Friday, September 28, 2012

Hotel Wayne

 Hotel Wayne from Expedia

Charles Forbes built the first public house in Honesdale in 1827 on the corner of Park and Main Streets (1202 N. Main Street is its exact address). The two-story wood frame building, redone in brick in 1895, measured 50 by 100' with a livery stable in the rear and was then known as the Forbes House.

It shortly thereafter became the Wayne County House (or Hotel) and provided accommodations for the superintendents of the D & H Canal company and for travelers who stopped in at the popular stage coach station. It's now called simply the Hotel Wayne, a 20-room hostelry with the restaurant/tavern Bistro 1202 at street level.

The psychic Crystal Boehmer investigated the Hotel Wayne for paranormal activity. And boy, did she ever encounter a houseful of eerie guests!

Taking the grand tour, she first felt the spirit of a race horse in the Philip Hone room, which when the hotel first opened was a passageway to the stables. Boehmer even came up with a name, more or less - she thought the quarter horse answered to either "Sparky" or "Spartacus."

When she passed the office, she sensed a Civil War soldier who paced the Hotel and seems to be a chivalrous guardian for the womenfolk who visit the hotel. Boehmer also heard gunshots from the basement, and when she went downstairs, she could smell gunpowder.

Crystal also found the shadow of Paul, who provides a noticeable presence in the basement and likes to move things around. The hotel says that could be the spirit of their old cook who was named Paul and who spent a lot of his working hours in the cellar.

She had a talk with the spook of a young alcohol and drug abuser named "Cookie" who had OD'ed and died in one of the Wayne's rooms. Beohmer told him he was forgiven and to go to the light, so there may be one less spirit in the hotel to deal with if he took her advice. In Room 208, she discovered Margaret still occupying her old room, along with an elderly schoolteacher who likes to gaze out from the balcony overlooking Main Street.

On the third floor she found a prostitute in red, a much battered lady of the night who died there, possibly at the hands of a client. She kept referring to "the Captain," perhaps recalling her seafaring boyfriend.

There was lots more ethereal flotsam floating around the hotel. She also said that she found:
  • A doctor in the bar area,
  • An "Adams" and a "Smith" in the building, 
  • A few children in the hotel, and
  • A mother who sits in Room 210 singing "Rock-a-Bye Baby" to her child and cooking.
And hey, that's nearly not all of the haunted roster. A couple of paranormal teams have probed the building including “Ghost Finders,” who have their findings posted on youtube, and come away with readings, messages, EVPs and visions from the many spirits who are said to inhabit the Hotel Wayne. They added to the ghostly list:
  • A tall man with a long beard who strongly resembles Abraham Lincoln (but isn’t),
  • A baby crying in Room 208,;
  • A man in Room 321 who told one of the psychics to “lie on the bed” in a chilling voice (maybe one of the lady in red's clientele), and
  • Shadowy reenactments of lively parties that used to be held on the third floor in the hotel's main hall.
Hey, hotels are always hotbeds of paranormal activity. They're frequented by a transitory crowd, and those who meet their fate in one often have no where else to go until they cross over. So if you're in the mood for a weekender and don't want to risk feeling lonely on the trip, book a visit to historic Honesdale and get a room at the Hotel Wayne. You'll have lots of company.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Lilburn: Ellicott City's Haunted History House

Lilburn from Ellicott City Tourism

Lilburn Mansion, also known as Hazeldene, Hazelhurst and/or Balderstone Mansion, is one of the historic treasures of Maryland's Ellicott City in Howard county.

An Englishman from Berkshire, Henry Richard Hazelhurst (his name is sometimes recorded as Richard Henry), started out as a civil engineer and made a fortune dabbling in railroads and then from his iron foundry in Baltimore, which would become an especially lucrative business during the Civil War. Hazelhurst was part of the gentry; his name can be found in the nineteenth century "Blue Book."

In 1857, he and his wife Elizabeth built a 20 room Gothic stone mansion with a four story tower, surrounded by seven or eight acres of rolling land off Cottage Avenue. The amenities included seven marble hearths, a circular drive, a guest house, a carriage house, a smokehouse and a swimming pool.

