Sunday, November 28, 2010

Otesaga Hotel

Otesaga Hotel

Upstate New York's Otesaga Hotel in Cooperstown was built in 1911 on the southern shore of Otsego Lake, the noted "Glimmerglass" of native James Fenimore Cooper’s novels. Beside swimming and boating, its golf course is also quite popular.

Designed by architect Percy Griffin, the resort was named a "Historic Hotel of America" by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Otesaga is the ritzy - and pricey - hangout for local touristas.

And like any century-old hotel worth its oats, the paying guests aren't the only ones hanging out in the building. Otesaga is the Iroquois word for “A Place of Meetings,” and some believe the Otesaga is now the meeting place of the living and the dead.

Staff and guests have reported floating orbs, moving objects and strange voices over the years. Beds made up by the maids on the third floor are found mussed up later. Staff members hear their names being called when no one else is about.

The night watchman regularly reports people walking around the second and third floors when no one is up, and the sound of a music box playing. A guest told the desk clerk that a woman's spook in a dressing gown was floating around her room on the third floor. A spirit couple have been seen walking hand-in-hand down its hallways in turn-of-the-century outfits.

But the most widely known legend is of the spooky children who have been heard running up and down the third floor hallway, noisily playing, giggling and laughing.

From 1920 until 1954, the hotel was also a private academy, the Knox School for Girls. The school suffered through a whooping cough epidemic, and the little girls who succumbed are supposedly frozen in time at the Otesaga and enjoying their childhood to this day.

But not to worry; none of the many apparitions haunting the halls of the Otesaga have any known evil intents; they're considered Casper friendly by one and all.

If you want to find out just how cordial the spooks are, tune into to Syfy Channel's "Ghost Hunters" with The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS). They did a show there that was broadcast during the summer where every investigator experienced an Otesaga paranormal moment.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Fourscore and Seven...

Gettysburg National Cemetery image from Obit Magazine

The Gettysburg National Cemetery was dedicated on November 19, 1863. The main speaker at the ceremony was Edward Everett, but history will remember that Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address on that day.

It contains the remains of over 6,000 warriors who served from the Mexican-American War to the present day. 3,512 Union troopers are buried in the cemetery; of these, 979 are unknown soldiers.

But the removal of Confederate dead from the field plots wasn't begun until seven years after the battle. From 1870 to 1873, various Ladies Memorial Associations dug up 3,320 Confederate bodies and reburied them in southern soil. The problem is that about 3,500 graycoats were killed in action and and hundreds more died from their wounds shortly afterward in battlefield hospitals.

Not surprisingly, the most often reported sighting is of three rebel spooks who approach visitors and then drop as if they're shot. Some people believe they died during the fighting at Cemetery Hill, part of which is the site of the graveyard (along with the Everett Cemetery), while others think they are apparitions of rebs whose bodies went unclaimed during the transfer.

The haunting starts before you even reach the cemetery proper, at the Cemetery Lodge, found at the entrance of the graveyard by the intersection of Emmitsburg Road and Baltimore Pike. The building stored all the unclaimed personal belongings of the soldiers killed during the Battle of Gettysburg for decades.

People report hearing footsteps on the stairs, supposedly from entities upset that their belongings were held there instead of being sent home according to some and from a lone sentry patrolling the gatehouse according to others. The cries of babies can be heard outside the structure; there's no reason known for that particular phenomena.

Once you make it past the Lodge, it's said that ghostly footsteps follow some visitors around the cemetery. Many people have reported soldier's spirits roaming the grounds, along with floating orbs and unexplained sounds. You can sometimes hear the sound of phantom Civil War band music being played in the woods of Cemetery Ridge by the Pennsylvania Monument. A blue column of light has been spotted coming from Cemetery Hill.

They also retell the famous haunting by Cavalry Captain William Miller. He was buried at the cemetery, but his stone didn't mention that he had been awarded the Medal of Honor. His spirit restlessly roamed his gravesite for years until a psychic contacted him and found out about the omission. The honor was belatedly added to his marker, and Miller rested peacefully ever after.

One final bit of the paranormal. There are reports that claim that the "Gettysburg Address" is still heard being spoken by Abraham Lincoln seven score and seven years after the event...well, let's hope those words ring forever.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Flanders Hotel and Emily

"Emily" painting by Tony Troy from Art & Architecture of New Jersey

Hey, if you're heading to the Ocean City boardwalk and pass 719 E. 11th Street, stop in the Flanders Hotel.

