One book leads to another...

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Possessed by Cherry Blossoms

Nowhere else would troubles fade
in charming pink cascades
except within a citadel
of cherry blossom shade
~ diedre

Just looking at the map of where I’ve virtually been this past week makes me almost glad I’m not really driving!  I say almost because this is truly some breathtaking country, at least during this particular season. I imagine the amount of snow you must get in these parts is not good for cactus, so you can keep it, but do the Cherry blossoms smell as heavenly sweet as they look?  If I happen to be nosing around in your neck of the woods, I hope you’ll speak up ;-)

Is there a method to this madness? Absolutely! What began as a quest to visit oddly named places has simply expanded to include my favorite pastime—chasing ghosts and exploring ghost towns!  If a strangely named place happens to have ghost or two, I’ll consider it a bonus :-)
First Stop:  Athens, Ohio -  The Ridges
Before the Ohio University took over, The Ridges was called Athens Lunatic Asylum and surrounded by an enchanting, park-like setting; complete with fountains, gardens, orchards, a dairy and a carriage shop. It was also a place which, for over a hundred years, was known for its extensive lobotomy practices. It might be easy to imagine the hauntings a place like this could have, considering a report of a crude message carved in a windowsill that reads “I was not crazy”. But only one story seems to have any merit and that is of a female patient who went missing for so long that by the time she was found in an abandoned building, her decayed body left a permanent stain on the concrete floor.  However, Room 428 at OU’s Wilson Hall dormitory is reportedly sealed off due to the hauntings of a female student killed there, and at the nearby West State Street cemetery, the Angel of the Unknown Soldiers is said to flutter a wing or shed a tear from time to time.
Moving on:  Centralia, Pennsylvania The Burning Ghost Town
The exact cause remains a mystery, but upwards of fifty years ago a fire erupted and spread throughout a labyrinth of underground coal mines; torching trees and buildings and spewing toxic fumes above.  Despite the over 40 million dollars, allocated to relocate residents of this once-bustling mining town, by 2010 it was reported that a total of nine stalwart people remained; though it is estimated that the fire could continue burning for well over 250 years. Conversely, I was astonished to discover that the Conemaugh River Lake contains at least six underwater ghost towns!
And then there was:   Claremont, New Hampshire - Topstone Mill
After sitting empty for several decades, the new owners of this former shoe and furniture factory began to think perhaps it hadn’t been abandoned after all when patrons of the new Bar & Grill kept getting bitten by invisible teeth! Staff resorted to ‘travelling in twos’ when strange sounds and voices were heard throughout the building, and faces were seen in the windows of unused floors. The owner himself couldn’t stand on a ladder without it being shaken by an unknown source. When an EVP team was brought in, many of these claims were substantiated, but they too, were unable to place the source.

Have you visited any of these places? Would you? 

Happy 4th of July!


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Hell for Certain - Bootleggers!

I’m told it’s a step closer to heaven. But I’m not so certain, ~ Coleman Larkin

All but hidden in the primitive terrain of the central Appalachian basin, a small unincorporated community most often referred to as Hell For Certain, Kentucky, reposes near a river by the same name. Although the proper name given to the ‘town’ is Dryhill, area residents tend to prefer the environmental description to that of the prohibition status of the county.  Conversely, the Bluegrass Brewing company of Louisville named one of its beers after Hell for Certain and the National Geological Society has borrowed the name for a hardened volcanic swamp ash commonly encountered in mining operations. But the story, passed down through generations is that a missionary; having travelled there in search of prospective new followers, and asked where he’d been upon his return, replied “I have no idea, but it was hell for certain”.

“It was just a paradise for a child,”

The remaining few inhabitants are generational legacies of an unassuming lot; long gone and largely forgotten. Except by one Ms. Sally Jane Begley who, at an astonishingly spry 93, remembers well the glorious days of her childhood.

Would you think twice about stopping if you saw the name Hell For Certain on a road sign? 
There’s something about these lush country backroads that reminds me of stack cakes, stew, and smooth aged whiskey; which I’d have to travel for if I liked it, because this particular county has been dry since the Prohibition Era.

Ah yes, the infamous era when Boardwalk Empires emerged in flagrant homage to the remarkably adept management of Organized Crime, as Speakeasies hummed behind every closed door (at one point NYC had over 20 thousand!) and Bootlegging became a lucrative and much sought after form of employment.  The 21st amendment saw the end of much of this, but not the end of Organized Crime, which seems to be doing as well as ever.

Years later, the fruits of prohibition were (and are) ripe as ever and continue to bring prosperity to most any setting imaginable.

Based on an actual problem Coors Brewing Company was having in transporting the product beyond certain state lines, celebrated stuntman Hal Needham came up with the idea of a movie about bootlegging Coors beer.

