NARRATOR: As the 80s came to a close, the Gilman managed a lower profile until a change at the Gilman Legacy Foundation’s headquarters initiated the hotel’s more friendly image as a tourist attraction for some of the seedier happenings.
LESLIE DAVENPORT, investigative reporter:They saw an opportunity and when cable documentaries about haunted locations started popping up, they decided to take all the calls.
NARRATOR: Credit for that decision appears to go to Howard Campbell, who left foundation in 2012. Campbell decided to monetize the salacious nature of the hotel and find a way for visitors from all over learn about its sordid past.
In fall of 2011, Campbell brought on spiritualist Brad “Hesperwolf” Maguire for a special publicity tour in time for Halloween, where guests could tour the still active hotel and see some of the sights, including an All Hallow’s eve rave in the Persephone Ballroom, restored to resemble its original appearance.
HESPERWOLF, spiritualist: I understand it is typical of the human mind to hide from the spiritual, from the glister, as I call it. When you walk into the room, and there’s a light that you see that you just cannot place, that is what i know as the glister. Sometimes it disappears just as soon as it appears. But you must always keep watch for it, for if it appears, it wants to be seen. It wants you to see it.
NARRATOR: Controversial talk show mainstay and best selling author Hesperwolf was contacted by the Gilman Legacy Foundation privately first.
HESPERWOLF, spiritualist: I first had a dream in 2006 that i would receive a call from mr. campbell and walk with him in the hallways of this hotel. We were surrounded by energy, a rush of power and sadness and beauty and a singular need, a desperate need to be heard. I knew when the phone rang who he was. I knew why he was calling. I was brought in to connect with the spirits of the hotel.
NARRATOR: Hesperwolf maintains he never read any material on the Gilman before he entered, but instead “downloaded” it mentally upon his arrival.
HESPERWOLF, spiritualist: When you have a connection with the glister, or with whatever force draws you in, you need to have more than an open mind. You need to have forgiveness in yourself. If you walk into any space already feeling that you have made mistakes, or are struggling to do the right thing, the wrong forces can feel that, can see that, hear that in you. You’re blaring insecurity as you walk by these doors. You have to know you are human, you make mistakes, you amend, you promise to do better. And with an open heart and mind, you can see what is beyond you.
NARRATOR: Hesperwolf, due to contract obligations with the Gilman Legacy Foundation, cannot go into specifics with what he sees, beyond what is already readily available via the historical society. He, and the Foundation, went through multiple discussions for what to make public, for as he says, the ghosts of the past never gave the living permission to pry.
Intending to continue tours, and eventually write a book or collaborate on a series, Hesperwolf was stonewalled by policies, and a shift in priorities when Gilman Legacy Foundation appointed a new president, Laura Griffith-Kelly, who put the kabosh on any such publicity.
LAURA GRIFFITH-KELLY, Gilman Legacy Foundation president: The choices that were made by my predecessor were of course governed with the respect that the Gilman legacy foundation has always hoped to employ. However, since I have taken over, I am of the opinion that our culture is ready again to experience the true beauty of the Gilman for what it is, and will be. And I think it’s time to restore some of the initial dignity that implies. We aren’t looking to erase history, or forget what has come. But it’s important to remember what Lionel and Tobias Gilman always wanted: to provide a home for those away from home.
NARRATOR: And indeed, that will continue to be the legacy of the Gilman… in addition to all that other stuff.
HESPERWOLF, spiritualist: While Ms. Griffith-Kelly and I do not see eye to eye, and I am bound by the earthly contract of signatures, the truth of the glister cannot be bound by human law. I am still visited by the beings in that hotel, I still know their names, and I urge her, and the foundation to let their stories be heard. I know for a fact that it is haunted. And haunted in such a way that calls out it needs to be free.
NARRATOR: One saving grace Hesperwolf may find in all of this, is it’s too late to turn back for the Foundation on its initial admission of the activities on the grounds, or what it agreed to state as fact when it was granted Historical Haunted Landmark status, which provides grants and funding for, as yet, limited seasonal events and recognition from Griffith-Kelly in time for the trick-or-treaters and ghost storytellers. The Gilman All Hallow’s Eve ball is an annual event that features ghouls, goblins, and tasteful recollections of some of the more devastating occurrences.
