Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Return of the Lizard Man

One year ago today, Bishopville, South Carolina residents Bob and Dixie Rawson awoke to find their minivan had been trashed in the night and several of their cats were missing. The damage to the vehicle was mainly around the base, with long gashes in the front grill and wheel wells. The incident became all the more intriguing when the corpses of a cow and coyote were located nearby. Area residents quickly passed along a possible theory as to the perpetrator - The Lizard Man (see Scape Ore Swamp). Described as standing eight-feet tall with reptilian skin, red eyes, and long black claws extending from its three fingers and toes, the unknown cryptid caused a stir in 1988 after several sightings that caught worldwide interest.

One particular incident from that time closely mirrored the attack on the Rawson's minivan. On July 14, 1988, at the height of the Lizard Man phenomena, a car parked along a country road was heavily vandalized in the middle of the night, yet no one heard the commotion. In addition to similar long scratch marks along the body, the hood ornament had been crushed and the entire electrical system had been pulled out from underneath the car. The vehicular carnage only helped fuel talk of the so-called Bishopville Lizard Man and media from around the world came to stake out the area and tried to get photos or video of the alleged creature.

In the fast-paced snippet world of modern day news, the 2008 incident paled in comparison to the 1988 media stakeout of the Lizard Man. News around the world showed clips of the damage done to the vehicle, but quickly lost interest and never followed up the story. However, this time, there were traces of blood left behind in the shredded metal of the minivan and modern science tackled the myth of the Lizard Man. The blood was sent for DNA testing and the culprit was identified as a domestic dog - much to the disbelief of some who had seem the damage.

Though something of a footnote now, the story also had another unique twist. When reports of the damage done to the vehicle were broadcast around the world, they attracted the attention of Bigfoot researcher Tom Biscardi, who quickly came to the area and sought out the creature. He reportedly found little and vowed to return, but got distracted later that year when he stood up in a press conference and announced that two men from Georgia had the carcass of a Bigfoot-like creature stored in their freezer. The carcass turned out to be nothing more than a Halloween costume oddly stuffed with the innards of animals.

While the hopes of finally having undeniable evidence of the existence of Bigfoot dashed, some still hold out hope that evidence of the elusive Lizard Man of South Carolina will someday come to light. Just yesterday, Tom G. was telling me about a show he watched of a 50 lb. Salamander that was captured near Hiroshima, Japan in the 1990s that continues to grow in captivity. While not exactly an eight-foot bipedal reptile, it does make you wonder.

Read more about the Lizard Man in Bishopville, South Carolina.

-Casey H.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Haunting of Andersonville

On today's date in 1864, the Confederate Army founded Camp Sumter in Andersonville, Georgia. Camp Sumter also included a prison for Union prisoners of war. Like many war prisons of the time, there were very poor living conditions for the prisoners - starvation and disease were rampant. The only drinking water came from a stream that ran through the stockades. This water quickly became polluted as it was also used for bathing and disposal of human waste of thousands of prisoners. Close to 13,000 captured Union soldiers died in the Andersonville prison.

Since 1999, the site of the former prison serves as home to the National Prisoner of War Museum. It educates visitors about what prisoners of war have experienced in each war America has been involved in. The location has also been the scene of apparent hauntings. Witnesses have come out of the Andersonville National Historic Site with stories of disembodied voices moaning and talking, apparitions of soldiers and other supernatural experiences.

Pay a visit to the Andersonville National Historic Site to learn more.

-Tom G

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Today is the third anniversary of the death of actor Darren McGavin. Many know him from his role as Ralphie's dad in the holiday classic A Christmas Story. He appeared in a number of horror shows and movies as well, including his role as Carl Kolchak in the films The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler as well as the TV series Kolchack: The Night Stalker. It is for this latter role that I personally remember Darren McGavin the most fondly.

