Even More Spooky

On September 17, 2017 · 0 Comments

It served me right for trying to guess what might please the Twelve Mile Circle audience. Longtime readers know that I’ve never been able to do that in the past even after all these years of trying. I probably should have waited until closer to Halloween. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this series — the exact locations of events even more than the stories themselves — and I still had a few spooky places on my mind. Bear with me one more time and then we’ll return to our regular content.

Typhoid Mary


Riverside Hospital
Riverside Hospital. Photo by reivax on Flickr (cc)

One doesn’t hear much about Typhoid Fever in the Western world anymore. This bacterial infection causes fever, headaches, body pains, weakness and rashes in its most virulent form. It might take weeks or months to fully recover. Sometimes it even kills. Typhoid practically disappeared when society started focusing on cleanliness and once antibiotics became the norm.

Some people appeared asymptomatic. They carried and spread typhoid without suffering any ill effects. That condition befell Mary Mallon, and Irish immigrant who lived in and around New York City. She cooked for several wealthy families and she didn’t believe in washing her hands before handling food. Good cooks found easy employment so she simply left each family after they contracted the disease and the cycle repeated. Outbreaks followed her several times as she switched to different families between 1900 and 1907. Authorities finally tracked her down and quarantined her at Riverside Hospital on North Brother Island (map). The hospital sat within eyesight of New York City, safely separated from the general population by the East River. Newspapers dubbed her "Typhoid Mary" and the name stuck.

Mary disavowed all responsibility and refused to be tested. Even so, the hospital released her after three years, stipulating that she must never work as a cook again. She kept that promise for a few years. Then she changed her name to Mary Brown and started cooking once again. The previous pattern of typhoid infections followed her. Once again authorities tracked her down and quarantined her, this time for life. Mary remained at Riverside Hospital from 1915 to 1938 until she died at a ripe old age… of pneumonia.


The Headless Horseman


A Ride in the Hollow
A Ride in the Hollow. Photo by Jessie Hodge on Flickr (cc)

The Headless Horseman starred in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," a short story published by Washington Irving in 1820. In this fictional account, the schoolmaster Ichabod Crane and his nemesis Abraham "Brom Bones" Van Brunt both sought the favor of the same young woman, Katrina Van Tassel. She dashed Ichabod’s hopes one evening at a party at her home.

Crane left dejected, riding on horseback through spooky woods thought to be haunted by a headless horseman. According to the legend, a Hessian soldier fighting in the American Revolution lost his head to a cannonball and he wanted it back. The spectral figure chased Crane through the eerie forest, as Crane raced towards a bridge at the Old Dutch Burying Grounds that supposedly marked safety. The ghost threw his decapitated head towards a terrified Crane. The next day they found his horse and a splattered pumpkin, but Crane was never seen again. The story implied that Brom Bones played on Crane’s superstitions and orchestrated the whole thing to get rid of him.

Of course, Washington Irving created the story as a fictional work. However he used a real setting. Sleepy Hollow existed as did legends of a headless spirit wandering there. Irving lived nearby so he set the story in a familiar place. The area came to be known as North Tarrytown. It fell on hard times long afterwards as the 20th Century wound down and a local General Motors factory closed. That’s when the village voted to change its name back to Sleepy Hollow to hopefully draw more tourists and help the local economy. They also erected a sculpture of the Headless Horseman chasing Ichabod Crane near the spot where the bridge stood in the story (map).


Jack the Ripper


Ten Bells, Spitalfields, E1
Ten Bells, Spitalfields, E1. Photo by Ewan Munro (cc)

Jack the Ripper terrorized Whitechapel in the East End of London for three months of 1888. The serial killer victimized prostitutes in slums, cutting throats, slicing abdomens and removing organs from bodies. As in the case of Typhoid Mary, an overly-competitive press in search of lurid headlines seized upon the story and sensationalized it to the point of frenzy. Numerous deaths were attributed to the killer, and dozens of theories spun from the imaginations of armchair detectives during the next century and beyond. Nonetheless, only five murders could be attributed to Jack the Ripper with any degree of certainty. These became known as the "canonical five" in the parlance of those who studied such things.

Much of Jack the Ripper’s London went the way of the wrecking ball a long time ago. However, a pub called The Ten Bells included a tenuous connection to two victims of the canonical five, Annie Chapman and Mary Jane Kelly. It still exists (map). Annie may have patronized the pub on the morning of her murder; and Mary Jane supposedly attracted clients on the street outside its doors.


