Saturday, October 23, 2010

Pursuing the Lady in White: Part One

For this Halloween season I decided to visit destinations tied with the production of the movie Lady in White (1988) and the legend which inspired the movie. Despite having lived in the Rochester, New York area for most of my current life and having been a Lady in White fan since the late 1980s, I had never gone to the towns that were used in the making of the movie despite them being only an hour's drive away. It wasn't until a couple of years ago that I finally visited Durand-Eastman Park, right here in my very own city, where the legend of the White Lady stems from. This October, I decided it was about time I finally took an in-depth look at these local dark destinations.

I decided to begin with the source of the legend, Durand-Eastman Park. The park was created in the early 20th Century on land donated by Kodak founder George Eastman and Doctor Henry Durand. The park borders Lake Ontario and contains a pair of smaller lakes. The spot where the three lakes come the closest to each other is generally the focal point for the legend of the White Lady ghost of Rochester. A picnic area known as the 3-Lakes Pavilion is claimed to be site of the former home of Eelissa, the Lady in White. The pavilion is a hill with a cobblestone wall built into the side that faces Lake Ontario.

The legend states that a vengeful feminine wraith cloaked entirely in white stalks the park in the vicinity, searching for male victims. The reasons for White Lady's wrath and where exactly in the park she manifests vary from story to story. Often, the legends have the ghost motivated by a tragedy involving her daughter and a pre-existing distrust/dislike for men on the part of Eelissa. In this semi-sympathetic version of the story, the ghost is searching for her long-lost daughter and may attack any mortal men who have the misfortune to interrupt her search.

In some tales the White Lady is a woman who was driven to madness and murder by the actions of an unfaithful husband. Still blinded by her jealous rage, she is said to stalk the roads of the park, mistaking unfortunate young lovers in cars for her husband and his mistress whom she seeks to slay again and again, doomed to re-enact her crime with fresh victims over the centuries.

My recent visit to the park was on an over-cast and gloomy afternoon, the next best thing to visiting the park at night. The stretch of beach along Lake Ontario was my first stop. The first stories I had heard of the White Lady had her prowling this rocky beach with a pair of spectral dogs that she would sic on any man unfortunate enough to choose the wrong evening for a nighttime stroll.

I then moved on to the 3-Lakes Pavilion and the two smaller lakes across the street from Lake Ontario. The cobblestone wall of what some legends refer to as the “White Lady's Castle” has long cracks running through a few spots, but has held up otherwise well over the nearly 100-years since it was built. The view from the pavilion was wonderful, though there was a disquieting silence in the area. The only sign of wildlife I spotted were some swans quietly skimming through the water of Durand Lake when I wandered deeper into the park and away from the pavilion. Some legends claim that the White Lady forms from the mists of that very lake.

Overall, it was a nice fall hike with a with a slightly spooky ambiance. It made me want to return again during evening hours and take a stroll... hopefully not on a night when Eelissa is on the hunt.

My next journey was to Lyons, New York and a number of locations used in the filming of Frank LaLoggia's nostalgic supernatural mystery Lady in White. I will write about this in a future second installment.

In the meantime, you can click here to read our full article on Durand-Eastman Park for further details about the legend and photos I took during my last visit.

-Tom G

Monday, October 11, 2010

Fright Rags: We Belong Alive

It is little off from our usual topics, but I wanted to call attention to the wonderful work being done by the Fright Rags horror T-shirt company. They recently released this limited edition breast cancer awareness T-shirt featuring the Bride of Frankenstein (and the Frankenstein Monster's hands) in a pose very similar to one Janet Jackson did back in 1993 for the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine. The shirt's name "We Belong Alive" makes an ironic play off of the Bride's famous line "We belong dead." The first printing of the shirt sold out in a just a few hours. Fright Rags is taking pre-orders for one more printing and then this shirt design will be retired. If you would like a shirt, there are only a few days left to order, so move quick!