While some young boys had heroes like Superman or Luke Skywalker, my first hero was a wise-cracking, clumsy reporter with poor fashion sense and a knack for finding horrific things. I guess I've followed in his footsteps in a few ways. As far as fictional role models go, Kolchak isn't a bad one. He never gave up despite the odds always being against him. He always sought to expose the truth where he could and always stepped up to save the day with not much more than his wits and ability to research. He was far from perfect, but he had set ethics he didn't waver from.

Even though he died in 2006, McGavin's final film, Still Waters Burn, wasn't released until last year. It was his first film role since appearing on The X Files back in 1999. I just recently found out about the film and even though it isn't a horror film, I'm enough of a McGavin fan that I'll definitely be checking it out. Today, however I think I'll remember him by watching a few episodes of Kolchak: The Night Stalker (I've actually already started) and perhaps follow it by watching the 1988 film Dead Heat (which also features another of my favorite actors, Vincent Price).

Pay your respects at Darren McGavin's grave.

-Tom G

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Haunted Tombstones of Mount Holly Cemetery

Tucked away in the heart of Little Rock, Arkansas is a 20-acre cemetery that has often been called the "Westminster Abbey of Arkansas." The cemetery was established on this day in 1843 and is now the home to countless historical individuals that played a major role either on the state or the federal level - giving it that distinguished nickname. Mount Hope Cemetery holds no less than six U.S. Senators, 10 Governors, four Confederate Generals, 14 State Supreme Court Justices, 21 Mayors of Little Rock, and the Arkansas Boy Martyr of the Confederacy - David Owen Dodd.

The cemetery is gaining a reputation for an entirely different reason as well. Visitors to the grounds have reported a wide range of strange activity. If you believe the stories, various tombstones have mysteriously shown up on the lawns of neighboring houses in the middle of the night. Who or what moved them is a matter of speculation. Of course, if you couple it with the reports of those very statues and tombs startling a guest to the grounds by slightly moving, one has to wonder. Other reports include apparitions in period clothing and the echoing calls of a flute playing when no one else is around. Tricks of the mind or is something far stranger going on in Mount Holly Cemetery?

Look into the stories of Mount Holly Cemetery.

-Casey H.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Accident at the Original Camp Crystal Lake

With the remake of Friday the 13th raking in the money at the box office over the last two weekends, it seems appropriate that we take a trip to the original camp that doubled as Camp Crystal Lake - Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco in New Jersey. The camp is privately owned by NNJC Boy Scouts of America and is completely off-limits to Friday the 13th fans - in fact, it has often been reported that the managers are less than thrilled about their camp's appearance in the 1980 film directed by Sean Cunningham. Friday fans are entirely discouraged from trying to set foot on the property.

However, before it became the infamous hunting grounds of the Vorhees family, Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco witnessed a real-life tragedy in the midst of World War II. On this date in 1944, a B-17 Flying Fortress got lost in a heavy fog and crashed into the nearby Kittatinny Ridge. The 11 Army officers and one Royal Air Force navigator were killed instantly. With many of their families and friends serving in the military overseas, the scouts of Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco came to the plane's tail-gunner section one month after the crash and lit a council fire to memorialize the lost airmen.

Several years later, horror filmmakers would come calling and launch Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco to a whole new level of fame as Camp Crystal Lake in Friday the 13th. Two decades after that appearance, it became Camp Spirit Lake with tales of murder, ghosts, and satanic rituals for an episode of the MTV reality series, Fear. Today it is known worldwide for the fictional carnage depicted in the two works, but few know about the very real-life tragedy that descended on the camp years before.

Pay a visit to Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco.

-Casey H.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Legend of Boggy Creek Lives On

Last Sunday, I posted an entry on the White River Monster that is said to lurk in the waters of northwest Arkansas. For today, let's move to the southwest corner of the state to explore an entirely different creature said to lurk in the woods near Boggy Creek. On this week's episode of the History series, MonsterQuest, they explored the legends of the so-called Boggy Creek Monster (also known as the Fouke Monster) and tried to track down evidence of its existence. They were unsuccessful, but they were not the first nor will they be the last to try.

