Archive for History

The Hahn Mansion

Posted in History, Locations, Writing with tags , , , , , , , on February 12, 2018 by S. P.

The Hahn Mansion Today (Photo: Realtor.com)

The story of Rudolph Hahn and the Hahn Mansion began in the silver mines of Montana and ended in a seedy boarding house in Spokane, Washington.  It’s a tale of wealth, divorce, intrigue, death, and murder, whose spirits, some claim, linger to this day.

On September 5, 1908, the president and largest shareholder of the Hecla Mining Company, John Smith, died, leaving his vast fortune and major interest in the company to his recently wed wife, Sarah.  In 1916, Sarah and her new husband, Ralston “Jack” Wilbur, spent $75,000 (nearly $1.7 million in today’s dollars) on the construction of a sprawling mansion on Spokane’s South Hill.  Contemporary newspaper accounts reported that famed Spokane architects G. A. Pehrson and Kirtland K. Cutter collaborated on design of the palatial home, which featured gold leaf carvings, mother-of-pearl inlays, and beamed ceilings.

Not long after completion of the home, Sarah divorced Jack Wilbur and sold the home in 1918 to a druggist named William Whitlock.  In turn, Whitlock sold the home in 1924 to one Randolph Hahn.  It was during Hahn’s residency that the story of the home became “interesting” to say the least.  If nothing else, Randolph Hahn certainly left his mark on the history of Spokane.

Hahn began his professional life as a painter and barber.  Around 1885, Hahn married Annie Tico. The 1910 census lists Hahn, his wife, and five children living in a rented home at 613 Washington Street in Spokane.  Hahn’s occupation is listed as “x-ray specialist.”  However, by the 1920 census, 53-year-old Hahn is now shown as married to 21-year-old Sylvia Fly, with no mention of Annie or Hahn’s children.  Moving up in status, the census lists Hahn as a physician engaged in private practice.

Without ever having spent a day in medical school, Hahn began amassing his own fortune.  “Doctor” Hahn’s specialty involved electro-therapy as a purported cure for a variety of ailments, along with a side business performing illegal abortions for wealthy clients.  Part of the $50,000 in improvements he made after purchasing the mansion from Whitlock reportedly included the addition of secret passages to help maintain the anonymity of his clients, as well as gutters carved into the floor of the basement to aid draining blood from his operating room following one of his “procedures.”

Living in the Great Gatsby-like world he created, Hahn earned a reputation as an eccentric and a partier.  Reports from the time describe him as always appearing well-dressed in the finest suits, but clad in slippers.  Even during prohibition, the Hahn residence was well known for wild, alcohol-fueled parties.  During one of his parties, a drunk Hahn apparently drove his car into the swimming pool.  Much to the chagrin of his neighbors, he also developed an interest in radio, hanging speakers around his home playing loud music at all hours of the day until a court-order forced him to stop.  Given Hahn’s guest list of the rich and famous of Spokane at the time, it seems the police generally turned a blind-eye towards his antics.

His relationship with Sylvia proved tumultuous, with witnesses often reporting heated arguments, including one in which Hahn apparently suffered broken ribs.  The couple even divorced for a time, but later remarried as evidenced by a marriage certificate from June 8, 1933.  The turbulent relationship came to an ultimate conclusion on May 2, 1940.  Following a particularly violent row, Sylvia was discovered dead in her bedroom with a bullet wound to her head.  Despite the official ruling of suicide, multiple other bullet holes were discovered in the bedroom wall.  Hahn claimed these resulted from his bouts of indoor target practice – and the officials accepted his story.

