The word "bogus" had a murky history. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, it may have dated back as far as 1827, used in Ohio as a slang term for a counterfeiter’s apparatus. It was the name of a machine used to manufacture fake coins. Bogus came to mean counterfeit or fake in a more general sense, and alternately disappointing or unfair.
Some trace this to tantrabobus, also tantrabogus, a late 18c. colloquial Vermont word for any odd-looking object, in later 19c. use; "the devil," which might be connected to tantarabobs, recorded as a Devonshire name for the devil.
Supposing that, it might share a common origin with bogey which is known more familiarly as the root of bogeyman. A bogus bogeyman would be a strange contradiction, however.
It will reveal both my relative age and my level of maturity (or lack thereof) if I mention that bogus appeared prominently in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989). As in,
Evil Duke: Put them in the iron maiden.
Ted: Iron Maiden?
Bill, Ted: Excellent!
Evil Duke: Execute them.
Bill, Ted: Bogus!
Apparently there was also a sequel called Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991). I never watched that one. Not every sequel can be like The Godfather Part II and the original Bill & Ted’s certainly wasn’t The Godfather. Keanu Reeves (Ted) of course went on to bigger and better roles. Alex Winter (Bill), well, hopefully he invested wisely and is leading a nice life somewhere.
That was quite a roundabout tangent even for 12MC. Hopefully it provided the necessary context to appreciate the absurdity of places named Bogus.
Bogus Basin, Idaho
Bogus Basin Panorama by Jim Larson, on Flickr (cc)
Bogus spots were confined almost entirely to the United States. I’m not surprised given the origin of the word. I first came across such a Bogus place when I traveled to Boise, Idaho a number of years and noticed references to the Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area. It was founded by a nonprofit organization "established by the Boise community in 1942." Its a ski resort operated by local interests, with 53 runs and a vertical rise of 1800 feet (550 metres).
Bogus Basin (map) came by the name honestly. It actually referred to fakery. The hills gleamed with gold, or more accurately gold-colored pyrite or "fools gold." There were tales of people who believed they’d found gold only to be disappointed after investing in mines. There were other stories of nefarious swindlers and their dirty tricks designed to defraud people. The Boise City Department of Arts and History mentioned,
Bogus Basin got its name from a group of con-artists in the late 1800s who created fake gold dust in the same area as the Bogus Basin recreation area. These con-artists would melt silver, sand and a small amount of gold and sell it for $14 an ounce.
Bogus Basin was a strange name for a ski resort albeit one with genuine historical roots.
Bogus Brook Township, Minnesota
Bogus Brook, Mille Lacs Co., Minnesota, USA
Bogus Brook Township in Mille Lacs (thousand lakes) County in Minnesota sounded promising. Indeed, a stream named Bogus Brook (map) ran directly through the township. It seemed strange that the township selected Bogus Brook for its name when the Rum River, a much larger body of water also ran through it. Maybe residents didn’t want to live in a place named for demon rum.
Actually the Rum River became rather controversial in recent years, leading to an organized name-change movement. The Lakota named the river Wahkon originally, the Great Spirit River, and it was considered a sacred body of water. Settlers of European descent thought it might be clever to create a pun by using spirit in the sense of alcohol and renamed it Rum River. Native inhabitants considered that usage insulting and profane.
Bogus Brook was probably a better choice for the township.
Bogus Elementary School, Montague, California
Imagine attending Bogus Elementary School in California (map). It seemed like the name might be a liability although the school sounded pretty interesting:
Is your child lost in a large class size? Bogus Elementary School has one classroom, one teacher, and 12 students… All children get to participate in our winter ski/snow board program for free.
There were a number of Bogus features nearby including Bogus Mountain, Bogus Creek and Bogus Burn. Any one of those could have inspired the Bogus name for a school. I also noticed it was located near one of those checkerboard patterns, which wasn’t particularly germane to this article, just an interesting fact I noticed along the way.
I found only three Bogus places outside of the United States, all in Canada: Lac Bogus in Québec (map); Bogus Lake in Ontario (map); and Bogus Hole in Nova Scotia (map). Information was scarce. The most prominent mention of a Bogus lake in Ontario led to "Lake Ontario Shark Video Is Just As Fake As It Looks." It reminded me of I Call Bull Shark.
I think it’s time to revive the word tantrabogus.
Floods are awful in any form and I don’t wish to diminish or make light of that one overriding consideration. However there are floods of a "normal" variety — if an event so awful can be referred to so cavalierly — and then there are truly bizarre floods. Either way, lives are lost, property is damaged, and communities are disrupted. Things seem to be a little different and particularly undignified in certain circumstances though, for example when the flood is a raging torrent of molasses.
