Monday, March 30, 2009

The Mysteries of Miramont Castle

This Victorian-style castle dates back to 1896 in Manitou Springs, Colorado and was initially constructed by the Catholic priest, Father Jean Baptiste Francoln, to serve as his residence. He had recently donated his first home on the same property to the Religious Order of the Sisters of Mercy to serve as a sanitarium for non-acute cases of tuberculosis. By 1900, Father Francoln had moved on and a fire at the nearby sanitarium necessitated moving the patients to Miramont Castle, which was renamed Montcalme. It served in this capacity for over 20 years before becoming a retreat for the Sisters and later an apartment complex.

Today, it is known once again as Miramont Castle and serves as a historical symbol and museum in Manitou Springs. It also plays a prominent role in the city's annual festival named after one of their better known residents when it hosts a mock "wake" for Emma Crawford (see Emma Crawford Festival and Memorial Coffin Race). According to the tales, it is also home to a plethora of spirits. Apparitions of men, women (including one account of a ghost with no head and one that appears in a mirror), and even the spirit of a little girl said to be clutching a doll in the castle's Christmas Room have been sighted by staff and visitors alike.

Read more on the history and accounts of Miramont Castle.

-Casey H.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Ghost Children of the Jantzen Beach Carousel

Today, Hayden Island just north of Portland, Oregon, is home to the shopping mall, Jantzen Beach SuperCenter. However, from the late 1920s to 1970 it was home to the Jantzen Beach Amusement Park; a sprawling 123-acre amusement park that was called "Coney Island of the West." Though initially a popular tourist stop, that popularity began to fade over the decades with the onset of movies and television. In addition, a flood that destroyed a nearby town, construction on an interstate bridge that connected Oregon with Washington right next to the park, the inclement weather of the Pacific Northwest, a fatality on one of its roller coasters, and a major fire all played a role in the park's demise. In fact, it was on this date in 1960 when that fire wiped out a couple of buildings on the West Promenade of the park.

Ironically, as its attendance decreased, the property values soared due to its convenient location between the cities of Portland and Vancouver, Washington. The end came on Labor Day 1970 when the park officially closed its door for good and the crews began the task of disassembling the park. Two years later, the area reopened as the Jantzen Beach SuperCenter and the sole reminder of the former amusement park was a 1921 C.W. Parker Carousel (see photo above) that had been saved and still operated inside the mall.

The mall remains today, as does the carousel that has become something of an iconic image for the residents of Portland. While it does have some other interesting stories to tell, perhaps none are as intriguing or creepy as the sightings of two small children dressed in circa 1920s clothing playing in the center of the machine. Oddly, most of the sightings are reported by children that ride the machine and have even been said to speak to the spirits, although there have been a few sightings from adults as well.

Read more on the reportedly haunted carousel of the Jantzen Beach SuperCenter.

-Casey H.

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Dark Traveler is Born

Just a quick note to let you all know that I just heard from Tom and he and his wife, Kristy, just welcomed a new addition to their family in the form of a healthy baby boy.  Before you know, Elijah will be joining his father and older sister on Zombie Walks in a town near you.

Congrats Tom and Kristy!
-Casey H.

The Black Mailbox on the Extraterrestrial Highway

Today is a milestone of sorts for the Extraterrestrial Highway near the infamous Area 51 in Nevada. On March 27, 1996, a white, locking, bulletproof box replaced a local rancher's mailbox that was formerly black and unmarked, leading UFO buffs to quite appropriately dub it the "Black Mailbox." The replacement was necessitated after overeager UFO watchers had been found to be sorting through the rancher's mail (reportedly confusing it as the actual mailbox of nearby Area 51) and/or playing target practice with the box, filling both it and his mail full of bullet holes.

The rancher has the unfortunate distinction of having his mail delivered on a road that intersects with the infamous Groom Lake Road that leads to Area 51. The area around the box has been turned into a stopping point for those interested in keeping an eye on skies over the area for strange objects and has quickly grown the reputation as being the best spot for sightings. It has been reported that it is not unusual to find folks camping out near the mailbox for this sole purpose.

The rancher apparently has taken it all in stride. Armed with the knowledge that his mailbox had become a landmark on the famous Extraterrestrial Highway whether he liked it or not, he decided to auction off the former "black mailbox" to UFO enthusiasts to help curb the costs of its replacement. He reportedly netted $1,000 for it. Of course, the now-white box, which still bears the name of its former incarnation, needs a fresh paint job now and then due to the graffiti that is often left behind by visitors - presumably of the human being variety.

