Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Thanks and Happy New Year

As the year draws to a close, Casey and I wanted to show gratitude to all of you who have supported and Dark Destinations. 2008 marked two years since returned from its five year sabbatical from the Internet. It also marked the first full year of Dark Destinations being public. It has has been a year of rapid growth: hundreds of new articles were published to Dark Destinations, we gained new contributors, started a blog and brought it to multiple Web sites. We also gained a significant number of regular readers. Dark Destinations also began a new feature called the Dark Destinations Library. We have another Dark Destinations related feature that will hopefully make its debut in 2009. This new feature has been in the works for over a year at this point and will hopefully knock your socks off when it arrives. 2009 looks like it will be an even greater year for us, and that is largely due to all of you.

We'd like to thank all of the haunted attractions who have added their haunts to our database. It is great to see the businesses we are trying to support interacting directly with us to help promote their establishments. Thanks also goes to those who became members of and contributed articles and photos to the database. Among those contributors we give special thanks to Beth "Bloody Freak" Clark, Richard Squires, John Dedeke, Adrian R., Dementia, Kelly Rain, April A. Taylor, Astrida Merritt, bamalca03 and jrock420cfh.

We'd also like to thank all of the people and organizations who have provided us with information, interviews and tours of locations over the past year. Among those who have helped us in this fashion are the City of St. Helens, Oregon and Dandelion Communications, Kenny Caperton, Kim and Steve from the Officer's Inn Bed & Breakfast, Clatsop County Historical Society, John Goodenberger, Mick Alderman of 2001 Productions, Regina Willkie of the Astoria Chamber of Commerce, the View Point Inn, The Rochester Historical Society, J.D. and Cathee from the Museum of Death and a whole lot of haunted attractions.

Casey and I also want to thank the radio shows and podcasts that invited us to be guests on their programs. Thank you to everyone at NightWatch, Ghostman and Demon Hunter, Ghost Chronicles and I100 Classic Rock in Ithaca, NY. Thanks also to Dark Party Review for the recent blog interview.

Hopefully we've remembered everybody who deserves to be on this thank you list. The last folks we want to thank are you, our readers. The comments and feedback we recieve from you helps inspire us onward and at times has provided us with information which has led to further articles. We also know that one of the ways we've picked up new readers has been through your word of mouth. Thank you for spreading the word about Dark Destinations and

Have a Happy New Year!

-Tom G

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

This Date in History at the Old Idaho Penitentiary

On this date in 1901, inmate Samuel Bruner and the prison's fastest horse, Old Selam, were found missing from the former-Idaho State Penitentiary. Ironically, it was the horse's second (though presumably against its will) such escape that week. On December 24, one of Idaho's most famous prisoners, Bub Meeks who rode with Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch gang, had made a similar attempt. Meeks had been tracked by the prints left behind in the snow and was recaptured only a day later. Bruner was more successful as he and the horse were never seen again. Today, the legacy of the horse is celebrated in the annual Old Selam Endurance Ride, which originally sought to retrace the possible escape route of both Meeks and Bruner, but has since been moved away from the old penitentiary.

December 30 has another tie to the Old Idaho Penitentiary as well. On this date in 1905, former Idaho Governor Frank Steunenberg was assassinated when a bomb rigged to his front gate exploded at his home in Caldwell. The subsequent investigation led to the arrest of one Harry Orchard who ultimately confessed to the crime and, in doing so, implicated three leaders of the Western Federation of Miners. According to Orchard, the three men had hired him to take out Steunenberg (along with seventeen others) as payback for the apparent favoritism shown towards mine owners during Steunenberg's time in office. The case led to one of the most famous trials in Idaho history that even pulled in famed-lawyer Clarence Darrow to help defend one of the accused. In the case of Orchard, he was incarcerated at the prison where he would remain until his death.

These stories only crack the surface of the history and tales of the Old Idaho Penitentiary. In its over-a-century of use, the prison housed the famous and the infamous, was the site of riots, executions, and escapes, and today is considered a hotspot for accounts of paranormal activity. The former penitentiary was even recently featured on a recent episode of the Travel Channel series, Ghost Adventures.

Serve time with the ghostly history of the Old Idaho Penitentiary.

-Casey H.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Lemp Family Curse

On December 29, 1922, 55-year-old William J. Lemp Jr. held a revolver to his chest and fired two shots in his office (and family home) of the Lemp Brewery in St. Louis, Missouri. He had been recently in ill health and was in the process of slowly liquidating his family's brewery business after prohibition had been instituted. Billy was not the first member of the family to die tragically, nor was he the first to take his own life.

Prior to Billy's suicide, the family had already suffered the loss of a son who had died from health issues, as well as two additional suicides in the forms of Billy's father and sister. In fact, after his sister's suicide at a property elsewhere in St. Louis, Billy was said to have commented, "That's the Lemp family for you." Tragically, the deaths did not end with Billy. In the 1940s, his only son (though there are unsubstantiated rumors that Billy had also sired an illegitimate child) died of a heart attack and another brother also took his own life.

Today, the Lemp Mansion operates as a bed and breakfast/restaurant in the city of St. Louis. While not all of the deaths occurred inside its walls, the building saw its fair share of death over the years. In fact, the room that Billy shot himself is the front dining room (see photo above), while the site of his father's suicide is now the William Lemp Suite. If you believe the tales, the Lemp family left their mark on the site, which is often regarded as one of the most haunted sites in America with countless tales of ghostly activity.

Pay a visit to the reportedly haunted Lemp Mansion of St. Louis.

-Casey H.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Visit to the Catacombs of Palermo

Today's blog entry takes us to the Italian city of Palermo on the island of Sicily and a rather unique tourist attraction. The Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo (sometimes called King Capuchin Catacombs) are quite literally a city of the dead. Around 8,000 corpses line the various halls of the underworld and consist of all ages and both males and females. Though initially intended for friars of the local monastery, the idea took off with the local population that began to donate money to have their own relatives interred.

Starting in 1599 and lasting through the 1920s, corpses were put on display for their grieving loved ones to come and pray and mourn their passing. The halls were even categorized for convenience sake and bodies were moved according to the categorizations: men, women, children, priests, and even a spot for virgins. Even more unusual was the special requests of the entombed before their death that their clothes were changed at frequent intervals.

Though it stopped accepting new interments in the 1920s, the catacombs have continued to be a popular tourist destination in Palermo and even serve as something of a historical record of the area. Some of the interred have even become well known in death, such as two-year-old Rosalia Lombardo. One of the last corpses admitted in the catacombs, Rosalia is a unique addition considering the excellent preservation state of her body. Though her mummification is credited to Dr. Alfredo Salafia, no one is quite sure what techniques he used to achieve such dramatic results and it is believed that he never shared his knowledge with others. Today, Rosalia is encased in a glass coffin and aside from an unnatural skin tone, generally looks as if she is only resting which has led to her being dubbed "Sleeping Beauty."

A special thanks to Dark Destinations contributor Dementia for adding The Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo to our database and bringing this rather unique location to our attention!

Visit her article on The Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo.

-Casey H.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Remembering Leo Gordon

On December 26, 2000, Leo Gordon passed away in Los Angeles, California from heart failure following a brief illness. Gordon was a prolific actor, screenwriter, and novelist who was often cast in the role of a antagonist due to his impressive size and deep voice. Though he is known for his work (both acting and writing) in the Western genre, he also made several significant contributions to the horror genre.

Gordon appeared in such films as The Haunted Palace (1963), The Lucifer Complex (1978), and Bog (1983) but his was his work with American International Pictures (AIP) that he made the biggest impact in the genre. James H. Nicholson and Samuel Z. Arkoff founded the company that specialized in independent, low-budget movies often produced (and sometimes directed) by none other than Roger Corman. Gordon was tapped early on as a screenwriter for the firm and even appeared in several AIP films, including some he had written. Among his horror credits are the films Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959), The Wasp Woman (1959), Tower of London (1962), and The Terror (1963).

