Sunday, October 30, 2005

Most Haunted of the American West

Legends of America took nominations throughout the month for the most haunted city and place in the American West. From these nominations we've created the Haunted Places Poll to rank the top ten. Now, we're asking for votes to rank the top places. You gotta vote if you wanna see your favorite haunted place in the top ten.

Here's a few of the cities that made the list:

A couple of places that are said to be very haunted include:

These cities and places are just a few that were nominated. Give us your vote on the most haunted cities and places of the American West by clicking HERE!

Celebrity Ghosts Across America

Afer having lived in the limelight with attention from the press and fans, some of our nation's famous and infamous celebrities are seemingly just not ready to move on. So, if you never had the opportunity to meet them in real life, according to these tales you might still be able to catch a glimpse of them as they continue to haunt the places of their pasts.

Lots of these ghostly apparitions are of the Hollywood variety such as Marilyn Monroe who is said to haunt her former home, as well as the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel; Harry Houdini, the magician and escape artist who allegedly didn't even believe in ghosts; and Lon Chaney, the ever popular star of silent movie horror films.

Political ghosts also lurk around the country, the most prevalent of which is Abraham Lincoln, who not only continues to roam around the White House, but also his tomb and former home in Springfield, Illinois. Then there's Aaron Burr, the third Vice President under Thomas Jefferson, who's not known so much known for that is he is for killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel. Today, Burr is said to haunt the One If By Land, Two If By Sea Restaurant, in New York City. Speaking of Thomas Jefferson, he too is said to haunt the white house, playing the violin in the Oval Office.

Even our infamous Old West outlaws get into the picture as Jesse James is said to haunt his old farm in Kearney, Missouri and train robber Black Jack Ketchum continues to lurk within a cave in New Mexico.

If you want a good spook story for Halloween -- you'll find dozens of them on Legends of America's Ghostly Legends pages.

In the meantime, have a Happy Halloween!!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Odd Place Names In America

For those with precious little to do, why not take a wee peek at a few of the curious and entertaining place names found in the United States of America (like Zap, North Dakota and Knockemstiff, Ohio). So says Victoria Elizabeth, author of What's In a Name? - Odd Places in America.

Elizabeth continues by begging to ask these questions:
  1. Just who might be eager to visit these out-of-the-way, off-the-beaten track, and some might even say, downright peculiar places like Nothing, Arizona or Floyds Knobs, Indiana?
  2. What do real estate agents say and do to attract new property owners to King of Prussia, Valentine or Santa Clause?
  3. Who lives in Nags Head or Lynchburg?
  4. Why would anyone name a place "Punxsutawney" unless of course, one had nothing better to do on "National Groundhog Appreciation Day"?
  5. Where is Frostproof, Funkstown, Pottawattamie, Romeoville and Willacoochee anyway?

Elizabeth's article continues with some very odd city names for every state in the country.

As we began to received emails asking why other interesting names aren't included, we created an online submission form where our reader's can add to Elizabeth's list. After we got this submission, I couldn't help but do just a little research.

Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg, Webster, Massachusetts

Wow, now that's a mouthful! The lake is most often referred to by locals as "Webster Lake," as the actual pronunciation is too difficult. Given the name by the Nipmuk Indians, the name loosely translates to "fishing place at the boundary." Long ago it was considered neutral territory and became a meeting place and powwow site among the Nipmuks and the Narraganssett, Pequot and Mohegan tribes. However, when the Webster Times ran a humorous article about the lake with a tongue-in-cheek translation of, "You Fish on Your Side, I Fish on My Side, Nobody Fish in the Middle," it became so popular that many don't know today what the actual translation is. "Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg" is the longest place name in the United States and 6th longest in the world. See more about the lake and its history at History of the Lake.

Add your own odd place names by visiting HERE!

Haunted Alacatraz Island

What an absolutely fascinating story! Are you like me and thought that Alcatraz was merely an infamous prison that housed America's worst? After getting a lead that the island was haunted, I decided to research this place, and ohmagosh -- not only is this the a tale of a prison and its ghosts, but Alcatraz has a much longer history beyond its prison days. Serving as a military outpost for some 80 years before it housed the notorious prison, this is the stuff of cowboys and indians, the mounted cavalry, Civil War, and more!!

