Thursday, February 16, 2023

HGB Ep. 474 - Haunted Duxbury, Massachusetts

Moment in Oddity - Pelorus Jack (Suggested by: Chelsea Flowers)

There once was a Risso's dolphin named Pelorus Jack who lived in New Zealand. This was an uncommon species to be found in New Zealand, with only 12 having been previously reported in that area. Interestingly, Risso's look a bit more like a beluga whale, although they do have a curved dorsal fin similar to a bottlenose dolphin, where beluga lacks one. Risso's are similar in size to a bottlenose dolphin as well. Pelorus Jack was a special creature. This beautiful and wise Delphinidin made it his habit for 24 years to guide ships through the dangerous French Pass. The channel was known for shipwrecks due to its dangerous currents and rocks. Oftentimes if a ship did not see Pelorus Jack, they would wait to proceed until he appeared. This special chap received his moniker from a marine navigational instrument called a Pelorus. Although his sex was never known, I supposed Jack just went well with Pelorus and his name stuck. Jack gained fame due to his helpful nature, earning him articles in newspapers and even his own postcards. Shockingly, in 1904, someone aboard the SS Penguin tried to shoot Pelorus Jack. This prompted the creation of a law where he became protected by the Order in Council under the Sea Fisheries Act on the 26th of September, in 1904. Pelorus Jack remained protected by that law until his disappearance in 1912. We know that dolphins are extremely intelligent, but the fact that this dandy, dedicated delphinidae guided many ships safely through such dangerous waters successfully, certainly is odd.

This Month in History - The Birth of Ronald Reagan

In the month of February, on the 6th, in 1911, 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan was born. He entered the world in Tampico, Illinois. The young Ronald's upbringing was greatly influenced by his mother's spirituality and her commitment to the Disciples of Christ and the Social Gospel. When Reagan entered college, he was an indifferent student earning a "C average" grade. He was, however, quite involved in campus politics, sports, drama and was even elected student body president. After graduating from Eureka College with a bachelor of arts degree, he worked as a sports announcer for four football games in the Big Ten Conference. After that he worked for WHO radio as an announcer for the Chicago Cubs. While traveling to California for the teams spring training, Ronald took a screen test which led to a 7 year contract with Warner Bros. studios. His debut film was Love Is on the Air, in 1937. He appeared in many films before serving in the military beginning in April of 1942. WWII interrupted Reagan's movie stardom and Warner Bros. became concerned about the stars ability to generate ticket sales. Likewise, Reagan was dissatisfied with the parts he was being given. After contract renegotiations, he was able to freelance with Paramount and Universal Pictures. In March of 1947, he was elected as president of the Screen Actors Guild, which he remained president of until November of 1952. However, seven years later he was re-elected as president of SAG from November of 1959 to June of 1960. Just as Reagan dabbled in campus politics during college, he also did so during his acting career and by January of 1966, he announced that he was throwing his hat-in-the-ring for the California gubernatorial election. Ultimately, Reagan ended up running against Pat Brown and was portrayed by the press as being "monumentally ignorant of state issues". At the end of the election, Ronald Reagan won by a landslide. However, after serving two terms as Governor of California, he declined a third term and set his sights on the Presidency of the nation. In the general election, Reagan ended up being pitted against Jimmy Carter. During a debate on October 28 in 1980, Reagan asked the audience a question, "Are you better off today than you were 4 years ago?". The answers that were tagged onto Carter's coattails were a resounding "NO" as his campaign numbers plummeted. On election day, Ronald Reagan won a huge popular vote, electoral victory and was sworn into office on January 20, in 1981 as the 40th president of the United States of America.