Read about other landmarks on the Extraterrestrial Highway.

-Casey H.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Haunting in Connecticut House

With the feature film adaptation set for release tomorrow, and also personally being a fan of the 2002 Discovery Channel docudrama adaptation of the same story, Tom and I have been working diligently to look into the past of the actual "Haunting in Connecticut" in Southington, Connecticut. As many know, the house was formerly used as a funeral home and a family's experiences there in the years after are today known as the "Southington Funeral Home Case" in the world of the paranormal.

The article actually represents one of the first times that Tom and I tag-teamed on a new article and both took turns looking into the stories and adding to the account. As is typical with articles we write, we found that the alleged reports of a haunting were only part of the story and that the rest could be as equally (if not more so) fascinating. So we did our best to compile the history, the family's encounters, the alleged exorcism, the press and the controversies, the skeptics, the many media adaptations, and the current status of the home and members of the family - Far too much to summarize here. Somehow, we even managed to sort-of work in politicians as bookends to the entire piece. The article went live last Friday and we have been completely overwhelmed by the response, as it easily has been one of our most popular new articles ever. So before you head out to see the film tomorrow, find out what we were able to dig up about the history and reported details of the case.

Read the history of the Haunting in Connecticut House.

-Casey H.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Legacy of Peter Lorre

45 years ago on this date, actor Peter Lorre died of a stroke in his apartment in West Hollywood, California. Lorre was often typecast into the role of the villain, a role that he appeared to be built for with his distinctively creepy, yet often soft, voice and bulging eyes, which he described as "two soft-boiled eggs." Lorre catapulted on to the scene in 1931 in the role of a child killer with a knack for whistling "The Hall of the Mountain King" from the Peer Gynt Suite in the classic Fritz Lang thriller, M. In 1934, he was cast as a criminal ringleader by Alfred Hitchcock in The Man Who Knew Too Much and delivered his lines phonetically, not yet able to speak the English language.

He made his Hollywood debut in the 1935 horror film, Mad Love and his tenure in the genre was secured. Aside from appearing in such horror films as Beast with Five Fingers (1946), Tales of Terror (1962), The Raven (1963), Lorre is also well known for playing the Japanese detective, Mr. Moto, in a series of films. In addition, Lorre had memorable roles in such Hollywood classics as The Maltese Falcoln (1941) and Casablanca (1942). He even managed the distinct honor of being the first actor to portray a James Bond villain with his appearance as Le Chiffre in the television adaptation of Casino Royale for an episode of the CBS series, Climax!.

In his later years, Lorre's health had been declining due to a combination of weight problems, diabetes, and an addiction to morphine. His body was cremated and his ashes interred at what is now Hollywood Forever Cemetery. He was 59 at the time of his death.

Read more of the many stories of Hollywood Forever.

-Casey H.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Haunted Tales of the S.S. Yongala

In 1923, two men were out fishing near Holbourne Island in Queensland, Australia. To their surprise, a ship emerged from a distance that was on course to pass the island. They described it as a passenger steamship that was covered in barnacles and rust. When it passed the island, the men waited for the steamship to emerge from the other side, but it never did. They immediately went looking for it, but found that it had completely vanished. Unnerved, they returned to dock and told others of what they had seen. They apparently had little doubt that the ship they had seen was the S.S. Yongala. The problem was that the S.S. Yongala had disappeared without a trace 12 years earlier.

The S.S. Yongala would eventually be discovered to the north of Holbourne Island in 1958. The general consensus is that the ship encountered a cyclone on or close to March 23, 1911 while carrying over 120 people. All of the passengers and crew are believed to have gone down with the ship. Today, the wreck of the S.S. Yongala is a popular scuba diving and is protected as a recognized artificial reef. As it turned out, the 1923 encounter is not the only reported supernatural claim associated with the ship (see the link below). Nor was it the last time the ship would be in the news.

Most recently, the shipwreck has been in the news after the scuba diving death of American Tina Watson at the site on her honeymoon in October 2003. Just last year, Australian officials issued an arrest warrant and request to extradite her husband, Gabe Watson, who they believe played a role in her drowning. To date, Watson and his attorney have fought the extradition and Watson failed to show at the start of the trial in February of this year. Australian authorities are now planning their next move.

