Tag Archives: history

Ep. 27 – Dalrymple in Time

Show Notes

Put on your tam, grab your bagpipes, and wear your kilt commando style, because we’re headed to the highlands for this episode of The Booze + Spirits Podcast! We’re discussing the spirits of Scotland in this episode, ‘Mel!’ gives us a tour of a creepy castle and its green lady, Nick rants about government betrayal on a ghostly glen, and Cait finishes our journey by warming our tired bones with a pastoral hot toddy.

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Theme music is “Come Back Down” by The Lonely Wild, licensed through audiio.

“Dobro Mash” by Audionautix is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/  Artist: http://audionautix.com/

Featured image photo by Connor Mollison on Unsplash

Remember to drink responsibly and in accordance with your local laws. Don’t end up our next ghost!

The Ghosts of Hannah’s Creek Swamp

History is a tricky thing. Like the old adage, “can’t see the forest for the trees”, there’s a lot of different ways to look at large events depending on the motivations and beliefs of the people not just telling the story, but also the ones researching them.

Take the American Civil War, for instance. It’s a topic that we circle often on this site and on our podcast, mostly because it’s a lynchpin of American culture. The Civil War is one of the primary influences on the history of the United States. If the Revolutionary War is this country’s id, then World War II was our ego and the Civil War is its superego, and while we tend to deal with spirits of a more-or-less physical kind on this site, the ghosts and specters of the Civil War haunt us all in a very morally underpinning way.

I don’t want to get into ethical judgment or debate here, but in general, we look at the Civil War through a scope of ‘the South was performing human rights atrocities, and the North set out to stop them.’ That’s the broad “forest” view. But as anyone who has spent any time of social media will tell you, it is all too easy for a person, having ascribed themselves the virtue of “fighting evil”, to easily excuse themselves of horrific acts so long as they are against someone who represents that evil.

Photo by Chris Chow on Unsplash

In the Civil War, the North was very much the “invading force”–Northern soldiers pushed into the South much more than the other way around, and the citizens of the South, we’ve found while digging up ghost stories and histories, have many horrific tales of Northern soldiers acting in less than gentlemanly ways as they marched southward. Those tales comprise a portion of “the trees” in our ongoing metaphor.

One such story we’ve come across involved the fact that Union soldiers marching across the South were given leave to raid and plunder the homes and farms they came across as they continued to push. They were given orders not to harm unarmed civilians, and to make sure that they left each family with enough food and supplies to survive, but beyond those meager boundaries they were free to ransack and steal as they desired.

In fairness, most soldiers only took liberties up to what their orders would allow, but this particular ghost story involves one group that decided to play by their own rules. This unit, under the command of one Colonel David Fanning, pillaged and plundered at will, leaving bodies, ashes, and destruction in their wake. The group quickly became known as Fanning’s Marauders.

Photo by Stephen Radford on Unsplash

One of the homes Fanning and his Marauders assaulted was that belonging to Confederate Colonel John Saunders and his wife, near Smithfield, North Carolina. Bloodthirsty Fanning looted everthing of value from the home, then killed the Saunders and razed their homestead to the ground, unknowingly sealing his own fate.

Col. Saunder’s son, Lieutenant John Saunders Jr., learned of the destruction of his home and the death of his parents and vowed revenge on the men who were responsible. The Confederate Army, knowing that Saunders was properly motivated to seek out such brigands, assigned him and his unit to the area near Smithfield and tasked them with the job of ferreting out guerilla fighters, bandits, and other individuals that chose to shy away from the front in lieu of taking advantage of the wartime chaos. The unit did their job as well as any group, but the operation’s time was running out and, to his chagrin, Saunders still hadn’t found his parents’ killer.

Finally, Saunders caught wind of a group of Union soldiers hiding out on an island in Hannah’s Creek Swamp in Johnston County. To scout it out, the Confederates borrowed some civilian clothes and rowed out to the small island under cover of night, hoping not to alert any lookouts the Yankees might have.

Photo by Krystian Piątek on Unsplash

Before Fanning and his Marauders could realize what was happening, they found themselves surrounded by Confederates. Lt. Saunders ordered the camp and all the men be searched and took the liberty of searching Fanning himself. Saunders found a small gold crucifix around Fanning’s neck, a crucifix that he immediately recognized as belonging to his murdered mother. Rage instantly took over.

