Thursday, May 25, 2023

HGB Ep. 488 - The Graffiti House

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Moment in Oddity - Cave Homes

Have you ever wished the climate of your home would be consistently cool in the summer and warm in the winter without the fees associated with air conditioning and forced heat? If so, then possibly cave living is for you. One location that cave homes can be found in, is Northern China in the Loess Plateau and although many of the cave dwellings here are now tourist attractions, some of the 'cave homes' called dikengyuan in Mandarin, still have full time residents. The homes have a sunken courtyard entrance while the remainder of the home is completely underground. "They are considered a type of folk house adaptation to the natural terrain in this part of China", according Lim Tai Wei, an adjunct senior researcher at the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore. The topography here ensures a naturally warm home during the winter and cool home temperatures in the summer. According to historical records the creation of these homes began 7,000 years ago. The soil of the area has lent itself to the unusual success of this style of home. It is soft enough to easily excavate while still being firm enough to hold steady without additional support within the walls of the cave homes. According to Lim, "Some scholars outside China consider the dwellings to be a natural adaptation to the climatic patterns in the region, with harsh and lengthy winters, and extremely burning summer heat". Clearly this style of home suits the occupants weather dependent needs well, however having your home completely subterranean, certainly is odd.

This Month in History - Birth of Arabella Mansfield

In the month of May, on the 23rd, in 1846, Arabella Manfield was born in Des Moines County, Iowa. Her birth name was Belle Aurelia Babb and she became the first female lawyer in the United States in 1869. During the Civil War universities began accepting more women into their schools and Arabella attended Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant, however, her study of the law was independent from this. At the time, the bar exam was restricted to males at least 21 years old. Although Arabella did not attend law school, she had worked as an apprentice in the brother's law firm. She applied to take the exam and was accepted. Mansfield passed the bar with high scores. Once she accomplished that, Arabella challenged Iowa's state law excluding women from practicing law and she won. Due to her efforts, Iowa became the first state to allow women to practice law. From there, Arabella Mansfield began Iowa's Women's Suffrage Society and she worked with Susan B. Anthony to continue advancing the rights of all women.

The Graffiti House (Suggested by: Margaret Ward and Mike Streibel)

The Graffiti House is owned by the Brandy Station Foundation and served as a hospital during the Civil War. Soldiers left behind their marks on the walls of the second floor, which is the inspiration behind the house's name. These soldiers may have left behind their spirits as well, not only because some of them were injured and died, but because the Battle of Brandy Station took place here. Join us for the history and hauntings of the Graffiti House.

One cannot talk about the Graffiti House without talking about the Battle of Brandy Station. Brandy Station is in the state of Virginia. It was originally named just Brandy. The Battle of Brandy Station would be fought on June 9, 1863. This was the largest cavalry battle ever fought in North American and launched the greater Battle of Gettysburg, which would be fought in less than a month. The Confederates had a plan to move onto the Shenandoah Valley as they made their way to Pennsylvania. Major General J.E.B. Stuart had brought his 9,500-man Confederate cavalry to Brandy Station where they camped along the Rappahannock River. They were exhausted and certainly not expecting a fight. The day before, Stuart had asked General Robert E. Lee to do a full field review of the cavalry. Most of the men complained that this would just feed Stuart's ego and tire out the horses. 

As the sun rose on that 9th day of June, Union officer General Major Alfred Pleasonton launched a surprise attack on the Confederates at Brandy Station. Pleasonton had split his ranks in two, one under Brig. Gen. John Buford and the other under Brig. Gen. David McMurtrie Gregg. Buford's group crossed the river at Beverly's Ford and Gregg's crossed downstream at Kelly's Ford. This left the Confederates surrounded. One thing on the side of Stuart is that he had five brigades, which was much larger than the Union forces had expected. A Confederate brigade was awakened by the sound of gunfire and rode towards the battle on bareback, partially dressed. The Confederates killed a Union Colonel and pushed back the Union forces. The Confederates formed a line while the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry attacked the Confederate artillery at St. James Church. This was a bad move and this regiment would suffer the greatest casualties. Although many Confederates fighting at the church would later refer to this as a "brilliant and glorious" charge. Some say it was the greatest of the war. Typically the cavalry would dismount and conduct hand-to-hand battle like the infantry when they got to the area of engagement, but the 6th Pennsylvania conducted a completely mounted fight.

The Southern artillery was blocking the direct route to Brandy Station, so General Buford decided to advance near an area called Yew Ridge. This was higher ground, but was already occupied by Confederate Brigadier General W.H.F. "Rooney" Lee and Buford sustained heavy losses before managing to take a stone wall in front of the ridge. Then the Confederates pulled back from the ridge.  Buford wasn't sure why, but then he was informed that General Gregg had finally shown up with his men. They had managed to find a back way that was unguarded that led all the way into Brandy Station. Between where Gregg was located and the skirmish between Buford and Stuart was Fleetwood Hill. Stuart had used the hill for his headquarters, but now all that was there was a  6-pounder howitzer and it didn't have reliable ammunition. Both sides would now enter into a series of confusing charges and countercharges across Fleetwood Hill. The fighting was fierce before the Confederates were able to clear the hill for the final time. Pleasonton called for a general withdrawal and this ended the battle. The Union surprise attack had failed and Stuart retained the field. Part of what worked against the Federals was the terrain. This was a very hilly area and taxing on the horses. Buford knew his men and their mounts couldn't take much more and the Confederates got some late back-up Colonel Thomas Munford, which solidified his decision to leave the field to the Confederates.

The battle lasted around ten hours. This had been the largest cavalry engagement in America. Union casualties were 907 and Confederate casualties were 523. Despite the win, the Confederate cavalry's superiority was now gone. There was a house nearby that was used as a field hospital. That house is today known as the Graffiti House. The house was strategically located near the train depot for the Orange & Alexandria Railroad. The house was owned by lawyer James Barbour who was the brother of the railroad's president, John S. Barbour Jr. It was built in 1858 and stands two stories. Barbour served on the staff of Lieutenant General Richard S. Ewell until January 1863. Barbour also owned a house up on a hill near the battlefield that is called Beauregard Farm in honor of the Confederate General. It still stands today. This served as headquarters for J.E.B. Stuart and his Confederate cavalry division. General Robert E. Lee visited Beauregard during the battle to scan the fighting on the nearby Fleetwood Hill.

The Graffiti House was also used by General Stuart as a headquarters. The house also probably served as a field hospital after the Battle of First Bull Run or First Manassas and there is some graffiti in the house that dates to the Second Manassas Campaign in August 1862. During the winter of 1863 into 1864, the Union set up camp in Culpeper County and they occupied the Graffiti House. The house was headquarters to Brigadier General Henry Prince while the Union army was in pursuit of the Army of Northern Virginia after its retreat from the Battle of Gettysburg.

So the Graffiti House played host to both sides during the Civil War. The people who stayed here left behind their marks on the walls. On the second floor, the plaster walls are covered with drawings, doodles and words made with pencil and charcoal. Some of the words are basically autographs with soldiers writing their names on the walls. One of those autographs belongs to General J.E.B. Stuart. There are also the names of Lieutenant William J. Marshall, Colonel John Egbert Farnum, and Sergeant Henry Thomas. They would make inscriptions commemorating their units and their battles. After the war, other people would move into the house and they covered over the graffiti with wallpaper and paint. In 1993, a big renovation project was started, but it was quickly halted because the graffiti was discovered. Unfortunately, some of it had already been removed before the project was started. But much still remains thanks to the efforts of expert architectural conservator Christopher Mills. The non-profit organization The Brandy Station Foundation purchased the house in 2002 and they are the ones who continue to preserve the house and offer tours. There is a museum here and this is the visitor center for the Brandy Station Battlefield. One of the items on display had been taken away from the home as part of a private collection of Civil War artifacts, but it was returned in 2004. This is called The Maryland Scroll  and features an unfurling piece of parchment with a list of names of men who would later fight at the Battle of Kelly’s Ford. 

There are three rooms on the second floor. One is named the Marshall Room in honor of Lieutenant James Marshall, a Confederate officer. He was killed during the Battle of Gettysburg. The best piece in this room is a sketch of a downcast looking Confederate soldier. Another room is the Bowman Room named for Sergeant Allen Bowman of the 12th Virginia Cavalry. In this room one can find a charcoal drawing called the “Dancing Lady.” The final room is the Stuart Room named for General J.E.B. Stuart and it is in here where his name is written on the wall. There also is an example of a clash between the North and the South. A Confederate wrote "Yanks caught hell" and over that is written "United States of America." 