Mothman


Mothman
Mothman. Photo by jmnecrikt on Flickr (cc)

A strange creature tormented residents near Point Pleasant, West Virginia in 1966 and 1967. It flew low over the treetops, a devilish figure with outstretched wings they dubbed Mothman. Allegedly it followed cars, killed farm animals and generally harassed and scared locals in a rural area outside of town near an old TNT plant. Then, on December 15, 1967, the Silver Bridge over the Ohio River that connecting Point Pleasant to Ohio collapsed. It happened during the evening when many people were returning home from work. Forty six people died. Witnesses claimed Mothman sightings that same evening and many locals blamed the creature for the tragedy. Some also claimed an appearance of a mysterious Man in Black soon thereafter, and speculated Mothman might be an alien connected to UFO sightings.

Encounters seemed to curtail although the old stories became the basis of a book called the The Mothman Prophecies in 1975 and a film of the same name in 2002. Point Pleasant loves its Mothman too. Entrepreneurs there erected a statue (map), opened a museum and started an annual Mothman Festival. Someday, as I finish my county counting efforts in West Virginia, I will stop there and see if I can spot Mothman myself.

More Spooky

On September 14, 2017 · 3 Comments

Twelve Mile Circle examined several infamous places in Spooky. I came up with a long list of possibilities to review although I had room for only a bare few in that first attempt. That led me to the conclusion that I should write another installment. There’s no sense wasting any more time so let’s get at it.

Roswell UFO


Roswell, NM
Roswell, NM. Photo by Tea on Flickr (cc)

One of the more well know incidents of Unknown Flying Objects took place in 1947 in Roswell, New Mexico. Witnesses saw a mysterious sphere crash into a remote corner of the desert (map). They figured it had to be aliens and that authorities were hiding the evidence. Stories of flying saucers captivated the public frequently during that era. This one seemed to fit the same general pattern and the account spread widely. However the United States government insisted emphatically that a UFO did not crash at Roswell. It was actually an identified flying object, an Air Force weather balloon. Detractors naturally thought that government officials would lie so their explanations only strengthened UFO conspiracy theories.

It turned out the government did lie to the public. The military finally confessed — fifty years after the fact — that witnesses hadn’t seen a weather balloon. According to the revised explanation, the object had been a balloon used to monitor nuclear tests. The government kept nuclear capabilities super-secret in the years after the Second World War so the weather balloon served as a convenient cover story. Or so it said.

If the government could lie once it could lie again, according to those who continued to believe that officials were hiding alien bodies somewhere in a military freezer. The Roswell incident created a whole cottage industry in that part of New Mexico, including a UFO Museum.


Lizzie Borden


The Borden House
The Borden House. Photo by WBUR Boston’s NPR News Station on Flickr (cc)

Lizzie Borden probably got away with murder and earned instant infamy for it. This also led to something of a nursery rhyme about the incident, although I couldn’t imagine anyone would teach their child to recite it. Nonetheless it became popular at the time and many people still recognize it today.

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.

Actually the (step-) mother got 18 whacks and the father got 11. That didn’t really matter though. They both died.

This horrific event took place at the family home in Fall River, Massachusetts (map). Circumstantial evidence pointed straight towards Lizzie.

Andrew Borden amassed a sizable estate by investing in textile mills and commercial properties. His first wife, Lizzie’s mother, passed away and then he married Abby Gray. Lizzie didn’t get along well with her step-mother. She thought Abby married her father for his money. After a particularly heated argument, Lizzie and her sister left town for several weeks in July 1892. Family tensions continued upon their return and the murders took place in August. Lizzie offered all sorts of suspicious and contradictory alibis. Even so, a jury failed to convict her and prosecutors never charged anyone else.

The family home still stands at its original site. It has been converted into a Bed and Breakfast inn. Rather than hid the building’s grisly past, the proprietors play it up about as much as humanly possible. It even offers an "official psychic" for spiritual readings in a particularly spooky setting. The most morbidly obsessed guests can even stay overnight in the room where Abby Borden died.


Loch Ness Monster


Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness
Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness. Photo by David McKelvey on Flickr (cc)

Of course Scotland’s Loch Ness made the list, perhaps the most famous monstrous place of them all. Sightings of the Loch Ness Monster went back centuries, supposedly all the way back to St. Columba in 565. Legend said he repelled the snakelike Nessie by making the sign of the cross. Accounts remained sporadic through the ages until taking off dramatically in 1933 and 1934. This included the ubiquitous "Surgeon’s Photograph." You’ve seen it. The grainy black and white image showed what appeared to be a serpent with its long neck and head rising above the waters of the loch. It turned out to be a practical joke that spiraled out of control. The hoax didn’t get exposed until more than a half-century later.

Some of the more well-known sightings took place at Urquhart Castle, on a promontory above the waters (map). I went there a number of years ago and looked all across the loch for quite awhile. I even went to the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition. However, as much as I wanted to join the list of witnesses, I never say anything out of the ordinary. Several high-tech expeditions have tried to find the hidden creature too, although success continues to elude them.


