Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"Ancient" Victorian Fortune-Telling Rituals

Today is a little about letting the past speak for itself & a little about me being lazy (LOL). I'm going to let you read this article for yourself (you can get a closer look by clicking on the image or the hyperlink provided below).

Very simply, this writer from the Paducah Evening Sun has provided us with a brief (and somewhat relatively accurate, depending on perspective - but that's what history is all about, now isn't it?) history of Halloween. But the REAL fun comes in the second half of the article, with "ancient" fortune-telling rituals (of course, as true today as it was then, they generally involve love & luck) using candles, nuts, seeds, and mirrors.


*Note: This is NOT the original layout of this column. To view this article in its original form. See page 7 of the October 26, 1905 edition of the Paducah Evening Sun.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Spirits & Superstitions in Kentucky

Fear and paranoia make people people do strange things, especially when it has to do with the unknown and "things that go bump in the night." From when we were children, we learned to beware what was unusual and what could not be explained. We learned the superstitions of our ancestors through traditions passed down through family.

One such Deputy Coroner took this advice into practice on Friday, November 13, 1908, when he traveling to Williamson to examine a miner, killed at work. He declared it an accident. His trip home - on a fare of 13 cents - took him all night (a trip that should have been much quicker) whence the power went out. He declared THIS triple combination of incidents "Triple Hoodoo," owing it to the fateful date and the fateful fare. Read the report below from the front page of the November 20, 1908 Hartford Republican.

Despite what our ancestors and tradition tells us, nature might offer a perfectly logical explanation. Two years earlier, a Mr. & Mrs. Isaac Welborn, of Munfordsville, were plagued with strange nightly noises. For all the searching, seeking, and rationalizing, they could find nothing to explain the sounds. The wife insisted their house was haunted! When they could take no more, Mr. Welborn finally removed a stone from their hearth to discover a nest of 42 rattlesnakes living beneath - "haunting" their house! Read their story, reported on the front page of February 16, 1906 Hartford Republican. Nearby Glasgow Junction experienced spooky goings-ons the next year, with a "mysterious rain" coming from a clear sky, and localized under a single tree. The "haunted tree" attracted quite a crowd, including a passing farmer. After listening to the story and looking at the tree, he provided the simple & not quite-so-exciting answer: bugs. Little insects infested this tree, puncturing the limbs, allowing the sap to fall like rain. Hopkinsville Kentuckian, 5 November 1907, p. 4.

Ultimately, whether inexplicable or perfectly natural & logical, sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do! Sometimes, you must face your fears & combat the spirit world head on! Such is the suggestion of this clipping from an unknown author, who talks about getting rid of "old-time ghosts" using a popular style of the time - "local color," which uses an interpretive (and often stereotypical) language. In a brief, amusing story, the narrator describes how the ghosts dragged around heavy chains at night. Finally, deciding this must not only be quite a labor on the ghosts, but had also "gone out o' fashion," the narrator gives the ghosts tin rattles instead. Problem solved! Hickman Courier, 15 February 1907, p. 3.

How do you deal with your superstitions & "things that go bump in the night?" What did your mother/father/grandparents/etc. warn you about & do you carry it on? Do you even realize it? How so?

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Grisly Murder of Poor Pearl Bryan

{A haunting suggestion by Kathryn Lybarger}

Betrayed by your beloved! A tragic way to go! Wouldn't you want to stick around & share your misery with the world? Pearl Bryan apparently did.

Pearl Bryan came from a wealthy farming family in Greencastle, Indiana, and was dating the son of a local Methodist minister, in 1896. Unbeknownst to her friends and family, her boyfriend, William Wood, had "seduced" her and she was pregnant. He convinced Pearl to get a secret abortion, to be performed by his friend, Scott Jackson and his roommate, Alonzo Walling. These young men were current students at the Ohio College of Dental Surgery in Cincinnati. Surely, they must have the appropriate medical skills! So, on February 1, a 5-month pregnant Pearl left her parents with a lie, and met up with Jackson and Walling in Cincinnati.

