Thursday, February 29, 2024

HGB Ep. 527 - Minersville Mansion

Moment in Oddity - Lake Hillier (Suggested by: Michael Rogers)

There is a lake located on the edge of Middle Island in Australia that for many years was quite unique. Lake Hillier was a saline lake separated from the ocean by a thin strip of land. It was discovered during an expedition in 1802. The topography of the lake isn't what made it unusual, rather, it was the lakes' color which made it so different. The actual water was a bright bubble gum pink color. The hue would not change when placed into a clear container. It was determined that the pink color was caused by a combination of an algae organism called Dunaliella salina and red halophilic bacteria, bacterioruberin. Despite the strange hue, studies showed that it was actually safe to swim in. However that was not allowed without prior consent by the Western Australia Dept of Environment Conservation. It had also been revealed that the lakes salinity level rivaled that of the Dead Sea in turn making it very buoyant to humans. Sadly, reports state that the lake does not appear the bright pink color any longer. This is believed to be caused by the construction of the South Coast Highway and a rail line. This altered the flow of water to the lake, reducing its salinity in 2017. Perhaps one day it will recover the color that made it famous. Regardless, a lake the color of bright pink bubble gum certainly is odd.

This Month in History - Birth of William 'Buffalo Bill' Cody

In the month of February, on the 26th in 1846, William F. 'Buffalo Bill' Cody was born in Scott County, Iowa. His family moved to Kansas while William was still a child. While only eleven years old, Cody left home to work as a cattle driver, traveling across the Great Plains several times. From there he moved onto fur trapping and gold mining. William even worked for an early version of the Pony Express. Once the Civil War was over, Cody became a scout for the Army. This is where he received his nickname of "Buffalo Bill" due to his hunting skills, often supplying meat for the railroad workers. Buffalo Bill was a charming guy which led him into his show business career. His first performance was in a drama in Chicago called, Scouts of the Prairie. He was quite the showman and audiences loved him. Always the entrepreneur, Cody started his own acting troupe the next season and enlisted the help of friends, Texas Jack and "Wild Bill" Hickok for a time. Buffalo Bill continued arraigning plays until 1882. Later that same year he came up with the idea of creating an outdoor show involving live animals and hundreds of performers. There were trick shooters and ropers, recreations of buffalo hunts, stagecoach robberies, bronco riding and the like. Some of the stars who performed were Annie Oakley, Calamity Jane and Chief Sitting Bull. Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show even performed for Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887. Cody continued performing in his show even in his older years although it was said that he required help mounting and dismounting his horse. His last performance took place just four years before his death at the age of 70 in 1917.

Minersville Mansion

The Minersville Mansion is located in Minersville, Pennsylvania and is known by locals as the DiNicola Mansion as it was owned by Dr. Arthur DiNicola who ran his practice out of the home. The mansion has stood for over a hundred years and had a series of medical professionals who owned it and today is used as an apartment building. Author and paranormal investigator Jeffrey A. Dengler wrote the book "The Minersville Mansion" after spending time investigating the house. He joins us on this episode as we share the history and hauntings of the Minersville Mansion and some of the experiences he has had investigating other locations.

Minersville, Pennsylvania was settled by Europeans in the late 1700s. Adolph Oliver Busch was the first settler and he built a cabin and sawmill along the Schuylkill River in 1783. Later he built a tavern to service people traveling the Sunbury Trail, which was a trail frequented by Native Americans before the Europeans arrived. This would later become known as the Kings Highway in honor of King George III. Anthracite coal was discovered in 1799 and formal mining operations began in 1814 and that is where the name of the town comes from. The Reading Railroad came along in the 1800s and the town expanded rapidly as commerce grew and immigrants came to work in the coal mines. An iron works was built in the town as well. It was here that a doctor decided to build his home. 

It seems that there have been many strange occurrences in the house. Is that because the house itself is haunted or is it because residents themselves have been haunted? That is for you to decide!

To find out more about Jeffrey Dengler and his books:

On TikTok:

You can find his books on Amazon, "The Minersville Mansion" and "The Spirits of Shoemakers Road."

Thursday, February 22, 2024

HGB Ep. 526 - The Life and Afterlife of Superman, George Reeves

 Moment in Oddity - Convict Baseball (Suggested by: Chelsea Flowers)

Baseball is a popular sport with so many fans invested in how their team will perform and whether they will make it to the World Series. Back in 1911, there were only 16 major league baseball teams. In Wyoming, an avid fan of the game was Big Horn County Sheriff Felix Alston, whom the governor selected to be the new warden of Wyoming State Penitentiary. Alston decided to create his own baseball team with the inmates that were in his charge. The lineup consisted of a shortstop convicted of manslaughter, first baseman for rape, third baseman for grand larceny, a center fielder for forgery, second baseman for breaking and entering and a right fielder by the name of Joseph Seng who was convicted of first degree murder and was facing the hangman's noose. As shocking as it may be, this team of convicts was quite impressive on the baseball diamond. The Wyoming State Penitentiary All-Stars had the proper uniforms and looked like professional ball players in every sense. The team played their first game on July 18th in 1911, the same date that Joseph Seng was granted a stay of execution due to his appeal to the Wyoming Supreme Court. The team of convicts played the Rawlins Juniors with a win of 11-1 with Seng hitting 2 homeruns during the game. The game itself was held on prison grounds along with the next two games the All-Stars played against the Juniors. It was said that the outside team may have been intimidated by playing within the prison walls. The game was reported on in various newspapers with headlines like "Slayer Scores Home Runs". After 3 games of the Convict All-Stars beating the Rawlins Juniors, the fourth and final game was played outside of the prison walls. The house was packed and again, the convicts bested the Juniors with a final score of 15-10. This would be the final game for the Wyoming State Penitentiary All-Stars. Joseph Seng still had a stay appeal out with Governor Carey in hopes that his execution would be commuted. Despite his performance and success with the penitentiary's baseball team along with good behavior, Seng's stay of execution was denied and he was hung on May 24th, 1912. The sport of baseball is ingrained in much of American culture, but the thought of a penitentiary team beating and exceeding any state teams certainly is odd. 

This Month in History - Daytona 500m Inaugural Race

In the month of February, on the 22nd, in 1959, the inaugural Daytona 500 NASCAR race was held. It was the second race of the 1959 NASCAR Grand National Series season and was the first race to be held at the Daytona International Speedway. Previous Daytona races consisted of the Daytona Beach and Road Course where competitors would race on pavement and then the beach, returning to the pavement to finish the race. The Daytona Speedway is a race track which consists of a four turn superspeedway. The inaugural race boasted 41,921 spectators. Of the 59 cars that began the first race, 20 were convertibles. Many vehicles dropped out due to various issues. Initially Johnny Beauchamp was declared the winner but due to the photo finish, Lee Petty was ultimately declared the winner of the first Daytona 500.

The Life and Afterlife of Superman, George Reeves

Superman is a beloved comicbook hero. He's all about truth and justice. Clark Kent, his alter ego, is a lovable nerd. Filling his shoes isn't easy, but George Reeves managed to do it and he did it well. But not because his own life reflected the ideal that Superman exuded. Reeves' life was complicated. And it came to an abrupt end when he was just 45-years-old in 1959. The death of George Reeves is a controversial topic. The coroner’s report ruled that the final results indicated that Reeves had committed suicide. Many people do not agree with that assessment. Could this have been murder? And is that mystery possibly why George Reeves' spirit seems to be at unrest.

The Death of Superman was big news in 1992. Mainstream media covered the death of Superman in the DC comic book and people were shocked that the impossible had happened. How could Superman die? He was invincible. For those of us who grew up watching reruns of the original Superman series starring George Reeves and the various Superman movies starring Christopher Reeves, we knew it was possible for Superman to die. Both of the Reeves were forever associated with their roles as Superman. And both were cut down way too early. Comic book Superman was resurrected, but Christopher and George both moved on to whatever there is after this life. 

