Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Haunted Halcyon House

When Benjamin Stoddert built Halcyon House and named it after the Greek legend about a bird that brings calm seas and peaceful days I am sure he hoped as much for his new home. 

But alas this was not to be for Stoddert. Despite the fact, he was the first Secretary of the Navy in John Adam’s administration he was not to have calm or peaceful days. 

Initially, Stoddert was a seafaring man, he established a shipping business that unfortunately fell on hard times. By the time he left his post as Secretary of the Navy in 1801 he found himself nearly destitute. 

In 1813 he died broke. If trauma in life means one’s spirit lingers, it might be the reason Stoddert’s soul has decided not to leave the magnificent home he built.

Halcyon House is located in the Georgetown district of Washington, D.C. It is a lovely Georgian style mansion that sits on a bluff overlooking the Potomac River. 

The home was initially small and elegant. Stoddert had the renowned planner Pierre Charles L’Enfant design his terrace. The home’s garden was and is considered very beautiful.

In the years following Stoddert’s death this home passed through several hands. Some state this is because Stoddert’s ghost often made appearances during this time. 

His figure was seen standing at windows looking out. Many witnesses described a man that fit his appearance--a short, stout man, older and balding. He sometimes was seen sitting in a favorite Captain’s chair in the home.

In the mid-1800s during the Civil War, the home’s basement, was connected to a tunnel that led to the Potomac River. This tunnel was part of the Underground Railroad and was used to hide runaway slaves who were headed north. 

Legend states that some of these slaves died in the home’s basement. It appears their ghosts haunt this area for their cries and moans can be heard to this day. At the turn of the 20th century the entrance to this tunnel was walled up, but this did not stop the activity.

In the 1930s the home’s most eccentric owner moved in. Albert Adsit Clemons* at best was a very odd sort--at worst some state he was mad. 

It seems Clemons got the notion that as long as he added on to the house, he would never die. This irrational belief led him to build doors that opened to brick walls, rooms without walls, and a staircase that went nowhere. 

During the time he owned the house he also adamantly refused to have the home wired for electricity. Needless to say, all this activity did not prevent his death in 1938. He did add on to the home’s square footage, but he left a floor plan that was a collection of odd mazes.

After Clemons death, the activity in the home increased. It seems his spirit joined Stoddert-- for both men haunt the house. 

The electricity, when installed, was erratic and has never worked correctly. Doors and windows are often found open, even when locked. One engraving that was hung on the wall would fall to the floor regularly. Footsteps and strange noises were often heard in the home’s attic.

In the early 1960s Georgetown College acquired the land and turned the home briefly into a student dorm. This further ruined the structure. 

During this time Vice President Hubert Humphrey considered buying the home, but he decided against it—considering the cost and work needed to restore it.

By far the most unusual activity reported happened in the 1970s. 

This involved three separate occurrences of levitation that all happened in the second-floor master bedroom. A male tenant and then a female guest on different occasions both awoke to find that they were floating above the bed they slept in. 

A couple around this same time who were caretakers for the home awoke in the same room to find that both their positions had been reversed—their heads were at the foot of the bed.

In the 1990s Halcyon House was on many lists as the most haunted house in Washington D.C. But its most recent owners who spent 16 years restoring the property claim to have never experienced anything—but the many workmen that renovated it did…

Halcyon House went up for sale in 2008. The home is not only restored to its original splendor –the property has been further improved. 

It has 30,500 square feet, which includes a new fourth floor with a studio. The home also has a library, chapel, three living rooms, and a ballroom. 

Outside there is a pool and an adjacent townhouse that has six luxury apartments. The home’s original entryway still commands a spectacular view of the Potomac River, harbor and the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and Kennedy Center. 

The Halcyon House is priced at 30 million dollars. The home is a historic site and has been used for many weddings.

* Clemons belief is similar to Sarah Winchester’s obsession for her home-- Winchester House in San Jose, California. Albert Clemons was Mark Twain's’ nephew.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Ghosts of Cedar Creek

On October 19, 1864, an American Civil War battle was fought in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. 