In 2004, Gordon was joined in eternal rest by his longtime wife, Lynn Cartwright, who was also bitten by the acting bug and even appeared in a few of her husband's films. They are both currently interred in the Chapel columbarium of Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Pay your respects at Hollywood Forever.

-Casey H.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Stagger Lee Shot Billy

The night was clear and the moon was yellow,
And the leaves came tumbling down.
I was standing on the corner, when I heard my bulldog bark.
He was barking at the two men, who were gambling in the dark.
It was Stagger Lee and Billy, two men who gambled late.

The song is Stagger Lee by Lloyd Price - the first commercially successful version of a folk murder ballad that had long been a mainstay in nightclubs throughout the South. It may have also been one of the first versions of the tune (also known as Stagolee, Stack Lee, etc.) that was also commercially viable, as early renditions were often more graphic with more than a few of those words that George Carlin warned us all about. It was also not entirely accurate.

The weather at the time is not known, but it most definitely was not the fall. In fact (and perhaps ironically), the legend of Stagger Lee was born on Christmas Night, 1895 in the Bill Curtis Saloon in an area of St. Louis, Missouri that at the time was the red light district. The two men were Lee "Stack Lee" Shelton (an area pimp with political connections) and William "Billy" Lyons. And despite the song's portrayal of a night of gambling gone bad, the conflict really began over an argument of politics after an otherwise innocent night of drinks and laughs.

Stagger Lee shot Billy.
Oh, he shot that poor boy so bad.
'Till the bullet came through Billy
And broke the bartender's glass.

That much is true, though the fate of the bartender's glass is unclear. In fact, the bartender was one of the few witnesses left in the saloon after Shelton had pulled out his .44 and took aim. Like the song suggests, he was after his white Stetson hat; though not because he lost it in a bet but rather because Lyons had snagged it after Shelton had broken his Derby in the heat of the argument. The end result was the same though - Shelton shot once and calmly walked out of the bar, while Lyons was rushed to the hospital where he later died.

So how did a known pimp and a murder in an area that was infamous for crime transform into one of the most well-known murder ballads of all time? It is not entirely known, though it is worth pointing out that Duncan killed Brady (Duncan and Brady) quite literally across the street just five years earlier, while Frankie shot Johnny (actually Allan Britt - of Frankie and Johnny fame) four years later a couple blocks away. It is safe to say that some balladeer was kept busy.

At any rate, Stagger Lee has come to represent the baddest of the bad in musical form; not unlike Mack the Knife or Bad, Bad Leroy Brown, though if you listen to some renditions of Stagger Lee, he could take them out without breaking a sweat too. And it all started on Christmas Day.

The Bill Curtis Saloon may no longer exist, but a few blocks away is a historic home (photo above) that looks somewhat out-of-place in a primarily industrial area and was once the home of Lee Shelton - complete with the "crib houses" for Shelton's working girls. Also in town is the St. Peters Cemetery where Billy was buried in an unmarked grave. Ironically, Shelton is buried only a block or so away at the Greenwood Cemetery (also in an unmarked grave), where he was laid to rest after succumbing to tuberculosis while serving time at the Missouri State Penitentiary for a separate crime. And though it has since been closed town, the story even inspired a local bar and grill to take on the name of the city's local legend for awhile - Stagger Lee's.

So I leave you with this often overlooked Christmas legend and wish you and your family a very happy and safe holiday.

-Casey H.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Baikal Region Adoptive Family Fund

Today the Dark Destinations blog is going to be a little different than usual. My friend Jason is the web master of Baikal Region Adoptive Family Fund. After discussing the project that Jason is part of, Casey and I decided we would show support and spread the word about B.R.A.F.F.

The Baikal Region Adoptive Family Fund is set up to help orphans in Baikal region of both Russia and Mongolia. The fund assists potential parents seeking to adopt children from that region. It also provides programs to improve the welfare of the many orphaned children who will not find new families. The reasons for this need are summed up in this message on B.R.A.F.F.'s Internet site:

Political instability and a collapsed economy have put almost fifty percent of the
population in poverty. Seven hundred thousand children live in under-funded,
under-staffed orphanages in Russia, and many more in even worse conditions
in Mongolia.

After leaving their orphanages

60% will be homeless and without a job
50% will turn to crime or prostitution
40% will use drugs
10% will commit suicide

With budgets of only a few cents per day with which to feed, cloth and care for
these poor unfortunates, Siberian social service providers are struggling to
perform miracles. As you may know, things tend to get worse financially in the
hinterland, far from the public eye in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Despite
terrible shortages and wages that are far too low and behind schedule,
dedicated and loving workers are struggling daily to keep these children alive.
These efforts are often at great cost to their own families.

I'm spreading the word about the work this fund is doing in the hopes that our readers will in turn show some support. If you aren't able to make a donation (I know there are lot of folks who may not have it in their budget with the current recession going on), you could show support by spreading the word about this cause; blog it, bulletin it, email it, or if you happen to be one of our readers on MySpace you can add as a friend. The fund's MySpace URL is

As a horror fan and dark traveler I used to certain people assuming that I'm some sort of psycho. I imagine that those of you who share similar interests as mine have also at times faced judgemental assumptions from people who just don't get what you are about. However, I've watched many horror fans show support for charitable causes and serve their community over the years; from the fans of the Saw movies conducting their blood drives to attendees at conventions raising money and awareness for groups like the A.S.P.C.A. I've also seen the Paranormal Community work together to raise money for victims of Hurricane Katrina. I also witness a lot of heart and compassion in some of the responses we've had through email or in comments to some our more tragic tales of dark history.

So, I open the floor to our readers. Please feel free to comment and share links to charities or causes you support.

Have a Happy Holiday!
-Tom G

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Travels of the Blair Witch

We jump from the story of the Bell Witch a few days ago to the more modern (albeit fabricated) mythology of the Blair Witch of Maryland today. On this date in 1974, Blair Witch actress Heather Donahue was born. Although she has appeared in other films and TV work since, she is known primarily for her work in the 1999 first-person/mock-doc horror film, The Blair Witch Project. She even went by her real name in the film to add a level of authenticity to her fictional "disappearance" in the storyline.

Though the most profitable independent film of all time and by all standards a smash-hit at the box-office, the film was met equally with as much disdain as it was acceptance. According to some interviews, Donahue bore the brunt of some of that and talked openly about being confronted my angry moviegoers and reportedly was even run off the road while driving once. Despite the backlash of the film, The Blair Witch Project maintains an impressive 85% positive rating on the review-monitoring service, Rotten Tomatoes.

Whether Donahue ever wants to revisit the film that subsequently launched and somewhat sabotaged her acting career or not, the locations behind The Blair Witch Project have become something of tourist attractions following the success of the movie. So whether you are a fan or only someone interested in the sites behind a movie, we have compiled this collection of four locations (as of right now) used in the making of the film.

Bearing the brunt of Blair Witch-inspired tourism was the small town of Burkittsville, Maryland. Aside from being the fictional former-home of the Blair Witch, it was the very real site of a Civil War battle that left its mark on the town and was a precursor to the very bloody Battle of Antietam a few days later. The battle's casualties were interred in the town's Union Cemetery, which also made an appearance at the start of the film and is said to be haunted these days by spirits that date back to the battle. The infamous "Coffin Rock" (where in the story's mythology a search party was discovered and ritualistically sacrificed) is to the south of the town, while the home of Rustin Parr (where the characters meet their fate at the end of the film) is over 40 miles to the east.

I admit I have a soft spot for The Blair Witch Project and first-person (where the camera becomes a character in the film) horror films in general. Aside from researching Dark Destinations, I also try to keep an eye on this relatively unknown sub-genre that existed well before the Blair Witch and continues to this day. To date, I have watched over 50 different films that were shot (sometimes partially) in the same format. We even cover more than a few locales used in the recent Cloverfield and will soon be adding some from the recent Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon.