Life for George Reeves began on January 5, 1914. He was born George Keefer Brewer to Donald Carl Brewer and Helen Lescher. His mother Helen had become pregnant out of wedlock and she and Donald eloped. The marriage did not last long, ending shortly after George was born. Helen eventually moved to California and married a man named Frank Bessolo who adopted George when he was thirteen-years-old. That marriage lasted for 15 years, but Helen grew tired of it and left Frank while George was away visiting family. When George returned home, his mother told him that Frank had committed suicide, which was not true. Lying to George seemed to come easy for her. She not only lied about the divorce, but she even lied to him about his birth date, probably to conceal that she was pregnant before marriage.

George discovered acting in high school and really enjoyed performing. He also took up boxing and really enjoyed that as well, but his mother forced him to quit, so that his face would not be damaged. George attended Pasadena Junior College after high school and he continued acting there. He then studied acting at the Pasadena Community Playhouse where he met Ellanora Needles. The couple started dating and married on September 21, 1940. Ellanora stuck mostly to theater acting, but George wanted bigger things. In 1939, he got a bit part as one of the red-headed Tarleton twins who tried for Scarlett O'Hara's hand in "Gone with the Wind" and then he got the lead in a play at the Pasadena Playhouse that led to Warner Brothers offering him a contract. It was Warner Brothers that changed his name to George Reeves.

Old Hollywood was a hard place. Contracted actors did not have much freedom when it came to the roles they played. Reeves was very disappointed with the work offered to him by Warners Brothers. Most of the roles were in B films and forgettable. Warner Brothers and Reeves mutually agreed to dissolve his contract and he moved on to 20th Century Fox. Things weren't much better here and the studio released him after a few films, so George set off as a freelancer. His main desire was to make westerns and after a screen test with Harry Sherman, he was signed to make several Hopalong Cassidy films. Paramount Pictures then signed him to do two films a year. Making the war film "So Proudly We Hail!" inspired him to join the military. World War II had started and Reeves was drafted in 1943.

Reeves was assigned to a performance crew with the U.S. Army Air Forces and spent most of his time entertaining troops and making training films. After his time in the Army was up, he returned to Hollywood and continued to have small parts in films. He traveled to New York and tried radio for a while, but Hollywood always called him back. Television was starting to really take hold during this time and the film industry was feeling threatened. Most actors would find that if they started doing television work, they could kiss their film career goodbye. And this seems to have happened for George when he was cast as Superman. 

The Adventures of Superman TV series launched in 1952. This would be the first TV series to feature Superman. George Reeves was hired to play Clark Kent/Superman with Phyllis Coates as Lois Lane. Producer Robert L. Lippert, Director Lee Sholem and Scriptwriter Robert Maxwell worked together to make a 58-minute black-and-white film called "Superman and the Mole Men," which served as a pilot for the series. Production continued on the first season, but money ran out before anything was aired. Kellogg's had sponsored the Superman radio series, so they agreed to sponsor the TV series. Everything was back on and the first episode dropped in September. This wasn't the pilot. That would later be split into a two-parter and became the unofficial season one finale. The cast was stunned with how popular the series became. The series ran for six seasons and produced 104 episodes and burned into the collective American memory, "Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman!"

This part would bring Reeves the fame he had been seeking and he even directed three episodes. A fondly remembered moment for George Reeves' Superman was his appearance on the "I Love Lucy" Show. This was a crossover episode titled “Lucy and Superman,” and it aired on January 14, 1957. Reeves adapted his character to the comedic setting perfectly. And yet, Reeves had real fears about what playing the character would do to his career. The show was catered to a younger audience, making leading man roles difficult to get. On top of that, the filming schedule was grueling and the stars were locked into the series, having to be available on a 30 day notice of a new season starting. This made it impossible to take any parts, if they were offered. Reeves referred to his Superman costume as a “monkey suit” and he was poorly paid, only receiving a small raise after threatening to leave after three seasons. Despite not being crazy about being Superman, George tried his best to be a good role model and gave up smoking.

Other areas of George's life didn't contribute to a squeaky-clean image. His love life was a mess and would lead to his ultimate demise and the reason why the Superman series would end in 1959. It's star would be dead. To lead us into the mysterious and tragic circumstances of his death, we first need to look back on the Hollywood of the 1950s. This time in Hollywood was post-World War II and the film industry was in decline. The studio contract system was on the verge of coming to an end as independent productions started gaining strength. Television had become a source of major competition. Families wanted to stay at home and watch shows together rather than head out to the movies. There were five "major" Hollywood studios, MGM, Paramount, Fox, Warner Brothers, and RKO, and the 1950s proved to be a difficult period as societal pressure forced them to change. One didn't make it through, RKO, and others were sold or changed management. This was all behind the scenes. In front the scenes were the actors and the studios were forever having to clean up the wreckage left behind by many of their top stars.

During Hollywood’s contract days, it was a practice of all studios to have men that they called “fixers.” Fixers took care of the scandals and other issues that contract players found themselves involved with. Fixers helped to beat criminal charges and to hide affairs and such. They kept the press quiet on certain matters. Eddie Mannix was MGM Studios fixer. He was a very powerful man in Hollywood. Mannix was an Irish Catholic guy from New Jersey. One of his early jobs was working as a bouncer at Palisades Amusement Park in New Jersey and then he got involved with movie production and was hired by MGM Studios. By 1924, he was the main muscle for the studio, making sure that it kept its good public image. From 1924 to 1962, he covered up affairs, out-of-wedlock pregnancies, abortions, rapes, addictions and maybe even murder. Mannix and his crew were always on the scene of a crime involving an MGM star before the police. Mannix was a tough guy and not someone to mess around with. So messing around with his wife wouldn't be a good idea.

Toni Lanier was an actress and dancer who was one of the Ziegfeld Follies showgirls and famously known for her beautiful long legs. She was Eddie Mannix's second wife. The couple had married in 1951. The marriage was volatile and both Eddie and Toni had affairs. Toni’s most notorious affair was with George Reeves. She was eight years older than him and it apparently started before he was cast to play Superman. The affair was fairly public and Eddie seemed not to care as he was carrying on his own affair. George stayed in the relationship with Toni for several years, but finally broke it off in 1958 after meeting socialite Leonore Lemmon in New York. Toni was devastated and would not leave George alone. She took to stalking him and sitting outside his home and crying. This didn't keep George from asking Leonore to marry him. They were to be married in June of 1959, but that never happened because George died from a fatal gunshot on June 16th of that year. People claimed that Leonore was bad for George.

George Reeves had bought a home on Benedict Canyon Drive, north of Sunset Boulevard in the Beverly Hills area. He wasn't flush with cash, so many people believe that Toni Mannix either helped him with a downpayment or bought the house for him. The house cost around $12,000 and was a split level ranch house with George's bedroom on the second floor above the living room. The circumstances as to what happened on the evening of the 15th, going into the early morning hours of the 16th, are murky. Most narratives agree that Reeves had a few friends at his home: his fiancĂ©e Leonore Lemmon, neighbor Carol Van Ronkel, William Bliss and the writer Richard Condon. Condon and Van Ronkel were believed to be having an affair and Condon was staying as a guest at George's house. Leonore and George arrived home at 11pm after having dinners and drinks. The drinking continued at home and Leonore was fighting with George. He seemed to be getting cold feet about marrying her. She wasn't happy about the prospect of heading back to New York. She was 36 and feeling the pressure to get married and start a family. 

Reeves headed up to bed alone at midnight. Around 1am, he came back downstairs, probably to tell everybody to shut-up. He hung out for a while, but was very agitated and apologized to Condon about his foul mood and then he returned to his bedroom. Lemmon then announced, "He is going to shoot himself." The group could hear a drawer being opened upstairs and Lemmon said, "He is getting the gun out now and he is going to shoot himself." Shortly thereafter, a shot rang out and Bliss ran upstairs to find Reeves naked on the bed and dead with a bullet wound to his head. The group waited 45 minutes before calling the police, which has caused there to be suspicions as to what was going on during that time. Although the fact that they were all drunk probably had something to do with it.

