It’s our one-year anniversary! One year of Booze + Spirits, and despite all that experience, Mel shows up late, Cait pulls her conversation cues from Cards Against Humanity, and Nick talked into the cold mic while the hot mic was in another part of the room again (sorry for the potato quality). For this momentous event we decided on a episode touching some of the darker, nastier denizens of the paranormal world (the ghost ones, not douchey or pretentious ghost hunters), and some ways to keep yourself from being caught in their webs. So sit in for an extra long, sub-quality version of Defense Against the Dark Arts class, and at the end Cait will send you home with a recipe for a Bloody Mary that doubles as a protection spell!
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In this episode, Nick and Cait discuss two of the biggest and most controversial figures in the world of the paranormal–ghost hunters, demonologists, and psychics Ed and Lorraine Warren. We look at how the Warrens got their start, and at the cases that influenced the core movies of the Warren-verse, The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2. Then, just to make sure no bridge goes unburned, they create a cognac cocktail to remind us of the Warrens’ best and worst moments.
We figured that we should probably share some of the photos from our investigation of home to Alice Rheem, Moran Manor. As we discussed in Episode 008, Moran Manor is the crown jewel of the Rosario Resort & Spa, on Orcas Island, part of the San Juan Island chain in Puget Sound.
Nick and his wife Kel visited in late January 2021. Winter being the island’s off-season, and with Covid restrictions in play both by the state of Washington and San Juan County, so there was not much to do on the island at the time. The island’s main industries are tourism, agriculture, and outdoor recreation, so with tourism hampered by the season and restrictions, and outdoor recreation made uncomfortable by the winter storm blowing in from the Pacific over the weekend they visited, it was good that they had ‘ghost hunting’ on their agenda because there was precious little else to do.
The resort covers 40 acres of the island, a scant sliver compared to the 7,000 acres originally owned by Robert Moran. The majority of the original Moran estate was donated to the parks service, creating the 5,000+ acre Moran State Park. The centerpiece of the park, covered with tons of waterfalls and hiking, biking, and horseback trails, it Mount Constitution, the highest point in the San Juans at just under 2,400 ft.
Moran Manor itself sits near the foot of the mountain, right on the edge of the state park, constructed by Robert Moran himself. Moran, a shipbuilder and former mayor of Seattle, arrived on the West Coast in 1875 with only a dime in his pocket. He worked his way up from an engineer to running one of the largest shipyards in America, supplying transportation for much of the Yukon gold rush and building the USS Nebraska.
Construction on Moran Manor finished in 1909, after Moran’s doctor pleaded with him to take things easy for his health. The plan worked; island life agreed with Moran, outliving the doctor’s expectations by over 30 years, and in the 1930’s the home was sold to Donald Rheem, the water heater and heat pump magnate.
Rheem intended to use the Manor as a summer home, but as he ran out of ways to subdue his wild socialite wife, Alice, he decided his last resort was to send her out to Orcas Island where the amount of trouble she could cause would be at a minimum. Naturally, the seclusion only instilled desperation in Alice, and it was soon a regular to find Alice donning her favorite red dress, climb aboard her Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and drive into the small nearby town of Eastsound to drink and play cards.
Alice died in 1959, reportedly from complications with alcoholism, but it appears she hasn’t yet left. Alice’s ghost has often been reported on the grounds, sometimes walking down the stairway at the main entrance in her nightgown, occasionally in the parking lot departing into town on her motorcycle. Today, the Manor is part of a resort and spa, and many guests and employees have reported encounters with Alice over the years.
Living in nearby Whatcom County, Nick decided to investigate, and reserved a child-free weekend at the resort to entice his wife, Mikael, to come along. Mikael is not a believer in ghosts and spirits (with the possible exception of theatre ghosts), but played along and let Nick have his fun.
Though the Manor building itself no longer has guests overnight, much of the building is open for free exploration (some areas were closed off this weekend simply for Covid restrictions). A large portion of the second floor has been converted into a museum space for Robert Moran and his accomplishments. Among the artifacts were stories of shipbuilding, items from Robert’s office and his photography habit, odds and ends, and some of his stained glasswork collection.
The grandest feature of the second story is the two-story Aeolian pipe organ. During less restrictive times, the Manor is known to show old silent movies scored by the organ (most famously the original 1929 Phantom of the Opera). It was in this room that Nick thought he collected potential EVP’s.
Nick was using two pieces of equipment as he searched the museum, a micro camcorder and a voice recorder app on his cell phone (he has never declared himself a serious ghost hunter). While in the main music room, Nick heard a creak from the floor above him, though Nick and Mikael were the only people in the building above the first floor. In this clip, you can hear a series of audio pops, Mikael ask Nick what’s going on, and Nick answers he thought he heard someone above him. In the background is music being piped into the room, likely by CD. The creak happens roughly where the pops occurs.
We noticed what may be a whisper under the pops, so cleaned that up and isolated it as best we could. Nick thought it sounded like someone saying, “never around”.
Having thought they heard something, Nick and Mikael sat down in the music room and just listened for a bit. That is when they recorded another voice without an owner.
Though is it possible to hear people talking on the first floor (as evidenced in the full walkthrough recording) it is more muffled and continuous than the voice in this clip. Nick thought it sounded like a man saying, “twelve”.
We are making the full walkthrough recording available for anyone who wants to go through it on their own, but fair warning: Nick often forgot that he was carrying a recorder, and let his sleeve brush against the mic a lot and once or twice even absent-mindedly put it in his pocket.