Jackson used assorted chemicals, including cocaine, to see to his task - all of which failed. The men carried on, trying dental tools to complete their duty; and failing again. This botched abortion left Pearl afraid and bleeding profusely. Walling, Jackson, and even Wood saw no other option than to "cover the evidence" of what was, at the time, not only one, but two sinful & shameful acts (an unwed pregnancy & an abortion) - they decided to murder Pearl Bryan!

Traveling to Fort Thomas, KY, they cut off her head in what would later be described as a "clean slice" with a dental instrument. Arranging the scene to make it appear as a rape of a prostitute, they abandoned her body behind what is now the YMCA. Her head was never found, though many people tried throughout the years, and there are any number of theories throughout the years as to what happened to it, from being abandoned in a nearby thicket to tossed in the river, and even thrown in the river. People were still "finding" Pearl's poor head over a decade after her murder! Check out these clippings below, from the 1900 Hopkinsville Kentuckian, February 1907 Paducah Sun, & March 1907 Mt. Sterling Advocate, for just a few examples:

Ultimately, Pearl was identified by her shoes - since her head was nowhere to be found. An autopsy revealed the chemicals in her system. Soon after her murder, her killers were arrested and brought to trial by that Spring. Jackson & Walling were found guilty of murder. The trial garnered so much attention, a Barclay & Co. published a book detailing Pearl's tragic death & the ongoing trial by the end of 1896 titled: Mysterious Murder of Pearl Bryan, or, The Headless Horror (digitally available in KDL books). They attempted an appeal, then escape. However, due to the national attention and the outrage felt by townspeople, KY Governor William O. Bradley brought more security to their cells (which foiled their escape attempt). About 13 months after Pearl Bryan's murder, Jackson & Walling were hanged; again, Gov. Bradley made sure to bring extra security.

But this is only the beginning of the story - at least what can be proven in the physical realm that humans can conceivably see & know, without a doubt. Some say, on the gallows, Walling - believing himself an innocent man - cursed everyone involved in the case. And though the newspapers do not directly support this "evil eye" curse, there is a strange coincidence that a large number of people involved in the case of Pearl Bryan's murder, and those who brought her killers to justice mysteriously and/or tragically died within 15 years of her death; else they were brought a string of bad luck. Reporters had a habit of bringing up her name when someone related to the case came ill, whether it mattered or not. This included such people as prominent as the judge (died of a "hemorrhage of the lungs" in 1903) to as overlooked as the African-American who carried her remains (fatally injured in a 1902 accident) to obscure figures, such as C.E. Walling - her murderer's brother - was noted as related to the case, when the Berea Citizen reported him as dying in 1910!

Of course, Pearl Bryan herself has supposedly caused some mischief (though it's not directly accredited to her in this August 10, 1904 Richmond Climax clipping from page 1, it's implied)

And she still allegedly does today, most notably in Bobby Mackey's Music World - a night club & former slaughterhouse in Wilder, KY, with its own sordid history embedded in the building, involving satanic rituals & occultists. One of these legends involves a ritual that placed a curse on the disembodied head of Pearl Bryan before it was tossed down a well in the basement of the building, which is why she haunts the place.

I'm not sure they ever ACTUALLY found poor Pearl's head. Perhaps we will never know, as one story alleges Walling & Jackson kept silent because they feared "the wrath of Satan" (other stories place them as Satanists, as well). Supposedly, when people visit her grave, they leave her pennies, so she can have a head at Resurrection.

What do you think happened to Pearl Bryan's head? Do you think there is a curse on those involved with her murder & the case - even those that brought her justice? What & where do you believe she haunts, if she still does? Do YOU believe?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Happy 199th Bday, C.M. Clay!

*Note: I have not linked directly to many of the digitized newspaper pages from which these clippings appear, though their citations are available. Many are repeated news items within their respective time periods. Similarly, C.M. Clay himself was a popular news item during his life. For a closer view of these clippings, simply click on them with your mouse.

