Sunday, November 8, 2009

Amityville: 35 Years SInce the DeFeo Murders

This coming Friday the 13th will mark the 35th anniversary of the infamous night that 23-year-old Ronald DeFeo Jr. stumbled into a bar near his home asking for help and stating that he thought his parents had been shot. He assembled a small group of people and led them back to his family's house. A horrific scene awaited them -- not only had his parents been shot, Ronald's four young brothers and sisters (ranging in age from 18 to 9) had been murdered as well. All of the family members had been shot as they lay sleeping in their beds. Ron DeFeo suggested that the murders were mob related, but confessed to the murders the following day when details in his story unraveled.

Oddly, all six members of the family were slain while laying face down in their beds, with no signs of any of them waking up from the sound of a rifle going off. Neighbors also did not report hearing the sound of the rifle despite evidence that a silencer wasn't used. Toxicology reports on the slain family failed to reveal the presence of any sedatives that could have kept the family asleep during the murders. Ronald Defeo's ever-changing claims about the murders have at times included accounts in which he had accomplices -- including his own 18-year-old sister (herself one of the victims), but there has never been solid evidence to show that anyone else but Ronald had been involved. Some believe that this strange aspect of the DeFeo murders points to Ronald having assistance in his crimes from a supernatural force.

Indeed, a little over a year later the Lutz family moved into the murder house and lasted only a mere 28 days in the home before fleeing it. Their tales of demonic haunting in the home led to the book The Amityville Horror (which in turn led to a book and film franchise), increasing the infamy of the former DeFeo house.

Ronald Defeo was convicted on all six counts of second degree murder and given six consecutive sentences of 25 years to life. He is incarcerated at Green Haven Correctional Facility in Beekman, New York. DeFeo has been eligable for parole for nearly a decade, but has been turned down for it each time he has applied. His family was buried in nearby Saint Charles Cemetery (see Saint Charles Cemetery, Farmingdale, NY).

Did DeFeo have accomplices in murdering his family? Are there people wandering free who helped him shoot his parents and younger siblings? Or was Ronald's accomplice something even more sinister and intangeable in nature?

Visit the Amityville Horror House and learn more about the controversies surrounding the home. You can also use Street View on our map to see the house as it appears today.

-Tom G

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Attack of the Bunny Man

While some versions of the Bunny Man legend have his story extending back more than a century, the oldest recorded account of the Bunny Man appearing dates back to October 1970. On October 18, 1970, a Virginia couple had their vehicle attacked but what appeared to be a man in bunny suit with a hatchet (see Bunny Man: First Encounter at Guinea Road). Less than two weeks later the mysterious man in a bunny suit would once again appear, vandalizing property and menacing a security guard with an axe (see Bunny Man: Second Encounter at Guinea Road). If this indeed is the genesis of the Bunny Man legend, then the legend turns 40-years-old next year.

The legends of the Bunny Man vary from a mentally ill young man hacking up his family at Easter to a malevolent spirit that has haunted a Fairfax County culvert for nearly a century and likes to kill victims at the stroke of midnight on Halloween. Whatever the story, it is always bad news for those who see the Bunny Man.

Pay a visit to Bunny Man Bridge to learn more about the legends, but should you spot a rabbit... Run away! Run away!

-Tom GPS: Feel free to let loose with the Monty Python quotes.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Investigators Needed for Possibly Haunted Theatre

I was recently approached by The Little Theatre, an art house movie theater in Western New York, about writing an article about their Halloween film festival. In the process of gathering information about the place, I found that some employees of the 80-year-old movie theater had experienced some possible paranormal activity over the years. Theater workers have witnessed doors opening and closing with no apparent physical cause and a voice that calls out the name "Anne."

While I was writing my article, one of my relatives came by and asked what I was writing. When I told him I was writing about The Little Theatre, he told me that he had been hired to install a pair of stained glass windows there. The windows were originally from the Powers Building. I instantly had an odd sensation and a vague memory about the Powers Building. I zipped over to my bookshelf and pulled out a couple of books about hauntings in Rochester, NY. Sure enough, there it was... the Powers Building and the attached Powers Hotel with their stories of haunted elevators that sometimes kill... and the first elevator victim back in the 1890s was a woman named "Annie."

I passed this information along to my contact at The Little Theatre and she asked if I could possibly find a group of paranormal investigators who might be interested in performing an investigation of the historic theater. I told her I would pass the word along. If you represent a group who is interested in conducting an investigation of The Little, you can contact their management through the contact information on their Web site. Ask for Beth.

If you'd like to learn more about The Little Theatre, it's possible haunting, and their upcoming Halloween event click here.

-Tom G

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Haunt of Moundsville Penitentiary

By now, most everyone is familiar with the infamous West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville, West Virginia. The facility (and its "Sugar Shack") left a rather impressionable mark as the setting of the debut episode of the MTV reality series, Fear, and kept the momentum going with recent appearances in the likes of Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures. Well, today marks a rather notorious date in the facility's history. 110 years ago to this day, October 10, 1899, inmate Shep Caldwell was executed for murdering his mistress. His death marked the first execution in West Virginia Penitentiary and there would be 93 more before the prison closed in 1995.

Today, the facility is open to the general public as a living museum where guests can see what life was like behind bars for the inmates of the Moundsville prison. In addition, it also offers ghost tours/hunts for the would-be ghost hunters to hone their skills and attempt to shine some light on the facility's mysterious happenings. It is run by the Moundsville Economic Development Council who takes advantage of this time of year to turn the prison into the Halloween haunted attraction, Dungeon of Horrors. Intended to raise funds for the general upkeep of the prison and keep it open to the general public, the haunt has become one of the more popular Halloween attractions in the United States - drawing around 10,000 visitors each year.

This week, a minor controversy erupted in Wilmington, North Carolina over a similar fundraising haunted attraction that transforms the USS North Carolina into the annual Ghost Ship. Local area news reported on a veteran of the ship's objections that the Halloween haunted attraction was not respectful of those that served and died on the vessel. The staff that run the haunt defended the attraction by saying that the ship did not receive state or federal funding to keep the memorial open and that the group relied on dollars raised from the haunt (and other events throughout the year) to keep the ship open to the general public.

So a question for you all - Do you believe it is disrespectful to run a Halloween haunted attraction at a facility where lives were lost - be it a prison, military vessel, or similar public venue? Does the money raised that help keeps the facility open to the general public justify the means?

For more information on West Virginia Penitentiary and Dungeon of Horrors, check out our articles on Dark Destinations:

West Virginia Penitentiary
Dungeon of Horrors

-Casey H.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Crazy Bet

As of today, it has been 109 years since the death of American Civil War Spy Elizabeth “Crazy Bet” Van Lew. During the war, Elizabeth was a young lady living in what had become the capitol city of the Confederate States of America (also known as the Confederacy). She garnered a reputation for being “hysterical” due to her very outspoken support of the Union both before and during the war. Her blatant support for the other side led others to believe her insane – something that Elizabeth Van Lew picked up on and used to her advantage. She purposely let her hair go scraggly and wore unkempt clothing to further the misconception that she was mentally ill, leading to her nickname “Crazy Bet.” Elizabeth wasn't insane, but she was crazy like a fox as they say.

Due to her falsely perceived insanity and the social status of her family, Van Lew was allowed access to Union soldiers captured and imprisoned nearby. She would bring them care packages and books – allowing secret messages to be slipped back and forth by using pins to mark under letters on pages of the books, spelling out information beneficial to the Union. The Confederacy's arrogance in underestimating the intelligence of both African Americans and women added significantly to their downfall. Van Lew's servants (former slaves she'd freed who chose to work for her) were included in her spy ring. Elizabeth even managed to place one servant spy, Mary Bowser, directly into the home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. There, Mary risked her life as one of at least two spies posing as slaves in the Davis home (the other was a man named William Jackson). Jefferson Davis so underestimated the intelligence of African American slaves that he left important classified papers laying about and conducted military planning discussions right front of slaves in his household. Davis assumed the slaves were all dull and illiterate. Not only could Mary Bowser read, it was stated in some accounts by those she relayed information to that Mary possessed a photographic memory, enabling her to retain every word in the documents without having to worry about being caught transcribing.