The Great Molasses Flood of 1919
Fire House no. 31 damaged, Molasses Disaster. 1:00pm by Boston Public Library, on Flickr (cc)
A large storage tank of molasses filled by the Purity Distilling Company burst in Boston’s North End in January 1919. An official inquiry failed to establish a definitive reason, ascribing it to an "Act of God." Several theories were offered over the years including a buildup of carbon dioxide that may have been caused by an unusually warm winter day. Very recently the Boston Globe reported another possibility:
Now, a study has shed new light on the cause of the collapse, finding that the tank was stressed well beyond capacity and made from a steel susceptible to fracture — the same type used on the Titanic… The steel was too thin to withstand the enormous stress of 2.3 million gallons of molasses, a weakness builders should have known at the time… What builders at the time could not have known was that the type of steel used for the tank was brittle because it contained a low amount of the chemical element manganese, making it more likely to crack.
The bursting tank sent a huge wave of molasses into the neighborhood. Different sources pegged the wave at between 25 and 40 feet (8-12 metres) high. It slammed into homes, twisted an elevated railroad track, knocked a firehouse off of its foundation, and killed 21 people in its sticky wake. Another 150 people were injured. Local residents swore they could still smell a hint of molasses on particularly hot summer days for years afterwards.
The Commercial Street location where the tank once stood eventually became the infield of a baseball diamond at Langone Park (map). A small plaque reminds Little Leaguers® of the molasses tragedy.
The London Beer Flood of 1814
Dominion Theatre, London West End by Ian Nichol, on Flickr (cc)
How did I miss the 200th anniversary of London’s beer flood? The Independent knew about it and commemorated it though:
An unlimited, free supply of beer – it sounds wonderful doesn’t it? But when it is over one million litres in volume and in a tidal wave at least 15 feet high, as it was in the London Beer Flood on 17 October 1814, the prospect seems less appealing… a broken vat at the Horse Shoe Brewery on Tottenham Court Road flooded the local area with porter, a dark beer native to the capital, killing eight people and demolishing a pair of homes.
The brewery had been set in an underprivileged neighborhood, a slum called St. Giles Rookery. The flimsy buildings couldn’t withstand the onslaught of beer. People were crammed into the tenements all the way down to the cellars, and that’s where much of the tragedy occurred. Those in cellars were trapped as beer poured in and filled to ground level.
This accident was also ascribed to an Act of God even though witnesses had reported signs of an impending rupture earlier in the day. The owner, Henry Meux, even managed to get a favorable ruling that allowed him to get a refund on the taxes he’d paid on the beer. Negligence had much different standards back in those days.
The Horse Shoe Brewery (image) had been founded in 1764. One might think that perhaps this tragedy would have closed the brewery. It didn’t. Horse Shoe hummed along for another century and more, all the way until 1921. Upon closing, the land was put to a completely different use. It became the site of the Dominion Theatre, built in 1928-29 (map).
The Swine Sewage Flood of 1999
The Swine Ballet by Kiesha Jean, on Flickr (cc)
Conditions in tidal North Carolina were favorable for hog farming. However, this industry also had a dirty underside, the bodily wastes of millions of pigs:
North Carolina’s 10 million hogs produce 40 million gallons of manure each day — that’s more than the number of people in the state. In Duplin County alone, 2.2 million hogs produce twice as much untreated manure as the sewage from the New York City metro area.
These wastes were stored in manure lagoons, essentially open pits "operated to encourage anaerobic digestion of organic material while it is being stored." They can be susceptible to spills if not constructed and maintained properly.
Hurricanes do hit North Carolina periodically and that’s what happened with Hurricane Floyd in September 1999. The same area had already been hit by the much weaker Hurricane Dennis less than two weeks earlier so the water table was up and the ground saturated. Floyd slammed into the coast right at North Carolina’s Cape Fear region before moving into the Mid-Atlantic and up into New England. It doused eastern North Carolina with tremendous rainfall as it passed, leading to widespread flooding throughout the area. According to the North Carolina Riverkeepers and Waterkeeper Alliance:
Waterkeepers and other environmental leaders in this state had been warning the Governor and members of the NC legislature for years about the destruction that would accompany a storm like Floyd. Thousands of huge cesspools, called "lagoons," filled with feces, urine and other toxins, blanketed the flood prone area. Many were located in the worst possible area, the floodplain itself.
The noxious sewage deluge polluted many of the local rivers and estuaries, spreading fecal coliform bacteria, polluting wells and creating dead zones were much aquatic life could not survive. The New River (map) was hit especially hard all along its fifty mile course that took it directly past US Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune before flushing into the Atlantic Ocean.
The one thing all of these undignified floods had in common was that they could have been prevented.
I suppose this is something of a Part 3 addendum to the recent Southern Swing articles although maybe it’s not truly the case. Perhaps it would be better to call it "inspired" by those earlier articles. We broke the return trip into a two-day event with an overnight stay in Knoxville, Tennessee. The hotel happened to be located near the Sunsphere, a tower designed for the 1982 World’s Fair. That was a happy coincidence although unintentional. We never saw the tower during daylight because there’s a lot of darkness near the northern hemisphere’s winter solstice. That’s why I couldn’t get a decent photograph although I still gave it a shot. The sight also made me wonder about towers that have been built for World Fairs in general. Some of them became iconic structures while others fell into relative obscurity.
