Friday, October 21, 2016

Mausoleums - Haunted "Homes" of the Dead

By Joy Neighbors

Haunted cemeteries are especially in vogue this time of year, but haunted mausoleums seem to be a major attraction any time. There’s something about this “house-type" structure that intrigues us, and then throw in a ghost or two, and we're hooked.

Here are four mausoleums that house more "spirit" than most.

Spring Grove Cemetery – Cincinnati, OH
Dexter Mausoleum
Edmund Dexter
This mausoleum was built in 1869 for whiskey baron, Edmund Dexter, one of Cincinnati’s wealthiest residents in the mid-1800s. When Dexter died, he was laid to rest in this Gothic Revival mausoleum, which contains 12 marble crypts where four generations of the Dexter family are buried. Besides it’s claim of being haunted, it also boasts the only two flying buttresses in Cincinnati.

It has been rumored that two large white dogs protect the mausoleum, although it isn’t known if they were once pets of the Dexter’s. Legend has it that if you sit on the steps of the mausoleum, the dogs will appear. If they believe you to be good, they will run past. If they are not sure of your intentions, they will stop and watch you. If they sense you are up to no-good, they will growl and advance. (Best to be up to only good when you visit.)

Greenwood Cemetery – Decatur, IL
Public Mausoleum
The Public Mausoleum was built in 1908 but soon ran into trouble when leaks developed due to shoddy construction. The cemetery association soon ran out of money and ghost stories began to circulate as the grounds fell into disrepair. By the 1950’s, what had once been a beautiful, rural garden-style cemetery became a magnet for negativity. People reported hearing disembodied voices, crying and screaming coming from the mausoleum. By 1957, the building was declared unsafe and was closed. Family members were notified to relocate their loved ones. One hundred bodies were never claimed – some were never identified. Eventually the cemetery association buried them in common graves across from where the mausoleum had been.

Former Location of Mausoleum
It was 1967 when the mausoleum was finally razed. Today that site is still vacant. No burials have ever been made here, and there are still reports of voices along with lights seen wandering near the common graves – perhaps a lost soul searching for their remains?

Highland Lawn Cemetery – Terre Haute, IN
Sheets Mausoleum

Martin Sheets was born in 1853 and lived into his early 70s. He saw many technological changes during that time, and one of the new-fangled inventions he found an odd use for was the telephone. Martin had one installed in the family mausoleum, just in case he was buried unconscious, but alive, and needed to summon help. It was stipulated in his will that a phone line be run from his crypt to the cemetery office. He then set up an account with Indiana Bell Telephone that kept the line paid for and active, just in case he ever needed it.

When Martin died, he was placed in the family mausoleum with his infant daughter. Several years later his wife Susan passed away. When family members found her, she was in the kitchen with the phone in her hand. They assumed she had been attempting to summon help.  But according to legend, when the mausoleum was unlocked to place Susan’s casket next to her husband, cemetery workers discovered the phone in the crypt was off the hook! Coincidence … or a call to "come home?"

Highland Lawn Cemetery – Terre Haute, IN
Heinl Mausoleum

John Heinl
And then there’s my favorite haunted mausoleum tale - that of Stiffy Green.

Terre Haute businessman John Heinl and his dog, Stiffy Green would stroll through town, visiting with the folks. Stiffy had received his name because of his stiff walking gait and green eyes, and everyone knew the pair.

On December 31, 1920, John Heinl passed away. Stiffy was inconsolable. He sat be the coffin at the funeral and followed the family to the graveyard where he took up post at the mausoleum doors, and there he remained, guarding his master in death as he had guarded him in life. Family and friends made many trips to the cemetery that winter to retrieve Stiffy and take him home, only for him to return to his master’s crypt doors.

Stiffy Green
Stiffy slowly mourned himself to death. Heinl’s wife was so touched that she paid tribute to his unwavering love and devotion by having him stuffed in the sitting position he had assumed for so long on those cold mausoleum steps.  Stiffy was then placed inside the tomb, reunited at last with his master.

But it wasn’t long before cemetery workers noticed that Stiffy mysteriously moved from one side of the tomb to the other, and back. Sightseers began to visit after dark and vandals would not leave the site alone, damaging doors and windows. Then, in 1985, thugs shot out Stiffy’s right glass eye. The family decided it was time for Stiffy be moved and the Vigo County Historical Society Museum agreed to take him. There, the Terre Haute Lions Club built a replica of the Heinl mausoleum so that Stiffy could still be “on guard.” 