Confederate Lieutenant General Jubal Early’s “Army of the Valley” troops launched a surprise attack at dawn * against the encamped “Army of Shenandoah” led by Union Maj. General Philip Sheridan. 

Maj. General Philip Henry Sheridan

What happened next resulted in one of the most dramatic and bitter battles fought in the Civil War. This battle’s outcome changed the course of the war and helped Lincoln get elected to a second term. 

The Battle of Cedar Creek as it is known also left many restless spirits who still linger on this battlefield today.

Lt. General Jubal Early
In mid-October of 1864, the Union army no longer considered the Confederate’s Valley’s troops much of a threat. 

With half rations and sheer will power, General Early marched his Confederate troops day and night so he could surprise General Sheridan’s Union troops camped at Cedar Creek. 

General Sheridan, himself, was staying the night in Winchester, he had just returned from a conference in Washington that morning when he heard the distance canon fire. 

He quickly dressed and jumped on his faithful black horse, Rienzi, and charged to the battle.**

Within thirty minutes, he encountered his retreating men. That morning, Early’s half-starved men had managed to drive back seven Union infantry divisions who found themselves bombarded by their own artillery. The Confederacy had managed to commandeer these guns. 

This sent the Union soldiers in retreat. 

This initial Confederate success was surprising considering these troops at first ignored their officers as they raided the Union supply tents in search of food.  

General Early gave up this advantage when he made the decision not to pursue the Union troops north of Middletown--for the Union army was in chaos when they reached Middletown, having lost many of their leaders.

This Confederate mistake gave Sheridan, when he arrived, the time to quickly rally his men. The result was he was able to turn his Union troops around and launch several counterattacks. 

Sheridan's men spent the afternoon hitting various spots along the Confederate line, which ultimately broke down their defense. This turned the tide of the battle, and the Confederate’s now were the defeated. 

General Sheridan became a famous hero*** and the Confederate’s loss effectively ended their invasion of the North. They were never again able to threaten Washington, D.C., through the Shenandoah Valley. 

They also could no longer protect one of their vital economic assets-- Virginia. Sheridan’s victories in this Valley and Sherman’s successes in Georgia resulted in Abraham Lincoln being re-elected as president.

The fierceness of this battle left 8,000 soldiers dead--many others were wounded. Within days of the fight, the local residents started to notice activity they could not explain. 

A church that had been used as a Union field hospital during the battle became the focus of much of this activity. Many of the dead were hastily buried here in the yard, and then later these bodies were unearthed and placed in pine boxes to be sent back up north. Residents felt this was the main reason that Cedar Creek was haunted.

Witnesses saw a light leave the church late at night and go over to where the pine coffins were stacked. One resident stated it was if someone was searching through them with a candle, but no one has seen a human figure holding this light. 

When the coffins were removed, it was hoped the activity would cease, but it continued. Late at night cries of pain, moans and footsteps were heard near the church, but again no one is ever seen. 

In recent times witnesses have heard the whine of shots overhead and the distant boom of cannon fire.

One farmer who was leasing a barn that was located upon the battlefield saw something that terrified him one night. He was up in the loft, throwing down hay to his horses when he spotted a man wearing a threadbare uniform standing below him. 

He yelled at the man that he did not allow bums to stay in his barn. When the stranger did not respond or leave, he became angry. He lurched at the figure with his pitchfork, but the fork’s tines went right through this dark figure. He ran from the barn too scared to finish feeding his horses.

Another farmer, walking along a road one night, saw a ghostly officer leading his troops. He first stated, he heard a bugle sound, and then he saw these phantom men who walked right past him without noticing his presence. ****

One phenomenon that has been heard by many is that of a phantom band. Military style music is heard faintly in the distance. Residents state they hear first a horn, a drum and then the entire band starts playing, but as soon as it starts it then abruptly stops.