Elizabeth Van Lew and her servants were the first to proudly fly the United States flag once again in Richmond, Virginia when the Union retook the city from the Confederacy.

Pay your respects at Shockhoe Hill Cemetery to learn more about Elizabeth Van Lew and others who are buried there.

-Tom G

Monday, September 21, 2009

Stephen King's Birthday

Prolific horror author Stephen King turns 62-years-old today. In honor of his birthday today's Dark Destination is the Stanley Hotel. The hotel was part of the inspiration for Stephen King's 1977 horror novel, The Shining. King was inspired after staying at the hotel with his wife on October 30, 1974. It was the night before the hotel closed down for the season and the author and his wife were the only guests. The empty halls and ballroom along with ghost stories about the place caused King to resurrect a story he'd never finished and change the setting from a carnival to a hotel called The Overlook.

Over two decades later, the hotel became the primary shooting location for the television mini-series adaption of the novel, directed by Mick Garris. Dark Destination's own Casey Hopkins was actually on set during part of that shoot, and had the chance to chat with King and others after being invited by the director following an interview for the site. Perhaps he'll share his story with all of you sometime. The mini-series followed King's novel closer than Stanley Kubrick's 1980 film adaption, leading to fans being polarized in opinion over the two adaptions. It is rare to find a fan who enjoys both adaptions equally.

Which adaption do you prefer?

Stay the night in the haunted rooms of the Stanley Hotel if you dare.

-Tom G

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Torture Tree

The month of September holds a number of dates associated with the historical tale of the Boyd-Parker Ambush – today is one of the few that actually has a positive note to it. On September 17, 1927, the Livingston County Historical Society dedicated the Boyd and Parker Wayside Shrine. The event drew a large crowd and brought attention to a place of historical significance that had largely been forgotten for decades. The creation of the shrine eventually led to what is now Boyd & Parker Memorial Park.

The story of what happened to Lt. Thomas Boyd and Sgt. Michael Parker is one of the most gruesome tales to come out of the American Revolutionary War. I can recall my seventh grade history teacher, Mr. Dumas, telling my fellow classmates and I the gory details of the tortures visited upon these two men who had the misfortune of being captured by Chief Little Beard's Seneca tribe. It was so extreme, that I thought he was embellishing the story. I found out decades later that he hadn't embellished a bit. I was also surprised to find out that the story didn't end with their agonizingly prolonged deaths, but continued with with tales of grave robbery, conspiracy accusations, and human remains dug up and denied proper burial for more than two decades (and even once finally buried, were dug up yet again).

A large bur oak (pictured in the background of the photo above) that still stands in the park is believed to be the tree which played an incredibly sickening role in the final moments of Boyd and Parker back in 1779. Estimated at over 240-years-old, it is known as the Torture Tree. It looms over the park, an ancient reminder of the horrors of war and the painful sacrifice that likely prevented an ambush of General Sullivan's army by British Loyalists and their Native American allies.

Pay a visit to Boyd & Parker Memorial Park – though be cautioned, the stories there are very bloody and aren't for the faint of heart.

-Tom G

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Rediscovery of a Legend

24 years ago on this day, a joint American-French expedition located the wreckage of the famed-ship, the R.M.S. Titanic. The expedition was led by Dr. Robert Ballard and Jean-Louis Michel and was funded by the United State Navy with the understanding that Ballard would first lead secret missions to survey the wreckage of the naval nuclear submarines, Thresher and Scorpion. The knowledge and experience he learned from the two missions aided him greatly in his search for the famous Titanic. In fact, it was his new understanding of underwater debris field which led him directly to the famous wreckage. On September 1, 1985, the team's lifelong dreams were fulfilled and the Titanic was found. The ship had sunk during its maiden voyage on April 14, 1912 and took an estimated 1,520 lives with it - a tragedy that left the world shaken and installed the name "Titanic" forever in popular culture.

Read more about the famed ship at Dark Destinations.

-Casey H.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Halloween and the Economy

In past years of economic difficulties, Halloween still managed to bolster retail sales figures as people purchased candy, costumes and decorations despite financial woes. Last year, despite the recession, Halloween resulted in between five to six billion dollars in sales for the retail sector. This year, however, as I look about my hometown of Rochester, NY, I'm seeing less costume shops and Halloween supplies available than I did at this time last year.

Last year one of the most popular local haunted attractions, Fear at Frontier (see Frontier Field/Fear at Frontier), chose to skip the season. It now appears that they have chosen not to reopen for 2009 as well. I was then saddened to learn from artist Larry Moss that due to lack of donations his Balloon Manor Halloween event (see Balloon Manor) was also going to have to skip this year. It has left me wondering what other haunted attractions are keeping their doors closed this year, or have possibly had to change venues due to the economy. It also has me wondering about the impact on ghost tours. Casey mentioned to me that a ghost tour local to him is skipping the 2009 season. I had actually been wondering if haunted attractions being closed might drive further business toward guided ghost walks and spooky-themed bus tours. Tours require far less staff and materials than a haunted attraction and despite the economy there are bound to be a large number of folks who will be in search of creepy Halloween thrills.

What is happening with the haunts and tours near you? Have you noticed any changes this year in your local retailers gearing up for the Halloween season? Do you plan on laying low this Halloween? Or are you going all out to spread and enjoy the Halloween spirit?

If you are a haunted attraction owner or an operator of a macabre-themed tour that is running this year, please give us a shout. We'll make sure to plug your business on our Web site.

-Tom G

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Haunting of Malco Theatre

The Malco Theatre is a celebrated landmark in the tourist city of Hot Springs, Arkansas. Although the current building dates back only to 1935, the Central Avenue location has hosted theatrical venues since the 1880s. Previous incarnations were torn down for one reason or another (one after it was gutted by fire), but perhaps something was left behind. In addition to reports of paranormal activity, the Malco Theatre is home to a rather unusual tale. From 1996 until very recently, the theater was also host to Maxwell Blade's Theatre of Magic and while researching the venue's history, he reportedly stumbled across an interesting legend.

The date was August 28, 1888 and a German magician was performing at an early incarnation of the theater when he asked a woman in the audience to join him on stage to assist with his final illusion. The woman was Clara B. Sutherland and a red silk sheet was placed over her. When the magician pulled it away, she had vanished - a fairly normal routine. What was not normal was that when the magician ordered the woman to reappear, she didn't. According to the legend, the woman had simply vanished and could not be summoned back despite the magician's best efforts. She was never seen again. While some might dismiss the tale as being just part of Maxwell Blade's former act, there are several who believe that there is a connection between it and the reports of an apparition of a woman that has been spotted in the venue's basement.

Read more about the Malco Theatre at Dark Destinations.

-Casey H.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Introducing Edgar, Allan, and Poe

With the NFL preseason off and running and college football set to kick off in just under two weeks, we figured it okay to take a slight diversion today and look at how the dark side can penetrate popular culture. In 1996, the city of Baltimore, Maryland was thirsting to host their own NFL team (after losing the Colts to Indianapolis in 1983) and the prospects tempted Cleveland Browns owner, Art Modell, to bring his team there. Cleveland did not let go without a fight and a deal was struck between the parties and the NFL to keep the team name and history of the Browns in Cleveland, while designating Modell's team as an “expansion team" or new franchise, despite keeping many of the former Browns players on the roster. Confusing, no? Well, the gist is that the former-Browns were now a new NFL franchise that was in need of a name and the city of Baltimore turned to their citizens for a vote. At long last, the city decided to name the team after the famous poem, The Raven by author Edgar Allan Poe, whose body was laid to rest inside the city limits (see Old Westminster Burial Ground).

