Haunted History – The Andrew Jackson Hotel

ajI have another bit of haunted history for you, this one hales from the Crescent city, of course, New Orleans.  At 919 Royal street stands the Andrew Jackson Hotel, which is crazy haunted, but it’s not as much as the 127 year old hotel, as it is the lot that it stands on.  Let me give you a bit of the backstory here, it’s pretty interesting!

18th century New Orleans was a cesspool of filth, disease and death with epidemics ravaging the city nearly every summer.  Childhood mortality rates were insane but surprisingly, men between the age of 15-40 seemed most susceptible to disease, and death.  Their death meant leaving a wife and several children without a head of household, rendering them destitute.  With so many orphans roaming the streets, In 1792 the Spanish colonial government built a boarding school, basically an orphanage, on the very spot where the Andrew Jackson hotel now sits.

So for two years there was some semblance of normalcy in these kids lives, but those of you that know New Orleans history also know that two years after the boarding school opened, in 1794, massive fires consumed most of the buildings in this area of the city, the orphanage included.  Several boys were said to have perished in the flames.

After the fire another building was erected on the lot, the Federal Courthouse, the same courthouse where General Jackson was indicted for contempt of court and was charged with obstruction of justice because he refused to answer interrogation questions.  Well, we all know how that turned out, he went on to be president!  So  the courthouse remained on this lot until the early 1900’s so basically a century of sentences were handed down, decades of drama and heartache surely seeped into the very soil where the building sat.  And then the building was demolished and the Andrew Jackson hotel went up.  But the new building had some old luggage.

Remember those kids that burned to death in the orphanage? Yeah well the ghosts of these young boys like to play in the courtyard in the middle of the night.  And this one guest reported being woken up from his sleep because of the static noise coming from the TV.  He leans over to grab the remote control, wondering how the TV had been turned on since he had shut it off before closing his eyes for the night.  He distinctly remembered having set the remote on the bedside table.  So he sits up in bed, to aim the remote at the TV, and he freezes.  There in front of the TV, sitting on the floor, was the ghostly apparition of a young boy.  The guest starts screaming like a girl, and the apparition vanished.

Many guests have reported both seeing the kids, and hearing their footsteps and laughter.  It’s good to know that they’re reliving their happier times there in the boarding house rather than being stuck in an endless cycle of their tragic deaths.  Another guest had an interesting encounter as well.  She comes out of the shower one morning and hears this kid giggling and then hears the sound of her cereal being poured out onto the floor.

The most haunted room at the Andrew Jackson is said to be room 208.  Guests who have stayed in this room have seen all kinds of crazy shit, most of them claiming to have seen the ghost of a child.  This ghost name is Armand.  Legend says that young Armand chose to end his own life by having jumped from the second floor balcony.  Though he endured a horrific death, his spirit never left the Hotel and Room 208 seems to be his preferred haunting spot.

Armond’s spirit has a thing for waking guests up with his childish (and ghostly) giggling.  At other times, people staying in this room have actually been shoved out of the bed by an unseen force.  Others have reported that while sleeping, they felt the covers being tugged down and cold hands touching their exposed flesh.  Armond’s ghost hasn’t ever been aggressive, and it is clear that he likes to play games with the living.  But it’s said that Armond is not the only spirit haunting Room 208.

Some guest have tried to stay in Room 208, many of them have actually turned back up at the front desk, requesting to switch rooms.  When the front desk attendant asks why,  the most common reason is that the guest had been experiencing a looming or eerie feeling that something was in the room with them,  watching them. The lights switch off and on by themselves, and the faucets are known to turn on by themselves.  Personal items vanish but sometimes appear in another area of the room, other times they never reappear.

Is the ghost of Armond responsible for all of the pranks and paranormal activity in Room 208? could be, but it seems unlikely that the spirit of a young child would have the ability to make the living feel such a sense of dread or despair.  And it’s typically something far different that the ghost of a child that tends to thrive off the fear of the living.

Ok, so room 208 may contain a dark spirit, but the Hotel is also said to be haunted by the ghost of a woman, who many suspect was a housekeeper there at some point in history.  She’s known to straighten towels, fluff pillows and reset furniture the way she sees fit.  It’s not uncommon here to leave your room and return to find the chairs moved closer to the window, or swapped around entirely.