The police and most people believe that Reeves committed suicide. He had been drinking and was depressed with the state of his life and his acting prospects. He could not shake the role of Superman and all independent projects he tried to start, never got off the ground because he could not find funding. George was found lying naked, face up on his bed with a gunshot wound to his head. His feet were on the floor and the gun was between them. The shell casing was underneath his body. The bullet was in the ceiling to the left of his head. The path indicated that Reeves probably leaned his head down towards the gun. The police spent a week investigating. Leonore broke the evidence seal on the house and took $4,000 in traveler's checks and took off to New York, never to return. So that left the scene contaminated. Much of the investigation was botched. The body was washed before the autopsy was conducted. The body was also not checked for gunpowder burns and the hands were never tested for gunpowder. There was no explanation for several bruises found on Reeves' face and chest. Multiple bullet holes were found in the house, particularly the floor of the master bedroom. There was a story that Leonore once shot a gun in the house. George may have done the same and sometimes people who are going to shoot themselves fire a practice shot a little while before.

Despite the official ruling of suicide, many people are not satisfied with that conclusion. George was dissatisfied, but was he suicidal? He left behind no note. And it's unusual for someone to kill themselves when they are naked. He never said anything about wanting to die. Why would he come downstairs and complain about noise and then just go upstairs and shoot himself? And let's not forget about Toni who was stalking George and very upset. She was married to THE Fixer. Had Eddie fixed his wife’s problem? Was he jealous that she was so hung up on George? Did she hire someone herself because she had been rejected? After all, the home George died in was bought for him by Toni. The Guardian reported in 2006, "Years later, another cast member, Phyllis Coates, who played Lois Lane, told Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger, authors of Hollywood Kryptonite, an often speculative examination of the case, that she had received a very disturbing phone call at 4.30am on the morning of Reeves' death. It came from Toni Mannix, beside herself with anxiety. 'She was hyperventilating and ranting,' recalled Coates. 'She said, 'The boy is dead. He's been murdered.'" One story claims that on her deathbed, Toni confessed to a priest that she had had George killed. Although that seems like it would've been hard with a house full of witnesses. 

Leonore has also been looked at as a suspect. Her account of the evening was full of holes and some claim that she might have witnessed what happened or shot George herself. There may have been a fight with the gun involved and it accidentally went off. She also claimed that she never made the comments that seemed to detail Reeves' play-by-play suicide. Stories also claim that death threats had been received by George for months before his death. There is also the issue with the bullet casing being under Reeves' body although bullet casings can go flying around and perhaps the casing fell onto the bed before his body slumped over it. We’ll probably never know what happened for certain. Reeves was buried at Mountain View Cemetery and Mausoleum in Altadena, California. 

George’s soul appears to be at unrest and still hanging out at his Benedict Canyon home. George’s full body apparition has been seen in the home and sometimes it is wearing his Superman costume and points at the ceiling. Strange lights appear in the home and the distant echo of a gunshot is heard. The smell of gunpowder seems to hang in the air. Police officers were once called out by neighbors when they claimed they heard screaming and gunshots. Neighbors claim to see the apparition on the front lawn at times. The house was used as a set in the 1980s and many of the cast and crew claimed to see the ghost for themselves when in the house.

Toni had inherited the house and she struggled for years to keep the place rented. One set of renters claimed that one evening while they were hosting a party, the room that had formerly been George’s bedroom had been torn apart. The sheets were stripped from the bed and clothes were everywhere. When they returned downstairs, all the drinks had been moved to the kitchen. On another occasion, the bed in the bedroom was moved across the floor. The couple’s dog would bark at something unseen and slink away. Noises continued to come from the bedroom and the couple finally moved out. A newlywed couple was thrilled to see that the house was for rent for a very reasonable price. Shortly after they moved in, they were awakened by the sound of a gunshot. A couple days later the smell of gunpowder hung in the air. These two things happened enough over the next couple of weeks that the couple broke their lease and left. Another couple moved out the same day they moved in after encountering the ghost of Reeves. And still another couple saw the ghost of Reeves in the nude and he was groaning.

Superman Curse

Did George Reeves commit suicide or was he murdered? Has this unsolved mystery led to his spirit being at unrest? Does George still haunt his home? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, February 15, 2024

HGB Ep. 525 - Haunted Wine Country

Moment in Oddity - Nadine Earles Burial (Suggested by: Mindy Hull)

Back in 1933 there was a little girl named Nadine Earles, all she wanted for Christmas was a playhouse and her father worked on making that Christmas wish come true. Sadly, little Nadine had come down with diphtheria and in December 1933, Nadine passed away on the 18th. Her father was so grief stricken that he tore down the playhouse that she would have enjoyed in life and began rebuilding it over her gravesite in Oakwood Cemetery in Alabama. It's a large brick playhouse that looks like a bungalow, boasting a front porch, striped awnings, a mailbox along with flower boxes. On April 3rd, 1934, upon the completion of the graveside playhouse, 25 children gathered and celebrated what would have been Nadine's 5th birthday. They came in their best party clothes, played party games and enjoyed birthday cake and ice cream. The photograph of the celebration was framed and mounted within the playhouse mausoleum. Nadine's father passed in 1976 and her mother in 1981. Although Nadine's passing at such a young age is sad, the thought of creating a playhouse upon a child's grave, certainly is odd.

This Month in History - Final Episode of M*A*S*H*

In the month of February, on the 28th in 1983, the final episode of M*A*S*H* was aired on CBS. This last episode was written by eight collaborators including Alan Alda who played a main character on the show appearing in all 256 episodes as 'Hawkeye'. Alda directed 32 of the MASH episodes as well as the final episode titled, "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen". The actors playing characters Radar, Hot-Lips Hollihan, Klinger and Father Mulcahy performed in all eleven seasons. Over the series history many well known actors joined the cast. Laurence Fishburne, Pat Morita, Blythe Danner, Ron Howard and Patrick Swayze were just a few to join the show throughout the years. To this date the shows' finale has been the most watched singular episode of any American broadcast series.   

Haunted Wine Country

A region of California north of the San Francisco Bay Area is known as "Wine Country." Two of the counties within this area are Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. This section of California is known for world-class wine and food and has a beautiful countryside that wine enthusiasts get to enjoy as they drive from tasting to tasting. There are hundreds of wineries between these two counties. One would not put wine and ghosts together necessarily, but several of these wineries reputedly have some paranormal activity. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Wine Country. 

There is a debate as to where wine got its start. Various countries are credited with the invention. Georgia seems to be the one most likely to be the originator of formal production of wine and this started about 8000 years ago. The people of Georgia dug pits and put bundles of grapes in the pits to ferment through the winter and in spring, when the pits were opened up, the grapes had fermented. They eventually moved to using clay vessels to ferment the grapes. Other countries like China, Iran, Greece and Armenia started making their own wine. There are archaelogists who believe that our most ancient ancestors were enjoying some form of neolithic wine long before the Georgians started making wine. The website says, "While the hows and whys of neolithic wine is still a bit of a mystery, and has been discovered after finding chemicals present in wine on neolithic tools, it is supposed that cavemen would have watched animals eating rotten, fermenting fruit and fancied a bit of it for themselves. One thing led to another, and before long, fruit was being fermented purposefully for the sole purpose of, well, getting a bit drunk. The wine industry had begun!" The first winery started in Armenia around 4100 BC. They had wine presses, vats, the whole nine yards. This winery was discovered in 2007 and was named Areni-1 winery. Armenia was mostly making red wines. The Egyptians were making white wines. Tutankhamun's tomb had clay vessels filled with white wine. From Egypt, wine spread to the Phoenicians and then to Greece and Italy. And as most of us know, Italy is really known as the land of wines.

