with gliders, conducting 2500 of his own flights before he died on the final one. In 1891, Samuel P. Langley added a steam-powered engine to a glider. He was awarded $50,000 to build a bigger model called the Aerodrome, but it proved to be too heavy to fly. The first successful airplane was invented by Orville and Wilbur Wright. They made their first sustained power flight on December 17, 1903, near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. It took the brothers four years to reach this breakthrough. The brothers continued to work on flying machines and founded their Wright Company in 1909.

French engineering pioneers started developing stick-and-rudder cockpit control systems and one of them, Louis Bleriot, flew a monoplane across the English Channel. This began a period of incredible innovation with a lot of focus on military aviation up until World War I. After the war, European entrepreneurs started looking at turning flying towards passenger travel. Charles Lindbergh made his historic nonstop solo flight from New York to Paris in 1927, proving that transatlantic flight was possible. Each accomplishment in aeronautiocs brought better engine design. The first passenger airline service took off in 1914. And as they say, the rest is history with airline travel now being just a regular routine. Many airlines have come and gone through the years. One of those airlines was Eastern Airlines. 

Eastern Air Lines was one of the "Big Four" domestic airlines that was created in 1930 and ran under Eddie Rickenbacker who had been a World War I flying ace. It specialized in flight from Florida to New York from the 1930s through the 1950s. Eastern was headquartered at Miami International Airport and ran operations until 1991.

A Lockheed L-1011 Tristar had been delivered to Eastern Airlines in August 1972. Eastern called their fleet of L-1011, "Whisperliners" and they were top of the line aircrafts. They were huge, able to hold 400 passengers if configured for maximum occupancy. The planes measured longer than the entire length of the Wright Brothers first flight. An elevator led down to the kitchen and a padded bar was at the back of the plane. The truth was that the L-1011s were plagued with issues and many of them were constantly being moved out of service for maintenance. This particular aircraft had been in use for four months without many problems when it was scheduled to travel from John F. Kennedy Airport in Queens, New York to Miami International Airport in Miami, Florida as Flight 401.

The flight left New York at 9:20pm with 163 passengers and 13 crew members. The crew included 10 female flight attendants, Captain Robert Albin Loft, First Officer Albert John Stockstill and Flight Engineer Donald Louis Repo. The cockpit crew was very experienced and the Captain had logged 29,700 flight hours, 280 in the L-1011. The First Officer had even more flight time in the aircraft. The winter night was chilly, but clear.Engineer Repo had done a pre-flight check and everything seemed to be working properly.  The flight would be uneventful and things were still going smoothly as the flight began its decent into Miami. Captain Loft came over the intercom to welcome everyone to Miami and let them know the temperatures were in the seventies even though it was the middle of the night.

One of the passengers on board was Joan Eskow. She and her husband Jerry had been invited to spend New Years on a friends yacht. Jerry's business was in the throes of bankrupcy, so he sent Joan on ahead of him. He convinced her that it would be better for her to fly without him because of something they had discussed in the past. If they both went down in a plane, who would care for their children? There was Gustavo and Xiomara Casado who were flying to Miami to share their new baby girl with family members. There was Jerrold Solomon who was a buyer for Gimbels and on his way to visit his girlfriend and and old college roommate. In first class sat Edward Ulrich and Sandra Burt. Ed had proposed to Sandra on the flight, producing a diamond ring from his pocket and they asked the flight attendants for some champagne to celebrate. Joseph Popson was returning home after attending the Modern Language Association conference in New York. Other passengers included Ethel Jackson who was a sixty-four year old housekeeper and Rose Kashman who was a New Yorker that boarded the plane wearing a mink coat. Marc Leshay was a college student returning to school. Evelyn de Salazaar managed a Manhattan art gallery and she had brought her poodle Tina along with her.

The men inside the cockpit were going through their landing protocol checklist and everything was fine until they got to the landing gear. Engineer Repo looked out his window and informed the pilots that he could not see the nose gear down. The Captain tried again and then pulled up out of his decent to see if they could figure out what was wrong with the landing gear. It was 11:34 p.m. and Loft radioed the control tower telling them, "Well, ah, tower, this is Eastern 401, it looks like we're gonna have to circle; we don't have a light on our nose gear yet."A light in the cockpit would light up when the gear was engaged and it was unlit. The cockpit crew became consumed with trying to figure out if the light was faulty or if the landing gear was broken. Engineer Repo checked the light and could not get it to light up. Repo jiggled the light to see if would come on. Nothing. Captain Loft had gotten directions from the tower to circle away from the city after climbing to 2,000 feet and the plane was now headed towards the Everglades.

Passengers started shifting in their seats and glancing out the windows. They noticed that the plane had turned and was leaving the glow of the city lights. First Officer Stockstill messed with the light and replaced it the wrong way, jamming it in the socket. The Captain told Repo to go down to the forward avionic bay and see if the gear is down. Crews call this area the "Hell Hole." Repo opened the small trap door in the cockpit and climbed down. Meanwhile, Stockstill continued to mess with the jammed light. He had engaged the auto pilot while he did this. The Captain and Stockstill continue to mess with the light and discuss the issue. The altitude warning bell chimed once. The pilots ignored it. Repo comes up out of the bay and says he can't see the landing gear because it is too dark. The Captain flips a switch and tells him to check again. He then returns to helping Stockstill with the indicator light. No one knows for sure, but one of them pushed on a throttle, which disengaged the auto pilot. The plane began a decent so slight, that no one could tell it was happening.

The last words spoken in the cockpit was this exchange:

"We did something to the altitude," Stockstill said.

Loft: "What?"

Stockstill: "We're still at two thousand, right?"

Loft: "Hey, what's happening here?"

The tower tried to radio the plane with no success. A few moments later,another plane informed the tower that they had witnessed an explosion near the ground. The plane initially slid across the sawgrass of the marsh of the Everglades for over a third of a mile. It broke up as it went ending up in five large parts and lots of pieces. Death and survival came randomly for passengers and crew. One hundred three people died while seventy-five survived. It's horrible to think that two burned out indicator lights led to Flight 401 crashing. The landing gear was locked down just as it needed to be for landing. When the investigation into the crash was finished, it was ruled the pilot error led to the tragedy. Two of those who lost their lives in the crash were Flight Engineer Repo and Captain Loft.

Nonstructural parts of Flight 401 were still usable and Eastern Airlines made the decision to salvage the parts and use them on other L-1011. The galley ovens were a couple of those items. And that is when the stories began that perhaps the spirits of the engineer and the captain had not moved on into the afterlife. One of the first tales came from an Eastern Airlines vice president who was taking a flight in 1973 to Miami. As a VIP, he was allowed to board the plane early and he did so alone. He noticed a man in full captain dress was seated in the plane, so he walked over to him for a visit. As the two men talked, the executive realized he was talking to Captain Loft. At that moment, the captain disappeared. The executive ran off the plane in terror and insisted that the plane be checked for any issues as he thought the ghost represented a bad omen.