CHARLY VILLAQUEZ, magazine editor: Serial killers. Rock star overdoses. Arsonists. A republican fundraiser. The Gilman saw it all. And it sees it all.
written, edited, and produced by Viktor Devonne for 2 Night Stay performed by Dick Move, Iris Explosion, Seedy Edie, Johnny Caligula, Viktor Devonne, Sarah Tops, and Noctua, with Jack Barrow
engineered and recorded by Dick Move
NARRATOR: Ethan and Joshua Abrams have continued success with the Gilman Hotel in the 40s, enjoying a boost from the war, and the town’s advancements in industry.
LESLIE DAVENPORT, investigative reporter: The Gilman Legacy Foundation has continued to make money, CEO after CEO, and they’re really splitting their time between philanthropic, good for press type work, and also this hotel which, while cute and all, why do they care so much?
LAURA GRIFFITH-KELLY, Gilman Legacy Foundation president: The Gilman Hotel remains one of the foundation’s main priorities because it was a priority of our original figurehead, Lionel Gilman. It is not a pet project, it is a continuation of one of his great visions: a place to call home when you are away from home. The Gilman Legacy Foundation, and I, understand this principle.
CHARLY VILLAQUEZ, magazine editor: It does seem a little odd and I think they welcomed the chance to have the Abrams just handle things for a while. They are well-to-do bachelors, with Joshua known for his work in the shipping industry, and Ethan who has a very successful home renovation and decorating empire. These are smart, shrewd, capable men and history has chosen to sort of rewrite their contributions to these eccentric millionaires who bought a hotel for a lark and ditched it as soon as disaster struck.
NARRATOR: One of the first things that they lost was a friend. One of the longterm guests of the hotel, Natalie May Dashett helped create a series of radio jingles that welcomed sailors, families, and newlyweds to the location.
They really were enterprising in their marketing; they wanted it to be a destination hotel. And they succeeded.
Dashett would eventually abandon them, leaving an alleged tab, and a hole in their trust.
DAVID HANDLER, author: She was a Hollywood actress who got in trouble with the studio. I wouldn’t exactly call her famous. When she saw her chance to leave, she took it.
NARRATOR: While the Gilman Legacy Foundation counts Natalie May Dashett as one of their hall of fame guests due to her success in radio and a burgeoning film career, her absence also left questions.
FELIX SCOTT, contributing reporter: She disappears. No trace. Another one gone. And No one cares. No one questions it. No one investigates the hotel.
GRIFFITH-KELLY: Miss Dashett was a prized guest at the hotel. I have heard the stories about her, but as far as the foundation is concerned, she was a friend of the Gilman, and she left due to personal family reasons. The film industry wasn’t for her, the business wasn’t for her. We certainly aren’t going to fault her for that, and I consider her debt to the hotel, if any, paid in full due to her work with us.
DAVENPORT: Natalie leaving upset the brothers. In Ethan’s diary, he called it a massive betrayal.
NARRATOR: Ethan Abrams’ diary, which was published in the 80s, is set to be republished next year with more information about his time as owner of the Gilman. Much of the original text was excised from the first printing, and assumed meddling of the Gilman Legacy Foundation.
GRIFFITH-KELLY: I don’t know anything about that.
NARRATOR: The diary gives one of the few glimpses of a horrific evening in 1954. While neither Abrams brother was on location, Ethan discusses the aftermath and trauma of on December 6th. It was the date of mayor-elect Lucas Byron’s inauguration celebration.
News from home shook me to my core. I leave for the hotel tomorrow morning. The entire second floor ballroom has been nearly snapped in half, with patrons of Byron’s party falling to the lobby floor. I have been informed that nearly all of them are dead. Joshua is chartering a plane from Switzerland, but I will likely be there before him. I cannot imagine setting foot on such a sight. William likely crushed. Devastated.
NARRATOR: The William that Abrams wrote of, identified in other passages of the diary as his lover, was in fact killed in the disaster. One of the rotating head waiters of the hotel’s restaurant staff hired, William Fenton was working the party when a tremor brought the second floor to a screeching halt.
HANDLER: The structure beneath the ballroom floor gave way. It happened in such a way where reports indicate it was an earthquake or some sort of gasline explosion, but it was centralized to that single room. No other floor was affected; in fact no other part of the second floor was affected. It is weird. I’ll give you that.
