Lighthouses have long attracted strange tales. As guides for sailors weary of smashing against hidden rocks and shoals, they were a matter of life and death for centuries. Tragically, maritime accidents still occurred with frightening regularity. Nearly every lighthouse, like the one at Pensacola, is thought to have a ghost or two. The St. Augustine Light is probably the most famous haunted lighthouse in America.
Spanish conquistador Pedro Menéndez de Avilés founded the city of St. Augustine in 1565, making it the oldest continuously-occupied European city in North America. In the eighteenth century, the Spanish built a lighthouse at the coast of St. Augustine to guide trade ships coming into port. The US government erected a lighthouse there in 1824, after the territory was ceded to the US in the Adams–Onís Treaty of 1819. The current lighthouse was built on Anastasia Island in 1874 and is St. Augustine’s oldest surviving brick structure.
In 1970, the lighthouse keeper’s house, which by then was being rented to local residents, was gutted by fire. The lighthouse was boarded up and surrounded by a chain link fence. A decade passed, until a group of women in the Junior Service League of St. Augustine leased the property and began restoration. They raised $1.2 million for the effort. Sadly, in 1986 someone shot the light and damaged 19 original prisms, but that too was restored.
You might say horse racing is a family tradition, though I come from a family of spectators. My grandpa used to take my dad to the racetrack, and my dad used to take me. I have fond memories of afternoons spent at Arlington Racecourse (thoroughbreds) in Arlington Heights, Illinois, or Maywood Park Racetrack (harness) in Melrose Park. So I was thrilled to have an opportunity to visit the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga, New York.
The Saratoga Race Course opened in 1863, during the American Civil War. It is the fourth oldest racetrack in the country. The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame was founded in 1950 and moved to its current location in 1955.
The museum takes you on an extensive tour of the history of thoroughbred horse racing, including the lineages of the horses. All thoroughbred horses can trace their ancestry back to three stallions originally imported to England from the Middle East in the 17th and 18th century: Byerley Turk, Darley Arabian, and Godolphin Arabian. Ninety-five percent of all male Thoroughbreds today trace their lineage back to Darley Arabian.
The full Museum of Wonder, created by Alabama artist and collector Butch Anthony, is located in rural Seale, Alabama, but he erected this little curio display on Broadway in downtown Columbus, Georgia near the intersection of 11th Street and Broadway. Pretty cool!
The National Infantry Museum in Columbus, Georgia is an incredible experience dedicated to the American soldier, with state of the art dioramas, displays, and hundreds of artifacts. While in Georgia away from my computer, I decided to experiment with making travel videos entirely with my iPhone. This video was shot with my phone, edited in iMovie, and I even recorded the voiceover here. I think it turned out pretty well, do you?
In this installment of my video blog documenting my recent trip to Gettysburg National Military Park, I explore the Borough of Gettysburg. While Gettysburg is noted for its history, and I certainly spent a lot of time on the battlefield, it’s also an interesting destination itself. Shops selling antiques and memorabilia line the streets, and of course there are several historical and haunted tours. I can’t imagine a more picturesque town, keep alive by over one million visitors to the battlefield each year.
I completely overlooked the Witch History Museum on my first trip to Salem, Massachusetts. Located at 197-201 Essex Street on the pedestrian mall, this is not the same as the Salem Witch Museum, located on Washington Square. Like a half dozen other museums in Salem, this also features dioramas/wax figures, though of a slightly higher quality.
An actress in period costume gives a short introduction to the Salem Witch Trials before taking you down into the museum. I came in early spring, just before the tourist season started, so I was the only one in the audience that day. My host was gracious enough to show me around anyway.
The Witch Dungeon Museum is one of many diorama/wax museums in Salem, Massachusetts, with the added twist of a live performance. I didn’t get a chance to see it on my first trip to Salem, so I made sure to check it out on my second.
The museum appears to occupy an old church, but instead of the stations of the cross, numbered plaques bearing facts about the Salem Witch Trials line the auditorium’s back wall in sequential order. The tour’s highlight is a live performance of a dramatic moment from the trials, with lines drawn from an eyewitness account.