Saturday, October 23, 2010

Pursuing the Lady in White: Part One

For this Halloween season I decided to visit destinations tied with the production of the movie Lady in White (1988) and the legend which inspired the movie. Despite having lived in the Rochester, New York area for most of my current life and having been a Lady in White fan since the late 1980s, I had never gone to the towns that were used in the making of the movie despite them being only an hour's drive away. It wasn't until a couple of years ago that I finally visited Durand-Eastman Park, right here in my very own city, where the legend of the White Lady stems from. This October, I decided it was about time I finally took an in-depth look at these local dark destinations.

I decided to begin with the source of the legend, Durand-Eastman Park. The park was created in the early 20th Century on land donated by Kodak founder George Eastman and Doctor Henry Durand. The park borders Lake Ontario and contains a pair of smaller lakes. The spot where the three lakes come the closest to each other is generally the focal point for the legend of the White Lady ghost of Rochester. A picnic area known as the 3-Lakes Pavilion is claimed to be site of the former home of Eelissa, the Lady in White. The pavilion is a hill with a cobblestone wall built into the side that faces Lake Ontario.

The legend states that a vengeful feminine wraith cloaked entirely in white stalks the park in the vicinity, searching for male victims. The reasons for White Lady's wrath and where exactly in the park she manifests vary from story to story. Often, the legends have the ghost motivated by a tragedy involving her daughter and a pre-existing distrust/dislike for men on the part of Eelissa. In this semi-sympathetic version of the story, the ghost is searching for her long-lost daughter and may attack any mortal men who have the misfortune to interrupt her search.

In some tales the White Lady is a woman who was driven to madness and murder by the actions of an unfaithful husband. Still blinded by her jealous rage, she is said to stalk the roads of the park, mistaking unfortunate young lovers in cars for her husband and his mistress whom she seeks to slay again and again, doomed to re-enact her crime with fresh victims over the centuries.

My recent visit to the park was on an over-cast and gloomy afternoon, the next best thing to visiting the park at night. The stretch of beach along Lake Ontario was my first stop. The first stories I had heard of the White Lady had her prowling this rocky beach with a pair of spectral dogs that she would sic on any man unfortunate enough to choose the wrong evening for a nighttime stroll.

I then moved on to the 3-Lakes Pavilion and the two smaller lakes across the street from Lake Ontario. The cobblestone wall of what some legends refer to as the “White Lady's Castle” has long cracks running through a few spots, but has held up otherwise well over the nearly 100-years since it was built. The view from the pavilion was wonderful, though there was a disquieting silence in the area. The only sign of wildlife I spotted were some swans quietly skimming through the water of Durand Lake when I wandered deeper into the park and away from the pavilion. Some legends claim that the White Lady forms from the mists of that very lake.

Overall, it was a nice fall hike with a with a slightly spooky ambiance. It made me want to return again during evening hours and take a stroll... hopefully not on a night when Eelissa is on the hunt.

My next journey was to Lyons, New York and a number of locations used in the filming of Frank LaLoggia's nostalgic supernatural mystery Lady in White. I will write about this in a future second installment.

In the meantime, you can click here to read our full article on Durand-Eastman Park for further details about the legend and photos I took during my last visit.

-Tom G

Monday, October 11, 2010

Fright Rags: We Belong Alive

It is little off from our usual topics, but I wanted to call attention to the wonderful work being done by the Fright Rags horror T-shirt company. They recently released this limited edition breast cancer awareness T-shirt featuring the Bride of Frankenstein (and the Frankenstein Monster's hands) in a pose very similar to one Janet Jackson did back in 1993 for the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine. The shirt's name "We Belong Alive" makes an ironic play off of the Bride's famous line "We belong dead." The first printing of the shirt sold out in a just a few hours. Fright Rags is taking pre-orders for one more printing and then this shirt design will be retired. If you would like a shirt, there are only a few days left to order, so move quick!

The We Belong Alive shirt can be ordered through the following link:

The proceeds from the shirt sale goes to help a young mother without medical insurance who is currently battling advanced breast cancer. So far Fright Rags has raised close to $4,000 toward this cause. You can learn more at the link posted above. Please spread the word along.

-Tom G

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Black Dog of Lake Erie

A week from tomorrow will be 119 years since the sinking of the Thomas Hume. The schooner was returning to its home port in Muskegon, Michigan when it vanished on May 21, 1891. Many rumors were caused by the ship's disappearance and the lack of any witnessed wreckage washing ashore following its disappearance. Some even theorized that the schooner's captain had stolen the vessel for himself, disguising it with a new paint job. However, the wreck of the Thomas Hume was discovered at the Southern end of Lake Michigan in 2005.

