November - 17, 2012 - Zion Lutheran Church in Flourtown, PA
Built in 1818
Zion Lutheran Church is the resting place of the Van Billiard Family. Mr Austin van Billiard and his two sons, James William and Walter John perished aboard the Titanic on April 15, 1912. Mr Austin Blyler van Billiard, was born on 9 February 1877, the only son of James van Billiard, a successful marble merchant.
James and Walter
At the turn of the century Austin emigrated to Europe to find work during the arrangements for the Universal Exposition that was opening in Paris, France that same year. Austin found work, as an electrician, and he prospered. It was while working in France that he met his English wife, Maude Murray (b. 13 April 1873), whose father was in Paris on business. The two were married on 3 November 1900 after only a few months courtship. The couple soon had two children: James William (b. 20 August 1901) and Walter John (b. 28 February 1903). In 1906 the van Billiard family decided to try their luck at diamond mining and, therefore, emigrated to Central Africa. Here they lived a harsh existence and two more children were born. In 1912, however, Austin had decided to return back to America to work as a diamond merchant. They first returned to London, England on board a French steamer, after smuggling their children on board. Maude’s parents lived in London.
Austin decided to take his two eldest children with him to America ahead of the rest of the family. He and his two sons boarded the Titanic at Southampton as third class passengers. The body of his son Walter was also found but James’ body, if recovered, was never identified. Austin’s wife Maude eventually make the trip to North Wales, Pennsylvania with her two remaining children: she never remarried and died in a nursing home on 17 January 1968, aged 94.
May 26 - Burlington Historic Prison Museum - Mt Holly, NJ
DESCRIPTION / HISTORY
Designed by Robert Mills, it was one of his first efforts as an independent architect. This crowning achievement was open for business as the Burlington County Prison in 1811. Robert Mills, one of America 's first native-born, trained architects, came up with a well-thought out plan, which spared this prison what other prisons experienced; fire, destruction and loss of life because of it. The prison has interior vaulted ceilings of poured concrete, and with brick and stone walls, the prison was fire-proof, which gave it a long life, in constant use until 1965.
This solid building which was in use for 154 years had a basement, and two floors, originally built to handle 40 guests of the state. The warden's house eventually was located next door to the prison, connected by a tunnel.
Originally when the prison opened, the warden and his wife lived in two large rooms located on the main floor. The warden's wife was to supervise the women inmates, while the warden ran the ship as enforcer of the rules of the jail.
Throughout the prison, cell blocks were organized into units of 4 individual cells, each with its own fireplace, opening off a short hall at each end of the floor. Each cell block held people accused of the similar offense/ criminal type & sex. Women inmates, habitual criminals and first offenders were three of the categories, segregated in the housing plan.
Then, there were those imprisoned because of their debts, still being done in 1811. They were kept in the larger rooms off the main hallways, which could accommodate 3 or 4 men in each room. They were allowed to move about the place in daylight hours and be employed in the basement workshops, probably with the idea of working off their debt.
The Basement - Was designed to house a workshop, where the incarcerated, both men and women, were expected to learn a skill, so that when they had done their time, they had a way to be in lawful employment. The kitchen and all supplies used in prison life were in the basement. Another room in the basement was designed to be the dining room, and a controlled access to the exercise yard, which was surrounded by a twenty foot, imposing wall.
The dungeon or maximum security cell was not in the basement but was located in a room in the center of the second floor, surrounded with small areas for guards or visitors, with an iron ring in the center of the floor for the incarcerated person. It was the only room without a fireplace, but had a small window, located high up on the wall. It was a cold place to spend the night, often used for the last night before the condemned would die by hanging out in the yard.
Outside the main building in the yard there was a area where the inmates could tend a small garden and also a place where a set of leg stocks was located where all could see, for the punishment of uncooperative / rowdy ones, which is a more humane way to punish than what was used in other prisons. There was also a place in the yard for a portable gallows to be put up on the many occasions when people who were convicted of a capital crime were hung without exception, as authorized by law by the state of New Jersey. All persons who were convicted in Burlington County came here for the carrying out of their sentence. The last such execution was in 1906, a double hanging of the murderous duo, Rufus Johnson and George Small. I guess, after 1906, executions took place in another facility.
There were some escapes planned and executed, with a few successfully gaining their freedom, if only for a short time. In 1875, some enterprising souls made a hole in the roof from a cell and then climbed down a huge pile of wood stacked by the prison wall.
In 1965, the prison was bursting with 100 inmates so they were moved to a bigger location, an old converted armory located behind the prison. In 1983, a new bigger prison was built somewhere else, becoming the new place of incarceration.
The Prison now is a Historic Landmark and a nice museum, a fascinating place to learn about prison life. It still holds a few entities who don't want to leave. This became evident when in 1999 renovation work began on the run-down building, in order to create this museum for the public.
Previous investigations of this old prison by other research groups have yielded a high amount of spiritual activity including positive photos and EVP's. Researchers have heard cell doors slamming shut on their own, and two researchers were physically pushed by unseen hands.
January 21 - Battlefield Bed and Breakfast, Gettysburg, PA
The Battlefield Bed and Breakfast is in a 200 year old field stone farmhouse that was a witness to the battle of Gettysburg. Cornelius Houtelin's 1809 Civil War farmhouse is located on 30 acres of the Gettysburg Battlefield. He was active in the emancipation movement and the Underground Railroad.
Innkeeper: Florence Tarbox
- One soldier still appears throughout the homestead and the property
- Spirit of a young girl has also been witnessed by guests
- Some have reported a small, cold hug from the ghostly child
- Footsteps heard on the stairs
- Doors unlock by themselves
- An ethereal lantern shines in the nearby field, and some even say that Cornelius Houtelin himself still watches over his former home.
- Hearing whispers
Don and myself have investigated this inn with our former group and got tons of great evidence and also had some personal experiences.
August 7 - Prudhommes Lost Cajun Kitchen - Columbia, PA
Prudhomme's Lost Cajun Kitchen Just celebrated 21 years in Lancaster County. It's located in the historic river town of Columbia, PA. This historic 1800s hotel was once a stop for bootleggers and gangsters. The owners David and Sharon Prudhomme's restaurant has the best Cajun food but also have american fare that works out well, especially when my wife and take my son I can get my alligator and my favorite, Crawfish Ettoufe and he will usually get some kind fish platter. So if your like it hot, or not, you would be a fool not to try their place if ever in the area.
- Full body apparitions
- Glasses flying off shelves
- Other objects being moved
July 23 - Residence - Windsor, PA
- Report of a headless man spotted in the field beside the property
- Black masses and shadows seen in the barn
- Objects being thrown
- Male in house had his nipple scratched while in the shower
- Mattress had an impression like someone either standing or sitting on edge of bed
June 25 - Residence - Market Street, York, PA
CANCELLED PER CLIENT REQUEST
- Male in the house being scratched
- Apparition of a man with glasses and a tophat
- Apparition of a girl in a white dress walking out of bedroom
- Seeing shadows
- Cat growls and hisses at door
- Daughter heard someone say her name
- Heard a voice say "Hello" in a British accent
June 11 - Residence in Wrightsville, PA
CANCELLED PER CLIENT REQUEST
- The cat freaks out for no apparent reason
- Daughter has seen an apparition of child and also an apparition of a girl in her bedroom closet
- Smoke alarms going off for no apparent reason
Palmyra Historical Society
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