California's Wine Country was first inhabited by several indigenous tribes, the Pomo, Coast Miwok, Wappo and Patwin. Mexico was the first to colonize the area with European settlers arriving in the early 1800s. The town of Sonoma is known as the birthplace of American California. George Calvert Yount (Yownt) was born in North Carolina in 1794. His parents moved to Missouri and that is where he grew up. He became a soldier during the War of 1812 and then went into farming. Things didn't go well for him on that front, so he left for Santa Fe in 1826 to try his hand at fur trapping. He continued to migrate west and arrived in California in 1831. He settled in Sonoma and worked as a carpenter until he obtained a land grant in1836 in what would become Napa Valley. He was the first settler there. He built a grist mill and saw mill and continued to buy land, acquiring over 16,000 acres. He started growing grapes on his property as the environment was perfectly suited for that kind of agriculture. One of his granddaughters married Thomas Rutherford in 1864 and Yount gave them 1,000 acres that Rutherford dedicated to winemaking. 

Commercial production of wine had already started in 1858 with John Patchett and in 1861, Charles Krug (Kroog) set up the first commercial winery in Napa Valley. The Inglenook Winery was established in 1879 and made the first Bordeaux style wine. Agoston Haraszthy (Hor os thee) was a forefather of wine production in the Sonoma County area. The man most responsible for making the area strong wine country was H.W. Crabb who planted over 400 varieties of grapes on 130 acres and produced 50,000 gallons of wine a year. By the end of the 19th century, there were 140 wineries and several of those early wineries still exist today, which wasn't easy with a root louse wiping out much of the grapes and Prohibition. By the 1940s, vintners got together and decided to join forces to establish Napa Valley as a wine stronghold. In 1976, the Paris Tasting put Napa Valley on the map for the rest of history as several of their wines won the blind taste testings. Many historic wineries stood the test of time and more importantly, many of them are said to be haunted! 

Ghost Block

We're going to start our visits to these haunted wineries with one that was inspired by a ghost story. Ghost Block Estate Wines is located in Napa Valley and was started by Andy Hoxsey in the 1980s. He was sitting in a Yountville Bar drinking a beer when a veteran struck up a conversation with him. When he heard that Andy worked in his grandfather's vineyard, he asked Andy if this was the vineyard next to the Yountville Cemetery. Andy said it was and the veteran proceeded to tell him that he had seen the ghost of George Yount leave the Pioneer Cemetery, walk through the vineyard and hike up the Yountville hillside. The veteran said he had heard others make the same claim and that Yount was climbing the hill to look out over the town he founded. Andy was inspired by the story and trademarked "Ghost Block." The winery and vineyard themselves go back five generations, making this the oldest family-owned winery in Napa. The Ghost Block wines are referred to as cult wines. And what are those? We're going to let Wine Folly define that for us, "Cult wines are the pigeon-blood ruby of the wine world. They are engorged in a sort of mystery and delight that can only be satiated by tasting them. Of course, actually getting to taste a cult wine presents a bit of a quandary because the supply is so low that even some deep-pocketed buyers go destitute. This, in turn, skyrockets the price which increases the wine’s fame and then the price goes up more… you get the idea."

Bartholomew Park Winery

The Bartholomew Estate vineyards were planted as the first private vineyard in Sonoma in 1832 by a man named Viviano. In 1844, a 176-acre land grant was given to Viviano and a man named Domingo Rodrigues and they named it Rancho Lac. This would form the heart of Batholomew Park. A man named Jacob Leese owned adjacent property and he bought Rancho Lac in 1846. That property would change hands several times, but always remain a grape vineyard, winning gold at the California State Fair in 1854. Agoston Haraszthy (Hor os thee), whom we mentioned earlier, bought Rancho Lac in 1857 and he expanded by introducing dry-farmed vineyards, wine caves, building a stone winery, erecting his villa and buying up 6,000 total acres that he named Rancho Buena Vista. He imported a lot of European vines as well. He ran up a bunch of debt though and eventually contributed much of Rancho Buena Vista to the Buena Vista Viticultural Society and this became the first corporate winery in California and the largest winery in the world at the time. Then in came phylloxera (fuh laak sir uh), which devastated the area and the winery went bankrupt.  

In comes Robert and Kate Johnson, who were wealthy San Franciscans, and they bought Rancho Buena Vista at auction and turned it into a country estate upon which they built their 40-room Victorian Castle in 1883. Apparently Kate loved Angora cats and one whole floor was dedicated to them. The Johnsons could care less about wine and turned the vineyard into formal lawn and gardens. Robert died and Kate followed and the estate became a working ranch and resort owned by Henry Caullieau who sold it in 1919 to California for the State Industrial Farm for Delinquent Women. This was a place to rehab women who were addicts, alcoholics and working in the sex industry. They were called "wild women" and the country air and hard work was thought to be curative. The Castle was destroyed by fire in 1923 and that was the end of the farm for wild women.

The state built another building on the property that was used as a hospital for the treatment of epilepsy until the 1930s. The hospital and property was sold at auction to Frank “Bart” Bartholomew and his wife Antonia in 1943. This was a birthday present for Antonia. When the couple found out about the wine history of the property, they decided to return to those roots and started planting vineyards. The restoration would run from 1944 to 1968 and the Buena Vista brand and reputation grew bigger than the couple had imagined it would. They sold the brand and 12 acres to another company. With what they retained, they opened their own winery in 1973 called Hacienda Wine Cellars. The couple sold a majority of their interest later that decade and the Bronco Wine Company acquired the brand in 1992. The Bartholomews had established a foundation before their deaths and this continues to run and protect the property. Antonia built a replica of Count Haraszthy's white villa in 1985 after Bart died. This was opened as a museum and event center in 1991 when Antonia died. The Vineburg Corporation leased Bartholomew Park and released wine under the Bartholomew Park Winery label from 1992 to 2018 and then in 2019 winemaker Kevin Holt partnered with the Bartholomew Foundation to open Bartholomew Estate Vineyards and Winery. 

So the basement of the wineries main building was once a morgue. There are thought to be three resident ghosts here, one of which may belong to a woman whose remains were found in the basement walls during a 1970s earthquake retrofit. This woman was named Madeline. She tried to escape many times and the story went that she finally did one day and was never seen again. People think she didn't escape, but was murdered. Employees have claimed to hear disembodied singing coming from the cellar and that is probably because the incarcerated women liked to run choir practice in the morgue. The singing is primarily of hymns. Employees claim that doors lock on their own and once a fire extinguisher pulled off the wall and went flying across a room. 

Five psychics held a seance in the winery in 2006 and were so overwhelmed by spiritual activity that they had to stop and leave. Paranormal investigator Jeff Dwyer investigated at the winery a handful of times in 2008. He told ABC7 News, "I found quite a lot going on in there. During part of the investigation down in the morgue, there was a time when the room suddenly turned ice cold. It was just freezing to the point where I couldn't sit there any longer and had to go upstairs to warm up." He also captured EVPs featuring the sound of Indian flutes and drums and heard the sound of a piano in the morgue. This didn't make sense until he heard that the incarcerated women would hold choir practice in the morgue.

Buena Vista Winery

We covered much of this winery already. This was established by Count Agoston Haraszthy (Hor os thee) in 1857. Something we hadn't mentioned is that while Haraszthy was credited with being the "Father of California Viticulture," he also helped bring about its ruin. He employed layering as a planting technique and this exposed the plants to soil diseases. That is why the first infestation of phylloxera was able to take hold. He relocated to Nicaragua where he started a sugar plantation with the goal of making rum. In 1869, he was out on a river and he disappeared and the story goes that he was killed by an alligator. His spirit is said to have returned to his former winery. Other possible reasons for this winery to be haunted revolve around a legend that 20 Chinese migrant workers were buried when a deep mine cave was caved-in after a minor earthquake in 1862. Wine host Brandon Andrews said that people have seen apparitions roaming the upper level and they carry flickering lanterns. The wine cellars sometimes have loud, unexplained noises in them.