Hahn’s wild, party-filled lifestyle continued for a few years after Sylvia’s death – along with Hahn’s illegal abortion clinic.  Unfortunately for Hahn, one of his “patients,” a young woman from Mullan, Idaho, died on his operating table while undergoing an illegal abortion.  Although he’d escaped similar charges in the past, this time he wasn’t so lucky.  In 1945, a jury convicted Hahn of manslaughter.  He received a $1000 fine and probation.  However, the conviction destroyed his reputation and ended his “medical” career, forcing Hahn to sell his mansion and move into a rooming house, the New Madison Apartments, in downtown Spokane – a far cry from his former opulent lifestyle.  Hahn met his fate on August 6, 1946, when an attacker plunged a bayonet through Hahn’s heart.  A traveling hearing aid salesman, Delbert Visger, eventually confessed to the murder, claiming robbery as a motive.  Yet, rumors persisted that it was actually revenge for a botched procedure carried out on the man’s wife by Hahn years prior.

Given the history, not surprisingly rumors of hauntings of the Hahn Mansion persist to the present day.  Over the years, witnesses have claimed to hear sounds of crowds partying, loud arguments, shrieks from Hahn’s former patients, gunshots, and even the figure of a woman who appears on the staircase.  All, of course, taking place when only the witnesses were present in the home.  Since the home is once again an elegant private residence, it seems the current owners alone know if such activity is still (or ever was) taking place…

[©2018 All rights reserved.  This copyrighted material may not be reposted or reproduced in any form without permission.]

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He’s Baaack!

Posted in Commentary, News with tags , , , , , , on August 4, 2013 by S. P.
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Image: Wikimedia Commons

After a brief hiatus to deal with a family medical situation, The Ghost Writer has returned! In addition to more regular postings on here, expect to see some other things coming your way from The Ghost Writer. Thank you for your continued loyalty and support. Please help me build this site and my facebook page by inviting your friends to join the adventure through following this blog and “liking” my facebook page. Thanks again!

The Ghost and the Saint

Posted in History, Religion with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 12, 2012 by S. P.

St. John Bosco (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Not only does Christianity acknowledge the existence of the spirit world, even great saints sometimes experience encounters with “ghosts.” One such saint was John Bosco (1815 – 1888). While a young man, Bosco made an agreement with his friend Comollo that whichever of them died first would give the other some sign as to the state of his soul. As it happened, Comollo’s death came first, on April 2, 1839. The next evening, following the funeral of his friend, Bosco sat sleepless on his bed in the dorm room he shared with twenty other seminarians. At this point, we take up the story in Bosco’s own words:

“Midnight struck and I then heard a dull rolling sound from the end of the passage, which grew ever more clear, loud and deep, the nearer it came. It sounded as though a heavy dray were being drawn by many horses, like a railway train, almost like the discharge of a cannon…While the noise came nearer the dormitory, the walls, ceiling and floor of the passage re-echoed and trembled behind it…The students in the dormitory awoke, but none of them spoke…Then the door opened violently of its own accord without anybody seeing anything except a dim light of changing colour that seemed to control the sound…Then a voice was clearly heard, ‘Bosco, Bosco, Bosco, I am saved.’… The seminarists leapt out of bed and fled without knowing where to go. Some gathered in a corner of the dormitory and sought to inspire each other with courage, others crowded around the prefect, Don Giuseppe Fiorito di Rivolo; thus they passed the night and waited anxiously for the coming of day. All had heard the noise and some of them the voice without gathering the meaning of the words. I sat upon my bed and told my comrades that they had no cause for alarm. I had clearly understood the words; they were ‘I am saved.’ Some had also understood them clearly as I had done, and for a long time afterwards there was no other subject of conversation in the seminary.”[1]

[1] As quoted in: Abbot Alois Wiesinger, Occult Phenomena in the Light of Theology (London: Burns and Oates, 1957) 228-229.

There’ll be Scary Ghost Stories…

Posted in History, Locations with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 11, 2011 by S. P.

Railroad Convict Labor (Image: http://www.learnnc.org)

There’ll be scary ghost stories

And tales of the glories of

Christmases long, long ago.

Gentle readers, in the “spirit” of the Season, I present my humble contribution of a “scary ghost story.” Turn down the lights, curl up with your computer in that big comfy chair by the fire and enjoy. Don’t worry, that noise outside is just the wind, or Santa, probably…

The metallic tink of a chorus of pick axes striking rock filled the crisp air like a bizarre industrial age symphony. In the best of conditions building a railroad was hard work. In rough terrain it was hell. This was rough terrain. Had it not been for the winter cold, the laborers would have sworn they were in hell.