For the first two years, the newly-formed Baltimore Ravens played in the city's Memorial Stadium, while a more permanent location was built. They finally took the field in what-is-now M&T Bank Stadium (formerly known as Ravens Stadium and PSINet Stadium) two years later. The final piece of the puzzle was put into place that year when on August 24, 1998, the team's new mascots “hatched" on the field during a preseason game with the Philadelphia Eagles (perhaps starting the ongoing feud between Philadelphia and Baltimore as the one true home of Edgar Allan Poe). The mascots were aptly named Edgar, Allan, and Poe - although apparently only the latter is still with the team to this day (are Edgar and Allan victims of the down economy?). In one more twist to the tale, the infamous Poe Toaster of Old Westminster Burial Ground shocked the city in 2001 when they left a note during their traditional visit to the author's grave that more than strongly put their support behind the New York Giants in the upcoming Super Bowl game with the Ravens. As it would turn out, they must have been sorely disappointed as the Ravens walked away with the game and the crown of Super Bowl champs with a dominating 34-7 victory.

Read more about the Ravens/Poe connection at M&T Bank Stadium.

-Casey H.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Original Hollywood Celebrity Death

In a year where celebrity deaths have garnered their fair share of the headlines – most notably with Michael Jackson but also including Farrah Fawcett, Ed McMahon, Walter Cronkite, David Carradine, Karl Malden, Dom DeLuise, Patrick McGoohan, John Hughes, and many more – it is worth taking a look back at the fascination and phenomenon of celebrity deaths. Before there ever was a Michael Jackson (and a CNN that still devotes quite a bit of coverage to his death) or an Elvis Presley, there was an Italian actor known as the "Latin Lover," Rudolph Valentino.

The death of Valentino at the young age of 31 following complications of appendicitis was a devastating blow to the film industry and his countless fans. It has been said that there was a growing false sense of security that actors that graced the silver screen were somehow invincible and larger than life. That illusion came crashing down on August 23, 1926 when Valentino passed away in a hospital in New York. His subsequent funeral in that state drew over 100,000 mourners, which caught the organizers completely off guard and unprepared. While the Los Angeles Times ran with the headline, "Scores in Battle to See Valentino Body," the Chicago Tribune perhaps described it best with their headline, "Riot to See Dead Valentino." The NYPD was forced to deploy a large show of force to disrupt the unruly crowds who were unsatisfied with a two-second glimpse at the dead icon.

Things ran smoother when Valentino's body was returned to Los Angeles, California and he was laid to rest in the then-Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery (now known as Hollywood Forever Cemetery). Another crowd of 80,000 mourners witnessed his casket being carried into the Cathedral Mausoleum where he was ultimately interred. The story of Valentino's legacy did not end there though. In fact, the crypt was only meant to be a temporary home, but the plans went awry. Within years, stories of a woman mourner dressed entirely in black making annual visits to his tomb caught on with the press and began the mystery of the "Lady in Black." In fact, the mystery even served as an inspiration to the famous folk tune, The Long Black Veil, which has been popularized by such names as Johnny Cash and The Band.

Read about it and other stories of Hollywood Forever at Dark Destinations.

-Casey H.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Siriraj Museum

Today marks five years since the multiple medical museums of the Siriraj Hospital in Thailand were combined into a single large museum. The individual museums that compose the Siriraj Medical Museum, include one dealing with parasitology as well as one specializing in forensic science. The Siriraj's forensics exhibits include a number of macabre items on display; including a severed head that has been cross-sectioned to show the path of a bullet that was fired into it. The most infamous display in the museum is the corpse of See Uey Sae Ung. See Uey was a cannibalistic serial child murderer during the 1940s. The killer, whose crimes have turned him into a legendary bogeyman for the children of Thailand, stands in a state of mummification inside a glass display cabinet, with his face pressed grotesquely right against the glass.

The museum's staff is so dedicated that a few of them continue to work there even in death. The founder of the forensic museum, Songkran Niyomsane, continues to teach medical students in this manner; his skeleton presides over the museum from its own display. Thai medical students who study at the museum often leave gifts at displays containing human remains as form of gratitude for being provided the opportunity to learn. It is common practice for the students to refer to the remains on display respectfully as “Head-Master.”

Pay a visit to the Siriraj Museum to learn more from the “Head-Masters” in residence.

-Tom G

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Missing Colony

On August 18, 1590, John White returned from three years away overseas to discover that his colony in America, including his family, were all missing from the island of Roanoke. White, who had been elected governor of the colony years earlier, had returned to Europe to bring back supplies for the Roanoke colony. Thanks to a war between Spain and England, his return to the colony was delayed greatly, and he returned to find the colony abandoned and a mystery that still remains officially unsolved more than 400 years later.

What happened to the people of Roanoke Island?

-Tom G

Monday, August 17, 2009

Montana's Nessie

The months of May through August in the United States see their share of folks hitting the water to escape the heat and/or for a little recreational activity. With so many eyes on the water, it is not surprising that the four months also see a spike of reported sightings of strange objects in the water - especially in places filled with local legends of monsters swimming the deep. Flathead Lake in Northwest Montana is no exception. Sightings of a monster living in the lake date back to 1889 and number around 79 separate reports for the next century - with still more reported in recent years. Tomorrow is the anniversary of one such sighting.

On August 18, 1998, an angler was startled to see something large just below the surface that was closely tailing a lake trout he had hooked and was reeling in. While the report is open to all sorts of speculation, other detailed reports of a monster with a snake-like head and the body of an eel (that some estimates put as large as 40-feet long) are a bit harder to explain. It is these reports of the so-called Flathead Lake Monster that have made the tranquil setting a spot of interest for curious travelers who hope to get a glimpse of the cryptid that has been dubbed Montana's Nessie.

Read the history of the Flathead Lake Monster at Dark Destinations.

-Casey H.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fire That Swept the Halloween Capitol of the World

Today marks 125 years since a great fire swept through the streets of Anoka, Minnesota and destroyed a total of 86 buildings. The fire, which took place 53 years prior to the city being declared the Halloween Capitol of the World by Congress (see Dark Destinations entry on Anoka), began in a local ice rink and quickly spread to other buildings the night of August 16, 1884. One of the buildings to survive the fire, though heavily damaged, was the Jackson Hotel. The hotel, which had only existed for seven years at the time of the fire, underwent extensive repairs and re-opened nearly a year later. Later renamed Billy's Bar and Grill, the hotel has since been the scene of a murder and a reported haunting - though the haunting does not appear to be connected to either the fire or the murder. Who haunts the former Jackson Hotel?

Pay a visit to Billy's Bar and Grill and see for yourself.

-Tom G

Friday, August 14, 2009

They Went Out, but They Didn't Come Back

The Maritime Memorial Park in Astoria, Oregon was consecrated on this date (August 14, 1993) to pay tribute to the local lives that spent their careers at sea - some of which, never came home. Located directly under the Astoria-Megler Bridge (featured in such films as The Goonies, Free Willy, Kindergarten Cop, and The Ring Two), the wall of remembrance is chalked full of stories of the dangerous and sometimes interesting life of sailors and crews that work the open water. Among those featured are the crew of the U.S.S. Astoria (lost in World War II), the coast guard and merchants that were lost where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean (see Mouth of the Columbia River), and a captain of a halibut fishing vessel who freely spoke of his encounters with a large sea monster (nicknamed Colossal Claude locally, but known worldwide as Cadborosaurus or Caddy). The memorial was a filming location for the upcoming horror film, Crimps, by local filmmaker Mick Alderman.

Read about their accounts at Dark Destinations.

-Casey H.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Exploring The Cabinet

(TheCabinet painting by Alan M. Clark)

As those of you who have directly visited Dark Destinations may have noticed, the travel guide is actually just one aspect of a larger Web site, Originally founded in 1994, it is one the oldest Internet sites in existence dedicated to the horror genre. While Dark Destinations fits in on the Halloween-side of things, as well as the movie and literary locations, it is our firm belief that the history and mythology found in many of our destinations played an indirect role (if not directly in some cases) in influencing the genre today. That is why many of our locations feature a section dedicated to the location's influence on popular culture - with a heavy emphasis on the darker side of pop culture. As such, we explore the history, legends, and roots of the horror genre in its various mediums on the site and not just in movies.