The We Belong Alive shirt can be ordered through the following link:

The proceeds from the shirt sale goes to help a young mother without medical insurance who is currently battling advanced breast cancer. So far Fright Rags has raised close to $4,000 toward this cause. You can learn more at the link posted above. Please spread the word along.

-Tom G

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Black Dog of Lake Erie

A week from tomorrow will be 119 years since the sinking of the Thomas Hume. The schooner was returning to its home port in Muskegon, Michigan when it vanished on May 21, 1891. Many rumors were caused by the ship's disappearance and the lack of any witnessed wreckage washing ashore following its disappearance. Some even theorized that the schooner's captain had stolen the vessel for himself, disguising it with a new paint job. However, the wreck of the Thomas Hume was discovered at the Southern end of Lake Michigan in 2005.

The Thomas Hume is one of a number of vessels at the bottom of the Great Lakes that are said to have fallen victim to the supernatural beast known as the Black Dog of Lake Erie. Legend has it that the Black Dog was the result of an incident that occurred in the Welland Canal. The story goes that a Newfoundland dog that served as a ship's mascot fell overboard while travelling through the canal. In some versions of the tale the sailors mocked the dog as it swam, desperately trying to catch up with its ship. The poor animal was crushed to death when one of the canal lock gates came down. It had the effect of trapping the ship inside the lock as the gate could not completely close. Once the sailors were able to free the large furry corpse from the gate mechanism, they were able to continue on their way. However, the story goes, they found themselves haunted by the vengeful spirit of the dead Newfie. They had begun a curse that would result in the sinking of many ships in the Great Lakes. It is said that on occasion a large black dog will appear on one side of a ship, run across the deck and leap from the other side. Soon after, the ship will run into trouble. When the Issac G. Jenkins sank in Lake Ontario on November of 1875, a farmer claimed to have witnessed a large black dog swim to shore and drag itself onto land, vanishing into the darkness.

Click here to learn more about the Black Dog, the legend of Jenny Greenteeth and the monster of Lake Erie.

-Tom G

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Odd Tales of the Lincoln Assassination

This Wednesday will be the 145th anniversary of the assassination of US President Abraham Lincoln. On April 14, 1865, Lincoln was shot in the head by actor John Wilkes Booth as the President and his wife sat in a balcony at Ford's Theatre, watching a production of Our American Cousin. Booth escaped, but was tracked by the US Army who caught up with him twelve days later. Despite orders to capture the assassin, a soldier named Boston Corbett shot Booth dead. Corbett, a former prisoner of war who had served time in the Confederacy's Andersonville Prison (see Andersonville National Historic Site) claimed that God himself gave the soldier the order to kill Booth.

The same night as the assassination of Lincoln, a fellow conspirator, Lewis Powell attempted to murder Secretary of State William Seward. Powell attempted to stab the man to death as he lay in bed, recuperating from injuries sustained from a carriage accident. Ironically, the very injuries that had him bedridden may have also saved Seward's life; a brace the secretary wore for a neck injury prevented the assassin from cutting Seward's throat and the Secretary's children managed to fend off the killer, driving him from their home.

As the conspirators were rounded up by the authorities, a case of mistaken identity led them to arrest Francis Tumblety, a con man who posed as a doctor to sell odd concoctions he claimed cured various ills. Francis, who was using one of his aliases, was incarcerated for three weeks until he was cleared of charges and set free. Years later, Tumblety would become one of many suspected to be the serial killer known as Jack the Ripper (see Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Rochester, NY).

It is said that President Lincoln had a prophetic dream about his own assassination days before it occurred. There are also numerous ghost tales associated with the assassination. Witnesses have claimed to have to seen the ghost of Lincoln at the White House, his grave in Illinois and the Peterson House (where Lincoln actually died of his injury sustained at the theatre). The ghosts of John Wilkes Booth, Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln are claimed by some to haunt Ford's Theatre (See Ford's Theatre National Historic Site). Even the route traveled by Abraham Lincoln's funeral train is said to be haunted by a spectral train.