* Some historians point out that this attack should not have been a surprise for one Union General by the name of Emory believed a Confederate attack was imminent due to information he received that the Southerners were spying on the Union position. 

Emory did report this to General Wright, who was temporarily in command while Sheridan was in Washington. Unfortunately, Wright dismissed it.

** After the battle General Sheridan changed his horse’s name to Winchester.

** Two future American presidents fought in the Battle of Cedar Creek-- Col. Rutherford B. Hayes and Capt. William Mckinley. Hayes was elected to office in 1876 and Mckinley in 1896.

**** This is typical to battlefield phantom sightings where the haunting is most likely residual in nature as opposed to an intelligent haunting.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Evil Ghost: Yuki-onna--Snow Woman

This traditional ghost legend is the subject of many books, comics, films, and animation in Japan. Lafcadio Hearn’s definitive book written in 1904, about Japanese ghosts, includes the tale of Yuki-onna—meaning snow woman. 

This particular ghost traditionally freezes or kills her human victims. Up until the 18th century Yuki-onna was always betrayed as evil, a spirit that preys upon unsuspecting humans. 

More recent tales focus on her beauty, she is betrayed with more humanlike traits. Even more recently, she is described as having vampire-like characteristics. 

But it is the more traditional tales that are fascinating.

She appears at night during bad snowstorms. She is described as very beautiful and appears wearing a white kimono. Other legends state she actually is nude, with only her face and hair standing out. She is often described as being very pale or even transparent for her figure blends in with the snow that surrounds her.

Despite her beauty, it is said her eyes terrify mere mortals. She is seen as she floats across the snow, never leaving footprints. In yet other tales, it is stated she has no feet—a trait common to female Japanese ghosts. 

It is believed that at any sign of danger, she just turns into a cloud or mist or even snow. She is associated with snow because she died in a snowstorm.

In many tales, Yuki-onna appears to travelers that find themselves trapped in snowstorms. She does not help these unfortunate souls. Instead, she turns them into frost-covered corpses. 

Or she simply leads these lost travelers astray, so they die of exposure. 

In other stories, she is described as holding a child. When her victim takes this child to help her, they become frozen in place. It is said parents looking for lost children often fall victim to this tactic.

Even more frightening tales are told about Yuki-onna. In these stories she invades homes, blowing in the door. It is said this chilly gust of wind kills the mortals inside while they sleep. * 

Being heartless, she enjoys watching her victims die. Other tales state she kills her victims to take their “life-force.” 

Yuki-onna is even sometimes betrayed as a kind of succubus that preys on weak males, to drain, or freeze them through sex or a kiss.

She is sometimes betrayed as having a softer side. In the popular Lafcadio Hearn version, she actually spares one of her victims. She then takes on a mortal appearance to marry him. 

Most surprising is when he betrays a promise, he made to her, she still spares his life.

In Hearn’s story, two woodcutters becoming lost in a particularly bad snowstorm. One woodcutter is young—Minokichi, the other is old—Mosaku. These two men come upon an isolated hut in the mountains where they take refuge and sleep. 

Mosaku is awakened to find a stunning young woman wearing white clothes, gazing down upon him. She breathes on him, and he freezes to death.

Yuki-onna then approaches the young Minokichi to breathe upon him. But she stops struck by his “beauty.” She decides she will not kill him, but as he wakes, she warns him that he must not tell any living soul that she has spared his life. She then explains if he betrays her, she will return and kill him.

A few years later Minokichi meets a lovely young woman named Oyuki—yuki meaning snow. He falls in love and marries her. She is a good wife, and the couple have several children. They manage to live happily together, and Minokichi notes his wife does not appear to age. 

One night after their children are in bed, Minokichi tells his wife that she sometimes reminds him of a mysterious woman he had met years before.

He describes the beautiful woman to his wife, and states he didn’t know if his memory was just a dream, or if this woman was a “Yuki-onna…” 

After he finishes his tale, Oyuki stands up abruptly. “That woman you met was me! I told you that I would kill you if you ever told anyone about that incident. However, I can’t kill you because of our children.” 