On this day, 199 years ago (1810), one of Kentucky's most notable figures - emancipationist Cassius M. Clay was born into a family of other historical figures including Brutus Clay, Green Clay (his father), and his second cousin Henry Clay. But, we are here to talk about C.M. Clay's life today.

After graduating from Transylvania University, Clay attended Yale, where he heard abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison speak, and his passion for antislavery began. In 1845, he even began publishing an antislavery newspaper out of Lexington, called the True American. Knowing his paper would face dissension, he reinforced his office door, armed himself with weapons (including a cannon!), and even installed an alternate escape route! His suspicions were correct and, shortly after, the city-folk (including Henry Clay's son) petitioned to have him thrown out of town. The paper moved to Cincinnati, where friends and family continued it while he left to fight in the Mexican-American War, earning the rank of General.

In his political life, Clay served 3 terms in the KY General Assembly. When the Civil War began, he turned down Lincoln's nomination for ambassador to Spain, opting instead to serve as ambassador to Russia. His time in this role proved key to American history, as Clay was influential in purchase negotiations of Alaska.

Throughout this time, Clay never lost his belief in emancipation. After returning from the Mexican-American War (but before leaving for Russia), he assisted Rev. John G. Fee in establishing Berea College by donating 10 acres of land, and encouraging the foundation of a church-based school. Although the school did not truly take off until after the Civil War, Berea would prove to be revolutionary as an racially coeducational institution. Over differences of opinion in how the school should be ran, Fee & Clay parted ways - Clay to Russia, and Fee to run the school (after briefly fleeing Madison County due to threats during the Civil War).

Later, in 1904, other "differences of opinion" further squashed the dreams of the revolutionary Berea with the Day Laws, prohibiting racially integrated education. Though Berea College fought it up through the US Supreme Court, including multiple fines for violations, it held until 1950. View the KY newspaper clippings below from 1904-1905 to see the progression of the situation:

As passionate as Clay was in his political & public life - leaving an undoubtedly strong legacy - it also deeply infiltrated his personal life. C.M. Clay married Mary Jane Warfield in 1833, the daughter of another notable KY figure, horseman Dr. Elisha Warfield. They had 10 children, raised on their Madison County estate, White Hall. However, a busy public life full of ambassadorships, lecturing, advocacy, and campaigning kept him away from the family. In 1878, they divorced.

At the time, existing laws meant essentially all property belonged to Cassius; Mary Jane was left with nothing - he even charged her for back rent from the time she kept house raising his children there! She moved the children to an apartment in Lexington. This devastating divorce had quite an impact on Clay's daughters, particularly two that you my recognize - Mary Barr and Laura. The sisters went on to fight for women's rights - Laura went on to form the Kentucky Equal Rights Association (KERA) in 1888, with Josephine K. Henry, and lobbied with the passion of her father. She became well-known on the national stage, along with her cousin, Madeline McDowell Breckinridge, the great-grandaughter of Henry Clay (but that's another story). Both were present to see the 19th amendment signed by the Kentucky governor, in 1920. Ironically, Laura's father, Cassius, supportive of emancipation was opposed to Prohibition & Women's suffrage. Check out these clippings below - from early 1891 editions of the Bluegrass Blade to see the respect Josephine K. Henry gives Laura Clay for KERA, & Laura's views on women's property rights:

Though these are some of the more enduring pieces of C.M. Clay's legacy, there are other, lesser-known stories. For example, his affinity for dueling (outlawed by the 3rd KY Constitution in 1850), or knife-fighting, in particular. More specifically, his favorite weapon was the bowie knife; he even published a pamphlet on it! His provocative nature continued into his elderly years, and seems to be what brought him "news-worthy" attention in the gossip columns (that and his quick divorce from his second wife, who was quite a bit younger than him. Perhaps these personality traits, which attracted controversy, is what gained him the nickname the "Lion of White Hall." Below are two clippings - one citing his involvement in a fight, when he was 91 years old!!! and the other referencing his nature and nickname, even after death, as he left 6 wills! (His property and estate were ultimately auctioned off, bringing quite a respectable price).

