Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dark Tourism Surveys

We recently received an email from Philip Stone, the editor of Philip's department at the University of Central Lancashire studies the psychology and cultural impact of dark tourism/grief tourism/thanotourism. The department is currently running a series of surveys gathering input from people who have visited specific locations and travelling exhibits that fit within the scope of their research.

If you have visited any of the following in the past five years, please take a moment to help out Philip's research and fill-out the appropriate survey: Ground Zero, Auschwitz- Birkenau (see The Auschwitz- Birkenau Musuem), The Dungeon attractions (see London Dungeon, Edinburgh Dungeon, Hamburg Dungeon, and Amsterdam Dungeon) and the Body Worlds exhibits (see Body Worlds, Body Worlds 2, Body Worlds 3 and Body Worlds 4). Filling out a survey qualifies you to possibly win a DVD of the documentary "Turning Points of History: Dark Tourism." The data gathered from the surveys will be used as part of the upcoming book "Consuming Dark Tourism in Contemporary Society."

The surveys are available on the main page of Philip's web site. Click here to pay a visit to

-Tom G

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Demolition of the Sylvia Likens House

We just received notice that the house in Indiana where Sylvia Likens was slain (see The Sylvia Likens House) is currently being demolished. The demolition which started on April 23rd, is going to allow a local church to build a parking lot in its place. The change has come as a relief to some in the neighborhood, both because the house had become a site of recent illegal activity and because it served as a painful reminder of the horrifying abuse that happened there in the 1960s. The murder case had re-emerged into the national consciousness in recent years thanks to the films An American Crime (2007) and Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door (2007), reminding people of the horrible things that can happen when people who witness abuse fail to report it to authorities and instead allow it to escalate.

The city of Indianapolis erected a memorial to Sylvia Likens in 2001. The back of the memorial bears a message about how the death of Sylvia Likens caused a change in laws in an attempt to prevent the same thing from happening again. It also bears a promise of vigilance by the Indianapolis Police Department in matters of child protection. The memorial stands in a peaceful clearing in a local park where visitors can reflect on the incident and the lessons learned from it.

Pay your respects at the Sylvia Likens Memorial.

-Tom G

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Loch Ness: Surgeon's Photo

On today's date in 1934, The Daily Mail ran a photo that allegedly shows a creature swimming about in the body of water known as Loch Ness in Scotland. While it wasn't the first reported photograph of the monster, it quickly became more popular than the photo that preceded it. In 1994 a story came out that the famous photo had actually been a hoax, though some details of the story didn't add up, leading some to believe that the story of it being a hoax was the actual hoax.

Pay a visit to Loch Ness and learn more.

-Tom G

Saturday, April 18, 2009

St. Louis Exorcism: 60 Years Later

Today marks 60 years since the third and final exorcism of a young boy from Washington D.C. The exorcism of this unnamed child would later serve as the inspiration for William Peter Blatty's novel The Exorcist which in turn led to the 1973 movie starring Linda Blair. The real life exorcism case had three separate key locations where events took place; the boy's house (see The Saint Louis Exorcist House), a rectory in St. Louis (see The Old Rectory at St. Louis Xavier College Church) and the hospital where the final exorcism took place (see Old Alexian Brothers Hospital). While the final location was torn down in the 1970s, the pavement of the parking lot that took its place is said to constantly crack in the spot where the exorcism took place.

Pay a visit to the site of the Old Alexian Brothers Hospital.

-Tom G

Monday, April 13, 2009

Anniversary of Two Monster Sightings

This day in history is marked by two different alleged lake/river monster sightings that were separated by only six years, though thousands of miles apart. On April 13, 1933, the owners of the famous Drumnadrochit Hotel on the banks of Loch Ness, Scotland reported seeing an animal as large as 15-feet in length surface in the murky waters of the Loch, roll, and then plunge back into the depths. The husband and wife initially kept silent about the sighting out of concern of being accused of attempting to drum up business. Instead, the couple went to the local water bailiff to report what they saw. Much to their surprise, the bailiff told their story to a reporter who published their account in the local paper on May 2. That report is often credited as sparking the worldwide interest in the so-called "Loch Ness Monster" (or "Nessie" for short). Today, the Drumnadrochit Hotel is home to the Loch Ness Exhibition Centre (see The Loch Ness Exhibition Centre) - one of many such exhibits dedicated to the possibility of an unknown cryptid in the water of Loch Ness.