Holding Fanning at gunpoint, Saunders ordered all the Marauders hung right then and there on the island. Fanning was forced to sit and watch as his men had their necks stretched one-by-one. Then, rather than turning Fanning in as a captured soldier, Saunders marched him back to Smithfield, to the Saunders familial home. Saunders took Fanning to the large oak tree overlooking his parents’ newly lain headstones and hung Fanning there, his last moments spent looking upon those graves, the fruits of his hubris being burned into his eyes as the last image he carried to the great hereafter.

Photo by Denny Müller on Unsplash

Today, visitors to Hannah’s Creek Swamp report random cold spots in the area and unexplained feelings of dread. Some have reported hearing the voices of men begging for their lives, while other hear the creak of branches, heavy with the weight of hanging bodies. Some witnesses even say they’ve seen the bodies themselves, as many as 50 hanging from the trees on a moonlit night.

Now, I’m not telling you this story to pass judgement on men who died over 100 years ago. But what I am interested in is how these stories affect people. We all know someone who will have a knee-jerk reaction to any mention of the Civil War, whichever slant to the congressional house that reaction might elicit. This is a reaction to what they have chose to see as the most poignant summary of the war. But that summary is always going to be a personal thing, and like all personal things, they are going to differ person-to-person, at bare minimum in the details, even if the broad strokes are a shared perspective.

Photo by Koshu Kunii on Unsplash

For instance, the above story, near as my research can pull up, is completely fictitious. Research didn’t turn up any David Fannings from the Civil War. Likewise, research turns up John C.C. Saunders, John L. Saunders, John Sherman Saunders, and John Saunders Gooch, but none of them from Smithfield, North Carolina and none of them an obvious choice for the Saunders in the story.

So why would such a story take root and continue to be told over 150 years later, far outliving the men it purportedly is about? Perhaps the answer can be found in the interesting fact that there IS a David Fanning in military records, but a Fanning that fought in the Revolutionary War.

This David Fanning was an infamous Tory and British loyalist, siding with the Redcoats when war was declared. Given the rank of Colonel in the British Army, Fanning was well-known for his blood thirst and regularly killed men off the battlefield, and act soldiers on both sides largely considered dishonorable. When the war ended, Fanning’s atrocities were so numerous that he was one of only a handful of men that the state of North Carolina refused to pardon for their wartime activities. Now a wanted fugitive, Fanning was forced to evacuate to England with the rest of the British forces that departed Charlotte. Fanning stayed in England until he died, decades before the American Civil War even began.

Photo by Marie Bellando-Mitjans on Unsplash

So what happened here? Is this a case of bad record keeping? Was it a flat out lie? Something the locals in Smithfield and Johnston County use to excuse themselves from history’s judgment? Or something more?

Ignoring the haunting for a moment, I like to think that the story of Saunders extracting revenge on Fanning is a way for a state and its people to heal through the power of folklore. Redcoat David Fanning reeked serious damage on the people of North Carolina, both physically and mentally. He slaughtered people like a movie monster and then in the end, just…got away.

When we started The Booze + Spirits Podcast, a big belief guiding our ship was that stories are just as important and the truth, and in some cases more so. The tale of Saunders and Fanning, in my eyes, is a wonderful example of that ideal. People left wanting for justice and retribution, in this case the North Carolinians, created a fictionalized hero to defeat the fictionalized version of their villain. They created their own mythology, their own superhero, to put right things that were left unavenged, just as thousands of small communities had over human history.

By rewriting this legend, they determined their poignant summary. A myth of a hero defeating a villain, and a promise that justice still exists in the world and the fragile hope that keeps humanity from devolving into monsters raging against a cold uncaring universe gets to continue just a little bit longer.

Featured photo by Scott Umstattd on Unsplash

Photo by Dom Fou on Unsplash

Ep. 18 – Trauma Persevering

Show Notes

With Independence Day around the corner, Nick & Cait decided to it was a good time to talk about ghosts of the Revolutionary War. First, Cait tells of the frozen hell the patriots stationed at Jockey Hollow had to endure (in some cases, for eternity). Then Nick shares stories of Fort Ticonderoga, its spectres, and the most unlikely partnership in the revolutionary army. Cait finishes us up with special drink, a favorite of renowned patriot Ethan Allen, The Stone Fence.

