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.

Spooky

On September 10, 2017 · 0 Comments

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.

Where the Stadium Once Stood

On February 12, 2017 · 11 Comments

I guess the recent Ghost Signs got me thinking about the way things used to be in an earlier age. My memory circled back to a time when professional baseball didn’t exist in Washington, DC and we used to travel to Baltimore to see the Orioles play. This happened a lot when I was a kid, long before the Orioles occupied the beautiful, iconic Camden Yards that so many other ball clubs copied. The Orioles took the field on a much less beautiful and nowhere nearly as iconic Memorial Stadium before that. I even think we saw the Baltimore Colts play (American) football a couple times there too. The Colts left Baltimore in 1983 just to show how far back my mind wandered. What happened to Memorial Stadium after its replacement, I wondered.

Memorial Stadium; Baltimore, Maryland, USA



I drilled into a satellite image and discovered that the old stadium still existed. Well, not really. The city tore it down in 2001. However many fragments remained, spread throughout Baltimore. Its basic shape also remained. A new residential neighborhood occupied much of the land originally part of the Memorial Stadium property. It included a ring-road that approximated the circumference of the stadium itself. Inside that asphalt oval, an open field covered the spot where professional sports teams once played. It offered configurations for baseball, football and soccer.

That made me consider other stadiums wiped from the earth. In many cases new stadiums simply covered the exact footprint occupied by their predecessors. In other instances not a single sign remained at all. However, I enjoyed the ones like Baltimore the most, where people kept their memories alive. Those stadiums continued to exist in an odd ethereal way. The roar of the crowd now silenced, the crack of the bat or the kick of the ball no longer felt, but the stories remained in the landscape.

Some quick searching found several more examples.


Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium; Atlanta, Georgia, USA


Atlanta - Turner Field: Gold Parking Lot - Hank Aaron 715th Home Run Monument
Hank Aaron 715th Home Run Monument. Photo by Wally Gobetz on Flickr (cc)

Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium hosted both the Atlanta Braves of baseball and the Atlanta Falcons of (American) football at various times before a controlled implosion finally took it down in 1997. The brand-new Turner Field rose on an adjacent parcel, and the spot once occupied by Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium became part of its parking lots. The old footprint occupied a large section of the Green Lot (it looked awesome on satellite view). Even more of a bonus, the spot where Hank Aaron hit his historic 715th Home Run continued to be commemorated. Aaron accomplished that feat in 1974, surpassing the lifetime record of Babe Ruth, when Aaron hit a ball over an outfield fence and into the Braves’ bullpen. The memorial in the parking lot replicated the fence and the bullpen at the exact spot where it happened.

I realized that marker made little sense to much of 12MC’s international audience. Just understand that a really great sporting event happened there and its preservation was a nice touch.


Yankee Stadium; The Bronx, New York, USA


Once a ballpark, now just a park.
Once a ballpark, now just a park. Photo by Benjamin Kabak on Flickr (cc)

The New York Yankees baseball team played at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx from 1923 until 2008 (map). The team left for a new Yankee Stadium on an adjacent lot. Then the city demolished the old stadium and created Heritage Field on the same footprint. As the New York Times described it,

… nearly every inch, from the pavement stones underfoot to the three natural grass ball fields, has been elaborately designed to pay homage to the Yankees and their celebrated former home. Even the sod is the same that the Yankees, professional baseball’s biggest spender, chose for their new stadium… Even the old diamond and outfield have been saved, delineated with five-foot-wide swaths of blue polymer fiber stitched into the sod by a Desso Grassmaster machine that had to be shipped over from the Netherlands.

Now amateur and high school baseball clubs from all over the city stand where some of the greatest professionals once played.


Milwaukee County Stadium; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA


Helfaer Field
Helfaer Field. Photo by Rough Tough, Real Stuff on Flickr (cc)

Combine the idea of a parking lot and a small ball field on an original footprint, and that became the fate of Milwaukee County Stadium. Miller Park replaced it in 2000 on an adjacent parcel. Although large surface parking lots grew completely around Miller Park, the former spot of Milwaukee County Stadium became a baseball field. It took the name Helfaer Field with room for 500 spectators in its bleacher seats. People can rent it for "softball, youth baseball, kickball, tailgates, meetings and much more." It looked pretty good on Satellite view sitting there, surrounded by parking lots.


Memorial Stadium; University of Minnesota, USA


2009-0603-01-MN-McNamaraMemorial
McNamara Memorial on Wikimedia Commons (cc)

The Golden Gophers of the University of Minnesota played (American) football at Memorial Stadium in Minneapolis from 1924 to 1981. The stadium became totally obliterated. An alumni center filled its former spot (map). However one vital feature remained, its entry arch, inside of the alumni center. People could still walk through the old entryway, although its passage no longer led to a gridiron. Instead it opened into a large room called the Heritage Gallery, "a multimedia museum … [that] honors the accomplishments of University of Minnesota alumni, faculty, students and staff."


Waverley Park; Mulgrave, Victoria, Australia



I found faded stadium footprints outside of the United States too. A prime example existed in Australia. Waverley Park in Mulgrave, Victoria once hosted up to seventy thousand Australian rules football fans. Concentric ring roads circled the demolished stadium, part of a masterplanned community, with a grassy centerpiece remaining at the spot of the original stadium now serving as a practice facility,

Today, as Hawthorn football players train on the oval, the sound of boots striking balls evokes memories of a sporting past. For some, the ‘Hawks’ are simply part of the scenery, for others they bring new meaning to ‘backyard footy’, with star players running junior clinics for tomorrow’s footy legends. Residents of Oval Front Homes have box seats, cheering on from their balconies during practice matches and training.

The original stadium no longer existed although a grandstand at one end still held room for a couple of thousand spectators.


Cathkin Park; Glasgow, Scotland, UK


Cathkin Park
Cathkin Park. Photo by Tom Brogan on Flickr (cc)

I found a particularly early example in Scotland, a football (soccer) stadium called Cathkin Park in Glasgow. Professional football there dated back to 1884 when the Queen’s Park club called it home. Third Lanark took over in 1903 and remained there for more than sixty years until the team folded.

Sadly there are no fond memories for Third Lanark fans of that era. They were shattered to witness the Cathkin gates being closed for the final time on 30th June 1967.

Much of the stadium was removed as it fell into disrepair (map). However, terraces ringing three sides of the stadium remained in place, as did the old field. The area became a public park and a home field to various amateur and student teams.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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