In closing, I wanted to throw it out to all of you and find out which "first-person" horror films you enjoy... if any. Which ones are the best or the worst? You can even give your thoughts on The Blair Witch Project if you wish - What made it great/horrible for you?

-Casey H.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Day Rochester Exploded

Today marks the anniversary of the Rochester Naphtha Explosions of 1887. On the morning of December 21, 1887, the Vacuum Oil Works company in Rochester, New York attempted an underground transfer of 14,000 gallons of naphtha gas to the Municipal Gas Company. The gas failed to arrive at its intended location. Unbeknownst to anyone, recent sewer construction had ruptured the pipeline in question.
14,000 gallons of volatile naphtha gas flowed out into sewers of Rochester and made its way toward the industrial district of Browns Race. Situated along Rochester's High Falls, Brown's race had a number of mills and factories that benefited from proximity to the Genessee River. Throughout the day, laborers complained about smelling gas in a few different workplaces in Browns Race. The workers were told to stop complaining and return to their jobs.

That afternoon, after hours of gas and vapor build up, something inside a factory on Platt Street ignited the naphtha and the factory exploded. This in turn ignited the gas in the sewers, setting off a chain reaction of explosions that lasted for hours. More factories exploded and/or caught on fire and sections of street were blown skyward. The scene was one of absolute chaos and confusion. To some it may have seemed like the end of the world.

Pay a visit to Browns Race to learn more about the horrific events of December 21, 1887.

-Tom G

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Bell Witch and the Death of John Bell

188 years ago on this day, the family of John Bell awoke to find the family patriarch had passed away in the night. The previous evening, on December 19, Bell had reportedly drunk from a vial that supposedly contained medication that had been prescribed by a local doctor. According to some accounts, the family grew suspicious that the medicine no longer looked the same as when the doctor had given it to him and decided to give a small sample to their cat. It promptly died.

For over three years, John and daughter, Elizabeth (Betsy) had been tormented by an unseen entity that they knew as "Kate," though is more commonly known today as the Bell Witch. In addition to the taunts and sometimes-physical abuse it unleashed on the family, it reportedly made constant threats that it would continue until John Bell was dead. Those that attended Bell's funeral even reported hearing the Bell Witch sing and laugh throughout the service in celebration. Because of the length and public notoriety, John Bell's death is considered among many to be the only documented case of someone dying by the unseen hands of a supernatural entity.

Bell was buried on his family plot, which is private property today and closed off from the public. In 1957, Bell-descendant Leslie Covington designed and built the Bellwood Cemetery in the Bell's hometown of Adams, Tennessee. While some descendants of John Bell were exhumed and re-interred in the new cemetery (including Charles Bailey Bell who documented his family's travails in the 1934 book, The Bell Witch: A Mysterious Spirit), the body of John Bell, his wife, and son were left in the original family plot. Betsy Bell was buried in Water Valley, Mississippi where she had moved later in life. However, the Bellwood Cemetery includes an obelisk honoring the Bell family and their contributions to the early history of Adams, Tennessee.

As with many things indirectly or directly associated with the Bell Witch, the Bellwood Cemetery is also home to various reports of paranormal activity that some believe is associated with the entity. Strange lights have been reported at night, guests sense the presence of being watched, and anomalies have shown up on photographs taken on the grounds. It is hardly alone in the strange phenomena - activity has been reported at the nearby popular landmark, The Bell Witch Cave, and some have attributed the tragic death of the curator of the Adams Museum at the Old Bell School to the entity.

Visit the Bellwood Cemetery in Adams, Tennessee - Home of the Bell Witch.

-Casey H.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Gift Ideas for Dark Travelers

Dark Destinations has a new feature! Last night we premiered the Dark Destinations Library at It is a list of books and DVDs that are helpful to anyone planning to travel to dark locations. It also happens to provide a list of great gift ideas for any dark travelers, paranormal investigators, horror fans, etc. in your life.

The Dark Destinations Library supplements the preexisting Dark Destinations Internet Resources page, where we recommend other Web sites for further help in researching dark locations. The Library will be an ever-expanding list that will provide a synopsis and mini-review of the books and DVDs featured. It also allows site users to rate and comment on the featured items. If you have a book or DVD that isn't on our list yet and you'd like to recommend it, write us and let us know.

Pay a visit to the Dark Destinations Library.

-Tom G

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Resurrected (and Haunted) Landers Theatre

The Landers Theatre today is a historic landmark in the city of Springfield, Missouri, but an incident in its early years almost sealed its fate. The theater was constructed in 1909 and hosted a variety of vaudeville acts. Then, on December 17, 1920, a major fire broke out that almost entirely destroyed the facility and closed it down. Rather than scrap the project, Ensley Barbour stepped forward and put up the money for the repairs and reconstruction. Two years later the Landers Theatre was once again opened and has hosted such personalities as Lon Chaney, Kathleen Turner, Lillian Russel, and Springfield-native Brad Pitt (some sources say he got his start at the Landers) in the years since.

If you believe the stories, some of the people who have passed through its doors have never left, even in death. The Landers Theatre is home to a variety of accounts of paranormal activity throughout its four stories. Ghosts are said to include a janitor that is believed to have perished in the tragic 1920 fire, a baby that was said to have fallen from the balcony and its grieving mother, former actors and actresses, and even a strange entity that stands in the middle of the auditorium that brings audience participation to a whole new level.

Read the ghostly tales of the Landers Theatre at Dark Destinations.

-Casey H.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Stories of the Point Wilson Lighthouse

On December 15, 1879, the Point Wilson Lighthouse first lit up to help ships navigate the waters between the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Admiralty Inlet of Puget Sound at Port Townsend, Washington. The light tower was first constructed as an extension to the still-existing keeper's quarters, but was later given its own structure after Mother Nature took its toll on the surrounding beach. The area around it would serve as a U.S. Army base, which today stands as Fort Worden State Park. Though automated, the lighthouse is still in use to this day.

In its first 129 years of service, the Point Wilson Lighthouse has seen a few tragedies. However, none may have left a mark on the property quite like the sinking of the S.S. Governor. In 1921, the ship was carrying 240 passengers when it collided with another ship just off Point Wilson and began to take on water. Through heroic rescue efforts, most of the passengers were saved. However, eight people perished in the crash, including two young girls and the mother who refused to leave them behind. Most tie this disaster to at least some of the current reports of paranormal activity reported at the keeper's quarters and the lighthouse itself.

Visit the link below to read the stories of the shipwreck and various accounts of ghosts and other supernatural activity reported on the grounds to this day. Also read the current plans of the property's transfer of ownership and suggested relocation that will save this historical property for the generations to come.

Pay a visit to the Point Wilson Lighthouse on Dark Destinations.

You can explore this and many more Dark Destinations at:

-Casey H.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Spirits of the Whitney Restaurant

On December 12, 1986, the Whitney re-opened its doors to the population of Detroit, Michigan as a first class restaurant. The facility was once home to Detroit-resident David Whitney Jr. and wife Sarah and was one of the most elaborate mansions in the city. Both David and Sarah were believed to have passed away in the home and the mansion would later passed from owner to owner - at one time serving as a medical society's headquarters. It was finally purchased by Richard Kughn in 1980 and after six years of renovations was re-established as The Whitney restaurant.

It was reportedly during its renovations into a restaurant when the echoes of the past began to be felt and heard. Staff and guests alike have reported unusual phenomena from all three floors of the facility and strongly believe that facility is haunted by more than one spirit. The stories are so common these days that they have been the focus of past events that have probed the facility's paranormal past.

Read the ghostly tales of The Whitney.

-Casey H.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Fort Garry Hotel

95 years ago today, the Fort Garry Hotel in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada opened for business. Over the years the hotel has undergone many changes. However, one thing remains constant -- the stories of it being haunted. Staff and guests alike have apparently witnessed unexplained phenomena over the years. The alleged manifestations have ranged from disembodied sounds to outright apparitions (including one that was eating a spectral dinner).

