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

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

By mariner's terms, the SS Edmund Fitzgerald had an inauspicious start. During its launch, it took three swings of the champagne bottle to finally break over the bow to christen the ship. After 36-minutes of trying to free the ship from its keel blocks, it was launched sideways and suddenly crashed back into the docks violently and a spectator suffered a heart attack. In the next seventeen years, it would lose its original anchor, run aground, collide with another ship, and crash into the wall of a lock three times. Though it hardly was a charmed life, the worst was yet to come.

On November 9, 1975, the Edmund Fitzgerald departed port at Superior, Wisconsin and into the waters of Lake Superior with a full-load of ore meant for nearby Zug Island. In Great Lakes yore, the weather conditions on the five main lakes can be unpredictable and very deadly - specifically in the month of November. It is so bad that the local sailors have dubbed the winds that pummel the ships the cryptic name of the Witch of November. The weather conditions were hardly favorable the first day of the Fitzgerald's voyage, but took a bad turn the next day.

At 3:30 P.M. on November 10, Fitzgerald Captain Ernest M. McSorley reported that the ship had lost its radar and had a minor list developing. The snow falling was causing whiteout conditions and the Coast Guard issued a warning for all ships to find safe harbor. The freighter, Arthur M. Anderson, was not far behind and issued a warning to the Fitzgerald at 7:10 P.M. that they had been struck by rogue waves big enough to be detected by radar that were heading the Fitzgerald's way. Asked how they were doing, McSorley responded, "We are holding our own." That was the last the ship and the 29 lives onboard were ever heard from again.

The Great Lakes lie in what has been dubbed "The Great Lakes Triangle," for the amount of ships and planes that have vanished in its waters. Surprisingly there are more disappearances per unit area than the infamous Bermuda Triangle, despite the fact that the area is 16 times smaller. The SS Edmund Fitzgerald is perhaps the best-known shipwreck on the Great Lakes. The wreck was located fairly quickly unlike some of the others, but theories still abound as to what caused its sinking (some even including UFOs). In addition, the Fitzgerald has been immortalized in popular culture over the years - most notably in Gordon Lightfoot's The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Visit the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald on Dark Destinations.

-Casey H.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Birthplace of Bram Stoker

On November 8, 1847, Abraham "Bram" Stoker was born in a small home in Clontarf, just outside of Dublin, Ireland. The address was 15 Marino Crescent, which was known simply as "The Crescent". Stoker suffered from an unknown illness for much of his childhood and had to remain bedridden. His mother would sit with him and keep him entertained with fairy tales and the ghost stories of the time. She would also keep him abreast of the world outside his window.

Stoker was born in the middle of what is now known as the Great Famine of Ireland when a disease struck the potato crop of the island and caused massive starvation and mass exodus from Ireland. As people suffered outside his bedroom window, Stoker's mom did her best to explain their plight, as well as her own experiences during a cholera epidemic that struck Sligo, where she lived at the time, in 1846. Later in life, Stoker would later fondly look back at his mother's tales and mix the fantastical with the stories of plague and famine in his most popular novel, Dracula.

The house he was born and grew up in still exists in Clontarf today and overlooks a park that was named in his honor. There are countless more locations in Dublin that are either directly tied or placed in honor of the city's most famous author.

Visit the origins of Dracula in Dublin, Ireland.

-Casey H.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Fatal Jump of Sam Patch

179 years ago today, daredevil Sam Patch succesfully leaped from the High Falls in Rochester, NY. His stunt drew a less spectacular crowd than he had hoped for. So, he planned to do the stunt all over again on the following Friday...Friday the 13th. Only a month earlier, Sam had become the first daredevil to jump off of the Niagara Falls and live. His second jump in Rochester was advertised as his last. This was because Patch intended it to be his final jump in the US before moving on to perform in Europe. However, the sign would prove prophetic and become more final than the loophole Sam had planned.

In order to make his next jump more spectacular, Patch had a platform built to raise him 25 feet higher in the air, increasing the jump off of the 96 foot falls to 121 feet. As was apparently his usual custom, Sam drank liqour prior to jumping. It may have played a role in his death. Patch was witnessed to go limp as he plummeted toward the water at the base of the falls. He hit the water in an awkward position and failed to resurface. His body wouldn't be discovered for months.

The daredevil's demise led to stories of haunting at the falls. It also inspired mutliple famous authors of the era, including Hawthorne and Melville. It is also said to have furthered both prohibition efforts and religious conversion in the area.

There is a lot to the story of Sam Patch and especially the High Falls. Visit the article at our site to find out which American President named his favorite horse after Sam, as well as other facts such as the odd things Sam Patch did with his pet bear cub (Hint: This guy would be on PETA's poop list were he still alive).

Pay a visit to the High Falls gorge.