With any number of legacies to choose from, Cassius M. Clay was respectfully remembered for his achievements and contributions when he died on July 22, 1903. Read his elaborate bio, and view a sketch of him and his estate, White Hall, in this Berea Citizen obituary, published July 30, 1903.

Much of C.M. Clay's legacy, stemming from his life, including Berea College & Laura Clay's contributions to women's movement, occurred after his death. Do you think he would have approved of these achievements? Why or why not? Do you think Clay would have approved of his legacy - the one history books typically see; without the provocative & controversy; no knife-fighting or messy divorce? What do you think of the way Clay lived his life?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Crafting a Commonwealth - Kentucky Freemasons

Freemasonry is generally viewed as a "secret society" involved in conspiracies and, sometimes controversy that formed this country. As one of the oldest fraternal organizations in the world, they actually trace their roots to Medieval Europe and the artisans who made their living from the craft of stonemasonry. Though they do not seek out members, those who attempt to join face high moral and ethical standards, often symbolized by the stonemasons' tools. And although many prominent members of American society were allegedly Freemasons, religion and politics are forbidden in lodge discussion.

Kentucky has its own ties to Freemasonry, going back to the Grand Lodge of Virginia, established in 1778. At this time, Lexington's lodge was numbered 25. However, the masons of Kentucky ultimately broke away, successfully establishing their own Grand Lodge on October 16, 1800; Lexington's lodge was renumbered "1," with many of the original members joining. The Grand Lodge of Kentucky oversaw all Kentucky Freemasons, with William Murray as the first Grand Master.

Many prominent Kentucky politicians and historical figures were freemasons, including Henry Clay. Not only was Clay Grand Master from 1820-21, but he was buried with the organization's symbolic apron on his casket. A number of notable Civil War officers and soldiers, from both sides, were freemasons. But, according with Masonic code, the official fraternal stance took neither side.

Meetings took place on a regular basis, in the Grand Hall, bouncing back and forth between Lexington and Louisville, due to fires and construction. These meetings included a larger convention every year, and smaller "visits" between fraternal officials throughout the year. The meetings included grand meals, for the time. Check out the "menu" below from the Oct. 5, 1900 edition of the Bourbon News. Surprisingly, despite the alleged lack of politics, Kentucky Freemasons showed an apparent support for Prohibition, long before it took a national effect - 12 years, in fact! They may not have been public about it, but at least within their lodges they forbid anyone "engaged in the liquor business," according to this clipping from the Oct. 18, 1907 edition of the Mt. Vernon Signal.

As far as conspiracies & controversy are concerned, Kentucky Freemasons faced an Anti-Masonic movement in the 1820s and 1830s, which severely impacted their membership. Nevertheless, they successfully maintained the Masonic University for nearly 70 years, and sponsored a home for widows & orphans in Louisville, as well as the Old Masons' Home in Shelbyville. They still thrive and contribute to society to this day.

Do you think you could be a Freemason? Maybe even hold a leadership position? Help contribute to society, as well as your fraternal organization? Find out what Kentucky Freemasons were like, and what they were doing on their 101st anniversary from this October 16, 1901 report in the Paducah Sun. Then, find out what made the "Ideal Master" among freemasons, according to the Grandmaster of Utah, in this October 16, 1901 clipping from the Adair County News.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

How Do You Draw the Lines?

As a Commonwealth, Kentucky has continually struggled to establish its geographic boundaries with foreign and domestic entities alike. This began before its birth in 1792, when the original Kentuckians argued with Virginia and the US for statehood. Once established, physical battles, political treaties, and even conspiracies ensued between the US and foreign countries, including Spain and France, to attain and maintain the Kentucky lands and rivers surrounding the state. Of course, the always underlying domestic disputes continued before, during, and after the dust settled with foreign entities.