Current members of the cleaning staff have all expressed the feeling of being watched while they go about their daily routine, though most of the staff assumes that the ghost of the housekeeper.  Disembodied footsteps are heard climbing up and down the stairs at all times of the day and night.  This poor chick is still working her ass off, even in the afterlife!  Anyway, her ghost has been spotted most frequently in the lobby, but it’s not uncommon to run into her in some of the other rooms on the second floor.

jgAnd then of course, there is the namesake of the Hotel,  President Andrew Jackson.  So, according to various accounts, the good General’s actual apparition has been seen parading about the hotel, especially on the second floor.

There have been so many that lived and died in the hotel, as well as the other known structures that had been on this lot.  Ghostly encounters have been reported here on the grounds for a very long time, so of course it’s been investigated, wanna talk about one of these ghost hunts? of course you do! You can find out more by replaying my show at SPREAKER.com.

 

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Haunted History – The Whaley House

This tale starts in 1852 when a tall lanky man rides in to San Diego.  Yankee Jim was a shady character to say the least; it wasn’t long before he’d stirred up enough shit that everyone in town knew who he was.  Even though old Jim was a nasty character, it’s not his character flaws that has brought him to infamy.  Well, the town folk decided they’d had about enough of Jim, he found himself captured and in jail, facing death by hanging.  Even though the town folk had decided to kill the man, at least they had the decency to call in a priest and have Jim baptized while the makeshift gallows were being put up.

1There was a vacant lot conveniently located just steps away from the local cemetery.  It had been the scene of many such lynchings before and after old Jim.  Well, the gallows were finished and the time had arrived, Jim was led to the back of a buckboard wagon and a noose was fitted around his neck.  He fought to keep his feet on the platform for as long as possible but of course his struggle was in vain.  The wagon was pulled from beneath him and he was now hanging by his neck.  There was a problem though, no one had taken into consideration how tall Jim was, the tips of his toes were touching the ground.  As human nature would have it, Jim fought for his life making the hanging take even longer as he danced about on his tip toes while slowly strangling to death.

In the crowd watching on is a handsome young entrepreneur named Thomas Whaley, he’s wearing a sly smile on his face.  His grin had nothing to do with Jim’s dilemma, it had everything to do with the vacant lot.  Two years later the handsome investor has made one hell of a deal in purchasing this lot, and now he begins planning to build the grandest estate in the area, even amidst all of the warnings from the locals.  That lot was surely cursed, the souls of so many wicked men had been loosed on the very spot.  The handsome man just shook his head and carried on with his plans.

By 1856 a grand Greek Revival estate sat smack dab in the middle of where the gallows had once stood.  But the trouble had already begun, even before the Whaley family officially moved into the home.  IT seemed there was a invisible squatter occupying the house, Thomas himself had heard the sound of heavy footsteps echoing through the hallways, yet no one was ever there.  Immediately, because of Yankee Jim’s unusual stature, he knew the identity of the ghost.  In fact, he had designed the home to where the archway that separated the den from the dining room was the exact spot where Jim, and many others, had been hanged from the gallows.

Thomas’ wife Anna was quite aware of Jim’s presence too, every moment of every day she felt as if she were surrounded while inside the home.  There had been occasions where Anna actually saw Yankee Jim.  She described him as a terrifying giant of a man with huge evil eyes.  Anna, blamed Jim for all of the torments that she would experience in this home, beginning in 1858 when her 18 month old son died from Scarlett Fever.  After the sting of his death wore off a bit, it seemed as though her daughter Violet would bring some joy into the household, there was going to be a wedding.  Well, come to find out the new husband was a con artist, he ditches Violet on the honeymoon and disappears.  Violet comes home, maddened by depression.  She turns into a recluse and hardly ever leaves the second floor of the home again, not much later Violet shoots herself in the chest with her father’s gun.

Not much longer after Violet’s suicide came another tragedy.  The younger Whaley children were outside in the back yard playing with another young girl, a friend of theirs from the neighborhood.  In running around, the little girl accidentally runs into a clothesline and breaks her neck, she dies in the backyard.  But she’s not alone, only a few years later one of Thomas and Anna’s young grand daughter dies in the house from ingesting poison.