She then starts to melt, “Take care of our children…”** Then she just disappears. It is said Minokichi never saw her again.

* Some legends state she must be invited in first. 

** This version states that Minokichi was saved because he was a good, and kind father. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Ghost of Dr. John McLoughlin

John McLoughlin is one of the most compelling characters from Oregon’s pioneer history. He founded Oregon City while he was working for the Hudson Bay Company. He is known as the “Father of Oregon”. 

He built himself a large saltbox house in Oregon City, which was in sharp contrast to the typical one-room log cabins of the time. The locals called his home “the house of many beds” because McLoughlin was famous for his hospitality. 

But his kindness and generosity would eventually backfire on him leaving him an embittered man. Some state this is why he still haunts his home today.

McLoughlin was born into a family of farmers in Quebec in 1774. In 1821 at the age of 47 the Hudson Bay Company sent him to preside over the companies new headquarters at Fort Vancouver—this fort was across the Columbia River from Oregon and is today Vancouver, Washington. 

The British who owned Hudson Bay Company did not own the land they sent him to claim as a base of operations for their fur trade. 

McLoughlin a shrewd businessman was also a fair man. He often helped American pioneer settlers who braved the Oregon Trail. He sent many of these settlers south to the Willamette Valley extending them generous credit, food, and supplies so they could survive their first winter. He even rescued many who found themselves stranded on the trail. 

In 1929 he founded Oregon City planning and dividing the city into lots. He generously gave away 300 of these lots to settlers, churches, schools, etc. In 1845 he paid the Hudson Bay Company $20,000 and placed this land in his name--in an attempt to forestall Americans laying claim to the area. A power struggle ensued and McLoughlin was forced to resign from the Hudson Bay Company.

McLoughlin served as Oregon City’s first coroner, physician, and mayor. Always generous the doctor provided loans to many businesses as well as to individuals in the area. Despite his generosity and kindness, many resented McLoughlin because he was wealthy and British. 

He was also Catholic in a city that was mostly Protestant. To add insult to injury the doctor was married to a Chippewa woman. So when the American government disputed his right to the land few citizens in the area took his side.

In an attempt to retain his property McLoughlin became an American citizen but Congress would not recognize that he owned the land and took it from him—which sadly meant many of the people and organizations that he had given the 300 lots to also lost their property. 

Bitter and disillusioned McLoughlin died in 1857. His house was then used to board Chinese laborers and later was used as a bordello after which it was abandoned.

In 1909 his home was moved from its original location by the river to prevent its demolition. It is now on a bluff overlooking the city. In the 1930s it was restored and opened to the public as a museum. 

In the 1970s McLoughlin and his wife’s bodies were moved to this new location as well. For many years it appears his spirit rested in peace but when the bodies were moved this changed.

A former curator of the museum was working alone late one night when she felt someone tap her shoulder when she turned around no one was there. 

Soon after this encounter others started to see a dark figure moving down the hallway and into the bedroom where McLoughlin slept. Museum employees have heard odd noises and footsteps upstairs when they were alone.

Many witnesses have smelled the scent of tobacco throughout the house despite the fact that smoking is not allowed on the property. McLoughlin was known to enjoy his pipe. 

Voices have been heard in the distance, their origin has never been found and one bedroom in the home is often found in disarray—the bed unmade and the pillow removed. 

It is said on the anniversary of McLoughlin's death a strange glow is seen around a portrait of him that hangs in the home's drawing room. Heavy glass prisms on several lamps have been seen swaying when there is no vibration or wind to cause this movement.

One tourist on a tour of the home who lost a button off her outfit saw it rolling along the floor in a room she had not entered before. 

Yet others have seen a rocker in one of the bedrooms moving as if someone had just arisen from it. 

Another tourist saw a woman in an old fashioned dress standing at the bottom of the stairs, she assumed this woman was a guide until she saw her move away and then just disappear.

