Thursday, August 31, 2023

HGB Ep. 502 - USS Salem

Moment in Oddity - Magnetic Termites

Magnets can be a fun thing to play with when you are young. The opposite poles on small magnets pushing away from each other or grabbing different metals and comparing the strengths of the pull can be entertaining. Even sweeping a magnet through sand to see what particles may attach to the magnet can be interesting. But what if insects could detect the earth's magnetic poles? Let me introduce you to the Magnetic Termites of Australia. Now, these insects cannot be picked up and stuck onto your refrigerator like a traditional magnet, but what is special about them is that their mounds orientate so that the thinnest points always are formed North to South and they are only found in the northern territory of Australia. This method of architecture reduces the termite mound's exposure to direct heat from the sun, thus keeping the colony more consistently at their optimal temperatures. There have been scientific studies that revealed that the termites are able to use subtle changes in daylight as well as the earth's magnetic poles to determine their mounds architecture. Magnets can be fascinating but insects using the magnetic poles of the earth to benefit their survival certainly is odd.

This Month in History - Cy Young's Major League Debut

In the month of August, on the 6th in 1890, pitcher Cy Young made his major league debut. His birth name was Denton True Young but the nickname of Cy was established due to his fastball pitches which left the fences looking like a cyclone had hit them. This led the press to give him the moniker of Cy. In 1889 he began his professional baseball career in the minors with the Tri-State League in Canton Ohio. He was quickly brought up to the majors to sign with the Cleveland Spiders which had moved from the American Association to the National League just the year before. During his debut game Young pitched a three hit eight to one win over the Chicago Colts. At the time Cy was known for the power behind his hard throwing pitches and according to his long time catcher, Chief Zimmer, he would often times put a piece of beefsteak inside his catchers glove to give him some extra padding against Cy's fastball. That's one way to tenderize a steak. Young continued to excel and play for the major leagues until 1911. He passed away on November 4th, 1955 and during his baseball career established many pitching records. To this day the Cy Young award is bestowed annually in both the American and National League. 

USS Salem (Suggested by: Jared Rang)

The USS Salem was the flagship of the 6th Fleet and is nicknamed "The Sea Witch." She was first launched in 1947 as a Naval cruiser and was fortunate to never see any battle. But that didn't keep her from being linked to death with reports of onboard deaths ranging from 75 to 100. And that has left ghosts on this now floating museum in Quincy, Massachusetts that we had the opportunity to explore when we visited Salem in August of 2022. Join us for the history and hauntings of the USS Salem!

"Hey Jared, thanks so much for joining us" (Intro Jared)

Quincy is a suburb of Boston that was originally settled by the Massachusetts indigenous people. They had cleared many trees from the land that they called Passonagessit, which means "Little Neck of Land." This made it suitable for farming and Europeans settled in 1625, naming it Mount Wollaston for their leader. The next leader of the colony changed the name to Ma-re-Mount meaning "Hill by the Sea." Quincy became the new name and was incorporated in 1792. The name is in honor of Colonel John Quincy, the grandfather of Abigail Adams. Residents of Quincy actually pronounce it as KWIN-zee, which is why we are pronouncing it that way. The town became a shipbuilding center. Many famous warships were built at the Fore River Shipyard and one of these was the USS Salem.

We started our visit to Quincy, Massachusetts with breakfast at a place called McKays. When we left the restaurant, we noticed two very old historic homes right across the street. Imagine our excitement when we found out that they were once the homes where Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams were born. John Adams was born at the rear of the lot in 1735 and John Quincy Adams was born in the house that was on the corner in 1767. John Adams drafted the Massachusetts State Constitution at that house. That document would serve as a model for the United States Constitution. John Adams wasn't actually that in to politics. He once wrote, "I should have thought myself, the happiest man in the world, if I could have retired to my little hut and forty acres and lived on potatoes and seaweed." That little hut was actually a fairly nice sized two-story wooden house. 