Here coming up in June of 2023, the Battle of Brandy Station will commemorate its 160th anniversary. The house features tours when volunteers are available to host them. In October, the house showcases its haunts. The whole area has spirits hanging out because of the battle. The Brandy Station Battlefield has two haunted locations: Fleetwood Hill and the ruins of the St. James Church. The St. James Church stood during the battle, but was torn down six months later by Union soldiers, so they could build a winter camp for themselves. The church saw part of the battle. The phantom sounds of battle and disembodied voices are heard at the church ruins and on Fleetwood Hill.

The Fleetwood Church in Brandy Station is also haunted. The church was built over the town's cemetery where many soldiers killed in the battle were buried. The church was used from 1881-1974. Today it is being refurbished, but is in a state of disrepair. Steve is the man who bought the church and is working on it. He claims that the spirit of a little girl that is usually at the Graffiti House has come to the church sometimes and moves things and her disembodied singing has been heard. Investigators have captured EVPs of hymns being sung in the church. Pictures of figures in the windows have been taken. Ryan Martinez, who produces "The Witching Hour" TV show and investigates with Argos Paranormal investigated The Fleetwood Church in 2020. Martinez said, "We were hearing a lot of disembodied growls with our own ears and these were growls that did not sound like they were coming from an animal. And whenever we would hear these growls, we would go ‘if that was you that just growled at us, can you go ahead and turn on the mini Maglite that we have on the floor.’ And spontaneously the light would turn on.”

Unexplained activity has been occurring at the Graffiti House for decades. The house embraces this fact by hosting Ghosthunting 101 classes, offering psychic readings and hosting ghosts hunts with Culpeper Paranormal. One of the volunteers at the house named Della Edrington invited the Virginia Paranormal Institute to come to the house in 2007 to investigate. The house did not disappoint. One of the investigators named Jackie Hicks felt something grab her firmly by the wrist. A journalist that was with them named Donnie Johnston watched as a picture frame moved on its own. The ghost hunting equipment all registered activity that the group described as "off the chart." One of the more popular ghost stories told is about two young girls who were living in the house in the 1930s. They had just finished decorating their Christmas tree in an upstairs room when something very paranormal occurred. Some decorative balls began to swirl on their own in a counter clockwise movement and this wasn't caused by any normal force like wind or a heating vent.

Culpeper Paranormal Investigations posted a picture captured from their SLS camera in June of 2022 and wrote, "This figure/anomaly appeared directly at the top of the stairs. We also have the full video of this occurrence as well. It only manifested for a few seconds before disappearing, and was not picked up at any other time during the night. Could it be a passing through spirit of a soldier who once resided in the location? We’re left unsure." Culpeper has investigated here many times. In the J.E.B. Stuart Room they captured the EMF going off on video. They asked if whoever they were talking to wore a gray uniform or a blue uniform and they captured an EVP saying "blue." They asked if there was a Miranda there or a Melinda and an EVP said "Melinda." And as a double verification, the group asked if there was a man or woman speaking with them and an EVP said "woman." In another room they had a REM Pod set up and used some whiskey as a trigger item. One of the investigators said that she was going to pour the whiskey and she did pour some into a shot glass and the REM Pod started going off. Then she asked if they wanted to play cards with her and it lit up two of the lights on the REM pod. She decided to run a test to verify that nothing else was setting off the REM Pod and she said she was going to count to three. Once she said the number three, the REM Pod and a Mel-Meter next to it went off simultaneously. A group asked if there was a soldier with them and the REM Pod went nuts with three lights going off. They then asked if he was at the Battle of Fleet Hill and an EVP answered "yes." The entity also used the REM Pod to indicate that he had been one of Stuart's men.

On another investigation in 2017 the group asked if John Bowman was there and an EVP answered "Doctor John." During a spirit box session they asked if the spirit lived in the house and they got a male saying "no" and then a female saying "I do." They asked if JEB Stuart was there and the box said "JEB Stuart." They asked something that they thought was the doctor if he was only a doctor during the war between the states and they just said they got an EVP anomaly, but it sounded like "I don't think so" to Diane. In 2015, they caught a really weird light anomaly that bounced around the room. It did look ghostly and was definitely see-thru. You could see the door frame through it. In the Bowman Room on another investigation, they asked how old the spirit was and the EVP said "seventy-six." They asked if the officers stayed in the house and an EVP said "yea." And this was funny. A couple of investigators were in the bathroom doing an EVP session and they asked if there was anyone in there with them and an EVP asked, "Who are you hiding from?"

The Graffiti House is very unique in that it captures a part of Civil War history that is not very common. What was it about the house that enticed the soldiers to write on the walls and leave their marks for us to find in the future? It seems as though some of those soldiers have decided to stay in the afterlife. Is The Graffiti House haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, May 18, 2023

HGB Ep. 487 - Haunted New South Wales

Moment in Oddity - Beatle Wigs

If you've never heard of a band called the Beatles, you must be living under a rock somewhere on a remote island. In 1963, the United Kingdom embraced the Beatles with rave reviews. When the band's first single released stateside, "Please Please Me" it was a resounding flop initially. While Beatlemania was well on its way in the UK, even the drop of the bands third and fourth singles still had an almost non existent fan base in the US. The manner in which the band overcame America's lack-luster response is intriguing. In December of 1963 the single, "I Want to Hold Your Hand" debuted with a more favorable reaction than the prior singles. The Beatles were set to begin their first American tour in February, 1964. In a tactical campaign move to increase their popularity, the Beatles went all out. An onslaught of band merchandise consisting of buttons, bumper stickers and even Beatle styled wigs arrived in America. By the time of their tour, more than 1,000 pounds of wigs had been shipped into the United States. On February 9th, 1964, the Beatles performed on The Ed Sullivan Show with over 70 million viewers tuning in. As the British Invasion swept the United States the band contributed countless chart topping hits. It's tough now, to imagine a time in America when the Beatles were not popular, however, the fact that over 1,000 pounds of bowl-cut wigs contributed to turning the tide of popular opinion, certainly is odd. 

This Month in History - Transcontinental Railroad

In the month of May, on the 10th, in 1869, the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railways were first linked at Promontory Point, Utah. This made transcontinental railroad travel possible for the first time in the history of the United States. On the celebrated date, the presidents of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads drove a gold ceremonial spike joining the two railroad tracks. As far back as 1832, both Eastern government and frontier statesmen knew that the two sides of the nation needed to be connected. Although Congress allocated funding for the inspection of possible routes for the transcontinental railroad in 1853, the building would need to wait much longer. One of the reasons for this was the mounting tensions between the North and the South, preventing an agreement regarding the railroad's starting point. In 1862, Congress passed the Pacific Railroad Act, giving public land grants and loans to the two railroads chosen to undertake the task. Interestingly, in the rush to complete the transcontinental connection, the Union Pacific and Central Pacific built their two separate lines right past each other. This caused the final connection point to be renegotiated. In 1869, the transcontinental railroad was completed ahead of schedule after laying almost 2,000 miles of track and coming in under budget. The rapid growth of the United States was greatly improved due to the speed and convenience of travel that the railroad delivered.

Haunted New South Wales 

New South Wales in Australia seems to be the most haunted state in the country and for good reason. This was the first place colonized in Australia. Not only is there a long history here that features a country built by convicts, but there is the displacement of the indigenous people who had been here for thousands of years. We've covered some of the more well known haunted locations in New South Wales on previous episodes, so on this one we are going to explore the lesser known haunts. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of New South Wales!

New South Wales is the oldest state in Australia and was the site of the landing by the First Fleet from Britain. This fleet included eleven ships arrived in 1788. Captain James Cook took possession of New South Wales in 1770 and named it for King George III. Of course, in saying that, we all realize that the land was already being lived upon by indigenous people. The group of convicts and jailers that arrived on the First Fleet set up a small settlement on the foreshores of Sydney Harbor. There were about 1,000 of them, but this number would grow extensively over the next five decades. And to be fair, the definition of a criminal back then is different then our modern era. Some of these people were political prisoners and some had committed lesser offenses. As New South Wales grew, it would break apart into the different states that now make up Australia. We covered the haunted Quarantine Station in Manly on Ep. 17, the Monte Cristo Homestead on Ep. 51 and Maitland Gaol on Ep. 68, all locations in New South Wales. These are some of the bigger, more well known places. Now let's look at some of the lesser known places.

Old Helensburgh Railway Tunnel

Old Helensburgh Railway Tunnel in Helensburgh, New South Wales is surrounded by a beautiful green landscape. Many people who visit this location claim that it is scary as hell. The legend here is that a miner named Robert Hales was walking through the tunnel on his way home when a steam train came down the line, into the tunnel and hit and killed him. His body was severed in two. People feel as though they are being followed in the tunnel and worse, they see only half of an apparition. Sometimes the top and sometimes the bottom.