Pay a visit to the Fort Garry Hotel and meet its ghostly guests.

-Tom G

Monday, December 8, 2008

Dark and Disturbing Holiday Gift Ideas

As I'm currently conducting my own gift-shopping for the holidays, it got me thinking about the stores we have entries for at Dark Destinations. Here are some of the items/stores that have caught my eye (sometimes literally). Maybe you'll get some gift ideas for your favorite ghoul.

The Bone room has bats preserved and mounded in a Lucite covered frames. The Bone Room, as their name implies, also sells both animal and human bones. Yes, you can buy an actual human skull from this company and it is perfectly legal. They also have an excellent selection of preserved and mounted insects. A relative bought a gift for me from the Bone Room last year; a collection of large Asian beetles. They hang in a frame on the wall of my den. Click here to visit the Bone Room's entry at Dark Destinations.

Screams Ice Cream Parlor in Hell, Michigan offers a number of Hellish gifts, including making a loved one honorary Mayor of Hell for a day. The "Mayor" receives a set of devil horns, an official badge with their name on it, a written proclamation naming the recipient as Hell’s mayor for that particular day, a key to the town of Hell, a card signed by some of Hell’s residents, a T-shirt to let everyone know they were once the Mayor of Hell, and ownership of one square inch of Hell. On the day where they serve as Mayor, the recipient will also receive a series of calls with various problems in Hell that need their attention. During the course of their brief but hellish political career, the recipient will also have their name posted publicly as Mayor of Hell outside of Screams Ice Cream. Click here to learn more about shopping in Hell (beats going to the mall).

Marie Laveau's House of Voodoo in New Orleans offers a variety of Voodoo and Santeria items, including authentic Voodoo dolls and altars. They don't seem to have an online store, but they might do mail order if you call them. Click here to see our entry on this famous Voodoo shop.

Skulls Unlimited carries a selection of animal skeletons as well as recreations of fossil hominid skulls. They carry a selection of one-of-a-kind items that currently includes the skull of a deformed calf. Click here to learn more about Skulls Unlimited.

Here is a couple more locations that have interesting gift items available but aren't primarily retail businesses.

The National Museum of Funeral History offers some macabre gift items, including die-cast hearses. I might have played cars with the other boys more as a kid if I'd had a little hearse to play with. The museum also has a number of items with their inspiring motto "Any day above ground is a good one." Shop til you drop at the National Museum of Funeral History.

The Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast offers vials of brick dust from the Borden house in their gift shop. They also carry Lizzie Borden skateboards, bobbleheads, hatchet-shaped jewelry and a moderate selection of Lizzie Borden books and apparel. Don't forget to axe Santa for something from the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast this Holiday season.

Happy Holidays!

-Tom G

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Curse of McGraw Mansion

Today marks 102 years since a horrible fire took the lives of four members of the Chi Psi fraternity at Cornell University. Three firemen perished while fighting the blaze as well. It was a tragic incident that destroyed a mansion that some believe was cursed by the death of its original owner, Jennie McGraw. The tale of Jennie McGraw is a long story, filled with tragedy, romance, conspiracy, money, courtroom drama and possibly a curse and a haunting. I will only relate only a tiny portion of the tale here.

Jennie McGraw was a wealthy heiress. She was the only child of lumber merchant John McGraw. Both Jennie and her father were benefactors of Cornell University and two buildings there are named for them; McGraw Hall and McGraw Tower. After her father's passing, Jennie ordered a mansion built for her on the University property. She went to Europe to purchase furnishings for the new home as it was being built. Jennie had long suffered the effects of tuberculosis and her condition worsened while overseas. Her time in Europe extended into years and her mansion, once finished, stood empty in wait for its mistress.

While in Italy, Jennie fell in love and married a Cornell professor who was also travelling. There was much whispering over whether it was true love or the work of a gold-digger in league with fellow conspirators out to get their hands on Jennie's fortune. Alas, that is a part of the tale we won't be discussing today.

In 1881, Jennie and her new husband were told by a doctor that she had only weeks to live. She decided it was finally time to leave Europe and head home to Ithaca, New York to die in a familiar place. Her and husband returned to Ithaca, whereupon she was taken by coach to a care facility to spend her final days. During the coach ride, Jennie was driven past the mansion she would never have opportunity to live it. She raised her head weakly from her pillows where she lay in the coach long enough to gaze upon the mansion and state her approval of its construction. After her death, she would finally enter the home. The mansion's housewarming was her funeral. The years that followed her death involved a good deal of legal ugliness that turned friends against each other and caused embarrassment for Cornell. The scars of this time are still evident on the campus today. A plaque featuring a bitter jab at Jennie's widow can be seen hanging at the Uris Library.

Some say that this tragic start for the McGraw Mansion tainted it with a curse. A curse that ultimately resulted in a massive fire that destroyed the mansion and the lives of seven men on December 7, 1906. For the last ten years of its existence, the McGraw Mansion had become a lodge for the Chi Psi fraternity on the campus. Tragically, a fire caused by oily rags stored in an unused elevator shaft combined with the way the home was constructed caused the mansion to become a raging inferno within a very short period of time. The fire spread rapidly upwards and outwards while the fraternity brothers slept. By the time it was discovered, it was too late for the building and for most of the fraternity members to escape in a safe fashion.

Some fraternity brothers jumped three floors to the ground to escape. Others on the second and third floors were lucky to escape from the blaze with non-fatal injuries when the section of wall they were near collapsed into the yard. Two other members were not so lucky and perished while trapped in the tall tower of the lodge. Still two other Chi Psi brothers died of injuries sustained from heroically trying to save their friends. At least one of these two heroes (a student named in the newspapers as O.L. Schmuck) escaped the mansion, only to run back into the burning building in an attempt to save his roommate (who was one of the students trapped in the tower).

Members of Cornell's football team and other students assisted fire fighters in an attempt to save lives and quell the flames. The fire was too widespread and the construction of the house made it very dangerous. The wooden interior burned quickly, causing the brick walls to collapse suddenly in sections. Three brave firefighters were killed when a flaming wall collapsed outward causing them to be pinned under the wreckage and "slowly roasted to death" as the New York Times stated later that day. It was a tragic end for a mansion with a tragic beginning.

The foundation of the mansion was used the following year to build a new lodge for the Chi Psi fraternity. They still occupy it to this day.

Visit the Chi Psi Lodge at Cornell University.

Or pay a visit to the tower at Cornell Jenny is said to haunt and discover the details of the drama that surrounded her and her death.

-Tom G

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Restless Remains

On today's date in 1891, young pianist Emma Crawford passed away from tuberculosis. As per her request, she was buried near the top of Red Mountain in Manitou Springs, Colorado. More than 20 years later a railroad transplanted her remains to another part of the mountain, causing her remains to wash down the side of the mountain in 1929. After some time spent in custody of the city of Manitou Springs, she was finally buried in Crystal Valley Cemetery and there she's stayed. While Emma's story has made her the most famous resident of Crystal Valley Cemetery (the city has a yearly festival in her name), there are other unusual tales of the dead associated with Crystal Valley cemetery.

There is a man whose body never made it to the cemetery. Tom O'Neal was mummified using embalming techniques that the county coroner was experimenting with. His body was regularly brought out of storage over the years so that it could dry in the sun. Eventually, the coroner died and was buried in Crystal Valley. A relative of the coroner buried Tom O'Neal as well, but the burial didn't last long. Graverobbers stole the body and it wound up as part of a traveling sideshow.