Get the recipe for The Stone Fence here!

Like the podcast? Want more? Tell a friend! You can also support our show by shopping our Teepublic store, donating through Anchor, or subscribing to our Patreon! Your support allows us the freedom to create more, bigger, and better content! 

Find and follow The Booze + Spirits Podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

And be sure to rate, review, and subscribe through Anchor, Apple, Spotify, Google, YouTube, or the podcast delivery system of your choice!

Theme music is “Come Back Down” by The Lonely Wild, licensed through audiio.

Featured image photo by Matt Briney on Unsplash

Remember to drink responsibly and in accordance with your local laws. Don’t end up our next ghost!

Episode 008 – Rheeming Dickerson

Show Notes

It’s nearly Valentine’s Day, love is in the air, and Nick finally followed through on his threats to go looking for sex ghosts. In this episode, we take a look first at the ‘Lady in Red’ phenomenon, then focus on one in particular, Alice Rheem, the specter of Moran Manor on Puget Sound’s Orcas Island. Nick captures some probably-not-EVP’s, Cait eats a lot of french fries, and we present a whiskey-based Valentine’s drink sure to knock the socks (and other clothing articles) off your special someone!

Find the recipe for the Rheeming Dickerson here!

Like the podcast? Want more? Tell a friend! And please consider subscribing to our Patreon! Your Patreon support allows us the freedom to create more, bigger, and better content!

Find and follow The Booze + Spirits Podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

And be sure to rate, review, and subscribe through Anchor, Apple, Spotify, Google, YouTube, or the podcast delivery system of your choice!

Theme music is “Come Back Down” by The Lonely Wild, licensed through audiio.

Featured image photo by Bruno Salvadori from Pexels

Remember to drink responsibly and in accordance with your local laws. Don’t be our next ghost!

The Red Ghost

This tale was originally featured in Episode 004 – The Hair of the Camel.

The Red Ghost terrorized Arizona during the 1880’s. The first reported appearance is in 1883, when it trampled a woman to death and left traces of red hair stuck to nearby tall grass at the scene. Later, a cowboy tried to rope the beast, but it turned and charged him, killing the man and his mount. A group of miners pursued it along the Verde River. It evaded capture, but shook something loose off of its back, a rotted human skull with dried skin and patches of hair stuck to it.

As sightings continued, the legend grew. Most described it as a great red demon with the devil himself riding on its back. Some witnesses claimed it was 30 feet tall. Other stories said that it had fought and devoured a grizzly, and that it could vanish before your eyes.

The Red Ghost’s reign of terror finally ended when a rancher in Eagle Creek caught it feasting on vegetables in his garden and shot at it, killing it dead. It was then that the Ghost’s true nature was revealed. It was a large camel, with gruesome straps of rawhide criss-crossing and digging into its body. The rawhide straps were apparently used to lash a human body, now in extreme decay, to the camel’s back. But how did such a creature in up in late 19th century Arizona?

For that answer, we have to go back decades, to a pre-Civil War America. In 1853, Secretary of War and future Confederate president, Jefferson Davis got approval from Congress, after much lobbying, to spend $30,000 on the importation of camels and dromedaries for military purposes. This was still decades before the transcontinental railroad, and Davis saw the camels as the key to westward expansion, especially through the arid southwest deserts. By 1857, 75 camels had been imported to America under the plan. Unfortunately, within a decade the initiative would be scrapped and all camels auctioned off.

Despite its epitaph, the program was largely successful. The camels were stationed with a U.S. Army at Camp Verde in Texas. The camels’ primary use was to strengthen current travel routes and poke and prod out new ones west to the Pacific and south to Mexico.

Two dozen of these camels made the famous trek to Fort Tejon outside Los Angeles under the usage of hero of the west Edward Beale. Beale’s troupe made the 1500 mile trek in just three months, a feat considered impossible at the time. The route discovered by Beale’s camel caravan was used to create the Beale Wagon Road, guiding thousands of settlers out west, and parts were adopted to make the Santa Fe Railroad’s contribution to the transcontinental railroad, and eventually Route 66 and Interstate 40.