Chateau St. Jean

Kenwood is a town on the northern end of Sonoma Valley. The Chateau St. Jean was built by Ernest and Maude Goff in 1920. They had moved to California from Saginaw, Michigan with their four sons and one daughter. The house was beautiful, and still is, with solid oak banisters, a large oak fireplace and oak-paneled hallways. The family grew white wine grapes, walnuts and prunes. Two brothers, Bob and Ed Merzoian and their brother-in-law Ken Sheffield set out to start a new winery in 1973 and they bought 250 acres of the Goff estate, including the house and opened Chateau St. Jean, named after Jean Sheffield Merzoian who was the sister, sister-in-law and wife of the three men. The winery was completed in 1980 and in 2000 a new visitor center was open. In 2022, the winery was rebuilt, the gardens upgraded and new presses were installed. They celebrated 50 years in production last year. The Goff's daughter's name was Camilla. She died when she was a teenager and employees of the winery claim that her spirit haunts the place. She is said to be protective and benevolent.

Franco-Swiss Winery

The Franco-Swiss Winery was built in 1876 by the Millet family and by the 1880s, was producing  100,000 gallons of wine every year. When Prohibition started, the winery went out of business and was abandoned to the weeds and elements. Thus it became the epitome of a ghost winery. This is what they call the wineries that were abandoned after Prohibition and went to ruin. Richard and Leslie Mansfield bought the property and worked for over a decade to restore it. They never did manage to finish that feat. They did run the Mansfield Winery for a number of years, but we saw that it is now permanently closed. Jules Millet was a member of the Millet family and in 1882 he was murdered by Johan Murbach right outside the winery's walls. The Mansfields had just purchased the winery and they invited some friends to join them on a night tour of the place after having dinner.  They were wandering around with flashlights when one of the guests yelled, "If you're here, Jules Millet, knock three times!" Everybody laughed after nothing happened. But the next night, things got interesting. The Mansfields lived across the street from the winery and that evening there were six loud explosions — pop, pop, pop, boom, boom, boom" in the Mansfield home. Richard wasn't home and so Leslie hid in the closet, she was so scared. The next day, Leslie discovered what caused the noises. She told Time Magazine back in 2010, "Every flashlight that [the men had] taken across the street — and only those flashlights — had exploded into a million pieces. The ones that had not been taken across the street were just fine."One of the flashlights could go down to 300 feet as a dive lamp and another flashlight had a C battery bent in half. Apparently, Jules responded to the request.

Stags' Leap Winery

The gothic castle-like styled Manor House at Stags' Leap Winery was built in 1888 in Napa Valley. The interior featured a spacious ground-floor great hall. A beautifully carved mahogany Chippendale staircase lead up to bedrooms on the second floor. The land where the winery stands was owned for decades under various owners with Mexican land grants, The Grigsby family bought 700-acres and planted grapes on the land in 1872. In 1885, they sold to W.W. Thompson and H.H. Harris who passed his interest to Thompson’s nephew, Horace Blanchard Chase. At that time the 700 acres was split into two and Chase took the northwestern portion. Horace and his wife Minnie built the manor and also made a wine cave. They lost the property after bad investments in Mexican silver mines and the property went to Clarence and Frances Grande in 1913 and they transformed the property into a working ranch and resort and used the manor as their personal residence. Wine was still produced until Prohibition. The vineyards remained and were sold to other wineries and then production began again in 1971 under the guidance of Carl Doumani. For a little more than a decade, the house sat abandoned and may have been used by squatters.  He restored the property and sold to Beringer Wine Estates in 1997. Treasury Wine Estates is the current owner of the winery.

Winemaker Robert Brittan had been at Stags' Leap since 1988. He told the San Francisco Gate in 2004 about an experience he had, "It was in the late autumn or early winter of 1986, the very first time I spent the night in the manor. Some noise woke me up around 2 or 3 in the morning and I got out of bed to investigate. As I walked into the hallway and toward the bedroom at the front of the house, where I thought the noise came from, I saw a young woman facing me. She was there in the hallway, near the landing at the top of the stairs. I had the impression I could look through parts of her -- she wasn't all dressed in white, there seemed to be colors, too. I spoke to her, because I was startled to see someone there at that hour -- I said something like, 'Oh, excuse me.' Pretty soon it dawned on me that this wasn't a person. Then she spoke to me. I can't tell you what she said. She asked me -- no, rather, told me -- to do something I couldn't do that night. I turned around and went back to my bedroom and crawled into bed. I thought to myself, this can't be happening to me. I was scared. There's no logical explanation for a ghost to ask me to do something." He wouldn't tell the reporter what the ghost told him to do.

Dry Creek Vineyard 

David S. Stare was a brainiac who had earned an MBA in Civil Engineering. He moved to Germany shortly after completing his degree because he had always wanted to live overseas. While in Germany, he was bitten by the wine bug and when he returned stateside, he attended some wine classes. Then it was off to France to study their wines. Then he grabbed his family and moved them to California in a mint green station wagon and set out to start a winery. Dry Creek Vineyards was the culmination of that dream. Dry Creek Valley is located in Sonoma County and Dave's vineyards that he planted were the first in the area since Prohibition. These vineyards were mainly Sauvignon Blanc, which he had been told would never work here, but the experts were wrong. Dave's daughter, Kim Wallace, grew up learning the wine business but chose fashion for awhile. She eventually joined the winery with her husband and they run operations today. This is one of the last truly family-owned wineries in the region and they pride themselves on their slower process and small operation. There is a building on the property called Bullock House and it was used to house overnight guests like trade visitors until the unexplained activity going on there became unbearable. Legend claims that a Native American haunts the property and was probably from the Pomo tribe that had a reservation here at one time. Bill Smart, who had been Dry Creeks Vineyard's director of marketing and communications said, “Several of those guests reported hearing creaking, footsteps and door-slamming at night. I haven’t experienced it, but enough people have that I believe there is paranormal activity there.”

Trefethen Family Vineyards & Winery

The Trefethen Family Vineyards & Winery was originally built by the Goodman Brothers in 1886 and they called it Eshcol. This is in the heart of the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley and sits on 400 acres featuring twenty different soil types. The main building was a wooden three-story gravity flow winery that was right across the street from the Oak Knoll train station. The winery was designed and built by Captain Harnden McIntyre who designed many of the wineries in Napa and he used redwood for siding and Douglas fir for the posts. Gravity flow wineries work with grapes being crushed on the third floor, then the liquid is fermented on the second floor and aged on the first floor. A writer said of the second floor that it was so solid it "could have supported the weight of a small locomotive." The Eschol wines won over half of the awards at the 1889 Paris Exhibition. The old Eshcol facility slipped into serious disrepair and then along came Janet and John Trefethen. Janet thought the facility would make a good stable for her horse, but John felt they could restore the winery and they did. In 1973, they reopened to commercial harvests. The 2014 South Napa Quake did significant damage to the building and Hailey Trefethen took charge of the restoration and they saved the building, including its historic character.

Many wineries went out of business during Prohibition or they switched to making sacramental wine, but the Goodman Brothers set up bootleg operations. One night, a young man snuck into the winery to steal some hooch and he was caught and the bootleggers hanged him from the ceiling beams of the winery. Staff have claimed to see a shadow figure hanging and swinging from the ceiling. Some have felt an eerie sensation when inside the building and others claim to see a replay of the hanging event in a residual haunting.

Beringer Winery 

We are ending at the Beringer Winery in Napa Valley because it is said to be the most haunted winery in Wine Country. This is a gorgeous winery with many "firsts" under its belt. This was one of the first wineries here, being founded in 1876 by the Beringer Brothers, Jacob and Frederick. They emigrated from Germany to found a winery and distillery in Napa. They reused their spirit barrels to age wine. That tradition is carried on today. Frederick built the Rhine House for his family in 1884 with the help of architect Albert Schroepfer. This was in the Queen Anne Victorian style and the exterior featured beautiful stonework with gables and turrets and the interior featured seventeen rooms, stained-glass windows and interior wood paneling. The name comes from the fact that Frederick was copying his former home in Germany that was at Mainz-on-the-Rhine. The Rhine House is the centerpiece of the Beringer property. There is also a house on the property called the Hudson House that was built in 1875 and was already on the property when the Beringers bought it. 

