This past Sunday night I was able to join Jacky Bam Bam Of WMMR radio station in Philadelphia on a ghost tour. It’s called Grim Philly Twilight Tour. This particular theme for the tour was called Vampires , Sex and Ghosts so obviously I was in !
We all met outside of Independence Visitor Center and were introduced to our tour guide Joe and also Brittany Ledger who was helping out with the tour as well. Joe Wojie is a professor of history at Rider University in New Jersey . He made this tour so educational but in a interesting way. It was so fun to hear about history mixed with unknown shocking facts and jokes. He did a incredible job!
Our first stop on the tour was essentially the first White House or George Washington’s house. The city has preserved the foundation and you can see it through a glass case. There are TVs and displays all around the site explaining the history of the house. There are even slave names carved into the walls . It is definitely worth stopping by the display if you are in Philly .
We walked past the Liberty Bell and a fun fact is that the bell cracked because it was oxidized. The oxidation caused the famous crack not the other tales that people tell saying it cracked from being dropped . We walked past the Independence Center and stopped at the Chestnut Street Theater.
*WARNING this tour was for ADULTS so the next details are for mature audiences.*
The Chestnut Theater was the first theater in the US and it also was used for prostitution . The theater decided to work with brothels as a way to raise money. The brothel was extremely successful however there were people in town who were not too happy about these shenanigans going on .
The Quakers didn’t approve of this sexual playground so when the theater troops were away they burned it to the ground .( no one was injured) however the theater troupes came back to discover a pile of ashes where their building once was . They rebuilt the theater and continued the brothel as well and the Quakers burnt the building down three more times after that !!! Another known brothel in the city was the China house. It was a family place during the day then a brothel at night. The quakers burnt that down too! It also got rebuilt . This was the 1700’s and the girls were making $40 a night !!!! Imagine most people were making 10 cents a day . This was a profitable business ! Essentially it cost a soldier several months pay for a night with the ladies. The business was so profitable that they decided to legalize prostitution during the war . The girls were made to pay taxes etc.
There was a lot of sexual activity going on in town which lead to alot of disease . At this time in history the doctors would use Mercury for all the sexual diseases . Mercury however caused people to loose their teeth and hair . To help with the spread of disease the girls had to shave off all of their hair in their lower regions . They were then referred to as Baldi girls . The term hooker came later.
With no body hair the girls were told they had to wear a merkin which is essentially a wig for your private parts . That part of the tour ended with a little history on the first condoms which were made out of animal intestines and the first vibrators. For the next part of the tour we moved on from the theater to Washington Park where approximately 4500 -7000 bodies are buried. Over 3000 bodies were unearthed and moved . With all these bodies it is no surprise that this park is the most haunted area in the city of Philadelphia . The park is mostly filled with soldiers and people that succumbed to yellow fever or disease . This is the part of the tour that introduced ghosts and vampire folklore.
Vampire tales originated from Bulgaria . People strongly believed in vampires in that region and the tales made it over to the US.
Abraham “Bram “ Stoker a famous Irish author wrote the 1897 gothic novel called Dracula. Vampires were originally considered soul suckers but he tweaked the story into blood suckers and made it into a more sexual thing which helped the stories gain a huge following .
In the 1800’s the most famous vampire story in Philly was about the Brown family . The young son had become a “ vampire “ and according to the tale you had to find the head vampire and kill them in order to restore everyone else back to normal. Mr. Brown was instructed to dig up his wife and cut her heart out to see if there was blood . They did and she had no blood in her heart . They then moved on to digging up his oldest daughter but found no blood in her heart . In a last attempt they dug up the younger daughter and had finally found blood in her heart . Which lead them to believe that they found the cure for her little brother . They then made the little brother drink the blood from the heart . He eventually died also . Obviously these people were not vampires they were suffering from tuberculosis or TB . The symptoms of TB made people be mistaken for being a vampire . The symptoms were slow heart beats, shallow breathing and a pale complexion so those characteristics became what we would eventually associate with a vampire . During this time period people that were believed to be vampires were being buried alive .
The “dead” that were being buried alive were being discovered by the “ghouls” or grave robbers because they would see evidence of scratches on the inside of coffins. So they started to put the bodies in the parlor of the house for 24 hours in case the deceased “woke”.
They came up with a idea to equip the coffins with a hole . They would attach a string around the persons wrist inside the coffin. The string lead to a bell above ground . If you came out of your sickness and were in fact buried alive you could ring the bell tied to your wrist and hopefully someone would dig you back up and set you free. This is where the terms Dead ringer and Saved by the Bell came from.
Moving onto the ghost part of the tour we are introduced to the “ ghouls “ or grave robbers who’s job it was to dig up the bodies in the park and then sell them to the medical students to practice on. Some people thought this was a huge disrespect to the people who died and a group of women would come into the park and try and protect the dead from the ghouls . The ghost story that Joe told was about a woman named Leah who entered the park alone one night to help protect the soldiers dead bodies and she was murdered by the ghouls . Leah haunts the park and you can see her from time to time wandering around in her full time period clothing . In recent times two Philadelphia police officers even verified seeing Leah’s ghost one morning while they were getting coffee.
We also moved on to look at different buildings . (I personally thought the one building looked the the apartment building in ghost busters and was looking for the gargoyles and Zuul).
One of the buildings had several windows . While Joe was talking away entertaining our group Wilma our photographer wandered over to the windows to take some pics . She was able to catch a glimpse of what appears to be a head peeking out the window . It’s is there in one pic and then gone in the next. I interrupted the whole group to announce what Wilma found on her camera ! It was such an exciting moment ! Jacky and I were definitely convinced the ghosts were watching us !!!
Great job Wilma !!!
The tour covered ghosts , vampires and a sexual history of the city. It was the perfect way to start off The Most Wonderful Time of Year because October is our month! I absolutely loved taking my love of horror and all that is related to it and actually connecting it to real history . All of our movies , books, art and film come from our history. The ideas are sparked from the tales from the beginning of time .
If you have a chance to go to a local ghost tour in your town I highly recommend it. I would like to say thank you to Jacky Bam Bam of WMMR. If you aren’t familiar with Jacky here is a little background . I’ve known Jacky for 20 years . He is the person that nicknamed me Apple Pie after meeting me for the first time. Jacky was a Philadelphia DJ and I walked into the club and there was Jacky in the DJ booth. He had a Barbie doll dressed in gothic attire attached to his microphone, black velvet fabric draped across the table and candles lit everywhere. He looked like he just hoped out of Alice Cooper video dressed as Nikki Sixx from Motley Crue. He leaned over to me and said, ”omg you look like the girl next door like grandmoms homemade apple pie !”… and that’s it folks everyone called me Apple pie from that day on .
Jacky is also a musician and played drums in a band for a long time. He loves The Rolling Stones and has many tattoos as tribute. A true rock n roller and fan he has interviewed hundreds of rock stars . You can find his interviews on WMMR. He has been working at the radio station for several years and you can catch his show nightly . He is affectionately know as Drac-y-Bam Bam as a full time vampire catering to the listeners who work the third shift.
He loves Halloween and all the spooktacular greatness that goes with it . He is also a Mummer and marches in the New Years Day parade every year . Jacky also gives back to charity every chance he gets and is also a huge animal lover. He is engaged to the beautiful and talented Brittany Rotondo who is also a bad ass rock n roll girl you can check her out on Facebook and Instagram as well.
Thank you for taking this little journey with me and my friends .
Photography provided by Wilma Abbott you can book her through Facebook or Instagram.
You can find Joe at JOE@GRIMPHILLY.COM and
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You can find Jacky on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter .
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Unit next time hugs and hisses