Wakehurst Parkway

Wakehurst Parkway has a hitchhiking ghost. This is a road running from North Narrabeen through to Seaforth in New South Wales. The story goes that on a section of road near Oxford Falls a young girl - or nun in some stories - appears and accepts rides. One story we read claims the girl's name is Kelly. Drivers then tell stories of being tormented by the woman's piercing green eyes when they look at her in the rear view mirror. The drivers then crash their cars as the woman disappears. And there really are a lot of crashes on this stretch of raod. People are encouraged to not drive on it at night. Car headlights randomly fail or cars break down for no reason. There is no cell service in the area making it even more dangerous. 

Redbank Range Railway Tunnel

Redbank Range Railway Tunnel is located in Picton, New South Wales and is also sometimes called The Mushroom Tunnel because it was used for a time to grow mushrooms. Picton is said to be one of Australia's most haunted towns. The tunnel runs 592 feet in length and was used between 1867-1919 as a  corridor to and from Melbourne. The tunnel was used during World War II to store weapons and mustard gas spray tanks. A woman named Emily Bollard was struck by a train in the tunnels in 1916 and her spirit is said to haunt the tunnel. She may be at unrest because no one is sure if it was an accident or if she jumped in front of the train on purpose. The spirit of Emily usually appears without her face. Stories claim that a young girl was assaulted and killed in the tunnel and that she too haunts the place. Visitors report lights floating above people's heads, seeing shadow figures, sudden drops in temperature and the apparitions of children.

Mrs Me wrote in 2015, "I was there in 2009 and i filmed a female face in the tunnel on my phone i did send it to people, but i think its been lost now.The female seemed young with dark hair it was towards the end of the tunnel the face would appear on my phone, and this happened in broad daylights." And Tracey said, "I have investigated that tunnel numerous times in the past ( not in a tour) & with fellow investigators, using scientific equipment. It was common to see the coloured lights & hear rocks being thrown around you when no other person was in there. We even captured that on IR video which we still have. We also witnessed one of those lights becoming large and forming into a whitish figure that was floating off the ground and looked like a holagram. I have numerous EVP taken on a voice recorder and also on a ghostbox."

Gladesville Mental Hospital (Suggested by: Kathy Bergin) 

Gladesville Mental Hospital is one of those asylums that started with a cruel history that lends itself to hauntings later. This began as the Tarban Creek Lunatic Asylum in 1838 just outside of Sydney, Australia. Care of the mentally ill would change and get better through the decades. And yet, a creepy essence has been left behind. The keepers in asylums were once called wardens, which reflects the early treatment of the mentally ill. The ill were referred to as lunatics and inmates and they were considered dangerous and needed to be locked away from society. On previous asylum episodes, we have mentioned Bedlam, the first asylum opened in London, England back in 1247. This was the model that many institutions followed, so patients weren't treated for their ailments and they weren't cared for either. Many were left in their own waste and vomit and were chained to beds and walls. Wealthy people with mental illness were usually kept at home and locked in rooms or separate wings, or they would be moved to private homes set up for their care. Doctors who cared for them were called alienists. This term started to be used in the mid-nineteenth century. Most people probably haven't heard of this term, but it was resurrected by a television series that launched in 2018. The mentally ill were thought to have mental alienation and alienists were tasked with studying, understanding and caring for the afflicted.

Now let's flip to the 19th century in Sydney, Australia. When the First Fleet arrived in Australia in 1788, many of the first 750 convicts brought here were mentally ill. Anybody that was a risk to the community was locked up and criminals, the mentally disabled and the mentally ill were all imprisoned at the Town Gaol in Parramatta. The first mental asylum was built in 1811 at Castle Hill in New South Wales. The first purpose built psychiatric hospital would be Tarban Creek Lunatic Asylum, which opened in 1838 in Sydney. Twelve more asylums would be built in New South Wales in the 1800s. Treatment was horrendous until The Lunacy Act was introduced in 1843, but improvements really wouldn't be made until 1852 when the government started investigating violence, corruption, mistreatment and mismanagement. Moral treatment began along with work schemes as asylums became more like farms. Treatment would improve even more over the decades with medication. Deinstitutionalization began in Australia in 1992.

Tarban Creek Lunatic Asylum was built on the banks of the Parramatta River in a town named Gladesville. Before the convicts made their way to this area, the Wallumettagal people of the Eora nation lived here. They left behind their rock carvings. Gladesville was named for John Glade who bought the land here in 1836. And it's a good thing they changed the name because before that it was called Doody's Bay. Okay, so we'll put aside our thirteen-year-old boy senses of humor and reveal that it was named for the guy who got the first land grant, John Doody. Construction on the asylum began in 1836 under the design of Colonial Architect, Mortimer Lewis. That construction was completed in 1838. This initial design consisted of two wards, one for each gender, and could accommodate sixty patients in separate cells. There was also a central Keeper's House.

John Thomas Digby was the first supervisor and his wife Susannah served as matron. Patients were brought in from Liverpool and the Female Factory at Parramatta. In 1848, Dr. Francis Campbell became the Medical Supervisor, but Digby would remain until 1850 when he was dismissed. Frederick Norton Manning was the next supervisor and he came on board in 1867. He had just returned from a trip overseas to study methods of patient care. Upon his first inspection of the asylum, he was disturbed to see the isolation of the patients and how gloomy and prison-like the asylum was with a monotonuous and deficient diet. The name of the asylum was changed in 1869 to the Hospital for the Insane, Gladesville. This change was made to indicate that people would be cared for and no longer locked away. Manning ordered that restraints be used at a minimum. The hospital was expanded and modernized and new workshops and workrooms were constructed.

One of the older buildings on the grounds was made from stone, brick and timber and was dubbed "The Priory." This was built in the late 1840s by Thomas Stubbs as designed by William Weaver and Henry Hardie Kemp in the Georgian style and had a west face with a gable and painted sundial. This sundial was considered a relic and was the only vertical sundial in Australia. This portion of The Priory was later demolished and the sundial lost. There is a Catholic religious organization in Australia known as the Society of Mary and members are called the Marist Fathers, who model their lives after the Virgin Mary. They used The Priory in the early days and then it was acquired by the hospital in 1888 as part of its expansion. This land had already been set up as a farm and vineyard, so the patients just continued that work, harvesting the crops for use at the hospital. They did this farming for more than 60 years.

Colonial Architect James Barnet designed additional buildings in the hospital grounds precinct. One of these buildings was a two-story plus basement stone and slate building with verandah, timber framed awning and corrugated iron verandah roof with a stone chimney. This was completed in 1878 and served as the Medical Superintendent's residence. Other buildings added to the property included the wash house, the dead house and gate keeper's quarters. A cemetery was also added to the property at a distance from buildings and consecrated. Eric Sinclair headed up the asylum from 1882 to 1925. He oversaw gas lighting being added to the property and water issues that had continued for decades would finally be rectified. Gladesville would be the only mental hospital with industrial workshops in New South Wales. The name was changed to Gladesville Mental Hospital in 1915.

Horace Henry Nowland became supervisor in 1926 and he stayed on until 1950. He laid the foundation at the hospital for an enlightened approach to the treatment of the mentally ill. Despite his efforts, the 1930s to 1950s were considered a period of decline in mental health treatment. Gladesville Mental Hospital was used as an air raid shelter during World War II. The main shelter was cut into the terrace alongside the Weaver wing's main front. In the 1960s, the headstones were removed from the cemetery and taken to the Field of Mars Cemetery. There was no indication that bodies were moved as well. The number of patients at the the hospital declined greatly by the 1970s when services were decentralized. Gladesville Hospital was combined with Macquarie Hospital to form the Gladesville Macquarie Hospital in 1993. The last inpatient services were closed down in 1997.

As we know, the kind of care and numbers of deaths at these facilities lends itself to haunting activity. Patients were abused and restrained for hours at a time. Female patients were assaulted by fellow male patients and staff. Staff were also assaulted by patients, one of them dying 1884 after being kicked in the stomach by a patient. Even with modern advances, it was reported in a newspaper in 1954 that a female patient's head was left burnt after she received electric shock treatments. Mass graves are believed to be on the property, possibly holding up to 1200 people. Because of all of this, the hospital is said to be the most haunted place in New South Wales. Now we could believe that, but there aren't many stories to back that up because this is an abandoned property left to neglect and vandalism. A picture taken by Yvette Worboys in 2011 seemed to reveal a presence standing in a doorway. Psychics claim there are spirits here and several people have written in blogs that walking the property gives them the creeps. A writer on wrote, "I can attest to the eerie and unsettling feeling that cloaks you as you make your way through Gladesville Mental Hospital." 