In 1883, the directors of the Western North Carolina Railroad were determined to build a line linking Bryson City and points west with Dillsboro and the outside world. They’d be damned if trifling things like mountains or even the lives of workers would stand in their way, especially in the case of the men working to complete the Cowee Tunnel near Dillsboro, North Carolina.

These were no ordinary railroad workers. The area was considered so dangerous, few men signed up for the job. The state of North Carolina came to the aid of the railroad by supplying prison convicts, mostly black, for labor.

The prisoners and their guards camped across the Tuckaseegee River near a hairpin bend which Cowee Tunnel was being built to bypass. Each day groups of twenty prisoners were shackled together in ankle irons and ferried across the river in rafts under the watchful eye of a guard.

On that cold fateful winter morning in 1883, tragedy struck. The river was running high and the current swift that morning. Before they even realized what was happening, the angry river capsized one of the rafts and tossed twenty prisoners and their guard into its frigid waters. Weighed down by the heavy chains, nineteen of the prisoners met a horrific death by drowning. Only one prisoner, Anderson Drake, managed to free himself and rescue the guard, Fleet Foster.

Unfortunately, Drake, unwilling or unable to part with his criminal ways, stole Foster’s wallet during the rescue. What should have been a heroic triumph became brutal punishment when the wallet turned up at the bottom of Drake’s duffel bag. The guards whipped Drake and sent him back to work on the tunnel.

The bodies of the nineteen less fortunate convicts were pulled from the river then hastily buried in unmarked graves on the hillside near the mouth of the tunnel. Since no one much cared about the fate of a few prisoners, their unmarked graves were quickly forgotten as work immediately resumed on the tunnel. Even today, the exact location of the graves remains uncertain.

What seems not so uncertain is the restlessness of their spirits. From shortly after the time of the mishap itself to the present, witness after witness near Cowee Tunnel report hearing unexplained sounds of splashing water, clinking chains and axes, and perhaps most disturbing of all, loud, mournful, pitiful wails of anguish. Do the dead still haunt Cowee Tunnel, seeking to remind us of the presence of their nearby, but neglected, graves?

If you’re brave enough to find out for yourself, take a ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. Their excursion train runs from Bryson City to Dillsboro, passing through the infamous Cowee Tunnel. Just to be safe, you might want to keep the windows of your carriage closed…

Merry Christmas and have a spook-tacular holiday!

Sources:

Baldwin, Juanitta. Smoky Mountain Ghostlore. Virginia Beach, VA: Suntop Press, 2005.

Osment, Timothy N. “Railroads in Western North Carolina.” Learn NC, no date. http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/nchist-newsouth/5503.

Taylor, Troy. Down in the Darkness: The Shadowy History of America’s Haunted Mines, Tunnels and Caverns. Alton, IL: Whitechapel Productions Press, 2003.

©2011 S P Schultz, All Rights Reserved

The Real [Non-] Pagan History of Halloween

Posted in Commentary, History, Religion with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2011 by S. P.

(Image: Wikimedia Commons)

For most of its history, no one in the United States connected Halloween to “paganism” or “wicca.” Only within the past few decades has it gone from a harmless “kid’s holiday” to an urban legend taking root among both New Agers and fundamentalist Christians about Halloween’s supposed “pagan” past.  Thanks to continued repetition of this urban legend by venues such as the History Channel and various New Age and “paranormal” publications, as well as fundamentalist Christian anti-Halloween “crusades,” most people today accept it as fact, never bothering to investigate it further.  Today’s urban legend claims Halloween directly dates back to a pre-Christian Celtic Druid festival which the (evil) Catholic Church co-opted in order to “suppress” pagans.  As with most urban legends, this one contains a dash of truth in order to hold together a bunch of complete nonsense.