In the world of horror films, the Boggy Creek Monster was immortalized in the 1972-docudrama, The Legend of Boggy Creek, by filmmaker Charles B. Pierce. The film was a dramatization of events (with a few additions for dramatic effect) that reportedly played out only a year before around the small town of Fouke, Arkansas. The film was released to drive-in theaters around the nation and became something of a cult-classic - its stark semi-documentary style eliciting nightmares from unsuspecting moviegoers. It would go on to spawn a few sequels and Pierce would again use the docudrama approach for another film based around different local events (we'll be visiting that one next month).

If MonsterQuest is correct, the Boggy Creek Monster is more often sighted far to the north these days, but that is not to say that it hasn't left an impression on the town of Fouke. The well known Boggy Creek Monster life-sized stand (see photo above) is located in the center of town and remains a popular tourist stop for those that want to take photos with their face giving the beast an identity. It is located directly next to Peavy's Monster Mart, which offers a sampling of t-shirts, magnets, and other assorted goods associated with their local cryptid (see Peavy's Monster Mart. Just up the road is Smokey's Two-Books Bookstore and Museum, which is run by acclaimed Smokey Crabtree, who appeared in the film and has gone on to write books about his life in the area, the Fouke Monster, and the real-life horror story that was the making of The Legend of Boggy Creek (see Smokey's Two-Books Bookstore and Museum). The creature reportedly may have moved on, but its legend is still firmly implanted in Fouke and nearby Boggy Creek.

See what lurks in Boggy Creek.

-Casey H.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Donner Party Legacy

On this date in 1922, 78-year-old Eliza Poor Houghton succumbed to heart disease. Although she led a distinguished life as a published author and wife of California Congressman, Sherman Otis Houghton, she is probably best remembered for the tragic winter she lived through, though she was only three years old at the time.

She was born Eliza Poor Donner to George and Tamzene Donner in March of 1843. At the time, thousands of families were immigrating to the west, spurned on by hard financial times and outbreaks of cholera and malaria. The Donner family was no exception and on April 14, 1846, the families of Donner and his two brothers left Springfield, Illinois. As the group moved west, they joined up with other trains, their numbers grew, and Eliza's father was elected captain of what is known today as the Donner Party. By the time they hit the Sierra Nevada in October, the weather blocked their path and they were forced to camp with little food. By the time it was all over, only 48 of the original 87 pioneers were left and many of them had resulted to cannibalism in order to survive.

Eliza, her sister, and some cousins were a few of the survivors, but her parents were not so lucky. Eliza would eventually become known as one the most famous of all of the survivors through her efforts to defend her family name. After her death, she was buried in the historic Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles, California in her husband's plot, which is marked only by his name. However, her private accounts (aided greatly by the memories of her sister and surviving cousins) of that fatal winter helped provide the foundation for future Donner Party studies.

Pay a visit to Eliza Poor Houghton (Donner)'s grave at Angelus-Rosedale.

-Casey H.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Fifty years ago today William Castle's B-movie classic House on Haunted Hill made its premiere. As with other Castle films, House on Haunted Hill featured one of Castle's wacky, ingenious showman gimmicks. In this instance the gimmick was called "Emergo" and consisted of an inflatable skeleton being hauled over the audience's heads by a pulley system at the film's climax.

House on Haunted Hill tells the story of a ghastly party thrown by millionaire Frederick Loren (played by Vincent Price!) and his wife Annabelle (Carol Ohmart) at a house that is supposed to be extremely haunted. They offer their guests $10,000 a piece if each of them can last through a night in the creepy mansion. Ultimately the ghosts take a back seat as the real monsters in the tale are clearly Frederick and Annabelle. The hatred that the husband and wife have for each other is the real danger as the two draw their guests into the dysfunctional couple's twisted and deadly games. It is the discomfort of attending a party where your hosts aren't getting along taken to an extreme degree.