Six years later on April 13, 1939, a halibut fishing ship near the mouth of the Columbia River (see photo above) between Oregon and Washington (see Mouth of the Columbia River) in the United States encountered a similarly strange beast. According to the accounts from the crew of the Argo, a large animal reared up over ten-feet into the air at almost equal distance from the boat and looked at the crew as it stole a 20-pound halibut from one of their lines. Captain Chris Anderson later told an Oregon reporter that the head was similar to that of a camel with coarse and gray fur. The sighting was one of many such sightings in the area of the creature that locals dubbed, "Colossal Claude." While given the nickname by residents of Oregon (and reportedly connected to later sightings of "Marvin the Monster"), similar sightings had been reported up and down the coastline from as far south as San Francisco Bay in California to British Columbia. Some suggest that "Colossal Claude" might be better known as "Caddy" (or "Cadborosaurus") from Cadboro Bay in Victoria, B.C. On a side note, Argo Captain Chris Anderson is one of many local mariners remembered by a plaque at the nearby Maritime Memorial Park in Astoria, Oregon (see Maritime Memorial Park).

-Casey H.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

This is the House... Come On In...

On April 11, 2003, the debut horror film from musician Rob Zombie, House of 1,000 Corpses, finally hit screens in the United States - almost three years after filming had wrapped. The delay was initiated after the production studio, Universal Pictures, screened the film and had second thoughts about distributing it. Several months earlier, the studio was one of many Hollywood production firms involved in Senate hearings in Washington D.C. that explored the marketing of violent entertainment to children on the heels of the Columbine School Massacre. After stating that Zombie's House of 1,000 Corpses was "far more intense" than the studio anticipated, Universal Pictures Chairman Stacey Snider announced that they had released the film rights back to Zombie, so that he could find a new distributor. Three years later, the movie finally found a release at the hands of Lionsgate Entertainment who was interested in dipping their toes in the horror genre.

In honor of the film's release, we bring you the home that doubled as the infamous House of 1,000 Corpses and the home to the Firefly clan. It is officially known as "Building #14" on the Universal back lot, but is colloquially referred to as "The Chicken Ranch" in tribute of its original use in the 1982 film, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Unlike other buildings on the Universal back lot, like the infamous Psycho House (see Universal Hollywood: Psycho House and Bates Motel, which once stood at the same spot now occupied by the Chicken Ranch), the structure is a full-functioning set piece - meaning that both the interiors and exteriors can be utilized for productions. It is also one of many sights typically seen on the popular Studio Tour tram. The building's use in House of 1,000 Corpses is also not its only foray into the horror genre.

Find out more about the Chicken Ranch on the Universal back lot.

-Casey H.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Invitation to Love and Twin Peaks

On this date in 1990, David Lynch's quirky serial drama Twin Peaks debuted on ABC. While the action and odd events played out in the Pacific Northwest, a fictional soap opera was also unraveling on the television screens seen in the background of the series. That show-within-a-show was called Invitation to Love and its plot and action eerily mirrored the action that was taking place in Twin Peaks. Invitation to Love only appeared during the first season of Twin Peaks, but it carries the distinction of being one of only a few "shows" to actually film inside Frank Lloyd Wright's famous Ennis House in Los Angeles, California.

Originally built in 1924, the unique house is built completely of 16-inch concrete blocks and is modeled slightly after ancient Mayan temples. Over the years, the house has been featured in such works as House on Haunted Hill, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Blade Runner, Predator 2, and many more. Today, the house is undergoing major renovations to save the historical landmark and preserve it for future interested tourists, as well as presumably for future TV and movie productions as well.

Read more on the Ennis House.

-Casey H.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Haunted Battleground of Shiloh

On this day in 1862, Confederate forces launched a surprise assault on Union troops near the Shiloh Meeting House in Tennessee. The resulting battle lasted two days and killed thousands of men and left many more wounded. Even the Confederate general who planned the attack was a fatality of the fight. While it was the bloodiest battle of the American Civil War up until that point, it would be surpassed by even bloodier battles that followed. Many years later the battlefield became a national park.

Like a number of locations associated with death and suffering resulting from the war, there are tales of haunting at the battlefield of Shiloh. Phantoms sounds are said to puncture the stillness of late night hours at times. An apparition of a woman in white is said to wander about Shiloh National Military Park, searching for those in need of help. There is also a pond that legend has it, has been known to turn red with the blood of soldiers who bled into the water so many years ago.

Venture to Shiloh National Military Park and learn more about the battle and the tales of haunting.

-Tom G

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Murder in a Haunted Mansion

Three years ago today, the FBI searched the Charles Kreischer House for evidence of a murder committed on the property. The historical mansion has long been the site of reported paranormal activity. Mysterious disembodied sounds are said to be heard echoing through the Kreischer mansion's halls in the darkest hours of the night. People have reported seeing apparitions of both a man and a woman in 19th century clothing wandering about the largely unoccupied rooms of the old manse. These days the house serves as home only to a caretaker, charged with maintaining the home which once belonged to a prominent local family. It is because of a former caretaker with mafia ties that the FBI came to pay a visit upon the Charles Kreischer House.

