Thursday, May 23, 2024

HGB Ep. 539 -The Drovers Inn

Moment in Oddity - Xiaozhai Heavenly Pit (Suggested by: Michael Rogers)

In Fengjie County (FEN g uh), China, one can find the deepest sinkhole known to man. It is known as Xiaozhai (she-ow zigh) Tiankeng or Xiaozhai Heavenly Pit. Its depth ranges from 1,677 to 2,172 feet deep while its width measures approximately 1,762 feet. During the rainy season, a beautiful waterfall can be found at the mouth of the sinkhole. To aide in tourism, a 2,800 step staircase was constructed to allow easier exploration of the pit. The sinkhole was formed when the roof of a subterranean river gave way into the native limestone. The underground river that created this magnificent formation still flows today. After being mapped by British explorers in 1994, it was determined that the underground river spans a distance of about 5.2 miles. Species of flora and fauna number in the 1,285 range and include the ginkgo plant and even rare animals like the cloud leopard and Chinese giant salamander. The latter being one of the largest amphibians in the world having the capability of growing up to 6 feet in length. Exploration of the area may be a bit tiring for some but the views are said to be incredible and worth the effort. A majestic mesmerizing sinkhole of such magnitude, certainly is odd.

This Month in History - Frank Capra

In the month of May, on the 18th in 1897, Frank Capra was born. He was an Italian-born American film director, producer and screenwriter who had many major award winning films to his credit. He was raised in Los Angeles from a young age and was the only one of his seven siblings to attend college. Although he had that education, Capra was unable to hold a steady job. For a few years he resided in flophouses, hopped freight trains and supported himself with odd jobs on farms, performing as a movie extra, and selling oil well stocks. He once said that he "hated being a peasant, being a scrounging new kid trapped in the Sicilian ghetto of Los Angeles. ... All I had was cockiness—and let me tell you that gets you a long way." And indeed it did. When he was 25, Capra read a news article about a new movie studio that was opening in San Francisco. He phoned the studio and insinuated that he had experience in the film industry, although his only experience had been while in high school. The founder of the studio, Walter Montague, was still impressed by Capra and paid him $75 to direct a one-reel silent film based on a Rudyard Kipling poem. After that experience, Capra concentrated his efforts on obtaining additional jobs in the film industry. He was hired to be a gag writer for Hal Roach's 'Our Gang/Little Rascals' series and he continued developing his film industry skills. In 1928, Capra initiated his connection with Columbia Pictures and Harry Cohn in what would become a long term alliance. At the time Columbia Studios was considered a Poverty Row studio while up against companies like MGM, Paramount and Warner Brothers. In the 1930s, Capra began the climb to establish himself as a number one Hollywood director. Capra's films like 'It's a Wonderful Life', 'You Can't Take It With You', and 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' solidified his arrival in a true 'rags to riches' style of the American Dream personified.

The Drovers Inn (Suggested by: Robert Kruse)

The Drovers Inn has stood for over 300 years and is one of Scotland's oldest and most haunted pubs. This establishment was named for the highland drovers, which were cattle drivers. Over the years, thousands of people have stayed here. Some have experienced paranormal activity and there seems to be many stories connected to this location and to the drovers themselves that involve death. And this, of course, leads to ghost stories. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of The Drovers Inn.

Loch Lomond is a freshwater loch in Scotland that crosses the Highland Boundary Fault. Many people think of this as the boundary between the lowlands of Central Scotland and the Highlands. Loch Lomond started back with the Ice Age. Three or four lochs merged into this body of water. People first settled the area around 5000 years ago and they left behind some evidence of their dwellings. The Romans invaded in the first century AD and they built a glen-blocker fort at Drumquhassle (Drumcastle). Glenblocker forts are located at the exit of a glen. During the early Middle Ages this area was part of the Kingdom of Strathclyde. During the Early Medieval period, viking raiders sailed up Loch Long and sacked several islands in the loch. Eventually this became part of the province of Lennox and was called Loch Lennox. The name was later changed to Loch Lomond, which is probably from the Gaelic word leamhan, meaning Lake of Elms. Folk hero Rob Roy hid out here at times and whisky smugglers had a major smuggling route through the area. Loch Lomond is popular with tourists. At the northern tip of Loch Lomond, the Drovers Inn was built.