The low-budget horror film proved to be a financial success. The box office returns it was getting came to the attention of Alfred Hitchcock. It was apparently then that he decided to adapt Robert Bloch's novel Psycho for the big screen.

The location used for the exterior of the House on Haunted Hill was actually designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Known as the Ennis House, it has appeared in other films and TV shows, including two cult horror TV shows. In one of those shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it served as home to a trio of vampires very popular with fans of the series.

(Note from Tom: House on Haunted Hill is the very first horror film I can recall watching. When I was four-years-old I caught it as a Saturday afternoon creature feature on TV and fell in love with the movie. Along with episodes of Scooby Doo and Kolchak: The Night Stalker, it helped form my early fascination with all things horror. My daughter and I will definitely be popping some popcorn and sitting down to watch House on Haunted Hill at some point today to celebrate its milestone birthday.)

Do you dare enter the House on Haunted Hill?

Another production made its debut on this day in 1991 when the ABC network debuted their television remake of the 1962 classic horror film, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?. The new version of the storyline starred real-life sisters, Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave, in the roles of Blanche and Baby Jane Hudson. While some critics hailed the pairing of actual siblings as bringing a new subtext to the story, others argued that it fell far short of the contemptuous portrayal of the original's fiery starlets, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford - whose real-life bitter rivalry is stuff of legends. The remake was shot in the same general area as the first film, but opted to use a new house to double as the residence of the Hudson sisters - even though the original house is only blocks away.

Pay a visit to the 1991 version of the Hudson House from What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

-Tom & Casey

Monday, February 16, 2009

Highball's Ghost and the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre

This past Saturday marked 80 years since the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre. Seven men were murdered in the garage of the SMC Cartage Company that day and the crime officially remains unsolved to this day. The only witness to the actual crime to survive was a German Shepherd dog named "Highball." The pet of one of the victims, the dog was discovered by police, cowering beneath a truck and howling in fear. One of the supernatural tales connected with the crime holds that on some nights passerby can still hear the howls of the long dead canine in the spot where the garage once stood.

Click here to learn more.

-Tom G

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A "Monster" Protected by the Government

In Northeast Arkansas, portions of the White River near Jacksonport and Newport have been designated as a refuge for something that even science has yet to identify. Following a flurry of sightings of the creature known as "Whitey" (short for the more menacing title of "The White River Monster"), interested onlookers flocked to the White River and some had less than noble intentions. Fearing that someone would get hurt, or local wildlife might be mistaken for the creature, the Arkansas State Legislature designated the area as the "White River Monster Refuge" in February of 1973. With the designation came the protection. The new law states that it is, "unlawful to kill, molest, trample or harm the White River Monster while in its native refuge."

The state protection of an animal that might or might not exist is not as uncommon as one might think. The state of Vermont has placed "Champ" of Lake Champlain on the Endangered Species List. Skamania County of Washington passed an ordinance to protect any "Bigfoot" creatures within the county lines, which was further revised to declare the entire county as a "Sasquatch Refuge." In 2005, Swedish officials around Lake Storsjön had to lift their protection of their resident lake monster, the famed "Storsjöodjuret," after it was found out that the current law could not enforce the designated protection, as there was no proof of the animal's existence.

The sightings of Whitey reportedly date back to the 1800s, with flurries of reports coming in during the late-1930s and again in the 1970s. Reports have waned since, but some believe it is only a matter of time before it is seen again as it appears to follow a pattern where it emerges every 30 to 40 years. If so, the White River Monster could be reemerging any day now.

Read more on the White River Monster of Arkansas.

