Custer State Park in South Dakota

Custer State Park in South Dakota
We saw a LOT of these guys at Custer State Park in South Dakota!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bell Witch Cave- Adams TN

I had heard a lot about the Bell Witch Cave before finally making it there this year.

There is something very interesting about the cave, and its connection to the Bell Witch. It is one of the last actual locations still standing associated with the story.

So, we made a trip down early on Saturday to check it out!

We pulled in to the farm where the cave is located early in the day. We drove to the main ticket area/gift shop and parked.

I had read that the guy running the place is very moody. I must admit I was a bit on guard about this.

I have visited other historic sites ran by people who are not pleasant, and their hearts aren't really in to the protection and promotion of the site (I'm talking to you famous multi-gabled house in Salem Mass.). It is very sad when this happens.

I was pleased to discover first hand that this is not the case with the Bell Witch Cave. Yes, there is a stern guy there running the place. I did see him say something to some kids driving fast down the gravel drive to the parking area, but he wasn't a jerk about it at all. It seemed to me that the cave is owned and ran by someone who takes pride in having a pleasant and very scenic tourist attraction, and he wants it to stay that way. Our group all agreed that the entire staff was pleasant.

Let me say one last thing about the staff here (and at other touristy areas). How many times have you been to a major tourist attraction in a large area, and you feel herded through a tour? I can think of several tours where I have been in a group of 50 or more people, with one or a couple of tour guides working hard to get as many people through as possible. It is very impersonal.

I felt like the family/staff at the Bell Witch Cave cared about the cave and the farm area around it. I thought they had a personal connection to the area, and simply want to keep it as perfect as possible, and they want to make your experience there as pleasant as it can be.

We arrived, bought our tickets, and our small group was taken immediately to tour the cave. There was no waiting until a certain hour, or waiting for more people. We had a very private tour which was great!

Unlike other show caves, you do get a lot of access here. Yes, it is relatively small, but you can poke around a bit more. Our guide encouraged us to touch the cave walls for support (though we were also encouraged to watch out for spiders before putting our hands in certain areas). We were also able to climb up on some rocks as needed. This cave has a more wild feel than others. Oh, and there is a stream going through the cave. You can place your feet on rocks as needed, but you are going to get wet.

The Bell Witch Cave has some very cool features, including a rock that looks like a person mooning you (see photo) and a very scary formation that looks like a skull or monster's head. I thought it looked like Leatherface. Check out the photo though. It is a very creepy formation.

Native American relics and remains have been found here too. Very old ones according to our guide.

I really like the gift shop here too. Inside, they have some articles, letters and other relics relating to the Bell Witch. I love postcards and books, and they were readily available here, along with shirts and magnets.

Again, visiting the Bell Witch Cave in Adams, along with a trip to the Old School House is a great way to spend a day. You will have fun!

Oh, and keep in mind that going to a place like this in October will be more of a chore than going during another month. If you like smaller, less crowded tours, think about going when the Halloween crowds will not be there.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Books on the Bell Witch

Before I go on too much about the Bell Witch, let me recommend that you check out the link above. This is a great link to The Middle Tennessee Skeptics site concerning the Bell Witch. These guys have done a great job researching the facts!

Personally, I love a good, weird, scary story! I especially love the story of the Bell Witch. However, the MTS does a very thorough job with their research. Even if you are not one with skeptical leanings, check out their site, as they mention some good resources, and have a nice, easy to understand timeline of events.

The skeptic group also makes a very good point concerning books on the Bell Witch. There really isn't a lot of source material on the story. For anyone interested in the Bell Witch, copies of the old books are the ones to read. They specifically name the original, "Authenticated History of the Bell Witch."

Also, if you enjoy collecting unique books, the Bell Witch Cave gift shop offers some printings made exclusively for them. I think thats pretty cool!

After you check out the old books, there are a few more recent ones that deserve some attention. I found a 1971 Ripley's Believe It Or Not comic with an 8 page adaptation of the story. The creepy vintage art work alone makes this book worth hunting down.

"Echoes of the Bell With in the 20th Century" is an interesting read, as it gives mostly ghost stories from the former owner of the Bell Witch Cave.

Tim Henson has an interesting book on the genealogy of the Bell family. He has put a lot of research in to making the book, and trying to figure out where some of the family members fit in to the story.

Concerning the older books, the one by Charles Bailey Bell is interesting. Oddly, towards the end of the book, the ghost gets a bit preachy talking at length about religion. Most accounts of the ghost do note that she had a knowledge of the Bible. As a side note, most accounts also describe that the Bell Witch was quit the racist.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Cowboy Mouth at the Southgate House in Newport

Cowboy Mouth has been around for a long time. They have been doing their thing for about 2 decades, but play with more energy than any band ever.

