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Episode 110: Crooked


Not everything can be perfect. Even when there’s a clean slate and we’re given the resources and tools to make something great, humans have a way of building their flaws into it. And while there are many examples of locations built on a crooked foundation, few have the haunting historical tales to back it up.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Before we get started today. I wanted to thank you today marks the fourth anniversary of the very first episode of more and it's really easy to filled the stout ergic about how far we ve come sure early episodes of the show are a bit rough and yes, I've grown as a writer and as a narrator but, more importantly, Yo has grown up and become something bigger than just the podcast and that something to be proud of. So thanks for four amazing fulfilling years of tuning in and listening along to these stories from every one,
here out. Lore headquarters were grateful for your generous support and moral tee. Lord listeners are the best listeners after all, and I am proud of that, the most and now on with the shell, it's not the largest or the most beautiful, it's not the oldest or even the most historically significant. There are countless other buildings that stand head and shoulders above its end, yet its name
is firmly implanted in just about every person's mind. Thanks to decades of popular culture, all you have to do is show someone a picture of it and they'll instantly say its name out loud. The tower of Pisa, actually they'll, probably call it the leaning tower of Pisa, because that's its most obvious speech That's because long before the tower was completed in one thousand three hundred and seventy two it had already begun to tilt off center, then that slow motion topple has continued over the six centuries since construction start. Although modern efforts to correct cause seem to have stabilized it, even correcting it just a little bit, most people don't know two things about the tower of Pisa. First, it's actually a bell tower and it doesn't have just one bell now The tower of Pisa has seven tuned to the seven notes of the major musical scale, but the other thing most people.
No is why the tower started, leaning in the first place it turns out. It was built on a faulty foundation. The ground beneath the lowest portions of the structure is too soft to support the weight of all that marble, and so it began to sink on one side. It seems that the original builders, the ones that began the work back in one thousand. One hundred and seventy three didn't give proper attention to the foundational elements of their project and, as it turns out, that's a flaw. We've repeated over and over again throughout history hours. He's like the tower of Pisa are places that are built on some kind of foundation and in the chaos, a building, a community and all the infrastructure that it will need to grow and thrive. Mistakes can happen, issues can be woven into the fabric of a location, and problems can become part of the dna, their setting it up for a future pain
and misfortune, and while the United States is full of examples of this idea in practice, we'd be hard pressed to find a city in our country with a more flawed beginning and its own epicenter of power and authority. Our nations capital, Washington DC, I'm Aaron Mahnke, and this is Lord. to the millions of people who visited every year. America's capital city looks ancient gleaming white. Marble bastards
When does and enormous statues of the greats who came before us and all of those things are magnificent, but in terms of world history, Washington DC is barely a toddler. If that's, if we were to hop into a time machine and travel back to the signing of the declaration of independence, we would have discovered that the land Washington is built on. It was nothing more than a collection of farms. Sure they had fancy names like twins, discovery, the knock and port royal, but they were far from glamorous In fact, most of those farms were worn out and tired years earlier. The leaders of the new born United States needed a place the meets and make plans initially that place had been Philadelphia, which is where the second Continental Congress met in seventeen seventy five, but as the Revolutionary WAR
picked up steam. British military actions force that Congress to become a bit more nomadic. They met in Philadelphia in one thousand seven hundred and seventy six then Baltimore the year after that, after that, it was back to Philly before moving on to Lancaster and then York, what America needed was a permanent home, a seat of government that be counted on to remain in place for eternity and while that might sound like a simple challenge to solve, it proved to be more difficult than they first thought, without digging into the deeper details. A lot of it came down to two things: the north versus the south, and money. Then, yes, I understand that the civil war that specific period in our nations history, when we see the north versus the south used the most wouldn't take place until near,
a century later, but even in the early days of Amerika, there was a divide, their that created strife and friction. But in the end the federal government passed the residents act of seventeen ninety and gave President George Washington the power to pick a location and begin building a capital that spot it turns out was a stretch of land along the Potomac River near the older community of George down. It was over farm thickly, wooded and ready for development and to help with that, a french american military engineer, name, Pierre and Fund, is brought in to lay out the design for the future city. We have lent font to thank much of the basic lay out of Washington DC the decision to place the presidential residence on one hill, while locating the houses of Congress on another grand George and manners, the stone and brick buildings. All of it was born from his mind.