Haunted Duxbury, Massachusetts

The historic seaside town of Duxbury, Massachusetts is covered in dune grass with pebbled shores and crisp air touched with salt and the scent of pine and cedar and is home to several haunted locations. The Alden Inn dates back to the first Pilgrims to settle the Plymouth area and is rumored to be haunted by the Aldens who arrived on the Mayflower. The Sun Tavern Inn had been home to the "Last Duxbury Hermit" who still hangs out in the afterlife. And the Gurnet Light gave America their first female lightkeeper who still is taking care of the place after death. Join us as we share the history and hauntings of Duxbury, Massachusetts!

The future Duxbury, Massachusetts was first inhabited by indigenous people starting in 12,000 B.C. The Wampanoags were here when the first European settlers came. They had named the area Mattakeesett, which meant "place of many fish" and they not only fished, but hunted for game and grew crops. Pilgrims were the first Europeans to settle. Many had traveled the ten miles north from Plymouth around 1627. The families would work their farms in the summer and then return to Plymouth in the winter. By 1637, Duxbury was officially incorporated and was allowed to build their own church. Many leaders rose up at this time like Captain Myles Standish, Elder William Brewster and John Alden. Many of these early settlers are buried at the Old Burying Ground on Chestnut Street, next to the site of the original Meeting House. Duxbury was a town against loyalists during the Revolutionary War and many of its men served during the seige of Boston in 1776. Many Duxbury fishermen served as privateers. Eventually Duxbury would become a place of shipyards and was the largest producer of sailing vessels on the South Shore. Many federal period houses still exist in the town today.

Alden House

One of these old homes predates the federal period by more than a hundred years. The Mayflower had arrived in Cape Cod in 1620 and two passengers on board the ship were John Alden and Priscilla Mullins. John was aboard the ship serving as a cooper, which was the crewman in charge of the ship's barrels. He was not a Pilgrim, but decided to stay on in Plymouth and signed the Mayflower Compact. He was the youngest man to sign the document and the last survivor. One of the reasons he made that decision was probably because of Priscilla Mullins, who was a Pilgrim traveling with her family on the Mayflower. Priscilla's entire family had died in that first harsh winter in Plymouth. The couple had fallen in love and probably married in 1622 and eventually had ten children. The love of this couple was praised in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem "The Courtship of Miles Standish." Most of the poem is considered lore, rather than historical fact, but Longfellow was a descendant of the couple and claimed it was from oral tradition passed down by the family. It features a love triangle between Miles Standish and John and Priscilla. 

The couple were given a parcel of land on a knoll overlooking the Bluefish River in 1627 and they started a homestead. This location is now occupied by Duxbury Junior High School. They wouldn't build Alden House until 1653, which is located at 105 Alden Street. At least that is according to tradition. Archaeological study has the house being built in 1700, after the Aldens were already deceased. Historically, they did live at this location, but probably in a different home. The main point is that these two locations are on property owned by the Aldens and are now National Historical Sites. These properties were always in the ownership of the Alden family until they became historic sites. The Alden House is a two-story timber box frame house that is plank-sheathed with five bays, a central chimney and a gable roof. This represents First Period New England colonial architecture. The house had a parlor and the kitchen was inside on the north side of the first floor. The huge fireplace in here has the original bricks made from clay and there is a beehive oven at the back that connects to the central chimney. The house also has a cellar and an attic.

John Alden served the Plymouth Colony in every way possible, including as acting governor a couple of times. His namesake son was accused of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts when he was 70 years old in 1692. He thankfully, wasn't killed during the hysteria. The Alden House was purchased by Charles L. Alden in 1883 from John T. Alden's guardian. The Alden family formed the Alden Kindred in the early 1900s and they purchased the Alden House and 2.7 acres in 1907. John W. Alden and his wife Sylvia lived in the house at the time and they continued to stay there until 1920. They were a musical family and conducted jazz sessions often, playing the piano, drums, flute and clarinet. Charles L. Alden continued to be an influence on the house and did a lot of restoration in the 1930s. He gave tours of the house as well. The house later was used as an antique shop by two sisters and then became the museum that it is today. A major restoration was finished in 2008.