Read the stories of the Wreck of the S.S. Yongala.

-Casey H.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The "Two" Execution(s) of Orville Paul Adkins

On this date in 1938, the state of West Virginia carried out the execution of kidnapper/murderer, Orville (sometimes spelled Arvil) Paul Adkins, at the West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville. He was led to the gallows inside a building known as North Wagon Gate and the trapdoor was sprung... not once, but twice.

Adkins received this ultimate punishment following his role in the kidnapping of one Dr. James I. Seden in Hunnington, an evangelical minister and missionary to Japan. After his abduction, Adkins and two other men led Seden to an abandoned mine, left him, and sent a ransom note to his family. Seden was later discovered alive, but suffering from pneumonia and partial paralysis from which he would later die in the hospital. All three men quickly confessed to the crime and were sentenced to death. The sentence on all three would be carried out on March 21, 1938 at the prison.

While the other two executions went smoothly, something went amiss when Adkins was led on to the trapdoor. Before the noose could be securely placed around his neck, the trapdoor was sprung and Adkins fell headfirst onto the concrete floor below. Prison officials, still stung by a hanging only seven years earlier that resulted in the accidental decapitation of a prisoner, acted quickly. Guards loaded the severely injured Adkins on to a stretcher, carried him back up the stairs, and he was again placed on the trapdoor. With the noose securely around his neck, the trapdoor was sprung for a second time. Today, many claim that Adkins is one of the many ghosts that are said to haunt North Wagon Gate in the former prison that is notorious for its alleged haunting.

Read more stories of the supernatural at West Virginia Penitentiary.

-Casey H.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Twilight Movie Location Travel Guide

Tonight at midnight, retailers around the United States are staying open late for an early-morning release of the much-anticipated two-disc DVD set of Twilight. The film hit theaters back in November and became a smash-hit, raking in just under $200 million in domestic box-office receipts alone. The film was based on the first novel of an equally popular series of books from author Stephenie Meyer that involves the relationship between a teenager and a century-old vampire.

The books are set in and around the small, yet very real, city of Forks, Washington (see Forks, Washington), which has seen over a 50% increase in tourism from fans of the series. The popularity and interest in seeing the locations in the book firsthand completely caught the city off-guard, but they have firmly embraced the interest and the fans - With the Chamber of Commerce going so far as to create a driving tour of the various locales (see Forks Chamber of Commerce Twilight Tours).

The filmmakers behind the big screen adaptation of Twilight were interested in filming in the real Forks (and La Push and Port Townsend), but found that the cities were too small to accommodate the cast and crew of a major motion picture production. In addition, the state of Oregon to the south of Washington stepped up to the plate and offered similar settings and a major incentive to lure the production to the state. Filming commenced in northern Oregon (with some filming in southern Washington) and included such Oregon cities as St. Helens, Vernonia, Portland, Oregon City, Carver and more. Needless to say, the locations used in the film have seen a similar growth in tourism to the area.

Filming is already underway on the next entry in the series, New Moon, but the state of Oregon was unable to match the incentives offered in first film and the production has again relocated - this time to Vancouver, British Columbia with a few extra weeks of filming in Italy. However, in anticipation of the DVD's release, we figured we would revisit its time in Oregon and include the list of that actual locations used in the production of Twilight; including both locations seen in the theatrical version, as well as a few that will most likely emerge on the DVD's deleted scenes.

Twilight Film Locations:
If those are not enough for you, we also offer the individual Washington locations in Forks, La Push, and Port Townsend from the books that are considered the "must-stops" for fans of the series. We are still hard at work and tracking down more locations from the books, as well as starting the preliminary scouting of locations used in the upcoming sequel, New Moon. Stay tuned!

-Casey H.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Last Eruption of Mount Vesuvius

Since March 18, 1944, Italy's Mount Vesuvius has sat quiet - the longest quiet stage for the volcano in the last 500 years. While there are no immediate concerns of an impending eruption, officials remain on alert due to the high concentrations of human population (around three million people) around the volcano and its tendency for sudden and violent eruptions. The 1944 eruption caught many off guard and is blamed for 26 deaths and the destruction of 88 planes from a group of United States B-52 bombers that had recently arrived in the midst of World War II. Of course, the event is fairly minor in comparison with the mountain's most famous eruption.