Which makes me wonder why it took me this long to catch them live.

Let me back up a little. I used to go to a lot of concerts. I have easily been to over a couple hundred. When I lived in Cleveland, it wasn't uncommon to go to several a week.

I no longer live in an area like Cleveland, and I simply don't go to concerts like I used to. Like everyone else in the world, I am getting older. I like getting to bed at an early hour. I enjoy getting my rest.

AND, after going to so many concerts, I have come to have high expectations. If you are a concert veteran, you know what I am talking about. You want to leave every show knowing that its great to be alive. You want to feel something supernatural. You expect some magic.

I felt that after this show.

I read that Cowboy Mouth would be doing a show in Newport, which is a very convenient location for me. I really haven't made much of an effort to hit a concert anywhere lately, but I figured catching Cowboy Mouth would be worth it.

I am glad I did.

On the Cowboy Mouth website, there is a great quote from Cake Magazine about the band. It says, "on a bad night they'll tear the roof off the joint, and on a good night, they'll save your soul."

I feel a need to go out among the unconverted to tell them about Cowboy Mouth.

Fred LeBlanc is easily one of the most exciting musicians to watch anywhere. He is rocking out on the drums while simultaneously acting as the perfect singing front man. If he were only a drummer or singer, you would leave his show talking about how he was an amazing vocalist or drummer. It is literally unreal the way he plays and sings.

Cowboy Mouth took the stage at about 10, and played until midnight to a very nice and enthusiastic crown at the Southgate House.

Maybe 10 minutes into the show, Fred left the stage (while the rest of the band played) to walk to the balcony to playfully scold the two or so people not up and dancing. Everyone in the venue was up and screaming the entire time. I have never been to a show where every single person got involved like this. Even if you weren't familiar with the songs, you could feel Fred's energy, and you could appreciate what the band was giving to the audience. You were compelled to give it back to them.

The band invited a young girl (11 or 12) up on stake to play drums with them. It was very cool.

After the show, the band stuck around to sign CDs and chat with fans. The band was great, and to be honest, I was personally so blown away I did not know what to say to them.

The band talked to everyone as if they were old friends. Fred actually thanked me for coming out, and also told me that he hoped I would enjoy the new album I bought at the merch table. The bands appreciation for their fans is obvious.

Cowboy Mouth does not take advantage of their fans in any way. T-shirts were a very reasonable $15, and their new CD was a very affordable $10. Most bands around would easily ask for more. Oh, and tickets to the show were $15 in advance, $18 at the door. For about $40 you could get in, and leave with a CD and shirt. You can't buy a ticket to most shows now for that price.

Let me also say that I am so happy to have caught Cowboy Mouth at the GREAT Southgate House. This is a very cozy venue. The staff was cool and friendly and I didn't see any concert goer hassled at all. It was hot outside, but it was very cool inside (it felt like the AC was on, which is a rarity for a concert hall).

I am looking forward to seeing more shows at the Southgate House and I am looking forward to seeing more Cowboy Mouth!

One last thing. As I mentioned, there were some kids at the show which was nice! The ballroom was non-smoking, and a friendly vibe was going on. Sure, it is Cowboy Mouth (you can expect a few four letter words) but the atmosphere was family friendly. I did feel bad for the kids in one way though. They are young, and they will, at some point in their lives, go out to see other bands. I fear they are going to feel some serious disappointment whenever they see another band. Their concert going bar has been set high.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Random Thoughts On Friday

If you have read my blog for some time (again, thanks mom!) you know that I love the town of Salem. I love the strange history, the charm, and the people. It is simply a near perfect town. Modern beauty and preserved history are right there. I have made several trips there, and I am itching to get back soon.

I love historic tourist attractions. I think it is very exciting taking a tour of a historic home, and just indulging in a place's history.

Call me smug, but I also like knowing that I have supported a place by buying a ticket, or by spending some money in a gift shop. In fact, we will not think twice about dropping a few extra bucks on an item in a historic gift shop. There is something extra special about flipping the pages of a book about Gettysburg purchased in the PA town. There is something more authentic about sending a postcard from Mammoth Cave when the postcard was actually bought at Mammoth Cave.

If you visit an area frequently, you may not have time to take a tour for the nth time, but you still might want to support a place by stopping by their gift shop to drop some coin. I think management at most tourist attractions appreciate people stopping by their gift shops to make a purchase. In fact, I can only think of one that doesn't.

I mentioned before that we had a very negative experience the last time we stopped by the House of the Seven Gables in Salem. I found this write up above from someone who also had a bad experience there. Looks like some in the Salem community felt that the House of the Seven Gables needed to work on how they handle things too.