But rumors spread that just at twilight on autumn evenings, you can see an elderly man and his small dog walking near the Heinl crypt, the smell the rich pipe smoke wafts though the air, and a low voice can be heard talking to his devoted companion who answers him with a happy bark as they take another stroll together.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Ferdinand Cross – Bedford Indiana Limestone Carver

By Joy Neighbors
Ferdinand Cross
Ferdinand Cross was born in Flemingville, New York to John and Sophronia Cross, a stone-carver and his wife, in December 1838.  Cross followed in his father’s footsteps and became a stone carver. Ferdinand spent several years in New York State before moving to Chicago. He moved to Bedford, Indiana “Limestone Capital of the World” in the 1880s where he started his own monument business.

Ferdinand's Carving Tools
Ferdinand took John A. Rowe on as his business partner and the two established Cross & Rowe Monumental Works. The men specialized in carving gravestones from Bedford stone. The stone was pliable and easy to work with when first quarried. Once the shape was carved, the stone was placed outside to harden in the air. Today many of these monuments can still be found in the cemeteries located throughout Lawrence and Orange counties in Indiana.
Cross Cave
In 1886, Ferdinand traveled to Orange County in search of a place to build his home and studio. He came upon a natural ravine enclosed on three sides with rock formations and a small cave completed the space. Ferdinand was delighted and set about building a home near what he now referred to as Cross’s Cave.
After relocating, Ferdinand tackled the challenge of carving people and animals in situ in the surrounding limestone cliffs. Visitors and locals alike were delighted to come across a carving of owls, eagles, monkeys, snakes and lizards nestled among the rock formations. One of his most remembered carving was a life-sized herd of cattle standing by an old well.
Cross Cave Ready For Visitors
Ferdinand and his wife Everilla welcomed guests from the French Lick Springs Hotel with what became their famous fried chicken dinners. For the price of a meal, guests could meet the artist, visit his studio and explore the cave.
Cross Monument
Ferdinand died in May 1912. As a tribute, fellow stone carvers crafted his ornate tree stone monument complete with chisels and mallet – the tools of this trade – cast aside at the bottom of the stone. Ferdinand was buried in the Sulphur Creek Cemetery.


Friday, September 16, 2016

The Red Baron: Remembering a 100 Year Milestone

By Joy Neighbors

Tomorrow, September 17, will mark the 100th anniversary of the Red Baron’s first air combat victories during World War One. An odd milestone to remember, but what makes it newsworthy is that the family members of First World War fighter ace, Manfred von Richthofen, and his first victims, Captain Tom Rees and Second Lieutenant Lionel Morris will be meeting to commemorate the day together.

Manfred von Richthofen
Von Richthofen, also known as The Red Baron because of the bright red color of his Fokker aeroplane, transferred from the German cavalry to the air corps in 1915. On September 17, 1916, Manfred von Richthofen was flying with his Jasta 11 squadron near the town of Marcoing when he saw a group of British bombers. He attacked and shot down one of the British planes. Twenty-one year old gunner, Captain Tom Rees died immediately. Second Lieutenant Lionel Morris was wounded and died in a German hospital at the age of 19.

Replica of Schnapps Cup
In honor of his adversaries and to commemorate his first victories, von Richthofen had a silver schnapps cup made which listed the enemy plane involved and the date of the action. He would then drink a toast to his opponents. In all, von Richthofen commissioned over 60 cups before silver became a prime commodity in Germany. Very few of the cups still survive.

The Red Baron was Germany’s most famous fighter pilot during the war. He was credited with a total of 80 kills between September 17, 1916 and April 21, 1918 – the day he was shot down and killed.

Lionel Morris
Tom Rees
Tomorrow, the family members of Morris, Rees and von Richthofen will gather to share a schnapps toast from a replica of the original cup to honor the three airmen, and to mark the centenary of that fateful day.

Friday, September 9, 2016

God's Acre: A Look at a Moravian Graveyard

By Joy Neighbors

When my son-in-spirit Charles Kivlehen, went to a conference this summer, he took time out to visit a unique cemetery – one I hadn’t heard about. After he sent me photos and told me the story, I had to share it here.

God’s Acre is located near Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The Moravians founded the town of Old Salem in 1766. The cemetery and Salem Congregation Church (also known as Home Moravian Church) are affiliated with the Moravian Church, which dates back to 1771 in the town and represents 13 Moravian churches in the region.

The Moravian Church is one of the oldest Protestant religions in the world. Moravian values included hard work, education, music and a simple lifestyle. Today the Moravian church has around 750,000 members worldwide.