The eruption in question actually came in two stages on August 24th and 25th, 79 AD. As with today, there was a high population in and around the volcano and casualties were high. The cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were destroyed and an estimated 10,000 to 25,000 lives were lost. In the city of Pompeii, the ash deposits that smothered the life from the citizens also formed casts that preserved the shapes of their bodies. Today, those casts are still on display as a reminder of the power of Mother Nature.

Read more on Pompeii.

-Casey H.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Curse of the Grand Ole Opry

35 years ago on this date, the famous Grand Ole Opry country music radio program relocated from its home of over 30 years, the Ryman Auditorium, to the recently constructed Opryland USA theme park. It appeared to be the end of the Nashville, Tennessee landmark as it was left vacant and not maintained. Interest in restoring the Ryman's glory emerged in the 1990s and in 1994 it was reopened as a performance hall and museum.

Given that the auditorium dates back to 1892, the Ryman Auditorium has many fascinating stories, but perhaps one of its more intriguing legends is tied back to that famous radio show. The legend is known as the "Curse of the Grand Ole Opry" and it emerged following the untimely (often violent) deaths of several people that performed in its halls. Among its reputed victims are such names as Patsy Cline, Ira Louvin, and Jim Reeves. Death has come in the form of plane and automobile accidents, drugs/alcohol, murder, fire, and more. In fact, there are names like Hank Williams Jr. and Jack Greene that have suffered near-fatal accidents but survived - though the accidents are still attributed to the "Opry Curse." Apparently, the supposed curse continued despite the move from the Ryman. It has been reported that 14 people died in a three-year period at Opryland following the move and the deaths just fed the stories of the curse.

The so-called "Curse of the Grand Ole Opry" may have moved on to other grounds, but that is not to say that all of its stories have. In addition to its past ties to the reputed curse, the Ryman reportedly continues to be haunted by no less than three ghosts that still to make their presences known. Among them are the building's original owner, a spirit simply known as the "Gray Man," and a country music legend.

Read more tales about the historic Ryman Auditorium.

-Casey H.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Jack Bauer of the American Revolution

March 15 is known as Peter Francisco Day in the states of Virginia, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Who is Peter Francisco, you ask? Have you ever heard that joke that emerged following the popularity 24, that goes something like - "Superman wears Jack Bauer pajamas when he goes to bed"? Well, if half of the stories of Francisco are true, both of those icons might want to rethink their nightly attire. A basic checklist of Francisco's accomplishments might look something like this:

Arrive in America in a shroud of mystery and be taken in by an affluent family - Check.

Attend Patrick Henry's famous "Give me Liberty or give me Death!" speech - Check.

Join the Colonial Army and fight battles in Brandywine, Germantown, Fort Mifflin, and Monmouth - Check.

Be injured multiple times in above battles and bounce right back - Check.

Survive the harsh winter at Valley Forge - Check.

Get surrounded by the British militia at the Battle of Camden, spear a British soldier, steal his horse, break through enemy lines, give said horse to his injured commanding officer, and carry an 1,100 pound cannon on his shoulders to assure it did not fall in enemy hands - Check.

Encounter nine to eleven British soldiers in a Virginia tavern and single-handily fight them off in what is now known as "Francisco's Fight" - Check.

Witness the British surrender at Yorktown - Check.

Be called a "One-Man-Army" by General George Washington - Check.

Of course, Bauer and Superman are fictional heroes, while Francisco was the real-deal, as is witnessed by his tombstone at Shockoe Hill Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia - After finally being struck down of appendicitis while in his 70s. The above are only a few of the miraculous accounts of the heroics of Peter Francisco, which few historians have attempted to shoot down. It is enough to make one wonder why Hollywood hasn't turned his life story into a feature film just yet. With that in mind, read more of the stories of Francisco's feats at the link below and feel free to play a casting agent here and let us know who should play Francisco on the big screen when the time comes.

Pay a visit to Francisco's grave at Shockoe Hill Cemetery.

-Casey H.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Return of the Immortal Six Hundred

On this date in 1865, a large group of Confederate soldiers were returned to Fort Delaware or Pea Patch Island on the Delaware River. Most had been incarcerated in the prison the previous year and had been taken south as a strategic military ploy. In June 1864, a Union commander leading a barrage of cannon fire on Charleston, South Carolina had received word from his Confederate counterpart that fifty Union generals and field officers were inside city limits and in range of the firing. Whether the note was a considerate warning or a threat is not entirely known. What is known is that the Union reaction suggests that they believed it to be the latter.