Part of Abraham Lincoln's skull is on display at the National Museum of Health in Medicine in Washington, D.C. (see the National Museum of Health and Science). Part of his blood-stained collar can be seen at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania along with part of the thorax of John Wilkes Booth (see the Mutter Museum).

These are just some of the strange stories surrounding the first assassination of a United States President.

-Tom G

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Happy Birthday, Frozen Dead Guy!

Granpa Bredo's Frozen Coffin

Today would have been the 110th birthday of Bredo Morstoel. “Grandpa Bredo”, as he is now known to locals in Nederland, Colorado, passed away on November 6, 1989 at the age of 89, but his story didn't end there. Bredo's corpse became the subject of his grandson's home-brewed cryonic experiments. Though his relatives were deported Grandpa Bredo has remained behind, lying frozen inside of a shed in Colorado. His postmortem predicament led to support from locals and finally a festival that began eight years back. The ninth annual Frozen Dead Guy Days Festival will be held next weekend (March 5-7, 2010).

This joyously macabre winter festival features frozen turkey bowling, frozen salmon tossing, tours of Grandpa's shed, live music, ice carvings, a hearse parade, and much more. The festival also has a coffin race, though their coffin race is much different than the one held during the Emma Crawford Festival and Memorial Coffin Race in the relatively nearby Manitou Springs (see Emma Crawford Festival and Memorial Coffin Race). This year's festival is being covered by a crew from a Japanese reality show. Considering the crazy Japanese reality shows I've seen, that is a pretty strong sign that this festival is a wacky one to attend.

Wish Grandpa Bredo Happy Birthday and read more about his strange tale and the unusual festival that centers around his frozen remains.

-Tom G

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Honoring the Man in Black

Tomorrow marks 78 years since the birth of Johnny Cash. His final album, American VI: Ain't No Grave, came out this past Tuesday, more than six years after the iconic musician passed away. Johnny Cash's relatives and the record company that released the final album are encouraging fans to celebrate his birthday by wearing all black on Friday. They are running a Facebook event for that day with free prizes being awarded to some of those who post photos of themselves wearing black.

During the 1970s, Johnny Cash made his tendency toward wearing black clothing into a trademark, releasing the album Man in Black. In the title song from the album, Cash explains why he wore black so often.

Ah, I'd love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything's OK,
But I'll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
'Till things are brighter, I'm the Man In Black.

Considering how much of my own wardrobe is black, it is likely that I would have been wearing all black tomorrow anyhow. So, I will honor Johnny Cash's birthday instead by choosing the birthplace of Johnny Cash and his hometown as the Dark Destinations for this week.

Visit Kingsland, Arkansas, the birthplace of Johnny Cash.


Visit Dyess, Arkansas, his hometown.

-Tom G

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Haunting of the Hotel del Cornado

This coming Friday will mark 122 years since the Hotel del Coronado opened for business. The hotel was possibly an inspiration for description of the Emerald City in some of author Frank L. Baum's Land of Oz books. It has also been used as a filming location for a number of films (including Some Like It Hot and Wicked, Wicked). The Hotel del Coronado is also reputed to be haunted due to a tragedy that occurred when the hotel had only been open a mere four years. It is a tale of love gone wrong; a chilling Valentine for our dark travelers.

On November 24, 1892, a young woman, using an alias, checked into the hotel's room 302. Five days later the woman was dead. Her corpse was discovered, the apparent victim of a suicide, outside the hotel on the steps leading up from the beach. It wasn't until after her death that her identity was discovered; she was Kate Morgan, a con artist who assisted her card shark husband at bilking unsuspecting men out of their money during poker games. Her husband had left her after discovering that she was pregnant and wished for them to settle down. She apparently took her own life after days of fruitlessly waiting for him to return to her.