NARRATOR: In later examinations, and studies done by structural engineers and analysts, the exact way the ballroom cracked and shattered is physically impossible, and despite all efforts to explain, the Abrams were left with an insurance nightmare. The Gilman Legacy Foundation representatives stepped in and handled many lawsuits quietly, and when someone attempted to goad the press into sensationalism, their complaints would go quiet almost as quickly.
From the diary of Ethan Abrams:
The building stands. I expected that I would come to rubble. One is able to quite comfortably get around, despite the wreckage. The ballroom has been fractured, creating small islands, preserved by the beams of the hotel. Guests in the middle of their waltz given an unholy end to their evening.
NARRATOR: The number given to the press and public is that of 214 souls lost. This comprised nearly two dozen service people who were staffed for the event and were in the ballroom at the time, or in the lobby and affected by the debris and victims falling from the ballroom above. Other guests and service people who were just outside of the room on the same floor, or in the kitchen quarters, were unaffected, and in fact only heard the commotion and panic of the guests who survived, not the incident itself that caused the disaster.
DAVENPORT: It’s a panic. The bellhops are seeing the sky fall down. People are bloody, scrambling down the stairs screaming, running out on the streets, expecting to the see the end of the world, but everyone else is fine. They assume it must either be a gas explosion or it’s an earthquake, or something that everyone else is experiencing. But no one else is. Just the Persephone Ballroom.
NARRATOR: The disaster gives signs of both and implosion and an explosion, with the floor ripped in twisted gashes, like vines.
VILLAQUEZ: One major figure however isn’t in the ballroom, but he is included in the tally of 214. The mayor-elect, himself, Lucas Byron was found dead in his bedroom with a woman not his wife. They’re in bed, and they look like they’ve been in an earthquake.
SCOTT: The rest of the hotel is unaffected. The walls are fine. Not a single guest knew anything happened until they heard the screams from the ballroom. No one on that floor even heard it happen. How did someone on the sixth floor, in fact two someones, have injuries from the tremor when no one else did. And if they were in the ballroom when it happened, how did they get to the sixth floor penthouse, take off all their clothes, and still get in the mood to (bleep) until they succumbed to their injuries?
NARRATOR: The mayor’s wife, Verna, survived the accident by nature of her being on the second floor terrace with other guests of the hotel.
VILLAQUEZ: Story goes that Verna Byron didn’t even run back in when the guests were screaming. Everyone who was with her did, but she stayed on the terrace. The police happened upon her; she has just stayed sitting on a bench while all hell was breaking loose and the other guests were coming out of their rooms to find out what happened.
NARRATOR: Dr. Rebecca Mortinelli–
DR. REBECCA MORTINELLI, PSYCHOANALYST: Shock can come in many forms. What was probably happening in Verna Byron, although I have not studied any doctor’s records on her, may have been a temporary paralysis that prevented her from getting up. Knowing her husband, her friends, she could not face it.
NARRATOR: The Abrams would leave the Gilman the following year, with the suggestion it heavily affected their relationship. Ethan would go to Chicago and Joshua would relocate to Europe, constantly on the move. Within the decade, the legal aspects of the accident would be all but a memory and the hotel acknowledged those lost with a solemn memorial when the ballroom was refinished.
VILLAQUEZ: The inspection on that ballroom floor probably took at least five different independent companies.
NARRATOR: More hits would continue. The press coverage was overwhelming but the guest registry was bleak. Longterm guests would move out, saying they could hear the accident in their sleep, despite not having heard it when it happened.
During one of its frequent dry spells, in 1975, three young broke into the construction site of the Lucretia Coridor, located on the 5th floor and temporarily blocked off.
DAVENPORT: One of the tenants of the Gilman Legacy Foundation is that the hotel is kept in consistent working order. The Lucretia Corridor was shut down for almost four months in the winter of 1974 into 1975. The guest list was still pretty low so it was low priority. The lights were going out all over the floor, issues with the pipes, and there was no active property manager. So it was days before a maid discovered them.
NARRATOR: Three unrelated young men between the ages of 19 and 23, were found with gas tanks and matches, with the consensus made by the police department that they were there to burn down a portion, or all of the Gilman hotel for unknown reasons. Despite one major scorch mark on one wall, the rest of the hall was untouched, and the floor, despite being coated in gasoline did not ignite.
SCOTT: These kids weren’t known by the hotel staff as guests, and they somehow get in with gas tanks, all the way to the fifth floor, unnoticed, or let in by an employee. But instead of torching the place, they decide to burn it only a little bit and then hang themselves altogether in a dark hallway with rope they apparently decided to also bring. for kicks. because why?