Moravian Choir Loft
Historically, Moravian children were cared for by their parents until they reached 18 months when they were placed in nurseries and raised together until they reached the age of four. At that time they became members of the “Little Girls’ Choir” or “Little Boys’ Choir.” When children became teenagers, they joined the “Older Girls’ Choir” or “Older Boy’ Choir.” From the age of 19 until marriage, women belonged to the “Single Sisters' Choir” and men belonged to the “Single Brethren Choir.” Married adults lived in the “Married Peoples' Choir.”

Alter in Old Salem Moravian Church
Those who belonged to the same choir lived, attended school, worked and worshiped together. The Moravian’s saw this communal living as a way to strengthen their society since members relied on choir mates for assistance and support instead of a traditional family. (Housework and childcare are shared women’s activities.)

God's Acre in Old Salem
God’s Acre is the traditional name that each Moravian cemetery is given. Cemeteries are laid out in a simple grid and all of the headstones are recumbent white marble consisting of the same dimensions. This Moravian graveyard is associated with Bethabara Moravians and is the largest in North America with almost 7,000 interments that date back to the 18thcentury. 

Choir System of Graves
Burials occur in the order that members die but they are segregated according to gender with men on one side of the middle pathway and women located on the other. This is known as the “choir system” - separating the congregation according to age, gender, and marital status. Therefore, families are not buried together as a way to reflect the Moravian belief that all members are equal in God’s eyes.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Honoring Our Four-Footed Service Workers

By Joy Neighbors

Service dogs change lives! September is National Service Dog Month – a great time to learn more about and celebrate the role that service dogs play in our lives every day.

National Service Dog Month began in 2008 when actor Dick Van Patton launched an event to assist in gathering funds for guide and service dog training schools throughout the country.

What began as one fundraiser transformed into an annual celebration to raise awareness about service animals, their specialized training and the vital role they play in the lives of so many Americans.

Service dogs are specifically trained to assist those who have disabilities such as hearing impairments, vision impairments, seizure disorders, mobility impairments, diabetes and certain mental difficulties such as PTSD (Post Tramatic Stress Disorder), Autism and other emotional problems. The role of a service animal is to help a person regain their independence, provide confidence, companionship and protection to their person.

According to the American with Disabilities Act of 2010, “Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities... Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person's disability.”

Most service dogs are larger breeds like Labradors, Shepherds and Retrievers, but other dogs of smaller stature and breed are also trained to assist people, depending on the impairment and situation. Rescue animals are also being trained to fill many of these roles. In 2013, more than 380 rescued dogs were trained and placed with individuals whom they now serve.

Service dogs, regardless of their size are invaluable companions for individuals with disabilities and most wear a special harness or vest that identifies them as service, guide or medical alert dogs.

Here are five ADA recognized types of service dogs that are allowed access to any place open to the public. And remember, not all disabilities are apparent in everyone so don't ask questions and don't judge.

1) Guide Dogs
These are the dogs we may be most familiar with. They are trained to assist their owners who are blind or have low vision in navigating in the world. At one time we called them “Seeing Eye Dogs.”

2) Hearing Dogs
These animals assist people who are deaf or hearing impaired. They are trained to alert their owners via a signal to certain sounds like a doorbell, a ringing phone, an alarm or siren.

3) Mobility Assistance Dogs
These larger dogs can pull a wheel chair, help steady an owner with coordination problems or retrieve items that are needed.

4) Medical Alert Dogs
Dogs in this group are trained to monitor their person closely in order to recognize the subtle signs of a life-threatening event such as a seizure, dangerous allergens or toxins, or changes in blood sugar.

5) Psychiatric Service Dogs
These animals are trained to assist owners with situations such as PTSD, Autism or depression. The dogs are trained to help alleviate the clinical signs of the disability.

Although the ADA does not recognize therapy dogs and emotional assistance animals, many businesses, schools and other public places do. These dogs may be required to pass a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test and receive a Therapy Dog Certification.

Therapy dogs provide emotional and psychological assistance to people in hospitals, nursing homes, hospice centers, mental health facilities, schools and libraries. These dogs are allowed to interact with many different people instead of being handled by only one person. People are encouraged to pet therapy dogs. They're known for boosting confidence, offering support and unconditional love to those they interact with.

An emotional support animal helps those who suffer from depression, anxiety and other psychological disabilities. The animals are not trained to perform specialized tasks and cannot assist in reducing the effects of a disability. Both therapy dogs and emotional assistance animals must have documentation from a mental health professional stating that the animal is necessary to this person.