The customs we now accept as associated with Halloween are actually of much more recent origin than New Age urban legend suggests and are a mix of traditions and practices from throughout Europe, Britain, and Ireland.  As with most things which began across the Atlantic and reached American shores, these various customs and traditions were blended, “Americanized” and repackaged into what we now call Halloween.  What we do know for certain is that the modern Halloween celebration has no direct religious connection with the ancient Druids of Celtic Britain and Ireland.

It’s true the Druids celebrated a minor festival at the end of October, as they did at the end of every month, but they had long since ceased to exist as an organized people when Halloween developed.  At the beginning of what eventually became the New Age movement, Druidism saw a “revival” in the 1700s and 1800s, but just like the current New Age movement, this involved people with no real connection to ancient Druids – except in their minds – and no real connection to actual ancient Druid practices.  Just like today’s New Age “pagans” and “wiccans,” a bunch of people pretended to be “Druids” with little actual historical knowledge (other than what they invented for themselves) of actual ancient pagan groups and practices.

Let’s examine the ancient Druids a bit closer.  First, unlike the image today’s self-styled “pagans” like to project, the Druids were not peace-loving “greenies” who liked to get naked and commune with nature.  Instead, they were a rather violent and blood thirsty Celtic people who inhabited pre-Roman Britain and Ireland.  The ancient Druids had much more in common with brutal peoples like the Aztecs than Kumbaya-singing hippies.  Our earliest records of the Druids come from the Romans.  It’s significant to note that even the Romans found these people excessively brutal.  We also find that it was the Romans who suppressed Druidism.  Tiberius (Roman emperor from AD 14 to 37) first outlawed the practice of Druidism.  Under Claudius (emperor from AD 41 to 54), the Druids were completely wiped out.

The Roman record brings out two extremely important points regarding Druidism.  First, very clearly, the suppression of the Druids had nothing to do with the Catholic Church, which had not spread much outside Judea at this point in history.  So claims that the Church co-opted a Druid festival to create Halloween and force the conversion of Druids are flat-out false.  Second, a hallmark of the Roman Empire was allowing conquered territories a large amount of relative autonomy as long as they continued to acknowledge Rome and pay tribute – this included allowing people to maintain local religious customs (we see this very clearly in Judea).  The fact the Romans felt compelled to stamp out Druidism shows the Druids were anything but peace-loving nature freaks.

So how does the Catholic Church get drawn into all this?  In the fourth century, the Church instituted a feast day to honor all Christian martyrs of the faith.  This feast day was originally celebrated on May 13.  In 615, Pope Boniface IV established it as the “Feast of All Martyrs” and commemorated it with the dedication of a basilica in Rome to the Blessed Virgin Mary and all martyrs.  By 741, the feast had grown to include remembering not only all martyrs, but all the saints in heaven as well.  As a result, the name was changed to the “Feast of All Saints” in 840.  In 844, long after the passing of the Druids and long after Christianity had become the predominate western religion, Pope Gregory IV transferred the feast to November 1st.

October 31st itself held no special significance in the Church calendar until 1484 (again, long, long past the time of the Druids) when Pope Sixtus IV declared the “Feast of All Saints” a holy day of obligation (days on which Catholics are obligated to attend Mass – in addition to Sundays) and gave it a vigil and an eight-day period or octave to celebrate the feast (the octave of All Saints was removed from the Church calendar in 1955).  For Catholics, the vigil is celebrated on the evening before the feast – hence Christmas Eve.  Saints were known as “hallowed” in old English.  Therefore, the vigil for the Feast of All Saints, or “All Hallows,” became known as “All Hallows’ Eve” – Halloween.  The fact that “Halloween” is derived from old English and the Druids happened to inhabit ancient Britain is as closer as we come to a direct connection between the Catholic Church, Druids and today’s Halloween.

While it’s true that traditions such as dressing in costumes, Trick-or-Treating, and Jack-o-lanterns were originally inspired by ancient religious practices to ward off evil spirits, even by the time these practices made their way to America, they had long since lost their religious meaning. Instead, they’d become much more along the lines of cultural traditions. Most telling is the fact that there is no mention of Halloween being a “pagan,” “wiccan,” or “evil” celebration in the past historical record. Only in recent decades has this notion taken hold. Once we consider the true facts, it leads me to ask just who exactly is it that has actually co-opted Halloween for their own purposes?