Besides the mounting death toll that’s went down on this property, the house was actually used for other things while is existed as the family residence.  At one time it was the Thomas Whaley general store, it was also used as a courthouse, so you know there’s some emotional trauma there too.  And lastly a tinge on drama, the upper level had been rented out to the Tanner Troupe Theater, so there was always something going on at this joint, I’m surprised any of them saw ghosts at all with all this bullshit going on!  Regardless, they did.  After the passing of Anna and Thomas, the house went on to other relatives, and for 150 + years the legends of all of these ghosts, including Yankee Jim, have persisted to this day.

2Chairs rock, chandeliers swing, doors open and close on their own. Invisible fingers play haunting melodies on a piano that’s no longer present. There are the sounds of cutlery against fine china,  often accompanied by the aroma of fresh baked bread and pies. The scent of Cuban tobacco and French perfume are ever present in the halls. The activity isn’t limited to the human variety; the Whaleys had a fondness for their four-legged family members “Dolly” the dog and “Winks” the cat have been witnessed by a number of guests.  They claim to see a small dog chasing a cat through the house and out into the garden.

3Folks have heard the disembodied pounding of a gavel echo through the courtroom as an invisible judge hands down his sentence.  There’s laughter and music of vaudeville days that seeps from the walls of the upper level rooms. The sounds of violins, guitars, and a piano are recurring reminders of long passed soirees, parties and balls.  The pitter-patter of tiny feet scampering down the hallway, the clicking of dainty high heeled slippers and the rustling of silk skirts; a child’s laughter, a child’s cries, a mother’s sweet French lullabies.

4The legend of the “ninth step” began when folks experienced an odd sort of pressure upon ascension of the narrow staircase, which for many years was presumed to be the revenant of Anna Whaley reliving a traumatic event, attempting to thwart visitors from gaining access to the second floor. Perhaps this is where she stood when she heard the gunshot that ended Violet’s miserable life.

Thomas shows up sporting pantaloons with a frock coat and top hat.  He’s been seen standing at the top of the stairs surveying his castle.  Anna, appears in a cheery green gingham gown has been momentarily spotted upon the settee in the parlor, or sometimes outside walking around in the garden.  According to scores of paranormal investigators and visitors, the spirits of Thomas and Anna, along with a score of others, continue to dwell here. After all, this is their home, and they show no signs of leaving.

 

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Haunted History – The Gore Orphanage

gore-houseThere’s a ton of haunted history behind the Gore Orphanage, so let’s start at the beginning right?!  In the late 1820’s Joesph and his wife Eliza purchase a large land tract near the Vermillion River in Ohio.  It was there that they built the most elaborate mansion of that time,  No expense was spared and only the best of materials were shipped in from all over just to insure it’s stature within the community.  Locals came from miles around just to admire the lavish residence.

Though the Swifts were the envy of the town, they would only come to enjoy their status among the elite for a short time.  Ten years after settling in, the Swifts lose their 5 year old daughter, ten years beyond that they lose their 24 year old son, and just a few years after that, the Swift family fortune was gone.  Joseph had made huge financial investments into the railroad industry, by 1865 they were forced to sell the sprawling estate.

The property was purchased by Nichols Wilber, a well known medium and spiritualist.  Well, his timing was fantastic!  During this era it was considered posh to have interest in spiritualism but maybe not in such a rural community.  When Wilber began holding seances at the estate, the locals were convinced that he was performing sinister and demonic rites.

The truth of it was that Wilber, many times, conjured the spirits of the deceased Swift family.  There had, at one time, been plenty of written documentation that he had been successful.  It was further noted that Wilber’s children were psychic and were quite at ease in having conversations with the dead members of the Swift family.

Well it wasn’t only the local town-folk that were offended by his heinous acts, so was the estate.  Tragedy after tragedy befell the Wilber family.  They lost 4 of their grandchildren within a span of 6 days.  Shortly after that Eliza passed, and not a year later, in 1901, Nicholas followed her to the grave.

The mansion was then abandoned and fell into ruin.  In 1903 the majority of “Swift Hollow” including the crumbling mansion was purchased by Reverend Sprunger who would later build the “Light and Hope” Orphanage.  His purpose was supposedly to care for and give farm training to neglected children.  Seems these two had a few secrets to hide.  Reverend Sprunger and his wife moved to the Vermillion area after their orphanage in Indiana was destroyed by fire, it wasn’t the first business venture that the Sprungers lost to fire and it wouldn’t be the last.  It was the diary of a former employee that revealed that Reverend Sprunger and his wife were also, brother and sister.  Nastiness!