The ultimate fate of Tom O'Neal's body is unknown. It may have finally been lain to rest. It might just be in storage somewhere. In 1976, while filming an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man on location at a fun house in Long Beach, California, a crewman accidentally broke the arm off of a mannequin used in a display. It was quickly discovered to not have been a mannequin at all, but a mummified corpse! Celebrity pathologist Dr. Thomas Noguchi solved the case when he proved the body had belonged to gunfighter Elmer J. McCurdy. McCurdy, who like Tom O'Neal was never claimed by relatives, had his mummy wind up in a sideshow. Many years later, after his sideshow days were finished, McCurdy wound up in a warehouse full of mannequins. He eventually got purchased as a mannequin for use in an amusement park fun house.

Once identified, McCurdy was finally lain to rest in Guthrie, Oklahoma in 1977. McCurdy's corpse wandered for 65 years before being discovered more than 1,300 miles from where he had died. Who is to say the same fate hasn't befallen Tom O'Neal? The next time you visit a dark fun house in an old amusement park or pass by a mannequin in a store that doesn't look quite right, you might just be looking at the corpse of Tom O'Neal.

After these tales of restless remains, it may be surprising to read the tale of Theresa Kenny, the woman who loved her plot at Crystal Valley Cemetery so much that she spent a decent portion of the last decade of her life sitting in a rocking chair there.

Pay a visit to Crystal Valley Cemetery and learn that while "dead men tell no tales" there are still plenty of unusual stories to be read about the deceased.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Dark Shadows of Lyndhurst

Happy Birthday to actor Jonathan Frid, who turns 84-years-old today! Frid is primarily known for his role as the vampire Barnabas Collins on the popular 1960s Gothic soap opera Dark Shadows. The show had suffered from weak ratings until it began to dabble with supernatural elements. The introduction of ghosts into the plot generated a little interest, but it was the introduction of the character Barnabas Collins in an episode aired on March 22, 1967 that caused the series to take off. The show quickly became a hit with teens and older kids who raced home from school to catch the latest episode. Wisely, producer Dan Curtis and others responsible for the show decided to keep Jonathan Frid on the show and introduced new monsters into the series, wildly wandering far from the show's original concept.

The popularity of the TV series led to the production of a Dark Shadows movie for release in theaters. The film House of Dark Shadows was filmed concurrently with the show, causing some of the major characters to be written out of the show temporarily so the actors could star in the film. This is why in 1970 the show had Frid's Barnabas get locked away in a coffin for weeks. It's because Frid was North of the studio in Manhattan, involved in a production at Lyndhurst Mansion.

Lyndhurst, a large Gothic mansion in Tarrytown, New York had once been considered for use as the fictional Collinwood mansion exterior shots on the show. While it lost out to a mansion in Newport, Rhode Island for that role, a number of other buildings on the Lyndhurst estate were used in the production of the soap opera. Lyndhurst Mansion also won out as the shooting location for both indoor and outdoor scenes depicting the Collinwood home in House of Dark Shadows. The movie varied from the show in that it displayed violence and blood that could never be shown on television in that era. Another big variance with House of Dark Shadows was the the character of Barnabas Collins not being turned into a sympathetic hero. Instead, he remained a villain throughout the film. House of Dark Shadows was a big success in theaters and led to a sequel, Night of Dark Shadows, the following year.

Sadly, in the interim, ABC made the silly mistake of cancelling the popular series despite its low production costs and high ratings. At that time, the youth market wasn't considered desirable to advertisers in that time slot. Night of Dark Shadows, was made without the character of Barnabas Collins in it. The sequel was still a moderate success, but didn't perform as well as the first film. These two events spelled the end of Dark Shadows for a time.

In celebration of the birthday of Jonathan Frid, today's Dark Destination is the Lyndhurst Estate. If you dare to pay a visit there, you'll learn that Barnabas wasn't the only vampire to dwell in Lyndhurst. You will also read about a creature of the night discovered at Lyndhurst by film crew and kept as a mascot during the production of House of Dark Shadows.

Enter Lyndhurst and see what other buildings on the estate were used in the production of Dark Shadows.

-Tom G

Monday, December 1, 2008

Battle of Franklin (Part 2/2): Carnton Plantation

We return to the anniversary of the Battle of Franklin with a visit to the Carnton Plantation. Located in Franklin, Tennessee and just over a mile from the Carter House, this house was the home of a former mayor of nearby-Nashville, Randal McGavock, and his wife, Carrie. It was the site of great despair and grief even prior to the Civil War after three of the McGavock's children suffered a prolonged illness at an early age that eventually claimed their lives. When the Battle of Franklin came to town on November 30, 1864, the house and family would play a major role - Not in the battle itself, but during the aftermath.

It has been said that after losing her three children, Carrie McGavock spiraled into a deep depression and withdrew from the world. She would again find a purpose during the Civil War battle when wounded soldiers were quite literally brought to her doorstep. Reportedly in the heart of battle, there were so many injured soldiers brought to the Carnton Plantation that the wounded lined the house from top to bottom, as well as other buildings on the property, and more lined the property outside. Reportedly, the corpses of five Confederate Generals lined the porch as they awaited burial.

By all accounts, the family did everything they could do to assist the wounded from both the Union and Confederate side. After the doctors ran low of bandages, Carrie McGavock freely offered the family's towels and napkins. When they ran low, she supplied sheets, tablecloths, clothes, and even her own undergarments to patch up the wounds. Through her efforts and her subsequent mourning over the loss of lives, she earned the nickname of "The Widow of the South" and influenced a historical fiction novel by the same name from author Robert Hicks 141 years later.

McGavock emerged from her grief in 1866 when her and her husband decided to donate two-acres of the family's property to a proper Confederate cemetery. They even went so far as to actively raise money and take part in exhuming the over-1,500 soldiers that were buried on their property, as well as nearby-properties, and place them in proper graves. Today the cemetery is known as the McGavock Confederate Cemetery and sits adjacent to the house.

The house has since been turned into a museum that explores its historical past and is reportedly the site of paranormal activity. Ghosts of all genders and ages have been sited on the property and the sounds of the wounded are said to still occasionally echo from nowhere. It is even said that the ghost of a Confederate General is often seen by tourists to the property pacing back and forth on the porch outside.

Visit the makeshift Civil War hospital and read more on its ghostly past.

-Casey H.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Battle of Franklin (Part 1/2): Carter House

Over the next two days, we are going to explore one of the lesser know battles of the American Civil War and the lasting legacy it left on two locations in the city of Franklin, Tennessee - just south of Nashville. While technically the second battle to be fought in the city in the duration of the war, it is often referred to in more definitive terms as The Battle of Franklin due to the size and scope of the battle, which was dramatically larger than the first smaller battle. It started at dusk and went into the night of November 30, 1864 and is one of the few rare night battles of the entire war.

The 15-acre property of Fountain Branch Carter and his family played a crucial role in the battle when the Union Army of Ohio showed up on their front doorstep early in the day. The troops were moving north in hopes of joining forces with the Army of Cumberland in Nashville, Tennessee. Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield led the troops who had fought with the Confederate Army of Tennessee, led by Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood, in the Battle of Spring Hill the prior day. Schofield had utilized the road to Franklin that had been inexplicably left unguarded by Hood, who had hoped to prevent the two armies from combining forces.

The only major obstacle in the Union Army's path between Franklin and Nashville was the Harpeth River. The bridges crossing the river had been heavily damaged in the battle the year before and time was needed to make repairs. As result, Schofield commandeered the Carter's house to set up headquarters and quickly assembled a defensive front, while his engineers got to work on repairing the bridges. However, the Confederate forces were not far behind and arrived shortly thereafter.

Despite concerns over the Union's defensives from his generals, Hood felt that they were letting the Union Army slip away. After seeing the men on the bridges, he felt he had little time to stop Schofield's troops from escaping and joining forces with the Army of the Cumberland to the north. At dusk, he ordered a massive frontal assault that has since been dubbed "Pickett's Charge of the West," though in essence it was much larger than the ill-fated assault at Gettysburg. However, the overall result would be similarly devastating to his forces.

