Spooky

On September 10, 2017 · Comments Off on Spooky

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.

Random Islands

On February 19, 2017 · 2 Comments

Something needed to be done about the clutter. My list of potential topics grew to unmanageable proportions once again so I decided to keep pruning. I discovered an island theme as I sorted through the pile so I lumped a few items together. Nothing much unified them except that they involved islands with unusual twists. Twelve Mile Circle didn’t really need any more than that to get things going.

Lord Howe Island Group


Lord Howe Lagoon
Lord Howe Lagoon. Photo by David Stanley on Flickr (cc)

My mental island journey began with the Lord Howe Island Group first (map). They sat within the Tasman Sea off of the eastern coast of Australia, unknown until spotted by Henry Lidgbird Ball in 1788 as he sailed towards Norfolk Island to establish a penal colony. He named the tallest of the islands, a jagged volcanic peak rising mightily into the sky, Ball’s Pyramid. He named one of the more dramatic peaks on the main island Mount Lidgbird. His legacy secured, he decided to suck-up to his superior by naming the main island after Lord Howe. Richard Howe, First Earl Howe, was the First Lord of the Admiralty at the time.

Ball claimed the island group for Britain. Whalers began using it as a convenient place to replenish provisions. A permanent settlement followed soon thereafter. The group became part of Australia as that nation formed. It’s now an unincorporated area of New South Wales. Few people live there though — only 360 residents as of the 2011 Census — and the government limits tourism because of the fragile ecosystem of such a small place. Given that, a maximum of about 800 people occupy the space at any given time.

The Twist: Lord Howe Island made a credible claim to being located within the world’s least populated time zone. This island group uniquely occupied Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) +10.5. Fewer than a thousand people ever set their watches to observe this time zone at any given moment. That contrasted with UTC +8 (the one with China) with a population of 1.7 billion.


Smith Islands


Lindeman Islands & Smith Islands NP
Lindeman Islands & Smith Islands NP. Photo by portengaround on Flickr (cc)

I remained in Australia momentarily, focusing on the coast of Queensland near Mackay. There I found the Smith Islands (map), the site of a national park of the same name. Those unspoiled islands offered very few amenities other than their natural beauty. People traveled there by boat, private or charter, for fishing, diving and wildlife excursions. They needed to be self-reliant during these excursions. Visitors might be completely isolated with little help available anywhere around them should any difficulties arise. Nonetheless, the park attracted a certain type of adventurer who relished unspoiled experiences and abundant solitude.

The Twist: While I never discovered who named the islands or how they chose the theme, they did follow a consistent pattern. Imagine every kind of smith — skilled metal workers — and it had its own island named for it. I saw Ladysmith, Blacksmith, Silversmith, Coppersmith, Goldsmith, Anchorsmith and Tinsmith. Some readers may remember the 12MC article I called Ladysmith, and yes that’s how I found this island group. I liked Blacksmith Island most of all, however. Nearby stood Hammer Island, Anvil Reef, Forge Reef and Pincer Island, enough tools to create an entire blacksmith shop. Other features figured into the general theme as well, including Ingot Island and Bullion Rocks.


Ada Kaleh


Ada-Kaleh
Ada-Kaleh on Wikimedia Commons, in the public domain

Ada Kaleh experienced a convoluted history. This small island sat in the Danube River between modern-day Romania and Serbia, just downstream from Orșova (map). It became a strategic point along the river, a place taken and retaken repeatedly by the Austrian and Ottoman empires starting in the 17th Century. The name of the island itself came from a Turkish word, Adakale, meaning Island Fortress.

The real weirdness started in 1878 when the Ottomans lost control of the surrounding area as a result of losing the Russo-Turkish War. Everyone just sort-of forgot about Ada Kaleh during the peace talks so it became a Turkish exclave. It transformed into something of a lawless territory, a haven for smuggling and other nefarious activities. The situation remained that way for about a half-century when another treaty corrected the error. However, even afterwards it retained its distinct Turkish attributes and culture even though if fell within the physical confines of Romania.

The Twist: Ada Kaleh no longer exists. The waters of the Danube rose considerably along this stretch of the river after construction of the Iron Gates Dam in 1972. Most of the island’s residents chose to relocate to Turkey rather than remain in Romania.


Isle of Dogs


Isle of Dogs, London, United Kingdom
Isle of Dogs, London, United Kingdom. Photo by Alvin Leong on Flickr (cc)

In east London the River Thames took quite a curve, enclosing a small area on three sides (map). Technically this wasn’t an island at all so it probably shouldn’t even be on my list. I found it while Marking the Meridian. The Isle of Dogs wasn’t that distant from the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, and the meridian came oh-so-close to crossing through it. Despite its name, somehow it attracted commercial enterprises in the modern era particularly for banking and finance.