Sadly, a big crib and blue blood doesn't always translate into domestic tranquility. The Hazelhursts lost three of their six children at home. Two were taken early by childhood accident and illness while the third died during childbirth. Elizabeth then passed away, and Henry joined her in 1900, giving up the ghost - maybe literally - at the age of 85.

The home sat dark and unoccupied for a couple of decades before the estate sold it to the Maginnis family in 1923. Well, maybe not exactly unoccupied...

Almost as soon as they moved in, the Maginnis clan heard unexplained footsteps throughout Lilburn and in the tower. Some of the family thought that it may be the spirit of Hazelhurst's daughter; others believed that it was Henry pacing the top floor of the mansion.

But they quickly had more pressing concerns than a Hazelhurst spiritual reunion. The structure caught fire around Christmas time that year, and while the family escaped unharmed, Lilburn was badly damaged. It was rebuilt almost identically to the original - except for the tower. Maginnis replaced the Gothic turret with  a stone parapet.

As you can imagine, the ghosties of Hazeldene were not pleased. A common theme of haunted homes is that family spirits are pretty resistant to change and not the least bit shy about letting their feelings be known to the renovators. The paranormal activity increased with the sound of bodiless footsteps echoing through the mansion and the widows of the new tower refusing to stay shut. But the Maginnis and Hazelhurst clans got along well enough, considering everything.

Beth Hillel Sanitarium bought it from the Maginnis family in 1930 - we'd bet a haunted house is just what the doctor ordered for the Sanitarium's patients - and it changed hands four more times over the years until the Balderstones purchased it in 1965. None of the other owners reported anything particularly out of the ordinary, but they may have just been playing possum, because the place became spook central after Balderstones got the deed.

The footsteps were back (if they had ever gone away), and doors would open, shut, and unlock themselves without any human help. A chandelier would swing wildly (once during a party with a houseful of witnesses) and cigar smoke could be detected, both by smell and sight, in the library. The aroma of food cooking from a deserted kitchen was reported. The sounds of a crying baby could be heard coming from an upstairs bedroom.  There was a small room upstairs that the family pooch refused to enter.

The housekeeper even reported an actual apparition of a man and little girl in a chiffon dress, suspected to be Henry and one of his daughters. Sometimes they're seen together, and other times separately, with the girl often seen playing in various spots around Lilburn. There's also a spirit named "Margaret" who is blamed for much of the mischief (as in "Margaret, quit playing with the chandeliers already!") We're not sure who she is, perhaps a daughter or one of their playmates who took a liking to Hazeldene.

Oh, yah, almost forgot about the tower. Those dang windows proved to be quite the poser for the Balderstones. They opened on their own, and no matter how often the Balderstones shut them, they ended up open again.The family even tied them shut with ropes; often by the time they reached ground level and looked up, the tower windows were untied and wide open again. We'd have gotten screens, but hey...

Anyway, the Balderstone era ended in 1977, when Dr. Eugenia King became owner. She reportedly had the same window problems in the tower and with the swinging chandelier as the previous tenants, with the addition of a little poltergeist play involving a dumped vase.

The good doctor sold it in 1983, and the house, even with some renovation work, has been quiet since, according to its owners (Hazeldene has had its deed flipped a couple of times since, so we suppose upscale Ellicott City, located between Washington and Baltimore, is a pretty sweet market for home sales.)

So maybe the Hazelhurst family has left this vale of tears and crossed over. Then again, maybe the  owners figure that things going bump in the night might be a drag on the return on their investment...

If you want the full scoop on Lilburn, get thee to a library or bookstore and pick up "Ghosts And Haunted Houses of Maryland" by Trish Gallagher and/or "Haunted Ellicott City" by David Ketchersid and Troy Taylor.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Columns Museum

The Columns Museum from Our Country Home

The Columns is a 1904 neo-classical mansion on Broad Street in Milford, built as a private residence and now the home of the Pike County Historical Society. And it houses some pretty outre - and out there - objects

It's main claim to fame is the "Lincoln Flag," the actual red, white, and blue banner that hung from the front of Lincoln's theater box and was used as a pillow for his head after he was fatally wounded at the Ford Theater. The bloody bunting was taken by the theater manager Thomas Gourlay, who gave it to his actress daughter Jeannie, who happened to be a player in "Our American Cousin" that fateful night. She married a Milford man, and the flag ended up with her son, Paul Struthers, who used to hang it on his porch every July 4th. He eventually donated it to the Society.