King George V Avenue

King George V Avenue in Tamworth was created as a tribute to King George V. This is an avenue of English Oaks planted in 1936 at the Paradise Tourist Park. The trees form an interlocking cathedral like effect that is today a protected site. There are many reports of a phantom set of headlights appearing to people driving toward the city on the Avenue. Cars have random electrical problems like fuses blowing. A ghost car is also seen.

Jenolan Caves

The Jenolan Caves are located in the World Heritage Blue Mountains and are the largest cave system in Australia. The Gundungurra People have been the traditional custodians of the caves with the Burra Burra being the main clan here. Each clan has its own special totem animal and they are not allowed to injure, kill or eat this animal. The totem for the Burra Burra is the Gunyunggalong Biggiewan. We think this is a lizard. The totems come down from the Dreamtime, which is an explanation of how the Earth and everything in it was created. This is a religious belief system. The Jenolan Caves receive more than a quarter million visitors every year. There are many creepy tales connected to the caves, which is not surprising based on what we have shared about caves in Kentucky. Staff and visitors claim to see phantom figures, lights turn on and off b y themselves and security gates rattle. One of the spirits here is believed to belong to James Wiburd, who was Jenolan’s third caretaker around 1903. He loved the place so much, they think he never left. One visitor claimed to have seen someone in the shadows watching the tour group and that this appeared to be an old man in a suit. The Jenolan Caves embrace their spirits and share these stories on their website:

"The Orient Scream

One evening, cave guide, Geoff Melbourne, was taking a small family through the Orient Cave.  It was very quiet. They were in a chamber known as ‘The Well’, looking up at the natural dome far above them.  Geoff was describing their surroundings, when he heard a loud, piercing scream, that made him jump. It came from the chamber that they had just left. The man said, “What was that noise?”  Geoff said, “What did you hear?”  “Sounded like a woman screaming,” the man said. Geoff said, ‘Yep, that’s what it sounded like to me.” The children started to cry, and they all decided to leave the cave without finishing the tour.

Why didn’t he check it out?  He said that he was absolutely certain there was no one else in the cave. They had just been in the chamber from which the sound had come. It’s impossible for visitors to get into a cave unaccompanied, and there was no reason for any staff to be there at night.  Could it have been a Sooty Owl?  Although it is quite uncommon to see or hear one, there are Sooty Owls at Jenolan. They have only ever been seen in the Nettle Cave, where they have roosted for literally thousands of years.  Sooty Owls make a short, descending screech, which is often called the ‘falling bomb whistle’.  Did they hear a Sooty Owl that night?  Geoff doesn’t believe so, as there is no way that an owl could have got into the Orient Cave, because of the solid doors, and in the Orient, it is impossible to hear any external noises, no matter how loud, even if a real bomb fell!

The Laughing Children

The Jubilee Cave is currently closed for tours, but a few years ago, cave guide, Geoff Melbourne, was showing a group of adults through.  The big chamber called the ‘Water Cavern’ marked the furthest reaches of the Jubilee, where tour groups always turn around to go back. The group had stopped to photograph the unusual chocolate-coloured stalactites and gaze into the enormous Water Cavern, before turning around to return the way they came.  Out of the darkness of the cavern, Geoff clearly heard the noise of a group of small children giggling and laughing.  He asked his group, “Did you hear that?  They all heard it too.  There was no explanation.  They could not leave quickly enough.

The Shoulder Tap

Some cave guides, while underground, have been tapped on their shoulder. They look around, but no one is there. It seems to happen to the female guides more often.  Some guides speculate it is the ‘ghost’ of James Wiburd, who worked at Jenolan for nearly 50 years, from 1885 to 1932, and was devoted to the place.  He and his colleagues explored the cave system thoroughly, discovering several of Jenolan’s most spectacular caves.  It is even rumoured that his ashes are hidden in the caves.

Visitors have sometimes told stories of seeing a tall, thin old man on their tour, sporting a big moustache and dark suit, but when they looked again he was gone. The description matches Wiburd.  He was a gentleman.  Maybe when he taps female guides on the shoulder, he’s really trying to say, “Young lady, you are doing a better job than I ever did.” We hope that’s it, anyway.

The Children in the Hallway

Caves House staff have repeatedly reported that at night they hear children loudly running up and down the hallway in the Vernon Wing, which was the first section of Caves House to be built, in 1897. (The Vernon Wing is currently staff accommodation.) The noise is loud enough to keep staff awake at night, but no children are ever seen.

The Lady’s Arm

In March 2014, cave guide, Geoff Molesworth, was conducting the ‘Legends, Mysteries & Ghost’ tour, in the Mud Tunnels near the River Cave. The discussion of belief came up. One of the visitors asked whether he believed the caves really are haunted, or if it was just made up. A lady decided to share her story of what had happened in Caves House just the night before, when she was staying in room 211. To her horror, she saw a ghostly arm coming through the door of her room - no body - just an arm, wearing a lace cuff.

The Shared Dream

A family came to visit Jenolan when their 2 daughters were young.  They stayed on the 2nd floor of Caves House. The girls pestered their mother to go up to the 3rd floor, but the mother insisted that there was nothing to see there, as it was just the same as the 2nd floor, so they never went. 15 years later they visited Jenolan again, and reminisced about their previous visit. One of the girls told her sister and mother that 15 years before, after they had not been allowed to visit the 3rd floor, she dreamed she went to the 3rd floor anyway, and she and her sister were floating around the room. In the dream, their mother came upstairs, and saw the girls, as well as an older lady in a rocking chair. The mother beckoned the girls to come down, and the lady in the rocking chair calmly told the mother that the girls were only playing. The mother and the sister both said, “No, that was my dream”. All three had the same dream, but none of them spoke about it until their return to Jenolan Caves 15 years later."

Hill End Pub

Hill End Pub is also known as The Royal Hotel and is located in the village of Hill End. Hill End started in the Tambaroora area and was named Bald Hills, which changed to Forbes and then Hill End. The hotel was built in 1872 as one of over two dozen hotels built during the gold rush era between the 1850s and 1870s. The gold take in 1872 alone equals out to $40 million today. The boom brought thousands of people to the area, but after everything went bust, the place was practically deserted. As a matter of fact, The Royal Hotel is the only hotel still standing in Hill End. People claim that the hotel is haunted. A paranormal investigator stayed for  two nights in room 6 and had his camcorder recording in the hallway as well as having a digital voice recorder going both nights. He managed to capture some EVPs, one of which is a female voice saying "Help me," and he got what looked like the reflection of a woman and little boy in the museum, which had once served as a hospital. There was also a shadow figure captured on video.

Jo wrote in 2016, "We just spent New Years at the Royal Hotel, Hill End. Brilliant old place! We were in Room 12. During the first night (undisturbed) my husband’s cigarette lighter which he had placed in his packet of tobacco went missing. The next night (again undisturbed) I had put the room key in my handbag and locked the door behind us when we turned in. In the morning, the room key was sitting on the bedside table and the door wide open. The locals said that this room is reputedly haunted by a lady but no-one seems to know the story behind the haunting, only that it was probably back in the gold-rush heyday. It was a brave ghost to go into my handbag (known in our household as ‘The Bermuda Triangle’) and get the key out! The cigarette lighter never showed up. Does anyone know anything behind this particular story?"

Meg McLennan wrote in 2018 about Hill End, "Several years ago I stayed in what was known as the old post office. It was a privately owned cottage that was extremely haunted. During the night I heard people talking and laughing and actually thought there was a party going on up the road. The sounds were on the roof. I heard someone chopping and cutting up vegetables in the little old kitchen and there was a very strong smell of onions in the morning. I had a very restless night but my partner slept through everything. We went back in 2016 and the house was no longer available to rent/ stay in."

Brae Lossie

Jo also wrote about this in 2016, "Another place to def’ check out is a holiday cottage near Oberon, called Brae Lossie. We went there several times with no incidents then one weekend, the weird business started at full volume. We were informed by a very well respected psychic that in the late 1890s an itinerant had asked for a bed for the night from the then-owner, an aboriginal man. The itinerant murdered him and buried him on the property but since the place was so isolated then (still is) and people moved around a lot usually in search of gold then, no one really noticed that the property had changed hands. So the itinerant was still trying to protect his secret. Apparently because we had kept going back, it decided to try and scare us off. Most people don’t return for a holiday or weekend there but they aren’t sure why. There have been other incidents there due to this haunting: fights, quarrels, at least two stabbings, one of them fatal. If you do go, get yourself plenty of psychic protection."

It appeared that this property had fallen into disrepair and was going to be demolished, so we're not sure if it still stands.

