Thursday, August 10, 2023

HGB Ep. 499 - Peabody-Whitehead Mansion

Moment in Oddity - Oscar the Cat (Suggested by: Chelsea Flowers)

Many Nursing homes and hospitals employ the service of therapy animals. They can vary by species but most commonly dogs and cats are the animals that supply the need. There was a cat at a nursing home in Providence, RI by the name of Oscar who became quite famous. This fine fluffy feline was said to be rather skittish when he first came to call the nursing and rehabilitation center home, back in 2005. Initially, Oscar wasn't terribly social and preferred spending his time in a supply closet or under various patients' beds. Gradually however, the staff starting noticing a change with Oscar. When a patient was nearing the end of their life, Oscar would crawl up in bed with them and stay there comforting the person as their end drew near. At first when his behavior was noticed the connection wasn't clear but gradually his predictability proved itself once Oscar hit between 20 or 30 deaths in a row. Some people at the home called Oscar an Angel of death while others just simply referred to him as an angel. Now, the way in which Oscar was able to 'predict' who would be passing next is not concretely determined. It could be that prior to passing that the body emits a particular smell that Oscar was able to clue in to. It's also possible that the cat could see the spirits of those coming to check on their friend or loved one. Sadly, in February 2022, the sweet floof went the way of his charges. However we are positive that the staff at the nursing and rehabilitation center miss him daily. Therapy animals do so much good helping those who are struggling in one way or another, but being able to predict a person's passing, certainly is odd.

This Month in History - The Discovery of Penicillin

In the month of August, on the 6th, in 1881, Alexander Fleming was born. He is most well known for discovering a broadly effective antibiotic. As a young man Alexander was encouraged by his physician brother to study medicine as his career path. Alexander did just that, graduating from university in 1906 with distinction. From there Fleming joined the research department at his alma mater where he became a research assistant bacteriologist. He worked under Sir Almroth Wright who was a pioneer in the area of vaccine therapy and immunology. During his medical service in WWI, Alexander witnessed many soldiers dying of sepsis caused by infected wounds. He watched as the common antiseptics of the time often made the soldiers injuries worse. In an article he had published in a medical journal he explained that the topical antiseptics were not able to reach the deeper penetrating anaerobic bacteria which were causing the demise of so many soldiers. After the war, Fleming continued his research into bacteria and antibacterial substances. Many presentations and studies of Alexander's findings were relatively ignored. However, on September 28, 1928, he revolutionized the world of medicine. He had been studying staphylococci and discovered a fungus growing on some of the plates. The staphylococci that was nearest the fungus were destroyed whereas the staph that was further away on the petri dishes were intact. The mold that had destroyed the staphylococci was Penicillium. Alexander continued to study the molds affect on Gram-positive bacterias that caused illnesses like pneumonia, meningitis and diphtheria as well as the affects on gonorrhea which is a Gram-negative bacteria. Fleming shared his discovery with the Medical Research Club on February 13th, 1929. The presentation received little response. However, in 1940, two biochemists in Oxford began studying penicillin further. Through their studies and clinical trial successes, they began the development of methods for mass production and mass distribution in 1945. The discovery of penicillin and its development marked the beginning of modern antibiotics.  

Peabody-Whitehead Mansion

Denver was considered the Queen City of the Plains during the Victorian era and by 1867, it was designated the territorial capital. Colorado would gain statehood in 1876 and a capitol would be built on Capitol Hill starting in 1886. Capitol Hill would become a thriving neighborhood, particularly for the wealthy, and it would be here that Denver's Millionaire's Row would be established. The Peabody-Whitehead Mansion is one of the homes that has survived from that opulent era. There are many ghost stories that have been told about this property through the years. Join us as we share the history and hauntings of the Peabody-Whitehead Mansion!

The Colorado Silver Boom began in 1879 and lasted longer than the Colorado Gold Rush of 1859. The Silver Boom brought unprecedented growth to Denver. The wealthy families in the area started looking for a place to build their homes that would take them out of the pollution of lower downtown. That higher ground was Capitol Hill and in this neighborhood was Grant Street, which was once home to the city's Millionaire's Row. Very few of the mansions built during that time still exist as many were demolished in the early 20th century. And as is the case with so many of these historic mansions, many were turned into apartments and office buildings. And that is the case with the Peabody-Whitehead Mansion. It eventually became home to a variety of businesses. But it started off as the home for Dr. William R. Whitehead. 

