Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Stanley Hotel

Most people know of the Stanley Hotel as the place where Stephen King wrote The Shining.  It is a destination on the lists of many ghost hunters.  I have the privilege of saying that I've been there a couple of times.

In 1903, F.O. Stanley and his wife, Flora, were instructed by a doctor to visit Estes Park, Colorado.  The doctor suggested the mountain air would be good for F.O.'s tuberculosis, so the Stanley's headed west.  They stayed in a cabin and immediately fell in love with Estes Park.  F.O. Stanley purchased a good piece of land from the Earl of Dunraven in order to build a place he and his wife could enjoy and entertain in. In 1909, the Stanley Hotel was opened.

Many tales of otherworldly activities have been told with regards to the Stanley Hotel.  A lot of those tales are said to center around a former housekeeper for the hotel.  On June 25, 1911, an electrical storm occurred.  The lights went out, and Ms. Elizabeth Wilson was walking around, lighting lanterns to see by.  When she was at the spot where room 217 now is, there was an explosion.   Ms. Wilson was shot down from the second floor to the first floor, where the MacGregor Room now sits.  She was not killed in the accident, but she did break both ankles.  Since her death in the 1950s, people have benefited from extra housekeeping, such as beds being turned down, being tucked into bed, and having luggage unpacked.  On my trips to the hotel, I have not run into Ms. Wilson.  I can say that I have had a number of experiences though, most of which happened on the fourth floor. 

The fourth floor used to be the children's floor, so a lot of running around, playing and what-not occurred up there.  On the ghost tours, it is common for the group to sing songs, such as "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" on the children's floor.  Sometimes ghosts will make their presences known while the song goes on.  Twice I've been on the tour when ghostly activity, in the form of cold spots, surrounded me. 

I've also had my pants leg tugged on.  When it happened, I had a sense of a child playing hide and seek.  Of course I looked down to see if my pants could have brushed up on something.  There was nothing near my leg when the experience happened. 

I have also had the privilege of going into the closet of Dunraven's room.  It was said that he used to take the nannies in there and do nefarious things with them.  While in the closet, I saw the image of a face hovering just inches in front of mine.

 I was also able to spend the night in the hotel once, as a gift from my husband.  While there, my son (then three years old) and I went to explore the hotel.  We went up to the fourth floor, and my son backed us into a corner.  He had us kneel down on the floor.  We stayed there for a number of minutes and then I asked him if we could go back to the room.  My son told me we had to stay where we were.  When asked why, his whisper to me was "The people will see us."  There was no one to be seen in the hallway with us.

Have you been to the Stanley Hotel?  Did you have any otherworldly experiences?  I'd love to hear of them!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

St. Valentine's Day Massacre

Valentine's Day is tomorrow, but I've never really cared for the holiday.  So much pressure to have the perfect day, showing the person you love that, well that you love them.  Seems foolish to me.  Instead, I think I might take the time out of my busy schedule to reflect on the tragedy that was the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre.

During the days of the Prohibition Era in the 1920s, the city of Chicago had two powerful gangs - the Italian gang to the south, and the Irish gang to the north.  The gangsters of the south were headed by Al Capone.  The gangsters to the north were led by Bugs Moran. 

On February 14, 1929, five members of the North Side gang were lured to an empty warehouse.  The plan was to kill Bugs Moran and maybe a few of his men.  However, as Moran was on his way to the meeting spot, he caught a glimpse of a police car and it scared him away.  He wasn't in the warehouse when the shooting took place.  The Irish gangsters present were lined up against a wall of the warehouse and executed.

According to a few witnesses that would testify, two of the shooters disguised themselves as police officers.  The other perpetrators dressed in what was then a business casual type of way.  There are a few different theories on who those suspects were.  The killers could have been any of the numerous other gangsters or even the police themselves.

With the majority of the material I've read on the crime, the number one suspect seems to have been Al Capone, Public Enemy #1, himself.  However, Capone was never convicted of the crime.

Who do you think did it?  If forensic science of the 1920s was what it is today, do you think the mystery could have been solved?   

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Guillotine and Reign of Terror

The French Revolution lasted from 1789 to 1799, and was a time in French history when those in power were brought down by the same people they held power over, just as all revolutions are.  It is a topic worthy of entire books and college classes.  Here, I will touch on the subtopic of the Reign of Terror, with a bigger emphasis on the guillotine.

The Reign of Terror (June 1793 - July 1794) was a period during the French Revolution when the level of violence was brought to a peak.  Also known as simply The Terror, this era is most remembered by the frivolous use of the guillotine.  A man by the name of Maximilien Robespierre was one of the most influential supporters.  During this dark time, over 41,000 people were put to death, and 16,594 of those deaths were executed with the guillotine.

The guillotine was invented in the late 18th century and named after Joseph-Ignace Guillotin.  It was considered to be a humane form of execution.  The device has a tall frame with an angled blade at the top.  The condemned would be secured to the bottom of the guillotine with their neck placed below the blade.  The weighted blade would then be dropped from above, thus removing the head with a single blow.  Before the guillotine's existence, other methods of decapitation would take more blows to finish the act.

When victims were sentenced to die by guillotine, great crowds of people would turn out for the "show."  People would fight for the best seats, and parents wouldn't hesitate to bring their children along.  Programs were sold where the names of the condemned were listed.  I haven't found any mention of it in my research, but I can imagine that vendors may have been selling food as well.  Corn dog anyone?

Eventually, so many people died by guillotine that no one bothered to show up to the festivities any more.  People turned against Robespierre and he was arrested.  Robespierre was sentenced to die by the guillotine and was executed on July 28, 1794.  

Some of the more notable names of the guillotine's victims are King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Philippe Egalite, and Madame Roland.

Do you remember studying the French Revolution or Reign of Terror in school?  What were your first thoughts?