So, carve your Jack-o-lantern, throw on your costume, and go Trick-or-Treating all without fear that you’re participating in an “evil,” “pagan,” or “wiccan” celebration. Happy Halloween!

2011 All rights reserved.  This copyrighted material may not be reposted or reproduced in any form without permission.]

Lizzie Borden Took an Axe…

Posted in History, Locations with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 4, 2011 by S. P.

The Borden House (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

August 4th, 1892, began as a typical day for the Borden household in Fall River, MA. The patriarch, Andrew Borden, departed the home in the morning for his normal routine of checking in at the bank where he was president and stopping by the post office. Meanwhile, his second wife, Abby, and his daughter from his first marriage, Elizabeth, went about the daily chores at home along with the family’s hired maid, 26-year old Bridget Sullivan. Elizabeth’s older sister, Emma, was not at home.

Around 10:45 am, Mr. Borden returned home. Claiming he felt ill, Andrew sat down for a nap on the sofa in the front room. Bridget Sullivan later testified that she was lying down in her third floor room when she heard Elizabeth around 11:00 am frantically calling out to her that someone had killed Elizabeth’s father. Rushing downstairs, Bridget saw Mr. Borden’s body slumped in the sofa as if he’d been sleeping. The left side of his face was a bloody pulp.

The body of Andrew Borden. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

As neighbors tended to Elizabeth in the kitchen, Bridget made another grisly discovery. She found the body of Abby Borden slumped on the floor of the upstairs guest bedroom, likewise dead from blows to the head.

In the ensuing police investigation, it was discovered both Bordens died from hatchet blows to the head – 18 or 19 in the case of Abby and 11 for Andrew. Despite a heavily contaminated crime scene – it wasn’t secured until hours later – the police discovered a hatchet head broken off from its handle. The police assumed this was the murder weapon. With the crowds tramping through the house in the hours following the murders, most other physical evidence was destroyed.

Elizabeth told several varying and inconsistent stories to investigators regarding unknown mysterious persons. However, in the end, the police believed the circumstantial evidence pointed towards Elizabeth as the murderer. She was arrested on August 11th and tried at court in June 1893. With only weak circumstantial evidence and no witnesses, the jury acquitted Elizabeth on June 20, 1893.

Following the murders and trial, Elizabeth and Emma moved into another house in Falls River. In June 1905, the two had a falling out and Emma moved out. Both sisters died in 1927; Elizabeth on June 1st and Emma on June 10th. Neither ever married.

Rumors have swirled since immediately following the murders. It’s clear that following the death of the sisters’ biological mother, Sarah, in 1863, the Borden household was not a pleasant place for the sisters. Neither particularly liked their stepmother and by all accounts Andrew Borden was not a particularly cheerful fellow. While most believe Elizabeth was involved in the murders, many believe she didn’t act alone. Claims of incest and mentally handicapped illegitimate children still surface. We do know the Borden sisters were very upset with Andrew for giving property to relatives while providing them nothing. However, like so many similar murder cases, it’s likely that we’ll never know the full truth since those who did are now long since dead.

The Borden house currently operates as a museum, and bed and breakfast. Extensive paranormal claims surround the property, including reports of a very mean apparition of Andrew Borden. Are they real or merely products of over-active imaginations?

[© 2011 All rights reserved.  This copyrighted material may not be reposted or reproduced in any form without permission.]

PIA Conference Presentation – On the Nature of Ghosts

Posted in Commentary, Events, History, Investigations, News, Poltergeists, Religion with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 1, 2011 by S. P.

White Noise Paranormal Network

Thanks to White Noise Paranormal Network, you can click on the link below to view my presentation, On the Nature of Ghosts, from the 2011 PIA Conference:

http://justin.tv/whitenoise02/b/291569213

You can also access videos of the other presentations through this link:

http://www.ghostshow.net/pia/

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