Fifty inmates from Fort Delaware were assembled and loaded on boats to be used as human shields in retaliation of the Confederates apparently doing the same. By the time they arrived however, a deal had been struck and the prisoners were instead exchanged. Buoyed by the rise in their ranks, the Confederate Army immediately brought another 600 Union soldiers to the city in hopes of another exchange. Word trickled back to Fort Delaware that another exchange was imminent and the men were elated when 600 of their own numbers were loaded on boats and sent south.

This time, however, there was no exchange as Union officials immediately shot down the idea. Instead, the men would be used as human shields at Fort Sumter against Confederate fire under the guard of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry; an all-black unit that had just received acclaim and lost many of their own during an assault on Fort Wagner - The events of which were depicted in the movie, Glory, years later. In addition, the Confederate prisoners were issued limited rations in an apparent retaliation of reports of how Union prisoners were being treated in Andersonville (see Andersonville National Historic Site).

As they were returned to Fort Delaware a year later, the inmates that swarmed to greet them were shocked and disgusted at the emaciated condition the men were in. Of the initial six hundred, over twenty did not return - succumbing to the horrid conditions they had been forced into. Yet another 25 would not recover and died at Fort Delaware. However, their refusal to take the Union's "Oath of Allegiance" and tenacity for survival in the most horrid of all conditions elevated them in stature and earned them the nickname of "The Immortal Six Hundred" throughout the south. Of the numbers they lost, none died by friendly fire.

Read more of the many stories of Fort Delaware.

-Casey H.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Mysterious Afterlife of Betsy Ross

Tonight on the Sci-Fi Channel, Ghost Hunters returns with an investigation of the Betsy Ross house in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Reports of paranormal activity inside the home have been reported by staff and visitors alike and vary from the overwhelming sensation of being watched when no one is around to hearing disembodied voices. The activity has been attributed to the spirits of Betsy Ross and Charles Weisgerber - a duo forever connected to the story of the making of the America's Stars and Stripes. Ross is widely credited as the maker, due in a large part because of Weisgerber's painting, Birth of Our Nation's Flag.

Today, there are some that question whether Ross was the creator of the American flag. They argue that the first time she was connected to it was almost 100 years after it was first created when her grandson, William J. Canby, related an account she had told him. Canby's account later served as the inspiration for Weisgerber's painting. As it turns out, it is not the only mystery surrounding Betsy Ross. While Weisgerber most definitely lived in the "Betsy Ross House" some 60 years after Ross's death, there is some question of whether Ross ever did or that she actually lived in a house next door that had since been demolished. Even the final resting place of "America's Seamstress" is cause for speculation. Although her grave is now at the site of the Betsy Ross House, it is her third such burial plot, having been exhumed and reinterred twice before. During the last move during America's Bicentennial in 1976, the crews were surprised to find no remains underneath her grave. The body that was laid to rest at the house was remains that were located elsewhere in her family plot that was assumed to be hers.

So before the Ghost Hunters go "lights out" tonight and probe the paranormal stories of the Betsy Ross House, read up on the tales themselves; as well as all the other mysteries and controversies of the afterlife of Betsy Ross.

Pay a visit to the Betsy Ross House.

-Casey H.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Earthquakes, Vampires, and Slayers in Torrance

Two unconnected but lasting milestones on this date in history are shared by a high school in Torrance, California. On March 10, 1933, Torrance High School was heavily damaged by the Long Beach Earthquake, which jolted the area with a magnitude of 6.4. Over 115 lives were lost throughout the area and the damage was quite severe. At the high school, the top of the main administration and the school's auditorium completely collapsed. Fortunately, school was out of session and no lives were lost inside the school, but the quake left behind a large sinkhole that the students quickly nicknamed, "Sunken Gardens."