But it was a mind that also produced strife and frustration. It seems that lend fund was difficult to work with and ultimately, after just a year on the job, he was sent away completely unpaid for his work and that black mark on his reputation will haunt him for the rest of his life. When he passed away in eighteen, twenty five, he was practically penniless and was laid to rest in an unmarked grave. So much for the man who dreamt up the capital city, we know so well. Today. Things barely got better after that. The buildings that did go up in the years Come had issues from the start. According to historian Jeff Dickie, Washington's failure to flourish was almost comical. There was an annoying lack of sidewalks. The city lack the sewer system and street lights. You might look outside the window.
Your stately georgian manner to see cattle grazing and your yard, and thanks to all of that disease was a common problem when I think of the National Mall area today by envision a city that is clean and put together straight lines, white surfaces and very well thought out the two centuries ago. It was a mass of muddy pathways and dangerous terrain. in America might have been a success, but the city that was meant to sit at the centre of it all was in early failure. While the city planners had envisioned metropolis for two hundred thousand people, there were barely three thousand within the city limits. Of course things did it:
really improve the transition from Bud hole to mansions took some time but as it grew and evolved. So too did our governments and the people they served. Wealth flowed into the city and, as it did, the face of the city changed forever, but the beautiful elegant appearance is often little more than a facade. Just like the people who lived there. Washington DC was a pretty shell with a rotten core, and if we were to take a ride down any of the wealthy avenues that criss crossed the city two centuries ago, we would see dozens of examples of a darker parts of human nature. Behind every pretty surface it seems was a story of pain and loss and death
Every story has a few sides to it, but not many can claim to have eight. That's a pretty basic description of the Octagon House. A home built in eighteen hundred by a man named Colonel John Tailor, the third it was design and by William Thornton, the same end design, the? U S, capital building and when tallow had built, he was considered one of the wealthiest men in Virginia Immediately, the home became the center of life in Washington DC, in fact, because the White House has been burned by the British in one thousand, eight hundred and twelve Talo offered the use of his house to President Madison. Two years later, the Treaty of Ghent was signed there, but not all of the events in this house are tales two out of apparently Colonel Taylor, was a bit of a control freak and that attitude. Money,
actually led to the death of two of his daughters. The first occurred before the war of one thousand eight hundred and twelve, and was a result of a disagreement between Talo and his daughter. She had fallen in love, but her father disapproved because the young man was a british millet. officer the entire disagreement, came to a head one day in the second floor, hallway right at the top of the stairs. In the heat of the argument, it said that tailors daughter turned to run away tripped and fell down the stairs to her death, as if that worth enough, the legend says that another of his daughters died in the same tragic way. Just a few years later again after an argument with her father, echoes of that tragedy have stuck around, they say visitors to the house of Clay to see mysterious candlelight hovering over the top of the stairs. On the second floor, others say there is a quarter of a rug and the first floor. Hallway that refuses to lie flat
a reminder of where one daughters body landed. It's all mysterious and creepy for sure, but there's a problem. It turns out. None of Telos children ever died in the Octagon House Perhaps the legends told by visitors today are meant to find logic in their unexplainable experiences, or maybe it's just a bit of folk lore run amok. Neither way it seems that the stories just like the house, they inhabit of a number of different sides- to them. Another house in a city with a bit of legend surrounding it, is the on house work on it began in seventeen. Eighty seven built as a mansion for the very first secretary of the Navy, a man named Benjamin starters, and if you
been paying attention. You'll recognised the name of the man responsible for designing the homes garden, none other than Pierre lend funds. Let's hope he got paid for that work, though right. The mansion is massive. I've seen a few different numbers quoted in various sources, but it seems that the main house is roughly twenty one hundred square feet of living space. That's a lot of house to take care of, and Stoddard apparently went broke, trying to keep up the house pass through a number of hands over the years that followed until man in Albert, add Sit Clemens bought the place in the early nineties. Hundreds lemons immediately got to work fixing up the old mansion. He apparently believe