On another flight, a crew boarded the plane before the passengers and were surprised to see another captain on the plane. They chatted with him for a minute and then he disappeared before their very eyes. The flight was immediately cancelled as the crew was stricken with terror. A flight engineer boarded a L-1011 to do his pre-flight check and found Engineer Repo sitting in his seat. The apparition informed him that he had already done the pre-flight check before disappearing. Repo was seen again by a captain as he was checking his flight instrument panel. The outline of Repo's face appeared before him and he heard a voice tell him that they would never let anything happen to another L-1011 again, specifically using the pronoun "we" meaning that Repo and Loft must be in contact with each other in the afterlife.

One flight attendant recounts her experience with one of the dead crew of Flight 401, "It was in late February 1973, about two months after the crash. I was in the lower galley. I felt this presence there. It was eerie. I know it sounds ridiculous, and its really impossible to describe. There was definitely a presence there, even though I didn't see any one - as some of my friends did later. The temperature of the whole galley literally became freezing. I'll never forget it." A crew was eating their meal in the cockpit as they cruised at 39,000 feet when they heard a knocking on the hell hole door. They ignored it, not wanting to see what was on the other side. They had heard the haunting stories. They final gave in as the knocking became incessant. Sure enough, the ghost of Repo was on the other side.

It wasn't just the crews who saw the two ghost. Catering company employees and passengers also had scary interactions. One catering crew came screaming off a plane claiming that Repo was in the forward galley and that he had disappeared. A passenger noticed that a man dressed in a flight suit was sitting across the aisle from her and that he looked very ill. She called a flight attendant over and just as the attendant was about to ask him if he was okay, he disappeared. The women identified the man as Engineer Repo. The reports by so many trustworthy people caused the Flight Safety Foundation to issue the following statement, "The reports were given by experienced and trustworthy pilots and crew. We consider them significant."

Flight 903 was heading from New York City to Mexico City. Fay Merryweather was in the galley preparing meals for passengers. She was getting ready to use the oven when she saw Repo's face staring back at her. She wanted to scream, but she held her composure and went to get two other members of the crew. They all returned to the galley and Repo's face was still staring out from the oven. They heard him say, "Watch out for fire in this plane." The plane landed in Mexico City safely, but on its return flight home an engine started having problems. The pilots turned it off before a fire could start and returned to the airport without incident. The crew was very shaken because the warning from Repo had been true.

Eastern Airlines tried to stifle the stories and called then rumors. They told employees to stop talking about sightings. But it would seem that the executives were true believers because they eventually ordered that any parts from Flight 401 be removed from any planes in which they were installed. The sightings of the captain and engineer stopped after that. Despite that, no other crash ever occurred with an Eastern Airlines L-1011. So was it Captain Loft and Engineer Repo keeping the planes safe? Was this their penance for their actions causing the crash of Flight 401? Did these ghosts have an attachment to Flight 401 parts? Did the ghosts of these two men haunt aircrafts in the 1970s? That is for you to decide!

Monday, January 23, 2023

HGB Ep. 470 - Wolcott Heritage Center

Moment in Oddity - Frisky Fishies

Most of us have experienced a neighbor blasting a booming bass beat from their home or car at some point. We often wonder how the person playing the music has any of their hearing left. Well, here in Florida, in South Tampa, there have been some homeowners plagued by a similar type of bass sound so loud as to shake their homes. Many noise complaints were being filed with the local police department, however the officers were unable to pinpoint the sounds origin. As it turns out, the culprits causing all the raucous are hundreds of black drum fish. These fish can grow over one hundred pounds and this is the time of year that they gather for courtship and spawning. This noisy nookie is created by a specialized muscle called the sonic muscle striking the fishes swim bladder. This action can produce 165 decibels underwater at a low frequency. The sound can then travel through the ground and make its way into the areas waterfront homes. Apparently the schools of migrating black drums are the largest numbers that locals have seen in years. The season of love for these frisky fishies getting their freak on, lasts through spring, so hopefully the neighbors get accustomed to their amorous love rituals. One thing is for sure however, passionate fish dropping a beat so loudly as to vibrate local homes, certainly is odd.

This Month in History - Curtiss Model E Flying Boat

In the month of January, on the 10th, in 1912, the Curtiss Model E flying boat successfully completed its maiden flight. Glenn Hammond Curtiss was a successful inventor and is credited for inventing the design of the floatplane and the flying boat. Although his formal education extended only to eighth grade, his early interest in mechanics and inventions was evident at a young age. In 1901, he developed an enthusiasm for motorcycles when internal-combustion engines became more available. It eventually took him into the world of aeronautics. This is when Curtiss grew to become a leading contributor to the designing and building of various aircrafts, which led to the formation of the 'Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company' that eventually became the 'Curtiss-Wright Corporation'. His company produced the predominant civil and military aircraft for the U.S. Army and Navy in the inter-war and WWII era. Curtiss' first flying boat, the Model E, led a foundation for naval aviation. 

Wolcott Heritage Center

The centerpiece of the Wolcott Heritage Center is the Hull-Wolcott House, which was built in 1830 in Maumee, Ohio. This mansion is a great reflection of the pioneer family who built it and remained in that family for several generations before giving it to the Maumee Historical Society. Over the years, the society added seven other buildings to the center that all represent the early life of this historic city.  The Wolcott family is intertwined with not only Maumee's history, but they represent a coming together of the Native American culture with early American pioneers. Mrs. Wolcott was the granddaughter of a Miami chief. Many people believe that several members of the Wolcott family might still be hanging around the property. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Wolcott Heritage Center.

Maumee, (like Maui) Ohio is located in northwest Ohio about 10 miles from Toledo. Many tribes called the Maumee River Valley home before colonial times. This included the Odawa, Ojibwe, Shawnee, Potawatomie and mainly Ottawa. These tribes joined with the British in the Northwest Territory before the War of 1812 to fight the Northwest Indian Wars. The American victory over these forces at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in Maumee in 1794 would end those conflicts for a time. The Battle of Fallen Timbers took place on August 20, 1794. American settlers northwest of the Ohio River had been under threat from Native American tribes, particularly the Miami. General “Mad” Anthony Wayne had been placed in command of the Army and he led a force of regulars and mounted Kentucky militia into Maumee, Ohio for what would be the final battle of the Northwest Indian War. 

The battle got its name from the trees that had been toppled in the area by a tornado near the Maumee River. The battle lasted less than an hour with the American Army beating a Native American force led by Shawnee War Chief Blue Jacket. General Wayne's force lost 33 men and the Native American group lost twice as many and were scattered. Major hostilities were ended and the Treaty of Greenville was signed. This treaty set up a new boundary between the indigenous peoples' lands and territory for American settlement. The battleground became a National Historic Site in 1999 and is said to be haunted. On stormy nights and on August 20th, it is said that the ghosts of the lost souls reenact their bloody battle. 