The literature section has the works of Edgar Allan Poe, the Grimm Brothers and many other classic tales of horror. The movies section has the tongue-in-cheek survival guides for both villains and regular characters in horror films. The music section displays horror-related music on Rhapsody. There are also sections for television, theater and radio. Almost all of's departments contain a section for perusing or contributing famous (of infamous) quotes associated with it. Most sections also have discussion forums for fans to discuss horror in its many forms as well.

Pay a visit to and check it out!

-Tom G

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Manson Murders on Cielo Drive: 40 Years Later

Today marks the 40th Anniversary for one of the world's most notorious crimes in the Benedict Canyon area of Beverly Hills, California. On August 9, 1969, housekeeper Winifred Chapman arrived to work at 10050 Cielo Drive and discovered the bodies of Sharon Tate (actress and wife of director Roman Polanski), Jay Sebring (famed hairstylist to the stars), Abigail Folger (heiress to the Folger coffee fortune), Voytek Frykowski (writer and boyfriend of Folger's), and Steven Parent (a local teenager who was in the wrong place at the wrong time) brutally massacred. The murders, coupled with a similarly savage slaying the following evening resulted in a massive paranoia that took over much of Hollywood and the Los Angeles-area and a months-long investigation to find the killers. When the suspects were apprehended, the case only got stranger. The world was introduced to Charles Manson and his band of followers, known as the Family, and their apocalyptic vision of "Helter Skelter."

The murders were conducted that evening by Manson Family members, Charles "Tex" Watson, Susan "Sadie Mae Glutz" Atkins, Patricia "Katie" Krenwinkel, and Linda Kasabian. The grisly crime propelled 10050 Cielo Drive into the collective memory of the world and made it one of the most infamous properties in the Los Angeles area – A property that continues to see curious onlookers 40 years later. While it may seem rather strange to some that a "crime scene" would continue to attract that kind of interest, there's more to 10050 (later changed to 10066) Cielo Drive than meets the eye. I've recently updated our article on the property and looked at its history from its early days through the crime and beyond and it is easy to see why the site remains one of the most popular stops for out-of-town tourists. As a matter of fact, Tom and I are in the process of expanding all of our Manson Family coverage – from locations we currently cover to countless additional stops associated to the Family and their horrific crime spree.

Read up on 10050 Cielo Drive where the world was introduced to the Manson Family.

-Casey H.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Plane that Struck the Empire State Building

Given the hustle and bustle of New York City, it is not surprising to find a few stories have slipped out of the collective consciousness and been relegated to a few paragraphs in the trivia section of travel books. However, some forgotten events become somewhat inexplicable when viewed with modern perceptions and fears. Such is the case of a B-25 bomber that crashed into the upper floors of the Empire State Building on this date 64 years ago.

On the morning of July 28, 1945, the so-called "Billy Mitchell" bomber got lost over a deep fog that enveloped the city en route to Newark, New Jersey. Pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Bill Smith, attempted to get his bearings by descending to 1,000 feet, but found he strayed into the heart of the city. He quickly maneuvered his plane to avoid hitting the skyscrapers, but his new course of direction put him directly in line with the Empire State Building. At 9:49 A.M., the plane crashed into the building on 79th floor at a rate of approximately 200 miles per hour. At the time, the nation was nearing the end of World War II and fears immediately resonated throughout the city that it was under attack - an eerie foreshadow of events years later.

Amazingly, the tragedy was not as bad as it could have been as only 14 lives were lost in the crash, including the three-member crew of the B-25, despite a crowd of over 60 people on the observation deck at the time. The reason for this was actually quite simple. It happened on a Saturday and the typically full offices were relatively empty for the weekend. In the middle of destruction, there were also stories of survival and hope – including the tale of a woman that survived a 1,000-foot plunge in one of the building's elevators.

Read more about this and other tales of the Empire State Building.

-Casey H.

Monday, July 27, 2009

30th Anniversary of The Amityville Horror

On this date in 1979, the first film in a popular haunted house franchise hit screens. On July 27, The Amityville Horror was unleashed and became a box-office success worldwide. The film starred James Brolin, Margot Kidder, and Rod Steiger and was an adaptation of the novel of the same name by author Jay Anson. Of course, the film told of the alleged real-life haunting of the Lutz Family in a house located at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York (see Amityville Horror House).

The residence that doubled as that infamous house for the film was actually located in nearby Toms River, New Jersey, as Amityville officials turned down the studio's request to film there – reportedly already fed up with the exposure from the alleged haunting. The success of The Amityville Horror was spawned into countless sequels and even a remake in 2005 (see Amityville Horror Movie House (2005)) and reinvigorated the haunted house sub-genre of horror films. In fact, as this film celebrates its 30th Anniversary, another film based on an reputed haunting tore up screens earlier this year and is currently on top of the DVD rental charts - The Haunting in Connecticut (see The Haunting in Connecticut House).

Celebrate 30 years with a trip to Tom's River.

-Casey H.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Balloon Manor Canceled for 2009

For those of you unfamiliar with it, Balloon Manor is a haunted attraction created entirely from balloons that pops up each year in the Rochester, New York area. The story behind Balloon Manor is a romantic one. Artist Larry Moss's wife, Judy, fell into a coma in 2003 due to complications from cancer treatments. Larry would talk to her in the hopes he could bring her out of her unconscious state. One day he promised her that if she would please wake up and return to him, he would celebrate their Halloween wedding anniversary by building her a haunted castle out of balloons. When Judy finally came out of her coma, the one thing she remembered was Larry making that promise to her. In October of 2004, Larry and a team of volunteers fulfilled his romantic promise to his wife and built a 10,000 square foot haunted castle completely out of latex balloons. Everything, including the walls, furniture and monsters were made from balloons: an undertaking that took six and half days and over 100,000 balloons to make. One hundred percent of the profits for Balloon Manor went to cancer charities (and still do). Balloon Manor became a yearly tradition, with the exception of 2005 which was skipped.

Sadly, due to the current state of the economy and a lack of sponsorship this year, there will not be a Balloon Manor in 2009. There has been news coverage of Larry's struggles to drum up the support necessary for creating Balloon Manor, and while it brought in new volunteers and donations, it just wasn't enough to make Balloon Manor 2009 a reality. Larry informed me through email that he was going to make a public announcement about the cancellation later this week. He gave me the go ahead to break the news in advance through Dark Destinations since I was already in the process of updating our entry on Balloon Manor (see Balloon Manor). This is not the end of Balloon Manor, which Larry intends to bring back in the future. This also doesn't mean that Larry Moss doesn't have some other magic up his sleeve; he will also be announcing new upcoming projects that he has in development. To receive the official announcement (as well as future Balloon Manor announcements) you can sign up through or by following Balloon Manor on Twitter. Also, should you wish and are able, you can make monetary donations towards next year's Balloon Manor or even volunteer to help in its creation through the Balloon Manor Web site.

Click here to learn more about Balloon Manor and to view photos from past Balloon Manors.

-Tom G

Friday, July 24, 2009

On the Trail of the Lizard Man

1988 will forever be known as the "Year of the Lizard Man" in South Carolina. That summer, sightings of a large, unknown cryptid flooded into the police office in Bishopville (see Bishopville, South Carolina) and tensions rose in the small community. A June sighting by a local teenager named Chris Davis set the tone. He reported seeing a bipedal creature that stood seven-to-eight-feet tall with reptilian skin, glowing red eyes, and long, black claws extended from the three fingers on each hand near Scape Ore Swamp. Other reports followed and it was not long before the small South Carolina community was overrun by media from around the world.

Another incident would occur on July 24 that would further provide fuel to the fire. Teenagers, Rodney Nolf and Shane Stokes, were near near Scape Ore Swamp when a large figure quickly ran across the road some 20-feet in front of their car. Coupled with secondary reports of strange howling in the same area, the police were sent out to investigate. What they found were the remains of three 40-gallon cardboard drums scattered about the road and the tops of nearby trees severely damaged some eight feet from the ground. Even more interesting was the trail of three-toed tracks that measured 14 inches long and seven inches wide. The officers were apparently able to follow the tracks 300 yards into Scape Ore Swamp and returned the next day to take castings of three of the prints.