-Casey H.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Survey: Paranormal Locations

For 2007, the most popular locations listed at Dark Destinations were paranormal ones. Waverly Hills Sanatorium (see Waverly Hills Sanatorium) seemed to have an unrelenting grip on the number spot on our site. However, 2008 saw a rise in popularity for both movie locations and infamous crime sites and Waverly Hills has long been knocked into the number two spot on our site. We've noticed that movies and TV shows greatly influence which articles people read at Dark Destinations. The release of the films Twilight and An American Crime have definitely been two of the major things driving interest in some of the new top locations. We also see the occasional surge in interest if a particular destination is featured on one of the many paranormal shows on television. Though, it seems that the paranormal shows aren't having the same impact as they did two years ago. It has left me with some questions and I'm hoping some of you will share your thoughts with me.

Do you feel that the increasing amount of paranormal shows are glutting the market and causing interest in the paranormal to wane with the general public?

How do you feel about how notoriety has transformed some of these paranormal spots into widely visited tourist stops such as Waverly Hills Sanatorium and The Queen Mary (see R.M.S. Queen Mary)?

What paranormal locations do you find the most intriguing?

What elements influence your interest the most when it comes to a location? The reported paranormal activity? The history of the location? The possibility of the haunting entity being a historical figure or celebrity? Something else entirely?

What paranormal location would you really love to investigate (or just visit) but you haven't had opportunity yet? Why did you choose this location?

I look forward to reading your responses.

-Tom G

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Willard Library is a Real Scary Story

On this date in 2001, the Fox Family channel series Real Scary Stories probed into the history and legends of the infamous Grey Lady of the Willard Library in Evansville, Indiana. The show sent two teens in to investigate and record their experiences while inside. The "Grey Lady" had to share time in the half-hour show though, as a different group of teens explored the Depreciation Lands Museum in Allison Park, Pennsylvania. Real Scary Stories only lasted one season but was something of a companion piece to their better-known show, Scariest Places on Earth. Today, repeats of Real Scary Stories still show up on the Sci-Fi Channel from time to time, but under the name Scary... But True.

As for the Willard Library, the stories of a "Grey Lady" haunting the 1885 building date back to 1937 when a reportedly surprised janitor encountered her. Countless sightings have followed and her notoriety grew. In 1999, the alleged spirit soon was the subject of a worldwide ghost hunt when special "ghost cams" were set up for computer users to try and spot the entity over the Internet. The "ghost cams" remain active to this day. The legends do too, as evidenced by the fact that Real Scary Stories is hardly the only show to probe the mysteries of the Willard Library. It has also been investigated by the likes of Ghost Hunters and Proof Positive.

Pay a visit to the Grey Lady of the Willard Library.

-Casey H.

Monday, February 9, 2009

New Feature Added to Dark Destinations!

After Casey blogged a short while back about how Google Street View had mapped out the roadways in Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery (see Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery), it got our gears turning. In a very short time Casey came up with a way to incorporate Street View into the maps attached to the articles in our database. Now when you read one of our articles you might be able to pay a virtual reality visit to the location you are reading about without having to copy and paste the address over to Google Maps!

While the Street View team doesn't have every road mapped out as of yet, there are plenty of Dark Destinations that can be viewed in this manner. Here are some awesome examples (click on the Street View option inside the marker balloons within the maps. You may also have to reposition your camera view to see the specific landmark):

The Amityville Horror House (Click here to view): The actual house in which the Defeo family was murdered and the Lutz family is said to have had supernatural experiences in. Despite remodeling, the house is still very recognizable in Street View.

Monroeville Mall (Click here to view): Yesterday, I was delighted to find that I could use Street View to virtually drive around the parking lot of the mall used in the 1978 George Romero film Dawn of the Dead (Speaking of which, happy belated birthday to Mr. Romero, who turned 69 last month). Just watch out for zombies in the crosswalks if you happen to visit (outside the crosswalks they are fair game).

