Point Pleasant WV

Point Pleasant WV
A crowd waits to do a tasting at Alltech Lexington Brewing and Distilling.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Ron Franscell's "Crime Buff's Guide To Outlaw..." Series

I read a lot of books on travel, and I really enjoy reading the non-traditional travel books.  I like the Haunted and Off the Beaten Path type volumes.

So, I downloaded Ron Franscell's "Crime Buff's Guide to Outlaw Arizona" not too long ago.  I was able to download it for free through Amazon Prime.  Anybody else out there getting the free books to borrow from Amazon Prime?  They have been hit or miss (mostly huge misses, to be honest).  THIS was a hit though!

Ron has a certain boldness many other's who write about true crime do not have.  He gives specific addresses and coordinates to sites he talks about!  And, he does not subscribe to the "its too soon" way of thinking.  He covers the old crimes, and the very recent ones.

I picked up a physical copy of "The Crime Buff's Guide to Outlaw Washington DC" after reading the book on Arizona.  I enjoyed it just as much.  I have a huge personal preference for actual books (paper, glue and cardboard) ESPECIALLY when it comes to a guide like this.  I will be getting all of these guides and I want them all on my travel book shelf.  I can quickly pick them up, make notes in them, put newspaper clippings inside of them, etc.  I will take the book with me when I travel to that location, and it will become somewhat of a souvenir when I get back.

I think most of us are interested in visiting crime scenes, to be honest.  There is something moving about visiting a place like Ford's Theater.  In the introduction to the guide, Franscell mentions, "Being there is not just a good way to understand history, but in some places, it helps you grasp the desperation and the loneliness of the people who were there before you, especially in places where our imagination, myth, and history entangle.  Places where the past exists just beneath the surface of the present."

The guides by Ron Franscell serve as a great intro to the strangeness that has occurred in an area.  Even if you have no plans of visiting the specific sites, you might want to know just a little bit about the local legendary crimes.  The Washington DC book gives a very nice, and very short section to the Lincoln Assassination, and the Watergate Scandal (among many other lesser known crimes).

This might be the brief bit of information a leisurely researcher might want, and it might be a nice starting point for someone just developing an interest in researching these events.  Franscell also makes suggestions for further research and reading.  I kept a pencil and paper handy as I read.  Some places and events I wanted to look up at a different time.

This is easily my favorite newer series of books to come out in sometime.  I hope Ron plans on covering more areas soon!

http://www.ronfranscell.com/books/

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

"I Am Legend" by Richard Matheson

Oh yes, it is a good season for reading books about zombies and vampires!


For the longest time, I thought all good horror started with Romero's "Night of the Living Dead" one of my all time favorite films.  BUT, I think "I Am Legend" might have one up on NOTLD.

The book has been made into a movie more than once.  I really liked the Will Smith version, but the book is what you want!

There are some odd concepts in the book that are used in other similar horror stories, but Matheson really paints a vivid picture.  The whole idea of being seduced by a vampire is old, but it is very different in "I Am Legend".  Also, this is more of a good sci-fi novel than a ghost story.  In fact, there is a good amount of science and logic here.

I love the ending too.  There is something exciting about Neville's (the main character) knowing his fate, and realizing it's significance.  He knows what is about to happen, and he accepts it.  The ending is very dark, and very cool. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

"Mummies, Catacombs and Mammoth Cave" by Angelo I. George

Not too long ago on a trip to Mammoth Cave, I picked this book up, it just looked too fun!

I have to be honest though, this is an odd volume.  With the well done comic book style    cover and   small size made me think, at first, that it might be a bit more basic.  I figured it might be somewhat of a young reader's intro to mummies at Mammoth Cave.  I was absolutely wrong about that!

Author Angelo I. George has done an amazing job of tracing the legends AND the facts about mummies that were linked to the Cave.  He traces the first documented stories about mummies in Kentucky Caves (which where pretty much hoaxes, or extremely exaggerated tales- though not all).