All of this strange activity over the years has placed “The McLoughlin House” on many lists as one of Oregon’s most haunted. 

In 1941 it was designated by Congress as a National Historic Site--the first in the West. This museum is open to the public five days a week--Wednesdays through Sundays. In the winter months, it is closed.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Pele Goddess of Fire: Spirit and Harbinger

The legend of this Hawaiian Goddess is fascinating. But Pele also appears as a spirit in many forms, and she is considered a negative harbinger. 

Pele is connected to the Big Island of Hawaii, which was formed by volcanoes. A local legend passed down from one Hawaiian generation to the next is Pele is considered the Goddess of these Volcanoes. Surprisingly, this traditional legend has a curse connected to it that still impacts people today.

The legend of Pele known as the “Goddess of Fire” in Hawaii starts with her being banished from Tahiti—another island in the Pacific—by her father because he did not like her hot temper. 

It is stated she always fought with her sister, Na-mako-o-kaha’i, who was the Goddess of the Sea. Pele left Tahiti in a canoe and went to Hawaii, where she made many fiery volcanoes. However, every time she made a volcano, her sister, who followed her, flooded the fire and put it out.

The legend states that finally the two sisters had a very violent fight where Pele was torn apart by her sister. This set Pele’s spirit free, and she became a Goddess. 

Today it is said Pele’s spirit lives in the Kilauea Volcano, which is one of the most active volcanoes on earth. Local Native Hawaiians still believe she has a fiery temper, and they both fear and respect her. 

The local natives will not even take a photo of this volcano believing this would be dangerous for Pele is considered to be both cruel and destructive.

Most Native Hawaiians state they have had at least one encounter with Pele’s spirit. Many have seen her more than once in their lifetimes. 

One of these witnesses recounted seeing her twice and felt her presence on countless other occasions. He first saw her in 1957 while the volcano erupted and then again in 1974 when he picked her up, hitching in Puna on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Pele is considered a shape changer or shapeshifter. Hawaiians state she takes on many forms. 

One frequent sighting of her involves her dancing and swirling in the fires and smoke of the active volcano. She is described as having long black hair that swirls around her as she dances. She is often also seen in the form of a white dog on moonless nights wandering alone. It is said when she takes this form, she becomes a harbinger. 

Hawaiians believe if they see this white dog it means a member of their “ohana” family will die.

Another form Pele takes is that of an old hag or witch. She is seen bent over with bits of lava rock and ash clinging to her long stringy gray hair. * 

In contrast, at times, she is seen as a young beautiful Hawaiian woman with long lustrous blue-black hair cascading down her back. She is often described as wearing a traditional muumuu or a holoku, which is a long flowing gown usually made of white fabric.

The curse connected to Pele involves visitors who take lava rock etc. from Hawaii home with them. This curse is based on a Hawaiian belief that if people do not respect Pele’s “aina” land, they will feel her wrath. 

It is believed if this is done the person who moves these bits of the earth: lava rock, sand or seashells will have bad luck until they return these items to their rightful place.** As it turns out, there is more to this legend than people first thought. Every year countless tourists return or send these items back to Hawaii.

The Hawaiian postal service receives “thousands of pounds” of such mail often addressed to “Queen Pele” from around the world. 

One young man’s story about this curse was highlighted in the Los Angeles Times in May of 2001. 

Timothy Murray stated he had always had exceptional luck up until the time he visited Hawaii in 1997. While visiting the Big Island of Hawaii, he scooped up some black lava sand off the beach and placed it in a small bottle. 

Once back in Florida, his home, he started to experience what he described as three years of bad luck that caused havoc in his life.

His beloved pet died, his girlfriend of five years who he planned to marry ended their relationship. He started to drink heavily, and he was arrested and jailed for computer copyright infringement. What is unusual about this is it is rare for people to be detained for this reason. 