Jacob was the winemaker and Frederick was the promoter and business guy. Beringer Winery was the first to use cellars and caves for storing and aging wine. The caves were dug into the hillside of Spring Mountain by Chinese immigrant workers and after a decade of work, they had hand-chiseled 1,200 linear feet of tunnel. The temperatures in the cave stay between 58-60 degrees. The winery was built against the hillside and they used the gravity flow method for making their wine. Draft horses would bring in the wagons full of grapes and these would be transported to the third floor for crushing. The Beringers used a state-of-the-art steam-powered crusher. Jacob remained as the winemaker until 1911 and then his son took over. In its history, Beringer has only had nine winemakers. But it hasn't remained in the Beringer family. It was sold to Nestle in 1971, which was later sold to Texas Pacific Group. The Foster's Group owned it next and today it is owned by Treasury Wine Estates. 

The staff keep a log book of haunting activity on the property. Frederick is one of the main spirits. He haunts the Rhine House. Furniture is shoved around, disembodied footsteps are heard and his full-bodied apparition has been seen. After closing time one evening, two employees were cleaning up when they heard a large crash. It had come from upstairs and they figured out that it had been Frederick's former bedroom from which the noise eminated. He died in the room in 1901. The employees found a heavy silver tray on the floor. It was across the room from where it usually sat. On top of that, there was a bunch of broken stemware. At other times, objects go missing. Fred clearly doesn't like his private area being a public place. His room is now a tasting room. The cleaning crew has experienced some truly frightening experiences at night. Several times they have watched Fredericks ghost walk right through the walls. One worker ran out of the house and never returned.

Well, who wouldn't like a little wine with their ghosts? You know we dig it. Are these wineries in Wine Country haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, February 8, 2024

HGB Ep. 524 - St. Ignatius Hospital

Moment in Oddity - Exploding Casket Syndrome (Suggested by: Kim Gasiorowski)

Many of our listeners are taphophiles and enjoy the peace and tranquility of a beautiful cemetery. Walking along, admiring various headstones and often times extravagant mausoleums. We would imagine a sudden BOOM from an explosion of a mausoleum would scare and shock most people. If the explosion didn't scare you the noxious fumes assaulting your nasal passages would certainly disgust you. This phenomenon typically happens in above ground crypts. You see, when bodies are in a state of decomposition, they release gases as they begin to liquify. If there is no way for those gases to be released from a mausoleum coffin, Ka-BAM! You end up with a putrid mess and possibly a cracked mausoleum wall or two. The solution to this ghastly issue is to be certain that the casket itself has a burper installed. Yes, you heard that correctly, a burper valve allows the gases to be released and oxygen to enter the casket so that the dehydration process can occur. Sounds similar to some Tupperware containers, doesn't it? Now, we read some articles that indicated that this whole story may just be an urban legend, however, the thought of experiencing the malodorous discharge of decomposition gases from a mausoleum explosion due to lacking a casket burper valve, certainly is odd.

This Month in History - The Introduction of Alka Seltzer

In the month of February, on the 21st, in 1931, Alka Seltzer was first sold in the United States. It's origin can be followed back to the flu epidemic that hit the states back in 1928. The president of Miles Laboratory, Hub Beardsley, had heard a rumor that the employees of the local newspaper were all healthy and working. Meanwhile, the majority of the townsfolk were suffering quite badly with flu symptoms. Upon visiting the newspaper, Beardsley found the staff working like normal. Inquiring about any illnesses within the company, Hub was told that any time the employees were feeling any flu like symptom, they would drink a mixture of aspirin and baking soda which eliminated any signs of illness. When Beardsley returned to the laboratory, he conferred with his head chemist who developed a mixture of aspirin, sodium bicarbonate and anhydrous citric acid. The antacid would become effervescent when added to water. To test the new product, Beardsley took 100 pills on a cruise and supplied free samples to anyone who was feeling ill. The results were that every person who took the novel medication received some form of relief. Due to this test, Miles Laboratory introduced Alka Seltzer to their line-up of medications. Although there are variations of the original formulation, one constant that remains is the "plop, plop, fizz, fizz, Oh what a relief it is" jingle that we are all familiar with.

St. Ignatius Hospital (Suggested by listener: Nate)

St. Ignatius Hospital dates back to the 1890s and was started by a group of nuns from Montreal. For over seventy years it served as a healthcare facility and then reopened as an assisted living facility that shuttered in 2003. The building was left to decay for many years, but was taken under the wing of the Colfax Chamber of Commerce and the Whitman County Historical Society in 2015. Tours have been hosted since then and some of them include talk of ghosts. Join us and our guest Valoree Gregory as we explore the history and hauntings of St. Ignatius Hospital. 

St. Ignatius was designed and built by Mother Joseph. Mother Joseph was born as Esther Pariseau in 1823 in Quebec, Canada. She entered the Sisters of Charity of Providence convent in 1843. She led her congregation to the Pacific Northwest of the United States and they established a network of schools and healthcare facilities. Mother Joseph was the first female architect in British Columbia and she built 11 hospitals, seven academies, five schools for Native American children and two orphanages. These were spread through four states. She died of a brain tumor in 1902.

In early 2021, the hospital was purchased by Laura and Austin Storm. They have been doing a ton of renovation that started with repairing a large hole in the roof that had allowed extensive damage to the interior for over 20 years. Decades of neglect had left the building in poor condition so that it has appeared on the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation’s “Most Endangered Watch List” every year since 2015. Funding of the renovations is provided by historic and ghost tours and ghost hunts. There does seem to be a lot of activity here. Paranormal Lockdown visited in 2017 and Ghost Adventures visited in 2019. The GA Crew caught an anomaly in a photo from one of their full-spectrum cameras. It appeared to show “a white misty apparition.”

The first patient that died at the hospital was a local railroad employee who tragically was crushed between two railroad cars. Some people believe his spirit is the one that is described as a large, angry black mass that tries to attack people. 

Nuture Your Soul visited in December of 2023 and wrote of the experience on Facebook, "What I experienced there personally - were communications of love & excitement that I could see / hear. I saw 4 small children following us & peering out the windows at us as we passed by - which was delightful to them & to me. I felt palpable whimsey & delight that so many people still choose to visit there & I felt nothing terrified, stuck, angry or regretful. In fact, quite the opposite!"

Valoree shared the experiences that she has had in the hospital. 

St. Ignatius Hospital is a building in need of a lot of love and it seems that it has people who want to honor it and rehab it now. There seem to be many souls that have not passed on and decided to stay within the confines of that building. Is St. Ignatius Hospital haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, February 1, 2024

HGB Ep. 523 - Cedar Grove Mansion

Moment in Oddity - Owl Quidditch (Suggested by: Michael Rogers)

We all know the saying, 'If it's too good to be true then it probably isn't'. However, in this particular story it IS true. Around a year ago there was a video that went viral. Most of us know what a child's stick horse looks like because it's been known as a child's toy since the 16th century. Now-a-days, stick horses typically come with a full plush head and of course, the attached stick. Some people may argue that a plushie could be mistaken for a real animal, but most would suggest that if you think a plushie looks alive then you need glasses. As powerful as birds-of-prey eyes are, one would think that they would not make this same error. However, a Great Horned Owl did just that and may need its own pair of spectacles. Apparently, the flawed focus of the feathered friend thought a plushie child's stick horse was something he could consume. OR, he just knew how famous he would get by flying through the skies carrying the toy. Photos of the owl look very much like a witch flying on a broomstick or perhaps he's playing Quidditch. Either one in our books makes him AMAZING! Regardless, an owl flying around with a child's stick horse, certainly makes him odd.