They have other stuff - the noose used for the only public hanging in Pike County history, an exhibit on Chief Thundercloud, who's visage may have been engraved on the Buffalo nickel and five dollar gold piece, William Jennings Bryan fedoras, a presentation of mourning clothes, a Gifford Pinchot area (he was a PA governor and conservationist whose family had an estate in Milford), an exhibit of the belongings of Charles Saunders Peirce, the mathematician and philosopher often called the "father of pragmatism" and his wife Marie, displays of Lenape artifacts, rooms dedicated to early wars...well, all kind of museum oddities, minus King Tut (after all, he wasn't from Pike county).

As you might imagine with a collection like that, there have been reports of some eerie activity from The Columns. And oddly, Old Abe isn't included in them; the White House halls seem to be his otherworldly hang out. But even without the Rail Splitter, paranormal groups visit the museum every so often with heat detectors, tape recorders, and video cameras to get in on the ethereal action.

Dark Illusions Paranormal Investigators filmed ghostly mists and forms in the Columns, and heard clicking sounds, like a woman's heels, walking from Mrs. Peirce's room to Chief Thundercloud's. They visited on a Friday the 13th, and their results are posted on youtube.

Banshee Paranormal Investigators recorded a voice saying, "This is mine," over and over in a room filled with old cradles, one of which was made by a slave. And they took sequential photos of the door to Mrs. Peirce's room, showing that it closed on its own volition.

Other people told of visions of a small woman in the basement, several dancers on The Column's main floor and the spectral scene of a woman falling (or being pushed) down the third-floor servants' staircase while a man at the top of the steps watched. Two volunteers reported unspecified creepy doings in the Music Room as well.

But the star of this show is Juliette Peirce, Charles' widow. She was by all accounts head-over-heels in love with her philosopher hubby, but he wasn't quite pragmatic enough to turn his considerable brainpower into folding green. He died impoverished, and she slowly sold off their possessions, even reading tarot cards (she was supposed to have the deck used to predict Napoleon's downfall) to make ends meet in her later years. The remains of their estate after she passed on went to the museum. Apparently, Juliette was pretty possessive of the few belongings she had left.

It’s said that her spirit roams the second floor hallway, and she doesn't always play nice with visitors who get too touchy with her things. It's been reported that a couple of guests have been sent scurrying down the stairs in terror after a run-in with Juliette.

Linda Zimmermann, ghost investigator and author, has been to The Columns a few times and believes she's made Juliette's acquaintance. She encountered Madame, her nickname from her fortune telling days as a tarot reader, on the main stairway on the second floor. The apparition was dressed in late nineteenth century style clothing, matching her era on earth. The spirit beckoned to Linda and led her to the back room, which housed the Peirce family artifacts.

The name “Beatrice” kept popping up in Zimmermann's mind, followed by her bumping into a painting of a woman named Beatrice Bailey hanging in the hallway. That led to a room where she found a portrait of Juliette Peirce, confirming that she was the woman who Linda saw at the stairs.

It's thought that Juliette is so attached to the remaining items from her and Charles' days in Milford that she can't bear to leave them, even to rejoin her hubby on the other side.

Most senior and long-time staffers pooh-pooh all the ghost talk, as to be expected. But they do occasionally give a nudge and a wink acknowledgement, using the lore for The Column's good. The organization held an event called “The Ghost Gathering” just six weeks ago. And Linda Zimmermann has The Columns included in her book “Ghost Investigator Volume 9: Back from the Dead.”

Hey, we like to believe that the ghost hunters were on to something. And we'd love to know why Juliette was visiting Chief Thundercloud on Friday the 13th; that sounds like a good storyline by itself.