At the Carter's home, the family huddled in the basement for five hours as the battle raged around them. Right outside the basement's windows, Union and Confederate troops were engaged in hand-to-hand combat and men were literally dying only feet away from the family. Among the troops outside was their son Theodrick Carter, who had joined the Confederate Army and had been away from his family property for three years. The conflict raging around him marred his first sight of the family property in those years.

As night progressed, the bridges had been sufficiently repaired and the Union Army quickly retreated as the skirmishes lessened. The Army of Tennessee had been devastated and Schofield's generals felt a retreat was unnecessary and put the men on the bridges at a precarious risk. However, Hood had been stunned by the carnage and the amount of casualties his men had suffered and did not act. While technically a Confederate victory in forcing a Union retreat, they suffered three times the amount of casualties including ten times the amount of deaths. The Army of Tennessee would be completely wiped out at the Battle of Nashville later and Hood would resign his generalship.

The Carter family was equally devastated. Theodrick had been wounded in the battle and was finally reunited with his family who attempted to tend to his wounds. He died two days later in the same room he had been born. The various buildings on the property also had their war wounds with over 1,000 bullet holes riddling the wood, which are still evident to this day. According to some, they are not the only reminder of the battle. Guests and staff alike have reported seeing the apparitions of Civil War soldiers on the property, as well as sighted members of the family including Theodrick in the room he died. Other paranormal activity has been reported on the property as well.

Today the house is open to the general public as a museum and memorial to the various lives lost in the Battle of Franklin. Commercial development has overtaken some of the property, but the family home still exists as a stark reminder of a nation that was once at war with itself.

Visit the Carter House and read its stories.

-Casey H.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

UFOs - The Brooklyn Bridge Encounter

The famed Brooklyn Bridge in New York City, New York is the site of a rather unusual milestone late this evening. On November 30, 1989 at around approximately 3:00 A.M. EST, a couple of people on the bridge witnessed what they thought at the time was the making of a new Hollywood Sci-Fi movie. They described seeing a bright light hovering in the sky by a nearby apartment and the figure of a woman and other strange entities floating through the air and into the light. The witnesses were not seeing a film production however, but rather an incident that would become known as the "Brooklyn Bridge Encounter" (because of its close proximity) and a highly controversial account of reported alien abduction.

The figure seen in the light turned out to be Linda Napolitano who would share her experience with author Budd Hopkins. He would later document her experience with corroborating statements from witnesses in the book Witnessed: The True Story of the Brooklyn Bridge UFO Abductions. According to Napolitano's account, she had been awoken in the night by the sounds of someone inside her apartment. She was unable to move and much to horror, watched as five figures (closely matching descriptions of the "grey" variety of aliens) moved towards her and levitated her off the bed. From there, she reportedly levitated with the creatures and passed right through her closed apartment window on the 12th floor of the building and into an awaiting craft. Once inside, she was examined and asked a series of questions about her family before being released and quickly finding herself back in her apartment.

In Hopkins research, he was able to find a variety of witnesses (including those on the bridge) that reported seeing something similar occur in the general vicinity. Three witnesses in particular offered a true sense of credibility. According to Hopkins, the three individuals consisted of two CIA agents and a former Secretary General of the United Nations. The men agreed to offer their testimony to Hopkins, though with the request of anonymity. They reported seeing the strange event from the vantage point of their limousine as they drove alongside the East River. Even more interesting, one of the agents allegedly became so obsessed with the case that he began stalking Napolitano, going so far as kidnapping and accusing her of conspiring with the entities and indirectly involving him.

The alien abduction case might be one of the more bizarre stories involving the Brooklyn Bridge, but it is hardly the only one. The bridge has been the site of several deaths over the years starting with its own construction, as well as various jumps (both of the daredevil and suicide variety), a terrorism attack and plot, and a stampede that occurred in its early days that left 12 people dead. It has also been the scene of mass evacuations and makes regular cameos in movies over the years where it is often completely destroyed.

Hear the stories of the Brooklyn Bridge and watch the skies.

-Casey H.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Lesson I Learned from a Serial Killer

A few weeks back, a friend wrote me to tell me that serial killer Arthur Shawcross had died. The timing was odd for me. I'd just been covering a number of locations in both Rochester and Buffalo, New York for future Dark Destinations articles. Among the locations I'd visited had been sites associated with Arthur Shawcross's crimes. It had been odd enough both visiting these spots roughly two decades after the crimes occurred and finding out how many of his crimes were committed close by places I'd lived throughout my time in Rochester and even places I'd played as a child. It had been a chilling experience.

Back in fall of 1989, when I was a high school senior, the local newspapers were running stories about the ongoing police investigation into a series of murders in Rochester. The murderer had been dubbed both the "Rochester Strangler" and the "Genessee River Killer" by the press. Myself and a number of my teenage friends had been naive and foolish enough to be excited by the idea that Rochester had its own serial killer. We had images in our heads that were more based in horror films than in reality.

When they actually caught the killer, and the name Arthur Shawcross became infamous for the people of Rochester, my teen friends and I had a wake up call. This wasn't a guy in a hockey mask. This guy didn't run around with a glove with knives on the fingers while making bad puns. This guy was real. He was a mentally ill man who'd suffered a number of head injuries, lead poisoning and if his stories are to be believed, sexual abuse when he was younger. He hadn't just been preying on grown women, he'd also killed a couple of kids many years earlier in Watertown, NY (where I used spend every Thanksgiving at my cousins' dairy farm as a child). Our fantasy bubble burst and reality came streaming horrifically in.

It was a lesson in the stark difference between the fantasy world of horror fiction and the real life atrocities that some people are capable of. When I write this, I"m not speaking ill of the horror genre. All genres of fiction create fantasy worlds that even when they seem realistic, really aren't. I don't care if it is an action film or a romance -- It isn't a model of reality. Hopefully there comes a point in each person's life when they realize this. In the case of my friends and I, this was the first major wake up call we had to how the world was. We realized that in our excitement, we'd dehumanized the victims and idolized a sick slob of a man. It was easier to do when the killer remained cloaked in mystery.

It is a lesson I've kept in the back of my mind always when writing about wars, disasters or instances of violent crime. Hopefully, that shows through in the work. I also wince when I see news coverage of things like the Virginia Tech Massacre last year. While they don't show the killers in a positive light, I think all too often the media unintentionally glorifies killers like Seung-Hui Cho by demonizing them. By putting the focus on the killer and not on the victims, they turn people like that into a sort of anti-hero. They also often reduce the victims down into a number. It winds up reading like a score in a video game.

What are your thoughts on how the media covers stories of mass violence? Is the media handling the matter responsibly? Who do you feel are the biggest offenders? Which news outlets do you feel handle the stories in the most responsible manner? Have you had something happen in your home town or city that was a wake up call for you? Please share.

Pay a visit to Dark Destinations to look up dark locations in your own area.

Or, go to Rochester, NY and see the Dark Destinations in my home city.

-Tom G

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Beautiful Stranger of the Hotel del Coronado

116 years ago today, a young woman checked into the now-famous Hotel del Coronado on the island of Coronado in California under the name of "Lottie A. Bernard". The woman carried no baggage and appeared to be ill, according to the hotel staff. She told the staff that she had been separated from her brother and luggage while traveling by train and that they both would be joining her shortly. Neither arrived. Five days later on November 29, the body of the young woman was found on the steps outside that led to the beach. She had died from what had been determined to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The story of the woman hit the press, which was further fueled when it was discovered that the name she had used had been an alias. Instead, the press gave her the nickname of the "Beautiful Stranger". It would not be long, however, until the press discovered her real name. Kate Morgan had been born in Iowa and was believed to have run a con on the local railways with her husband, Thomas Morgan, who posed as her brother. The legend dictates that Kate had discovered she was pregnant and had pleaded with Thomas to give up the con-scheme and raise a family. Instead, he refused and stormed off the train, leaving her onboard until she reached San Diego (and Coronado), her final destination. Initially sure that he would join her soon, she became despondent when he didn't show and decided to end her own life.