Here's just a couple of interesting tales:

  • Long before Alcatraz became home to some of the most notorious outlaws in the country, it was known as a place to be avoided by Native Americans who believed it to contain evil spirits. These Native Americans, called the Ohlone (a Miwok Indian word meaning "western people,") often utilized the island as a place of isolation or banishment for members violating tribal laws.
  • From 1850 to 1907, the island served as Fort Alcatraz as a U.S. Army post taking on the role of the most powerful coastal defense in the west. In addition to its strategic defensive position, the island also took on the additional role of serving as a stockade for enlisted men.
  • The first Confederate threat to California occurred in March, 1863 when the army learned that a group of southern sympathizers planned to overtake San Francisco Bay. Their strategy was to arm a schooner, use it to capture a steamship, blockade the harbor, and attack the fort. However, when the schooner’s captain bragged about the scheme while drinking in a tavern, the news was quickly relayed to Union officials. On the night the schooner was set to sail, the U.S. Navy seized the ship and arrested the crew. When the boat was towed to Alcatraz, the army found cannons, ammunition and 15 more men hidden in the ship.
  • During the Civil War, Alcatraz's role as a military prison increased. In addition to the numerous military personnel committing crimes in the army, local civilians who had been arrested for treason were incarcerated there. Soon the rooms in the guardhouse began to fill.
  • After the Civil War during the Indian Wars of the Old West, numerous Native Americans were incarcerated at the military prison. One such prisoner, Chief Kaetena, a compatriot of Geronimo, was sent to Alcatraz after battling against General George Crook's army. In January 1895, nineteen Hopi leaders, who had been involved in land disputes with the government and refused to comply with mandatory government education programs for their children, were severely punished by sending them to the “Rock.”
  • As the ships of the U.S. military became more and more powerful, the defensive purposes of Alcatraz became obsolete. In 1907, Alcatraz was re-designated as the "Pacific Branch, U.S. Military Prison” and prison guards replaced infantry soldiers. Continuing to serve as a military prison until 1934, many of the buildings were constructed by prison labor during this time, until some 600 cells occupied the prison. As a Military Prison, there were at least 80 men who attempted to escape in 29 separate attempts. Of those, 62 were captured and returned to the prison, one may have drowned and the fate of 17 others were unknown.
  • By 1933, the army decided that the island was too expensive to operate. In the meantime, the gangster era was in full swing, brought on by the desperate need of the great depression, combined with Prohibition. The nation’s cities were witnessing terrible violence as shoot-outs and public slayings became frequent when mobster’s took control. The ill-equipped law enforcement agencies were often bought off by the gangsters or cowered before the better-armed gangs of nattily dressed men. Simultaneously, the existing prisons were experiencing a number of escapes, rioting and gang-related murders. Alcatraz was the ideal solution to the problem and J. Edgar Hoover jumped on the opportunity to create a “super-prison” that would instill fear in the minds of would-be criminals, offered no means of escape, and a place where inmates could be safely controlled. Negotiations soon began and Alcatraz was transferred to the Bureau of Prisons in October 1933.
  • 1934 saw the arrivals of the "Rock's" first prisoners - infamous men like Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly. Until 1963, the prison would house the "worst of the worst" criminals in the country, the part of Alcatraz history made famous by numerous movies, and for which we are more familiar. During these years the prison housed a total of 1,545 prisoners. 36 men attempted to escape in fourteen 14 separate attempts. Of those, 20 were captured, seven were shot and killed, two drowned, and five were never found, assumed by prison authorities to have drowned.
  • On November 9, 1969, Native Americans claimed the island demanding its use for a Native American Cultural Center and Indian University. The occupation continued for more than a year until June 10, 1971, when armed federal marshals, assisted by the Coast Guard, swarmed the island and forcibly removed the Indians.
  • Today, a number of otherwordly entities are said to lurk in the shadows of the often fog-enshrouded island and have been heard, seen and felt by both the staff and many visitors to Alcatraz. The sounds of men’s voices, screams, whistles, clanging metal doors and terrifying screams are said to be heard within these historic walls, especially near the dungeon.

If you too, hold a fascination with Alcatraz and decide to pay a visit, make sure you book your reservations well in advance for the tours as they often book up days in advance.

For the full article on Alcatraz, visit The History & Hauntings of Alcatraz on our website.

Contact Information:

Alcatraz Island National Park Service
Golden Gate National Recreation AreaFort Mason, Building 201
Alcatraz, San Francisco, California 94123
Visitor Information - 415-561-4900 Reservations - 415- 705-5555

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Returning from Springfield, Illinois

Sitting in a hotel room resting after having spent the day at the Springfield, Illinois Route 66 festival and car show. My first trip to this annual event, it appears the focus is more on the car show than Route 66. Although they had some great bands, beautiful cars, and lots of friendly people, I was disappointed that it wasn't very "Route 66" focused. The Illinois associations were there but no one else. Very few Route 66 vendors. I know I was comparing to the Tulsa festival last summer, which led to my disappointment. I also know that there was a huge festival in San Bernardino just a few weeks ago that kept alot of people from attending Springfield. I'm just wondering if this was a "fluke" year at Springfield, or it's generally always that way.

Don't get me wrong, I still had a great time and met alot of wonderful people! And, along the way, I got some great photographs of Illinois and visited one of Illinois' most haunted cities - Alton. Stay tuned for that story!