64 years later to the day - On March 10, 1997, the fledgling network, The WB, launched a spin-off television series from a 1992 film and mind of writer/creator Joss Whedon. The show was called Buffy the Vampire Slayer and right off the bat, featured front and center as a set piece, was Torrance High School, which doubled as Sunnydale High in the series. The show quickly grew a cult following, basked in critical acclaim, and continued for seven successful seasons. The high school only went along for part of the ride, as Buffy and the Scooby Gang sacrificed it (i.e. blew it up) at the end of season three in order to take out the infamous Mayor. Of course, its explosive ending had to wait until two months after the season had officially wrapped in the United States, as nervous network executives yanked the finale from the schedule. Just a month before it was set to air, the Columbine School massacre shook the nation and the thought of airing an episode that depicts high school students blowing up their high school on the heels of the tragedy was too much for those executives. The episode finally aired later that summer.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is hardly the only production to make use of the school. In its celluloid life, the school has been known as a variety of names, including the ironic John Hughes High in the teen film-parody, Not Another Teen Movie. Its various appearances include an appearance in a Wes Craven horror film and countless other movies and series. Those appearances are only part of the story though, as the high school is also notable for many of its famous alumni that include entertainers, sports figures, and World War II heroes. Back in the entertainment world however, it is also known quite famously as West Beverly High School from the Fox series, Beverly Hills 90210, and again these days in the CW spin-off, 90210. Finally, it has also reportedly been featured in recent episodes of the NBC series, Medium, where as irony would have, last night's episode started off with an earthquake.

Take a trip to the building that formerly sat on the Hellmouth.

-Casey H.

Monday, March 9, 2009

An Amityville Horror in Jersey

As The Haunting in Connecticut feature film adaptation (I have to admit, the A&E made-for-tv version was very creepy) is about to hit theaters later this month, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at another well known adaptation of a reputedly true story in the original 1979 The Amityville Horror. In this case, the house and storyline needs little introduction, as most are now very familiar with the house formerly on 112 Ocean Avenue (see Amityville Horror House). The alleged story of the Lutz family and their short stay at the house was documented in the 1977 book, The Amityville Horror by author Jay Anson, that went on to sell a total of three to ten million copies depending on the source.

Given the surge of the horror genre in the 1970s, it isn't all that surprising that Hollywood quickly moved in and turned that book into a full-length feature film. Naturally, the filmmakers turned their eyes immediately to the town where it all happened and sought permission to shoot in the New York village, but ran into a few issues. It turns out that the Amityville officials were less than thrilled about the attention they were receiving because of the Lutz's story and Anson's book and were openly skeptical of the truthfulness of the account. Needless to say, the filming permits were turned down.

Film producer Samuel Z. Arkoff and American International Pictures then turned their attention to Toms River, New Jersey - approximately 60 miles away from Amityville. There they were greeted with open arms and found a suitable home to double as the infamous house, after $15,000 of remodeling. Various other locales throughout the town were utilized for the film and several of Toms River citizens appeared as extras. In total, it is estimated that the production pumped a quarter of a million dollars into the local economy. After filming had wrapped, several sources report that the filmmakers honored the town by giving them a special screening of The Amityville Horror in March 1979 - though no specific date is mentioned.

The film would later see a wide release in July of the same year and the story of the haunted house on Ocean Avenue would be known around the world. We'll revisit the film later this year as it reaches its 30-year anniversary to study the aftermath and subsequent sequels. In the meantime -

Pay a visit to the "Amityville House" in Toms River.

-Casey H.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Are You a Dark Traveler?

Every once in awhile, I think it is a good idea to take a step back and give you all an overview of the types of things you can find over on Dark Destinations. We just recently passed the 825 locations mark and are still climbing, while older articles are being revisited and expanding as well. Many of the articles on the site were written by Tom G. or myself, although we have had quite a few contributions from others as well and a very special thanks to them! While 800+ seems like a lot, we have only scratched the surface of what is out there.

The scope of Dark Destinations is wide and varied. Obviously, we look for locations that fall under the "dark" tag in one way or another. In the tourism world, there is a thing called "dark tourism" (also known black or grief tourism or Thanatourism), which involves traveling to locations associated with death and/or suffering. This can include a wide array of location types, but some good examples would be the Shiloh National Military Park (where around 3,500 men lost their lives in the midst of the Civil War), the London Dungeon and its various European offshoots (a man-made, interactive exhibit that explores the dark history of the cities they're in), Hollywood's Museum of Death (photo above - pretty much self-explanatory), or perhaps most famously, the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum - a former concentration camp where over a million people were killed off by Nazi Germany.

While dark tourism is a part of what we cover, it is only a small part. In fact, there are forms of tourism popping up every year. One of the most predominant in recent years has been the spark in so-called "ghost tourism," which has been sparked by recent paranormal-based shows. The sites can vary from a night in the reportedly haunted Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast to ghost tours in various cities (such as the one that explores Old Town Albuquerque, New Mexico). In a similar vein, the world of cryptozoology has sparked an interest into traveling to various sites associated with an unknown "monster" in most cases. Tourists that take part in Jersey Devil Hunts are the same types that got Loch Ness, Scotland voted the top tourist destination in Britain in a recent online poll.