The hotel has changed the room number twice since the incident, but the rumors of haunting persist and it remains the most requested room in the hotel. Some have claimed to witness the ghost of Kate Morgan looking from the room's window or wandering the halls of the hotel. It has been theorized that Kate may not have taken her own life: rather she had been the victim of a murder staged to look as though it had been suicide. The truth may never be known. Perhaps if you stay at the Hotel del Coronado, the long dead Kate Morgan will whisper her story into your ear as you sleep.

Check in to the Hotel del Coronado to read more about the hotel, the current number of Kate Morgan's room, the other haunted room and learn what horror television show regularly used the hotel as a shooting location.

-Tom G

Monday, February 8, 2010

Own Bill Murray's Mansion!

Okay, it's not really Bill Murray's mansion; it's the house in Georgia that was used as the fictional home of Bill Murray in the film Zombieland (2009). I should also mention that you will need at least a few million dollars for your down payment on this very large home. The actual owner of the mansion, Lee Najjar, has put the house on the market with an asking price of 25 million dollars.

In Zombieland, the main characters (portrayed by actors Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin) spend a memorable night in the mansion just prior to the climax of the film at Pacific Playland amusement park. The scenes for Pacific Playland were actually shot at Wild Adventures Water & Theme Park in Georgia, nearly four hours away from where the mansion scenes were filmed (see Wild Adventures Water and Theme Park).

Click here to learn more about the mansion used in the film Zombieland and to see it in Google Streetview.

-Tom G

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Elastic Park

Larry Moss, the artist behind the Balloon Manor Halloween attraction (see Balloon Manor), is at it again. His newest project is called Elastic Park; it is an interactive dinosaur-themed exhibit featuring Airigami balloon artistry. The exhibit, which will be both fun and educational, is intended to be a travelling exhibit that will be featured at numerous museums (click here to view Elastic Park Web site).

Larry needs your help to make this exhibit a reality. Pepsi Cola is running a contest called the Pepsi Refresh Project. Various organizations are competing for a $50,000 grant to fund their projects. The winner will be determined through online voting. Currently, Elastic Park is in 13th place in the contest. Voters are allowed to vote once per day and voting ends February 28. Please take a moment to visit the Elastic Park page at the contest web site and vote.

Click here to vote for Elastic Park!

-Tom G

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Top 20 Dark Destinations for Month of January 2010

Typically when we blog one of our top 20, 25 or 50 lists, Casey or I will post the top locations on the site based on the hits each article has gotten since its creation. We thought we'd do something a little different this month and show you what has been getting the most attention over the course of the past month. Some of the same locations are on both lists, but there are a few that have gained in recent popularity that have made the Monthly list. Take a peek.

1. The Sylvia Likens House
2. The Haunting in Connecticut House
3. Twilight (2008): Thunderbird and Whale
4. The Sharon Tate House
5. Twilight Saga: The Cullen House
6. Emma Crawford Festival and Memorial Coffin Race
7. Amityville Horror House
8. West Virginia Penitentiary
9. The Body Farm, Knoxville, TN
10. Twilight Saga: The Swan House
11. Sylvia Likens Memorial
12. Twilight (2008): The Swan House
13. The Empire State Building
14. La Push, Washington
15. Twilight (2008): Kalama High School
16. Missouri State Penitentiary
17. Old Alexian Brothers Hospital
18. Twilight (2008): Bloated Toad
19. Twilight (2008): The Cullen House
20. The Saint Louis Exorcist House

If you would like to see the current Top 20 of all time list click here.

-Tom G

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Poe Toaster Nevermore?

For sixty years, the mysterious black-clad figure known as the Poe Toaster would make an appearance at the Old Westminster Burial Ground on the anniversary of author/poet Edgar Allan Poe's birthday. The unknown individual (who is assumed to be male) pays a yearly tribute to Poe by laying three red roses and half-empty bottle of Martell Cognac upon the author's gravestone. The gift is occasionally accompanied by a note from the mysterious mourner. Last year, for the two-hundredth birthday of Edgar Allan Poe, the Toaster failed to leave a note. This year, on January 19, 2010, the Poe Toaster failed to show up at all.