as long as he kept construction active. He would ward off his own death, which sounds awfully familiar. If you ve heard the tale of Sarah Winchester and her famous mansion in California, the Winchester House, a lot of the work Clemens did was practical. He added electricity to the place and connected some of the outbuildings being more square footage to the mansions overall footprints, but he also added bizarre elements like doors that open onto blink walls and stares that went nowhere. He was a big fat creating rooms and then walling them up. Some of them were tiny, barely larger than a closet, while others were big enough to service crypts. In fact, he was such a fan of burials that he was said to have had a number of mummies buried in the fancy garden now back, but all of us,
construction had an impact on the house. Some say that after Clemens began to alter the original design of the place, the Spirit of Benjamin Stoddard began to appear so witnesses reported seeing his figure dry, still a tan suit sitting in one of the windows that overlooked the Potomac. Others have seen him walking through the halls and sitting in various pieces of furniture that construction didn't work, though lemons, eventually passed away in nineteen, thirty, eight and upon his death, a bizarre request was carried out because he had been terrified of being buried alive. He requested that his heart be pierced with a sharp tool just to be safe. Whoever said it never hurts to be prepared, has probably never had a knife
into their chests. Lemons might have left the mansion in bodily form, but there are stories that suggest his spirit stuck around joining the ranks of Benjamin Stoddard in other ghostly sightings. Those who have lived their senses death if often found windows open wide. After closing them moments before others say that items hung on the wall have a tendency to fall to the floor without reason, or perhaps it's all too easy to explain. Our Clemens spent a lot of time making that house just right and he doesn't want anyone else to change. It
Poems are tricky places sure they provide us with a place to live, but they also have the potential to be the setting for darker events and no other home in Washington DC demonstrates that more completely. Then the White House. Construction began on the site of the modern White House, all the way back and one thousand seven hundred and ninety two. It was built by a diverse collection of workers, most of whom were after American slaves and immigrants compared to the place that live on TED envisioned. The finished house was much more humble in appearance, but of course it would grow over the years to come. John Adams the first president to live there moving in with his wife Abigail in November of eighteen hundred legend, says that she dried their sheets in the EAST room,
Later first, Lady Dolley Madison prefer to work outside spending her time in the garden. But of course the Madison's had to move into the Octagon House after the british torch, the original White House in one thousand, eight hundred and twelve, and it wouldn't be ready to live in again until eight, in seventeen. Of course, mater visitors claim to have seen echoes from those early years. Some have caught a glimpse of Abigail atoms in the EAST room, presumably still doing laundry while others have spotted Dolly Madison walking through the rose garden. But whether or not these tails were true, they pale in comparison to what happened decades after the mansion was built when another family moved in
The Lincolns president, Abraham Lincoln, and his wife Mary, had four children together. Their second oldest Edward died from tuberculosis in eighteen. Fifty the same year, their third child, William, was born. They were loving parents and have to imagine the White House was full of laughter and cries of joy on a daily basis, except for February of eighteen, sixty two that was the month at Young, William, just eleven years old died after a battle with typhoid fever. Understandably, the loss devastated the lincolns, but it hit Mary. The hardest she'd already lost one child years before, and this newest death must have obliterated all those years of healing. As a result, she refused to let go and spoke often of seeing William indifferent parts house. Their loss came at a time when spiritualism was incredibly popular, having better
for roughly two decades. At that point it was an open door that Mary pushed through in the hope that she might be able to speak to her children once again. and, while her husband Abraham was it necessarily a firm believer in all the things taught by the spiritualist movement, he was accommodating to anything that would bring peace to his wife. Soon enough, there were regular seances taking place inside the White House, but says that Abraham Lincoln would sometimes even attend and participate, but it was Mary who planned in hosted them, and it During one of these many sciences, the Lincoln, Met a man named Charles Colchester Colchester was spiritualist from England who arrived in the middle of the civil war, with stories of noble birth and remarkable power.