An Aunt Polly died in the house in 1882 at the age of 93 and people believe one of the several apparitions here is her. Children spirits have been seen in the house. A crying child has been witnessed coming down the stairs. Another child was seen standing at the window and it asked, "Where are they going?" Charles Alden loved the house enough to stick around and its said he haunts the place. Visitors have also reported the phantom scent of flowers. One of the docents said, "So they seem rather friendly, but who knows what they would have to tell. People enjoy this wonderful story that dates back to that time period, and how a family helped shape New England."

The Sun Tavern (Suggested by: Jen Hendrix)

The Sun Tavern in Duxbury, Massachusetts is a favorite of locals on the South Shore because of its upscale American cuisine and warm hospitality. The building has been around for over 280 years and had once been home to the "Last Duxbury Hermit." There was a man named Lysander Walker who lived in the house at the end of the 19th century. He had lived here with his wife, but after she died, he became a recluse. He had a system with the kids in town that would get him provisions. When he needed something, he would hang an American flag at the corner of his house. On October 3, 1928, an 11-year-old girl named Gladys Belknap was walking by the house and saw that the American flag was at the corner of the house, but on this day, it was hung upside down. For people who don't know, this is a sign of distress. Gladys went into town and got some men to return with her and when they entered the house, they found Lysander sitting on the sofa with a bullet in his head and a revolver tightly gripped in his hand lying beside him on the couch. The young girl never forgot this day and even sent a postcard to the owners of the restaurant confirming the story. 

The next owner of the house was Father Francis Keegan and he used it as a summer residence. There was a young woman who wanted to attend the Salem State Normal School and Father Keegan financed her education. Once she graduated, Father Keegan suggested that his residence would make the perfect spot for a tavern and in the early 1930s, Mary opened up a small restaurant that was very successful. People raved about the meals and the beautiful flowers she decorated the place with. A man named David Wells became the next owner of the house in 1964 and he named his establishment Fiddler's Green Restaurant and it was like an English Pub. Later it became Buck's Tavern and then in 1987 the place became The Sun Tavern and that name has stuck up unto the present. Larry and Carol Friedman took ownership of the tavern in 1996 and they held it until 2001. They sold it, but returned again in 2009 and then sold it in 2017 to Gary and Deborah James. Gary is the Executive Chef at the restaurant and has been since 2013.

Many of the owners of this establishment have had paranormal experiences. The first person to experience a ghost here was David Wells. Many nights, when Wells would be locking up the restaurant, one candle would relight. Sometimes, he would put the candle out again and it would relight before he went out the back door. Talk about a fire hazard. When David would tell people that he had a ghost in the restaurant, he would be met with ridicule. Nobody believed him until one fateful night, the alarm went off and the police responded. They checked the entire building and found nothing. So they left the house, locked the door and started up the walk when they heard the distinct sound of footsteps in the restaurant. They both grabbed their guns and headed back inside the restaurant and again found no one inside. Nobody teased David about his ghost after that.

The Friedmans had many experiences. When they first took ownership in 1996, the basement flooded. Larry put on some waders and started the process of drying out the basement. He used a generator to run a sump pump and temporary lighting. Larry said, "All of a sudden, the light goes off, generator stops, water stops. And I'm yelling up through the window...Not a word. I don't hear a word out of them. Suddenly I feel these arms around me. To this day, I tell this story, it wigs me out.” The lights came on moments later and Larry saw that he was still alone in the basement. He hollered for his brother-in-law who was upstairs. His BIL told him that the generator was still running and had never stopped. One evening, the police called to tell Larry that they had received a 911 call from the restaurant. Larry said the place was empty so it was impossible for the call to have come from the restaurant and the number must have been wrong. But the police said that there was no doubt it came from the pay phone in the restaurant. And, of course, there was no one in the restaurant when it was checked. Lysander is thought to be the ghost here and he seems to really like the phone because his apparition has been seen standing in front of it.