A crowd of around fifty people stood vigil throughout the night (a larger crowd than had been present for the year prior), keeping an eye out for the Poe Toaster and occasionally singing Happy Birthday to Edgar Allan Poe. They were disappointed when the Toaster did not arrive with his annual tribute. It has led to speculation on what may have happened.

Some have wondered whether the Poe Toaster may have died or was in ill health. A week earlier, David Fanks, a local poet and performance artist known for his pranks passed away, leading some to speculate that the Poe Toaster had been him. Others have speculated that the tradition may have just ended at the sixty year mark, on the two-hundredth birthday of Poe. ESPN reporter Cam Martin even suggested that the Poe Toaster may have failed to show because he was upset about the Indianapolis Colts beating the Baltimore Ravens in a football game on the Saturday prior to Poe's birthday.

Whatever the reason for the Poe Toaster's absence this year, Jeff Jerome, curator for the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum (see Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum), has said that he will continue to watch for the Poe Toaster until 2012. If the Toaster fails to return by January 19, 2012, Jerome will give up the vigil he has kept since the 1970s.

Pay a visit to the Old Westminter Burial Ground to learn more.

-Tom G

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Graveyard of the Pacific

The winter months are truly treacherous ones for those who sail the waters of the "Graveyard of the Pacific"; a section of the Pacific Ocean that runs along the western coast of North America. The turbulent waters have claimed thousands of ships and many lives. This week alone marks the separate anniversaries of two different sinkings in that section of the "Graveyard" that is the mouth of the Columbia River, with more later this month and over the next two.

The most infamous of the sinkings took place 49 years ago this coming Thursday. On January 14, 1961, The Mermaid, a crab boat with two crewman aboard, ran into trouble when it lost its rudder in violent weather conditions. The Coast Guard came to the ship's rescue. Unfortunately, the rescue attempt failed and led to the sinking of The Mermaid as well as causing three Coast Guard vessels to capsize in the process. The Mermaid's crew was lost as well as five members of the Coast Guard who were aboard the rescue boat Triumph. The names of the lost Coast Guard members were added to the memorial in Maritime Memorial Park in Astoria, Oregon (see Maritime Memorial Park, Astoria, OR).

Unsuprisingly, the area has also been the location of claimed ghost ship sightings and other paranormal activity. It has also reportedly been home to one or more sea monsters.

Click here to brave the treacherous waters along the Mouth of the Columbia River to learn more about its shipwrecks and supernatural lore.

- Tom G

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Inspiration for the Song Jeremy

This Friday will mark 19 years since the suicide of Jeremy Wade Delle. Delle, a student at Richardson High School in Richardson, Texas, took his own life in front of his fellow students in their English class on the morning of January 8, 1991. The 15-year-old had recently relocated to Richardson from Dallas and had apparently been in counseling at the time.

Pearl Jam vocalist Eddie Vedder happened upon a news story about the incident which inspired him to write the lyrics for the song Jeremy. The song wound up being one of three hit singles from the band's debut album Ten. When interviewed by [title]Rockline[/title] in 1993, Vedder said the following about the song and its controversial music video:

"It came from a small paragraph in a paper which means you kill yourself and you make a big old sacrifice and try to get your revenge. That all you're gonna end up with is a paragraph in a newspaper. Sixty-three degrees and cloudy in a suburban neighborhood. That's the beginning of the video and that's the same thing is that in the end, it does nothing... nothing changes. The world goes on and you're gone. The best revenge is to live on and prove yourself. Be stronger than those people. And then you can come back."

Two different music videos were made for the song, with the second one being the one shown on Mtv, though in a censored version which caused some confusion and further controversy.

Click here to read more about the school, Jeremy Delle and the song that was inspired by his suicide.

- Tom G