-Tom G

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Forks Community Hospital

56 years ago today, the Olympic Clinic opened in Forks, Washington in order to serve the medical needs of the local populace. In 1959, the clinic became what is now Forks Community Hospital. Over the past few years, the hospital has become a recognizable name to the legions of Twilight Saga fans. In the Twilight books by Stephenie Meyer, the hospital is the workplace of Carlisle Cullen, a doctor and 300+ year old vampire, who doesn't look a day over 23.

Even more recently, the hospital has become a stopping point for the Fork's Chamber of Commerce Twilight Tour. The tour allows fans to see firsthand real locations that are featured in the book series. Later this month a movie based on the first book will be opening in theaters. It is likely that this will drive the fan base even higher and Forks Community Hospital may be getting a larger number of tourists in 2009.

Check in at Forks Community Hospital.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Happy Birthday to the Master of Splatter!

No, it's not Jackson Pollock's birthday. Whose blog do you think you're reading?

Today Tom Savini turns 62 years old. While there are many talented FX artists with a large body of work that includes a number of classic films, Savini's name is up there with Dick Smith for recognition among the fans. It is perhaps because Savini made himself a more visible face by taking on stuntwork and acting roles in films as well as providing makeup and gore. It made him into a sort of Rennaisance Man of horror movies in the fans' eyes. His name is practically a brand, and is enough of a part of pop culture that he even once appeared as an animated character on The Simpsons.

The film that first really caused the horror fans to stand up and take specific notice of Savini was George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead. Romero's epic follow-up to Night of the Living Dead was notably dripping with blood and gore, and when the guy most responsible for that gore was also running around with a leather jacket and a machete in the film, the gore fans fell in love. Then, Fangoria Magazine came along and poured gasoline on the fire, covering Tom Savini like the teen magazines followed Leif Garrett or Corey Haim. If you were a young horror movie fan in the 1980s, you wanted to be Tom Savini.

Only 10 days from now marks 31 years since the original Dawn of the Dead began filming at Monroeville Mall. So it makes sense to celebrate Tom Savini's life and career as well as one of his most cherished contributions to the horror genre. Today's Dark Destination is Monroeville Mall. The mall is getting a lot of press recently. A week ago it played host to Zombie Fest and this past weekend the new Kevin Smith film Zack and Miri Make a Porno opened in theaters. The mall is used as a setting in the film and Tom Savini has a cameo in it as well. Smith...Savini's name shows no danger of fading from pop culture anytime soon.

Pay a visit to the mall where the dead walk and Zack and Miri make dirty movies.

-Tom G

PS: A special thanks goes out to photographer Astrida Merritt (pictured above with her fellow zombies in 2007) for her donation of Monroeville Mall photographs for our entry at the web site. We love it when people share their photos of Dark Destinations with us!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Spirits of Mansfield Reformatory

The Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio has become well known in paranormal circles for the countless stories of ghosts and strange experiences. Aside from the countless paranormal-themed shows that have covered the tales, the Mansfield Reformatory (as it is more commonly known) has also become something of a training ground for those interested in getting into paranormal investigations. Interestingly, one of the stories of ghosts found in the walls of the former penitentiary got its start on this date 82 years ago.

The story involves former-inmate Philip Orleck who had been earlier paroled and came up with a plan to free a fellow inmate. On November 2, 1926, he put that plan into action. However, it was immediately thwarted when he encountered 72-year-old guard Urban Wilford outside of the West Gate. A struggle broke out and Orleck gunned down Wilford and fled the scene of the crime, abandoning the escape attempt. Authorities later tracked him down two months later and he would be tried and convicted for the murder of the guard. Orleck would later be executed in the Ohio State Penitentiary in Columbus a year later.

There are several tales of witnesses reporting the scene being replayed out to this day. The usual report involves seeing what appears to be an inmate struggling with a guard near the West Gate of the prison. Interestingly enough, the sighting typically concludes before the fatal shot was fired and the two apparitions simply vanish into thin air before the witnesses's eyes.

November 2 is hardly the only day of the month with ties to the Mansfield Reformatory. The first cornerstone of the structure was laid on November 4, 1886 in a large celebration that would turn out to be short-lived. Due to countless setbacks, it would take another ten years before inmates ever arrived. Another ghost story also has its roots in November. On November 5, 1950, the prison supervisor's wife, Helen Glattke, would dislodge a loaded gun from the top of her closet as she was readying for Sunday morning mass and the gun would hit the ground and fire, hitting her. She would die on November 7 in a nearby hospital. Today, her spirit is said to haunt the superintendent's quarters inside the administration building.

These are only a few of the creepy tales associated with the Ohio State Reformatory. In addition, the facility has also appeared in countless movies (as seen above in a production still of the prison in the upcoming horror movie The Dead Matter - photo courtesy of Midnight Syndicate Films) over the years and is transformed into an annual Halloween haunted attraction in the fall.

Discover more of the dark history of the Mansfield Reformatory.

-Casey H.