These days, I REALLY appreciate a well researched book, with an extensive "End Notes" section, WITH sited sources.  Sadly, that type of thing seems to be a rarity anymore.  Mr. George's book is very satisfying in that area.  No calling "BS" on him.  You can check him!

The book starts out following a writer/adventurer/fraudster.  In his writings, he mentions a catacomb in Lexington filled with mummies.  Mr. George tries to figure out the validity of his claim and it's origins.

Along the way some great legends make brief appearances in the story- Illinois' Cave-In-Rock, Thomas D. Clark, Thomas Jefferson, Big Bone Lick State Park, and the Cardiff Giant!  There's a party for ya!

The author spends a lot of time on the mummies associated with Mammoth Cave.  There is confusion over where and how the mummies were found.  There is even confusion over who exactly found them (or purchased them).  Again, George does his best to resolve these mysteries, but some questions will likely never be answered.

I think stories contained in a book like this are much more enjoyable than the traditional ghost story type book.  To me, a real scare comes from exploring a dark cave, not knowing what you may find.

With that in mind, let me leave you with ONE quote from this book.  When 2 cave explorers come across the mummy that will come to be known as Little John, one comments to the other-

"I felt the hair and wrinkled skin and hollered to Lyman, 'Gosh, this feels like somebody's head.'  And sure enough, it was."



Friday, October 10, 2014

"The Haunted History of the West Virginia Penitentiary" by Sherri Brake

I picked up "The Haunted History of the West Virginia Penitentiary" by Sherri Brake because I figured it would be a good book to read before visiting the site.

This is a massive book clocking in at over 600 pages.  Author Sherri Brake has covered EVERYTHING in this one volume.  Seriously, this is more like 4 or 5 books in one.

I did want a book that was more history and less haunting.  Personally, I have no desire to ever read another book full of people taking photos of orbs, or mediums getting strange feelings.  I want solid, documented history in my books, MAYBE with a few ghost stories thrown in for fun.

This book is so comprehensive though- you get a lot of everything.  Sure, there is a section (that is large) on peoples ghostly experiences, but there are other sections covering a ton of great stuff- like the history of the Moundsville area, and a nice section on the Mound.  In fact, there is at least a books worth of info on the history of the general area before Brake even starts to discuss the Penitentiary!

Once you get to the part about the prison, you realize that Sherri has done a lot of work on research.  There are very interesting sections where she has reprinted old articles about crime and punishment in the area.  She also includes information on formal (and informal) executions in the area, along with other stats.

And she does have a large section where visitors discuss their personal  (mostly supernatural)experiences at the site.  These are fun to read, even if you aren't a believer.  I personally enjoyed the fact that I recognized some of the story tellers in this section (like John Kachuba, who is an author I admire who has written on similar topics).

Anyway, this is a great, COMPLETE volume about a fascinating location!


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Bobby Mackeys in Wilder Kentucky






Not too long ago I went with some friends to Bobby Mackey's!  I have driven by it a number of times but this was my first time actually going in.

Bobby Mackey's Bar has been on pretty much every show ever about ghosts and haunted places.  I remember hearing about it back before haunted places became so trendy.

Anyway, some friends found out that you can do a "private ghost tour" of the place on Sundays when it is not functioning as a bar.  This sounded pretty cool!

I wasn't exactly sure how this would work out (my friend called to set things up) but we arrived at Bobby Mackey's, and we met with Laura, who guided us on our tour.  This was kind of a tour/investigation of the site.  Laura took us around to the various areas, and told us about the building's history and reports of ghostly activity.  She then allowed time for us to investigate.  We weren't really prepared for an investigation (I just brought my camera) so Laura let us use an EMF detector.

We ended up spending a lot of time in the main bar area, near the well in the basement, and in the wall of faces room.  In these areas, we sat silently and listened for anything that might sound out of the ordinary.

Did we see or hear anything?  No, not at all, but it was a lot of fun trying to!