When Murray mailed back the black sand to Hawaii, he wrote:

“Please take this sand and put it back somewhere on your island. I have had very bad luck since it came into my life and I am very sorry I took it. Please forgive me, and I pray that once I send it back where it comes from, my bad luck will go away.”

Native Hawaiians believe that they must live in harmony with all things natural. The many tourists that have sent back these bits of Hawaiian earth, who at first thought that Pele’s wrath was just based in superstition, often state that Pele should be respected.

* One witness who saw Pele was George Lycurgus owner--1904-1921-- of the Volcano House an inn at the edge of Kilauea. 

He states one night while attending a luau at the edge of this volcano, he and the rest of the partygoers spotted an old woman with long straggly hair leaning on a stick as she headed for the side of the volcano. 

The group called to her to join them, but she just continued on her way. Within moments they saw her disappear at the edge of the volcano--they rushed over thinking she must have fallen into the crater, but when they arrived, no one was there. 

Within moments the volcano began to erupt--the group quickly mounted their horses and left the area. Lycurgus often poured gin into Kilauea's crater. He felt these offerings saved his inn from Pele's path of destruction.

**  This curse is very similar to the one I wrote about in another post about Bodie, a ghost town in California, here.

Here is a video of Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Sunset Strip: Haunted Comedy Store

The part of Los Angeles known as the “Sunset Strip” connects West Hollywood to Beverly Hills—via Sunset Blvd. This area represents the wild or seedier side of Tinseltown—for it is here where locals for many years have come to have a good time. 

The Comedy Store, located on the Sunset Strip, has launched many famous comedians. The building that houses this club has a very colorful history—some believe this is why paranormal activity occurs at the Comedy Store.

This area had a bad reputation back to the 1920s—may be even further because it was here fifty years before when bandits, such as Tiburcio Vasquez * plied their trade. 

Sunset Boulevard was first established in 1870, and up until 1984, this infamous Strip was still unincorporated land, which meant it was not officially a part of Los Angeles. Therefore during this time, the Strip was not under the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles Police Department. 

This fact turned the area into a “safe haven” for casinos, burlesque theatres—strip clubs—gay and straight brothels and speakeasies during prohibition. This area also became the ideal spot for nightclubs—many of which remain along the Strip today.

The building that houses the Comedy Store is like the rest of the Strip, for it has a very seedy history. In the 1920s, this building housed the Club Seville. This club boasted a Marine Room, which had a glass dance floor made of crystals that were surrounded by fountains. 

Fish swam beneath people’s feet as they danced, this effect was topped off by colored lights. This club only lasted a year for women customers didn’t like the idea of fish looking up their dresses, and others feared this glass floor might break.

The most famous club to occupy the space was Ciro’s restaurant, where during Hollywood’s Golden Era, the elite came to be seen and party. 

At this time, one of Hollywood’s most notorious brothels was located right next door. Myth has it many stars that visited Ciro’s also took part in the next-door delights. 

Ciro’s also hosted the infamous gangster Mickey Cohen who was known as “The King of the Sunset Strip.” It is said Cohen based his operation out of Ciro’s. It was during this period that many feel the building first became haunted.

Legend states that the building still has the peepholes and handgun stations that Cohen’s men used during the bloody “Sunset Wars,” where mobsters fought for turf dominance in 1947. 

This legend grew as it became widely accepted that Cohen used Ciro’s basement to beat and even murder some of his enemies. Some even wildly speculated that Cohen buried some of his victims under this basement floor. 

Another claim is this basement was used for illegal abortions—serving the club’s dance girls and the prostitutes from the brothel next door that found they had an unwanted pregnancy.

Separating fact from fiction, in this case, can be a challenge, but regardless this building’s very dark history has resulted in the Comedy Store having several restless ghosts today. 

One apparition that is seen is that of a mysterious man who wears a World War II bomber jacket. He is seen most often in the upstairs office and in the Comedy Store’s kitchen. Witnesses state they see him crouching or hiding, and then he just disappears. Some speculate he probably was one of Cohen’s countless victims.