Smokey and the Bandit” was the second highest grossing film (behind Star Wars) in 1977, capitalizing on the growing CB fad and spawning similarly themed films such as ‘Convoy’ and “Breaker! Breaker!”  In addition, the movie sparked a five year, wildly popular romance between Burt Reynolds and Sally Field and brought Jackie Gleason out of what had seemed to be an early retirement to play the role of the Smokey (sheriff) who chases the Bandit across the southern backroads and byways. 

Gleason reportedly enjoyed occasional ‘hamburgers’ on the set - which was code for a glass of bourbon – and insisted his scenes be filmed first in case poor health prevented his attendance later.  Sally Field went on to star in several more romantic comedies with Burt Reynolds, Smokey and the Bandit boosted country singer Jerry Reed’s career considerably with his hit song “Eastbound and down”.

While Smokey and the Bandit had two sequels, the third was deemed the “worst bad movie ever made” and Burt Reynolds and Sally Field didn’t even appear in it, but the first one remained a favorite of Alfred Hitchcock’s and incidentally, was the last film he ever screened.

Funny thing about wandering; you just never know where you’ll end up ;-) Thanks for coming along!

Have you seen the movie? Do you wander down backroads? Do you live in a dry county?

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Peaceful, Easy Feeling

“Today I have grown taller from walking with the trees” ~ Karle Wilson Baker

Even as ashen clouds rush across a sapphire sky, they gather in the distance. Not here, where a chilly breeze gives rousing chase to all but brief intervals of sunshine; its warmth steadfastly denied.

It’s a campfire day, when everyone gathers close in a room without walls to share laughter and warmth past sundown, then toasted cherry pies as stars pop out above like diamond-studded measles on a vibrant velvet mantle and the perfect joy on a young child’s face reflects in the dancing flames.

Sunburns have tanned or peeled from weekend fishing expeditions when the little man with a Spiderman pole brought home all the winnings, thus convincing him that he is ready for competition when “the big boys get a little better” ;-)

Yes, it’s a peaceful, easy feeling here in the woods. Half a day and a world away from the desert; where monsoon only teases on 111 degree days.  When I return I’ll share with you a place deemed somewhat hellish, but for now, it certainly isn’t where I am -) Hope it’s the same for you! Until then, I’ll be working with my most strident character, which simply won’t be denied her chapters!

The kids headed down the mountain this morning, for duties that beckon below. The sudden silence is lovely and oddly lonesome as we clean up the remnants of a memorable week and prepare for possible evacuation. 
The windswept flames of the Cedar Creek fire, which started yesterday around noon, quickly and steadfastly spread and by this morning  had burned over 5000 acres; now threatening many mountain communities, including ours.  Never a dull moment ;-)

Happy Trails!

When or where do you get your ‘Peaceful, easy’ feeling?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Mystic Synchronicity

Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous. ~ Albert Einstein

Have you ever thought of someone you haven’t heard from in a while, and then received a letter or phone call from them?  Before caller I.D, did someone in particular ever cross your mind as you picked up the phone and sure enough, it was that person calling?  Is it intuition or coincidence?  If indeed (as some believe) coincidence is a form of metaphysical synchronicity or the concurrence of similar planes in the universe, how does that affect the odds of improbability becoming not just possible, but prophetic?

It’s a question my friend and fellow blogger Shady Dell Knight has been thinking about this week over at Music and Memories. Stop on by for a head-scratching, toe-tapping good time! As you can see, I did and now am stuck on the subject of coincidence :-)
Here're a few examples:

American novelist Anne Parrish was delighted to run across a childhood favorite while browsing a London bookstore in 1929. When she showed her husband the book, ‘Jack Frost and Other Stories’, he quickly noticed that the inscription on the flyleaf inside read Anne Parrish, 209 N. Weber Street, Colorado Springs.

Mark Twain happened to have been born on the day of the appearance of Halley’s Comet in 1835. In a quote-turned-prediction in 1909, he said “I came in with Halley’s Comet and, as it is due again next year (1910), I expect to go out with it,” and he did.

Henry Ziegland thought he had truly ‘dodged a bullet’ when, after terminating his relationship with his girlfriend (who then committed suicide), her angry brother shot Ziegland before turning the gun on himself. But Ziegland had not been killed, for the bullet had merely grazed his face and lodged in a tree behind him.  Years later, Ziegland decided to get rid of the tree with a couple sticks of dynamite but alas, the explosion hurled the bullet into his head; and got him that time.

And if you ever visit the Petrified Forest, you might want to heed the warnings not to remove any of the petrified rocks you’ll see lying around everywhere. In the Rainbow Forest Room, located inside the gift shop, you can peruse hundreds of letters; confessions received along with returned artifacts from folks desperately wanting the curse removed!  Many of these letters are heartrending, and a few are downright hilarious.

“You're right. It's a curse to take wood from the forest. My girlfriend of three years finished with me on the drive home. So here's your damn wood back."

Do you believe in intuition or coincidence? Could the Petrified Forest curse be merely coincidence?  Would you take a petrified rock with a curse attached?