The Twist: Well, other than the fact that it wasn’t actually an island, nobody knew how it became the Isle of Dogs. East London History said,

The original name for the island was Stepney Marsh or Stebunheath. It is thought that the Isle of Dogs name originated in the 16th century. Nobody really knows where this name came from, but there are plenty of theories. Some say that the name was given to the area because of the number of dead dogs that washed up on its banks. Others think that the modern name is a variation of other names given to the area, such as the Isle of Dykes or the Isle of Ducks.

Dogs or Dykes or Ducks (or others). Take your pick.

Live Long and Prosper (burp)

On June 11, 2013 · 10 Comments

The Twelve Mile Circle is all about geo-oddities although the author of the site also has other interests. Sometimes those topics collide. I’ve made no bones about my interest in craft beer and it creeps into 12MC from time to time. Today is one of those days.

I noticed a passing reference to Vulcan Beer in a brewery publications I follow. It’s apparently the first in a series of officially licensed beers with a Star Trek theme that will be produced by Delancey Direct. Their site includes a copy of the bottle label with slogans like "Mind Melding Good" and "A logical choice for a palate pleasing libation." I guess anything can be licensed today.

According to a press release, Vulcan Beer is described as a 5.4% ABV Irish Red Ale contract-brewed by Harvest Moon Brewing Company of Belmont, Montana. Each year Delancey Direct will issue another beer to represent a different season in the television series… Vulcan, then Klingon, and so on. Labeling has been designed with collectors in mind of course.

What could this development possibly have to do with geography? Vulcan is a town in Alberta.



Vulcan, Alberta, Canada

Vulcan Beer was brewed to coincide with the centennial of Vulcan — the one in Canada — and timed for a May 2013 release. That would place it on liquor store shelves right before Vulcan’s 21st annual Spock Days celebration.


Starship in Vulcan, Alberta
SOURCE: Flickr by fracture via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license

The Vulcan of Alberta’s prairie existed long before any notions of Star Trek ever crossed Gene Roddenberry’s mind, or before he was even born for that matter. The town of Vulcan, in a county of the same name, began as a stop on the Kipp-Aldersyde line of the Canadian Pacific Railroad:

Street and avenue names in Vulcan originally included Apollo, Atlas, Juno, Jupiter, Mars, Neptune and Vulcan. They were later changed to numbers, but the town readopted them in 1998 for Vulcan’s 85th anniversary.

The founders envisioned Roman Gods rather than paying homage to intergalactic science fiction locales. Their choice became rather fortuitous for town residents several decades later. Imagine if they’d selected Vesta or Ceres or one of the other Dii Consentes (the 12 major deities in the Roman pantheon) instead of Vulcan. That allowed their descendants to playing-up a tenuous Star Trek connection and earn a descent living in the process. Why not? Other rural towns have claimed fictional sons. It’s no different than Metropolis in the United States claiming Superman. Vulcan can select Mister Spock.

Vulcan wouldn’t have anything other than agriculture if it wasn’t for the Trekkies. That’s why a welcoming replica of the Starship Enterprise stands outside of Vulcan’s tourism station…


Sign in Vulcan
SOURCE: Flickr by nicodeemus1 via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license

… complete with greetings in Vulcan calligraphy (pictured) and Klingon.

Unfortunately the 2013 Spock Days happened last weekend so I missed my opportunity. Too bad I found out about this four days too late — pretending for a moment that I might actually have been able to travel to Alberta for a bottle of beer. No, I’m not the Weekend Roady.


Other Vulcan towns exist on Planet Earth.



Vulcan, Michigan, USA

I found one example in Michigan, USA. Consulting GNIS, I discovered another dozen-or-so, including a couple of historical sites that no longer exist. I couldn’t uncover anything special about any of those poseur Vulcan settlements other than their physical locations. Residents have done little to attract Trekkie tourism as far as I could tell. They’re missing out on some solid business opportunities as Alberta can attest.



Vulcan, Hunedoara, Romania

I also discovered the city of Vulcan in Hunedoara, Romania. Wikipedia says, "The city is named after the Vulcan Pass that connects the Jiu Valley to Oltenia, itself being derived from Slavic ‘vlk’, meaning ‘wolf’ (even if ‘vulcan’ means ‘volcano’ in Romanian)." This Vulcan is by far the largest example, with a population of 23,000. An additional, smaller Romanian Vulcan is located near Brașov. Could Romania become the next Star Trek center of the universe?

I’d drink a Vulcan beer if I could get my hands on one. Are there any 12MC readers in Alberta that might be able to snag me a bottle? I’d even take an empty just to put it on a shelf.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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