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.

Ladylike Places

On April 13, 2017 · 2 Comments

The recent Manly Places dealt with U.S. locations that swung wildly towards an overabundance of men. Naturally I also wanted to examine the opposite condition. The inverse of manly seemed as if it should be something like ladylike so that’s what I called the followup article. This one required more effort. Women lived longer than men naturally and the ratios reflected that. Fluctuations didn’t hit the same extremes either.

Women did seem to congregate in larger numbers in major northeastern cities, such as Boston, New York and Washington: "Nine of the 10 metros with the highest ratio of women to men are in the East: Oakland is the only exception." However, fluctuations occurred even within those metropolitan areas. The most women in New York City could be found in the 10021 ZIP Code. In the suburbs of Washington, DC, in Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick, Maryland specifically, 1.2 women lived alone for every man in a similar situation.

Prisons


Alderson Federal Prison
Alderson Federal Prison. Photo by Aaron Bauer on Flickr (cc)

I found some bad news and some good news about women and prisons. Incarcerated women skewed the populations of lightly populated rural counties and towns just like their male counterparts. However, at least within the Federal Bureau of Prisons, women accounted for only 7% of the inmates. Still, where women’s prisons existed, anomalies could occur. No county had a greater imbalance than Summers County, West Virginia, the home of Federal Prison Camp Alderson. This minimum security facility housed nearly a thousand women (map). That created an imbalance in Summers County of 1.23 women to every man.

Some well-known criminals served time there, too. I remembered Lynette Fromme mostly because of her nickname, "Squeaky." She became a follower of Charles Manson and later tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford. Her sentence could have kept her confined for the remainder of her life although she earned parole in 2009 after serving 34 years. She spent many of her years at Alderson, helping to skew the population ratio of Summers County except for the couple of days in 1987 when she escaped briefly.

Things really got wacky at the town level. The greatest imbalance occurred in tiny Raoul, Georgia, population 2,500. Four out of five residents were women. There, the Lee Arrendale State Prison of the Georgia Department of Corrections created the anomaly. The largest town on the list of Top 100 cities with the most women, Chowchilla, California made space for two prisons for women. However one of them, Valley State Prison, became a men’s facility in 2012. It will likely drop from the list after the next Census.


Colleges and Universities


Mary Lyon Hall
Mary Lyon Hall. Photo by Mount Holyoke College (cc)

My intuition failed me once again. I figured colleges and universities would skew ratios more than prisons. I didn’t get things completely wrong, though. One of the largest towns to crack the Top 100 list reflected that category. Mount Holyoke College fell within the boundaries of South Hadley, Massachusetts (map). This institution dated to 1837, beginning as the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. It’s 2,500 students comprised a sizable chunk of the town’s population of 17,000; enough to contribute mightily to a favorable ratio of women to men.

A lot of colleges for women either closed or became coeducational institutions as the Twentieth century progressed. About sixty still remained in the United States. That limited the number of chances to dramatically impact populations.


International


Saipan Hyatt Sunset
Saipan Hyatt Sunset. Photo by drufisher on Flickr (cc)

I looked a little beyond the United States this time. Sort of. Wikipedia had a nice list of countries by sex ratio that I consulted. After I sorted the list it showed that the Northern Mariana Islands had the greatest abundance of women. It contained about 1.4 women for every man. Of course the Northern Mariana Islands actually belonged to the United States in a commonwealth arrangement (map), even though it appeared separately on the list.

This anomaly occurred because of legal loopholes and deplorable exploitation of female garment workers brought to the islands primarily from China. The Northern Marianas fell within something of a gray area. Products coming from there could claim that they were "Made in the USA" and avoid tariffs. However, a lot of wage and fair labor laws applicable on the mainland United States did not apply to them. A large garment industry started operating in the Northern Marianas around 1984 to take advantage of the situation. That’s why women so outnumbered men. They toiled in factories twelve or more hours a day without breaks for poverty wages. Once exposed, the U.S. Congress began to pass laws that eventually restricted the loopholes. The last of the factories closed in 2012 and the population of Saipan dropped by nearly a third.

Estonia may top the list after the next Census takes place in the Northern Marianas. I examined the ratios within Estonia by different age categories. It seemed after a quick glance that Estonian men simply began to die in droves once they hit their 60’s.

New England, Part 6 (Roundup)

On June 12, 2016 · 1 Comments

I came home sooner than I would have wanted, the journey over, a feeling that always seemed to settle upon me after a trek through hidden rural corners. I decompressed and began to process a trove of memories, sharing many of them with the Twelve Mile Circle audience. Some of those thoughts didn’t fit neatly into bundles so I collected them into their own indiscriminate pile.