Bonus

The Salem Witch House also came to mind as I considered my list. That one got a mention by 12MC quite awhile ago in Halloween Spots. Feel free to head over to that earlier article if you want to see its exact location.

Cigarette Hill

On July 16, 2017 · 1 Comments

I focused attention on unusual street names awhile ago. That theme played itself out over time so I left it behind for the most part. However, every once in awhile, I came across something interesting enough to mention on Twelve Mile Circle. This time it appeared in Texas. What was it about Texas? Once I found a subdivision with streets named after South Park characters. This time I found something stuck in an even earlier period of time, probably the 1940’s or 1950’s. Cigarettes had a positive image back then. Sometimes advertisers even promoted alleged health benefits (e.g., "More Doctors Smoke Camels than Any Other Brand"). In that context, perhaps, a subdivision with streets named for cigarette brands might have seemed like a good idea.

Cigarette Hill



Cigarette Hill; Dallas, Texas

Imagine the possibilities. One could live on Pall Mall Avenue, Camel Court, or Kool Avenue. Lucky Street seemed to be a stand-in for Lucky Strike. Maybe Durham referenced Bull Durham tobacco. I also spotted a Fatima Avenue. I’d never heard of Fatima cigarettes although they used to be quite popular. Liggett & Myers launched the brand in 1913 to capitalize on the popularity of Turkish tobacco. Fatima faded as the century progressed. It disappeared completely by the 1980’s.

The neighborhood earned a name, Cigarette Hill.


Hard Times on Cigarette Hill



Cigarette Hill stuck in a time warp just like the vintage cigarette brands of its street names. Its residents lived in poverty with a median household income of less than $15,000 in 2014. It also became a highly segregated neighborhood with an overwhelmingly (88.6%) African American population.

Ripple Road also traversed Cigarette Hill. Perhaps it existed as a coincidence or perhaps not. Ripple was an old type of a particularly nasty, cheap fortified wine. The television character Fred Sanford (played by Redd Foxx) considered Ripple his favorite drink. It gained "a reputation as a drink for alcoholics and the destitute."

By 2008, the City of Dallas recognized that Cigarette Hill and the larger Lancaster Corridor needed help. The local NBC television station reported on the situation that led to a Community Revitalization Plan.

…the neighborhood in the middle of the City of Dallas seems like a piece of old rural Texas. Residents complain the neighborhood has been overlooked for decades with no sidewalks, no storm sewers, few streetlights, and overgrown roads to name just a few problems… The Cigarette Hill area is very close to other Southern Dallas neighborhoods that have proper lighting, wider streets and complete sidewalks.

Still, it held a lot of promise. Cigarette Hill had ready access to employment centers and a Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) rail station. It also offered scenic views from its elevated position. Revitalization efforts still continue.


Cigarettes in Sterling Heights



Sterling Heights, Michigan

I found another cigarette subdivision in Sterling Heights, Michigan. Residents there could choose from Camel, Pall Mall, Parliament, Winston, Newport and Viceroy Drives. Ironically, it also included a Tarry drive (which by one definition meant "covered with tar"). I supposed a street surrounded by cigarettes would eventually become tarry as a result. Unfortunately I couldn’t find anything else about this neighborhood beyond its themed street names. It seemed from Google Street View that the houses probably dated from the 1950’s or 1960’s based on their architecture.


Pall Mall


Pall Mall
Pall Mall Circa 1900. Reproduced by Leonard Bentley on Flickr (cc)

I found myself with a little extra room left in this article. Maybe I should take a look at one of those old-timey cigarette brands. What inspired the naming of Pall Mall I wondered?

The mystery solved itself pretty quickly. Pall Mall is a street in London, England (map). It connected St. James’s Street to Trafalgar Square, running past St. James’s Square. The 18th Century brought a lot of wealthy people to Pall Mall who lived in ornate mansions there. It also became known for art galleries and auctioneers. It didn’t take a lot of effort to see why a cigarette brand would emulate its name. Obviously it wanted to trade on the high-class status of London’s Pall Mall, a good bit removed from its later namesake on Cigarette Hill.

Reaching back farther, the street got its name from a lawn game. Pall mall — the game — grew in popularity during 16th Century. Later it evolved into croquet. The street ran along an area that once hosted a popular pall mall field. First came the game, then came the street, then came the cigarette brand, and finally the cigarette-themed neighborhoods.

Purpose
12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
Subscribe
Don't miss an article -
Subscribe to the feed!

RSS G+ Twitter
RSS Twelve Mile Circle Google Plus Twitter
Categories
Monthly Archives
Days with Posts
September 2017
S M T W T F S
« Aug    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930