We claim to be able to hold sealed letters to his forehead and read their contents perfectly or cause fully visible spirits to appear during the sciences he conducted. It had brought him a lot of fame and the Lincolns fell for it, especially Mary, but it might have been called gestures, amazing performances that finally initiated his downfall through their multiple sciences, Mary Todd, Lincoln
had revealed a number of sensitive secrets to Colchester and he began to use that privilege to make big requests. For example, he asked Missus Lincoln to provide him for a railroad pass that would give him free transportation anywhere in the country. If she didn't cooperate, he would expose her secrets, but rather than cave into his demands. Mary called upon Noah Brooks one of President Lincoln's, most trusted friends and advisers. He decided that exposing Colchester would be the better option, so he attended one of his upcoming seances. This one involved the table full of musical instruments which the Englishman claimed. He would invite spirits to manipulate while every one held hands to prevent tampering after the lights were extinguished. Brow. waited for the instruments to begin making music the moment they started. He let go of his neighbors hands and lunged for the centre of the table, his hand, grip something and a moment later. Someone else let a match washing the small
Gathering in a pale orange glow- and there in his hand, was the risk of Charles Colchester. The medium, of course, pretended utter outrage Brooks had broken the rules. It was poor behavior, but a few days later Brooks managed to track Colchester down outside the White House, where he scolded him for deceiving the president and the first lady
and accuse the medium of being nothing more than a fraud. After that, Colchester apparently hit the road. He was never seen around the lincolns or even the White House grounds ever again. History, like the cultures and events that fill it has a tendency to be a bit crooked. It leads to the side and gives the observer the impression that some things not quite right
of course, which direction it leans always depends on. Who wrote that particular part of history? Doesn't it? We certainly try, though? Yes, there will always be weak spots in the foundation of any great movement or civilization, but the majority of people do try. Times it simply a matter of trying to manage our daily lives, despite the unpaid roads, or growing lives inside crooked houses life. Just like the history that records it can lean a little man. Each of us has lost, and to adapt to that in our own way,. but there are always exceptions to the rule places where The slant is a bit too severe where a week found Asia nor a crooked beginning leave a lasting mark, a mark that can be felt centuries later,
Washington DC is one of those places for better or worse. It is a crooked city, it leans and we can see it others have been able to see that lean over the years as well. President Lincoln's friend Joseph Henry, only saw the lean and Charles Colchester and while he was, never able to definitively proved that the man was a fraud while he was. He'll hanging around the White House. Henry did pick up on a little secret a few years later, according to the story. he was on a train one day where he met a man who made gadgets items used by performers to enhance their stage presence, and he mentioned that he had designed and built a device for the famous spiritualist Charles Colchester, a sort of electronic soundly gene that the man would wear on his upper arm beneath his suit, it seems that yes, some things are too good to be true or too powerful to be real.
Colchester had another secret, though a friend a drinking buddy. Really you see, while he was staying in Washington DC and providing ongoing spiritualist services to Maritime Lincoln, he stayed at the national hotel located near by on Pennsylvania Avenue, and it was there that he became friends with a handful of other men stain one of these men was apparently very upset about the war to end slavery. He believe the owning another human being was a God given right and considered. listen deserve to be an abomination and over the months that he and Colchester grew to know each other. He allowed his guard to drop lower and lower this drinking buddy was a bit crooked.
see one evening over drinks, his friend told Colchester and the others around the table that President Lincoln deserve to die for his role in the war, and he delivered that statement with such conviction. Such passion and confidence that Colchester took him at his word, which is why, later the next time he visited the lincolns at the White House, he warned the president's to be extra careful about his personal safety. The president, of course, had heard warnings like that on a daily basis since taking office. But kindly thank the Englishman for his warning. Perhaps he dismissed it because it was nothing new Maybe he ignored the medium because he felt it was a poor attempt at some sort of prediction. Sort that any sideshow con man might have made successfully
we don't know why Lincoln ignored him, but looking back from where we stand today, its clear that he should have listened because Colchester as drinking buddy turned out to be a very dangerous man, a man who leaned a bit too far in one direction, a crooked man and who was he he was an actor named John Wilkes booth. its clear from the historical records that Washington DC got off on a fairly crooked start, thanks to a soft foundation and dreams that didn't match reality. I hope hearing about it too.