CTMQ


Millwright's

By now I’m sure everyone figured out that I finally got to see Steve from CTMQ in person again. We met for dinner at a well-regarded restaurant, Millwright’s in Simsbury, Connecticut (map). We caught-up on a lot of things since our epic Connecticut Road Trip of years ago and swapped a couple of rare bottles of craft beer to enjoy later.

Go read Steve’s blog. His writing and insight is much better than mine.


Satan’s Kingdom


Satan's Kingdom

Reader "Joel" sent a message last March about a place he’d seen on a map of Northfield, Massachusetts. It was called Satan’s Kingdom. Indeed it was a real place and clearly included in the US Geological Survey’s Geographic Names Information System. There was even a Satan’s Kingdom Wildlife Management Area with a nice trail that followed "an old logging road from Old Vernon Rd. to the top of the ridge" with a "view of the valley."

I tried my hardest to find the history of Satan’s Kingdom and how it earned its devilish name. The only real source I saw, such as it was, came from a segment aired on a local television station. A person who worked at the wildlife management area explained that the name traced back to colonial times. It wasn’t meant to reference anything truly satanic, rather it served as a warning to people long ago that they needed to be careful in an uncharted area. There might be hostile animals or other dangers. That explanation seemed a lot more plausible than legends of demons roaming the dark woods as I bet circulated around Northfield.

Of course I had to visit Satan’s Kingdom and sift through the evidence firsthand. First I had to find it. I’d seen photographs on the Intertubes although nobody specified the exact location. I took an educated guess and picked the right spot. It was time for me to do my good deed for the day — the sign was at the trailhead, specifically at latitude/longitude 42.705583,-72.492348. You’re welcome. Tell Beelzebub I said hello.


Breweries


Northampton Brewery

Well, at least I didn’t dedicate an entire article to brewery visits this time like I’ve done before. My philosophy remained the same, that I needed to eat somewhere so it might as well be a place with decent beer. I visited ten breweries and/or brewpubs during the excursion, all but Harpoon for the first time.

  • Old Forge Brewing; Danville, PA
  • Redhook Brewery; Portsmouth, NH
  • Harpoon Brewery; Windsor, VT
  • Rock Art Brewery; Morrisville, VT
  • Northampton Brewery; Northampton, MA
  • The People’s Pint; Greenfield, MA
  • Brutopia; Cranston, RI
  • Willimantic Brewing; Willimantic, CT
  • Mill House Brewing; Poughkeepsie, NY
  • Hyde Park Brewing; Hyde Park. NY

Dr. Seuss


Dr. Seuss Sculpture Garden

What a pleasure it was to stumble upon the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden at the Springfield Museums in Massachusetts (map).

The five bronze sculptures include Dr. Seuss busily working at his drawing board with the Cat in the Hat standing at his side as his muse, and lots of other favorite Dr. Seuss characters such as Horton the Elephant, Yertle the Turtle, the Grinch and his dog Max, the Lorax, Gertrude McFuzz, Things One and Two, and the lovable Thidwick the Moose.

The official website for the sculpture garden then went on to explain,

Theodor Seuss Geisel was born on Howard Street in Springfield in 1904 and grew up on Fairfield Street in the city’s Forest Park neighborhood. His father was a parks commissioner and was in charge of the Forest ParkZoo, a regular playground for young Theodor Geisel. Springfield imagery can be seen throughout his work in the names of streets, the drawings of buildings, the names of his characters, and numerous other references.

It’s been a long time since I read any Dr. Seuss tales although I remembered all of his characters fondly. The sculpture garden brought back a flood of pleasant memories from childhood. Someday I’ll have to see if I can find any of those Springfield references. There must have been some pretty odd places in town if buildings in Springfield influenced the architecture of Dr. Seuss books.


Oh Yeh, Natural Beauty


New England Marathon Series - Day 3

My whirlwind tour did little justice to an appreciation of the natural beauty of New England. We drove from race-to-race, touring each afternoon as we could, then going to bed tired and early so we would be ready for the next race starting at 6:00 am. That didn’t give us nearly enough time to really dig in and enjoy all that the scenery had to offer. Everything was a quick drive-by, a blur. Still, beauty sometimes appeared unexpectedly; a mountain view from a highway, a small town set deep within a hollow, a stream flowing through forest. The races were all held in very rural locations and sometimes the terrain provided wonderful backdrops, like these rapids in Vermont (map). I don’t think most of the runners noticed it though.

Then it was time to leave.


New England articles:

See Also: The Complete Photo Album on Flickr

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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