Laura did tell us about a few experiences she had.  In general, Laura seemed pretty skeptical which I thought was good.  She seemed to be someone who wanted solid evidence.  I appreciated that.  I have been on other walks where every noise, shadow and smell is credited to the supernatural.

Even though we have no scary stories from our time at Bobby Mackey's, we had fun.  It was a unique experience exploring the site and it was entertaining hearing about the characters who have been there- including one who lived on site for some time.  The building had been through a lot, even before Bobby Mackey took over in the 70s.  This is a good, creepy place.

Laura did let us know that much of the legend associated with the bar is questionable at best.  The origins of some of the stories you may have heard are hard to trace.  There is probably no real connection to the murder of Pearl Bryan.

Still, gambling and other illegal activity did occur here long ago.  We also learned about the time the building was used as a morgue.

AND I like how the tours are set up.  While we were there, we had the place to ourselves, and we were allowed to explore pretty leisurely.  With Laura as our guide, we were given a rare amount of freedom during our 2 hour visit.

http://www.bobbymackey.com/paranormal.html





Monday, October 6, 2014

Ghosthunting Illinois by John Kachuba

I wanted to take a second to recommend some good reading for the season!

Illinois is becoming one of my favorite states to explore in general.  I was excited to pick up John Kachuba's book on the state, as he is an outsider (from Ohio) that I respect as a perceptive observer, having read some of his other books.

Kachuba is a fun author of spooky travel books.  His books are in the ghosthunting genre, but I find them a lot more enjoyable than most.  John isn't the kind of guy to get all excited about a speck of dust on a photo.  I think he is just a guy interested in visiting places with a haunted reputation.

And that's the cool thing about how John writes.  He isn't taking himself too seriously.  He isn't making any questionable claims about what he knows.  He's just looking for a good story... and that's how he writes. 

You feel like you are on his ghost chasing adventure with him.  He talks about getting to a site, who he talked to once there, and how it went.  He talks openly about having awkward conversations with odd people who approach him about ghosts.  He also may be the only ghost hunter I know of who admits that he needed to pick up clean underwear during a road trip.

And I like John's style.  Reading about how he approaches individuals (say, at a building he would like to investigate that has limited access) might give you ideas about how to approach a similar situation on your next trip.  He is pleasant and never pushy.

Check out John's site at-  http://jkachuba.com/

Also check out the Haunted Road Trip guys who publish his and many other good books about haunted locals in various other states.  I like their roster of authors.  Check them out at-
http://americashauntedroadtrip.com/



Saturday, October 4, 2014

Mothman Festival, Point Pleasant West Virginia, Part 2


Again, we had a great time over all at the Mothman Festival!  see Part 1 from yesterday....

After we explored the NEW Mothman Museum, we made our way around the vendor area.  I really love the set up here.  If you are interested in cryptozoology, the paranormal, UFOs, and Mothman, this is an great place to find books and other items.

In fact, there are many well known authors on those subjects here.  Some of the more prolific writers in these fields attend the Mothman Festival.  They generally have an all star line up of Fortean authors.

There are also some interesting artists, publishers, people selling shirts, etc.  A couple of regional book publishers set up too, often with some interesting titles discounted.  As a book lover, I have left every year with an extra arm load of books!

Oh, and we did pick up an UNBELIEVABLE snack item this year- Buff Lo Dip!  They were selling "Collectors Edition" Mothman jars of their stuff (brilliant marketing by the way!) for $6 each, or 2 for $10.  We bought 2 jars and I am already nearly out.  Buff Lo Dip is a cheese type dip with a buffalo kick.  Pick up a jar and a bag of pretzels and you are good to go.  They are made by a family out of Ohio.  Check out their site-
http://bufflodip.com/

After making a couple of laps around the park, we went over to catch the bus for a tour of the TNT area!

I actually took the bus tour last year, but again, it was cold and rainy in 2013.  I was excited about taking the tour again this year, with MUCH better weather. 