A little insight into Mad Anthony. He is the only Pennsylvanian known to have two separate graves with body parts in both graves. Perhaps that is why his spirit is at unrest. It is said that he is the second most frequently seen ghost on the East Coast with Abraham Lincoln being the first. Apparently the General makes the trek his bones did from St. David's to Erie, looking for a couple of his bones that got lost in the process. The spirit has also been seen near where the Battle of Brandywine took place, in New Jersey, New York, Virginia and Canada. He is often seen on a horse with fire-flashing hoofs. *Rabbit  Hole*

The early settlement of Maumee would occur in 1817 when the town was platted out and it became a major transportation point to Lake Erie. In 1840, Maumee became a county seat and referred to by some as the "Great City of the West" after the completion of the Erie Canal in that same year. A post office and federal custom house were set up in Maumee. The name is a derivative of the tribal name Miami. Things were prosperous here for a few years, but eventually the big steamships started being introduced to the Great Lakes and they couldn't travel the river. Maumee lost the county seat in 1854 and became a small town that still holds onto its historic roots with many early buildings and homes still dotting the city. One of these locations is the Hull-Wolcott House.

William Wells was born in 1770 and was orphaned at an early age. At the age of fourteen, he was captured along with three companions by the Miami tribe. The Miami chief Kaweahatta renamed William Apekonit, which meant carrot. He married a Native American and they had a child and William went on to become one of Ohio's best known frontiersmen. But not before his wife and child were captured by Kentuckians during a raid. He never saw them again. He became great friends with Chief little Turtle and married his daughter with whom he had four children. These two men made an agreement for Wells to join the American forces and try to bring peace between the Americans and Miami and Little Turtle would work with the Native Americans to do the same. Wells served as a scout during the Battle of Fallen Timbers and helped negotiate the Treaty of Greeneville that took away all Native American land in Ohio save for a small bit in the northwest corner. Wells later died during the War of 1812. One of his children was named Mary and she would marry a man named James Wolcott.

Mary was born in 1800 and as we said, her father died during the War of 1812. Her mother Wanagapeth, which means Sweet Breeze, had died in 1805 or 1806, so Mary went to live with her uncle Samuel Wells in Kentucky after her father died. She moved to Missouri where she met and married James Wolcott in 1821. Wolcott had been born in 1789, was a descendant of Declaration of Independence signer Oliver Wolcott and was a Connecticut Yankee and entrepreneur who had his sites set on building a shipping business. The completion of the Erie Canal attracted people like the Wolcotts to this area of Ohio and they had the money to buy land after Mary received reparations from the U.S. Government that were paid to the Miami in 1818 and 1827. The couple used the money to buy 300 acres along the Maumee River and built a little log cabin. They then established a ship building, shipping and merchandising center. The couple had dreams of a large family and they had seven children, but only five would live into adulthood. Mary was a devout Christian and convinced James to build a chapel on their property and invited family and neighbors to worship there. The shipping business was very successful with the Wolcotts running two steamships and they soon had the money to build their dream home.

In 1830, the Wolcotts completed their mansion to replace the log cabin. The mansion was designed by James Wolcott in the Federalist and Classical architectural style. It had fourteen rooms and was two-stories with a distinctive two-story front porch with an elliptical arch centered in the gable and both porches have four plain columns. The foundation was made of rubble stone and the kitchen was down in the cellar. The interior has a large center hall with a curved stairway and the woodwork is black walnut. Many pieces of original antebellum furnishings and family heirlooms still remain in the house. James Wolcott went on to serve on the City Council in 1838 and he was the first president to preside over it. He became mayor of Maumee in 1843 and held that position for sixteen years. He died in 1873 at the age of 83. Mary preceded him in death by several years as she passed in 1843.

The mansion stayed in just this one family through four generations until the Wolcott's great granddaughter, Rilla Hull, gave the home to the Maumee Valley Historical Society in 1957 with the wish that it become a museum showcasing the early pioneers of the area and keeping the memories of three generations of the Wolcott family. The Wolcott House Museum opened in 1965 and this museum showcases the lifestyles of these early pioneers, along with Mary Wolcott's Miami heritage. This museum does more than just share the way life was, early along the Maumee River, but it stands as a symbol of a bridge across two cultures. And that really was the legacy of Mary Wells Wolcott. The complex is referred to as the Wolcott Heritage Center and has eight buildings on the property with only the Hull-Wolcott House being original to the property.

There is the Frederick House that was built in 1840 and serves as the Welcome Center. This was built in the Greek Revival style and had originally stood on East Wayne Street and Gibbs Street in uptown Maumee. The house was moved here in 1971. The Maumee Memorabilia Museum was built in 1901. There is a log house that dates to the 1850s that shows the common structure of that time with hewn logs squared so that they fit more tightly together. This had once sat on the north bank of the Miami and Erie Canal. A James Love owned it in 1893 and he added a front porch and wood floor and was later inherited by Calvin Love, the mayor of Maumee in 1913 and he gave it to World War II veteran who used it for storage. That man donated it to the historical society in 1963 and it was moved to the complex.

The Gilbert-Flanigan House is a good example of a home that would have been owned by a middle-class family of the 1800s. It was built in 1841 and is a New England saltbox house done in the Greek Revival style. It has the sloping roof of the saltbox. This style of home had a parlor bedroom behind the parlor, which is where the best bed in the house was kept for company. It never had electricity, plumbing or heating and was donated to the University of Toledo in 1965 and then later sold to the historical society. The Maumee Clover Leaf Depot was built in 1888 and serviced the Toledo and Grand Rapids Railroad. This had once been located on Sophia Street in Maumee. There was a telegraph room as part of the depot as well. It was donated to the historical society in 1971. 

The Box Schoolhouse is a one-room schoolhouse that was built in 1850 by local farmers. The teacher's desk is an original schoolmaster's desk circa 1840 to 1860 and the wainscoting and pegs and box stove are original to the building. The schoolhouse joined the complex in 2006. And finally there is the Monclova Country Church, which was built in 1901 for the Radical United Brethren congregation in Monclova. This church was built in the Gothic Revival style and has a rebuilt straightforward bell tower. The original belfry was destroyed by fire. The original congregation's bishop was Milton Wright who was the father of Orville and Wilbur Wright. The church joined the complex in 1985.

During the Halloween season, the museum embraces its haunted reputation offering ghost tours and hunts. Visitors to the Wolcott House have reported being touched or tapped on the shoulder by something they can't see, some have seen shadow figures darting from one room to the next and disembodied footsteps are heard. Staff and guests claim that spirits of the Wolcott family are continuing on in the house in the afterlife. A paranormal team was asked to come in and investigate in 2002 by the Curator at the time, Chuck Jacobs. He and his wife had been in the house and felt something had chased them. The investigation caught some orbs of light and felt they contacted three spirits: a strong male and female and a weaker female.