Obviously, the owners of the property can do whatever they want to with their place, and that's fine.

Tourists and locals can choose to visit some of the many other great tourist attractions in town, and support their gift shops.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Adams, Tennessee and the Bell Witch Part 2

I am still excited about my recent road trip to Adams, TN. In my last post on the town, I included some photos from about a year ago.

This year, I again stopped at the old school house, which is now an antique mall.

The place seems to be popular with locals and tourists.

If you like looking for old antiques, this is a very fun place (I found some great old postcards there myself).

Also, it is an old school building. All school buildings have a cafeteria, and in Adams, they still put the old cafeteria to good use. VERY GOOD USE.

If you are driving through this part of the country, even if you could care less about the folklore, stop by the old school and have lunch. I have had some GREAT fish, greens, and brisket here. I took a picture of the plate I was served last time there. I could not finish it all. They have nice, cozy country food that you will love.

Also, the old school has Tim Henson! Tim has been at the School House each time I have been there. The guy knows just about everything concerning local history. He has written a book on the Bell family AND he contributed to a documentary on the Bell Witch.

Tim is a gold mine of information, and an asset to local tourism.

Oh, the School House has a small but back 1 room museum about the town's history. Behind and to the side of the School House, there are several buildings and other items involved in the history of the area.

I should also mention the cemetery and monument down the road from the School House. LOTS of Bell family history to see here!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Roller Derby in Lexington

I did not know until recently that Lexington (and several other areas) were doing roller derby again!

The Roller Girls of Central Kentucky have their matches at the Convention Center (part of the Rupp Arena complex).

I had a great time. This is a really fun event. The atmosphere was party like and family friendly at the same time. I saw a lot of kids, and a lot of older folks. All were friendly (the guy setting next to me explained the rules as he saw the confused look on my face).

Oh, there was a fun band playing, and hoola-hoopers (not sure if that is the right term) there to entertain too!

I still don't understand all of the rules, but I get how it works.

I have to admit that I expected more violence. I think most of us have watched old clips and think of roller derby as very aggressive. I thought there would be some elbows, clotheslines, maybe a few punches.

Those things did not happen. In fact, I was a bit impressed with the sportsmanship. One participant fell and it looked like she hit her head. All action stopped as professionals came to check on her. She was OK, and play continued. Otherwise, the sport seemed fairly scientific.

Check out their web site and go to a game! Tickets were around $10, and they had a large enthusiastic crowd. Merch was unique, cool, and affordable (I bought a nice t-shirt with the team logo for $15- the logo is awesome!).

I know the area is familiar with various sports teams coming... and going. I do hope that the Lexington area gives this team the support it deserves so that they will stick around!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Postcard: Between Evansville, Indiana and Owensboror-Henderson, Kentucky

I love this postcard showing the Ohio, between two of my favorite towns! I have spent a lot of time in this area....

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Adams, Tennessee and the Bell Witch Part 1

Autumn is right around the corner! I can't say it enough, but I love everything about the entire season coming up!

Sure, I love summer, but the season following it is the best. The leaves, the falling temperatures, apple festivals, and Halloween!

As I mentioned before, pretty much all of my posts for the next several months will have a light chill to them. Folklore, strange tales, true crime books, apples, and the colors brown and orange will factor in to my upcoming entries.

And, just for the heck of it, here are a few photos I took in Adams Tennessee (the home of the Bell Witch!) last year. I actually went there again recently, and will get more photos up soon, but for now, here you go!

Let me say that Adams is an EXTREMELY small town not too far from Hopkinsville Kentucky. The town has a few businesses, and at least a couple operate because of their connection to the store of the famous ghost.

The town is easily worth a day trip, and you can entertain yourself for a whole day here between the great antique store and the Bell Witch Cave.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Postcard: Saltpetre Vats in Mammoth Cave

"During the War of 1812, saltpetre was mined in Mammoth Cave and converted into gunpowder. It was also at this point that Edwin Booth recited to a group of Cave visitors in 1872."

I really love the look of this postcard.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Knoxville Mall

The mall in Knoxville is a great one for walking around and shopping! I love their art and decor! The fist are the coolest!

You can probably tell from my posts that the Knoxville area is really growing on me!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Random Thoughts On Friday

Just a few notes.....

After trying to separate this blog, I have put it back together. I thought a blog about general travels around America, and another one about travels in Kentucky would be the way to go.

I was wrong. It just kind of made the whole thing more complicated. I DID like the names of the two split blogs, using lines from my favorite songs, but Kentucky Travels is really to the point. So, the blog is once again "Kentucky Travels".

I have imported all of the entries from the separated blog back to this site, so they are now all here.