The story of Kate Morgan doesn't end there though. For starters, there are modern conspiracy theories that suggest that Kate did not commit suicide, but was murdered instead. However, she is perhaps best known today for the theory that she is in fact the resident ghost that haunts the Hotel del Coronado. The spirit of Kate is believed to haunt Room 3327, which was the room in which she stayed during those five days when it was still Room 304. Today, the room is reportedly the most requested room of the hotel for the strange activity that has been reported by guests and staff. It is not limited to just the room though. Kate has been seen in the hallways as well as the very steps where she died and is tied to stories of paranormal activity reported in Room 3502 as well.

Pay a visit to Kate at the Hotel del Coronado.

You can explore this and many more Dark Destinations at:

-Casey H.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Happy Birthday Laurie Strode!

On November 22, 1958, Jamie Lee Curtis was born to Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh. A child of actors, it seemed fairly natural that she followed them in their footsteps. After appearances on various television movies and series, she landed her first feature film role in 1978. That April, she headed to South Pasadena to film a low-budget horror film by little-known director John Carpenter from a screenplay he co-wrote with Debra Hill.

Curtis landed the lead role of a 17-year-old babysitter named Laurie Strode who becomes stalked by a murderer/escaped mental patient by the name of Michael Myers in the fictional city of Haddonfield, Illinois. That October, Halloween would hit screens and would become one of the most profitable films ever made and make household names out of Curtis, Carpenter, and of course... Michael Myers.

We just so happen to have passed another important milestone when on October 25 of this year Halloween had its official 30-year anniversary. So in honor of Curtis and the film, we decided to put the spotlight on one of the locations that was used in the film that has haunted the movie-going public since - The Myers House.

Most people know that its current location at 1000 Mission Street is not the same location seen in Halloween or for its sequel Halloween II for that matter. What most people don't know is that the house happens to be a historic landmark designated by the city of South Pasadena because it was built back in 1888, nor that its official name is the "Century House." It does not have a murderous past, aside from its fictional appearance, nor does it have any full-time residents. The house is now home to multiple businesses, which include a graphic design company and a couple financial firms.

Since its appearance in Halloween, the house has received countless tourists who wanted to see a little part of movie history; including even one that showed up on the front steps dressed as Michael Myers. Recently, one fan took his obsession so far that he began building his own exact replica (down to the smallest detail) in Hillsborough, North Carolina.

The "Myers House" is also not the only gem waiting for tourists interested in seeing the Halloween locations. Several of the other houses that appeared in the film are in the general area, including even the "Myers House" seen in the Rob Zombie remake of the film. In fact, the house is now directly across from the hardware store that Myers broke into and pilfered the tools and infamous mask he needed to aid him in his work.

"That's a haunted house - awful stuff happened there once." - Tommy Doyle.

-Casey H.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Tour the Twilight Movie Locations

Today marks the much-anticipated release of Catherine Hardwicke's film adaptation of the bestselling novel, Twilight, by author Stephenie Meyer. Twilight is the first book in a series that involves a young teenage girl falling in love with a century-old vampire who still looks seventeen. The series currently contains four novels and has sold over 25 million copies worldwide and captured the hearts of a legion of fans.

Meyer set the action of the series in the small city of Forks, Washington and the nearby cities of La Push and Port Angeles. Reportedly, she settled on Forks after searching the Internet for one of rainiest cities in the country to act as a natural shield for her vampires from the sun. Even though she had never visited Forks, it became the central setting for her dark fantasy novel. Then an unexpected thing happened... Fans started showing up to see the very real places firsthand and a whole new tourism industry was brought to the area. The Chamber of Commerce quickly added a Twilight tour that took fans to see the sites and the town proclaimed the fictional birthday of the main character of the series, Bella Swan, "Stephenie Meyer Day".

When the time came to adapt the first novel into a movie, the production company Summit Entertainment was very interested in using the real locations as the setting for their film. However, the state of Oregon came to the plate that offered financial incentives and tax rebates for money spent in the state, which was too good of an offer to turn down. Yet, even after they had settled in filming around the greater-metropolitan area of Portland, they still held out hopes that they would be able to incorporate some scenes in their very real spots. As production began and the filming schedule and budget tightened, they realized it was just not to be.

In the tradition of the Twilight-tourism that has brought legions of fans to the locations seen in the novels, we have been working on providing a similar tourism guide to the sites seen in the movie. For starters, there is Indian Beach in the Ecola State Park on the Oregon Coast that doubles as the infamous First Beach in the novels. For some of the action scenes of vampires climbing trees and hunting deer, the production moved down south to the very-scenic Silver Falls State Park (Photo above), which also was the exclusive setting for the horror film, Just Before Dawn. A vampire-attack sequence was shot at the Blue Heron Paper Company industrial lot in Oregon City.

Those interested in checking out the film version of the famous Forks High School will have to travel to two different locations. Kalama High School in Kalama, Washington was used for most of the exterior shots, including the famous parking lot scene and other assorted non-high school related scenes, while Portland's Madison High School was home to the cafeteria and biology room sequences. A school field trip to a greenhouse (that was not in the novel) took place at the greenhouses found at Clackamas Community College in Oregon City.

Charlie and Bela's house is found in the "City of Heritage" - Saint Helens, Oregon. The Olde Towne of the city also doubles as Port Angeles where the Italian restaurant became the Bloated Toad and the dress shop became known as Petite Jolie. Before Twilight, Saint Helens had doubled as Halloweentown in the original Disney television movie and some of the same locations are seen in both films. Finally, the prom scene (moved from the high school) and ending of the film (reportedly different than the book) were set at the very scenic and historic View Point Inn in Corbett, Oregon.

Sadly, Saint Helens received some bad news this week when a local mill ended up trimming several hundred jobs. The city was struggling already before suffering the latest blow and is hoping that their exposure in the film might generate some tourism for the area. The same could be said for the View Point Inn, which has gone as far as building a "Twilight Walk of Fame" where fans can purchase their own personalized stone that will forever grace the path where the famous prom scene was held and help raise funds for needed repairs to restore and save the historic building.

Both the city and the inn have completely embraced their moments in Twilight history. Saint Helens will soon be introducing self-guided walking tours of the locations, as well as their ghost stories and city heritage, while the View Point Inn has held Twilight-themed events and plans on continuing the trend. Tonight, the inn has gone so far as to completely recreate the prom scene so fans can catch the movie nearby and then come back and celebrate its release on the very sets and location used for the film.

We are not done yet. There are still several more locations we have yet to cover and are hard at work in getting those locations, from both the literary and motion picture side, on the site for those interested. Stay tuned in the days and weeks ahead as we continue to expand our Twilight coverage.

Tour the Film Locations of Twilight on Dark Destinations.
Tour the Literary Locations of Twilight on Dark Destinations.

-Casey H.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Hatfields and the McCoys

For nearly 30 years the area around Tug Fork, Kentucky was the site of a bloody feud between two families during the late 19th Century. The feud between the Hatfield family and the McCoy family would leave more than a dozen people dead and cause their family names to be infamously linked forever.
The feud's roots grew during the Civil War, when the families found themselves fighting on opposite sides during the war, despite some intermarriages between the two clans. The episode that seems to have touched off the worst of the feuding was a land dispute in which the ownership of a single pig was at stake because of where it was kept near property line borders. The argument was between the McCoys and a man named Bill Stanton. Stanton, was related to both families. When he was awarded ownership of the pig in court, it infuriated the McCoys. Stanton would later die at the hands of two other members of the McCoy family.

Later incidents would result in property damage, beatings, fires and outright murders. Due to the intermarriages and some alliances between the families, sometimes members turned against their own blood and fought on the opposite side. The feuding continued until an instance of brutality in 1891 which finally gained enough attention that state militia became involved, and 9 Hatfields found themselves on trial. A truce was declared between the families at this point.

