Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Charlie Parker’s Sax

From 1936 until 1997 Camarillo State Mental Hospital was a psychiatric hospital for both developmentally disabled and mentally ill patients.

This hospital was at the forefront of treating mentally ill patients with drug therapy. It also had one of the first units to treat autism.

This institutions' setting is unique. Camarillo's architecture reflects California’s Mission or Spanish Revival Style. A bell tower overlooks graceful fountains placed in tiled courtyards.

Originally Camarillo State Mental Hospital
Since 2002, this old hospital has been used as a branch of California State University, Channel Islands. Some buildings have been renovated, others have been left to deteriorate.

Witnesses on this campus report hearing the beautiful but mournful wail of an alto saxophone late at night. It has been established it is not a student playing loud music.

Many believe that this jazz music is played by one of the greats.

Charlie “Bird” Parker once served a 6-month sentence in a Camarillo mental ward.

Charlie "Bird" Parker
He first became famous internationally in the 1940s. His versions of pop classics, such as Sweet Georgia Brown, Embraceable You and Body and Soul established him second only to Louis Armstrong.

Early in his career, Parker became addicted to prescription pills. He felt they would give him more energy to play long hours. The sax is a strenuous instrument to play.

He then became addicted to heroin.

In June of 1946, using a rainbow of drugs he hit bottom. He wondered into the Hollywood Civic Hotel's lobby naked and playing his sax. Staff persuaded him to return to his room where he lit a cigarette and fell asleep. He set his mattress on fire.

A judge sentenced him to six months in Camarillo to help him detoxify. This saved his life--at least for a while.

When he was released in January of 1947 he was clean. This started a creative period for him that most Jazz historians agree was his most productive.

Tragically, he started using hard drugs again. When he died in Manhattan in 1955 at the age of 34 the world lost a talented musician.

On the Camarillo campus today people state you can still hear his music. 

Here is Summertime.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Giles Corey’s Ghost and Curse

Corey and his wife.
Giles Corey and his wife along with 25 other people were accused of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts by a group of young girls in 1692.

Corey, born in England in 1611, was a wealthy farmer who lived with his wife five miles southwest of Salem in what is today Peabody.

Corey’s accusers were three young girls, Abigail Williams, Ann Putnam and Mercy Lewis, they along with two other girls had implicated most of the victims in the Salem Witch Trials.
Ann Putnam during trial.

Giles and his wife Martha were members of the Salem Town church where they were a part of a group of members who did not want Reverend Samuel Parris appointed the minister of this church in 1689.

Rev. Samuel Parris
Ironically, Abigail Williams was Parris’s 11-year old niece and one ringleader of the girls involved in the accusations. Putnam was the other leader.

Corey was brought before the local magistrates, he refused to enter a plea so he was thrown in jail.

On September 9th his wife was sentenced to die along with five others.

At his trial the girls stated he was “in league with the devil.” Corey refused to enter a plea because he knew the law stated he could not be tried, condemned, and executed until he stated he was either innocent or guilty.

Historians believe that he was avoiding this because he knew he was going to be found guilty which meant his land would be confiscated. He wanted it turned over to his heirs. He and Martha had 3 children from previous marriages.

Since he stayed mute, the court decided that a confession should be forced out of him. Corey was ordered to undergo peine forte et dure or pressing.

On September 19th he was dragged, naked to an open field where he was placed on a board that had been put in a shallow pit. Another board was placed on top of him.

Heavy stones and bricks were placed on top of him. For three days he endured this torturous pain, all the time remaining silent.

On September 22nd the end was near. Corey’s mouth was dry with thirst and his face was swallow and red. George Corwin, whose ghost is mentioned in another post here, was the Essex County sheriff at the time.

He knelt on the ground next to Corey having seen his lips move. He felt that Corey was about to relent but instead Corey uttered these now famous words, “More weight!”

With his dying breath Corey called out. “I curse you, sheriff, and I curse all of Salem.” That same day Martha was hanged with eight other people.

The witch trial executions stopped after this. Salem's townspeople realized shortly after Corey's pressing that all the girl’s testimony had been lies.

Nineteen people were hanged, four or five others died in prison waiting for their trials or executions. And Corey died under stones.

This torturous death resulted in his ghost haunting the Howard Street Cemetery today. It is believed he also haunts the Joshua Ward House in Salem--more information about this is in the link above.

Stone that marks where
Corey was pressed.
This cemetery did not open until 1801 but it was on this land where Corey was pressed in a pit. It is believed his body is buried here as well.

Several witnesses have stated they have seen his apparition floating among the tombstones. Others state they have felt his clammy hands touch them.

As for the curse, George Corwin, the sheriff died of a heart attack. Other Essex County sheriffs suffered from heart conditions as well. Several over the years reported seeing Corey’s ghost in their bedrooms.

Those who reported this sight stated they felt a strong pressure on their chests that didn’t go away until Corey’s ghost disappeared.

There is also a legend that states when Corey’s ghost appears he acts as a harbinger. It is said people saw his ghost just before the June 25, 1914 Great Salem Fire that destroyed most of the city.

Some believe Corey’s curse caused this fire.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Dick Clark’s Ghost Story

Dick Clark first gained fame when ABC picked up his local Philadelphia, Pennsylvania dance party show, American Bandstand and aired it nationally beginning in 1957. This show was on for 32 years--ending in 1989.