Eastern State Penitentiary (Click here to view): The former prison that once held Al Capone and is said to be haunted.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984): The Thompson House (Click here to view): The house used as the fictional home of Nancy Thompson and her mother in A Nightmare on Elm Street. The street view team apparently took their photos in 2007, while the house was being renovated. You can see the scaffolds that surrounded the house at that time in Street View mode. The renovations have been completed since.

The Lincoln Tunnel (Click here to view): It is possible to use Street View to travel through the same tunnel that Larry Underwood traverses in pitch darkness in Stephen King's The Stand.

Halloween (1978): The Myer's House (Click here to view): The house used as the childhood home of Michael Myers in John Carpenter's film Halloween can be seen at a slight distance in Street View.

Interstate 405, Los Angeles, CA (Click here to view): It is possible to recreate on your computer the infamous O.J. Simpson police car chase down Interstate 405. As you click through, you'll possibly be moving at the same slow pace the white Ford Bronco took on its way to the Juice's former mansion. The mansion has been torn down since and won't be waiting at the end for your online journey.

These are many other places that can be viewed in this manner as well. We're currently in the process of adjusting markers on the article maps to provide visitors with the best view of locations possible when they first enter Street View mode. Not all locations have the Street View capability, but Google is continuously adding new photos. Keep checking back to see what new thing has been added.

-Tom G

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Death of a Playboy Playmate

Two years ago today, celebrity and former Playboy Playmate of the Year Anna Nicole Smith passed away from an apparent drug overdose. Her death at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Florida led to a paternity case over her remaining child every bit as outrageous as the life she led. Since the case was settled, things have largely quieted down in the media about Smith. The casino has also taken drastic steps to disassociate itself with the incident, going so far as to gut and remodel her room and change all of the room numbers on the sixth floor. In a similar move, the Palace Station Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada has refused has to rent room 1203 to those who specifically request it; the room where O.J. Simpson and his armed cohorts took sports memorabilia by force in 2007 (See our article on the Palace Station Casino).

However, last year it was reported that a guest at the casino had seen an apparition of Anna Nicole wandering about the lobby during a New Years party. Since that time, nobody else has come forward with tales of post-mortem Anna Nicole Smith sightings. Even if visitors to the casino don't see the Playmate's ghost, there is plenty to do at the casino which also features the world's only deep-water alligator wrestling show!

Oddly, the report of Anna Nicole's ghost walking about the casino lobby is not the only tale linking the former model to the supernatural. Years prior to her death, Anna Nicole claimed to have experienced a haunting in which she was raped repeatedly by an invisible spirit.

Pay a visit to the Seminole Hard Rock Casino -- Hollywood, Florida to find out the details.

-Tom G

You can explore this and many more Dark Destinations at:

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Death of Idaho's Lady Bluebeard

On this date in 1958, a woman in Salt Lake City, Utah suffered a heart attack and died. Her body was brought back to her home state of Idaho and buried in the Sunset Memorial Park in Twin Falls under the name of "Anna E. Shaw." On the surface, this was a fairly normal story. However, this woman was far from ordinary.

She was better known as Lyda Southard, who was convicted of murdering her husband Edward Meyer and sentenced to 20 years in the Idaho State Penitentiary in Boise (see Old Idaho Penitentiary). Of course, that was the murder she was convicted of. The authorities were convinced that she was responsible for five more, including the death of her daughter and a brother-in-law. Like Meyer, the other three bodies were those of Lyda's three husbands. The motive was plain and simple - insurance money. The method - Boiling flypaper and extracting the arsenic, which she then fed to them in their meals (known colorfully today as Lyda Southard's Famous Apple Pie).

Lyda Southard married a total of seven times. What happened to the other husbands? Well, none of them attended her funeral.

Read more about Lyda and Sunset Memorial Park on Dark Destinations.