William Whitehead was born in 1831 in Suffolk, Virginia. He decided to pursue medicine and went to school at both the University of Virginia and the University of Pennsylvania. He went to Europe for post-graduate work in Paris and Vienna and it was while he was in Vienna that he volunteered during the Crimean War to be a surgeon for the Russian Army. The Crimean War was fought from October 1853 to February 1856 between Russia and a coalition formed by Britain, France, the Ottoman Empire and Sardinia-Piedmont. At its base, the war was religious with a disagreement between Christians in Palestine, Catholics in France and the Russian Orthodox Church. This was one of the first wars to incorporate technological advances like photographs, telegraphs, the railroad and explosive shells. It was during this war that Florence Nightengale came on the scene. The war humiliated Russia with defeat in one of the bloodiest wars of modern history. Medical treatment would change during this time and Whitehead was decorated by Tsar Alexander II for his services. Emperor Louis Napoleon also praised him.

When Dr. Whitehead got back to the states, the country was in a turmoil that would erupt into the Civil War. Whitehead was on the side of the Confederacy and he served directly under General Robert E. Lee. He was the doctor to treat Stonewall Jackson's accidental injury at the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863. He put the General in an ambulance, but unfortunately, Jackson would succumb to his injuries. Whitehead went to New York after the war and worked as a clinical surgeon at New York University. Both his wife and infant son became ill and the Whitehead family moved to Denver for the cleaner air in the early 1870s. The doctor became a leading physician in Denver.

Whitehead hired architect Frank Edbrooke to design his Queen Anne style home on Millionaire's Row in 1889. Edbrooke had also designed the Tabor Opera House and the Brown Palace Hotel. The mansion was unique in that it was built from Colorado Red Rock and had massive masonry walls and chimneys with the steeply pitched roof of an English country house and a large front porch. Dr. Whitehead asked for Edbrooke to include a grandiose ballroom because he liked to throw lavish parties. He would become ill and die on October 13, 1902. The other man that the house was named for didn't actually live in it for very long. This was Republican businessmen James H. Peabody who ran for Governor of Colorado in 1902 and he won. There was no Governor's mansion at that time, so Peabody rented the Whitehead mansion from 1903 to 1904. Peabody's tenure as Governor was tumultuous. He had been born in Vermont in 1852 and he went to business school there. His family relocated to Pueblo, Colorado and he followed when he graduated to help run the family business. Peabody moved to Canon City in 1875 and he established himself as very successful in business, banking and local politics.

One of the major issues during his Governorship were mining strikes and there were many violent clashes. Peabody took the side of the mine owners and he called the National Guard in to squash the strikes. More than 100 people died. Most of the unions were destroyed by the fall of 1904. The next election for Governor would be fraught with issues. The Democrat beat Peabody, but fraud was found so thousands of votes were annulled. The Democrats found irregular votes for Peabody as well. So an unusual compromise was worked out. The Democrat Alva Adams was given the governorship and Peabody was allowed to pick the next two justices to the Colorado Supreme Court. Further investigations proved that both parties had basically cheated, so the legislature declared Adams' governorship a fraud and he was taken out of office and replaced by Peabody who was forced to immediately resign and Republican Lieutenant Governor Jesse McDonald was sworn in as governor. So on that 16th day of March in 1904, Colorado had three governors. Peabody moved out of the mansion and it became apartments. 

By the 1950s, the mansion was being used as a place for businesses ranging from restaurants to bars and nightclubs. Strings of them came through and only lasted a few years each: The Carriage Inn, The Bombay Club, Senor Peabody's, Albies, Bentley's and so on. This lasted until the 1990s when the house was bought by Richard R. Arber Associates which was an engineering firm that renovated the mansion as their offices. In 1993, the mansion was listed as a Denver landmark by Ordinance 534 of the Denver city council. Through the 2000s, other businesses have used the house. Diane stood outside this location on a ghost tour in 2016 and at that time it was home to a law office.