Built in 1923, the ritzy hotel was named after the Flanders Field in Belgium made famous by the poem of Canadian Lt. Colonel John McCrae. It was OC's entry into the upper end resort trade, and the building featured speakeasies, grand halls and rooms, and a huge "catacomb" of a basement, all the better to lure some East Coast mob and celeb business from Atlantic City.

It also provided the perfect setting for a guest who wouldn't leave, the "Lady in White" dubbed Emily.

Guests and staffers have reported spotting the spook of a young woman in the hotel for years, her apparition appearing before dozens, if not hundreds, of people. She's been seen all around the Flanders, but mostly in the Hall of Mirrors. Other sites she roamed were the catacombs, the hotel lobby, and the second and fourth floors. And she's always barefoot - hey, it is on the beach.

Emily appears and disappears into walls, plays with door locks, opens and shuts doors, unscrews light bulbs, and for years her laughing and singing have echoed merrily through Flander's halls. The train of a white gown has been seen disappearing around the corner of a corridor. A photograph taken at one of the hotel's weddings captured her misty form; ghost hunters have rolls of orbs on film.

Her presence is so famous that the hotel had a mural of her painted, and named a restaurant after her. Artist Tony Troy painted a portrait of Emily based on the descriptions told by workers and guests of the hotel, and it's hung on the second floor. It shows a young woman with long reddish-brown hair standing by a piano wearing a long white dress and no shoes.

Ghost Tours of Ocean City say that Emily is the shadow of a woman who was a girlfriend of a WWI soldier who never returned from Europe; how fitting for a girl from a place named for Flander's fields.

Many paranormal groups have examined the hotel. The South Jersey Ghost Research gang found the spirit of a young girl in the Flander who may have died from hypothermia or from the water.

They noticed that the painting of Emily shared a physical resemblance with the little girl. Putting two and two together, the SJGR group theorized that she was looking for her mother - and that woman may be Emily. Here's their report on YouTube, Part 1 and Part 2.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Philly Boo Zoo

Solitude image from Skyscraper Forum

Hey, Simon and Garfunkle knew it was all happening at the Zoo. Now, thanks to SyFy TV and the Ghost Hunters, we know it's the Philly Zoo that they were talkin' about.

America's First Zoo opened on July 1, 1874, after a long delay brought on by the Civil War; its charter was originally approved in 1859. And, of course, it was rumored to be built on a Native American burial ground.

The zoo staff has reported a wide range of ghostly activity over the years, including flickering lights, partial and full-bodied apparitions and black shadow-forms seen roaming the zoo's buildings paths.

That was plenty enough to tempt the TAPS team. The Zoo episode was filmed in early April, and aired September 1st.

First they checked out the Solitude House, which was built by John Penn, the grandson of city founder William Penn, in 1784. It's housed reptile exhibits, and is honeycombed by an underground tunnel system, which doesn't sound like all that great a combination to us.

Prior reports from the Solitude included sightings in the attic, a door that locks itself, disembodied footsteps on the stairs and voice in the basement.

The Ghost Hunters heard music and voices while in the tunnels and footsteps coming from above. One member had her hair fondled (or brushed by a spider web or dust bunny; take your pick) and the team heard the disembodied voice of a man, along with humming in the basement and a door slamming upstairs.

Then it was off to the Penrose Building, which formerly functioned as a research laboratory and vet hospital. Its phenomena included claims of lights going off and on by themselves and a woman seen in the library window. The best the GH could come up with was a cold spot.

The Shelly Building houses offices and classrooms, and featured reports of a face peering through a plexiglass window in the lobby and the sounds of doors opening and closing. The paranormal explorers couldn't get a face to pop up, but did hear some banging and a slamming door.

The Treehouse is the only remaining one-time animal pen, but after a long renovation is now used as a children’s exhibit hall. It's claimed to host an apparition and some visitors have reported uneasiness and the sound of disembodied footsteps. The TAPS team got a sort of knock-knock response from an unidentified entity.

The verdict? Enough interesting stuff to keep the tales alive, but nothing conclusive. It would be nice if the Zoo could put a name to its spooks; each place that was checked out has an apparition; is it the shadow of John Penn, an old lion tamer, a long-time docent or a Delaware looking for some peace?

And oddly, there are no animal spirits haunting the grounds, not that the critters would have much reason to stick around. If you want to visit unencumbered by an obligation to feed the monkeys, there are several sweet Halloween tours of the Zoo.