Jared was a wealth of knowledge when it came to understanding the types and classes of warships. (Jared Ships) (Jared Ships 2) (Jared 2)

The USS Salem was ordered in June of 1943 and had its keel laid down on July 4, 1945 at the Fore River Shipyard by the Bethlehem Steel Company and measured over 716 feet when completed. The ship was named Salem in honor of Salem, Massachusetts and was the third ship to bear that name. (Jared Salem) The Salem was launched on March 25, 1947 and commissioned at the Boston Navy Yard on May 14, 1949. Captain John C. Daniel was in command from the beginning until February 1950. Her first trip was to Guantanamo Bay for training and shakedown exercises and the Salem would make so many trips to and from Guantanamo Bay that sailors started calling her the "Gitmo Express." Captain Edmund B. Taylor took over as commander in 1950 and guided the ship to the Mediterranean to begin her first tour as the Sixth Fleet flagship. The Salem stayed for a few months and was relieved by the Newport News in September 1950. (Jared Salem Guns)

The Salem would return to the Mediterranean for seven deployments as fleet flagship. This would take her to ports in Malta, Italy, France, Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, and Algeria. The Salem spent a few weeks in Boston for repairs and then joined the Atlantic Fleet for maneuvers in January of 1951. She was christened the "Pride of the Fleet" and received the Fleet Battle Readiness Pennant after a competition within the Atlantic Fleet. In November 1951, the ship received her fourth commander, Captain William K. Romoser. By February of 1952, the Salem was back in the Mediterranean and taking part in Exercise Beehive II with military units from Britain, Italy, France and Greece. These exercises were to test Malta's air and coastal defense. It was back to Boston after this  and then back to the Mediterranean for her fourth deployment, which involved Exercise "Weldfest," another NATO exercise involving intensive air and sea action between more than 100,000 troops to test the effectiveness of the West's plans for the defense of Southeastern Europe and the Turkish straits at the time.

(Jared Deaths) Yeah so let's share some details about those incidents. On August 12, 1953, the Ionian earthquake hit the southern Ionian Islands of Greece, measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale. Several other earthquakes would also hit in the month of August, leaving nearly every home on the island of Kefalonia leveled. In the end, six hundred people were killed and most of the survivors moved elsewhere. The Salem was the first American ship to arrive on the scene and she became a floating hospital. The ship also provided relief supplies until her stock ran low just four days later. Death toll numbers for victims who died on the Salem range from 75 to 100, so basically the Salem was a floating morgue during that time. She was relieved by the Des Moines as flagship on October 9, 1953. She was supposed to return to her home port of Boston for repairs, but instead went to the Brooklyn Shipyard to get her radar upgraded. When she arrived, she was docked next to the pier and another ship was tied up to her. A fire broke out on the other ship, which was a lake cruiser. The fire was tamped down quickly, but some men had been injured and were moved to the hospital on board that other ship. As the fire crews were gathering up their gear, a five inch ammo magazine detonated. That explosion took much of the hospital with it, so the men injured in the fire and explosion were brought over to the Salem and seven of them died onboard. The Salem returned to Boston on October 24th for an overhaul.

The years 1954 and 1955 had the Salem traveling from Boston to Guantanamo Bay to the Mediterranean where there were more war games with the Atlantic Fleet. The cruiser left Boston on February 16, 1956 to conduct training exercises at Guantanamo Bay in preparation for a 20-month cruise as the "permanent" flagship of the Commander, 6th Fleet. After the exercises, Salem returned to Boston briefly and then headed over to the Mediterranean on May 1, 1956. The Suez Crisis broke out while she was on her way and the cruiser was diverted to Rhodes in the Eastern Mediterranean where she joined the fleet as flagship. The Suez Crisis was part of the Second Arab-Israeli War, which was an invasion of Egypt by Israel. The United Kingdom and France joined Israel in an attempt to regain control of the Suez Canal. And for people who don't know, the Suez Canal is a 120 mile long artificial waterway that facilitates trade between Europe and Asia. This connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez. During that time, some of the men on another ship loaded one of the guns with ammo after it had already been loaded causing an explosion that killed one man instantly and injured five others, who were brought over to the Salem. They died on board the cruiser. The Salem has seen a lot of death for a ship that never saw any battles. 