The Thomas Hume is one of a number of vessels at the bottom of the Great Lakes that are said to have fallen victim to the supernatural beast known as the Black Dog of Lake Erie. Legend has it that the Black Dog was the result of an incident that occurred in the Welland Canal. The story goes that a Newfoundland dog that served as a ship's mascot fell overboard while travelling through the canal. In some versions of the tale the sailors mocked the dog as it swam, desperately trying to catch up with its ship. The poor animal was crushed to death when one of the canal lock gates came down. It had the effect of trapping the ship inside the lock as the gate could not completely close. Once the sailors were able to free the large furry corpse from the gate mechanism, they were able to continue on their way. However, the story goes, they found themselves haunted by the vengeful spirit of the dead Newfie. They had begun a curse that would result in the sinking of many ships in the Great Lakes. It is said that on occasion a large black dog will appear on one side of a ship, run across the deck and leap from the other side. Soon after, the ship will run into trouble. When the Issac G. Jenkins sank in Lake Ontario on November of 1875, a farmer claimed to have witnessed a large black dog swim to shore and drag itself onto land, vanishing into the darkness.

Click here to learn more about the Black Dog, the legend of Jenny Greenteeth and the monster of Lake Erie.

-Tom G

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Odd Tales of the Lincoln Assassination

This Wednesday will be the 145th anniversary of the assassination of US President Abraham Lincoln. On April 14, 1865, Lincoln was shot in the head by actor John Wilkes Booth as the President and his wife sat in a balcony at Ford's Theatre, watching a production of Our American Cousin. Booth escaped, but was tracked by the US Army who caught up with him twelve days later. Despite orders to capture the assassin, a soldier named Boston Corbett shot Booth dead. Corbett, a former prisoner of war who had served time in the Confederacy's Andersonville Prison (see Andersonville National Historic Site) claimed that God himself gave the soldier the order to kill Booth.

The same night as the assassination of Lincoln, a fellow conspirator, Lewis Powell attempted to murder Secretary of State William Seward. Powell attempted to stab the man to death as he lay in bed, recuperating from injuries sustained from a carriage accident. Ironically, the very injuries that had him bedridden may have also saved Seward's life; a brace the secretary wore for a neck injury prevented the assassin from cutting Seward's throat and the Secretary's children managed to fend off the killer, driving him from their home.

As the conspirators were rounded up by the authorities, a case of mistaken identity led them to arrest Francis Tumblety, a con man who posed as a doctor to sell odd concoctions he claimed cured various ills. Francis, who was using one of his aliases, was incarcerated for three weeks until he was cleared of charges and set free. Years later, Tumblety would become one of many suspected to be the serial killer known as Jack the Ripper (see Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Rochester, NY).

It is said that President Lincoln had a prophetic dream about his own assassination days before it occurred. There are also numerous ghost tales associated with the assassination. Witnesses have claimed to have to seen the ghost of Lincoln at the White House, his grave in Illinois and the Peterson House (where Lincoln actually died of his injury sustained at the theatre). The ghosts of John Wilkes Booth, Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln are claimed by some to haunt Ford's Theatre (See Ford's Theatre National Historic Site). Even the route traveled by Abraham Lincoln's funeral train is said to be haunted by a spectral train.

Part of Abraham Lincoln's skull is on display at the National Museum of Health in Medicine in Washington, D.C. (see the National Museum of Health and Science). Part of his blood-stained collar can be seen at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania along with part of the thorax of John Wilkes Booth (see the Mutter Museum).

These are just some of the strange stories surrounding the first assassination of a United States President.

-Tom G

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Happy Birthday, Frozen Dead Guy!

Granpa Bredo's Frozen Coffin

Today would have been the 110th birthday of Bredo Morstoel. “Grandpa Bredo”, as he is now known to locals in Nederland, Colorado, passed away on November 6, 1989 at the age of 89, but his story didn't end there. Bredo's corpse became the subject of his grandson's home-brewed cryonic experiments. Though his relatives were deported Grandpa Bredo has remained behind, lying frozen inside of a shed in Colorado. His postmortem predicament led to support from locals and finally a festival that began eight years back. The ninth annual Frozen Dead Guy Days Festival will be held next weekend (March 5-7, 2010).

This joyously macabre winter festival features frozen turkey bowling, frozen salmon tossing, tours of Grandpa's shed, live music, ice carvings, a hearse parade, and much more. The festival also has a coffin race, though their coffin race is much different than the one held during the Emma Crawford Festival and Memorial Coffin Race in the relatively nearby Manitou Springs (see Emma Crawford Festival and Memorial Coffin Race). This year's festival is being covered by a crew from a Japanese reality show. Considering the crazy Japanese reality shows I've seen, that is a pretty strong sign that this festival is a wacky one to attend.

Wish Grandpa Bredo Happy Birthday and read more about his strange tale and the unusual festival that centers around his frozen remains.

-Tom G