Astonishing Legends

Hosted ByScott Philbrook & Forrest Burgess

The world is more mysterious than most people are comfortable imagining. We cross paths with the mystical from time to time and may not even notice it. If we do, we quickly return to our usually mundane daily existence. But what if we not only acknowledged the unknown, we investigated it and spoke with those in the know? That’s what co-hosts Scott & Forrest, and their producer Tess Pfeifle do at Astonishing Legends. Over 85 million downloads and hundreds of thousands of listeners have shown that exploring and embracing the wonders of our world can be not only enlightening but exciting. Welcome to Astonishing Legends!

The Mad Doctor of Spokane

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Here’s a question: What makes a haunted house spooky if you’ve never been there?  How scary can a haunted house be if no one has repeatedly investigated it?  In other words, what is more frightening, the honest anecdotes about experienced paranormal activity in a haunted location or the unverified legends and lore of a place that send the frights of our imagination into overdrive?  And what makes a house haunted?  Is it the house or land itself, the activities and energy of its inhabitants, or a reciprocal combination of both?  These are questions that would be apropos for tonight’s subject, a house known as the Wilbur-Hahn manor in Spokane, Washington.  The craftsman-style mansion came to life in September of 1916, when the heiress to the Hecla Silver Mine fortune, Sarah Smith, married playboy Ralston T. “Jack” Wilbur.  Jack Wilbur had used Sarah’s money to hire an eminent architect to build a three-story, seventeen-room house in Spokane’s historied and tony South Hill neighborhood.  For the princely sum of $75,000, the estate, sitting on nearly four acres of land, flaunted imported marble, gold-leaf carvings, and mahogany paneling inlaid with mother of pearl brought from China.  However, the newly minted Mrs. Wilbur didn’t fancy the home, and with this and other tumults in the marriage, Smith, and Wilbur divorced in 1918.  The following notorious couple to occupy the house was Rudolph A. Hahn and his second wife Sylvia, thirty-two years his junior.  Hahn purchased the manor in 1924 and spent $50,000 on additions, like a swimming pool and lavish gardens with fountains and statues, along with rumored secret panels and tunnels.  Obtaining a doctor’s license through a correspondence course, Hahn made a fortune performing electroshock therapy and illegal medical procedures for Spokane’s well-heeled.  The money, which some believe Hahn had stashed on the property, fueled his love of wild parties, fast cars, boats, and racehorses, much to the neighbors’ dismay.  But the excess and extravagant lifestyle of this real-life “Great Gatsby” would eventually lead to his bizarre murder in a seedy hotel downtown known as The New Madison Hotel.  Perhaps it was the raucous, illicit activities and extreme emotions witnessed by the estate that imprinted somehow.  Reports of arguing phantom voices or boisterous laughter, vanishing bloodstains, shadow figures, the apparition of a woman at the top of the stairs, and even screams and mysterious noises heard by passersby are forever bound to the house.  The lesson of such an infamous place as the Wilbur-Hahn manor is that no matter how private any owners are, they cannot curb the spirits or the legend of a haunted mansion, and spooky is as spooky does.

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