This Month in History - First Publication of The Reader's Digest

In the month of February, on the 5th, in 1922, the first Reader's Digest magazine was published. The founders, DeWitt Wallace and his wife Lila created the condensed selection of articles that were of topical interest and entertainment news.  The magazine was pocket sized and appealed to readers of the time despite being rejected by many magazine publishers. Eventually Wallace began to create commissioned articles. He offered the articles to other publications and once they were published, Wallace would reprint them in Reader's Digest and pay the other magazine a 'reprinting' fee. Slowly the magazine began printing its original articles. Many editors disliked this practice by Wallace. The Digest was also proposed as an impartial journal but was sometimes denounced for the publishers' often conservative point of view. By the late 20th century, Reader's Digest was producing thirty-nine editions around the globe in fifteen different languages and is still a popular magazine today.

Cedar Grove Mansion (Suggested by: Amy Martinez)

The city of Vicksburg was indelibly marked by the Civil War. After it surrendered, rumors claimed that the Union pillaged the city. Many of the historic locations there have a spiritual residue because of that fact. One of these places is the Cedar Grove Inn. The inn was not only a residence, but it eventually served as a Civil War hospital and morgue and has had infant deaths and accidental shootings connected to it. The stories of haunting activity at this location are plentiful. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Cedar Grove Inn! 

Vicksburg sits high on a series of bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River and was part of the Choctaw Nation until the United States purchased it in 1801. Before that, the French had built a fort here and were later attacked by the Natchez tribe that lived throughout the region. The Choctaw helped the French defeat the Natchez and that was why the Choctaw owned the land. The city of Vicksburg was founded in 1811 and incorporated in 1825. Methodist minister Newitt Vick founded a mission here and so the town was named for him. The Murrell Excitement took place in 1835 and this involved a mob of residents who were tired of the gambling element in their city. Some of these gamblers had shot and killed a local doctor, so they expelled all but five of the gamblers from Vicksburg. The five remaining gamblers were hanged. The Cedar Grove Mansion started out as a personal residence built by jeweler and banker John Alexander Klein. He was born in 1812 in Virginia and moved to Vicksburg in 1836. John married Elizabeth Bartley Day in 1842 and they had ten children. Four of them wouldn't make it into adulthood, two dying as infants. Klein had the three-story Greek Revival Mansion built in 1840 right after he met Elizabeth in New Orleans. When they married, she was sixteen and he was thirty. The couple traveled Europe for two years after marrying, buying furniture for their new home. As their family expanded, so too did the mansion. A south wing was added and then later, a north wing.

And then the Civil War started and Vicksburg would face the Siege of Vicksburg. Both sides of the war had their eyes on Vicksburg because of its strategic location along the Mississippi River. Jefferson Davis said of Vicksburg that it was "the nailhead that holds the South's two halves together." And Abraham Lincoln knew that taking Vicksburg was the key to winning. The campaign in Vicksburg began in 1862. The Battle of Vicksburg itself began on May 18, 1863 with the Union troops under General Grant. He initially tried to cross the Mississippi into rebel territory at Grand Gulf on April 29th, but they were repelled. The Union moved further south and eventually clashed with Confederate troops under General John Pemberton. The Confederates retreated to Vicksburg and the Union followed. Major General William Sherman was waiting just northeast of the city.

The Confederates had an early win and pushed back the Union, but the Union made another push two days later and they had a small victory. Interestingly, the major road used during both of these skirmishes was named Graveyard Road. General Grant was frustrated with the lack of Union success, so he opted to lay seige to Vicksburg. The rationing of supplies and food and constant bombardment from the Union, wore down Pemberton's troops. The residents of Vicksburg had to abandon their homes and seek refuge in crudely dug caves. This was true for the Klein's as well, which was a good thing because the house suffered damage during the shelling. A cannon ball is still lodged in the wall of the gentlemen's parlor.

General Grant had his men dig tunnels and set explosives under the Confederate works, which turned out to be a huge explosion that left behind a 12-foot deep crater. Lots of hand-to-hand combat followed, but the Confederates persisted. General Pemberton finally agreed to meet with Grant to discuss surrender, but makes no such agreement because Grant wanted it to be unconditional. Grant later reconsidered and offered parole to the Confederates and the siege ended on July 4, 1863. There were over 32,000 Confederate casualties to the 4,900 Union. The Klein's mansion was turned into a field headquarters and hospital to care for the wounded. The Klein family themselves had retreated to a home they had north of Vicksburg called Ballground Plantation. They were able to make this move before the siege because of an important connection. Elizabeth Klein was the niece of William Tecumseh Sherman. At the time, Elizabeth was pregnant with the couple's ninth child and her uncle told her to get out of town. As a show of thanks, that child was named William Tecumseh Sherman Klein. 

Controversy surrounded the Klein family as their neighbors saw them as Union sympathizers and they probably were as many of those neighbors fell on hard times after the war, but the Kleins came through just fine. Part of the reason they were able to keep their fortune is that they hid it in plain sight. They had a custom made piece of furniture that was actually a compartment safe. The Union had no idea that it wasn't just a piece of fancy furniture. This piece of furniture still sits in the dining room. John Klein was able to build four more homes in Vicksburg for his children: “The Corners” for Susan, “Bellevue” for George, “Floweree” for John Jr., and “Annabelle” for Madison. Three of those mansions still stand today. Tragedy struck for the Klein family in 1879, when fifteen-year-old Willie Klein - the one named for Sherman - was on the front porch with a loaded rifle and a  and the rifle got knocked over and the gun went off and Willie was shot in the chest. The Kleins never got over this death. Elizabeth wore black for the rest of her life and John was depressed for the next five years until his death in 1884. Elizabeth died in 1909. 

The Klein family held onto the mansion until 1919. The house was sold to the Tonnar family and they lived in it for seventeen years. The Podesta family were the next owners for fourteen years. In 1960, the Vicksburg Theater Guild stepped in because the mansion was facing demolition. They used the ballroom to put on plays, one of which was “Gold in the Hills,” which holds the world record for longest running show. The Guild also hosted tours of the house. By 1981, the house was launching into what it would become for the rest of its time and that was a hotel. The first inn keepers were the Kinsmans and then the Mackeys took over. The Small Family bought the property in 2003 and they ran it until 2018 when it was donated. In 2018, Mark Zipperer, who owned Pride Hospitality, bought the inn and closed the restaurant. He sold in 2020 to THEP Corporation, which was co-owned by Tommy Hughes who was a direct descendant of George Klein. Tommy shut down the B&B and started doing renovations. In 2022, the current owners, Harley Caldwell and Dr. Steven and Kendra Reed, bought the property and they made major renovation and reopened as The Inn at Cedar Grove. The inn offers River View Suites, Carriage House Rooms, Pool Cabanas and rooms in the mansion. One of those rooms is the General Grant's Suite, which still holds a bed that General Grant slept in for three days.

One of the more prominent spirits here is John Klein himself. This was his home that he loved and the gentlemen's parlor was his favorite space. he enjoyed sitting in a chair and enjoying his pipe. And that is what many people claim about the parlor, that they smell pipe smoke. Other activity here includes the apparitions of children, usually a young girl and an older boy, and the disembodied sounds of children and babies. Disembodied moaning is heard. And glasses go flying off shelves on their own. There is a bed that sometimes looks like someone is laying in it when no one is in it. The spirits of soldiers are seen around the inn as well.