Sunsphere (1982) – Knoxville, Tennessee, USA
Sunsphere (my own photo)
The Sunsphere that we saw in Knoxville seemed to fall amongst those that didn’t quite capture public imagination (map); "It represents the sun, source of energy, and reflected the energy theme of the fair." I guess that wasn’t inspirational enough. It looked like a giant Van der Graaf generator. I guarantee it would have become iconic if it actually shot giant bolts of lightning. Sadly, it did not.
During the fair the Sunsphere featured five primary levels, an observation deck, a kitchen, two dining levels, and a cocktail lounge. It had a hard life once the fair ended, standing either vacant or underused for three decades and counting. However, it’s available for rent should someone want to use it for a wedding reception, a corporate event, or a 12MC reader happy hour.
As an aside, I wasn’t aware that the World’s Fair was still a thing. Apparently those events still exist and one will be held in Milan in 2015. None have occurred in the United States since 1984 and that’s probably why I though EPCOT or something must have replaced them by now.
La Tour Eiffel (1889) – Paris, France
La Tour Eiffel by Christopher Chan, on Flickr (cc)
I had no idea that the Eiffel Tower in Paris was a remnant of a World’s Fair (map). It served as the centerpiece of the Exposition Universelle of 1889 which also commemorated the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. The tower that Gustave Eiffel erected brought strong negative reactions from critics at the time and became a beloved symbol despite their pronouncements. Twelve Mile Circle doesn’t need to mention anything else about the Eiffel Tower, right?
It would be many years before another World’s Fair would attempt to feature a tower. How could any other city top such an iconic structure?
Atomium (1958) – Brussels, Belgium
Atomium landscape by Vase Petrovski, on Flickr (cc)
Neighboring Belgium made an honest attempt in 1958 with its Atomium for the Brussels World’s Fair (Brusselse Wereldtentoonstelling / Exposition Universelle et Internationale de Bruxelles) (map). This was the height of the atomic age. An oddly shiny building with 9 interconnected spheres climbing 102 metres and fashioned in the form of an iron atom enlarged 165 billion times seemed to be an optimal choice for the times. The Atomium can still be visited today and its website describes it as,
A seminal totem in the Brussels skyline; neither tower, nor pyramid, a little bit cubic, a little bit spherical, half-way between sculpture and architecture, a relic of the past with a determinedly futuristic look, museum and exhibition centre; the Atomium is, at once, an object, a place, a space, a Utopia and the only symbol of its kind in the world, which eludes any kind of classification.
Readers can also use Google Street View to go inside of the Atomium. It’s quite a structure.
Space Needle (1962) – Seattle, Washington, USA
Space Needle and Pacific Science Center by Terence T.S. Tam, on Flickr (cc)
Seattle’s Space Needle (map) didn’t quite hit the same iconic status as the Eiffel Tower although it probably came closer than any of the other examples. Certainly, it would be recognized instantly by many people far beyond the Pacific Northwest. Fashions had begun to transition from the atomic age into the space age and the Seattle World’s Fair reflected those changing times.
Tower of the Americas (1968) – San Antonio, Texas, USA
Tower of the Americas (my own photo)
I’ve been to the top of the Tower of the Americas. San Antonio’s convention center is located next to HemisFair Park where the tower was built (map). I went to San Antonio a few years ago for a conference and I had a little extra time so I rode to the top.
This World’s Fair featured "The Confluence of Civilizations in the Americas" as its theme. I’m not sure how the tower reflected that concept although it’s still impressive. The fair commemorated the 250th anniversary of San Antonio and supposedly the theme also referenced several nations that held sway of Texas territory. Some might say 6 Flags Over Texas, other might claim 7 Flags, or whatever.
The Skyneedle (1988) – Brisbane, Australia
Entire Skyneedle by Mervin, on Flickr (cc)
The weirdest World’s Fair tower might have been the Skyneedle in Brisbane (map). It reached 88 metres and appropriately matched World Expo 88. However the tower did not accommodate visitors. It was too small. Instead it shot a beam of light around the city. The Skyneedle was supposed to be relocated to Tokyo Disneyland once the fair closed. Instead, it became the possession of a local hairdresser entrepreneur, Stefan, who moved it to his headquarters nearby. Yelp had a number of amusing reviews:
Standing tall, proud and pointless Brisbane’s Skyneedle is capable of the occasional light show and little else. Even its powerful beam is only allowed to be used on special occasions as it is a potential risk to plane’s coming in to land at Brisbane airport. But despite its inherent absurdity, or more correctly, because of its inherent absurdity Stefan’s Needle has become a much loved part of the city skyline.
Pity the Skyneedle.