NARRATOR: The police ruled it a joint suicide, with the intent that they would hang themselves as the fire caught on, but it failed to. One of the young men, Anthony Martinez, was the son of Carolyn Maitland-Scheer, grandniece of the ill-fated Calvin Maitland, who dubiously owned the hotel in the 20s. She maintains she has no idea why her son was at the hotel that evening, and declined to participate in this program, except with the following written statement:
The Gilman Hotel remains a subject of pain for my family. I have no interest in continuing to revisit old wounds, but know this: my son Anthony had never been told about the hotel, never been brought to the hotel, or lived fewer than 20 miles from the hotel, ever. I continue to relive the pain of the last decision he ever made. While he was drawn to that location with his friends, he had no malice in his heart.
NARRATOR: Mrs. Maitland-Scheer declined to sue the Gilman Legacy Foundation for the accident, despite rumors she met with attorneys.
In the midst of a Hollywood love affair of haunted house books and poltergeist blockblusters, the Gilman received notoriety for its alleged connection to the supernatural, and what was widely referred to as the ghost of Denise Schonheit.
The hotel received a bump in interest when serial killer Edgar Corbin turned himself into authorities in 1982, having stayed at the Gilman off and on for two years, and chose his victims in the area while he stayed there.
DAVENPORT: So Corbin says he used the hotel as a cover, somewhere to stay when he was looking up people to kill. The Gilman legacy foundation tries to cover up that he was staying there, but he came to the police station; he said what he did, how he did it, where to find them, and what room he was in so the cops can find his stuff.
NARRATOR:Via Corbin’s official police statement,
WhenI was sitting in my room, I would shake and cry. I wanted to stop. I knew I had to stop. But I kept going out and finding them. I was afraid to stop. But I heard her. I heard her voice and she would say to me, “Don’t hurt them anymore.” And I saw her. I saw the true face of innocence. I cried. I knew I could never hurt anyone else ever again. Because she would know.
NARRATOR: Corbin, who confessed to the murder of 7 people, was not even on the suspect list of authorities, and led them to his stash of trophies taken from his victims, which was left at the Gilman. The Gilman Legacy Foundation lodged a formal complaint against the TV network BloodstainD for its heavily fictionalized TV movie featuring a serial killer fitting Corbin’s description being a ghost in the hotel he used to scout victims. Corbin in fact did not die at the Gilman; he died in prison in 2004, and while Corbin was forthcoming to the details of his murders, it is unclear if he ever killed anyone at the hotel itself.
Also in 1982, and presumably unbeknownst to Corbin, proto-darkwave and synth-metal band The Last Boys holed up in the hotel for weeks at a time, writing and recording the demos of what would become their first album.
After achieving considerable success at home and abroad, the Last Boys would become most known for its connection to the Gilman, when lead singer Requiem was found dead of a purported overdose, several years after their initial booking.
VILLAQUEZ: Requiem became known for their shock rock antics. They played into the “Hail Satan” trends of the 80s, courting opinion that they sold their soul, that they were a vampire–
DAVENPORT: In 1986, the hotel stops accepting new guests except for the longterm residents—basically people using the hotel as an apartment building, which it got into the habit of doing because it wasn’t making a lot of money except in longterm guests, or 1 night… or 1 hour guests…
GRIFFITH-KELLY: The Gilman Hotel was never closed to guests in the 1980s. This is a story that persists despite the foundation’s insistence.
SCOTT: They were shut down for health code violations. It’s a verifiable fact.
GRIFFITH-KELLY: I’m sorry; I don’t know anything about that.
VILLAQUEZ: February 15th, 1986. Requiem is staying there. They quit the band, they quit the tour. One night they get ahold of some bad smack and the next day, the headlines say “Rockstar Dead.”
GRIFFITH-KELLY: I would also like to make sure we mention that in 1982, the Gilman Legacy Foundation helped sponsor the productions at the Diamond Pond Community Playhouse.
NARRATOR: Coming up,
DAVENPORT: They saw an opportunity–
GRIFFITH-KELLY: We aren’t looking to erase history–
HESPERWOLF, spiritualist: I knew when the phone rang who he was. I knew why he was calling.
NARRATOR: … when we return to Historical Record: Secrets and Skeletons.