The camels did have downsides, though. They were renowned for scaring the hell out of the horses, and given half-a-chance would just wander off overnight. Of course, this is all to say nothing of a pack animal that can spit with pinpoint accuracy at any handler it doesn’t agree with.

But the real straw that broke the camel program’s back came as Congress became afraid to pursue further importation of the animals due to pressure placed on them from lobbyists in the mule industry. Though this was plenty, further complications came from the secession of Texas and the South, causing Camp Verde to fall into the hands of the Confederacy. Left to Confederate care, the camels’ security was more lax, and many if them simply wandered off when let loose to graze.

The camel unit quickly scattered throughout the region. Union forces re-captured three of the beasts in Arkansas, but quickly auctioned then off. Some camels made it to Mexico, reportedly. A few found employment in the Confederate Postal Service. One, nicknamed Old Douglas, became the property of the 43rd Mississippi Infantry and was killed during the siege of Vicksburg, an act which so enraged Confederste Colonel Bevier that he tasked six of his best snipers with identifying and killing the Union sharpshooter that gunned Douglas down.

Some escaped camels turned feral and survived in the wilderness, but they never had enough numbers to provide a thriving and lasting sustainable herd. People would have chance encounters with these wild camels from time-to-time, the last report of such coming from the mid-20th century.

The origin of The Red Ghost himself is still something of a mystery. One rumor is that the rider was an Army soldier who was deathly afraid of the camels, so his fellow soldiers tied him to the back so he wouldn’t have to worry about falling off. Unfortunately, the beast took off and the soldiers were unable to keep up pursuit.

This seems a pretty poor explanation under scrutiny, though, because it relies on a soldier being tied on top in such a way that he couldn’t get himself off. It’s hard to image an arrangement under friendly intentions where the rider would not be given means to remove himself from the beast’s back. 

Another tale tells of a rider that was too tired to hold onto the beast and decide to tie himself on instead, but again that would leave us a rider that should be able to get himself loose before death set in. A more likely incident might be a screwball episode of frontier justice, or maybe a death sentence created by a particularly creative and sadistic outlaw, either one a situation where an individual would be attached to an animal without means of removing themselves, then the animal set loose with no destination in mind. Whatever the story, the rider’s fate and identity were never discovered. And despite The Red Ghost’s capture and killing, reports of a red camel being ridden by a skeleton persisted for years afterwards.

Today, a bright red scrap metal sculpture of The Red Ghost sits in Quartzside, AZ, where it has been lovingly named Georgette. Old Douglas has a grave in Cedar Hill Cemetery in Vicksburg, Mississippi, somehow fittingly as it’s Jefferson Davis’s hometown.

Interestingly enough, though, another ghost story has sprung forth from the history of these imported camels. Three camels were purportedly purchased from an Army auction by a prospector by the name of Jake. The soldiers warned Jake that the camels were quite ornery, but Jake took good care of them and never had anything but praise for them and their behavior.

Eventually, Jake hit pay dirt and led his camels into town, laden in gold for the exchange. This caught the attention of a would-be claim jumper named Paul Adams. He heard of Jake’s success and decided to follow him and his camels out of town.

Jake was smart enough to not head directly to his claim, and instead took a long, circular route, so long that he ended up having to camp for the night. Mistaking the temporary camp site for the actual gold claim, Adams snuck in and murdered Jake. Trying to protect his owner, one of the camels attacked Adams, biting him, but eventually getting gunned down as well.

It wasn’t long before Adams realized his mistake, that this wasn’t the claim, and spent the next few days searching the nearby area, vainly trying to locate the real spot. It was on one night of searching that Paul Adams was awoken and saw the ghost of Jake on the back of his camel looking over the murderer. He quickly mounted his horse and fled, but the galloping camel continued the chase, unrelenting until Adams rode into town. Adams was so frightened he confessed all his deeds in exchange for the protection of a sheriff’s jail cell.

Photo by Isabelle Henriques from Pexels