Amy Danforth was a Special Events Coordinator back in 2015 and she felt that the spirits in the house were friendly and helpful because they had helped her. She was having a hard time carrying a floral arrangement in the house one day and needed to get through the large wooden door that separated the pantry from the kitchen. She started to look for somewhere to set down the arrangement when the heavy door slowly swung open and stayed that way long enough for her to walk through. She said, "Thank you" as she passed through, fully expecting to see someone on the other side of the door. No one was there and the door wouldn't just hold itself open for that length of time. She knew it had to be a ghost.

Zach was a volunteer at Wolcott House for years and he had enough experiences to convince him that the home is haunted. Many times when he was alone in the museum, he felt as though he were not alone. Eyes he couldn't see seemed to be on him. He wrote, "Every month, there would be a tea hosted at the Wolcott House and I would be in charge of taking down tables and chairs. One day I was taking down some chairs and suddenly heard [the soft sounds of a] piano playing. There is one piano in the house and I was a little shocked to hear [it] playing. So I slowly walked to the room where the piano was and, about ten-feet before I walked into the room, the piano stopped playing. When I did get to the room, no one was there. Another instance I had was when I had to go into a storage room in the kitchen and get some items. While I was in there, [I heard] a thump - almost like something had fallen." He eventually found the source of the sound, which was an apple from a decorative display that was now sitting in the middle of the floor. This tended to happen a lot. Zach continued, "I have had this happen to me two different times. And, sometimes when I was downstairs, sweeping the floors or mopping, it would sound like someone was walking around upstairs and it would kind of frighten me when it happens. I have also had some other instances where I would be in another room and a glass showcase would just start rattling."

The Wolcott Heritage Center is a large property that really needs a proper investigation through all of the buildings. One thing is for certain, the Wolcott family is inextricably linked to this property because they owned it for so long. Are some of them still here? Is the Wolcott Heritage Center haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, January 12, 2023

HGB Ep. 469 - Western Lunatic Asylum of Virginia

Moment in Oddity - Cirque du Sewer

Many of us have enjoyed one of the various Cirque shows which incorporate acrobatics and sometimes death defying feats! Well let me introduce you to Cirque du Sewer. This troupe is comprised of 2 humans, some cats and rats. You heard me correctly. Melissa Arleth and her assistant Vitaliy have trained her furred feline and rambunctious rodent rescues to perform various tricks and feats of bravery. Their act includes obstacle courses, walking on tightropes and jumping through flaming hoops while their humans perform their own stunts and comedy bits. Melissa stated that her improv skills have improved when her fur-kids decline to perform. She commented that sometimes she thinks, "Look at my amazing cats!" while other times she thinks, "my cat is a jerk". But this was said with a laugh. Besides touring the country, Cirque du Sewer has also performed on America's Got Talent, Nickelodeon's Unleashed and The Gong Show. We love that all of Melissa's cats and rats are rescues, but organizing them into a circus show, certainly is odd.

This Month in History - Dolly Parton Born

In the month of January, on the 19th, in 1946, Dolly Parton was born. Dolly Parton is most well-known as a country singer, but she has proven through the decades to be a woman of multi-talents and she is considered a national treasure in much the same way that Betty White was because she is just a sweet woman, a good person. Parton was born in Tennessee along the banks of the Little Pigeon River in a one-room cabin to a family she described as dirt-poor. She started singing in church when she was six and received her first real guitar when she was eight. She began performing as a child and appeared on the Grand Ole Opry when she was just thirteen. She moved to Nashville in 1964, the day after she graduated high school. Dolly made her album debut in 1967 with "Hello, I'm Dolly." Today, she has sold more than 100 million records worldwide with 25 singles reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Country Music Chart. She has written over 3,000 songs and won 11 Grammy Awards. Dolly jumped into acting as well and received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress for the movie "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas." Last year, 2022, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Her greatest achievement is her philanthropy, which has been focused on East Tennessee where she grew up. What is your favorite Dolly Parton song? Mine is "Here You Come Again."

Western State Hospital (Suggested by: Cara Danelle) 

Imagine a luxury hotel in an old insane asylum. That is precisely what has happened with the Western Lunatic Asylum or as it was later known, the Western State Hospital. The main administration building is now the Blackburn Inn and Conference Center. This is a good setting for the hotel as this was an asylum meant to be a beautiful, tranquil and moral place for treatment of the mentally ill. This was Virginia's early attempt to provide enlightened care to suffering people. Later this was a medium security prison. Today, it stands as a possibly haunted hotel and complex of condominiums. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Western State Hospital.

The western part of Virginia was really growing in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and with that came a need for a place to care for the mentally ill. A commission was formed by the state government that was tasked with finding a location for a new asylum. The town of Staunton was chosen. This town had been settled in 1732 and was named for the wife of colonial governor Sir William, Gooch, Lady Rebecca Staunton. We mentioned the Northwest Territory in our last episode on River Raisin Battlefield and Staunton actually served as its capital from 1738 to 1770. The town was officially incorporated in 1801. The Virginia Central Railroad made Staunton a transportation hub in 1854 and it was a supply base during the Civil War. President Woodrow Wilson was born here in 1856. Staunton, Virginia managed to escape much of the destruction that the state of Virginia suffered during the Civil War. Many 18-century structures still exist, including the Western State Hospital. The antebellum asylum is thought to be one of America's outstanding and best preserved early institutional properties.

The hospital was first known as Western Lunatic Asylum of Virginia. The Main Administration Building is known as Building 12 and construction was completed in 1828. Baltimore architect William F. Small designed the building and the builders included George W. Wall, John Hannon and William Good. The building is made of brick done in a Flemish bond, which means you have a long brick and then a smaller square brick side by side. Stretcher bond just does long bricks and the English bond has a row of long bricks and then a row of small square bricks. The center of the building rises three stories and has an octagonal cupola on top surrounded by a sheaf-of-wheat balustrade. This is a long building and the most distinctive features are Greek Ionic porticoes that flank the building and one at the center entrance. The interior was built to be beautiful and elaborate as well with round-arch openings, molded keystones and fanlights with geometric tracery. The doors to patient rooms had small hinged openings, so that patients could be observed. Staff apartments were up on the third floor. In 1844, heating went from just stoves and fireplaces to a hot air heating system for the wings.