One rule to always remember, do not distract or try to interact with a service dog while it is working. The services these dogs offer their owners are vital to their everyday well-being. Please allow them to do their jobs without interference – someone’s life depends on them.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Rest in Peat: Bog Bodies

By Joy Neighbors

A Peat Bog
For thousands of years, bodies have lain under the mire, waiting for discovery in the murky depths of northwestern Europe’s numerous bogs – those wetlands made up of decomposing plant material (peat) that locals cut and dried to heat their homes.

Bog bodies are the well-preserved (including mummified skin, hair and organs still intact) remains of people who usually have died a violent death in the swamplands of such countries as Denmark the Netherlands, Ireland and Germany. The oldest known bog body dates back to 8000 BCE and consists of the skeletal remains of a female known as Koelbjerg Woman. The oldest well-preserved bog body is called Cashel Man, who dates to 2000 BCE and was discovered in Ireland.

Grauballe Man
Close to 1,000 bodies have been discovered in the world; many subjected to violent deaths and left for the boglands to dispose of. Researchers believe these people were either human sacrifices or criminals punished for their crimes.

Tollund Man
Most bog bodies date from the Iron Age when peat bogs covered a large area of Europe. The most famous bog people of this era include the 2,400-year-old Tollund Man, 2,000-year-old Lindow Man, and 1,500-year-old Grauballe Man. Pre-Roman villagers believed that they could appease, or have favors granted by their gods by tossing possessions, and people in the form of sacrifices, into that slimy black pit. Most of the bodies bear similarities in the manner in which they were bound or staked out to die indicating a ritualistic killing.

Bogs were also used as convenient “killing grounds” for the criminals of a society. Many still wear the ropes used to strangle them, some bear the stab wounds that ended their lives, and others show signs of the torture inflicted upon them.

Harald Bluetooth
Bog bodies have also been identified by using the legend and lore of the area. In 1835, Danish ditchdiggers came across the remarkably well-preserved body of a woman who had been staked down and left to die in a place now called Gundhilde’s Bog. The swamp was named after a legendary eighth-century Viking queen who, it was said, was on her way to marry Danish king Harald Bluetooth when she was ambushed and drowned.  Apparently the legend was true.

The U.S. has it’s own version of bog people in Florida. These remains are between 5,000 and 8,000 years old and consist only of skeletons; skin and internal organs did not survive in this mire. Windover, Florida is the premier bog site in the U.S. – where in 1982, the excavation of a pond led to the discovery of these American bog people. The remains were found mostly lying on their left sides in a fetal position with their heads aimed toward the west; researchers believe that this may have been a community cemetery bog. Over 160 bodies were unearthed. The dig ended in 1987 with only half of the excavations completed. It is now awaiting a new generation of archaeologist with updated techniques to discover more.

But bog people are not just those who died in the distant past – archeologists have discovered the remains of Russian and German soldiers who fought in Poland along the Eastern Front during WW1. And a WWII Russian pilot whose plane was hit in-flight, crashed into a bog in northern Europe. His remains have been discovered, perfectly preserved for over half a century.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Gold Star Families

By Joy Neighbors

For the past few weeks Gold Star Families have been in the news, but many Americans don’t know what the term means. Gold Star Families indicate immediate relatives - the mothers, fathers, children and spouses of U.S. Armed Forces members who died in battle or while supporting certain military activities. It is a status no one wants, but so many must bear.

Gold Star Flag
The Gold Star refers to the service flag, which families fly to show they have a loved one fighting or  serving in the military during a period of war or hostilities. Although the term Gold Star Family is fairly new, the flags have been flown since World War One. A Blue Star (or stars) indicates family members in the U.S. Armed Forces currently deployed during any war or conflict. If a loved one is killed while serving, the blue star is replaced by a gold one to indicate the ultimate sacrifice.

Grace Darling Seibold
The term “Gold Star Mothers” was coined by Grace Darling Seibold who banded a group of mothers together after WW1 to support and comfort one another in the lose of their children and family members. 

In 1928, 25 women met in Washington D.C. to officially establish the American Gold Star Mothers group. In 1936, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt designated the last Sunday in September as National Gold Star Mother’s Day. (September 25, 2016) 

Gold Star Wives began before the end of WWII. It started as a group of wives banding together to support and assist one another. Today, the group reaches out to those who have recently lost a spouse, and works together supporting all surviving spouses. 

Gold Star Families include fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, or other loved ones who lost a loved one who was in service to this nation. In 1947, a lapel pin was created and is presented to the family members of Armed Forces members killed in combat operations. 

The U.S. Army sums up the Gold Star Families sacrifice best: “The strength of our army is our soldiers; The strength of our soldiers is our families. The army recognizes that no one has given more for the nation than the families of the fallen.”

Indeed, the sentiment applies to all of our fallen service personnel from every branch.