Categories
Mysterious America

America’s Haunted Roads

An isolated stretch of pavement where not even high beams penetrate the darkness is ready-made for ghost stories.

Sharp curves, a canopy of trees, isolated homes set far back from the road: it’s enough to rattle the spine of the most sober driver. Ghostly children, phantom automobiles, vanishing hitchhikers, bloody brides, and even a headless horse are just some of the denizens alleged to wander these highways. Travel them …if you dare.

Knock-Knock Road

Ghostly children are almost always creepy, but they are especially so when they appear in unexpected places. This is the case along Strasburg Road in economically ravaged Detroit, Michigan. For years, travelers along this road have reported the unusual sound of a young child rapping on their car doors and windows as they pass. According to legend, an adolescent girl was riding her bicycle in the neighborhood when she lost control and rolled into the busy street. She was struck and killed.

Today, her ghost knocks on the windows and doors of passing motorists, trying to get their attention. Another version of the legend, however, tells of a car full of teenagers who crashed their car into a pole and slowly burned to death. Trapped inside the burning vehicle, they pounded on the windows, desperately trying to alert people to their plight.

Categories
Historic America Reviews

Detroit: A Gripping Historical Drama

Detroit (2017), written by Mark Boal and directed by Kathryn Bigelow, dramatically recounts an incident in which three black men were allegedly murdered by police at the Algiers Motel during the 1967 Detroit Riot. Detroit grabs you and never lets go. Unfortunately, its subject matter might be a little too weighty for summer movie audiences. Bigelow, whose other films include The Hurt Locker (2008), K-19: The Widowmaker (2002), and Zero Dark Thirty (2012), set out to make a film critical of white privilege, so certain elements have been changed to conform to this perspective. In some ways the actual events were much worse than depicted.

First, some context. In 1950, Detroit was a diverse, prosperous, and culturally significant metropolis of 1.85 million people. It was arguably among the greatest cities in the United States. By 1967, Detroit was 40 percent African American, but its police force was 95 percent white. Migration to the suburbs had already caused significant population decline. The 1967 Detroit Riot (also known as the 12th Street Riot) began around 3:15 a.m. Sunday, July 23, 1967, after police raided an illegal after hours party in the office of the United Community League for Civic Action at 9125 12th Street.

The riot lasted five days, ending on July 27. Michigan Governor George W. Romney sent in the National Guard and President Lyndon B. Johnson sent in the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions to help restore order. When the dust settled, 43 people were dead, 1,189 injured (including 493 police, firefighters, and National Guard members), and 7,231 arrested. 2,509 stores were looted or burned, with an economic loss estimated at $40 to $45 million.

Three men, Aubrey Pollard (Nathan Davis Jr.), 19, Carl Cooper (Jason Mitchell), 17, and Fred Temple (Jacob Latimore), 18, were killed at an annex of the Algiers Motel, 8301 Woodward Avenue. Pollard was killed by Detroit Police Officer Ronald August (“Demens” – Jack Reynor), Temple was killed by Detroit Police Officer Robert Paille (“Flynn” – Ben O’Toole), and Cooper’s murderer remains unknown. Police officers involved in the incident were acquitted by reason of self defense at trial, so their names were changed for the film.

Categories
Reviews

First Impressions of Detroit

I watched Detroit last night, Kathryn Bigelow‘s new film about three black men who were murdered at the Algiers Motel during the 1967 Detroit Riots. Bigelow’s other films include The Hurt Locker (2008), K-19: The Widowmaker (2002), and Zero Dark Thirty (2012), a mixed record as far as I’m concerned. But all I can say is, wow. Detroit grabs you and never lets go. It’s by far the best movie I’ve seen this year. Here are some of my first impressions:

  • I wasn’t alive during the 1960s, but the movie feels authentic. The settings, dress, characters, and documentary style transport you back to that time, and not in a cliched, feel-good way.
  • Will Poulter, who played Kenny Rossmore in We’re the Millers (2013), is incredible as a racist Detroit patrolman named Philip Krauss. Everything from his hair to his facial expressions make him look like he stepped off the pages of an early 1960s yearbook.
  • Although Detroit doesn’t disguise its message, it isn’t entirely one-sided, showing the destructiveness of the mob and the efforts of some white policemen and authority figures try to combat the excesses of racist officers.
  • Powerful images dominate the film. When a security guard named Melvin Dismukes (John Boyega) is taken into an interrogation room, you can see a handcuff dangling from a pipe and a discolored stain on the wall at the same level as his head. The movie doesn’t have to show violent interrogations took place–all it needs is this one brutal image.
  • Detroit’s run time is over two hours, but it grips you and never slows down until the ending trial scene. By the way, John Krasinski is really out of place as an attorney named Auerbach. He was the only bad casting choice.
  • I understand why the filmmakers chose to focus on the controversial event at the Algiers Motel, but it downplays the 40 other people who died during the five-day riots. 1,189 people were also injured, including 348 Detroit police and firefighters, 55 National Guardsmen, 67 State Police, 15 Wayne County Sheriff deputies, and eight soldiers. 2,509 stores were looted or burned.
  • Although an attempt was made, I don’t think enough was done to show how the National Guardsmen and other law enforcement trying to restore order felt threatened by the rioters. While it doesn’t excuse their behavior, it might help explain why they were so on edge, which the audience never gets a solid feel for.
  • The the main character, played by Algee Smith, finds some solace in gospel music, there is no happy ending here.

I’ll have much more when I post my full review next week.