Sydney University

The University of Sydney was founded in 1850 and has been ranked in the top 10 of the world's most beautiful universities. The Anderson Stuart Building is the Medical Sciences building and is one of the most well known buildings on campus. It's gorgeous and was built in the Gothic and Tudor Revival style of architecture.  

Eelboy wrote in 2015, "The Anderson Stuart Building @ Sydney University is supposedly haunted. My mother worked there for 25 years; she used to type student essays after hours in the old days before laptops. I would pick her up & take her to Redfern station for the trip home often well after sundown when the building was locked up & all was in darkness (I had a side door key). One night she asked a PhD student whose thesis she was finishing off to make her a cup of tea.The student returned minutes later absolutely terror-struck. When she regained a degree of composure, she claimed she had been groped by an unseen assailant & absolutely refused to leave my mother’s office by herself. The story goes that this was the ghost of a randy old professor. My mother had several such stories. The place was certainly pretty creepy. It contained an anatomy museum with prosecuted bodies in glass tanks of formaldehyde. The long high central hall had a marble floor and busts of famous medical people placed at regular intervals on rails along both walls. One winter night c1976 about 8pm, I entered through the caretakers side door & was walking down this corridor in darkness with only the dim outlines of the busts visible. My footsteps echoed on the stone floor. All of a sudden I got the feeling that I wasn’t alone & so I stopped. The sound of footsteps trailed off down the corridor for about another 8 or 9 paces. My mother was seated at her typewriter as usual & asked me to get her a cuppa when I entered her office. No she hadn’t left her office for any reason since telling the caretaker she would lock up as she hadn’t finished – @ 7.00pm when he’d finished work & left for the night. The student for whom she was typing she had just phoned to clarify the spelling of a couple of words. We were alone in the building."

Zac's Story

"Hi I’m Zac, I am a twelve year old boy and here is my story from Vintage Lakes, South Tweed, NSW, Australia. The weather was beautiful as it always is in Australia. It was a sunny day, the large colorful variety of wonderful birds were chirping and the sky was cloudless. That’s when everything went terribly wrong, I turned my little bike into the dark forest grove where the large and menacing trees blotted out the sky and the only exits were the two small openings at the front and back as the sides were covered by large wooden fences. I rode to the middle and stopped realizng the birds were silent and the wind was unusually strong. That’s when I saw it, a large non-human humanoid figure which was only red, my heart started pounding and I felt only fear for what it might be. It walked forward taking no notice of me. Suddenly, being the headstrong 10-year-old I was, I rushed at it . I neared it as it turned a bend in the path but, by the time I was there, it had disappeared. This figure had somehow managed to escape a place with no reachable exits and disappear without a trace. As I biked out of that dark grove, the small passageway the length of a house felt like a mile of land that was inescapable and would trap me there forever. I was always a believer in other beings, whether you call them spirits, energy beings or ghosts, I believed in them. But now, my perspective had become something more. I had a face-to-face encounter with something that was not a living being. I never forgot that day and I never will feel such fright as I did."

Carolyn's Story

Carolyn Palmer wrote in January of 2023 about a location in Glen Innes in NSW, "I was attending a dinner at a radio station at Glen Innes with my husband and children when I felt a hand touch me on the shoulder. I looked up expecting to see someone, but there was nobody there. Then I noticed my give year old daughter looking behind me and saying “Oh mummy! I thought there was someone standing beside you!” I told the people at the station but they did not seem to be interested. Almost as though it was a bit of sensitive issue. I never mentioned it again and we never went back. I think the station is in an old church and the dinner was being held in what used to be the reception hall. I was pregnant at the time and the whole thing gave me a very bad feeling."

New South Wales has a rich history, particularly since this is where Australia got its start. Are these locations we shared haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, May 11, 2023

HGB Ep. 486 - Tinker Swiss Cottage

Moment in Oddity - Taxidermied Birds

The Industry of aviation has made leaps and bounds since the Wright brothers conducted their first successful flight back in December of 1903. Now there are researchers from the New Mexico Institute of Mining in Technology who are utilizing taxidermied birds to create drones to advance the aviation industry. The goal is to examine birds' flying formations and flight patterns to see how birds manage their energy which can help the aviation industry save fuel. So as the taxidermied drones are able to 'fly' amongst the living species the gathered data is hoped to provide some needed assistance for this endeavor. Although there are a small number of conspiracy theorists who believe that no birds are actually real and our fine feathered friends are the government spying on us. One thing is for sure, taxidermied bird drones for aviation advancement, certainly is odd. 

This Month in History - Birth of Martha Graham

In the month of May, on the 11th, in 1894, Martha Graham was born in Allegheny county, Pennsylvania. Martha was one of three daughters, whose young family moved from the South to Santa Barbara, California, in 1909. This is where Martha found the rhythm of the ocean and discovered Asian art. This ultimately influenced her style of choreography over her lengthy career. She first began her professional career in 1916 at Denishawn, a school and dance company founded in Los Angeles. While studying, one of the company's founders discovered sources of dramatic power within her and channeled her talents into an Aztec ballet. The dance was such a success in vaudeville and concert performances that Martha became a star for Denishawn. Graham stayed with their dance company until breaking free and becoming a featured dancer in the Greenwich Village Follies revue. In 1924 she moved on to the the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, to teach and experiment with styles of performance. She went independent as an artist in 1926, and critics found her styles graceful and lyrical. However, in 1927, her newly inspired dance styles were described as ugly and obscure. These critiques went on for just over a decade. Martha's dance program titled 'Revolt' was an example of this. It is believed to have been one of the first dances of protest and social comment staged in the United States. She was ridiculed by ordinary and famous theatregoers for her performance choices during this time. Over her career, Martha Graham explored the ability of dance to convey full thoughts and emotions, not unlike spoken drama. Over the span of more than seven decades, she created more than 180 solo and large scale works, many that she herself performed in. Martha Graham was an influential dancer, teacher, and choreographer of modern dance. She gave this genre a new direction for expression of intense, forceful and primal emotions. Her dance technique is considered by many the "cornerstone" of American modern dance to this day.  

Tinker Swiss Cottage

Tinker Swiss Cottage is a unique and beautiful home that resembles a Swiss cottage. Built by the Tinker family, it would become a symbol for Rockford, Illinois and the family's contributions to Rockford would help the town grow. Most of the family members who had lived at the house, died at the house. Most of the furnishings and artifacts in the house, that is now a museum, belonged to the family. Possibly this is why there are so many claims that many of the family's spirits still reside in the home. Join us as we share the history and hauntings of the Tinker Swiss Cottage!

We just love it when one of our supposed haunted locations has a Native American mound on the property and that is the case with the Tinker Swiss Cottage. This is a conical mound that is dated to Pre-Columbian times between 1300-1000 BC. The Winnebago tribe lived in the area that will become Rockford. Rockford started as two separate settlements on both sides of the Rock River that were named Midway. Daniel Shaw Haight founded the east bank settlement and Germanicus Kent and Thatcher Blake founded the west bank settlement in 1834. Kent built a sawmill and a grist mill and in 1837 the name Midway was changed to Rockford. The city was officially incorporated in 1852. The original Kent property is now the Tinker Railroad Gardens and Prairie with the ponds here being the actual retention ponds made by Kent for running his mills. 

Robert Hall Tinker was born on December 31, 1836, in Honolulu to missionary parents. Tinker moved to Rockford in 1856 and found employment at the Manny Reaper Works as an accountant and personal secretary to the owner, Mary Dorr Manny. Mary had been born in Hoosick Falls, New York in 1829. She received her education at the Academy in the city. She married John H. Manny in 1852 and they moved to Rockford in 1853. Mary was widowed at just twenty-eight and took over the business, prospering it greatly and earning enough to own several pieces of property in town. Robert Tinker was eight years her junior and the two fell in love and married in 1870. 

A little side story about her first husband is that he invented the Reaper. The Reaper was an invention that combined all the equipment used to harvest crops into one machine, allowing farmers to double their crop size. He was sued by his competition, Cyrus McCormick for patent infringement in 1855. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court and John ultimately won with the help of his two lawyers, Edwin M. Stanton and Abraham Lincoln. He unfortunately died two weeks after the verdict from tuberculosis. Lincoln got involved because the initial trial was to be in Springfield, but then changed to Cincinnati. The lawyers there, Edwin Stanton, George Harding, and P.H. Watson, didn't want Lincoln's help. Stanton said he didn't want "such a damned, gawky, long-armed ape as that." Lincoln still showed up for the trial and Stanton described him as looking like "a long, lank creature from Illinois, wearing a dirty linen duster for a coat and the back of which perspiration had splotched wide stains that resembled a map of the continent." Despite what clearly seemed to be no love loss between the men, Lincoln would appoint Stanton as his Secretary of War when he was President.