Joseph Young, the caretaker in question, lured a fellow mob associate to the mansion where Young and his cohorts lay in ambush. The victim, Robert McKelvey, had made the mistakes of owing money to the wrong person and talking a bit too loosely about his exploits with the Bonnano crime family. In spring of 2005, McKelvey paid for his mistakes with his life. He didn't readily accept his fate, fighting until the last; McKelvey was beaten, stabbed, strangled and drowned before he finally expired... and then crime got even more gruesome as Young and his accomplices set about the grisly task of disposing of McKelvey's remains within the mansion. Recently, on March 13, 2009 (a Friday the 13th), Joseph Young was sentenced to life in prison for multiple crimes, including the murder of Robert McKelvey.

Some have wondered if the murder of Mckelvey added yet another lingering spirit to the dusty old corridors of the Charles Kreischer House.

Pay a visit to the Charles Kreischer House and learn about two other deaths connected with the mansion (one of them was less than a year ago).

-Tom G

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Exorcist and the Academy Awards

On this date in 1974, the William Friedkin film, The Exorcist, entered the 46th Academy Awards with an impressive 10 nominations, including such heavies as Best Picture, Director (William Friedkin), Actress (Ellen Burstyn), Supporting Actress (Linda Blair), Supporting Actor (Jason Miller), Adapted Screenplay (William Peter Blatty), and more. It was a notable and remarkable feat, as the Academy has long been accused of looking down on "genre" films, with only a few exceptions (most notably, The Silence of the Lambs years later). By the time the night was over (marked by the infamous streaker that did little to unsettle David Niven), The Exorcist had made only two trips to the podium, watching instead as The Sting took most of the major awards and the actors and actresses awards being spread among other more conventional films. Despite this, The Exorcist still managed to grab the Oscar for Best Sound and, even more impressively, an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for William Peter Blatty who adapted his own novel to screen.

In honor of the film's achievement 35 years ago, we thought it would be a good opportunity to pay a visit to two of those infamous locations seen in The Exorcist. The first stop is the "MacNeil House" in Washington D.C.'s Georgetown (see The Exorcist (1973): The MacNeil House) - where so much fog was used to mark the arrival of the character of Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) that nearby-Virginia firefighters rushed to the scene, mistakenly believing that the neighborhood was on fire. Right next to the home used is the infamous staircase where Father Karras took his self-sacrificing leap to save the day (see The Exorcist Steps) - a popular stop for tourists to the area today. The horror genre's moments in Oscar recognition have been few and far between, but here's hoping that a few more gems are on the horizon that even the Academy cannot ignore.

-Casey H.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Tragedy on the S.S. Governor

The Admiralty Inlet near Puget Sound, Washington was the site of a tragic shipwreck on April 1, 1921. Despite clear weather, the pilot of the S.S. Governor confused the running lights of the S.S. West Hartland as the fixed lights of nearby Marrowstone Point and preceded forward. It turned out to be a fatal mistake as the West Hartland rammed the Governor at the center of its onboard side, ripping a 10-foot gash into its side that immediately began to take on water.

Onboard the Governor was the Washbourne family who were asleep in their room with the father and mother (Harry and Lucy) on one-side of the cabin and their two daughters on the other. Their cabin was located at the site of impact and the bow of the S.S. Hartland sliced through the walls and divided the room, separating the family. Harry was severely injured, but Lucy was able to seek aid. Rescuers quickly descended and freed Harry from the wreckage, but the two young girls were completely trapped and there was no way to free them. The crew had little choice but to leave them and forcefully removed their now-hysterical mother. Once the crew had the injured husband and grieving mother topside, they moved immediately to transfer Harry over to the West Hartland with the rest of the passengers fleeing the sinking ship. As they were distracted, Lucy broke free from her rescuers and ran back into the ship to be with her children. She was never seen again.

The S.S. Governor sunk within 20 minutes of impact, taking only eight lives with it - including Lucy Washbourne and her two children. In close proximity to the wreckage is the Point Wilson Lighthouse, whose keeper that night witnessed the tragic accident. Today, members of the United States Coast Guard have reported seeing the apparition of a woman wearing a nightgown wandering the property as if searching for something before entering the lighthouse itself and completely disappearing. It is presumed the alleged spirit is that of Lucy Washbourne, still seeking her children all these years later. It is also only one of the many stories of paranormal encounters at the Point Wilson Lighthouse.

Read more on the history and encounters of the Point Wilson Lighthouse.

-Casey H.