The castings were never submitted for analysis reportedly because they were assured that no possible match to an existing animal would be found. Still other accounts have wildlife officials outright dismissing the prints as outright fakes. For the most part, the reports of an eight-foot reptilian cryptid died off, although there have been a scattering of recent reports in the area that hint that something still lurks in the area. On a sad side-note, Davis was shot to death in his home earlier this year at the young age of 37 in an unrelated incident. While his passing may deprive future investigators of a firsthand account that was considered the most credible and descriptive by local officials, theories are still being thrown around. In fact, one of the more commonly accepted theories of what is lurking in Scape Ore Swamp recalls another legendary cryptid from the area.

Click here to read that theory and even more on the famed Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp.

-Casey H.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Hawthorne Hotel of Salem, Massachusetts

The Hawthorne Hotel opened on July 23, 1925 (84 years ago today) in the infamous city of Salem, Massachusetts. The hotel, then known as just The Hawthorne, was named after one of Salem's most accomplished residents, Nathaniel Hawthorne. The name "Hawthorne" actually has an ironic connotation for the city of Salem. While it pays tribute to the famed author, it is also an unintentional reference to the city's dark past. Nathaniel Hawthorne's great-great-grandfather, John Hathorne, was one of the judges during the Salem Witch Trials, earning him the moniker of "The Witch Hanging Judge," and the only one to refuse to repent for his actions during the time. Out of great shame of his family's legacy, Nathaniel later legally changed his name by adding the "w" to Hawthorne.

Perhaps it is only fitting that a hotel named after an author well known for employing the supernatural in his fiction and whose own past is tied to one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in the United States is itself rumored to be haunted. In fact, there is a legend that the hotel is built on the former apple orchard of Bridget Bishop, the first person to be executed during the infamous trials. According to reports, guests and staff alike encounter the phantom smell of apples throughout the hotel to this very day. Of course, that is just one of the many ghostly legends tied to the hotel. In fact, if the stories are to be believed, the hotel is one of the most haunted locations not only in the state of Massachusetts, but in the entire country.

Read more on the ghosts and legends of the Hawthorne Hotel.

-Casey H.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Mad Dog Killers of Mansfield Reformatory

Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio might be better known by its unofficial name, Mansfield Reformatory. The former reformatory is renowned for its paranormal activity and spooky appearance, which has led many to dub the facility, "Dracula's Castle." Today, it is known in the paranormal field as something of an ideal training grounds for would-be ghost hunters to learn the tools of the trade. After all, the prison is steeped in legends of past inmate violence and other notorious goings-on. In fact, sometimes it is quite difficult to separate the legend from reality, For example, it is not uncommon to hear that the Ohio State Reformatory housed the worst of the worst in the state of Ohio. In reality, it was an intermediate facility whose inmates were those too old to serve in a juvenile detention center, yet too young for the hard life awaiting them at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Columbus. That's not say that the facility did not have its bad apples and bloodshed. In fact, today is the anniversary of one of the reformatory's most notorious crimes.

July 21, 1948 marked the start of a two-week crime spree that would take the lives of six innocent civilians and spread fear throughout the community. Interestingly, the crimes were sparked not by inmates then serving time, but rather two men who had recently been paroled. On this day 61 years ago, Robert Daniels and John West returned to Ohio State Reformatory to enact revenge on an employee of the prison. When that individual could not be located, the two men went to the home of the prison's farm superintendent and kidnapped the man, his wife and his daughter. They took the three souls to a nearby cornfield and executed them in cold blood. As it turned out, the crime spree had only just begun and it would last for two weeks longer until it ended in a shootout with West dead and Daniels in handcuffs. Robert Daniels would ultimately be executed for the crimes, for which the press dubbed the men the "Mad Dog Killers."

Read more of the history and the stories of ghostly activity at the Ohio State Reformatory.

-Casey H.

Monday, July 20, 2009

She Cries by the Light of the Moon

In honor of the 40th Anniversary of Apollo 11 touching down on the lunar surface, we thought we would throw together our own little tribute to the Moon.

Our first stop is on the Earth's surface and at just one of many legends that the Moon is said to play a role. The story behind the lake and a small falls at Creve Coeur County Park in Missouri (just outside St. Louis) involves a Native American princess whose love of a French fur trader went unrequited. With a shattered heart, she took her own life by jumping from the cliff near the lake and her agony was suddenly reflected by the lake itself, which morphed to resemble a broken heart, while a small spring began to run over the cliff to represent her tears. Today, the ghost of the young maiden is said to be seen crying at the top of the cliff on Dripping Springs, but only by the light of the full Moon. On other nights, she is seen and heard in other ways.

Read more about the Native American Princess at Creve Coeur County Park.

We'll leave our own atmosphere for our next stop. As many of you are aware, Dark Destinations incorporates Google Maps into our site to make navigating your travels all the more easier. While Google Maps, and its offshoot Google Earth, are extremely popular, not everyone is aware that Google's reach extends beyond our own planet. In fact, Google has launched similar service that maps out and give you a satellite's view of the Moon (a similar interface is also available for the planet Mars). On Google Moon, they have even added an interface that allows you to see the landing spots of the Apollo missions and learn even more about what each mission entailed. Unfortunately, some features like Street View are not yet an option for obvious reasons. However, it probably won't be long knowing Google. Why else do you think NASA has future plans to send unmanned craft back to the lunar surface?

We do not yet have any Dark Destinations on the Moon, but maybe someday. After all, as Pink Floyd put it, “There is no dark side of the Moon, really. As a matter of fact, it's all dark."

-Casey H.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Sun Rises on Day of the Dead

Following the cult-like status of his previous zombie films (Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead), George A. Romero set out in 1984 to make the third film in the original trilogy. Although it had a limited release just weeks earlier, Day of the Dead zombie-walked into a much wider release on this day in 1985. Romero had originally intended to make a high budget zombie film and he had arranged around seven million in financing. However, the budget was sliced in half after a dispute arose between the financiers and Romero when the latter insisted that the film be released unrated, rather than submit it to the Motion Pictures Association of America and receive a probable 'X' rating.

Although the film utilized locations in both Pennsylvania (the ol' stomping grounds in former Romero zombie films) and Florida, the major set piece of Day of the Dead was an underground military facility where the humans could live in safety from the zombie apocalypse outside. In reality, the base was a former limestone mine (known as the Wampum Mine in Wampum, Pennsylvania) that had been converted into an underground storage facility shortly after World War II. Today, the facility still serves in that capacity and is now known as the Gateway Commerce Center. While the inside may be locked off to tourists interested in its zombie-lore past, it still manages to hold a special place in the pantheons of the Romero's Dead films.

Read more on the Wampum Mine.

-Casey H.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Escape from Fort Delaware

In the early days of the American Civil War, the Union-run prisoner of war camp, Fort Delaware, still had a relatively low inmate population (still over half of what it would become only a year later) and few problems. It was run by Captain Augustus Gibson, whose general philosophy was to show the same respect and treatment to the captured Confederate troops that he would hope to be shown if he was in their shoes. While the attitude won him respect from the very prisoners he was in charge of guarding, it also raised suspicions about his loyalty to the Union by some of his troops and nearby residents. He remained confident of his approach however and that confidence proved to be his undoing.

After a general had visited the camp and had expressed a specific concern regarding the lack of gunboat patrols around the island that could keep a lookout for escape attempts, Captain Gibson assured his general that he had things completely under control. Only a few weeks later, this would prove to be a big mistake. 143 years ago to this day, 19 inmates at Fort Delaware constructed a makeshift raft and managed to navigate it across the Delaware River to the shore of Delaware, where local residents aided in their escape. For the high command it was obvious that Gibson's overconfidence (and suspect allegiance) was a detriment to his command and he was removed.

Things changed drastically after Gibson had left the camp. The population continued to swell and the treatment of the inmates went from bad to worse. In total, the Union estimates put the total of successful escape attempts at 273, although Confederate estimates nearly double, if not quadruple, the number. Escapes from the island were fraught with danger. Those that tried faced everything from drowning in the swift currents to patrol boats to sentries to sharks. It is unclear about how many perished by attempting to escape, which might account for some of the paranormal activity reported on the grounds of the former prison to this day. During the second week of June, these escape attempts are recreated with the annual Escape from Fort Delaware Triathlon, which attracts around 400 athletes per year.