The bus tour was pretty much the exact same as last year.  We road out to the legendary hidden concrete igloos in the TNT area.  Our tour guide Ashley told us all about various theories of the Mothman as she pointed out where some of the original sightings occurred.  One of my favorite Mothman stories that she told involved one of the early witnesses seeing him out her window on the roof one evening.  The witness felt sorry for him as he shivered in the cold.

We went inside of two igloos this year.  Even if you are not interested in the legend of the Mothman, the igloos are an interesting and strange place to visit.  I personally plan to take a trip back to the area at some point soon, just to explore this area for a full day.

After our bus tour, we went to the local theater for some of the Q&A sessions.  The one that struck me the most was Faye Dewitt-Leport.  Ms. Dewitt was an actual Mothman witness from the area.  She seemed very sweet and pleasant...and believable.  Her description was also thorough.  This wasn't something she briefly saw out of the corner of her eye.

We did take a moment to walk along the river, and to visit the monuments to the fallen Silver Bridge.  I actually had not walked out along the river before to see the one closer to the water.  See my photo.

We took a moment to step into some of the other shops in the area too.  Our favorite was the Mason Jar, which has a nice selection of antiques and crafts.  They had some cool old postcards, lots of furniture, and some other more upscale items.  I saw some cute Halloween related folk art dolls and included a picture here.

This was a really good year for the Mothman Festival.  It is still far enough from me that I can't make this an event that I must go to each year (though I probably will if I am available).  I had so much fun that I will be keeping an eye on what they have planned for next year.  AND, the town of Point Pleasant is intriguing enough that I want to come back when there is not a festival going on to explore more....










Friday, October 3, 2014

Mothman Festival 2014 Point Pleasant, West Virginia Part 1

I went to the Mothman Festival in Point Pleasant, West Virginia again this year in September!  Mark your calendars for next year!

Last year, it was a very rainy and gloomy event.  We still had a great time, but the weather was not on our side.  This year was the exact opposite!  The weather was sunny, and the atmosphere was perfect!

This was my third time attending this festival, and it is a favorite.  Point Pleasant is a nice, cozy little town with a touch of weirdness (and I mean that in a very positive way).  It is right on the Ohio River, and it has a beautiful downtown area with fun and unique attractions.

We arrived in town early Saturday morning, and parked.  The town is just the right size to where it can have a cool event like this, but there is still plenty of free parking close by.

We parked next to the Coffee Grinder, and decided to go there first.  The Mothman Festival Facebook page mentioned that these guys would be selling Mothman cookies.  I totally had to get some of them!


The Coffee Grinder was a cool shop that felt much more like a persons kitchen than a commercial site.  We liked this place!  AND, at $2 each, we bought several Mothman Cookies!

As we made our way to the festival area, we noticed a small crowd gathered around this guy- Turtleman!  He was an unannounced guest that people seemed to love.  I have to be honest, I have never seen his show, but I do remember seeing him at the first Mothman Festival I attended several years ago.  Kids were all over him!

We made our way to the Harris Steakhouse for breakfast.  This place is so authentically retro!  I am not sure if it has had one upgrade since it opened in 1969, and I hope it stays that way!  You have to love a place that has refused updates.  AND, keeping up with the Twilight Zonish theme of the area, there are taxidermied chickens on display, and drawings done by local school kids on the wall.

We were able to chat a bit with the restaurants legendary owner, Carolin Harris (who kindly signed my copy of the Mothman Prophecies).  She was super sweet and a pure joy.  Even though it was early, she let us order Mothman Burgers!  By the way, Mothman Burgers are AMAZING but make sure you do some walking afterwards!  They can't be good for you.  Oh, we had 3 Mothman Burgers, fries, and drinks for under $20!  The price was retro too!

After that, we hit the new Mothman Museum!  Actually, this is the same museum, it just moved across the street.  The new location is an obvious upgrade, and I love the new set up!  There is now a nice gift shop in the front that is well organized, and the actual museum pieces are in the back.  It is only a few bucks to go in.


