Bennett Park and Fort Washington, New York City

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Over 240 years ago, this unassuming park in Manhattan was the scene of one of the patriot’s worst defeats during the Revolutionary War.

The Battle of Fort Washington was fought on November 16, 1776 between American forces commanded by Col. Robert Magaw and British and Hessian forces commanded by Lt. Gen. Hugh Percy and Wilhelm von Knyphausen in present-day Washington Heights, Manhattan, New York during the American Revolutionary War. The battle was a complete British victory, with all American defenders killed, wounded, or captured.

In the fall of 1776, American aspirations of independence were at a low point. British General Sir William Howe had overwhelmed and driven the Continental Army commanded by Gen. George Washington out of New York City and Long Island. Washington aspired to escape north to White Plains to avoid being surrounded in Manhattan. He left several thousand men at Fort Washington under Col. Robert Magaw and a brigade commanded by Col. John Glover at Pell’s Point to contest any British landing.

Though Col. Glover delayed the British advance at Pell’s Point on October 18, he was forced to retreat. With General Washington’s defeat at White Plains ten days later, the path was clear for Howe’s army to march on Fort Washington. Col. Robert Magaw stubbornly held on despite Washington’s discretionary order that the fort be abandoned.

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Eveready Diner in Hyde Park, New York

Eveready Diner, at 4184 U.S. Route 9 North (Albany Post Road), in Hyde Park, New York. According to nydiners.com, the Eveready is a 1995 Paramount model, #174. Paramount is a New Jersey company known for pioneering stainless steel exteriors. I love this retro design incorporating populux and doo wop elements.

Diner Resources

The ‘Burbs Turns 30

This quintessential Suburban Gothic tale lampooned middle class fears in the 1980s, but remains refreshingly relevant.

Yesterday, my favorite comedy horror film from the 1980s, The ‘Burbs, turned 30. It premiered in theaters on February 17, 1989 and grossed $11 million in its opening weekend, ultimately raking in over $36 million. Though panned by clueless critics who couldn’t see past its campy premise, The ‘Burbs has since become something of a cult classic.

This film had a profound effect on me as a kid. While on the surface a lighthearted satire of ’80s horror, The ‘Burbs delved deep into the American psyche. It stars Tom Hanks, Bruce Dern, and Rick Ducommun as three friends who suspect an eccentric and reclusive family is up to no good in their neighborhood. Carrie Fisher and Corey Feldman also play prominent roles.

The ‘Burbs was written by Dana Olsen and directed by Joe Dante. Olsen, who is usually known for sillier comedies like George of the Jungle (1997) and Inspector Gadget (1999), was inspired to write the script after hearing about gruesome crimes in his own hometown. Joe Dante directed Gremlins (1984), Gremlins 2 (1990), and the TV series Eerie, Indiana (1991-1992), Witches of East End (2013-2014), and Salem (2015-2016). Eerie, Indiana was also about the strange and unusual underbelly of a quaint, unassuming town.

Welcome to Mayfield Place

Ray and Carol Peterson (Hanks and Fisher) live in a picturesque home on Mayfield Place, a cul-de-sac in suburban Hinkley Hills with their son, Dave (Cory Danziger) and their dog, Vince. The Petersons live next door to a dilapidated house owned by a reclusive family named the Klopeks. Dr. Werner Klopek (Henry Gibson), his son, Hans (Courtney Gains), and his brother, Reuben (Brother Theodore), quietly moved into the old Victorian home, which used to be owned by Mr. and Mrs. Knapp.

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Five Things You Didn’t Notice in The ‘Burbs

From obscure film references to subliminal messages, this ’80s dark comedy has it all.

The ‘Burbs, my favorite comedy horror film from the 1980s, turns 30 today. It premiered in theaters on February 17, 1989 and grossed $11 million in its opening weekend, though it was panned by critics who couldn’t see past its campy premise. While on the surface a lighthearted satire of ’80s horror, The ‘Burbs delved deep into the American psyche.

This film had a profound effect on me as a kid, and every time I watch it I discover something new. Have you spotted these subtle hints and references?

Breakfast at the Peterson’s

Ray and Carol Peterson (Tom Hanks and Carrie Fisher) live in a quaint home on Mayfield Place in suburban Hinkley Hills with their son, Dave (Cory Danziger) and their dog, Vince. The Petersons live next door to a dilapidated house owned by a reclusive family named the Klopeks. When Ray looks out the kitchen window to comment on the Klopek’s barren yard, you can see a box of Gremlins Cereal sitting on the counter. Joe Dante, director of The ‘Burbs, also directed Gremlins (1984).

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Details Emerge in Camp Napowan Story

I rescued the following post from my old website, Mysterious Heartland, and decided to re-post it here in case I have any readers interested in Wisconsin folklore or who went to Camp Napowan as a Boy Scout. Enjoy!

After posting an edited transcription of the legend of Boot Hill from Napowan Scout Camp in central Wisconsin (read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), a reader contacted me with his own insight into the story. In addition to more information about how an audio version of the tale became available, he reveals that a tragic accident in the early 2000s may have squelched its retelling. Here are his remarks:

Hi Michael,

I came across your transcription of the Story of Boot Hill on Mysterious Heartland, and I wanted to give you my recollection. I visited Napowan as a Boy Scout from 1993 to 1999. The first year I went, one of the camp staff was invited to our site to tell the story of Boot Hill. I think he was the camp director at the time, or he became camp director several years later, and I want to say his name was Eric. There were a few additional details that were added to the story in future tellings, as well as a few omissions.

I can only remember one omission regarding the event from 1992. A special needs scout from the Little City sponsored troop (which I believe is also out of Des Planes) got lost, wandered off camp property, and recalled seeing black cats with white paws when he was found. The troop is comprised of mentally challenged adults who were still in attendance during the years I visited camp Napowan. I think the lost scout was an African American guy who went by the name Horse.

Eric took a break from staffing, but returned in the late ’90s. Since he was not there to tell the story, another staff member told the story for the entire camp in 1994 or 1995. His name was Brad Shuman, and he was the director of the Nature program area. He was a creepy guy to begin with, but he did a superb job telling the story. It genuinely scarred a lot of scouts who had to later walk back to their campsites, in the dark, through many of the locations mentioned in the story.

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Antwerp Ruins

Antwerp Ruins
The Village of Antwerp on the Indian River in Upstate New York has seen better days. Its population has dwindled from a 1920 height of over 1,000 residents. The village main street is now a historic district, but its storefronts are crumbling and abandoned. These brick buildings date to 1889. Antwerp gets its name from the Antwerp company of Belgium, which was part owner in the early 1800s. Despite the dilapidated main street, you can still find beautiful Victorian homes throughout the town.

Swansong of My Heart

Swansong of My Heart
Monument to Lazelle A. Michael (1852-1939) and his wives, Emma J. (1852-1907), Carolyn E. (1870-1915), and Virginia L. (1876-1926), in Oakwood Cemetery, 50 101st Street, Troy, Rensselaer County, New York. This monument fascinates me, not just because Emma and Virginia were sisters (and clearly the two women depicted in stone), but because I can’t find any information on this family beyond a patent Lazelle filed for an ice cream scoop in 1905. If you know the story behind this monument, please contact me!

The name of Lazelle’s first wife, Emma, is wrapped in grape vines, and the inscription reads:

Abiding faith in immortal hope of glorious reunion.