-Casey H.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Strange Goings-On at Crater Lake

On February 4, 1997, a pilot flying a small plane en route from Bend to Medford observed three strange lights flying over Crater Lake in Oregon. According to an account published in Southern Oregon's Mail Tribune, the pilot reported also seeing military jets pursuing the strange objects. That evening, sonic booms were reported up-and-down the Oregon coastline. Several years earlier in 1978, several witnesses had reported seeing a very large and very bright light fly over the area.

The deep blue waters of Crater Lake have always been the source of mystery and fascination. There are countless Native American legends about the area, as well as its formation following its explosion from its former days as Mount Mazama. It even features somewhat cryptic names for several of its natural formations. Points of interest include the Devil's Backbone, the Phantom Ship, Skell Head, and the ever-popular Wizard Island (see photo above) - where phantom campfires spark up when unoccupied that mysteriously disappear by the time the park rangers arrive to investigate. Aside from UFOs and ghosts, there are stories of murder, suicide, a lake monster (or dragon), and even some sightings of a creature commonly known as Bigfoot. Naturally, we have recorded them all on Dark Destinations.

Plunge into the mysteries of Crater Lake.

-Casey H.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Fifty Years Since the Day the Music Died

Tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of the Day the Music Died. Around 1:00 am in the morning on February 3, 1959 a small plane crashed into a cornfield in Clear Lake, Iowa. Besides the pilot, Roger Peterson, there were three passengers on board the plane; the musicians Buddy Holly, Richie Valenz and J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson. Everyone on the plane died in the crash. The incident, which eventually became known as the Day the Music died, seemed to signal an end to the first chapter in Rock and Roll music and perhaps the perceived innocence of the 1950s.

In observance of this passing of Holly, Valenz, Richardson and an era, the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake (see our article on the Surf Ballroom) has been hosting an event since January 28 that lasts until today. The event, called the 50th Anniversary of the Winter Dance Party, also commemorates the final performances of the musicians as part of the Winter Dance Party tour. The celebration has included a number of symposiums, concerts and other performances and culminates today with a large concert including performers such as Los Lobos, Graham Nash and the Big Bopper's son.

Besides the Surf Ballroom's activities, fans are also paying visits to the memorial erected at the site of the plane crash itself. The memorial, which was erected in 1988, was created from stainless steel. A twin of the memorial stands in front of the Riverside Ballroom in Green Bay, Wisconsin (see our article on the Riverside Ballroom). Riverside was the second to last place the musicians performed. There doesn't appear to be any commemorative events being held at the Riverside Ballroom this year.

Pay a visit to where the music died.

-Tom G

Sunday, February 1, 2009

"But where, O where is her head?"

Today marks the 112th anniversary of the discovery of the body of Pearl Bryan. The murder victim's headless corpse was discovered in a farmer's field by one of the farm's hired hands on February 1, 1896 (see our article on the murder of Pearl Bryan). It was discovered that the dead woman was five months pregnant and that her stomach contents included a large deal of cocaine (a legal substance at that time). Evidence led to the arrest of Bryan's former lover Scott Jackson and his friend Alonzo Walling.
It was determined that the two men had attempted to poison the pregnant woman by mixing cocaine into a drink given to her. When she didn't immediately die, they apparently transported her across state lines from Ohio to Kentucky where she was beheaded. The crossing of state lines at two different stages of the murder led to later complications over where the men's trial should be held. This in turn further sensationalized the crime, leading to a murder ballad being written about Pearl's murder, in which the singer laments, "But where, O where is her head?" Jackson and Walling were found guilty and were executed, still professing their innocence as they stood side by side on the scaffold (see our article on the Campbell County Courthouse).

Pearl Bryan's head was never found. Some are said to have seen the spirit of Pearl Bryan wandering about the graveyard in Indiana in which most of her remains were buried. It is said that the apparition sometimes appears with her head and at other times without. If the spirit of Pearl Bryan is lingering in the cemetery, what is it seeking?

Pay a visit to the grave of Pearl Bryan.

-Tom G