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Mysterious America

Beauvoir: The Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library

As I was driving with my dad from Columbia, South Carolina to Pensacola, Florida in the summer of 2014, we decided to stop at some historic sites along the way. Both being Civil War buffs, the Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library in Biloxi, Mississippi seemed like a good choice. Jefferson Davis was president of the Confederacy during the Civil War. After touring the mansion and nearby cemetery, we checked out the newly completed Presidential Library. There, sitting on the desk, was something that caught my interest.

A building with a history like Beauvoir (as the Davis home is called) usually has a few ghost stories, so I wasn’t surprised to see an article called “What’s that in the window at Beauvoir?” sitting on the main desk in the research library. Written by Charles L. Sullivan in 2004, it told the story of a photograph taken by Charlie Brock, a Confederate re-enactor, in 1984. The photograph was of his wife and two of her friends, dressed in period clothing, on the east side of Beauvoir. When the photo was developed, two figures mysteriously appeared in one of the windows.

At the time the picture was taken, the house was closed to visitors, locked, and the security motion detectors were in place. Never-the-less, two humanoid forms stand in the window. One is noticeably taller than the other. The shorter of the two figures is also the easiest to see. “She” appears to be wearing a white dress. Two of the three women walking on the lawn were wearing blue dresses, and one was wearing a dark red dress. The window was also at porch level, above the heads of the three women, making it unlikely (unless the window was angled downward) that this was a reflection.

Categories
Mysterious America

A Christmas Story House Offers Holiday Spirits

The filming location of A Christmas Story has attracted tens of thousands of nostalgic tourists, and at least one paranormal investigation team believes it may be home to restless spirits.

Largely overlooked upon its release in 1983, A Christmas Story has since become a beloved holiday classic. Set in the fictional Indiana town of Hohman during the 1950s, the film is based on stories from the book In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd. This simple tale of a boy who wants nothing more than a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas was filmed at several locations, including a single-family home in south Cleveland, Ohio.

This 1895 Victorian home is located at 3159 W. 11th St. in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood and is open to the public year round  for tours. In 2004, Brian Jones, a San Diego entrepreneur purchased the home on Ebay and restored to appear as it did in A Christmas Story.

Jones, a fan of the movie, had already created a profitable company selling replica “leg lamps,” also from the film. Directly across the street from the house is the official A Christmas Story House Museum, which features original props, costumes and memorabilia from the film, as well as hundreds of rare behind-the-scenes photos.

Categories
Mysterious America

Spirit of the Alamo Lives On

“Remember the Alamo” was once a rallying cry for Texas independence. Today, the Alamo is one of the most visited destinations in the country. It is considered hallowed ground, and many visitors have returned with tales of spine tingling encounters with the unseen.

In 1835, no one would have believed this small Catholic mission in southern Tejas, Mexico would play a pivotal role in the struggle for Texas independence. Yet from February 23 to March 6, 1836, around 200 Texans holed up in the Alamo Mission fought an army of 1,800 Mexicans under the command of General Santa Anna.

Although the small Texas force was ultimately defeated, “Remember the Alamo” became a rallying cry for Texas independence. Today, the Alamo is one of the most visited destinations in the country. It is considered hallowed ground, and many visitors have returned with tales of spine tingling encounters with the unseen.

Originally known as the Mission San Antonio de Valero, a Spanish Franciscan priest named Antonio de Olivares established the Alamo in 1744. The missionaries abandoned it in 1793. Ten years later, the Spanish Army converted it into a fort. After Mexican independence, it was occupied by the Mexican Army until General Martin Perfecto de Cos surrendered it to the Texan Army in 1835.

In early 1836, the Mexicans returned, and a small force led by Colonel James Bowie and William Travis, which included pioneer hero Davy Crockett, defended the fort for two weeks against General Santa Anna’s siege. All of the defenders were killed, and the Mexican Army tore down most of the walls surrounding the mission.

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Historic America

Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute

Located at 310 Genesee Street in Utica, New York, the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute is an enjoyable art museum with several notable pieces, including a Jackson Pollock, Salvador Dalí, and Picasso. It also has a fine collection of 19th-Century American painting and sculpture, as well as an annex showcasing the 19th-Century home of James and Helen Williams, “Fountain Elms”. I’m not a fan of modern art, but it was nice to see some pieces by prominent artists at a smaller art museum. Similar institutions would charge visitors to see such “high profile” pieces, but the M.W.P. Arts Institute only takes donations to see its general collection.

A special exhibition of Steve McCurry’s photographs will be on display until December 31st. Steve McCurry is best known for his haunting photograph of a young Afghan Girl with piercing green eyes taken in Peshawar, Pakistan in 1984.

The World through His Lens: Steve McCurry Photographs is an exhibition of more than 60 large-scale photographs by National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry. It costs $10 general admission, or $5 for students, and is free to children under 12.

According to their website, “McCurry’s evocative images reveal collective human struggles and explore diverse societies across the boundaries of language and culture. Organized around universal themes of personal adornment, place, and ritual, exhibition will include unforgettable images from across six continents and spanning ancient traditions, international conflict, and vanishing cultures.”

This a unique opportunity to see his photographs up close, as the M.W.P. Arts Institute is the only venue for this exhibition.

Categories
Roadside America

Dr. Morbid’s Haunted House and Frankenstein Wax Museum

Located on the strip in central Lake George, New York, Dr. Morbid’s Haunted House and House of Frankenstein Wax Museum are fun, campy throwbacks to the haunted attractions of yore. Dr. Morbid’s operates from July 1 through October 31 and the wax museum is open roughly from the second weekend in April to the fourth weekend in October, so if you want to get your scare on, you don’t have to wait for Halloween. This is a rare treat. When it comes to commercial horror, I can’t think of another example in the northeastern United States.

Dr. Morbid’s Haunted House is located at 115 Canada Street. It features some animatronics and macabre scenes, but relies heavily on its story for chills. “Recently, during attempted renovations to Morbid Mansion, workers discovered a secret passageway leading to the ruins of an old abandoned waxworks,” the story goes. “Dr. Willy S. Morbid, the proprietor of Morbid Mansion, and known to locals as the Mad Waxmaker, is said to have used bizarre methods when filling his wax-works with statues.” Dr. Morbid also had two daughters, one of whom he locked away in a secret room. Look for Morbid’s preserved corpse to also make an appearance.

A woman of mysterious beauty dressed in black guides you through Dr. Morbid’s lair. My guide seemed immersed in the role, her voice adding to the macabre atmosphere. On entering, she asks you to stand against the wall, where you wait in near complete darkness. Seconds seemed like minutes as I waited for the inevitable scream. The only question was how close she would get.