The Salem had its moment in the Hollywood sun when it was used in the 1956 film "The Battle of the River Plate." She portrayed the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee and no effort was made to cover her distinctive hull number of 139 because in reality, the German navy often disguised their raider ships to look like neutral ships and at the time of this battle, the United States was still neutral. In the Spring of 1957, the USS Salem's turret #3 won the coveted Gold E for outstanding gun crew. The following year, the cruiser was sent to Norfolk to be scheduled for inactivation. The cruiser escaped that by being called up again to travel to Lebanon to help against a coup. But then she did head back to Norfolk where she was decommissioned on January 30, 1959. She was berthed in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet in Philadelphia. The Salem was surveyed in 1981 to see if she could be reactivated. She was found to be in excellent condition, but funding to reactivate Salem and her sister Des Moines was not secured from Congress. So she sat some more.

It would be in October of 1994, that the Salem would return to her birthplace, Quincy, Massachusetts. There she became the centerpiece of the United States Naval and Shipbuilding Museum. She was recommissioned 46 years to the day of her original commissioning, May 14, 1995, as a member of the Historic Naval Ships Association. She serves as a museum housing the USS Newport News Museum, The US Navy Cruiser Sailors Association Museum, and the US Navy SEALs Exhibit room. The Navy Squadron Patch for USS Salem is a tip of the hat to Salem and features a witch flying on a broom with a little black cat joining her. (Jared 3 - his favorite area) (Kelly to Jared)

*Rabbit Hole: The USS Salem is the Home of Kilroy. “Kilroy Was Here” was a logo that was popular during the forties, fifties and sixties. The scrawled message was first seen in Europe and the Pacific during WWII. The logo featured a face with a big long nose and two large round eyes looking over a wall with the big nose hanging over the wall. Hands gripping the top of the wall were also often drawn with the image. This image was usually seen in newly liberated areas. GIs enjoyed leaving the image in places it wouldn't be expected or hard to get into. Hitler actually became obsessed with finding this Super Spy GI Kilroy. And a story claims a toilet was built for Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin at the Potsdam Conference in 1945 and after Stalin used it he asked an aide who Kilroy was. The story behind Kilroy is this. James J. Kilroy of Halifax, Massachusetts was an inspector of the riveting gangs in the Fore River Shipyard during WWII and after he inspected and counted the amount of rivets done by various crews, he would write in yellow chalk on the steel, “Kilroy was Here.” Most of the time, this message wasn't able to be removed before the ships left Quincy, so that message traveled around the world and became a thing.*

The USS Salem is said to be in the top seven of haunted warships in the world. Travel Channel's Most Terrifying Places featured the Salem in October of 2019. (Jared 5) There are several areas that have quite a bit of activity with the Surgery Room being one of the most active. They hear the screaming of women and babies crying in here because several women gave birth on the ship after the earthquake. The berthing area where the sailors bunked is where children who came on board and died seem to have come in the afterlife. Greek nursery rhymes are heard down here. Some of the spirits reputedly here include a burning man who smells of death and hides in the berthing area beneath the third mess hall. This area was once used as a morgue. There is a young Greek girl missing part of her face who may be a seven-year-old spirit visitors call Lucy. Apparently her mother is here with her too and they dislike another spirit here named Robert. 

A former ghost tour operator named John still gives tours even though he is dead. And there are some entities referred to as The Scratchers who like to claw at the legs of visitors. And someone or groups of someones like to bang the freezer near the pantry. Some investigators have used Ouija boards in the Mess Hall and the boards have spun on their own. Once a group asked what the intentions of the spirits there were and the answer was "murder." A trickster ghost named Skip likes to pretend to be other spirits. Latches slam on their own and chairs have been pulled out and tossed across rooms. And this is really bizarre, people have heard the drill turning on in the dentist's office. Peter Blumberg runs the print shop on the cruiser, which yes, does actually still run, and he said that he saw a shadowy figure appear down a dark hallway. The figure seemed to stare at him for a while and then descended a stairway.