In the 1830s, architect Thomas R. Blackburn was hired for an expansive renovation. Blackburn was a protege of Thomas Jefferson and so he added many Jefferson-esque design elements. These included a hand-crafted spiral staircase leading to the cupola and rooftop veranda, spacious room wings and beautiful gardens. More buildings like the large wards known as Building 7 and Building 31 were added until the complex reached its present form in 1851 with the addition of a Chapel known as Building 13. This made Western State Hospital the second largest asylum in America. The large wards were designed by Baltimore architect Robert Cary Long, Jr. Building 31 was built by William B. Phillips in 1842. An octagonal cupola graces the roof of the buildings as well. The second floor housed the patient dining room. Alterations were made in 1848. Building 7 is the largest building on the property and was built in 1840 by Lushbaugh and Grove. This one is four stories tall and also has an octagonal cupola and the building forms a U shape.

The Chapel started off as a dining hall and was built in 1843 and was designed by Thomas Blackburn. The actual chapel was up on the third floor and wasn't in use until 1851 and could accommodate 350 people. The ceiling was arched and frescoes covered the walls with Gothic stained-glass windows that represented different scenes from Biblical history. Female patients made needle work that they sold to fund the interior of the chapel and that raised $900. An 1851 Annual Report stated, "We were honored not long since on a Sabbath afternoon with a visit from the President of the United States, Secretary of the Interior and W.W. Corcoran, Esq. of Washington city. It was the first occasion on which Mr. Fillmore and Mr. Corcoran had ever witnessed a congregation of insane persons assembled for the purpose of divine worship; and such was the character of the scene, that they could but be astounded at the order and decorum which prevailed, as well as be deeply affected by the solemn reverence exhibited for the place, the day and the occasion." Mr. Corcoran bought an organ for the chapel. The organ remains to this day. Ward 3 is also known as Building 6 and was built in 1842 as designed by Robert Cary Long Jr. Craig, Hudson and Graham built it. A modern porch sheltered the main entrance. These were the five main buildings that made up the complex and still exist today mainly unaltered.

Dr. Francis T. Stribling was the superintendent close to when the asylum opened and he believed that the beauty of buildings and the property around them could have a therapeutic effect on the patients. Francis Taliaferro Stribling was born on January 20, 1810 in Virginia. He became the first graduate of the University of Virginia Medical School. Dr. Stribling was only twenty-six years old in 1836 when he became head of Western State hospital. He was the second superintendent and would remain in that position for 38 years. Asylums had opened all across the country and mostly ran as jails. Dr. Stribling had a very different vision. Not only did he believe in natural treatment, but he also believed that insanity was curable. This flew in the face of the establishment. His treatment was referred to as Moral Medicine. This meant that patients would only be restrained when absolutely necessary, they would be fed a nutritious diet and encouraged to exercise. They were encouraged also to attend religious services and practice an occupation. Violent patients were separated from those who could be cured and were not admitted to Western State Hospital. This caused some bitter disputes with other doctors. Stribling helped revise Virginia law as to the care of the mentally ill. And he was a good friend and advisor to Dorothea Dix, who was an advocate for the mentally ill and had a hand in the founding of 30 hospitals for treatment for the mentally ill. Stribling also helped found the American Psychiatric Association.

A poem he wrote in 1838 goes, "When does a man so urgently require the aid of a rational fellow being, To guide his footsteps, as when he wanders thus in mental darkness? Or when does he so much need the knowledge and guidance of others, As when his mind is a wild chaos, Agitated by passions that he cannot quell, And haunted by forms of terror, Which the perverted energy of his nature, Is perpetually calling into being, but cannot disperse." Dr. Robert Hansen, superintendent of Western State Hospital, wrote in 1967, "In an age of the common man, Dr. Stribling possessed an uncommon and profound knowledge of human nature, and the importance of human relationships. He believed that the drives, interests, and needs of the insane were the same as those of others, and that satisfaction of them through human relationships, would help restore their reason." Dr. Stribling was a remarkable man, but you probably have never heard of him. Dr. Stribling died in 1874.

During Dr. Striblings's tenor at the hospital, the grounds resembled a resort with terraced gardens and mountain views from the rooftops. The facility grew to over 22 buildings offering patients the opportunity to take part in farming and animal care. After the passing of Dr. Stribling, things changed at the hospital and the once utopian model disintegrated. As happened at every other asylum, this one became overcrowded and people were basically warehoused and ankle and wrist restraints, physical coercion, and straitjackets were used. Electroshock therapy and lobotomies were employed. The Eugenical Sterilization Act was passed in 1924 in Virginia and patients at Western State were forcibly sterilized. This practice ended in the 1970s when the act was repealed. It's not surprising that the hospital embraced this because Eugenicist Joseph DeJarnette was director of the hospital from 1906 to 1943. He founded the nearby DeJarnette Sanitarium as a private place for the mentally ill. This eventually came under state control in 1975 and was turned into a children's hospital.

The Western State Hospital moved in 1976 to a new location and the property was converted into a medium security men's penitentiary called the Staunton Correctional Center. This prison closed in 2003 and the site sat vacant. The state of Virginia gave the property to the Staunton Industrial Authority in 2005 who planned to build condominiums on the property and they started selling those in 2008. Today, those are known as The Villages at Staunton. This is from the website: "The Villages at Staunton consists of a remarkable collection of buildings situated on 80 sprawling acres in Virginia’s renown Shenandoah Valley. Ranging from Federal Greek Revival structures, built by the same masons who constructed the University of Virginia, to twentieth century Colonial Revival buildings designed to complement the historic setting, this assemblage of buildings is situated on park-like grounds with gently sloping hills and a creek bordered by manicured lawns and weeping willows. The location is immediately adjacent to downtown Staunton, another extraordinary display of historic architecture and charm."

This is a master plan community with a goal to add commercial interests. Along those lines, in 2018 a portion of the complex debuted as The Blackburn Inn and Conference Center, which was then inducted into Historic Hotels of America. The Western State Hospital Complex had already been added to the National Register of Historic Places on November 25, 1969. The Blackburn Inn is a boutique hotel and one look at the rooms makes it hard to believe this was once a hospital and a jail. There is also a restaurant there called Second Draft Bistro with a rotating list of craft beers, ciders and wines. It really is a gorgeous property and it gets even better because it is reputedly haunted.

The main spirits here are thought to be the patients, or should we say, the victims of Dr. DeJarnette. The man tortured many people and their disembodied screams are said to echo through the hallways occasionally. There are disembodied footsteps and doors open and close on their own. The abandoned building he had named for himself, the DeJarnette Sanitarium, is said to be haunted by DeJarnette himself and also has disembodied moans and screams. No one is allowed to visit now, but before it was boarded up, many people reported weird experiences. It is said that shadow people guard the building. A story is told about a little five-year-old boy who was abandoned here and he lost the ability to talk and walk and was confined to a wheelchair. A member of Fife Paranormal had worked there on security and he heard the unmistakable sound of a wheelchair behind him and when he turned around, there was nothing. He continued walking - this is outside - and he again heard the sound of a wheelchair on gravel. He also once saw someone standing out in the weeds where there had once been burials and he went down to confront the person and get them off the property and he saw the weeds move fast towards him and then they stopped moving and there was no one there. Then he looked down the main path and saw a six-foot shadow that slid into the weeds in an inhuman way. He had also heard people say they saw objects levitating inside.

