Author: Michael Kleen

Michael Kleen is an author, raconteur, and occasional traveler. He has a M.A. in History and M.S. in Education. He enjoys studying military history, folklore, and philosophy.

Fort Stanwix National Monument

Fort Stanwix National Monument is a reconstruction of a historic fort occupying approximately 16 acres in downtown Rome, New York. Originally built by the British, it was captured and used by American colonists during the Revolutionary War. It was also the setting for two treaties with American Indians. Reconstruction finished in 1978.

British General John Stanwix ordered construction of the fort in the summer of 1758 to guard a portage connecting the Mohawk River and Wood Creek during the French and Indian War. It finished in 1762. The 1768 Treaty of Fort Stanwix between the British and the Iroquois attempted to solidify the frontier boundary and reduce hostility there. The fort was then abandoned and allowed to fall into ruin.

Colonial troops under the command of Colonel Elias Dayton occupied and repaired the fort in July 1776 and renamed it Fort Schuyler. British forces besieged the fort in August 1777, but were demoralized by a colonial raid on their camp and withdrew. It burned down in 1781. A treaty between the United States and the Iroquois League was signed at the site in 1784.

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A Harrowing Trip Along Blood’s Point Road

Blood’s Point in rural Boone County, Illinois is a well-known local legend but has only been written about sparingly. The road and cemetery of the same name are home to a cornucopia of stories and myths, each one a variant on the last. The name of the road itself is enough to excite one’s imagination. What kind of event would leave such a name upon the landscape? A gruesome murder or massacre? An ancient battle?

Unfortunately, its origins are quite mundane. According to The Past and Present of Boone County, Illinois (1877), Blood’s Point was named after a prominent local family, the Bloods. Arthur Blood was the first white settler in Flora Township; a pleasant area that derived its name from the abundance of flower-covered fields.

One could say that ever since its christening, the area has been stained by Blood (sorry, I couldn’t resist). Digital and print media articles contain a myriad of tales relating to the cemetery and the railroad bridge that lies about a mile to the west. The road itself is said to be patrolled by phantom vehicles, most notably an old pickup truck, but also a big rig and a disappearing cop car.

Depending on who you ask, around 4-8 people have hung themselves or have been hung from the railroad bridge; a witch, her children, three anonymous women, and even Arthur Blood along with his wife and their entire family! A busload of elementary school students is also said to have plummeted from the bridge.

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The Death of Stalin

Events surrounding the 1953 death of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin are recounted in The Death of Stalin (2017), a dark and irreverent dramedy written and directed by Armando Iannucci, et al. You’d be wrong if you thought there was nothing funny about a regime responsible for the deaths of 6 to 9 million people. This talented cast perfectly captures the chaotic and absurd at this pivotal moment in Russian history.

Joseph Stalin, born Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili, was a principal figure in the rise of communism in Russia and served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1952. He led the Soviet Union through World War 2, oversaw massive industrialization and collectivization programs, and instituted state terror to maintain control. After his death, his successors undertook reforms and denounced his crimes.

The Death of Stalin depicts events from the night of Stalin’s (Adrian McLoughlin) cerebral hemorrhage to Nikita Khrushchev’s (Steve Buscemi) coup and the execution of NKVD (Soviet secret police) chief Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beale). It portrays how paranoid and aware of their precarious position members of Stalin’s inner circle were, and the struggle to find a leader among a group of frightened sycophants.

Lavrentiy Beria was a truly monstrous figure. As soon as Stalin fell ill, he moved to eliminate his enemies and position himself as Stalin’s successor, while currying favor with the public with a general amnesty for all prisoners. While the helpless and inept Georgy Malenkov (played brilliantly by Jeffrey Tambor) acted as Premier of the Soviet Union, his rivals fought behind the scenes to take control. They made a critical error by putting Nikita Khrushchev in charge of Stalin’s funeral, where he was able to organize a coup with WW2 Soviet military hero Marshal Georgy Zhukov (Jason Isaacs).

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Abandoned Catskill Drive-In

Mountain Drive-In, off NY State Highway 52, east of Liberty, New York, silently sits in ruins like a scene from the Fallout series. A faded sign still advertises “Mountain Fest ’97”, so I assume that was when it closed. According to Cinema Treasures, it opened in 1951 and once had three screens. More info and pictures from 2007 here.

From the 1920s to the 1970s, New York City Jews flocked to Catskill resorts in the summer months to escape the stifling heat of the city. There were once over 500 resorts and hotels in the area, known as the “Borscht Belt“. Many famous comedians and entertainers got their start here. With increasing religious tolerance and the advent of widespread commercial airliners, many families chose to vacation elsewhere and dozens of these establishments now lay abandoned.