Anyway, Reverend Sprunger did not use the crumbling mansion at all, instead he built a self sustaining religious commune on the grounds.  There was a boy’s schoolhouse built on the property, complete with a chapel room where there were frequent “religious” ceremonies performed.  The Girls had their own separate quarters on the grounds and there was also a small printing press on the property that was used to print their own school books and weekly newspaper.

From the eye of the outsider, everything appeared to be fine, maybe a little over the top in the sense of them being religious fanatics, otherwise, all seemed well at the Light and Hope Orphanage.  Yeah, that didn’t last very long.  These folks definitely put me in the mind of that screwed up couple from the movie “People under the Stairs.”

orphansWell it took a while, but things soon began coming to light thanks to a handful of children that escaped the orphanage and told their stories.  The community became horrified even sickened by what they were hearing from these kids.  Their lives had been riddled with abuse and neglect.  They had been treated worse than slaves and were actually even rented out to other local farmers which would treat them as bad or even worse that they were being treated at the orphanage.

Anyway, their meals, when they were fed at all, consisted of leftover parts from slaughtered cows or pigs, like, brains, lungs and other disgusting selections.  The children also told of days when they had been fed rotten meat from a cow that had long since died out in the pasture.  It was their punishment, the cow had not been cared for properly by them therefore they would be made to eat it in it’s entirety.  Vegetables that had been fed to the children were boiled in the same pot that was used to boil soiled underwear and linens.  That’ll teach you to wet the bed kiddos!

As if the food provided wasn’t bad enough, let’s discuss the living conditions of the children.  Their rooms were infested with rats and other vermin.  It was a common occurrence for rats to climb in bed with the kids during cold months; the kid usually ended up being bitten by them.  And cleanliness, yeah, not so much.  There was only one bathtub available for them.  Each child would be allowed a bath once every two weeks, and the water was never changed.

The children were worked mercilessly and were often beaten by overseers or even the Reverend himself when their work load fell short.  These kids were whipped until their skin looked like ground meat.  And of course there would be no medical treatments whatsoever.  On this commune, prayer and faith were the only method of healing permitted.

So after hearing of these atrocities, locals contacted authorities and in 1909 the commune came under investigation.  Yeah, didn’t do any good.  The state of Ohio had no laws or regulations concerning this type of “institution” Their hands were tied.  It wasn’t long after when the living quarters of the female orphans nearly burned to the ground, few made it out alive.

Two years later, the good Reverend died and in 1916 the grounds were sold.  Most of the children were relocated in the community, those that weren’t and had no place else to go, were taken by Mrs. Sprunger back to Berne, Indiana, where nearly 13 years to the day the first “Light and Hope” orphanage had burned to the ground.

Today, nothing much remains of the magnificent family estate or the improvements that the good Reverend added to the grounds.  Only a few markers can be found.  A marble column, the remnants of the family well, a few abandoned grave sites, typical haunted ruins.  There are still plenty of other things that have lingered on over 100 years, the ghosts of the children.

Because of the times there were no records to speak of concerning the number of souls that perished on these grounds.  Imagine that besides the Swift and Wilber family members you have their slaves and staff, and then there’s the happily married brother and sister duo.  There are footnotes here and there that state Ms. Sprunger had several stillbirths and that there was another child that lived only 2 years.  And what of the orphans that were either too weak or sickly to survive typical conditions, those that were tortured to death, those that died of neglect and yes even those that were murdered by overseers or the Reverend himself during his religious rituals, oh, and lets not forget those that burned within the fire.

gore ghost 1With this being said, it comes as no surprise that children are often heard, seen, recorded and photographed in the woods where the orphanage once stood.  Those that come to investigate have often heard and recorded the tormented screams of the ones that were burned alive.  There are only a few mentions of adult specters seen on the property, one of which is that of a woman,

no way for sure ghost 2to identify her but I assume that is is Ms. Wilber, just a gut feeling there folks.  And then there is a man, no clue who he could be but he definitely keeps a close eye on the place and has been know to chase thrill seekers out of the woods and back onto the highway.  So be careful if you decide to visit the grounds kiddos, he may come running after you!