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.

On September 14, 2017 · 3 Comments

Spooky

On September 10, 2017 · 0 Comments - won't you be the first?

A lot of tangential articles began to appear on social media recently, tying-in with the hype around the latest film adaption of Stephen King’s "It." One article I noticed included a list of his major works, from the early days of his writing career to the present. It included "The Shining," and rightly so, a very successful book (1977) and movie (1980) in its own right. The article mentioned that the Stanley Hotel inspired the setting for The Shining. I guess I knew this very real hotel influenced the fictional setting although I never thought about it much. Then I began to consider other possibly infamous, spooky places.

The Stanley Hotel


The Stanley Hotel - Estes Park
The Stanley Hotel – Estes Park. Photo by Robin Kanouse on Flickr (cc)

Anyone wanting to visit the Stanley Hotel could head over to Estes Park, Colorado (map) where it continues to operate today. The resort began in the early 20th Century, the creation of Freelan Oscar Stanley. He’d made his fortune on the east coast as the inventor of the Stanley Steamer, an early automobile powered by steam. Stanley arrived in this beautiful Rocky Mountain valley suffering from what used to be called Consumption, now commonly called Tuberculosis. Fresh mountain air helped considerably with his condition and he vowed to return as often as he could. Eventually he built a luxury hotel with every amenity his High Society friends from the east would appreciate.

The Stanley lost a lot of its luster by the time Stephen King and his wife visited in the 1970’s. It was about to close for the season and the Kings were the only lodgers in an otherwise empty 140-room hotel. That night, King woke from a nightmare while staying in Room 217, and quickly outlined the plot for The Shining. The Stanley Hotel became the Overlook Hotel in his novel although Room 217 still figured prominently.

The Stanley did not have a haunted reputation during its first seventy years. Oddly, or perhaps suspiciously, self-proclaimed paranormal investigators discovered all sorts of spooky anomalies in the years after the The Shining appeared.


112 Ocean Avenue


IMG_7969
Amityville Horror House. Photo by john on Flickr (cc)

All I need to say about 112 Ocean Avenue (map) is the city where it’s located and many readers will recognize the reference immediately: Amityville, New York. The Amityville Horror, published in 1977, told the story of the Lutz family who fled the house only four weeks after they moved in. The book — advertised as a "true story" — became a runaway bestseller and inspired a movie and various sequels.

The DeFeo family lived in this Long Island home for several years before the Lutz family moved there. One night in 1974, the eldest DeFeo child, Ronald Jr., murdered his family in this home. His parents and four siblings all died from gunshot wounds. Ronald went to prison where he still remains more than forty years later.

George and Kathleen Lutz purchased the home soon thereafter, well-aware of its history. They claimed that all sorts of evil, demonic things happened to them while they lived there. They fled, wrote their book, and made a pile of money. A falling out with their attorneys led to a string of lawsuits and accusations of fraud. One of the self-admitted conspirators claimed it was a hoax that they created as they drank several bottles of wine.

Since that time, the home has passed to several new owners, none of whom reported any unusual paranormal activities. One owner finally altered the exterior of the home and changed its address to 108 Ocean Ave. although people continue to visit. It attracted quite a bit of attention during its latest sale in November 2016.


Bran Castle


Bran castle
Bran castle. Photo by Nomad Tales on Flickr (cc)

Where did Dracula live? In Transylvania, of course. The Irish writer Bram Stoker published Dracula, his most famous work in 1897. It spawned the entire Vampire genre of horror fiction that continues to remain popular.

Most people probably knew that the name of the novel’s title character came from Vlad the Impaler, a Prince of Wallachia. That region of Romania fell "between the Carpathians and the Danube River." It did not include Transylvania. Dracula came from his surname, having been born the son of Vlad Dracul. He earned his ghastly Impaler title when he attacked a bunch of Saxon villages, marched the inhabitants back to Wallachia and impaled them on stakes. Later, in 1462, he had no qualms about crossing into Ottoman territory and slaughtering several thousand more people there. Stories of his cruelty and butchery spread throughout Europe. Stoker read accounts centuries later and thought Dracula would be a great name for a bloodthirsty vampire.

One Romanian castle on the border between Wallachia and Transylvania gained a reputation for being Dracula’s abode. Bran Castle somehow claimed the title (map). Interestingly, Vlad never resided there. Sure, he passed it various times on his military excursions through the valley, although nothing more significant than that. Additionally, Bram Stoker probably wasn’t thinking of this castle specifically when he wrote Dracula. More likely, he used a composite of ideas. Nonetheless, Bran Castle somehow marketed itself successfully as a place that seemed like it should be Dracula’s castle. Good for them. Keep those tourists coming.


Bonus!

Bigfoot would also meet the definition of this article. However, I mentioned the most famous Bigfoot location, the spot of the infamous Patterson-Gimlin film, in Hairy Man.