The Drovers Inn was established in 1705, but more than likely was a military installation before becoming the inn. Diane saw on a map of the same location that it was probably named Ault Arnin Inn. The inn was later named Drovers Inn for the Highland Drovers. Highland soils proved to be better for raising cattle, rather than growing crops and so cattle droving became a vital part of the Scottish economy and remained as such for 300 years. Cattle were an important food source and could even be bled a bit without killing them to get blood to mix with oatmeal to make an early version of black pudding. *Yum - gag!* Just as they ran cattle drives in the West of America, Scotland would do the same to bring cattle to market, traveling long distances. The drovers would gather around the fires and share stories in the evenings and many of these stories included folk tales, stories about cows and horses and fairy tales. These early cattle were called Black Cattle and they were descended from Celtic Oxen and were a smaller version of more modern day Highland Cows and they were very hardy. They had long horns and thick hides with long hair that was well suited to the harsh winters. When Scotland was still set up as clans, it was expected of a young, up-and-coming chief that he would make a raid on the cattle of another clan as proof of his manhood. Fun Fact: Blackmail became a word at this time because mail meant rent and tagging it onto black referred to paying a tribute to get protection for the cattle. The black referred to the black color of the cattle. Droving eventually went away as a way of life when the railroad made transporting cattle easier. Many of those Scotsmen immigrated to America and became cattle ranchers in Texas.

The Drovers Inn originally catered to the drovers and one of those men was the infamous outlaw Rob Roy. Many people refer to him as Scotland's Robin Hood. Rob was born as a MacGregor and later took on the nickname Rob Roy, meaning Red Rob for his dark red hair. His uncle was the chief of the clan MacGregor. Rob spent his early years cattle stealing and blackmailing and when the penal laws against his clan of MacGregor were reinstituted, he took on his mother's name of Campbell in 1693. Rob was eventually entangled in debt and ruined by 1712. He then started a life of highway robbery, particularly during the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715. He was arrested in the early 1720s and confined to Newgate Prison in London. Rob Roy was pardoned in 1727 and died in 1734 at the age of sixty-three.

The Drovers Inn faces the road from Crianlarich to the head of Loch Lomond and stands three stories tall. There is a central gabled dormer and central pitched roof front porch with a window that had been a door when the inn first opened. The exterior was made from rubble stone and the roof was graded slate. A large wing to the right was added in the late 19th century. The left has a single story addition. There are small stacks to the North and South gables and a near-central ridge stack. The interior has been renovated extensively, but some original parts still exist. The ceilings are low and the windows have shutters. The interior is quirky and has been decorated with many taxidermy animals, including a bear that greets people upon entering. The bar still serves up drinks and the kitchen provides gourmet meals. A metal shark hangs from the ceiling of the Breakfast Room. In 2004, Ernest Strang bought the establishment. He sold to the Bruce Group Scotland in 2022 for more than 3 million pounds. The Drovers Inn today has fifteen rooms filled with antiques, oil paintings and modern amenities. There is also the Drovers Lodge across the road that 16 modern chalet style rooms and the Old Stagger Inn has three double rooms.

This is said to be one of the most haunted inns in Scotland. There are many stories connected to the unexplained phenomenon. The first dates to 1792, which was known as "The Year of the Sheep." The owner of the land where a certain crofting family was living decided that it would be more profitable to use the land for sheep farming and he forcibly removed the family. A croft is an area of land used for agriculture, so the family was farming the land with crops. The couple had a young child and they decided to head to the Scottish lowlands and if that didn't work out, they would emigrate to another country. It was a bad time of year to be traveling as it was winter and they were caught in a heavy snowstorm. The decided to make their way to The Drovers Inn, but the visibility became poor and the family was soon lost and they froze to death. There have been many people who claim to have seen the family wandering near the inn and sometimes even inside the inn as though they have finally reached their destination in the afterlife. One couple staying in Room 2 were awakened from their sleep because the room had turned freezing cold. As they peered towards the end of the bed, they saw a young family of four standing there, shivering. They could even see their breath in the icy chill of the room. The young boy of the family waved at the couple. And then, the family disappeared.

The ghost of a cattle drover named Angus is said to be at the inn. Nearly 300 years ago, he was driving a herd of cattle to a highland chieftain. He decided to overnight at the Drovers Inn and let the cattle rest. Angus decided that he too would rest, but not before he imbibed in several of the ales the inn had. A rival clan was at the inn and they saw that Angus was very inebriated. Angus passed out and awoke late the next morning. He was upset that he hadn't gotten an early start, but he was even more upset when he saw that the cattle he was driving were gone. The rival clan had stolen them. Angus had no choice, but to continue on to the highland chieftain and tell him what happened. The chieftain was enraged and he punished Angus by killing his family and his sweetheart. Angus was then banished from the clan. He roamed the highlands for months and came upon the rival clan and decided to get revenge. Angus hid himself and prepared to ambush the clan, but he had been spied earlier by one of its members and the group actually ambushed Angus. It was night and they hanged him from a tree behind the Drovers Inn and bled him out. Many guests have claimed to hear the disembodied screams of Angus and to see his apparition wandering outside the inn, perhaps still seeking revenge.

