Archive for the 'Travels' Category

The Disloyal Vampire, Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Secrets of Central Park

Fortean Times has an excellent article on New York’s Central Park:

There is something eerie about Central Park at night, the suggestion of a ghostly mist lingering about its less well-lit corners. And there are many of those. It’s probably just car exhaust fumes, but eerie all the same.


According to Wise, the park harbours a dangerous secret, intimated by none other than Vaux himself, if a letter apparently penned by him in September 1895 is to be believed. It mentions a secret hidden securely in the park, one which can be discovered only by deciphering the papers accompanying Vaux’s letter. According to Vaux, there are men who wished the secret to remain hidden. And being in possession of the secret, Vaux feared for his life. He didn’t have to fear for long: he died two months later. The circumstances of his death by apparent drowning in Brooklyn were never fully explained.

Not quite Indiana Jones

In fact, not even close. Still, I thought y’all might like to see what yours truly found…

Jaguar Gate, Copán, Honduras

…in the mouth of the Jaguar Gate, in Copán, Honduras: (more…)

Harajuku girls

The Washington Post tries (I don’t think successfully) to describe the megatropolis of Tokyo with vignettes on three different groups, including the harajuku girls.

When they got off the train in Tokyo’s Harajuku district, they were no longer shy girls with braces from the distant suburbs.

They were Goth-Lolita girls — part of a teenage tribe that on Sunday morning dips its collective toe in the bracing waters of urban voyeurism.

These girls wear jet-black bangs, cut straight at eyebrow level across their (sometimes pimply) foreheads. They work hard at looking bored as scrums of American tourists snap their photographs.

It’s not just home prices that are scary

Sometimes it’s the home itself.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Every neighborhood has one. A house the kids are certain is haunted. Where I grew up, it was the monastery on top of the hill, only we didn’t realize at the time that it was a religious place. We just thought it was spooky.

People have always loved a good ghost story, especially when it comes to haunted houses. And there are untold numbers of places supposedly occupied by spooks and specters or that were the site of acts so heinous that houses themselves have become part of the folklore.

..But in the spirit of Halloween, here’s a look at some of the country’s spookiest haunts:

Winchester Mystery House ..One account has it that Sarah was told by a medium to build a house for herself and to never stop construction or she would die. Another account has it that she believed the only way she could repent for the thousands of people killed by her family’s rifles was to keep building. Either way, she built and then built some more, from 1884, when she purchased the house under construction, until her death 38 years later.The place started out as a six-bedroom house. But Sarah turned it into a eerie mansion with 40 bedrooms, 40 staircases, 47 fireplaces and 1,257 windows.

Grant-Humphreys MansionBuilt by Colorado’s third governor, James Grant, this Denver house at 770 Pennsylvania St. lays claim to five ghosts, including that of Albert Humphreys, a subsequent owner who died of a suspicious shooting accident on the third floor, according to

The others are said to be disrupted souls from the old cemetery that lies beneath what is now Cheesman Park. They’ve been flying about since 1873, when the cemetery was closed and the city hired an incompetent undertaker to move some graves. Showing little respect for the unearthed dead, he broke up bodies to fit them into small boxes, mixing up parts as he worked.

Whaley House...Few houses in San Diego are as historically important as this one, or as haunted. It made the list of the Travel Channel’s most haunted destinations. Every day, visitors from throughout the world tour the place in the city’s Old Town section, and numerous manifestations have been reported since the house reopened as a museum in 1960.

Reed House...This Asheville, N.C., house was built in 1892 by Samuel Reed. Although Reed was a lawyer for tycoon George Vanderbilt, his life was “full of loss,” according to the local paranormal society. Five of his children died young. Then his wife passed away, and he followed her into the great beyond six months later.

The house was abandoned for a time, and then was purchased in 1973 and turned into a bed and breakfast. Now, it is known as the Biltmore Village Inn, a place where the sound of heavy boots can sometimes be heard, or a spectral game of pool takes place. Bedroom doors open and close by themselves, and the lights sometimes go on and off for no reason.

Franklin Castle.There are ghosts aplenty at Cleveland’s Franklin Castle, which is known as Ohio’s most haunted house. And no wonder: Among other things, a pile of baby skeletons was discovered in a small room at the rear of the house, the victim of some inept doctor, according to Forgotten, and a group of Nazis was gunned down in a political dispute. Today, babies can still be heard crying, the German Socialists’ conversation continues.