I came up with a few other ideas too, enough for another article so stay tuned for Part II. Feel free to put ideas or suggestions in the comments and maybe I’ll continue with even more spooky places after that.

On September 10, 2017 · 0 Comments - won't you be the first?

Smallest Country on Two Oceans

On September 7, 2017 · 1 Comments

While I researched the Smallest Multiple Time Zone Countries I noticed that a small corner of Chile actually abutted the Atlantic Ocean. Thousands of kilometres of its coastline hugged the Pacific Ocean and that one tiny little corner curved and extended far enough to reach the Atlantic. I enjoyed that meaningless anomaly for some unknown reason. I thought about it some more. Chile might not be that remarkable after all, I concluded. One would expect a large nation to possibly touch two oceans. Of course that led to a quest to find the smallest country with that distinction.

I created a couple of ground rules for this particular exercise. First, the landmass needed to be contiguous. I didn’t care about nations with lots of far-flung islands. Otherwise I would select something silly and call it a day. Next, I used a fairly relaxed definition of "ocean." For instance the Caribbean Sea served as an extension of the Atlantic, so I considered it to be part of the Atlantic too.

Timor-Leste


Clouds over Jaco Island, Timor Leste
Clouds over Jaco Island, Timor Leste. Photo by Kate Dixon on Flickr (cc)

Timor-Leste (or East Timor in English) covered the eastern half of Timor Island, with the other half belonging to Indonesia. It also included that interesting little exclave called Oecusse towards the western side of the island. The Timor Island split occurred because of colonialism. Dutch powers originally controlled the present-day Indonesian portion. Portuguese powers controlled the east, thus giving rise to the name Timor-Leste. The nation suffered through a rather tumultuous period despite its recent independence. Indonesian forces invaded it, a brutal civil war took place, and Australian troops came as peacekeepers a couple of different times. Things seem to have settled down in the last few years, though.

Back to the point, Timor-Leste covered only 14,874 square kilometres (5,743 square miles). The northern coastline hugged the Savu Sea, a part of the Pacific Ocean. It’s southern side touched the Timor Sea, part of the Indian Ocean. I’m not sure who made the rules about where one ocean began and the other ended. I guess the line had to go somewhere so that’s the arbitrary situation it created. These things are all artificial anyway. Timor-Leste seemingly "won" my trivial competition.

The two seas met at the nation’s easternmost point, a place called Jaco Island (map). A narrow channel separated it from the rest of the country, protecting it as part of Nino Konis Santana National Park. Nonetheless, for a few bucks, local fishermen reportedly would take take tourists to its pristine beaches on unsanctioned visits. That’s what the Intertubes said although I don’t necessarily endorse such clandestine behavior.


Israel


Eilat - Panorama night 1 - by Ron Borkin
Eilat – Panorama. Photo by Ron Borkin via israeltourism on Flickr (cc)

The next smaller occurrence surprised me a little. I didn’t really think of Israel as bordering two oceans. Nonetheless I believed it did based on my simple rules. Certainly it included an extensive coastline on the Mediterranean Sea, which served as an extension of the Atlantic Ocean. I always forgot about its access to the Gulf of Aqaba though, probably because the other coastline dwarfed it by comparison. The gulf led to the Red Sea which led to the Indian Ocean. Thus, Israel with a land area of 27,632 square kilometres (10,669 square miles) passed the test.

Just a few kilometres of Israeli coastline hugged the Gulf of Aqaba. It offered room for just one town, Eilat (אֵילַת). Historically, Eilat (map) traced back to the ancient world, even earning a mention in the Old Testament of the Bible. The unique situation of its geographic placement also guaranteed that it would remain a busy place in modern times. Israel, largely isolated by its neighbors, could use the port for easy access to Asian trading networks. Egypt and Jordan bordered on Eilat, and Saudi Arabia sat practically within eyesight towards the south. Those could all be bypassed using the waterway.

Eilat also provided a nice beach and served as a popular resort destination. One couldn’t drive too easily to the outside world from Israel so this would pretty much be the end of the line for a weekend getaway.


Costa Rica


Montezuma, Costa Rica
Montezuma, Costa Rica. Photo by Javier Bacchetta on Flickr (cc)

Next my attention turned to Central America. Every nation there except for Belize and El Salvador bordered both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, an extension of the Atlantic Ocean. I only had to pick the smallest one. That honor went to Costa Rica with a land area of 51,060 square kilometres (19,710 square miles). What a spectacular set of coastline it had too. Costa Rica featured more than 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) of water access.

Tourists began to flock to Costa Rica in recent years for its beaches. Some of the most spectacular examples ringed the Nicoya Peninsula on the Pacific side of the country. If someone traveled to the farthest spot, to the tip of the peninsula, one would find Playa Montezuma (map). This playa (beach) had a reputation for being both relaxing and cheap, a destination for aging hippies.

On September 7, 2017 · 1 Comments
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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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