Before the couple married, Robert traveled throughout Europe in 1862 and fell in love with many styles of architecture he saw there in the estates and gardens, particularly those in Switzerland. He decided that when he returned to America, he would build himself a Swiss-style cottage. Tinker bought property that sat on a limestone bluff overlooking Kent Creek and built his home there in 1865. This was a two-story, 27 room home. The inside of the house was grand with high ceilings, unique designs and an angled roof. Furniture was made from wood, keeping its natural look, like chairs formed from tree branches. Tinker even made the walnut spiral staircase that is in the library from a single piece of wood. The woodwork in the house is exceptional. Rooms were designed with rounded corners. He later added a Conservatory to the house.

There was also a three-story Swiss-inspired barn on the property for housing the animals and Tinker was a master gardener, so he designed the landscaping of the 27 acres of land. There are vines, flowerbeds, gardens, winding paths and lots of trees. He also built a suspension bridge that linked this property to Mary's property where she had lived in a limestone mansion and continued the gardens over there. Eventually, when Mary's property was sold to the railroad in 1906, this garden was dubbed the Railroad Gardens. It was a nice area where passengers could stroll while waiting for their train. Mary's property was sold in 1906 and the mansion razed because she had passed away in 1901 at the age of seventy-two. She had bought the home from the Holland family in 1860. The house was gorgeous, but the train traffic caused it to crumble.

Tinker remarried in what many described as a marriage of convenience. Robert's new wife was Mary's niece Jessie Dorr Hurd. Jessie was born in 1859 and moved to Rockford when still a toddler. Jessie's mother passed in childbirth in 1863 and Jessie and her sister Marcia were raised by their aunts Mary and Hannah. So both girls spent time living at Tinker Cottage. Jessie eventually married in 1894, but her husband passed in 1897 and she moved back to the cottage. Her sister Marcia still lived there, but passed in 1904. And that's when an issue arose. During the Victorian Period, a unmarried man and unmarried woman could not live together if they were not blood relatives. So it was just easier for Robert and Jessie to marry. She would adopt a boy named Theodore in 1908. Robert died in 1924 and Jessie inherited the cottage. She was not a woman of means, so the Rockford Park District, which Robert had helped found, entered a trust with her that would give them the cottage and grounds upon her death. Jessie died from a stroke in 1942 at the age of eighty-three. Theodore, Teddy as he was called, grew up, married a woman named Gertrude and had a daughter named Rosemary. Teddy and Gertrude eventually divorced and she moved with their daughter to Arizona. Gertrude was hit and killed on a highway there. Just a year later, the couples daughter was killed in an accident on that same strip of highway. And Teddy came to his end in a car accident as well.

The Rockford Park District acquired the property and opened the home as a museum in 1943. The Tinker Family had lived here for 75 years and much of their personal effects were still in the house like clothing, furniture, artwork, diaries and household items. Over the years, the house has been restored as have the gardens. The Victorian Rose Garden was restored in 1998 to the way it looked between 1890 to 1910. There are over 25 heirloom varieties of roses in the garden. The Railroad Garden still exists and is currently under restoration following Robert's diaries. Jessie grew award winning Irises and the Tinker Iris Path is being developed to honor her with 39 varieties spanning from 1911-1942. These were the years that Jessie would have grown irises. And west of the Tinker Railroad Garden is the Tinker Illinois Prairie Meadow, which is the founding site of Rockford and had once held Germanicus Kent's home. The house offers tours, both historic and paranormal.

Diane first heard about this location at the Haunted America Conference many years ago. The museum offers ghost tours and paranormal investigations. Staff and visitors have had countless experiences of the unexplained that include hearing whistling and humming, the sounds of children playing, being touched and seeing full-bodied apparitions. Most people believe that it is former members of the Tinker family that haunt the cottage. Many died in the house. Mary's father Josephus came to live with the couple and died in the house. Mary's niece Marcia died in the house. Mary died in the house. Her funeral was conducted in the parlor. 

Tinker Swiss Cottage appeared on Ghost Hunters during Season 8 on Episode 20. The Ghost Research Society had investigated here several times and during an investigation in 2016, they managed to record EVP from twenty different voices. TnT Paranormal Investigators have also caught many EVPs while investigating. They think that the male ones they catch on the lower floor are from Robert Tinker himself since his disability forced him to live on that floor alone. They have also caught female voices warning about the railroad. The group has also seen shadow people.

Kathi Kresol wrote in her 2017 book "Haunted Rockford, Illinois" about an experience she had in the house during a public investigation, "I entered the basement from the outside door and was speaking to Sara Bowker, one of the psychics who assists with Haunted Rockford Events. She was explaining to me that there was a ghostly servant girl that was rushing up and down the stairs, apparently trying to serve dinner. As she said this, I was standing at the bottom of the stairs that went between the basement and the upstairs kitchen, and I saw movement from the corner of my eye. I turned to look up the stairs and saw the back portion of a lady in a long blue-patterned dress. I was quite startled and turned to look at Sara. She asked, 'Did you see her?' I was astonished and must have shown it because my expression made Sara laugh."

Kathi shared other experiences that have occurred during tours. They once caught a clear EVP of a male saying, "Get out" that seemed to be directed at one male investigator in particular. It was assumed that Mr. Tinker didn't like this guy and his techniques. Another time, the lights went completely out in the whole house - something that had never happened during a tour. While one of the guides went to check the breaker, Kathi stayed with the tour guests and tried to keep everyone calm. Suddenly a woman screamed. Kathi turned on her flashlight and saw that this woman was standing away from the group in a corner. The woman said she had just been touched and was clearly freaked. Kathi could see that no one was near her, so it couldn't have been another guest playing tricks. The lights then turned on and the group used some equipment in the corner to see if they could get readings. An EMF detector pinged to red and stayed there. The young woman who had been touched left the tour immediately.

The family spirits love their home and don't like to be provoked. One young man told his team he wanted to investigate the house alone. He conducted an experiment with some pennies, putting them on different surfaces. There wasn't much interaction, so he started making some unkind comments about the family and the house. A very heavy and dark feeling started to fill the room, so he decided to take a break. As he approached the door, a penny flew at his head and hit the wall just above it. Then he couldn't get the door to open and the heavy feeling increased. He felt very unsettled when he finally got the door open and went outside. Provocation is no longer allowed because the general manager got tired of the after effects. Doors would get slammed in his face and the alarms would go off in the middle of the night, so that he would have to meet the police out at the property.

Kathi wrote of another experience she had in 2021 while investigating with a group named Ghost Head Soup, "I have been hosting these Paranormal Events in the Rockford area for 17 years now.  We offer these Ghost Investigations so folks can join in with an actual Investigation team.  They can use the equipment and see what a real investigation feels like. We split the participants into three groups so that there are smaller groups.  Samantha, Sara and I usually sit in on the sessions in different areas.  For this particular event, I was stationed in the barn with Dean. Dean begins the session by explaining  the equipment that we will be using for that session.  Then we turn out the lights. I need to make something very clear before I go on with this story.  I have worked with Sara Bowker for 15 years now.  She is the psychic one and I rely heavily on her impressions.  I sometimes get feelings but rarely do I get details.  I was just settling into my chair when I got the coldest feeling on my back.  And when I closed my eyes- I saw one of the scariest things I had experienced in a long time.  I could clearly picture a young lady -possibly a teenager or a little older.  She wore a long white gown that appeared to be wet.  She had dark, long hair but had her head down and I couldn’t see her face.  She looked for lack of a better description- like the little girl from the movie, 'The Ring'."

She continued, "I [ran] to get Sara.  I just knew that she usually could tell me what was happening.  Only this time, she couldn’t.  Sara could sense the girl but this spirit did not want to communicate- AT ALL!  This made it so much scarier to me.  Sara can usually figure out what the spirit wants to say and helps them by communicating.  But this girl just lingered there." Dean Thompson with Ghost head Soup had been doing research the day before and based on information they got using dowsing rods, the group concluded that this was not a Tinker, but a young woman named Alma Johnson who was killed in 1909 when she was swept under a train headed into Rockford. It was a very gruesome accident. Interestingly, this young woman had a foot severed just above the ankle and Robert Tinker had lost a foot when he was caught under a train and dragged. Kathi wasn't so sure this was Alma and thinks that maybe it was a young woman that had thrown herself into the Rock River.