There are plenty of props from the Mothman Prophecies movie, and there are lots of other items relating to the original sightings, John Keel, the various comic books, etc.

On this trip, I picked up some of the guitar picks, buttons and coffee they have!  You can find a cool souvenir here for as cheap as a buck.

Jeff Wamsley runs the museum and the festival.  I have talked to him here and there before.  I went over to say hey to him at the festival and he greeted me like an old friend (though I am certain he could not have remembered me).  He is just a nice guy.  The thing I really like about Jeff is his dedication to the Mothman legend, and to the festival.  Admission to the festival is $0.  ZERO DOLLARS.  He is doing this to promote the community and the legend, not for personal gain.

More on the festival tomorrow!















Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Scarefest in Lexington

Scarefest went down a couple of weeks ago in Lexington.  I was able to make it this year!  If you love all things scary, this is the place!

I do love the fact that they bring in a lot of actors from horror films.  I am not as in to collecting autographs as I once was, but I still get the occasional Jason or Michael Myers actor.  I was excited about the fact that Ken Kirzinger was going to be there.  He is one of the few actors to play Jason Vorhees that I had never met.  Just like the other Jason actors, he was super cool, and seemed thrilled to talk to fans of the movies about his involvement.

There were many dealers of various cool and scary items too.  I made it to the America's Haunted Roadtrip booth.  These guys publish a fun series of books on different states and cities, detailing their haunted locations. 

I like this series of books because they are a little more off the wall.  A lot of them give a good history of the location, along with the known ghost stories.  The uber creepy Morris brothers have done some work for this group, along with other personal favorites of mine, Rosemary Ellen Guiley and John Kachuba.  In fact, John was signing books at their booth.

Greg Newkirk and Dana Matthews who have worked on various strange web sites were there showing off various strange items from their collection, and promoting their newest website.  I was impressed by some of their oddities, including part of a human skull, and a piece of the Amityville Horror House!  Check out their sites at- https://roadtrippers.com/

and  http://whofortedblog.com/

I had a chance to talk to convention founder, and Lexington/Bardstown personality Patti Starr.  I have crossed paths with her many times and she has really grown on me.  She is obviously a very different person who is always up to something interesting.  I also consider her very sweet and generous.  Check out her site-

http://ghosthunter.com/





Monday, September 29, 2014

Utica Kentucky



I wanted to mention a place I love, Utica Kentucky, again.

I drove through here the other day just to look around.  I stopped by the new post office to say hello.  I talked to a nice guy working there named Paul.  He remembered the post master at the old post office, who was my best friend Charlie's mom.

Charlie lived close by.  I went home with him a few times after school.  He lived walking distance from our school, Utica Elementary.

We bought baseball cards and candy at the little store by the school.  We had fun.

My cousin, who has passed away, used to work at the Marathon station.  I have a lot of friends who once lived in the area.

The old school building is still there.  It looks like someone has bought the property.  I saw some work trucks moving around behind it.  I still love that place, and all of my old teachers- Mr. Tanner, Ms. Hobbs, Ms. Thompson, Ms. Matthews.  My memories of the place are mostly pure joy.

I crawled out of my personal swamp there and developed legs.  That school really influenced me and I still love the Utica area.







Friday, September 26, 2014

Hickman Kentucky

After leaving Tennessee, we drove through some great country, and some small towns.  The most notable one was Hickman.

The downtown area we went through was dead.  Totally dead.  We did not see another person at all.  Maybe we were there on the wrong day.


This is an intriguing little town.  There are some gorgeous OLD buildings that are in need of some attention.  Some need more attention that others but.....  there is definitely something to work with here.

This town is right on the river.  There is a lot of green around it, and a downtown with potential.  In my heart I see an area like this and think, "this could really be something".

My dad said that he did some work here in the 70s and it was populated back then.  He pointed to a couple of buildings that he remembered having lunch in at some point.

I know downtown is CLOSE to the river, and there were a couple of major floods, but it would be great to see this area come back to life.