Not surprisingly, this building’s basement also appears to have activity. People have heard disembodied screams, moans, and even what sounds like animals snarling.

One comedian/employee Blake Clark after hours saw what he described as a potent force pushing against the padlocked metal gate that encloses the front of the basement. This freaked him, but he did return once more only to see a dark seven-foot entity appear. He left the building immediately, and he never went into the basement again. 

In the main room of the Comedy Store, many employees have spotted a man in the back who they have nicknamed “Gus.” It is said he is always dressed in a black suit, and it is felt he probably was one of Cohen’s hitmen. 

In this same area, Clark saw a chair slide 20 feet across the stage floor--again, he left the building quickly. At another time, he saw an ashtray float above a table and then hit the wall.

The most famous ghost story told at the Comedy Store involves the comedian Sam Kinison. Kinison, who was a former preacher, always presented his act using a thunderous, frenzied voice. For this reason, many felt his voice stirred up the paranormal activity in the club. 

Often when he was on stage performing, strange problems occurred with the audio. Electrical issues arose as well. As he talked into the mike, strange hisses were broadcast over the room’s speakers. One witness stated that it sounded as if someone was angrily saying, “It’s him” over and over again. 

One night Kinison finally fed up with this strange activity challenged the ghost. As he finished his set, Kinison told the spirit he needed to stop playing around and that it should make an appearance. Right after he finished this statement, the crowd gasped as the lights in the entire club went out, and they found themselves in complete darkness.

Yet another ghost that haunts the building is that of a comedian by the name of Steve Lubetkin. Lubetkin tried unsuccessfully to organize all the comedians at the club to strike for higher wages. After his failure, Lubetkin depressed found himself banned from performing at the club. 

He went up to the top of what was then ** the Continental Hyatt House and jumped to his death. It is said his body landed near the entrance to the Comedy Store. Some feel a somber presence in this area. 

*  I wrote about Tiburcio Vasquez’s ghost in another post here.

** This hotel is known as the Andaz West Hollywood today.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Haunted Don CeSar Hotel

This beautiful resort was built in 1928 during the Great Gatsby era and quickly became a playground for the wealthy and famous. 

Thomas Rowe named his new hotel located in St. Pete Beach, Florida—Don CeSar after a heroic character, Don Cesar de Bazan, in one of his favorite operas—Maritana. 

Locals though quickly dubbed his hotel the "Pink Palace" because of its pink walls and its Mediterranean style castle design. 

Many famous people have visited this resort situated upon a white sandy beach along the Gulf of Mexico—among them: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Al Capone, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. 

More modern-day visitors to the hotel include Presidents' Jimmy Carter, George Bush, and Bill Clinton. Ann-Margret, Sophia Loren, and Tom Petty also have stayed at the Don.

This hotel is known for its fine dining, elegant rooms, spectacular views, swimming pools, and personal trainers but it is also known for its paranormal activity. 

Some feel the odd sensations they experience and the eerie noises they hear during their visit can be attributed to the fact that the resort in the 1940s, was converted to a VA hospital. It is said that some spirits of the dead from this time still linger at the hotel. 

But the most famous ghost at the hotel is its original owner, Thomas Rowe.

In the 1890s Rowe was a student in London. He attended an opera where a beautiful lady by the name of Lucinda sang one of the lead roles. It is said he immediately fell in in love with Lucinda and the two met regularly.  

Unfortunately for the young couple, Lucinda’s parents did not approve of the match due to the fact Thomas did not attend the same church. Lucinda’s parents quickly escorted their daughter back to Spain, and the two lovers never saw each other again.

Thomas tried to write to Lucinda but his letters were always returned unopened. It is said that Lucinda died of a broken heart. 

Thomas did receive one letter she wrote to him just before she died. Devastated, he read in her letter that she professed she still loved him, but she wondered why he had not written to her as he had promised. 

When he moved to America, vowing to never love another Thomas set out to build his resort. He had a fountain made that was an exact replica of one he and Lucinda had often met outside the Royal Opera House. He created this fountain as a symbol of their undying love.