Melissa Battle wrote this comment on a video about the DeJarnette Sanitarium, "I recently stayed at the hotel behind this building and you can definitely feel evil.  It's a crushing feeling in your chest, nausea and a general heaviness in the air that "surrounds" you as you drive along the road behind the building.  The feelings drove me to more research.  As I read out loud to my husband about the history of the place, our TV continued to turn off.  Once I stopped reading, everything worked fine.  I also took some pictures of handprints on a second story window within the stairwell, which can only be reached by ladder from both sides.  These appeared to be in the dust on the inside of the window near the top and small in size like a 5-6 year old child's."

One of the spirits thought to be at Western State Hospital could be Sarah, who was an Irish immigrant who was brought to the asylum after killing her abusive husband. After she got to the hospital, she killed two guards. She was lobotomized after that and locked in a room where she was simply fed until she died. There are rumors that two construction workers disappeared while on the job doing renovations. They were never seen again and their bank accounts were never touched. Did the hospital take them? Did ghosts? Even stranger is the story about an intern from James Madison University. He was part of a group of four interns that were assisting in sorting records at the hospital. One day, he was found dead facing the corner with a file in his lap. A man named Shelby worked on the security detail during the 1980s and he claimed to feel cold spots and to see shadows. The place just felt strange to him.

There are possibly ghosts left in the wake of this next horrible event. On the morning of February 24, 1883, seven male patients were given some liquid medication and shortly thereafter they all lost consciousness.  Four died almost immediately, two died in the next three days, and two recovered. Investigators figured out that poison had been used and a chemistry professor figured out it was extract of the monkshood plant. There were several suspects, but no one was ever charged, so no justice came.

Ieney B from New York wrote on TripAdvisor, "The second night was when we may have encountered a ghost if you believe in that. The two girls sleeping closest to the bathroom woke around 4am to the sound of the shower running. One of my friends got up and turned it off... but it was kind of odd. I mean it is an old building... so believe what you want." And that is one of the things guests have reported happening, the shower turning on by itself. There have been reports of lights flickering and turning off and on by themselves. And locked windows have opened on their own. A Krity Romo on Reddit claimed that she only made it an hour in her room and had to leave because she felt such a heavy presence.

Dave Simms wrote the fiction book "Fear the Reaper" about the Western State Hospital and he told the Newsleader that "Nearby businesses told [him] they often hear constant low moans of 'home' alleged to belong to patients haunting the asylum campus. A friend of [his] lived in the loft apartments built in the portion of Western State Hospital that was renovated and then used as a prison until 2003. [He] recalled how the door to his friend's apartment, which housed windows still dressed with original prison bars, would open without the wind's aid. Not even a heavy duty lock kept the door shut at times." 

Asylums don't have a great reputation, but Western State Hospital really seems to have been a place dedicated to curing the mentally ill. Treating people as humans goes a long way, but as we know, most of the time this didn't happen and eventually the hospital too devolved. And this may have left behind unrest. Is the Western State Hospital haunted? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes:

Ghosts of Staunton Walking Tour:

Thursday, January 5, 2023

HGB Ep. 468 - River Raisin Battlefield

Moment in Oddity - New Year's Eve in Talca, Chile (suggested by Scott Booker)

Many of us celebrate different New Year's Eve traditions. Some are familial based, being passed down from generation to generation. Others are cultural or religious in nature. A New Year's tradition that was established relatively recently, comes from Talca, Chile. Many people in this city spend New Year's Eve at their local graveyards surrounded by their deceased relatives and friends. Although to some people it may seem distressing or solemn, the locals here say that spending the night with their deceased loved ones brings peace to their souls and ensures them a lucky new year. Visitors typically bring food and drink for this tradition that began as recently as 1995. On that New Year's Eve, a family breached the graveyards' fence to spend time with their recently deceased father. The local authorities were so moved by the surviving family's act, that new laws were created so that the cemeteries were kept open on New Year's Eve from that time on. Today, people are encouraged to decorate their loved ones graves and spend the night reminiscing them. Many cultures fear death, but the community of Talca, Chile have made New Year's Eve a beautiful time of remembrance. Even so, some may say that spending New Year's Eve in a cemetery, certainly is odd.   

This Month in History - Ellis Island Opens

In January, on the 1st, in 1892, Ellis Island officially opened as an immigration station in New York Harbor. Seventeen-year-old Annie Moore, from County Cork, Ireland was the first immigrant to be processed at the new federal immigration depot. She was also accompanied by her two younger brothers. The teenager made history as the very first immigrant to be processed at Ellis Island. The island is located at the mouth of the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey. It served as an immigration station for more than 60 years until its closure in 1954. Ellis Island had millions of newly arriving immigrants pass through its doors during this time. It is estimated that nearly 40 percent of all American citizens can trace at least one of their relatives having passed through Ellis Island. Many immigrants left their homes in the Old World due to war, drought, famine and religious persecution, and all had hopes for greater opportunity in the New World. During the peak of Ellis Island's operation, an average of 1,900 people came through the immigration station each day. Today, it is part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument and visitors can tour the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration. This museum is home to a variety of exhibits and houses an amazing collection of artifacts from American history.

River Raisin Battlefield (Suggested by: Tre Doyle)

The Battle of Frenchtown took place during the War of 1812 and its battlefield is the only nationally recognized American battlefield dating to the War of 1812. The greatest victory of the war for Tecumseh's confederation took place here. What happened after the Battle of Frenchtown, amounted to a massacre. In the aftermath, Native Americans were removed from the Northwest Territory. This would be the beginning of decades of Indian Removal. The battlefield is thought to be one of the most haunted locations in Michigan, more than likely because of all this negative spiritual residue. Join us as we explore the battles and hauntings connected to River Raisin National Battlefield Park! 

"Remember the Raisin" doesn't sound like much of a battle cry. "Remember the Alamo" has more of the call to arms ring to it. But there really was once such a cry that fire upped the Americans to go on to win the War of 1812. The River Raisin Battleground is located at 1403 East Elm Avenue in Monroe, Michigan. That address is actually for a house that was included on the National Register of Historic Places in 2019. This is actually a fairly young nationally recognized historic site, only becoming a part of the national park system in 2010. But the area has a long history. The spot where the battlefield lies today has played host to many cultures. This was an area rich in resources near the River Raisin and was good for growing crops and fur trading. The Pottawatomi and Wyandot Tribes had lived here before French settlers came. The French Canadians called the area La Riviere aux Raisins because of the wild grape clusters hanging from the trees over the river. The French lost the territory to the British after the French and Indian Wars. In 1796, the United States took the territory.