Haunted Rockford shared on their website, "The first time we ever visited the cottage on one of the Haunted Rockford bus tours, we were joined by a paranormal investigation team. We split the guests up into small groups, and different guides led them through the cottage. As we were loading the bus to head to the next stop, one of the ladies approached me. She told me she had really enjoyed the tour. She loved that we used psychics, that we shared the history of the house, that we had the team along, and that we had the lady dressed in clothes from the time period of the Tinkers. This last piece caught my attention, and I asked her what she meant. She explained that when her group was going out on the suspension bridge, they passed a woman with her dark hair in a bun and all dressed in white. By now, we had been joined by others on the tour, and there was a surprised gasp from several of the members when I explained that we had no one dressed up in a white dress. I wasn’t sure who the lady saw, but this mystery woman was not part of the tour. I can’t adequately describe the look on the woman’s face, but I can tell you that it was priceless!"

And there was this experience also, "One other time when we were there with a group, we were upstairs in the “red room” telling about Josephus Dorr, when all of a sudden we heard a woman’s voice from downstairs calling “Hello?” I turned to Steve and asked if he had locked the doors behind us and he stated that he had. I told him he better go make sure because we were all upstairs and someone must have come in. Steve had a very funny look on his face when he joined us a few minutes later. He had checked the doors and they were locked. He had also checked the entire downstairs, and there was no one else in the building with us. Everyone who was there that night confirmed that they heard the voice."

The Tinker family's spirits seem to be quite active in the afterlife. Sometimes they are welcoming and sometimes they seem perturbed to have people in their home. But are they really there? Is Tinker Swiss Cottage haunted? That is for you to decide!

*Thomas Campbell wrote a poem called Hallowed Ground. A line from that is on Mary's tombstone and we love it. "To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die."*

Thursday, May 4, 2023

HGB Ep. 485 - Cocoanut Grove Fire

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Moment in Oddity - Mummified Squirrel

Many of us have undoubtedly watched one of the six Ice Age movies circa 2002. When our sons were young they loved the character Scrat, a saber toothed squirrel who was always getting himself into precarious predicaments while chasing after his beloved acorns. Although the depiction of this comical character may not be accurate, back in 2018, there was a discovery of a 30,000 year old fluffy furball in Canada that was determined to be an actual ice aged squirrel. It definitely was not as cute and amusing as the movie's Scrat. It was described as a "mangled lump of mummified flesh". However a recent reexamination of the fortuitous fuzzy, albeit it funky find uncovered a far more fascinating story. The poor creature was mummified during mid-hibernation and has been identified as an Arctic ground squirrel. Amazingly, this ancient species still exists today where the 'permafrost' squirrel was discovered. The specimen will soon be on display at the Beringia Centre in Canada. Although an incredible find, a species that existed 30,000 years ago being nearly identical to an existing animal species today, certainly is odd.

This Month in History - Birth of Golda Meir

In the month of May, on the 3rd, in 1898, Golda Meir was born in Kyiv within the Russian Empire. Her father emigrated to the United States for work in 1903 and in 1906, Golda and her family followed and settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. From a young age Golda was a natural leader, organizing the American Young Sisters Society, a fundraiser to pay for her classmates' textbooks in 1908. She graduated as her class's valedictorian. Golda was a driven woman and found many opportunities to lead in her community. Her marriage, in 1917 had the precondition of settling in Palestine. After the conclusion of World War I, the couple moved to Palestine and were eventually accepted into kibbutz Merhavia in the Jezreel Valley after an initial rejected application. Golda became a politician and served as the fourth Prime Minister of Israel from 1969 to 1974. She was Israel's first and only female head of government in the Middle East. Known by the moniker as "The Iron Lady", she had the reputation for being down-to-earth and a very persuasive orator. Golda Meir also served as labor minister and foreign minister. Due to Israel's initial severe losses during the Yom Kippur War of 1973, Meir resigned following angry outcries by the public. Golda Meir died in 1978 due to lymphoma.

Cocoanut Grove Fire

The year was 1942 and World War II was raging. The Battle of Midway had recently turned the tide of the naval war to the Allies, but there were still a few years left before the War would be over. Americans were looking for ways to distract themselves and nightclubs fit the bill. The Cocoanut Grove in Boston started as a speakeasy and grew to become a very popular club. That year, 1942, the nightclub burned to the ground with hundreds of patrons trapped inside. This would be the second deadliest nightclub fire in US history. And although the area where the club was once located has completely changed, the spirits have refused to leave the site of their tragic ends. Join us for the history and hauntings of the Cocoanut Grove fire.

The Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles opened in January of 1921. This was a lavish resort hotel that attracted a celebrity clientele. A few months after opening the hotel, the main ballroom was converted into a nightclub called The Cocoanut Grove. Before long, The Cocoanut Grove was world famous. This club inspired orchestra bandleaders Mickey Alpert and Jacques Renard to name their new club that they opened in Boston in 1927, The Cocoanut Grove. Prohibition was in full force at the time, so this was a speakeasy that soon became a hangout for Mafia gangs. Much of the financing came from California mobster and swindler Jack Berman. This early rendition of the club was located in a renovated brick and concrete garage and warehouse complex near the Boston Common. Alpert wanted a roaring twenties’-style nightclub. Over the years, rooms would be added so that the nightclub was a cluster of lounges, bars and dining rooms with orchestral entertainment and dancing.

The decor of the nightclub was fashioned on a South Seas theme. The walls were dingy, but patrons would never know because they were lined with imitation leather, rattan and bamboo and satin linen draped down from the ceiling. There were pillars on the sides of the dance floor that resembled palm trees and they had large paper palm fronds that extended out over the floor and the light fixtures looked like coconuts. And yes, we said paper, keep that in mind. Inside the main dining room was an elevated area nicknamed The Terrace that had wrought iron railings around it. This was treated like a VIP area. A narrow stairway led down to the basement where the Melody Lounge was located. This was an intimate area that was a bar with a singer and a piano on a small revolving stage. This was a very dark space with a bit of neon under the bar and one soft light in the center of the room.

Alpert and Renard eventually sold to Boston Charlie who was a Gangland bootlegger and boss named Charles King Solomon in 1931. The New York Times reported on January 25, 1933 that "Cabaret Gunmen Kill King Solomon, Boston Racketeer is shot by four in Roxbury after ignoring a warning." So the mighty King Solomon was gunned down in the bathroom of The Cotton Club and with that his interest and ownership in The Cocoanut Grove passed to his lawyer Barnet Welansky, whom everyone called Barney. Welansky made many changes at the nightclub to keep a better eye on his bottom line. He liked money and he hated losing it. So he hired teenagers to work as busboys so that he could pay them a pittance. Street criminals were brought in to serve as bouncers. And emergency exits were all locked and hidden behind drapes or in the case of one of the doors, it was completely bricked up. Welansky didn't want anyone leaving before they paid their bill. And as we mentioned earlier, this club kept expanding and soon it was a hard maze of rooms to navigate.

Clearly, the listeners are cluing into some troubling issues in this club. Imagine all of these circumstances with a confusing layout, hidden and locked exits and flammable materials. On top of that, the mob had connections in the Building Department and licensing boards, so fire codes were easily ignored. Inspections were merely formalities. By 1942, The Cocoanut Grove had tripled its size and was big enough that it ran along Piedmont Street, Shawmut Street and Broadway Street. A new section of the club called the New Broadway Lounge had just opened earlier in November of 1942 and the club was more popular than ever.

Saturdays were always packed at the Cocoanut Grove and November 28, 1942 was no exception. Over 1,000 people were in the club that had an occupancy limit of 460. Female impersonator Arthur Blake was the headliner for the evening. He liked to impersonate Eleanor Roosevelt and Bette Davis. Things at The Cocoanut Grove started ramping up at 10 o'clock. Everyone was having a great time. Cowboy celebrity Buck Jones was hanging with a group of war bond promoters in the Terrace. The Melody Lounge was filled with the ivory tickling of pianist Goody Goodelle. A young soldier wanted to neck with his girlfriend in a corner, so he unscrewed the lightbulb in the artificial palm tree near them. A busboy was told to go screw the lightbulb back in and unfortunately he had no flashlight so he decided to light a match in order to see what he was doing. This busboy was 16-year-old Stanley Tomaszewski. He extinguished the match once he got the lightbulb screwed in, but he didn't notice that some of the fake palm fronds had been lit with fire. At least this was the claim of some witnesses. Later, Tomaszewski's actions could not be found to be the source of the fire. A couple waiters tried to douse the flames with water, but the fake palm fronds lit up across all the decor and the hanging satin soon caught fire as well. This pulled the fire up the staircase into the main part of the nightclub.