Clark quickly became a powerful force in the music industry.

Dick Clark
If he played a song on his show it often became a hit. Better yet, if a singer or group performed on his show they became a success--in many instances overnight.

In later years, he became known to younger Americas because he hosted and produced a popular New Year’s show from New York. Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin Eve aired for 40 years, 1972 -2012.

Clark also hosted and produced various other shows including, a game show--25,000 Pyramid and TVs Bloopers and Practical Jokes.

Clark is fondly remembered for his “ageless looks and charming on-air personality.” He died at the age of 82 in 2012.

Dick Clark started his career in Philadelphia at WFIL when it was a radio station. It was during this time he had an experience he never forgot.

One morning at the station he ran into a co-worker in the hallway. He was surprised to see this man for he had been extremely ill recently. He stopped and talked to him for several minutes--asking him how he was doing--and then moved on to prepare for his 3:00 p.m. show.

Several days later, he ran into this co-workers’ son at a party. He stopped to talk and mentioned to this young man that he had been surprised to see his father back at work so soon.

The young man asked Clark when he had seen his father. Dick thought back and then gave him the exact date and time. The young man looked at him strangely.

“That can’t be. My Father was on the operating table at that time--11:00 a.m. His heart stopped around that time.”

Clark decided not to ague with the young man--he was shaken up. He knew he had seen this co-worker at 11:00 a.m. on the day he died.

After, he never doubted he had seen and talked to a ghost.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Cottingley Fairies

Two young cousins in the early 20th century were able to pull off one of the world’s greatest hoaxes. They did this with the unsuspecting help of a famous writer.

Cottingley Beck
Where cousins saw
Elsie Wright, 16 and her cousin Francis Griffiths, 10 lived in the small West Yorkshire village of Cottingley Glen England. They spent many hours playing at the bottom of a long garden near a beck or stream.

Francis was severely scolded one day when she returned from the beck with her shoes and dress wet--she had fallen in the stream. Elsie mentioned they enjoyed visiting the beck because there were fairies.

When the skeptical adults did not believe her Elsie borrowed her father’s camera, in July of 1917, and took a picture of Francis in order to cheer her up.

When Elsie’s father developed this plate he spotted strange shapes in front of Francis. Elsie told him these were fairies. Elsie had taken the picture to prove to the adults there were fairies near the beck.

First photo Elsie took of Francis, 1917
The girl’s stated these fairies had white bodies with pale wings of green, mauve and pink.

Second phot Francis took
of Elsie with winged

In August, Francis then took a picture of Elsie with a winged gnome. When Elsie’s father developed this plate he suspected the cousins were playing a prank and refused to let Elsie borrow his camera again.

Despite this the girl’s managed to take three more photographs of the fairies in September.

These photos were kept within the family until Francis sent one in a letter to a friend in South Africa where she had lived before coming to England. Then Polly Wright, Elsie’s mother attended a Theosophical Society meeting in Bradford near Cottingley.

At this meeting Polly mentioned her daughter and niece had photographed fairies. This of course was considered the Holy Grail and the girl’s photos were then shared among various theosophical circles.

Third photo of Francis with fairy.
Fourth photo of Elsie with fairy.

Even though the photos looked suspiciously faked, in early 1920 they caught the attention of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Doyle a supporter of Spiritualism firmly believed in spirits, ghosts and survival after death. He sent a theosophist friend, Edward L. Garner to investigate.

Garner pronounced them genuine and sent the photos to Doyle. Doyle asked the opinions of Eastman Company and Kodak but took Gardner’s word as truth.

Also, Elsie’s parents at the time had searched for evidence of trickery but had found none.

A clairvoyant friend Geoffrey Hobson told Doyle he had seen fairies in Cottingley. This further convinced Doyle the photos were real.

When the cousins produced three more photos Doyle was elated. He published an article in the Christmas 1920 issue of Strand Magazine with illustrations. Besides his desire to believe, he refused to believe two innocent young girls could produce such convincing trickery.

In 1922, Doyle published The Coming of the Fairies where he shared more evidence about the cousin’s encounters with the beck fairies. He stated that in future more sightings would be authenticated. He then left for Australia on a lecture tour.

When he retuned to England he found himself the “laughingstock of the press on both sides of the Atlantic.” By this time the photos had been widely circulated and proven to be fake. Doyle, now embarrassed was forced to admit that he had been duped.

It was not until fifty years after Doyle’s death that Wright and Griffiths in the 1980s finally admitted their hoax. They stated they had faked the photographs to get back at adults who had chided them for saying they played with fairies.

Cutouts alongside Princess Mary's Gift Book illustrations.

Years later, the girls stated they used cutouts taken from illustrations in Princess Mary’s Gift Book published in 1915. They then made wings and attached them to these cutouts.

Many people upon first seeing the photos had wondered why the fairies wore modern hair fashions.

The cousins stated that when Doyle had become involved, they had not wanted to embarrass him by admitting the photos were faked. Unfortunately, their silence led to an even greater embarrassment for him.

Fifth photo taken.
One interesting fact is at the time both cousins confessed to their deception, they said as girls they did actually see real fairies. Griffiths went as far as to say the fifth photo they took was not faked but real.