It has been as entertaining to you as writing about it was for me, but I'm not done. I have one more location in the city that I want to take you to stick around after this short sponsor break. To begin that tour, this episode was made possible by stamp stock. Come if you're, a small business owner you're busy enough as it is. You have time to deal with the hassle of going to the post office with stamps dot com. You can skip the trip and never waste another dollar or minutes steps that come with you print official postage right from your computer, so you can spend less time at the Post office and, more time running your business simply put stamps that calm, saves you time, money and stress for more than twenty years stamps. That com has been indispensable for over one million businesses. Given you access to all the post office and you Pierre Shipping services, you need right from your computer and get discounts. You can't find anywhere else like up the forty percent off you S, p s rates and seventy six percent off you PS. All you need is a computer in a standard printer, no special, so
flies or equipment up and running in minutes, printing official postage for any letter and a package anywhere. You want to send it. I've been happily using stamps dot com for years and as a business owner, it is a lifesaver save time and money. This year was stamps dot com sign up with the promo code, Laura for a special offer that includes a four week: trial, free postage and a digital scale, no long term commitments or contracts just go to stamps dot, com click on the microphone at the top of the homepage and then type in the word lure that stamps dot com offer code lure stamps dot com, never go to the post office. Again Sometimes the hardest thing to deal with in life is life
never ending series of unplanned abrupt moments that seem to knock us off our path and set a spinning. The tragedies both big and small, that step unexpectedly into our lives like Kramer sliding into Seinfeld apartment, without knocking one moment where at peace and the next that everything is crooked, such was life for Henriette
the grandson of President John Quincy Adams, he and his wife, Mary Ann, who went by the name, clover moved to Washington DC and one thousand eight hundred and seventy seven, where they live just across the street from the White House on Lafayette Square. She was one of the earliest portrait photographers in american history. Mastering the chemical process used for development of the photos which she did right there in her home, and it was a happy home too, but that piece was broken in April of eighteen. Eighty five, when her father passed away, it was a blow that seemed to rock her to the core four months. She in battle, the depression that came with that loss and Ashley did Henry did his best to support her.
And encourage her, but grief is a difficult opponent to wrestle with and in the fall of that year, clover lost, while Henry was out of the house for a dental appointment. His wife's stepped into her dark room and drank a solution of potassium cyanide, a chemical she used, often to dissolve the silver from photographic plates. Its effect on her, though, was fatal Henry more in the loss of his wife, as you might expect, but he also took it one step further after her funeral
and burial in Washington's Rock Creek cemetery. He commission, the fame, sculptor Augustus, sent gardens to create the statue in her honour. It took six years to complete, but when it was finished it replaced her original headstone. It features a shrouded figure seated on a block of granite, as if a person had sat down atop the grave and covered themselves with the cloak sense gardens titled his work, the mystery of the hereafter and the poor some God that passeth understanding, but that's quite a lot to say most folks have leaned toward him more simple name for the statue grief, but the story doesn't end there is he. The statue became so popular that it was about
really copied. In the early nineties, hundreds a man named Edward Pouch, made a cast without permission and used it to create a duplicate for a client of his a civil war general named Felix Agnes. Ever since the copy has been known as black oghee and that duplicate was placed in druid. Ridge, cemetery and pikes will Maryland quickly because the focus of college hazing rituals and fraternity. Pranks stories were made up about the seated figure and legends about the guy that sad over began to spread, because that's how folklore works right. Of course, there was more black oghee was said to have. You
Letty to kill people. The scenarios were fairly hard to imagine which of course, led to the attractiveness of the legend, but it was said that if anyone spent the night sleeping in the figures lap, they would die before morning. Others whispered rumours about the power of the figures eyes or how pregnant mothers had been known to miscarry after visiting the grave it the sort of folklore that you might expect to grow and develop around such a mysterious, other worldly figure in a powerful example of the human desire to fill gaps in history with something anything that might answer our questions.
the folks that manage the cemetery Maryland eventually had their fill of vandals and visitors, and so in nineteen sixty seven black Ag Ii was donated to the Smithsonian. They placed the statue in the courtyard behind the cuts Madison House, I historic mansion once occupied by First Lady, Dolly Madison, which is an interesting location, to say the least. Why? Because it happens to be just one block away from the Hay Adams Hotel a hotel, mind you that was built on the site of an older home, the home of Henry and Clover Adams.
This episode of law was written, an produced by me, Aaron Monkey, with research by Robin Monitor and music by Chad, Lawson Laura is much more than just upon gassed. There's a book serious available in bookstores in online and to fan task seasons of the television show on Amazon. Prime video check them both out. If you want a bit more lore in your life, they also make two other podcast Aaron Man keys, cabinet of curiosities. And unobserved, and I think you'd enjoy both each one explores other areas of our dark history, ranging from bite sized episodes to season long dives into a single topic. You can learn about both.
though, shows and everything else going on over in one central place: Thou world of lore dot com slash now and you can follow the show on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, just search for lore podcast. All one word and click that follow button and when you do say hi, I like it when people say hi and as always, thanks for listening.
Transcript generated on 2022-03-12.