There are claims of at least a dozen ghosts in the mansion. Ghostly experiences started almost immediately after Dr. Whitehead moved into the house. People thought that some of the soldiers who were his battlefield patients that passed had spirits that followed him. Other ghosts may be from Peabody's time in the house in the form of dead union miners seeking revenge. One business in the mansion had been MEGA 1031 and they reported many haunted events during their tenure. They reported on their website, "Inexplicably, books have mysteriously fallen from shelves in empty rooms and paperwork has strangely re-arranged itself. We’ve even heard an occasional faint baby’s cry, however; none of us have actually spotted any cloudy spirits lurking in our offices."

This was not the only business to have issues. The various restaurants all reported that trays would mysteriously tip over with dishes and glasses crashing to the floor. Guests and staff would all watch as utensils and pots and pans would fly around the kitchen and dining areas. The servant bells that had been installed when the home was built would go off on their own at random times. They also heard baby cries coming from behind the second-story bar. One of the more bizarre stories involved a chandelier that would flicker all the time. One of the managers finally decided to call in an electrician to fix the issue. Both men were completely shocked when the electrician found that the chandelier wasn't hooked up to any electrical wiring! A ghost was blamed for a bottle of beer that was poured down the shirt of a cook who had disparaged homosexuals. One bar that occupied the location decided to embrace the hauntings and called itself Spirits on Grant Street opened on Halloween in 1983. That business was forced to close within the year because the activity became too much.

Seances were conducted in the house in the late 1970s. Psychics who have visited the location report that a woman named Eloise would greet partygoers at the top of the staircase back during the Whitehead era. She was supposed to get married in the mansion, but was stood up, so she ended up hanging herself in the house. There is no proof for this in any newspaper reports. Eloise was blamed when one evening staff were mocking the fact that she haunted the house and a table leapt up from the floor about eight inches. Supposedly another woman hanged herself in the basement from a pipe. She had been working as a waitress at one of the restaurants. The first floor women's bathroom is said to be haunted by a man whose cherry pipe tobacco is smelled in there. A legend claims that construction workers abducted a girl in the 1970s and took her into the house where they raped and murdered her and buried her in the basement. Again, there is no proof for this in any official records, but investigations have turned up interesting things that might support the story. 

Ghost Adventures visited the house during Season 7 in 2012 and their tour guide and historian at the house was Phil Goodstein. He has written many books about the ghosts around Denver and he claims this is one of the most haunted places in Denver. The guys also talked to Dr. Tom Noel, whom my mother worked with for years helping him research his books. He didn't know of any stories about the woman being raped or killed at the house. A documentary producer named Tim Schultz edited a documentary that he was working on at the house. He told Zak about his experiences. Tim witnessed a guy get pushed up against the wall by something he couldn't see. He described it like his arms were pinned up and they tried to push him and move him and they couldn't move him. This same guy's mother was in the house at the time and she was a psychic. She was overcome by a spirit and had to be helped from the house. She described it like she had been drained. 

A woman named Nicole was on a tour and the guide was leading them through the alley and her fingers started to tingle. When the group got to the front of the house, she had a panic attack. She joined the guys for part of their investigation and they started with an EVP session in the basement. They all claimed to feel a very heavy and dark energy that was making them dizzy. They captured the following words on the Spirit Box: "Pete", "yourself", "no", "watch it", "she was raped", "it was_", "it is violent here", When asked if there was a body buried here the box said, "street." Some people think the murdered girl was buried in the alley rather than the basement. The words "found it", "he's scared" also came through. And UFC Fighter Brendan Schaub had been a guest investigator with them and the box said, "Brendan!" Brendan later claimed to feel something grab his ankle. A ball of light was captured on camera flying straight down into Zak's head and on the infrared camera they captured an anomaly. The Denver police were called to do some investigating at the house to see if they could find any evidence of a crime.

The basement really seems to be the most haunted area of the house and most definitely has the most negative energy occurring. Many people claim that there are demons down there, but it really could just be negative energy either from real crimes that happened or just the stories told about such things. Diane's mom's good friend, historian Kevin Pharris, took Diane on a ghost tour in Denver several years ago and he told the group a story about an experience he had at the house while giving a tour around Halloween one year. He shares the same story in his book "The Haunted Heart of Denver" on p. 27.

The house isn't as grand as some of the other historic mansions of Capitol Hill, but it certainly does have a big reputation when it comes to ghost stories. Is the Peabody-Whitehead Mansion haunted? That is for you to decide!

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