Stefanie W wrote on TripAdvisor in 2014, "We stayed in the "Library Suite," which is a two-level suite. The top level was the original home-owner's library with a spiral staircase leading down to his wine-cellar. The wine-cellar was used as a morgue during the time that the Union army used the home as a hospital--and that is where the bed is. The private patio is a bit creepy, as it's boxed in with thick lattice and there is no light out there. It's also a bit mossy out there as well. I found the place to be exceptionally clean and well-maintained. The first thing I did when settled into our room was to open the book cases and man-handle the books, some dating back as far as 1829. This may have been the reason I received so much attention later in the night. After a few drinks in the bar and a very well-prepared meal in the restaurant, we turned in early. Two hours later, the fun began. I awoke to a very loud series of noises. It sounded like someone had busted into the room above us (the library). My mother, in the bed next to me, said she hadn't heard it, but it sounded to her like someone was humming in her ear. Nearly panic-stricken, my first thoughts were of the rational and explainable and I was sure I had left my purse upstairs, so I wanted to go see if someone had indeed busted into the room, but I was frozen in fear in the bed. There was a general feeling of uneasiness and an angry air about the room that night and I was afraid to put my feet on the floor and walk up the stairs. (it is important to note that I go looking for these things... I am the person who quickly jumps up to investigate the strange noise down the dark corridor... but that night, I felt real fear for the first time) After gathering my courage, I was able to go up and see that the door remained securely locked and nothing was out of place. The room still felt wrong, but it was late and we were tired, so we lay down and try to get back to sleep. That was when the non-existent mosquitoes began their attack. It felt as though I was being bitten all over and they kept buzzing in my ears to the point that I was smacking my ears so hard they rang. I itched all over, thinking I was being eaten alive by mosquitoes. Eventually the attack ceased and I was able to sleep for a few more hours. In the morning, there were no signs of there having been mosquitoes in the room and I had no bites. The next night, as darkness fell, we began to get a bit anxious about spending another night in the room. There were a few more couples staying in the house that night and we happily offered tours of our room, trying to make light of the experiences from the previous night. As we stood in the library, chatting with our fellow guests, someone or something whispered loudly in my ear. Nobody else heard it, I could clearly see everyone in the room and I couldn't quite make out what the voice had said. Nothing more out of the ordinary happened during our stay."

The former Cedar Grove chef said, "It was Christmas time and the entire banister in the hallway was covered with garland and ribbons. I came in that morning and I was told that I had left the front door wide open last night. I didn’t. I never do. I’m good about locking up. This exchange went back and forth a couple times until I suggested that we take a look at the security tapes. See, there’s a motion-activated security camera above each door, so I knew this would prove me right.We rewind the tape. Around 1am, the front door blasts open, then closes, then opens, closes about half way, opens again, then finally closes most of the way. The maintenance guy said that some wind must have blown it open and caused all that. I told him to look at that garland. It doesn’t move. There’s no wind. A lot of nights during winter, we won’t have any overnight guests. Even so, you’ll hear doors shut upstairs, children laughing, cold spots, and footsteps in the hallways pretty regularly. Especially in Room 6. The children’s room above the front desk. The ballroom is the worst. To me, it’s the most haunted place in there. The Podesta daughter shot herself in the head in there. Occasionally, you’ll hear gun shots, screams, and music. Always music. 2:30-3:30am is usually the most active time.

Many personal stories have been collected over the years from guests. Our listener Amy, who suggested this location, has been to this location and when she was there she smelled pipe smoke in the gentlemen's parlor. Her parents have been there as well and they heard a baby crying in the former nursery. Other guests have said, "One night, I heard a glass break in the bar area. Naturally, I wanted to go check it out. On the way, I heard a couple more break. One at a time. I assumed that the bartender had accidentally dropped them. As I walk in there, I notice the bartender standing far way from the bar and the last glass sliding off the shelf on its own." and "My husband and I were in the Grant Room and I walked to one of the large windows, which looks out on the front garden area. I stood there looking until I felt a finger run down my spine from my neck to my lower back. I jumped and turned expecting my husband to be standing there, but he was on the other side of the room."

"My husband and I stayed in 2002 and it was very scary. We stayed in the Victoria Suite. I woke up the first night with something scratching on the side of my bed. I thought that it was my husband’s arm under my head, but then I turned towards him and realized that he was on the other side of the bed. The next thing I remember is something pushing my arm as if trying to wake me up. I was too scared to open my eyes! In the morning, I asked the front desk if the place was haunted. They said that our suite was the old nursery and that “the children” always tried to wake up the “parent” on the right side of the bed. That night I was very tired and left my husband to relax on the rooftop. I went back to the suite and left the light on in the bathroom. He told me the next morning that there wasn’t any light on when he came to the room. While he was in the shower I heard a strange “clanging” sound over by the dresser. Turns out that the change my husband had thrown on the bureau rearranged itself in a line and all the pennies were turned face down."

"We knew the history of this home, being used as a hospital during the Civil war, and the basement being used as a morgue. The Lee Room had to have been part of that area as well, because it felt cold, thick and had a feeling of separation as well. Just on the other side of the wall in the Lee Room was the Library Suites sleeping area, which claims to be the morgue section, but rest assured, the Lee Room had seen its share too. I wasn’t the most comfortable in the lower area of the home, but that’s just me. One lady asked us where our little boy was. We told her we did not have kids. She said a little boy had just run in her room turned on and off the light and ran out. We asked the front desk and they said that there were no children staying on premises at the time."

"My husband and I went to the area for our forty first wedding anniversary. I have to say this place is very nice: it is lovely, and the food was wonderful. But there is “stuff” there. I felt it immediately when I went to our room to put our things away. I asked whatever it was to please leave us alone, as this was a celebration of our anniversary, and we wanted to enjoy it. I have to say, whatever it was did as I asked, and we were never frightened- but there were workers there scared to death, especially one girl who worked in the dining room, who was terrified of the stairs and the hallways. I was all over this house and took pictures with my cellphone, and got a heck of a surprise when I looked at them later. In one picture, you can just see the trailing hem of a ladie’s long dress. The picture was taken at daybreak, as I sat in the room with the cannon ball lodged in the wall. I did not get any feelings of dread or terror, but felt at times an atmosphere of quiet, gentle sadness."

"Sometime in the night I was laying on my right side. The bed cover was turned back. Under my left elbow that cover and sheet were tucked firmly. Something pulled the cover from under my left arm and I could feel the cover pull tight over my foot as it started to pull the cover back over my left shoulder and tuck it into my neck. I could sense a face very close to my face. I was fully awake, but I could not open my eyes. I think I was afraid to in anxiety of what may await. I could not speak. I was trying to say 'Don’t do this…don’t do this…don’t do this…' I finally regained my speech. As I protested loudly, an electric shock went through my body. Every hair on me was standing up. I knew with absolute certainty that something was in the room with me." 

Architectural Photographer Seth Parker wrote on his blog that his experiences at the inn were very tame, but that he did capture an interesting picture. He wrote, "On the surface, there’s not much to it, but looking in the mirror, there’s a figure that looks like it could be the form of a human in a gray shirt/sweater/coat (I was wearing a black t-shirt). This was a long exposure and I’m very familiar with cameras and how they work. It’s possible that someone was standing there when I snapped the photo, then moved to create the blur during the long exposure. I shoot architecture for a living, so I’m usually quite aware of when someone is in my shot; especially in reflections (because those are difficult to edit out). I never noticed anyone. Based on their positioning in the photo and the height of everything around it, my best guess is that the person was close to my height (6’4″). This person would have needed to be behind me and to my left. It could also be a number of other things. I would categorize it as mildly interesting over paranormal without more evidence to the contrary."

Here is that picture:

Seth had a bartender tell him the following story when he was staying there, "There are several buildings on the premises that house all 33 rooms. One building, close to the main house by the pool, sits near the parking area. There are two rooms in this building. Last night, the guests in one of those rooms called and complained about the guests in the adjoining room. They were being too loud. It sounded as if they were moving furniture in there and the TV volume was ridiculous. I had to let them know that there were no other guests in that building…..nor were there any guests on that side of the house closest to the building. Another time, I was outside and saw a man walking down the hill. That’s not a big deal, but something about where he came from and what he was wearing was just weird. So, I started watching him to make sure nothing suspicious was going on. He continued down the hill for a few seconds more and he simply disappeared. There’s nowhere to hide or disappear to. He was just gone."

There seems to be many different spirits in the inn ranging from the family that died here to the soldiers who came to their ends here as well. Is there residual energy reliving past events over and over? Are there restless spirits messing with guests and staff in an intelligent manner? Is Cedar Grove Mansion haunted? That is for you to decide!