There was a time not long ago when Detroit, Michigan had been hit hard economically and was a struggling city. Today, it is on a comeback, but it still might be hard for people to believe that this was a city so coveted that people were willing to die for it. This is the historic setting for the War of 1812 in the Midwest. Ohio had officially become a state in 1803. Many future states were part of the Northwest Territory, including Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, parts of northeastern Minnesota and Michigan. This territory was still occupied and influenced by the British and they had a strong ally in Chief Tecumseh, who was a powerful and charismatic leader. They worked together to grow a fur business. And the Native Americans trusted the British and believed them when they said they wouldn't settle the frontier. If Americans wanted to venture into this territory, they knew they better be prepared to tussle with the British and their Indian allies. There was a dangerous tension brewing. The American government felt that they looked weak not being able to control their territory. The British, of course, wanted to hold onto what they felt should be theirs. The Native Americans just didn't want to be pushed off their ancestral lands. It was inevitable that there would be a clash. 

In order to control the Great Lakes region, a country had to possess Detroit. Detroit controlled the river corridor into Lake Erie that lead into the Upper Great Lakes. America couldn't expand without holding Detroit. On June 18, 1812, the United States Congress declared war with Great Britain. This tension in the Great Lakes region was one of the three reasons America gave for making this decision. The British had established an economic blockade of France and forced many  neutral American seamen into the British Royal Navy against their will were the other two reasons. In support of the declaration, the River Raisin militia was called into service. Their job was to build a road linking Detroit with Ohio. In July, Brigadier General William Hull arrived with his troops in Detroit and they began preparation for invading Canada.

After seven days, Hull and his troops did just that. They invaded British-held Canada and set their sites on capturing Fort Malden\Amherstburg in what is today Ontario. They accomplished that, but didn't hold it for long. The British and their Native American allies pushed the American forces back to Detroit. By August, Britain had Detroit under siege and the completely incompetent Hull realized he had no choice but to surrender the fort in Detroit. This gave British Major General Isaac Brock the entire Michigan territory. Things were quiet until November of 1812 when talk of an American invasion to take back Michigan and Detroit was being spread. A troop of Canadian militiamen were sent to the River Raisin settlement with one small cannon to prepare for this battle. This settlement was Frenchtown and it sat 30 miles southwest of Detroit on the Raisin River where it flowed into lake Erie. French Canadians had settled the area in 1784. This would eventually become the village of Monroe in 1817.

General James Winchester was a veteran of the Revolutionary War and he was tasked with preparing for a winter campaign to take back Detroit. He arrived in Maumee Rapids (what would become Toledo) in January of 1813. The General sent 550 of his men from the 1st and 5th Kentucky Volunteer Regiments, under the command of colonels William Lewis and John Allen to the River Raisin, after the settlement requested help when the British took control. When these troops arrived on January 18, 1813, the first Battle at the River Raisin began. The American forces were unsuccessful against the stronger Canadian Militia and Confederacy Warriors. The battle dissolved into skirmishes that took place throughout the woods surrounding Frenchtown and left 13 Americans dead with 54 wounded. Casualties on the other side were not reported, but this was considered a win for the Kentucky forces. Atrocities took place with Kentuckians scalping some of the Native Americans. Repayment would eventually come for that. 

The Second Battle of River Raisin began on January 22nd and this would be the main Battle of Frenchtown. General Winchester had arrived with more troops on January 20, 1813, bringing the number of American troops close to 1,000. The British were reinforcing as well at Fort Malden in Canada and several more tribes joined the Native Confederation. This included the Wyandot, Shawnee, Potawatomi, Odawa, Ojibwe, Delaware, Miami, Winnebago, Creek, Kickapoo, Sac and Fox. There were 600 British Canadians and 800 Native Warriors that arrived at River Raisin before dawn on the 22nd. Despite the fairly large group, the American sentries didn't see them. The group formed an arc about 300 yards to the north of the settlement with the British regulars and artillery in the center and the Native Confederation flanking on both sides. Another detachment of Native Warriors took a forward position at 250 yards. The group prepared to attack, but before they could, an American sentry finally saw them and played a reveille and then fired a shot into the head line, killing the lead grenadier. This got the American forces awake and scrambling. 

The British artillery fired a strong volley and started charging at Frenchtown. They were met with a puncheon fence that had a force of Kentuckians behind it that were solidly protected and they were able to fire at will. They were unrelenting and the British were forced to retreat. The U.S. 17th Infantry that was on the right flank was having a very different experience. The Canadian militia was pounding them and the Wyandot fighters took cover in nearby buildings and were able to fire into the American encampment. General Winchester was apparently caught off guard too because he was still back at his headquarters. He arrived when the battle was well under way and ordered the infantrymen to fall back to the north bank of the river. The Kentuckians had already gathered there and the group attempted a stand that didn't last long. 

The Americans ran in retreat, but the British forces were unrelenting and another skirmish broke out on the south side of the river. Within minutes, the American line was pulverized. It was a devastating loss for the Americans. General Winchester and several officers were captured, along with 147 of the American forces. There was a large loss of life with 220 killed. Many more were injured. Only 33 men managed to escape. At Frenchtown, the Kentuckians behind the fence were still putting up a fight and holding. The British tried three separate frontal attacks and were repelled every time taking heavy casualties on the third one. This was the British 41st Regiment of Foot and Provincial Marines and they had 24 killed and 158 wounded. The Kentuckians had about a fourth of the casualties, so of course, they thought the Americans were winning the Battle of Frenchtown. They had no idea the other forces had gone into full retreat and were being beaten badly. 

The captured General Winchester was brought before British General Henry Proctor who asked Winchester to have hi men surrender. Winchester refused and pointed out that he couldn't give orders since he was a prisoner. Proctor then told Winchester that the Kentuckians would be burned out and slaughtered by a large force of Tecumseh's Confederation. The American General agreed to send a message, but the Kentuckians balked at the suggestion. They thought they could win with many of the men pleading with the officers not to surrender. They said they would rather die on the battlefield. Major George Madison saw the situation differently. He knew they were beaten and had two choices: to surrender to the British or, as he put it, “be massacred in cold blood.” He held out to make sure they received good terms in regards to prisoners, care of the wounded and protection from the Confederacy Warriors. When the details were hammered out, Madison surrendered.

The British had lost a third of the forces they had at Frenchtown - around 185 men - but that was small compared to the Americans' 901 casualties. And it was about to get worse. The British left behind the Americans who were too wounded to walk and the River Raisin Massacre was about to happen. The Native Warriors were angry and they still had an axe to grind. They returned to Frenchtown the morning after the battle and plundered the settlement, burning everything in their wake. A doctor at the settlement, Dr. Gustavus Bower, described what happened that morning writing, "They did not molest any person or thing upon their first approach, but kept sauntering about until there were a large number collected, (one or two hundred) at which time they commenced plundering the houses of the inhabitants and the massacre of the wounded prisoners." Numbers are hard to gauge, but anywhere between thirty and a 100 people were killed and scalped. Others were taken as prisoners. 