Pay a visit to Tug Fork and find out what modern science has discovered as the possible actual cause of the feud.

-Tom G

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Ghostly Visage of Pickens County Courthouse

The current Pickens County Courthouse in Carrollton, Alabama is actually the third courthouse built, after the previous two were burned to the ground. The first courthouse fell victim to Union troops during the American Civil War, but the town scrapped together their resources and completely rebuilt the structure. It would only last for twelve years before again being completely gutted by fire on November 16, 1876, reportedly after a burglary went bad. This time however, as the townsfolk rebuilt, they wanted someone to pay for the loss of the building and that someone was a freed slave by the name of Henry Wells.

The history and the legend differ in what exactly happens next. The story told is that Wells was arrested in January of 1878 and incarcerated on the top floor of the building. An angry mob assembled outside with the intention of getting their hands on Wells. Faced with a possible lynching, Wells looked out the top window and yelled at the crowd, "I am innocent. If you kill me, I am going to haunt you for the rest of your lives!" Just then, lightning struck nearby illuminating his face in the pane of glass. It was not enough however, as the mob rushed the building, snatched Wells, and enacted their own form of vengeance. The very next day, members of the mob noticed the face of Wells still staring down at them from the very window he stood at the night before. No matter how hard they try to wash and scrub down the pane, the face remains to this day.

In reality, Wells was implicated in the arson that destroyed the courthouse. However, as police went to apprehend him, he tried to run but was hit by two bullets fired by the officers. He reportedly did confess to the fire, but died five days later from his wounds. There is also some question if the particular pane of glass that is said to carry the visage of Wells was even installed while he was still alive. It hardly matters though, as the legend continues to spread and the Pickens County Courthouse and the window with the ghostly face continues to be a top tourist destination to this day.

Visit the permanent "ghostly" marker of the Pickens County Courthouse.

-Casey H.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Devil, The Blues and Civil Rights

On November 15, 2001, the Greenwood Blues Heritage Museum & Gallery opened its doors in Greenwood, Mississippi. The project got its start by the recently relocated California couple Steve and Regina LaVere. Steve happened to have served as the agent for The Robert Johnson Estate, whom became the primary focus of the collection. Johnson is a well-known Blues legend who is rumored to have sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads in exchange for his musical abilities and died at an early age in the city of Greenwood - further cementing the rumor that he had somehow made some unholy pact.

The museum would move to its present location later and now shares the same building as a café and bakery. It has also expanded to now offer the Greenwood Heritage Tours, which cover many aspects of the city's history including the Civil War, Civil Rights, Native American, Literary, Cotton Plantations, and, of course, the Delta Blues. The Blues tour hits such Johnson sites as his three tombstones (there was plenty of confusion as to where he was actually buried), as well as stops remembered for B.B. King, Mississippi John Hurt, and Peetie Wheatstraw (another "devilish" personality). In addition, guests will see the very store in nearby Money that fourteen-year-old Emmett Till allegedly whistled at a white woman, which lead to his brutal beating and murder that shocked the nation and helped to start the American Civil Rights Movement.

Explore the history of music and events of the Mississippi Delta.

-Casey H.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Start of the Amityville Horror

The name of the Long Island, New York village Amityville is today synonymous with horror, reportedly much to the chagrin of the residents. The reason why is a simple Dutch-Colonial-style house located there that was built in the 1920s. It has been the focus of countless books, documentaries, and films all looking into the accounts of a haunting and demonic activity that allegedly caused one family to flee in the middle of the night. But it didn't start there...

34 years ago to this day, Ronald DeFeo Jr. murdered his father, mother, two brothers and two sisters in the home at 3:00 in the morning with a rifle. At 6:30 in the evening, DeFeo ran into a local bar and pleaded for help. According to reports at the time, DeFeo told the authorities that he feared the murders had been part of a mafia hit, but the story held too many inconsistencies. A day later, he admitted to the crime. The trial only lasted a year and despite a defense of insanity, DeFeo would be found guilty for the crime and sentenced to six consecutive life-terms in prison.

Despite the horrid nature of the crime, the house was still relatively unknown when the Lutz family moved in just over 13 months after the murders of the Defeo family. However, their stay would be fairly short and they would flee less than a month later and tell the world they had been harassed by demonic forces. The case would become known worldwide as The Amityville Horror.

Since almost everyone knows the story, I won't bother to go into the details here. If you are interested, I've written up a summary of the entire case at the link below. It is probably safe to say that no story of an alleged haunting has been the cause for so much debate to this day. There are countless books and Web sites that are dedicated to either debunking the entire account or defending the stories of the witnesses. So I throw it out to you all - is it the Amityville Horror or Hoax?

See where it all started at the house on Ocean Avenue.

-Casey H.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Curse of Lake Compounce

Lake Compounce Amusement Park has long had the reputation of being cursed and haunted. There are stories that the sounds of music and gaiety can be heard drifting from the park's ballroom at night...even when nobody can be seen within. There are also tales of park visitors and employees dying in freak accidents within the park. Legend has it that a Native American chieftain cursed the land after being swindled out of it and committing suicide in the lake. Some believe the curse is behind the haunting and horrible deaths at the park.

Among the possible victims of the park's curse are also performers Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus. It was here, at Lake Compounce, that a failure in some sound equipment first revealed that Milli Vanilli was, in fact, just lip-syncing. Their concert at the park on July, 21 1989 was the beginning of the end for Milli Vanilli. More than a year later on November 12, 1990 (18 years ago today), the band's producer finally went public and admitted that not only had Rob and Fab been lip-syncing at their concerts...they'd lip-synced their entire career and hadn't sang on the group's albums. My 12-year-old stepsister went into complete denial, hugging her teddy bear and sobbing incoherently over her Tiger Beat magazines for hours. "Cheer up", I told her, "at least you still have C+C Music Factory!" In retrospect, maybe I should have just not tried to console her at all.

Pay a visit to a possibly cursed theme park that might just be the last park you ever visit...but at least you won't have to listen to Milli Vanilli.

-Tom G

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Execution of Henry Wirz

On this date in 1865, Captain Henrich "Henry" Wirz was executed by hanging. Wirz, a Swiss immigrant and former doctor, had been in charge of the Confederacy's Camp Sumter and the Andersonville prison camp during the American Civil War. He was the only person to be tried, convicted and executed for war crimes committed during the war.

Of the P.O.W. camps set up by either the Confederates or Union, Andersonville became the most notorious. Lack of food and unsanitary conditions were the primary cause of death for nearly 13,000 Union soldiers who died while imprisoned there. The stories of life as a prisoner in Andersonville are ones of misery and horror, however, Andersonville was far from the exclusive cause of death and misery for POWs during the Civil War.

Both Confederate and Union prisoner camps suffered deaths in the thousands with the same causes (exposure, starvation, contaminated drinking water, etc.) during the war. Food supplies were short and many prisons were over-crowded. With a few exceptions, most prison camps of that time lost roughly 10-25% of their prisoner population. Andersonville had a prisoner population that was quite high compared to others (45,000 prisoners). It lost nearly 30% of its prisoners. With increased crowding and the food supplies even worse for the South near the end of the war than for the North, it is perhaps remarkable that the deaths weren't even higher.

Following the war, Henry Wirz brought to Washington D.C. and put on trial. Wirz presented evidence that he'd requested more supplies and a means to improve prison conditions. Ultimately he was found guilty of conspiracy and murder and executed on November 10, 1865. As time has passed and knowledge of the other P.O.W. camps has spread, the death of Wirz is seen as unfair by some. However, the stories of Andersonville and the large number of deaths had outraged the public. In the public eye, someone had to answer for what had happened. Henry Wirz was it.

Camp Sumter has become the Andersonville National Historic Site in the time since. It is said that ghosts of the prisoners who died lingering, horrible deaths still roam the former prison grounds.

Pay a visit to Andersonville National Historic Site.

-Tom G