The River Falloch runs behind the Drovers Inn. Many years ago, a young girl was playing with her doll named Anabel - of course! - in the water. Usually the river was fairly tame and shallow, but there had been a lot of rainfall the day before and the undercurrent of the river was very strong. The child lost her footing and slipped beneath the water and was swept down river. By the time anyone noticed that she was missing, it was too late. A search party of family and cattle drovers found her lifeless body and carried it to The Drovers Inn, and laid her on the bed of room 6. The family went off to prepare her burial. Because the girl had been placed in this room, it is thought her spirit is connected to Room 6. Guests claim to be awoken at night when they feel a tiny, ice cold body next to theirs. And the doll Anabel has popped up in different areas of the room as if seeking her owner.

One couple staying in Room 6 reported, "On the night of Friday the 21st October my girlfriend and I made a stop off at the Drovers on our way up to the Isle of Mull. I have stayed at the Drovers many times but it was a first for my girlfriend. (She loved the place by the way). We stayed in room 6. After having a bite to eat in the bar we retired to our room for the night. At some stage in the middle of the night my girlfriend woke me up and asked if I could see the flickering lights moving around the room ? Still half asleep I told her she must be looking at the flashing light on the smoke detector. She asked me to look again, which I did. To my surprise there were numerous tiny white points of light dancing around in mid air. At any one time I would estimate that we could see between 10 and 20 of the lights. Although very small, the white lights were very intense. They seemed to move randomly, appearing and then disappearing. The room was pitch black with no other light source which could have been reflecting to cause what we saw. We both watched the lights for a long time, unable to explain what was causing them. The best I could come up with was that they were some type of tiny firefly, this was discounted when I later asked the hotel staff if such creatures inhabited the area. The answer to this question was “No!!” A week and a half on we still cannot give a rational explanation for what we witnessed. Currently the only explanation we have is that we witnessed a number of “Orbes”, often seen in photographs and believed to be some kind of spiritual manifestation. I can’t wait to return to 6 , I’ll bring a decent video camera next time!"

Another little girl ghost may be at the inn as well. A guest emailed the inn about this spirit and they share on the website, "A lady recently stayed at The Drovers one Thursday night with her daughter and friends for a birthday treat. A few days later she emailed wondering if we could tell them who the little girl in the pink dress was in the photograph they’d taken on the stairs. She said she was not with their party and they didn’t recall seeing any children in the hotel that night. Her daughter, who took the photograph, swears the little girl was not there when she took the photo of the staircase with her mobile phone. They were totally spooked out by the photograph but felt sure we’d be able to give them an explanation – unfortunately not though, there were no children staying at the hotel that evening, nor any children visiting. Spooky!" No one knows who this little girl ghost might be.

The Inn shared another experience from a couple who stayed in Room 115. "In the morning, while packing up to get on their way, they noticed that their digital camera had been moved slightly from where it was sitting next to the bed. While inspecting the camera, they found that there had been a number of photographs taken throughout the night. On looking through the photographs, they all appeared to be of the couple sound asleep, with what looked like an eerie light emanating from above the four poster bed they lay on. Confused by this discovery, they at first thought it could have been the work of one of their traveling companions, trying to play a prank on the couple for retiring early the night before. However, this explanation was soon discarded when they realized that their room door was still locked from the inside, as they had left it the previous night. On checking out of the Inn later on, the staff at reception also confirmed that there hadn’t been any staff that could have had access to the room either. With the couple’s friends also denying any knowledge of the incident, it remains a mystery to this day who or what took the photographs."

Paranormal investigators, Paranormal Scotland, captured eerie footage when they investigated in 2022. The group is headed by Michelle Walker and they overnighted in Rooms 2 and 6. Michelle told the Daily Record, "When we first arrived we had a good look around before we went up to Haunted room 6 and set up a camera. We left this camera running while we went down to set up some cameras and equipment in room 2, which is also said to be haunted." Room 2 didn't get them any results, but in Room 6 they captured several glowing balls moving in all different directions. Michelle said, "We caught on camera some strange lights, what we believe to be orbs. I know a lot of people put this down to dust or insects, but there were no bugs in that room that night, and dust is just completely different under a camera, it's a lot more consistent. What we captured was just amazing to watch."  The group also captured a weird picture of something white and translucent passing the bedroom door. 

The ashes of a former patron are kept in the pub. His name was George. There are some who say that George now haunts the bar. The Drovers Inn invites people to come as strangers and leave as friends. Perhaps there are some spirits who just decided to stay, period. Is the Drovers Inn haunted? That is for you to decide!

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