Thomas Rowe died in 1940, but it is said he has never left the magnificent hotel he put so much of his love, time and dreams into. 

Employees and guests for years have reported seeing Rowe’s ghost at the Don CeSar. It is said he still likes to “oversee” the daily operations of the hotel.

Many guests have reported seeing a man approach and greet them as they entered the hotel to register and then this smiling man just vanishes before their eyes. 

Other guests and employees have seen his ghost walking along the beach still dressed in his signature white suit.  

Over the years, witnesses have described seeing him wearing a Panama hat and walking in the lobby or garden holding the hand of a beautiful raven-haired woman.

The Don CeSar was placed upon the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. It is known today as Loews Don CeSar. It is still a favorite retreat for the rich and famous.

Click this link for exempts of music from the opera in a powerpoint--also has a picture of a copy of the original fountain Rowe had built--which has since been removed.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Chateau de Brissac: The Lady in Green

When people first see the Chateau de Brissac located in the province of Anjou in the Loire Valley in France they often state it looks like a fairy-tale castle. 

In fact, it was a castle until the 15th century when King Rene of Anjou altered over sixty castles and great homes in Anjou into chateaus. Among these structures Brissac is one of the most beautiful. 

The castle is the tallest in France and exudes old world charm but one of its earliest residents has shocked more than one visitor.

In its history this stately structure was destroyed rebuilt and even abandoned for a while in the late 1790s. It survived Nordic attacks, the Huguenots, English occupation and the Jacobins. 

Generations of the same family who gained their title from its name have been haunted by one specific entity. A double murder that occurred in the 15th century within its walls resulted in the Chateau de Brissac being renowed for a ghost called la Dame Verte, the “Green Lady”.

The castle was first built in the 11th century under the reign of King Philip II of France. When France defeated the English the king gave the property to Guillaume des Roches. 

In the 15th century Pierre de Breze who was the chief minister of King Charles VII rebuilt the castle. His son Jacques de Breze the grand seneschal of Normandy inherited the chateau and married Charlotte of France.

Charlotte was the illegitimate daughter of Charles VII and Agnes Sorel, who was a former employee of King Rene. Despite the circumstances of her birth Charlotte was the beloved half sister of King Louis XI, Charles’ son. 

The marriage between Jacques and Charlotte was not a happy one. It is said that she was not faithful to her husband. One day Jacques discovered Charlotte in the arms of one of her huntsmen.

At this point accounts differ as to what happened next. One version states that Jacques enraged dealt over one hundred blows of his sword to the cheating couple. 

Another version states that he strangled Charlotte in the Chapel Tower at Brissac later the same day. We will never know what exactly happened but Charlotte and her lover were never seen again.

Louis XI, Charlotte’s half brother, was outraged when he heard the news. He immediately vowed revenge. He had Jacques arrested and thrown in prison for several years. 

He convinced the court to sentence de Breze to death and confiscate all of his property. But in the end Jacques prevailed, he gave all of his property to the king who spared his life. 

Louis XI then gave Jacques' property to Louis de Breze, his nephew who also was Jacques son. But just three years later Charles VIII, Louis XI successor over ruled the judgment and restored Jacques’ titles and lands.

After this the Cosse family took ownership of the chateau in the 15th century. This family acquired the title dukes of de Brissac at this time—today the current Duke of Brissac and his family still live at the chateau. 

For generations this family has encountered the apparition of The Green Lady. This ghost is often seen walking in the tower room of the chateaus’ chapel. The family is used to this sight but the ghost has startled many guests over the years. 

She is named for the green dress that she wears. Her face is most disturbing for it is described as the face of a corpse with gaping holes where eyes and a nose should be. 

Witnesses over the years have heard her moans in the early morning hours. It seems she stays in the place where her life was taken so violently.

Today Chateau de Brissac hosts many special events. Tours are provided and two suites are open to the public to stay overnight.