Major General William Henry Harrison described the massacre as a "national calamity." Survivors described the killings as brutal, but very orderly and without emotion. The wounded who could not travel were the first to die. Anyone who couldn't keep up with the march to Fort Malden were killed. Another survivor said that the road to the fort was left littered with bodies. News of the massacre overshadowed the Battle of Frenchtown and spread across the entire country. This is when "Remember the Raisin" became a battle cry, especially for Kentuckians who had lost so much during the battle and massacre. Many more Kentuckians enlisted as a result. All the American dead from the battle and this massacre were left unburied as people feared more attacks from the Native Americans. The River Raisin area wouldn't be liberated until September when Colonel Richard M. Johnson's Kentucky cavalry arrived at the settlement.

The British were riding high on their victory, but that didn't last for long. "Remember the Raisin" had reinvigorated the Americans. Major General William Henry Harrison went to Fort Meigs, not far from Frenchtown, and repelled the British. The Americans continued to have victories in the Lower Great Lakes and the British had to abandon Detroit. General Harrison then invaded Canada, won the Battle of the Thames on October 5, 1813 and killed the great leader Tecumseh. The British gave up their American-owned territory in the Great Lakes region, but retained Canada. The War of 1812 was over. In honor of this battle, nine counties in Kentucky are named for officers who fought in it. Only one of them actually survived the battle. The battlefield was named as a Michigan Historic Site on February 18, 1956. In December of 1982, the battlefield received national recognition and protection. In 2010, the area became River Raisin National Battlefield Park. There are only four National Battlefield Parks in America and this is the only one from the War of 1812.

This battlefield at River Raisin has made it into some top ten most haunted lists for the state of Michigan. It's no wonder with the emotional baggage of this battle. Native Americans were understandably filled with resentment and seeking vengeance before the battle began. During the heat of any war, atrocities are committed by all sides. And that happened here. Settlers drove off Natives and scalped them and the indigenous people retaliated. The sentiments that this stirred nationally lead to the Native Americans being driven out of the Northwest Territory and eventually the Indian Removal Act would be passed and most tribes would be removed from their ancestral lands and marched west. There is a lot of negative spiritual residue in the wake of this one small battle during the War of 1812. The area is also one with a lot of lore attached to it, mainly due to the French Canadians that settled the area. 

The French Canadians believed that the River Raisin settlement had Le Feu Follet wandering around. This is a legendary spirit in French folklore that is similar to the Will-o'-the-Wisp. One resident decades ago shared a tale of having to take a rowboat from Johnson Island to get to the mainland. As they crossed the River Raisin, a huge ball of fire settled on one end of the boat." They started paddling quickly to get away from the ball of light. These are thought to be bewitched balls of light that are the souls of dead sinners that try to lure victims to going over cliffs or drowning in lakes. The founding family of River Raisin were the Navarres and the daughter Monique was in love with a man named William Macomb, Jr. She and her brother Robert went to visit William in the nearby town, but when they arrived, he wasn't there. His servant said that he was worried because he should've been home by then. Monique was afraid that William was lost because of the Le Feu Follet. The group went in search of him and were about to give up when they heard a pistol shoot. They followed the sound to a murky swamp and saw a body lying in the water and struggling. When they pulled it out, they saw it was William and he was still alive. He told the group he had been walking home when he lost his way and then saw this sudden bright light which led him into the swamp.

There were also the River Raisin Lutins. Lutins were these little creatures that were green in color believed to be the spirits of dead horsemen doing penance. People claimed that was why they only seemed interested in horses. The Lutins would steal horses and ride them furiously through the night. They would then return the horses all dirty and full of burrs. Sometimes they would ride the same horse so often that the animal became unusable for the farmer. Le Loup-Garou was also hanging out in the woods. This was a werewolf-like creature and we actually covered the Louisiana version of this, the Rougarou, on Ep. 65. This creature lures its victim into the woods and then transforms into an animal, which can be anything from a mouse to a wolf. The creature was actually a human that was bound to the Devil and could only be freed by bloodletting. Sometimes Le Loup-Garous would invite their victim to hit them, so that they might bleed and be freed. 

Many residents along E. Elm Ave. where the battlefield is located have reported seeing strange things. There is a young female spirit in a billowing white dress that has been seen in wooded areas and other parts of the battlefield. People believe she is searching for a killed lover. Ghost Hunters of Southern Michigan reportedly caught EVPs and a full-bodied apparition on camera. Visitors to River Raisin have seen strange orbs at night and apparitions of soldiers. There have been the sounds of battle and the screams of agony from wounded and dying men. One of these soldiers has been seen riding a horse. Connie on TripAdvisor reported that her husband was scratched by something unseen.

Richard Ellison of Dead Serious Paranormal in Monroe is quoted in saying, "I could still notice my surroundings, but what I was seeing is very hard to describe. I could hear screaming and loud chant-like noises, but my vision was a blur. It was like watching something while being underwater. I remember snapping out of it, but I don't know how long I was doing this." Richard explained that he felt like a soldier from the conflict had taken over his mind or something and given him visions of the battle. In 2007, a skeptic named Jesse Mayo joined a group investigating the battlefield before it became a national park and he managed to capture weird sounds like a battle and a few EVP.

There was an elderly Monroe woman who lived near the battlefield that had an experience. She said that she had dropped a treat for her dog on the floor and it had gone under the couch, so she crouched down to retrieve it and when she started to look up, she saw a man dressed in 1800's attire and when she looked up further to see his face, the man disappeared. She also has claimed to have objects fly across her living room and she has also heard unexplained noises.

Inside the museum there is a sacred Native American pipe that had belonged to Kiowa Chief Santana. People claim that spirits linger at this display and reveal themselves as little orbs of light.

A volunteer at the park, Sherri Schreiner, was working in the Visitor Center cleaning shortly after the NPS acquired the building when she had an experience. All of the doors were locked for her safety because she was working alone. She said, "I was just working away, when I was startled to hear a violent crashing and running from the upstairs front room down the hall, down the stairs and out the back door. It sounded like whatever it was, was slamming against the walls as it made its way out the back door." Sherri went to go see if she could figure out what happened. The locked back door was now wide open. She decided to ask previous occupants if they had ever had anything weird happen to them and they said they had. When she described what happened to her, they said that they had similar experiences with something running down the hallway. The former residents had even set up booby traps to see if they could capture whoever was making the commotion.

The War of 1812 is practically a forgotten war. Not many people have heard of the Battle of Frenchtown. And perhaps that is why hauntings continue at this location, to remind people of a dark place in our history. Is the River Raisin Battlefield haunted? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes: 

Hidden History of Monroe County, Michigan by Shawna Lynn Mazur