Heavy disembodied footsteps are heard throughout the building. The ladies restroom is haunted. The towel dispenser has dispensed towels on its own. Whatever spirit is here seems to be helpful at times. A man was choking in the restaurant one night. Larry tells the story this way, "One busy Saturday my bartender starts screaming. 'Larry! Larry!'... I run up to the bar and there's a man choking. I was just about to give him the Heimlich Maneuver, when he spit out his food. He turns around to me and says, 'Thank you.' I said, 'I didn't even get to touch you.' He turns to the woman next to him and says, 'Thank you.' And she said, 'No one touched you.' He said, 'Someone hit me on my back.'" During an interview Larry was giving, three loud bangs were heard in the dining room and were caught on the recording of the interview. They also heard a choking sound when Larry was recounting the story about the guest who choked. So perhaps the ghost has a sense of humor too. 

In 2009, Larry decided to allow some paranormal investigators to come into the restaurant. Larry said, "They went down to the basement, and the basement is a trip in itself. It's an old basement, it's an old stone wall. Most of the staff won't go down there. But they did a recording down there, and they heard a very young girl's voice saying, ‘Larry's coming. Larry's coming,’ which is mind-blowing. And then, a man's voice, an older voice saying, ‘Get out.’ I'm guessing that was Lysander." The little girls voice that was caught is thought to be one of two girls who died in the house. They mostly haunt the upstairs, but apparently they chose the basement that time. 

Gary James has had experiences as well. He definitely feels like he had one encounter with Lysander. He said, "I was standing out back behind the restaurant with Larry talking and I see this shadow approaching us and then take off. I thought it was somebody trying to break into cars.” A server told James one night that she thought she saw a man sitting at one of the restaurant’s tables after the restaurant was closed. When she mentioned it to other staff members, they looked at her funny because none of them could see the man.

Gurnet Light

Around ten miles away from the Sun Tavern Inn is the Gurnet Light. This is the oldest freestanding wooden lighthouse in the United States. Samuel de Champlain was a French explorer and cartographer and he mapped out Clarks' Island and The Gurnet in 1638. The Gurnet is a twenty-seven acre peninsula forming the northern boundary of Plymouth Bay and this is where the lighthouse is located. This area was named after a similar area in the English Channel that is home to the gurnet fish. The Massachusetts Legislature voted to erect the first Plymouth Lighthouse, which was completed in 1768. This was actually just a wooden house that was fifteen feet by thirty feet and had lanterns on each end of the roof. The first keeper was a surgeon named John Thomas who actually owned the land that the lighthouse was built upon. He served in this capacity until the Revolutionary War started and he joined the Continental Army. His first duty was to gather a regiment of men from Plymouth to help Boston repel the British during the Siege of Boston. Later, he was given the rank of General and marched his troops into Quebec, where he contracted small pox. The disease took his life on June 2, 1776.

When John left the lighthouse, there was a need for a new keeper. Obviously, all able bodied men were joining the war effort. John's wife Hannah took over the duties and she continued on after his death. She was also raising three children at the time. There were times that the lighthouse beacons were not lit during the war and this was to protect Fort Andrew that was on Gurnet Point from being attacked. Some accounts claim that one of the lighthouse's beacons was destroyed by cannon fire from the British H.M.S. Niger when it exchanged blasts with the fort. In 1778, Plymouth would suffer its worst shipwreck due to a massive winter storm. General Arnold was in charge of a vessel that was headed for Plymouth's inner harbor, but the storm featured blizzard conditions with hurricane force winds, so the General opted to anchor outside of the bay and ride out the storm. The ship ran aground on White Flats and was stranded with no way for the crew to get to safety. The residents of Gurnet decided to build a causeway over the ice, but it took too long and 72 of the 100 men on board froze to death.