Still further examples include the fairly benign movie location tourism, although we naturally aim for those darker moments in celluloid movie history. One of our more popular entries of late has been the house that was used in the 1984 Wes Craven film, A Nightmare on Elm Street. The Hollywood biz and celebrities also pop up in the next category - cemetery tourism. Whether it be to visit famous names from pop culture, like Hollywood Forever Cemetery, the "haunted" variety such as New York's infamous Goodleberg Cemetery, or just small-town cemeteries with odd tales like Crystal Valley Cemetery in Colorado, cemetery tourism has seen a bump in popularity, which not surprisingly coincides with the rise of the graveyard photography pastime.

This is just a few of the many types of interests represented on the site. We also cater to the convention crowd, list Halloween haunts from every state in the United States and similar theme attractions, ghost towns, and more. Because there is no overall encompassing definition of someone who travels to some or all of the types covered above, I just label them with the generic "Dark Traveler" tag. For me, the common thread in all of these and the thing that interests me the most can be summed up in one word - history. Tom G. has often called Dark Destinations a history lesson told around a campfire. It is hard for me to disagree. While the type and level of interest in the historical importance of each location may vary, each has played a role in the making of our current society and who we are as people today.

Obviously given the scope and range of what we attempt to cover, some might be interested in some of our content but not others. So I throw it out to all of you - What type of a dark traveler are you? What types of dark locations are you interested in? What is not at all appealing to you? Or even, share some of your tales from the road and the types of reaction you meet when you explain why you went to some attraction that others tend to avoid. Lastly, is there anything we are missing that you believe we should be covering?

-Casey H.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Frozen Dead Guy Days

Today the festivities kick off for the Frozen Dead Guy Days festival in Nederland, Colorado. This yearly celebration is held in honor of one of Nederland's residents, Bredo Morstoel - a dead man who has been frozen for 20 years now. Morstoel, a resident of the country of Norway, was brought to the United States following his death at age 89 in November of 1989. His body was cryogenically frozen and kept at Trans Time Cryonics in San Leandro, California. A few years later his family had his body removed from the facility and maintained its cryogenic state in a shed on their property in Nederland.

In 1994, Morstoel's relatives were evicted from their home (his grandson was also deported from the country). The town allowed Bredo Morstoel's body to remain behind. He was provided with a new and improved shed through a donation and has a caretaker who keeps him supplied monthly with dry ice. While initially upset over the incident, the town of Nederland eventually came to appreciate Morstoel, who became known to locals as "Grandpa Bredo."

Beginning in 2002, the town began hosting the Frozen Dead Guy Days festival to celebrate Nederland's famous corpsicle. The event lasts three days. Throughout this weekend there will be a parade, parties, a video festival and a number of other activities. Some revelers wear costumes, turning the event into a sort of Halloween in March. Another event held during the weekend is a coffin race, similar to the coffin races held during the Emma Crawford Festival in Manitou, Colorado (see Emma Crawford Festival and Memorial Coffin Race). What can I say - those Coloradoans love their coffin racing!

During the festivals it is possible to tour the shed in which Grandpa Bredo is kept. Tours are also available throughout the year by appointment with Bredo's caretaker Bo "The Iceman" Schaffer.

Pay a visit to Nederland, Colorado's famous dead guy in a shed.

-Tom G

PS: I'm curious. Have any of you considered cryogenic suspension after death for yourself or a relative? Why or why not?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Small Bridge and a Girl Named Emily

The New England state of Vermont was granted statehood into the United States of America on March 4, 1791. On the anniversary of the milestone, I thought it be a good occasion to tell you one of the state's more celebrated "Dark Destinations". Near the small village of Moscow, near the town of Stowe, is a small, one-lane, Howe truss-designed bridge that is officially known as either Gold Brook Bridge or Stowe Hollow Bridge. Locally, and to paranormal enthusiasts, it is better known as "Emily's Bridge" after a particular spirit that is said to haunt the structure.