A Marine named Don Lauer jumped up with a knife and tried to cut the fabric free from the ceiling to prevent the spread. Flames dripped from the ceiling down onto patrons and everyone in the basement ran for the stairway. Clothing and hair caught fire. Four hundred people tried to climb the stairs while at the same time the fire climbed the ceiling. The stairs were soon jammed with people. Patrons upstairs got a taste of the fire when a fireball burst through the front entryway and spread through jumble of dining rooms and lounges. Thick smoke filled the club. Only five minutes had passed from the first flames being spotted in the basement to the entire nightclub being engulfed in flames and smoke. There was only one exit. And that one exit unfortunately had a single revolving door. So you can imagine that within seconds that exit was useless as bodies piled up in the door and jammed it. There was enough air coming through the door to pull the fire through the door, so trapped patrons in the doorway were incinerated. Firefighters couldn't even get near the door until they doused it with water. And there also no way for the firefighters to get into the building. All doors were either locked or opened inward, so with the crush of bodies, those doors were not going to open. Hundreds could have been saved had those doors simply opened outward.

People from buildings around the nightclub raced to help. Another issue with the evening was that it was freezing outside. Water froze on the ground and made hoses hard to move. Burn victims with scorched lungs died immediately upon coming outside and breathing the cold air. By 11:02, the fire was a five alarm fire. The fire was out within thirty minutes after it started. Firefighters were left with the horrible task of removing bodies. When firefighters went through the building, they found some victims still sitting at their tables with drinks having been overcome with smoke quickly. The basement was surprisingly not very burned since the flames just traveled across the ceiling. Many bodies in the club were found burned beyond recognition. One woman was found in a phone booth dead, still holding the phone. Hospitals all around Boston were swamped with the dead and living. Doctors triaged as best they could. They were thankfully prepared for this kind of tragedy because they had all been trained for the World War. Boston City Hospital received 300 bodies, with 168 people dead on arrival. Massachusetts General Hospital received 114 bodies with 75 already dead. There were even living people sent to the morgues who were found to be alive and sent to hospitals. The youngest victim of the fire was fifteen-year-old Eleanor Chiampa. In total, 492 died in the fire making this the second deadliest nightclub fire in American history. This was just a horrific event with the worst in people being brought out. Many people had been trampled to death. Bodies that were laid out on the sidewalks were robbed of their valuables.

Actor Buck Jones was severely burned and died a couple days later in the hospital. Even though he didn't own the club anymore, Bandleader Alpert was performing that evening. He managed to escape, but the music director Bernie Fazioli and several members of the band died. Much of the staff survived as they were in more protected areas with access to windows and they knew the layout of the club better. Several kitchen workers closed themselves in the walk-in cooler. Another of the survivors was Ruth Strogoff. She and her husband Hyman were regulars at the Melody Lounge. They had made it to the stairs quickly but were pulled apart from each other and Hyman was pushed down to the floor and trampled to death. Ruth had tried to pull him up, but her hat and jacket caught fire, so she rushed upstairs and rolled on the floor to put the flames out. She ran outside, forced to leave her husband behind. 

Matt Lane got to the stairs and used the railing to pull himself forward up over people. He had to leave behind his friend Don Lauer who had cut the burning fabric from the ceiling. The men had become separated and Don wouldn't make it out alive. The bartender for the Melody Lounge, Daniel Weiss, made it to safety as did pianist Goody Goodelle. The men had soaked napkins in water and held them up to their faces as they laid on the ground. They crawled to the kitchen and escaped through a window. A patron named Don Jeffers managed to get to the kitchen and went into the refrigerator with employees. Charles and Peggy Disbrow got to the kitchen and found a boarded up window that they managed to pull the boards from and even though the outside was blocked by a pipe, they manged to get out. Several other people followed them and they ended up running through the back door of an apartment building which led them through Margaret Foley's apartment. Margaret watched as nearly fifty people made their way through her apartment. A male patron got to two large windows on Broadway Street that had glass block. He tried to break through and managed to make a hole big enough for him to start through, but he became stuck and firefighters had to watch helplessly as he burned to death. Joyce Spector was pulled to safety by somebody who tossed her down on the sidewalk. She was soon joined by several other survivors. Her fiance, Justin Morgan, wasn't one of those people.  Newlyweds John O’Neil and Claudia Nadeau O’Neil died celebrating their union. Their best man and maid of honor died as well.

Something good that came from the tragedy was advancing the care of burn victims for the future. The charts developed from this are still used today. Some victims were the first to be given penicillin. The investigation into the fire would reveal that there was criminal action involved. Boston’s Fire Commissioner, Arthur Reilly, convened a series of public hearings to determine the cause of the fire and more than 100 witnesses were interviewed. The inquest revealed that club owner Barney Welansky was at fault for much of what happened. He had locked doors, skipped safety measures and paid off public officials. An inspector for the fire department, Lieutenant Frank Linney, had gone through the building eight days before the fire and passed pretty much everything and even wrote that there were no flammable decorations and that there were plenty of exits. One person who may have been at fault owned up to what he did and that was 16-year-old Stanley Tomaszewski. He testified that he had lit the match to see what he was doing and that he thought he had stomped out the match properly, but he couldn't be sure that it hadn't started the fire. And this clearly was what started it all. His life was threatened and he had to be put under protective guard.

Ten indictments were handed down and Barney Welansky was found guilty on 19 counts of manslaughter. He was sentenced to 12 to 15 years in prison, but just three years into serving his sentence, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. The mayor of Boston quietly pardoned him and he died nine weeks after his release. Stanley Tomaszewski was scarred by the tragedy, but did manage to go to college, marry, have kids and live to the age of 68. The burned out shell of the Cocoanut Grove was demolished in September of 1945. For years, part of the footprint of the club was just a parking lot. Surrounding streets were reconfigured to allow for the construction of the Boston Radisson Hotel and Theater Complex. Today, the hotel that is here is called the Revere Hotel. In 2015, a condominium building was built at 25 Piedmont Street. The club had been at 17 Piedmont Street, so parts of the condos are in the club's footprint as well. All that is left of the terrible tragedy is a small bronze plaque with the Cocoanut Grove’s floor plan and the following words, "In memory of the more than 490 people who died in the Cocoanut Grove fire on November 28, 1942. As a result of that terrible tragedy, major changes were made in the fire codes, and improvements in the treatment of burn victims, not only in Boston but across the nation. 'Phoenix out of the Ashes.'" This was prepared by the Bay Village Neighborhood Association. The plaque was crafted by Anthony P. Marra, the youngest survivor of the Cocoanut Grove fire. They embedded it in the sidewalk in 1993. It's been moved several times and there are plans to build a bigger and proper memorial. 

Most victims of the fire have moved on in peace, but some spirits have remained. Employees of the Boston Radisson claimed to have had experiences. Some saw what they came to realize were apparitions, but at the time they looked like fully alive people. They seemed out of place as they were disheveled and looked confused. Some of these spirits would appear out of nowhere and then disappear just as quickly. Odd noises have been heard like loud popping sounds, there are weird flashes of light and the scent of smoke. The Stuart Street Playhouse had been the Radisson’s theatre and hosted five ghosts from the fire. The quiet, shadowy figure of a man was seen walking down a hallway or was sometimes seen in a doorway. He would fade away if approached. People hear disembodied voices and sometimes they would hear their names being called. Water was very haunted here. There was the sound when no water was running. Faucets would turn themselves on by themselves. And one of the more bizarre stories claims that employees found a seat completely soaked in the auditorium with no discernible cause. There has been flooding in the building, again without an actual cause for that to happen. 

A woman named Wendy Reardon told Sam Baltrusis in his 2012 "Ghosts of Boston" book that when she visited the location of the former Cocoanut Grove that was at the time a parking lot, "I went into the parking lot and just stood there...and the sadness. It wasn't only the sadness I felt though, it was shock and we were just having a great time, now it's an inferno and now it's burning. More surprise than anything."

Jacques' Cabaret is located at 79 Broadway Street. In 1942, this location was a straight bar that had opened in 1938. The night of the fire this location was turned into a temporary morgue and bodies were laid out side by side in rows as they waited for identification and transport. Eventually this location became a gay bar, mainly for lesbians in the 1960s and 1970s and then it became the cabaret bar. A former bartender said, "Spooky stuff happened there all the time." And one of those strange things happened to him. He was closing things up late one night and he left the bar area to collect some supplies and when he returned he found bodies lying in long rows on the floor. The lights were very dim, so he flipped on the brighter overhead lights and the bodies disappeared. An employee at Jacques wrote in 2015, "I work at Jacques and we do shows downstairs. When I'm there alone I swear I hear and see things. It's spooky! When it's dark and I'm at work early or late, I am always saying 'NOT TONIGHT GHOST PEOPLE!!! NOT TONIGHT!' as I run through the dark."

Patrons at the Cocoanut Grove went from celebrating and partying and enjoying themselves in one moment to abject horror in another. Hundreds died, many before they even knew what was happening. It isn't surprising that some of their energies are either stuck or clinging to the location of their deaths. Is the site of the former Cocoanut Grove Haunted? That is for you to decide!