YouTuber Exploring with Josh visited the ship in 2022. The caretaker, Don Decristofaro, who is also a former Naval officer, told them that the week before they visited, another group of three ghost hunters saw a full-bodied apparition in the Volunteer's Lounge. Only they didn't know it was a spirit at the time until they asked Don about other people being on the cruiser. It smelled like cigarette smoke in there and a chair had been pulled out when Don ran in to see what was going on. The guys said the man was wearing a green jacket. Don has worked at the ship for over sixteen years and he told them that he doesn't feel comfortable going anywhere forward of his office. He says that area feels very dark. His hair used to be much longer and every time he would come on the ship, The Chief would yank his hair. The Chief was the man responsible for making sure things ran properly on the ship and respectfully and he likes to hang out in the Galley. There were four guys on Josh's team and while they were recording Don giving them a tour of the ship, they captured a dog bark. There is said to be a ghost dog on ship and she likes to hang out in the barber shop for some reason. 

The group heard disembodied footsteps and caught several EVP responses. They got confirmation that somebody did die during surgery while investigating the surgical room. They captured the creepiest EVP session we've ever heard and it scared Josh enough that he was tempted to stop recording. On a the previous recording they captured a Class A "We are" and then there was a third word that was unintelligible. So Josh did another session asking if they could repeat what they said after "we are." What they captured was angry screaming. He asked another question and there was the angry screaming again. Then an EVP said, "Get off." And then there was screaming again. So in that one quick session there were three of these non-human sounding screams. They decided to stop asking the Chief for his name because they were so unsettled by the screams. We would've been too. They did apologize for irritating him with constantly asking for a name. The Ovilus said dark, haze and Chief. And one of the guys saw a person standing in a doorway across a room from where they were standing. This door lead into the hospital and they had been getting a feeling they were supposed to go into the hospital. When they arrived the Ovilus said, "waiting." Like a spirit had been waiting for them. They got some really interesting evidence.

Kindred Spirits investigated the ship on their "Sea Witch" episode in Season 5 and Don joined them and spoke bluntly to The Chief to see if they could get some interaction, specifically get him to tell them his name. It seems that Don and him don't get along. Don had heard when he first got to the ship that there was an angry sailor spirit there that was abusive towards people. So Don decided to lay down the law and he shouted in the Main Mess Hall, "I hear you're a tough guy. I'm a sailor too and I'm a tougher guy than you ever were dead or alive or someplace in the middle and you should just bring it on." A sensitive with the group told Don, "Oh, he hates you." The spirit felt disrespected and all of a sudden, Don felt as though he were frozen and he was out of sorts because he doesn't remember anything after that until the sensitive shoved him. He saw that blood was running down his palms because he had been making such tight fists that his fingernails had cut into his palms. 

A paranormal investigator named Suzanne Viegas told Adam her group was sitting at a table getting ready to do an EVP session and there was a noise that even made Don turn ghost white. She had never heard anything like this noise before. Then she looked off down the space and saw a black shadow figure. She left right after that happened. Suzanne felt that the ship having a haunted house attraction there might have increased the activity and made it more negative. During the investigation, Adam and Amy asked Don to interact with The Chief and Don said, "You've been screwing around with me for 15 years, but these people are leaving tomorrow and they got no time so just cut it out and give them your damn name" and they caught a clear EVP saying, "F**k you, Don!" So far, no one has had luck in catching his name. Amy felt something grab her ankle while they did a remote viewing exercise with Chip Coffey. Chip heard in his head, "If you like the dead, you'll like it here." He also got the message that someone didn't want to be there and was angry. Amy and Adam brought a Greek translator on with them to talk to the children. The children didn't say that they felt unsafe. 

Ghost Hunters investigated the Salem in 2009 and they captured EVPs featuring banging noises and a female voice saying something indecernible. The guys found that the EMF on the ship was high and that it may be causing  hallucinations and extreme paranoia. Alaina and Ash from the Morbid podcast joined YouTubers Sam and Colby for an investigation of the Salem in November of 2022. Alaina had something blow what felt like cold air in her ear. Alaina and Ash seemed to get the bulk of attention from the spirits rather than Sam and Colby. They got a lot of words on the Ovilus. It seemed pretty active for them. 

The USS Salem was built to help renew the Naval fleet that had been diminished by World War II and she did just that for ten years. She was remarkable and well-suited for battles she would never see, and yet she is tinged with death. Are there spirits still wandering the various areas of the cruiser? Is the USS Salem haunted? That is for you to decide!

At the end of recording we asked Jared about the battles that interested him the most. (Jared End)

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