After the war, Hannah remained on as keeper, but decided to hire Nathaniel Burgess to take over those duties in 1786. Hannah had been the first female lighthouse keeper. That same year, a sloop got caught on a sandbar near Gurnet during a blizzard. Two of the crew hiked the seven miles to the lighthouse to get help and it is believed that Hannah Thomas' son was the one who went to bring back the rest of the crew. His name was also John and took over as keeper in 1790, making $200 a year. The lighthouse was destroyed in a fire on July 2, 1801 and local merchants helped fund the building of a temporary beacon. The government had always leased the land under the lighthouse, but now they bought it from the Thomas family and built two twenty-two-foot-tall lighthouses, spaced thirty feet apart from each other, in 1803.

On  October 16, 1812, Joseph “Uncle Joe” Burgess became the keeper. He had been the son of former keeper Nathaniel, so they certainly kept this lighthouse thing on the Gurnet in the family. Uncle Joe maintained the lighthouse until 1851 and during that time, tragedy struck. His daughter Eunice was sixteen when she fell in love with a soldier at Fort Andrew. The couple wanted to marry and Uncle Joe refused to allow that to happen. Eunice became depressed and leapt to her death from a rock that has been nicknamed "Lover's Rock." 

Many people complained that the twin towers of the lighthouse were too close together and caused the two lamps to appear as one, but nothing was done to rectify this until the towers became so "decayed a state as to be unworthy of repair." Two new octagonal towers were built in 1842, although the distance between was only increased by a foot. A new spacious keeper's dwelling was also erected at that time. Fourth-order lenses were added in 1879 as the sixth-order lights from 1856 were becoming confused with regular house lights and some sailors even complained that they couldn't see the lights at all. There was a push to space the towers away from each other more, but this meant a new site needed to be found and that proved difficult. In the early 1900s, people were invited to visit the lighthouse. It was decided that the lighthouse needed a fog horn and so a 1,500-pound fog bell that was mounted on a wooden, pyramidal tower and tolled by a striking machine was erected in 1907. This was upgraded to a first-class Daboll trumpet in 1909, which sounded a three-second blast every fifteen seconds. The bell remained as a back-up.

Another shipwreck occurred in 1920 when the minesweeper USS Swan was trying to refloat a wrecked oil barge in Cape Cod Bay and some big waves threw the vessel up on the beach near the lighthouse. The keeper and his assistant, along with the Gurnet Beach Coast Guard, saved all fifty-six sailors aboard. The minesweeper was eventually refloated and made its way to Pearl Harbor, where it would be when that location was attacked during World War II. One of the towers was torn down in 1924 and the other tower received a revolving beacon, which had one flash alternating with a group of two flashes every twenty seconds. The Davis family took over duties in 1925. Frank and Olive Davis had three children and one of them, Frank Arthur, became a licensed lobsterman at the age of nine. He had his own boat and traps and compared himself to Tom Sawyer. The old keeper's house was demolished in 1963 and a new ranch style house was built. Unbelievably, at the time, this was the only place on the peninsula that had electricity 24 hours a day. Residents would stop by for a "visit" so they could watch TV, use the phone or do their laundry. The station was automated in 1986. The lighthouse has been off limits to the public except for the occasional open house to allow the public to visit.

But there is always someone here. Hannah Thomas must have loved the lighthouse because she is reputedly here in the afterlife. People claim to see her apparition. A photographer named Bob Shanklin spent the night at the lighthouse with his wife Sandra as he had been hired to take at-dawn pictures. He awoke in the middle of the night and claimed to have seen the ghost of a woman who only appeared from the waist up, wearing period clothing with long dark hair like Hannah's. Bob said she had the saddest eyes he had ever seen.

Duxbury is a quaint historic seaside town with links back to the original Plymouth colony. Are some of the spirits from that bygone era still hanging around in the afterlife? Are these locations in Duxbury, Massachusetts haunted? That is for you to decide!

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