According to the most popular version of the legend (and there are a few different versions), Emily fell in love with a boy from the area although her parents disapproved and forbade her to see him. The couple kept their relationship in the shadows with secret rendezvous at the bridge. They continued to do this until they hatched a plot where they would meet at the spot late one night and run away together. Emily came and waited, but the boy didn't show. She continued to wait until the morning hours and when he still hadn't showed and she realized he had abandoned her, she hung herself from the rafters in despair.

Stories of odd occurrences being reported on the bridge apparently date back to its early history where horse-drawn carriages would come to a halt before the entrance with the horses refusing to budge or enter. Others reported hearing the sound of feet dragging across the rooftop of the vehicle from a presumably still-hanging phantom and strange anomalies in photographs taken inside the bridge. The stories of Emily's Bridge are plentiful and chilling - earning it special attention from paranormal shows like Haunted History. According to modern day accounts, ghostly activity is still being reported and the examples above are only a few of the many encounters reported.

Dare a trip through Emily's Bridge.

-Casey H.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Come See the Eighth Wonder of the World

On March 2, 1933, the new RKO venture, King Kong, opened in New York City, New York and immediately smashed box office records (and even a few box offices in the film). The film displayed the latest cutting edge special effects (in the cyclical nature of moviemaking, we went from an animated ape in the original to a man wearing an ape suit in the 1976 remake to a man providing the movements for an animated ape in the 2005 version) and an odd little love story between a woman (Fay Wray) and a giant ape. Of course, King Kong would go on to capture all of our hearts (and later, Jessica Lange and Naomi Watts as well).

New York City was an obvious choice to play host to the premiere, since the film started and ended in the city. In fact, a very familiar New York City landmark is shown immediately at the start and is also the site of the film's climax, although it had only been opened for a few years at that point - The Empire State Building. Some have even theorized that the building was a mirror of King Kong - directors Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack's nifty little warning about the excesses of man. Regardless, the two would become forever entwined in modern culture. In fact, it could easily be argued that few "set pieces" have so ever firmly embraced and continued to celebrate their role in a movie quite like the Empire State Building and King Kong.

Read the article below to see what happened when a giant inflatable ape took over the building on the 50th Anniversary of the film's release, or how the building's employees protested when the 1976 remake moved the climax to the World Trade Center. Finally, read about the touching tribute from the owners of the structure when actress Fay Wray passed away in 2004. King Kong is only one of the many stories of the Empire State Building, but it is one of the most enduring.

Scale the Empire State Building with King Kong.

-Casey H.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Irony of Salem

On March 1, 1692, the Salem Witch Hysteria really began to kick into gear as the Salem Witch Trials officially began. On this date Judge Hawthorne and Judge Corwin interrogated Sarah Osborne, Sarah Good and the slave Tituba. Those accused of witchcraft found themselves in a really bad spot. They weren't considered innocent the moment they were accused. A plea of innocence inevitably led to death by execution. A plea of guilt could set you free, but you had to name other witches in what became a deadly version of the game of tag. The people named as witches would then find themselves in the court's hot seat as well.

Once an accused victim chose a plea (whether guilty or innocent) the property of the accused was considered forfeit and seized by the local sheriff. This led to torture of any accused who would not enter a plea. Witch Trial victim Giles Corey died while being tortured in Salem's Howard Street Cemetery (see Howard Street Cemetery, Salem MA) because he refused to enter a plea. The silver lining to Corey's tale is that his sacrifice made it so his family didn't lose their land and belongings. Many others who declared their innocence were then found guilty by the court and sentenced to death by hanging, with the hangings taking place in what would later become Danvers, Massachusetts (see Danvers, Massachusetts).

The main irony of the Salem Witch Hysteria is that centuries later the history of the trials drew actual practicing witches to the city of Salem. Occult book stores abound in an area where Christians once killed each other in imagined fear that witchcraft was being practiced. The further irony is that the city has a thriving tourist trade thanks to the harm that the community once did to itself. There are modern memorials for the accused, while the gravestones of the judges who passed sentence on them crumble (see Old Burying Point Cemetery & Witch Trial Memorial). Also, thousands of revelers descend on the city each October to celebrate a holiday that would likely have been considered sacrilegious to those dwelling in Salem County back in 1692. Lastly, a witch silhouette is used as the symbol of Salem's law enforcement on the sides of their cars and on patches worn on the uniforms. They wear an example of the thing that the law enforcement of 1692 feared and hated. Salem is rife with irony.

Pay a visit to modern day Salem, Massachusetts.

-Tom G