Again, before Kentucky's official birth as a state, land companies fought over the state, as the Transylvania Company - with Daniel Boone's (who's birthday is this weekend) assistance - illegally bought much of the contemporary commonwealth from the Cherokee. Virginia happily took this land. The Jackson Purchase, conducted by Isaac Shelby and Andrew Jackson on October 19, 1818, completed the rest of the state we know and love today. However, during the Civil War, our status as a border state and the debate of control over the rivers surrounding us caused constant turmoil - to the point of martial law in Kentucky!

However, consistently ongoing is where to draw the lines between our Commonwealth and the surrounding states of Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. Issues over this have gone all the way to the US Supreme Court, and included bridge-building companies, land ownership, hunting licenses, and, recently, even a rock! Perhaps it has something to do with the inadequate surveying techniques of our forefathers, such as Dr. Thomas Walker, using natural landmarks and other land lots. While he marked the TN-KY border in 1779, it did not include the Jackson Purchase (for obvious reasons). Even once concluded with the 1819 Munsell Line, there were continuous disputes - one man even argued for his KY farm (and won!), so an otherwise relatively straight line has a noticeably discretionary "bump" south into TN. Or so the story goes.

Perhaps it has something to do with the erosion of these natural landmarks. We are after all surrounded by rivers, significantly demarcating KY boundaries. Ownership of an island in the Mississippi between Missouri and KY still causes problems! But the larger problem is where to draw the line in an ever-moving, ever-eroding river? For some reason, pretty much every time someone has brought up this problem to a court, it was during the October sessions. In 1792, it was determined the low-water mark on the northern bank of the Ohio River was the border of Kentucky. After erosion, this mark essentially moved, so the question arose: is it that original low-water mark, or does Kentucky have a floating boundary, so to speak? Such is the ongoing debate with Indiana - or was until 1978.

On October 15, 1978, the Supreme Court decided the original low-water mark (e.g. the 1792 one, which also determines the border with Ohio) was the KY-IN border; a final decision over almost 2 centuries of assorted court cases and disputes between the states. They also determined that the two states should decide "amicably" how to mark it on their own.

To read a better description of the original, 1792 low-water mark of the Ohio River, which determines the KY-IN border in this announcement from the October 9, 1912 edition of the Hartford Herald. It also discusses one of the many court cases brought up about where the boundary lies - in this case, in-state vs. out-of-state duck hunting on the Ohio: which license do you need?

I think this low-water mark, and erosion is the reason you don't see the sign welcoming you to Kentucky until you are a good ways over a bridge. Maybe it's even why the sign occasionally disappears, and shows back up; perhaps in a different place, further back to account for our "floating" boundary. What do you think? Any theories/ideas/opinions about where KY's boundary should be?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The REAL Waverly Hills

It's October, and everyone knows what that means - time for the ghosts, goblins, and spooky things hiding in the darkness to come out and haunt us! In Kentucky, one of the the allegedly most haunted (at the very least, probably one of the most popular and well-known) sites is Waverly Hills Sanitarium, in Louisville.

Originally purchased and used as a home in 1883, it was converted to a hospital in 1910, during one of many tuberculosis (TB) epidemics. Waverly (also spelled Waverley throughout the years) Hills was merely one of many TB sanitariums throughout the commonwealth. Dedicated on October 12, 1910, it initially housed about 140 patients. However, due to the epidemic, this number quickly rose, and admitted patients overflowed the capacity - even staying in tents! Within 15 years, the building we know as Waverly Hills today was constructed, opening in October 1926.

TB treatments varied from folk remedies, such as cold/fresh air (one such short-lived TB "clinic" focused on this treatment resided in Mammoth Cave!) and sunshine, to medical therapies including surgery to remove ribs or parts of the lung! These treatments did not always work, and eventually antibiotics came along, at which point, Waverly Hills closed (1962). It eventually reopened as an insane asylum; only to close again, 2 decades later (1981), due to accusations of patient abuse.

Though the sanitarium went through various failed plans for use & recuperation, it stood abandoned until 2001, when the son of a former orderly bought it and began offering historical tours and ghost walks, with all proceeds going towards restoration of the property.

