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.