Read more tales of Fort Delaware.

-Casey H.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Myths and Legends of the Hollywood Sign

Now a world-famous landmark, the Hollywood Sign was originally erected in 1923 to advertise real estate above the Hollywood district of Los Angeles. It was officially dedicated on July 13 and each letter on the sign originally measured 30 feet wide and 50 feet high (it has since been resized) and adorned with light bulbs - 4,000 in total. While the real estate deal didn't work out, the sign was unofficially adopted by the burgeoning film industry as a symbolic marquee of the very industry itself.

Today, the sign is maintained by the Hollywood Sign Trust and has countless imitators around the world. While the sign is an iconic image for Hollywood, it is also the subject of countless of stories. Aside from the various urban legends about the sign, the various pranks throughout the years, its regular appearance (and typically destruction in film and television), the sign was also the site of a tragic suicide of a young starlet within a decade of its dedication. Following her death, the sign has also become the source for countless tales of paranormal activity and apparitions that are said to haunt the sign to this day.

Read all of the stories of the Hollywood Sign.

-Casey H.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

100 Years of Ghosts and Monsters at Oregon Caves

Today marks the 100th Anniversary of President William Howard Taft declaring a 480-acre plot of land in Oregon's Siskiyou Mountains as the Oregon Caves National Monument. The massive marble cave in the mountain has since been open to tour groups and expansion into further caverns has expanded the tour to 90 minutes today. 25 years later, the Oregon Caves Chateau was built directly adjacent the caves entrance to serve overnight guests to the park. In the years since, both have gained a reputation for some rather strange experiences.

Deep in the caves is an appropriately-named Ghost Room, which is said to be haunted by formal guide who was known for his pranks. Recently in 2000, an Oregon psychologist was walking with his family on the trails outside the cave when he reported seeing large upright figure that he described as fitting the descriptions of the famous Bigfoot. In the Chateau, guests on the third floor (and Room 310 in particular) have reported strange activity that staff have attributed to the ghost of Elizabeth - An early guest that was said to take her life on her honeymoon after finding her husband in another woman's arms.

From Tom and I here at Dark Destinations, a very happy 100 years to the Oregon Cave National Monument and all of its stories! Here's hoping that the next 100 bring even more interesting stories to light.

Read more stories about the Oregon Caves National Monument.

Or pay a visit to Elizabeth and Room 310 at the Oregon Caves Chateau.

-Casey H.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Bell Witch in Mississippi

The stories of the Bell Witch haunting and tormenting the Bell family in Adams, Tennessee are well known and documented (see The Bell Witch Historical Marker). However, there is another part of the story that is seldom told. Following the death of John Bell (some say at the hands of the entity), the life of the other focus of the spirit's taunting, Elizabeth “Betsy" Bell, was not much better. Though the “haunting" had seemingly finished for the time being, Betsy continued to suffer a variety of hardships and tragedies. She would live to see the death of five of her children (four at a young age, the fifth died fighting in the Civil War). Her husband, Richard Powell, would suffer a stroke and Betsy (now Elizabeth Powell) would spend 11 years caring for him before his death.

The story of the Bell Witch haunted Betsy for the rest of her life. In 1849, she was forced to threaten a lawsuit against the Saturday Evening Post who had recounted the legend of the entity, but alleged that the paranormal accounts were fiction and that Betsy was actually responsible for the events themselves. The magazine recanted the article and publicly apologized to Betsy.

In her later years, she moved to Mississippi to be closer to her children. She died there July 11, 1888 and was laid to rest at the Long Branch Cemetery in Water Valley. However, the story was not quite done. There are many that allege that the Bell Witch's torment of Betsy Bell continued until the day she died. In fact, there are many that report strange activity in and around Long Branch Cemetery to this day and that whatever taunted Betsy Bell in life has stayed around her even in death.

Visit the Long Branch Cemetery in Water Valley, Mississippi.

-Casey H.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Death of a Los Angeles Icon

90 years ago today, Colonel Griffith J. Griffith passed away at the age of 69. Griffith's name will forever be connected to the city of Los Angeles, California for the famous Griffith Park or Griffith Observatory, which were donated to the city by the eccentric industrialist. The park has long been connected with the so-called “Griffith Park Curse," though its roots extend back before his ownership. The legend states that a curse was placed on the land over a real estate dispute following the ownership of Don Antonio Feliz. The reported curse ravaged the finances of subsequent owners and even resulted in some of their untimely ends. Griffith's time was no different as similar misfortunes continued and he even reported seeing ghostly specters haunting the property at night. Reportedly hoping to escape the curse, Griffith donated the land to the city in 1896.

Some allege that it did little good, as Griffith's eccentricities were only exacerbated during his ownership of the property. Only seven years after his donation, Griffith accused his wife Christina of conspiring with the Pope to poison him and shot her in the head. She survived the attack, but Griffith's lawyers were able to use his stature in the community to secure him a short two-year prison sentence. Following his incarceration, Griffith tried to repair his name by donating money for the observatory, an amphitheater, and more at the park, but he was turned down by the city who did not want to associate with a known felon. Only after his death in 1919 did the city relent and accept Griffith's final gifts to the city. Griffith J. Griffith was laid to rest at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Click here to read about more personalities at Hollywood Forever.

-Casey H.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Change of Ownership at the Bates Motel

On this date in 1987, the NBC network debuted the two-hour TV movie, Bates Motel, which picked up on the legacy of the Psycho series. In the film, an inmate by the name of Alex West (Bud Cort) is cell mate with the notorious Norman Bates (Kurt Paul). Near death, Bates encourages the soon-to-be-released West to take over ownership of his infamous hotel and bring it back to respectability. West is aided by a runaway named Willie (Lori Petty) in his new venture, but strange things begin to happen.

Marketed at the time as a thriller/comedy, Bates Motel was originally conceptualized as the pilot to a potential new series. As it turned out, it had a respectful debut and placed number one in programming against reruns on other networks. Regardless, studio executives decided against continuing the storyline in series format and the idea was shelved. Today, copies of Bates Motel are hard to come by, as the TV movie has had no known official DVD release. Naturally, the infamous Bates Motel and Psycho House on the Universal back lot were used for the new take on the Psycho mythos, as they were for the films (with one exception). While they are easily recognizable from those works, it is not generally known that the motel and house have also made quite a few appearances in other unrelated works as well.

Read more on the history of the famous set pieces - Psycho House and Bates Motel.

-Casey H.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Basin Park Hotel of Eureka Springs

Although often overshadowed by its often better known sister-hotel, Crescent Hotel (see Crescent Hotel & Spa), the Basin Park Hotel offers more stories for ghost enthusiasts to explore in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The hotel opened on this date in 1905 and at one-time hosted unsavory Chicago mobsters because of the hotel's owners outright ignoring of city laws that banned alcohol and slot machines. Today, the site plays host to ghost tours that explore not only the hotel itself, but downtown Eureka Springs. Like the Crescent, multiple spirits are said the haunt the halls of Basin Park Hotel and guests and staff alike still report strange encounters to this day.

Read the history and stories of the Basin Park Hotel.

-Casey H.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The First Days of the Haunting in Connecticut

On June 30, 1986, the Snedeker family (formerly of New York) relocated to the city of Southington, Connecticut to be closer to the hospital where their son was receiving treatment for cancer. They rented the downstairs portion of a home on Meriden Avenue that had recently been converted to serve multiple tenants. Before then, the building had been the home of the Hallahan Funeral Home. Over the next two and a half years, the family would report an assortment of paranormal activity that they claimed grew increasingly violent towards them and ultimately resulted in an exorcism. Their accounts of their stay in the home have been debated to this day by skeptics and believers alike and are the source of a book, television docudrama, and most recently a feature film titled The Haunting in Connecticut. The film's DVD release is slated for July 14 and is sure to renew interest in the story.

Read the accounts, controversy, and adaptations of the reported haunting at Dark Destinations.

-Casey H.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Takeover of Cashtown Inn

The small community of Cashtown, Pennsylvania flirted with the events of the United States Civil War in late-1862 when a Confederate calvary briefly occupied the town, but it was short lived. It is possible that the citizens thought a similar scenario was underway when on this date in 1863, Confederate Major General A.P. Hill arrived in town and immediately set up headquarters in the town's Cashtown Inn. However, this time was different. A few days later, General Henry Heth would lead his men to a town seven miles away in search of supplies and encounter forces of the Union Army. A fight would erupt. The nearby city was Gettysburg and a battle was underway that would cause mass casualties on both sides and be a pivotal engagement in the war and the history of the United States.

Aside from forever becoming intra-linked with the infamous Battle of Gettysburg, the small community, and Cashtown Inn in particular, would find reminders in another way. Today, the inn is well known for its ghost stories and tales of paranormal encounters. In recent years, its stories have been featured and investigated by the likes of Ghost Hunters and the Travel Channel's Mysterious Journeys, as well as countless books that explore the ghosts of the Civil War.

Read more about the ghosts of the Civil War at Cashtown Inn.

-Casey H.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Sentencing of Chante Mallard

On June 27, 2003 former nurse's aid Chante Mallard was sentenced to fifty years in prison for the death of Gregory Biggs. The case for which she had been tried is infamously known as the Windshield Murder. On October 26, 2001, Mallard struck Biggs with her vehicle. The unfortunate victim became lodged in the winshield of her car. Under the influence of alchohol and possibly other substances, Mallard decided not to report the accident and drove home. Mallard then apparently left the poor injured man trapped in her garage where he finally died.

The tale of Gregory Bigg's miserable death quickly circulated among the public, however with many false details and even led to a film in 2007 (Stuck) that is loosely based on the rumors surrounding the case. These tales excentuate the cruelty of Mallard by having Biggs lingering for days in her garage as Mallard coldly alternates between ignoring the man and plotting how to dispose of him. This is known to be false, in that Gregory Biggs was revealed through forensics and testimony to have died within hours of the accident.

Accomplices of Mallard's dumped the corpse of Gregory Biggs in nearby Cobb Park. The park has been the scene of many crimes and has been a dumping ground for murder and rape victims on multiple occasions. Many of the crimes remain unsolved. Luckily in the case of the murder of Gregory Biggs, the people responsible were put on trial and are facing the punishment meted out by the court system.

Click here to learn more details about the Windshield Murder case and other crimes associated with Cobb Park.

-Tom G

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Desecration of a General's Grave

Today marks nine years since it was discovered that someone had desecrated the remains of Civil War General Elisha G. Marshall at Mt. Hope Cemetery in Rochester, NY. The dead man's bones were discovered scattered around his place of interment. His skull wasn't discovered among the littered remains and still has not been recovered all these years later. Was the act a misguided and sick prank or was it part of one of a dark ritual; one of the ones said to take place within the confines of the large cemetery from time to time? Odds are that someone out there knows the truth... and the current whereabouts of the missing skull.

The crime isn't the only one to occur inside the cemetery's gates. Wander to the Mt. Hope Cemetery to discover what horrible thing happened there on Halloween night last year.

-Tom G

Sunday, June 21, 2009

When Japan Struck the U.S. Mainland in WWII

On this date in 1942, a Japanese I-25 submarine surfaced just miles from the Northwest Oregon coastline using night as its cover and the soldiers inside ran to their battle stations. Their target was an area of land on the northwest corner of the state where they believed a U.S. Naval Station, complete with submarines and destroyers, was stationed. Their goal was to strike back at the U.S. Mainland, after being caught off guard by the U.S. Doolittle Raid on Japan, and divert further military resources to shoring up the protection of the mainland. An earlier shelling of the Ellwood oil production facilities near Santa Barbara, California had caused no casualties and only $500-1,000 worth of damage.

In reality, a Naval Station had been approved, but was not yet under construction. However, it was home to the American military installation, Fort Stevens, that served to protect the mouth of the Columbia River. It was home to 2,500 soldiers who immediately ran to their stations when the first shell was fired. Because the Japanese were cautiously keeping their gun sight free in case of American reinforcements from the air, they fired at nothing in particular, attempting to draw return fire to hone in on their target. However, orders were quickly dispersed at Fort Stevens not to return fire (either because they were concerned about giving away their positions or that the submarine was out of range of their cannons). In total, 17 shells rained down on the Oregon coastline before the Japanese submarine re-submerged and escaped into the night.

The only reported casualty of the shelling was a baseball diamond backstop. The closest the shells came to a military post was about 300 yards in front of Battery Russell. The concrete artillery battery dated back to the early 1900s and it would be decommissioned before the end of the war. Today it is a popular tourist destination in the park, and home to a ghostly night watchman according to some. Another shell that reportedly landed nearby is marked today by a historical landmark that relates the seldom reported attack. While the attacks were less than successful in causing major casualties and/or damage, it did create widespread panic up and down the West Coast of America and helped reinforce the need to “relocate” Americans of Japanese ancestry into internment camps for the duration of the war.

Check out the historical landmark and read more stories of Battery Russell.

-Casey H.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Salem Saga

On June 20, 1970, the cast and crew of the popular television situation comedy Bewitched moved their production to the city of Salem, Massachusetts. The decision to suddenly shoot a series of episodes on location was necessitated by a fire that damaged and destroyed some of the Bewitched sets in the studio that normally housed the production. The writers rapidly set to work, crafting a series of episodes that would have the characters visiting both Salem and Gloucester, Massachusetts.

The on-location shoots brought an expected temporary burst of business to Salem, which had been financially suffering as its shipping business decreased over the years. It also had an unexpected long term effect in that the episodes, once aired, caused tourism interest among some television viewers. The initial boost in tourism turned into escalating waves of tourists, until Salem was transformed into the city full of museums, tourist shops, psychics, and haunted attractions it is today.

The episodes which where shot on location in Massachusetts are collectively referred to as The Salem Saga. Among the episodes are two that deal with an enchanted bed warmer that chases Samantha following her visit to Nathaniel Hawthorne's House of Seven Gables.

Venture to the House of Seven Gables and see what follows you home.

-Tom G

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Tribute to the Lake Erie Monster

On Father's Day 2005 (June 19th), Dale and Gerard Schofield debuted their own personal tribute to their recently deceased father, Thomas. In 1994, Thomas decided to pay tribute to an area's local legend by building a full-scale replica. Sightings of the Lake Erie Monster, also known as South Bay Bessie or just Bessie, date back to 1793 and have continued sporadically in recent years (see Lake Erie). A flurry of sightings in the late-1980s/early-1990s inspired one bordering town to capitalize on the marketing potential. In 1990, the town of Huron, Ohio passed a proclamation that declared the town was the “National Live Capture and Control Center for the Lake Erie Monster.” To further their cause, the local businesses joined efforts to raise $102,700 for the live capture of the creature, as well as built a containment pen where Bessie would be relocated if captured.

Schofield joined in on the fun in 1994 and released his 35-foot replica of Bessie in a marshy area near the Huron River and in full-view of passing motorists on SR-2. The sculpture was firmly embraced by the local community and remained in place until 2004 when it mysteriously disappeared following Schofield's death. The marsh area would remain empty for one more year until Schofield's sons stepped up. On Father's Day, the two men payed tribute to their father by building their own sculpture and even gave it its own “baby monster” to keep it company. At last word, the sculpture had been damaged, but no word on if it has been repaired or whether it has managed to stay around this time. As for Huron, Ohio – No lake monster (alive or dead) has ever been turned in for the reward, but the reward is still out there.

Read more tales of Bessie and Huron.

-Casey H.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Haunted Old West Ghost Town

On this date in 1863, the town of Virginia City, Montana was officially registered, although the townspeople originally opted for the name, Varina - a name that did not sit well with Union officials during the American Civil War. Varina happened to be the first name of Confederate President Jefferson Davis's wife, Varina Howell Davis, and its selection was no accident. At the time, the overwhelming population of "Varina" happened to be Confederate sympathizers, despite being in the heart of the Idaho Territory, which was in the Union. Rather than accept the townspeople's choice of a name, Union officials recorded the registration as Virginia City. The name snub by the officials was one thing, but there are some that wonder if those same officials were not responsible for a terror that was yet to come.

At the time, Virginia City was a booming gold-rush town with no law protection. Crime was rampant in the town until the arrival of a force of men known as the Vigilance Commission. These vigilantes took matters into their own hands, serving as judge, jury, and executioner and their methods were brutal. According to some, some of their "criminals" did nothing wrong outside being sympathetic to the Confederate movement. It is also said that much of the gold that was found in the town played a major role in funding the Union Army during the Civil War.

Virginia City, Montana still hosts a population around 100 today, although the structures and ambience are really frozen in the time of its glory days. Aside from being a popular tourist stop as a living "ghost town," it has also gained a reputation of another sorts. Today, the community is considered the most haunted town in the state of Montana - probably due, in no small measure, to its violent past. A popular tourist stop in town is with the Virginia City Ghost Walks, who pass along the paranormal legends that hide in the shadows.

Take a walk through Virginia City, Montana.

-Casey H.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Incarceration of a Wild Bunch Member

112 years ago on this date, Henry "Bub" Meeks was arrested in Fort Bridget, Wyoming. While initially charged with a robbery charge, the authorities were more interested in Meeks for a crime that had been committed in the state of Idaho. Just under a year before his arrest, it was alleged that Meeks, together with Wild Bunch gang members Butch Cassidy and Elzy Lay, had held up a bank in Montpelier, Idaho. Unfortunately for Meeks, he had been designated lookout on the heist and as such, did not wear a bandana over his face. Since Cassidy and Lay both entered the bank and held it up, they did although it was generally well acknowledged that the bank had been hit by the "famous" Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch.

Due to the easy identification, Meeks was found guilty of the crime and sentenced to serve time at the Old Idaho Penitentiary in Boise. During his stay, Meeks made two failed escape attempts. For his efforts in his last attempt, he received a bullet in the leg that later required amputation. Now severely handicapped, he turned to attempting suicide to escape the prison's walls. In one of the cases, he managed to climb a 35-foot wall and made a dramatic leap to his supposed demise. He received only minor injuries. The story of Meeks did not end there and he is only one of many stories of the Old Idaho Penitentiary.

Click here to read more.

-Casey H.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Mystery of the Stars and Stripes

On this date in 1777, the Second Continental Congress officially adopted the original 13-star version of the United States Flag. Not surprisingly, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation in 1916 that officially declared today as Flag Day, although not technically an official Federal holiday. The state of Pennsylvania, however, decided to declare it a legal, state holiday in 1937. Of course, the Stars and Stripes and Pennsylvania are forever intertwined as the flag's origins date back to the state itself. As popular legend goes, the Philadelphia seamstress, Betsy Ross, is credited with sewing the first flag.

This brings us to yet another anniversary. On this date in 1937, in conjunction with the declaration of Flag Day as a state holiday in Pennsylvania, the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia opened its doors to the general public. Today, the house is still welcoming tourists from around the world, although it has a few mysteries of its own. Aside from reports of paranormal encounters, the restless burials (plural) of Ross herself, there are now questions of the role the woman, now called America's Seamstress, played in the creation of the American Flag. Did someone else design the flag or is Ross the victim of conspiracy theories?

Pay a visit to her house and decide for yourself.

-Casey H.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

30 Years Since Darla Left Us

On today's date in 1979, actress/singer Darla Hood unexpectedly passed away at the age of 47 years. Hood, who was primarily known for work she had done as a child actor in the Our Gang (Little Rascals) series of film shorts, had been attempting to organize a reunion of Our Gang actors to take place during the following year. Sadly, her plans and life itself were interrupted when she contracted a fatal hepatitis infection during an apparently routine medical procedure.

Of the child actors who appeared in the Our Gang shorts, one committed suicide, two (including Darla) died at early ages due to medical problems, two died in accidents and three were the victims of homicide. These deaths, along with other cases of misfortune involving the former child stars has led some to believe that there is a curse upon the cast of producer/director Hal Roach's comedy series. There are others who say that statistically the numbers are not extreme for the small sample of the population that the Our Gang actors represent. Either way, there are definitely some dark and tragic tales among the life stories of the Little Rascals.

Pay a visit to Hollywood Forever, where Darla Hood and Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer are interred.

-Tom G

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Other Tragedy at Ford's Theatre

Ford's Theatre in Washington D.C. has a long and storied history. Originally built as the home to the First Baptist Church of Washington in 1833, it was converted to the theater, Ford's Athenaeum in 1861 after being purchased by John T. Ford. After a fire necessitated a rebuild, it reopened as the infamous Ford's Theatre. It served in this capacity when its place in history would be forever cemented with the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865 as he attended a play inside the theater.

While most people know Ford's Theatre as the site of Lincoln's assassination, few know of another tragedy that struck the building years later. After serving as the site of various government-related offices over the years, Ford's Theatre had become the clerk's office for the War Department by 1893. On June 9th of that year, tragedy would once again rear its head at Ford's Theatre. On that day, the front of the building collapsed and 22 people lost their lives, while another 68 were gravely injured. Given the amount of lives that were lost, including the high profile assassination of Abraham Lincoln, gossip began to circulate that the theater was forever cursed and the superstitions necessitated its transformation into a government warehouse.

Ford's Theater has avoided any further tragedies to this date and has since been re-opened as a theater and museum to the life (and death) of Lincoln. While the talks of a curse seem to have subsided, there are still rumors of ghosts and paranormal activity haunting the facility to this day. In fact, stories persist that Lincoln's assassination still plays out in paranormal form from time to time inside the historic building.

Read more stories of the historic Ford's Theatre.

-Casey H.

Monday, June 8, 2009

No Justice in the Death of George Wythe

On this date in 1806, the so-called "Father of American Jurisprudence" passed away from arsenic poisoning. Wythe earned that moniker as the first professor of law at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, but he has other historical accomplishments as well. In addition to being one of the Virginia delegates to sign the Declaration of Independence, he was also one of three to draw up the rules and procedures for the Constitutional Convention.

Later in his life, Wythe became an abolitionist and followed through by freeing his slaves. Taken his new viewpoint one step further, Wythe amended his will to provide for his former slaves, Lydia Broadnax and her son, Michael Brown - today there is speculation that she was his lover and the boy was his son. The news did not set well with his grandnephew, George Wythe Sweeney, and other heir to his fortune, who decided to take the matter into his own hands and devised a plan to poison them with arsenic. Wythe and Brown received a fatal dosage of arsenic, while Broadnax survived. Due to bigoted laws that forbade testimony of blacks against whites, Sweeney was acquitted of the crime. However, Wythe had survived the poisoning long enough to write his grandnephew completely out of his will - administering the only justice they would receive.

Wythe is buried in the cemetery at the St. John's Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia - the historical site of Patrick Henry's famous "Give me liberty, or give me death!" speech. Wythe is one of many historical figures buried there, including the mother of famed horror author, Edgar Allan Poe.

Read more stories of the Richmond St. John's Episcopal Church.

-Casey H.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Active Month of the Haunted Highway

Stories of haunted highways and phantom hitchhikers are known around the world. While there are variations to the tales depending on the locale, there are often similarities. The story of Highway 365 in Arkansas is no exception with the familiar tale of concerned drivers stopping to give a ride to a teenage girl; often wearing a torn and bloodied prom dress. After following the directions to her house, the driver arrives to find that the girl has mysteriously disappeared from the backseat of the car.

Interestingly, this particular account is tied to an accident that is said to occurred in the 1950s where a young woman and her date die in a car accident on the way to their prom. The tie to the prom might explain why this particular girl is often said to be most often cited in the month of June on or around a bridge on Highway 365 (formerly known as Highway 65).

This tale is also tied to Dark Destinations interestingly enough. You may or may not have noticed our unofficial logo (or one of the many variations) of the dark road. The road is none other than Highway 365 that was taken when else, but in the month of June 2007. Sadly, the hitchhiker did not make an appearance that night, but one never knows if and when she might be popping up this year.

-Casey H.