To date, Waverly Hills has taken approximately 63,000 lives. Many from tuberculosis, but supposedly some from contemporary satanic rituals.... Who REALLY knows how many of these lost lives still haunt the sanitarium today? Do YOU believe?

Check out the newspaper clippings below to find out more about what the REAL Waverly Hills Sanitarium was like - from its October 12, 1910 dedication (as described in the Nov. 24, 1910 Paducah Evening Sun) to a Conference of Charaties tour, two months later (from December 15, 1910 Berea Citizen); and, finally, read Edward Spelman's obituary from the May 16, 1914 edition of the Kentucky Irish-American - one of the lives lost to TB, early on, at Waverly Hills. I wonder if Mr. Spelman is still "floating" around....

Have you ever visited Waverly Hills Sanitarium? Ever experienced anything supernatural? Seen any ghosts or spooky things? Perhaps spotted Mr. Spelman? Share your ghost stories with us!

Monday, October 12, 2009

"Take me IN to the Ball Game" - 1906

With baseball season in full swing, so to speak, and the World Series looming, lingering (and for you non-baseball fans - ready to preempt all primetime programming!), we thought we'd get in on the action! Although Kentucky does not have a Major League Baseball team, we do have very strong links to the professional side of the sport.

Probably the best known name in the business is the "Louisville Slugger" - the bat created by the son of a woodworker in 1884, when he escaped from the shop for an afternoon to watch the local baseball team, the Louisville Eclipse. John "Bud" Hillerich secured the bat's name & role in history when he patented the name after taking over the family business in 1894. The Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory still stands in downtown Louisville, demarcated by the giant bat leaning against the building - unbreakable!

Of course, another undeniably, and relatively well-known strong tie is former Governor Albert "Happy" Chandler (1898-1991). Chandler was the Major League Baseball Commissioner for seven years, beginning in 1945. He supported African-American leagues; his reign as commissioner even included the historic contract approval of Jackie Robinson, making him the first professional African-American baseball player (1947)!

Though the list goes on of MLB connections (professional and otherwise), we'll celebrate Kentucky's baseball history with a simple Victorian game of Indoor Baseball from 1906, played with marbles and spools, as described in the November 1, 1906 edition of the Berea Citizen.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Bloody Battle - Perryville

In 1862, Union and Confederate forces met just outside Perryville when both were looking for water, after Union bombs interrupted an attempted inauguration of the Confederate governor at Frankfort, forcing them to flee the city a few days earlier. They raged all day in the bloodiest Civil War battle to take place in Kentucky (3638 soldiers dead, 1189 of which are unknown) - ultimately a turning point for the state. The Confederates retreated through the Cumberland Gap, and did not return, with the exception of raiders and guerrillas.

Forty years later, Kentuckians erected a monument outside Danville to commemorate those Confederate soldiers killed at the Battle of Perryville.

Page 5, Paducah Sun, 9 October 1902

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Berea Brunch - 1909

In this day and age, it seems the prices at the grocery store never seem to stop rising! Wouldn't it be great if we lived 100 years ago? Costs of food were lower (a bushel of corn for 80 cents? Oh my!) and you could everything you wanted at the local market, if you didn't grow it or raise it yourself. Then again, you could even buy stock animals - you had to butcher them yourself a great deal of the time; but, hey, what a way to budget! The "Best lambs," straight out of Louisville, for $6.50! Who can beat that? Just check out this ad from the October 7, 1909 edition of the Berea Citizen, and compare it to your local grocery store circular! -------------->

And what to do if you need time to rest while cooking for your adoring husband (even while the women's movement was at its height, upper and middle-class females still held the role of housewife in many ads)? Use the Fireless Cooker and make "Mother's Oats," as the ad on the left describes!

To view this page - Page 4, of the October 7, 1909 edition of the Berea Citizen - in its entirety, on the Kentuckiana Digital Library (KDL) - just click on this link: