Haunted Breweries (A Surprise Episode For Jonathan!)

SURPRISE!!!! This week is a surprise episode for our great conductor Jon. This week we are exploring the wonderful world of hauntings. These hauntings take place at some of Jon's favorite places… No it's not My Little Pony Conventions, it's Jon's second favorite thing, breweries. That's right, we're talking about haunted Breweries this week. After discovering that we may be psychos after last week, we figured it was a good week for something fun! So without further ado… Let's get wasted! I mean let's check out some haunted breweries.

Our first stop is in good ol Savannah Georgia. We are taking a look at Moon River Brewing Company. The moon river brewing company is located in the 21 West Bay St. building. 21 West Bay Street is a historic building located a block south of the Savannah River in the Savannah Historic District, the building dates from 1821.

Housed in one of the oldest, most historic and genuinely haunted buildings in Savannah, we invite you to experience the history and our excellent food and hand-crafted beers first hand.

It all started with Elazer Early, a native of Charleston, South Carolina, who constructed our building as the City Hotel in 1821. Not only was it the first hotel in Savannah, but it was also home to the first branch of the United States Post Office in Savannah. It also served as a branch of the Bank of the United States. (It must have been convenient having a hotel, post office, bank, and bar all under one roof!)

During the hotel’s tenure, many notable people stayed at the Hotel. The guests included War of 1812 hero Winfield Scott, the Marquis de Lafayette, the first three Commodores of the United Statues Navy, and naturalist James Audubon. Audubon stayed six months at the hotel while attempting to sell books of his wildlife sketches.

In 1851, Peter Wiltberger bought the City Hotel. He renovated it and put a live lion and lioness on display to draw attention to his business. The City Hotel’s final guest checked out in 1864, just before the arrival of General Tecumseh Sherman during the War of Northern Aggression and the subsequent closing of the hotel. The building also served as a hospital during Savannah’s numerous yellow fever outbreaks. Hundreds of people, mostly children, reportedly died on the upper floors of the building during these outbreaks, when the building functioned as a makeshift hospital. It is not surprising that child spirits are often seen in the Moon River Brewing Company.

At the turn of the century, the building was used as a lumber and coal warehouse. As the use of coal slowly died off, the building was used for general storage. In the 1960’s, the space was renovated as an office supply store, complete with a large printing press.

The building sat empty until 1995 when it was renovated into its current configuration as a brew pub. The Moon River Brewing Company debuted in this space on April 10, 1999 and welcomes all who pass by. So there you can see there's quite a history with this building. Now a bit about the brewery.

Moon River Brewing Company opened to the public in 1999 on the site of the former Oglethorpe Brewing Co. In 2010, the brewery won a Gold Medal for its Rosemary India Pale Ale in the "Herb and Spice or Chocolate Beer" category at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado. In 2003, the brewery was voted #28 on the "Top 50 American Brewpubs" in the United States by BeerAdvocate.com. In 2014, the brewery won a Gold Medal for its "Bomb," an Irish-style stout at the World Beer Cup. In 2017, Moon River Brewing Company took home a Gold Medal at the Great American Beer Festival for their Wild Wacky Wit in the "Belgian-style Witbeir" category. Along with the medal, they were also awarded "Best Mid-size Brewpub & Mid-size Brewpub Brewer of the Year."

So now that we know the history of the building and a little about the brewery, let's talk about the good stuff… Hauntings!!

There are many people who will tell you that ghosts only are left behind when a person dies a tragic or violent death. If that is true then The Moon River Brewing Company may very well be a deeply haunted place. Enough violence has taken place inside the building to easily leave several restless spirits behind.

The hundreds of children who died of yellow fever are the most numerous deaths that took place. Though it was mostly children who perished, many adults also died on the top floors of the brewery. Dying young and sick is always a tragedy and might just be enough to leave behind a few ghosts.

The building was used as a hospital quite a few times as yellow fever kept hitting Savannah. This meant that an impromptu hospital had to be constructed in order to treat and house all of the children falling sick. The amount of people who died of yellow fever during separate outbreaks is alarming and tragic.

More vindictive acts of violence include a shooting of a known town vagrant. In 1832 a doctor by the name of Dr.Phillip Minus shot a drunk man named James Stark inside the then hotel. James Stark was a known drunk and troublemaker who seemed to have a reputation for insulting people and being hated by the people of Savannah.

After Dr. Minus shot Stark he insisted that he had seen Stark going for his gun first. Dr. Minus was quickly acquitted of the crime as Stark was not liked in the town and Savannah needed a doctor. An unpunished murder could be enough to leave a man who was known to be angry in life behind to cause more trouble in death.

One of the biggest acts of violence that occurred in the walls of the brewery took place in 1860. The Civil War had not yet started but there was already a clear hatred for Yankees in Georgia. A Yankee by the name of James Sinclair came into town and decided to stay at the City Hotel.

The residents of Savannah were furious at the thought of having a Yankee in their midst. The people of Savannah tried to pressure Sinclair into leaving the town of his own accord but he refused. The anger and hate of a Yankee in town were enough to cause a mob to form in the streets of Savannah.

The lynch mob marched through the city and into the hotel. They dragged Sinclair into the streets outside of the building where they stripped and beat him. Sinclair lived through the incident but was beaten near enough to the point of death that the violent experience might have caused him to come back and haunt where his tragedy took place. Starting at the bottom of things means beginning with the ghosts that haunt the basement of The Moon River Brewing Company. Arguably the most famous ghost of the brewing company is named “Toby” and is often seen wandering in the basement. This is one of the ghosts that the staff saw often enough they decided he deserved a name.

The basement is widely regarded as the most active floor in the brewery. It might not have the feeling of the top floor or the violent history of the other floors, but it certainly has the most ghost encounters. “Toby” is known to brush up against the people playing in the billiards room or get frustrated and push them.

There are a few people who will tell you that slaves were kept in the basement which would certainly be a reason for a haunting, but there is no evidence this is true. People who have been in the basement of the brewery have reported many different signs of a haunting. These signs include sudden coldness, bottles falling or being thrown, and the feeling of being touched by someone who is not there. All of these reports from patrons and staff have been enough to put the basement of the brewery onto many ghost tours.

The second floor of the brewery is also known for having many strange occurrences. This is the floor where James Stark was Shot by Dr. Minus. There are differing reports of where exactly the shooting took place but they all seem to agree it was somewhere on the main floor.

Many people believe that Stark is the reason many people report liquor bottles being thrown. There are also those who believe he is the reason for some of the more violent reports of grabbing, hitting, and pushing that people experience while inside the brewery. The main floor is also where the dining room is placed. There have been a few patrons who have said they felt someone touch them while they were eating but no one was around them. Several women have also complained of feeling cold in the bathroom or being locked into a stall. This floor might not be the most haunted room in the building, likely because it is so busy with people, but it has its fair share of activity.

The top two floors are known to have more violent encounters than those happen in the basement or even the main floor. A full-body apparition is known as “the woman in white” and has been seen on the third floor several times by many different people. She is one of the most well-known ghosts of the brewery and is sometimes referred to as “Mrs.Johnson”.

The third floor is also one of the floors where many children died of yellow fever. This means it is no surprise that many workers and patrons have reported hearing children talking and playing on this floor. When even the people who run the brewery are talking about hearing children running in the halls, you know there is something going on.

In the 1990s there was construction being done on the third floor. During this time the wife of the foreman was pushed down the stairs on the third floor and fell all the way down the staircase. She was shoved hard enough that it was clear she had not simply fallen.

The foreman immediately stopped construction on the building and left. Several other people have reported feeling people pulling on them or pushing them when they walk on the stairs of the brewing company. This particularly takes place on the third floor which many people argue has the most aggressive spirits in the building.

The final floor of the brewery has been said to have a dark energy that the other floors do not possess. This could be because the majority of yellow fever victims and patients were housed on this floor while the building was being used as a hospital. The victims of the terrible virus might still be trapped feeling the hopelessness they felt in the moments before they died. Interestingly, there are not many reports of actual activity on this floor. There are so many reports on the other floors that almost everyone who has been to the brewery has a different paranormal experience. Yet the top floor where hundreds died is only known for its terrible energy. The same stories of children playing and talking are told about the fourth floor. This is likely because so many children have died on the top floor over the years. Many people agree that if anyone is haunting the brewery it is the ghosts of the children who died young and sick on the top floors of the building.

There is speculation that none of the spirits want to linger where so many died. Or maybe the lack of ghosts on the final floor makes patrons feel an emptiness after experiencing so much activity. Either way, the top floor of The Moon River Brewing Company does not seem to be anyone’s favorite floor whether they are dead or alive.

Well that's the craziness of moon river brewing company in Savannah. So stop in and have a drink and see a ghost!

Next up we are heading to Missouri and checking out a winery! The Belvoir winery to be specific. The winery is located at the Odd Fellows Home District in Liberty Missouri. The Odd Fellows Home District site has a ton of history and it's also visually a great site to see. The Odd Fellows' Home complex is architecturally significant as a collection of Jacobethan Revival educational and institutional buildings. The three remaining historic buildings, the Administration Building, the Old Folks Building and the Old Hospital, were all designed by different architects over a period of twenty-three years, yet all are cohesive in their design and embody the distinctive characteristics of the style. After the first structure used as the home was burned in February, 1900 in an attempt to unthaw frozen pipes, the Grand Lodge of Missouri I.O.O.F. advertised for designs of a "completely fireproof" building to house offices, classrooms, dormitories for the orphans, and rooms for the elderly. The architects selected were Albert Knell and William B. Ittner of St. Louis. The Administration Building designed by Ittner set the precedent for the rest of the Odd Fellow complex buildings. Although designed by other, later, architects, the other buildings reference this unique style. There were three other buildings designed in this style on the site. One, the School Building, was torn down in the early 1950s to make way for the newer hospital. The School Building was built in 1904, and designed by J. H. Felt & Co. of Kansas City, who also designed some later additions at the Odd Fellows. The Old Folks Building, at first called the Old Folks Pavilion, was designed by E. C. Eckle and built during 1907-1908 in order to accommodate the growing number of applications for admittance. The Old Hospital was built in 1923, and designed by Samuel M. Hitt of Kansas City. Viewed together, the three remaining buildings not only document the evolution of this style over a quarter of a century, but the typical building technology and materials for institutional structures as well.

The Odd Fellows Home is significant as an early 20th century example of a statewide home providing care and education for the orphans and elderly members of a fraternal organization. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.) is one of the largest fraternal and benevolent orders in the United States. The chief purpose of the Order of Odd Fellows is to give aid, assistance, and comfort to its members and their families. Because the Grand Lodge made it impossible for the Home to reject an applicant due to a physical disability, many residents required hospital care beyond that provided by the staff nurse and doctor. Hospital facilities were moved to the Old Folks Building, but by 1910 it was apparent that a separate hospital building would be needed. It wasn't until 1923 that the hospital (now known as the Old Hospital) was constructed on the northern end of the property. For a period, the hospital was the only medical facility in Liberty; it even had its own laboratory. As the chief purpose of the Odd Fellows' society was to give aid, assistance and comfort to members and families, the Grand Lodge of Missouri helped in times of death as well as in sickness and misfortune. A cemetery plot, headstone, and burial services were all part of the large system of benefits that were available to the Odd Fellows. Usually, the elderly residents of the Home who had no other arrangements were buried there. Current IOOF members also had the option to be buried at the Liberty complex. The cemetery is currently located on the northern end of the property. The cemetery contains the remains of nearly 600 people. Just outside the cemetery gate sits a memorial dedicated by the Liberty IOOF lodge to honor members who were killed in World War II.

Man it's cool to hear the history of places that you go without even thinking about it! That being said, let's get into what this history had contributed to… Hauntings!

It is believed that many of the nearly 600 people who are buried in the cemetery on the site may still be lingering around, haunting the winery buildings. Ghost sightings have included orphan children, a mischievous man, and a singing old lady.

The stories of hauntings abound. People have heard odd voices and noises, including children giggling and running up and down the stairs. Doors have opened and closed by themselves. The owner tells an account of seeing a little boy in a red shirt, blue knickers and brown boots, who appeared near the fireplace. Although the boy was visible, the owner could still see the details of the fireplace through him. Children have been heard singing “Ring Around the Rosy” in the halls. The owner’s daughter heard a little girl talk to her. The piano has played on its own. Perhaps the most haunted building on the property is an old brick hospital that was constructed in 1923. Located on the northern end of the property, it is now known as Old Hospital.The winery and its buildings are also popular with people in the supernatural business. Professional paranormal investigators such as the Ghost Hunters and CREEPZ have found remarkable amounts of evidence. People have had some odd experiences during some of these investigations. On one occasion while investigating the hospital, a woman had to sit down after feeling unsteady. She stood after a few minutes, but then her head hit a wall, her eyes were rolling back in her head, and she was sweating. When she finally recovered, she had no memory of what had happened. During the same exploration, investigators heard a deep growl coming from the room known as “the mischievous man’s room.” When they heard it again, one woman offered to check it out. As she walked toward the room, she felt an oppressive feeling, like doom or dread. Eventually, she retreated without continuing. The growling ended up being enough for the rest of the group as well. At this point, they were all ready to leave the building. In the administration building, once used as an orphanage, meters went crazy when investigators sang “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

In an outbuilding once used for food storage, dowsing rods turned up some interesting activity. Supposedly, the orphans used to hide in this storage space in order to avoid their chores. When investigators asked questions such as “Where are your friends?” the rods pointed to locations throughout the room. A conversation through the dowsing rods continued, and when it was time to say goodbye, one woman experienced the feeling of being hugged.

Voices, laughing and singing seem to be the most common evidence. However, some people have seen apparitions and shadow people throughout the grounds. One man saw someone peeking around a corner.

The feeling of being watched is also common. In addition, much like the woman experiencing the hug, others have reported physical contact such as being grabbed by the shoulders.

Belvoir Winery does acknowledge and capitalize on the hauntings and old buildings. Besides the public paranormal investigations in October, they also provide guided tours. Other events at the winery include a “Halloween Massacreade” on October 31 and Murder Mystery Dinners in November, December and January. For all you wine drinkers out there… This one sounds fun!

So we've done beer…. We've done wine… What else can we do...oh I know… Moonshine! Next up on the list we head to Tennessee. Brushy mountain distillery to be more exact!

The thing that makes this distillery interesting is that it used to be one of the, if not there, most violent and infamous penitentiaries in the state of Tennessee.

Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary wasn’t just a jail. For decades it was a coal mine for the state of Tennessee that originated in the wake of a bloody labor battle.

The end of the Civil War led to a boom in railroad construction and the rapid expansion of the coal mining industry throughout Tennessee. Because many of the state’s coal veins were located in remote areas, most mining companies providing housing by collecting rent from miners’ wages.

When those companies opened onsite stores selling food, clothes and other necessities at inflated prices, already poor workers piled up debt. By the time their debt and rent were paid, they had little to show for a meager wage job with dangerous working conditions. The Coal Creek miners were clever, holding strikes in winter when coal demand was high; this tactic worked until a new convict lease program gave companies a cheaper, more compliant workforce.

The prison lease system was adopted throughout the South mainly because state governments couldn’t afford to build and maintain prisons or feed, shelter and clothe inmates and a convict lease program cut costs and brought in money. Beyond that, officials could exploit the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery but allowed “involuntary servitude” for criminal punishment.

When federal troops left the South in 1877 after Reconstruction, state officials who were hostile to former slaves handed down long prison terms and life sentences; even for petty crimes. Soon, blacks made up the majority of prisoners in the South.

Tennessee began leasing prisoners in 1866 and by 1891, the Tennessee Coal Mine in Anderson County adopted the practice. This fateful decision led to the Coal Creek War, where citizen-miners attacked and burned the state prison, stockades and mines, then loaded prisoners and guards alike onto a train headed out of town. Mining companies sent them back and state officials called in troops for protection. When months of small-arms skirmishes led to dead men on both sides, officials realized the cost of maintaining a standing militia undercut any financial gains and as convict-lease contracts expired, legislation passed to construct the state’s first maximum security prison – Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary.

By 1896, inmates were building an onsite railroad spur, as well as the original wooden prison structure with their own hands. Between the ongoing violence, deadly mining accidents and chronic illness, life inside Brushy was precarious to say the least. Diseases were rampant, including tuberculosis, typhoid fever, pneumonia, and syphilis – which alone affected 3/4 of the black prisoners. Beyond generally poor medical care and treatment, inmates were routinely beaten for “underproducing” in the mines, despite their dire health conditions, and many died as a result. There was never a death row at Brushy, but there was plenty of death, I promise you. While America was roaring through the ‘20s, convicts at Brushy spent their days in the dark of the mines, urged to dig faster with lashes from thick leather straps.