There was little about Alice Rheem in the building, despite a plethora of information on the website. The bar has a drink named after her, The Lady in Red, and Mikael managed to locate a collection of old Vogue magazines owned by Alice in one of the bathrooms.
So, did Nick collect evidence that Alice or someone else still is creeping around Moran Manor? Maybe? Nick’s evidence is pretty thin, at best, but it definitely is interesting enough to warrant a second look in the future. Until then, the closest Nick got to finding a ghost was accidentally taking a picture of a park ranger while looking something up on his phone:
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!
In the 1700’s a slight woman and her baby, whom she was never seen without, arrived in the community of Frisco on Hatteras Island, North Carolina. The woman, known as Cora, built a crude hut outside of town in the woods and mostly kept to herself. Her distance, both physically and socially, from the other villagers served as a catalyst for rumors to quickly form and circulate about her possibly bastard child. The Salem Witch Trials still on the mind of the American settlers, it didn’t take long for gossip about Cora to turn towards sorcery and witchcraft.
Stories persisted that a cow she touched dried up and quit producing milk days later. A child that taunted and made faces at her suddenly became ill and died. And Cora always seemed to have an abundance of fish, even as the local fishermen were unable to catch any themselves.
The rumors might have stayed just that were it not for the arrival of the ship Susan G. and her captain, Eli Blood. Hailing from Salem, Massachusetts, Blood considered himself a student of New England tradition, a defender of the people, and, of course, a witch hunter. He immediately set himself to ingratiating himself to the townspeople and working his way in with the local hobnobbers and gossip hounds.
Of course, after hearing of the town’s troubles and of the suspicious Cora outside of town, Blood determined that she had to be the witch responsible for it all. The deal became particularly sealed when the body of a local man was found washed up on shore. His face was frozen in an expression of terror, his hands were clasped together as if he were praying, and the number 666 was carved into his forehead. Most damning of all was a collection of small footprints around the body that headed off into the woods towards Cora’s hut.
This development emboldened Captain Blood. He became sure that Cora was a witch and set out to prove it. He gathered an angry mob and marched to Cora’s hut, smashing their way inside and taking Cora and her baby prisoner. Out to prove her guilt, Blood pulled out his knife and performed the first test. As he suspected, her hair would not cut, announcing, “her hair was stronger than wire rope”. Next, Cora’s hands and feet were bound, but she floated in water regardless. In his final test, Blood filled a ceremonial witch hunter bowl with water, and placed a drop of blood each from himself and three other men into the water. He then, “stirred the water and blood vigorously, mixing it into a froth” and had the other men confirm what he saw in the bowl: the faces of Cora and the devil.
Blood and his men tied Cora and her baby to an old oak tree and began gathering firewood to place around the base. It was about this time that some of the townspeople, led by local captain Thomas Smith began to protest that Cora should be taken to the mainland and tried in a proper court of law.
An argument ensued. Blood tried to light the fire himself, but Smith grabbed his arm, keeping his torch from the pyre. Blood shook loose from Smith’s grasp, determined to burn his witch, when suddenly a bolt of lightning struck the tree.
As the smoke cleared and the ringing of ears subsided, the people found that Cora and her baby had vanished. The ropes still hung wrapped around the tree and the kindling sat at the base completely untouched. The trunk of the tree had been ripped open by the lightning, leaving a large, smoldering, heart-shaped hole. And where Cora and her baby had been tied to the tree were left letters burnt into the wood: C-O-R-A.
The Cora Tree still exists even to this day, and the word CORA is still visible on the trunk of the great tree. The tree stands on Hatteras Island in the middle of Snug Harbor Drive in Frisco, quite literally as the road splits in two to go around it on either side.
Regarding the tree itself, it has been attributed as being both a Southern Live Oak and a Water Oak. Southern Live Oaks generally reach maturity around 70 years old, and so long as a carving on the tree is done after maturity the carving will remain for the tree’s lifespan. There are examples of Southern Live Oaks in America over 900 years old,. Water Oaks, on the other hand generally only live 100-150 years, and usually start to decay before the century mark. No known core sample has ever been taken of the tree, but in 2009 LG Research reportedly estimated the Cora Tree at around 500 years old based on its circumference.
Interestingly, the CORA carving has a lot of similarities to the CRO carving on Roanoke Island and the CROATOAN carving from Fort Raleigh. All three carvings sit about 5 feet off the ground, all are about 4 inches tall, and all share a similar lettering design. Also, artifacts discovered near Frisco matched artifacts in the other locations, suggesting the items were even cast from the same die.
Neither the captains nor the Susan G. show up in any historical record, and the name Cora wasn’t common in America until the mid-1800’s, after the publishing of The Last of The Mohicans. Kora-with-a-K was a common name in 1700’s Germany, so the prospect of Cora being an immigrant, unfamiliar with the common language if the nearby village would easily explain much of her behavior.
In fact, the details of the event change wildly depending on the attitude of the storyteller. Those looking to condemn Cora tend to embellish the witchy aspects of the story. It’s not uncommon for the story to mention the baby transforming into a black, green-eyed car and running away into the woods before the lightning strike.
Retellings by more sympathetic orators tend to make note of Blood having a boastful and egotistical personality, and the suspiciousness of his crew as they stayed away from town and placed themselves in positions to help sell the more sordid details of Blood’s story. It’s also of note that this North Carolinian tale has the hot-headed Massachusetts man be the one thirsty for blood while the cooler-headed, hospitality focused Southerners were trying to push for civility and proper legal procedure.
Whatever the case, the tree still exists, and the CORA carving is visible to this day, even in photographs, a living reminder that mystery and wonder still exist in our world.