AMNewYork highlights some grizzly real estate in Gotham, including one Starbucks that was once the scene of a famous mob hit.

A secret, underground city under Tokyo

From The Japan Times:

During the Gulf War in 1991, Shun Akiba was one of only two foreign journalists reporting from Baghdad, along with Peter Arnett of CNN. With such experience and expertise, it would be reasonable to imagine him in great demand right now. Wrong.

Shun Akiba, a former high-level foreign reporter, has identified hundreds of kilometers of Tokyo tunnels whose purpose is unknown and whose very existence is denied.

Shun is on some kind of invisible blacklist. His book “Teito Tokyo Kakusareta Chikamono Himitsu” (“Imperial City Tokyo: Secret of a Hidden Underground Network”), published by Yosensha in late 2002, is already in its fifth edition. Yet Shun has found it impossible to get the media to take serious note, write reviews or offer interviews.

This is very strange because he has a great story — evidence of a network of tunnels and possibly an underground city beneath Tokyo that the public is totally unaware of. “Why am I ignored? Can I be on to something, and there is a conspiracy to silence me? I believe so.”


What changed his life was finding an old map in a secondhand bookstore. Comparing it to a contemporary map, he found significant variations. “Close to the Diet in Nagata-cho, current maps show two subways crossing. In the old map, they are parallel.”


Shun claims to have uncovered a secret code that links a complex network of tunnels unknown to the general public. “Every city with a historic subterranean transport system has secrets,” he says. “In London, for example, some lines are near the surface and others very deep, for no obvious reason.”

Sitting on the Ginza subway from Suehirocho to Kanda, he says, you can see many mysterious tunnels leading off from the main track. “No such routes are shown on maps.” Traveling from Kasumigaseki to Kokkai-gijidomae, there is a line off to the left that is not shown on any map. Nor is it indicated in subway construction records.

At Tameike-sanno on the Ginza Line, the first basement level is closed off, for official use only. “Go to the toilet on B2 and there is a door to B1, but locked.”

Also he investigates three large buildings in Hibiya that share an enormous underground car park. “This space was there before the buildings were independently constructed. What was it for?”

As for the Diet Library, this runs to eight floors underground, all closed to the public. A magazine that asks repeatedly to look around is always denied access.

Entire story well worth a read, but I thought I’d give the highlights for those in a hurry.

Vampires might not avoid Gilroy, CA anymore

I don’t know if we can call it “The Garlic Capital of the World”.

“There is one garlic grower left in Gilroy — he has probably 30 acres in the corner of a vegetable field.”

and, the reason for that is of course…”outsourcing”

China went from a measly 50,000 pounds of garlic a decade ago to 2 million to 3 million pounds last year, and for the first time more fresh garlic was imported into the U.S. than was produced in California. – Fresh Plaza

Skunky Dubloons

I thought that lime only went with Corona…Not Rainier. But I’m sure NOTHING you put with this cerveza will erase the “skunky.” Self respecting Pirates I’m sure would order up something else.

Buoys to mark 1899 shipwreck including Rainier beer bottles

More than 107 years after fire ravaged its masts and deck, the Hera’s hull and some of its cargo – including hundreds of bottles of Rainier beer – remain intact.

…Built in 1869, the Hera, a three-mast schooner, spent its first 30 years sailing between San Francisco and Australia; San Francisco and Portland, Ore.; and fishing for cod in the Bering Sea.

It departed Seattle for Honolulu in 1899 loaded with grain, the pianos, 1,800 barrels of lime, a knocked-down school house and 60,000 quart bottles of the Seattle Malting and Brewing Company’s Rainier beer. – Seattle PI

The wonder of the Orient Express

The most famous train in the world has an intriguing history:

In 1883, after a number of false starts, financial troubles and difficulties negotiating with various national railway companies, Nagelmackers’s Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (wagons-lits being French for “sleeper cars”) established a route from Paris to Istanbul, then called Constantinople. The newspapers dubbed it the “Orient Express”—though Istanbul was as far towards the “Orient” as this train would ever travel—and Nagelmackers embraced the name.

On October 4, the Orient Express set out on its first formal journey, with many journalists aboard to publicly marvel at the train’s luxury and beauty. (Nagelmackers, a clever showman, even arranged to have shoddy, decaying old Pullman cars stand in contrast on the tracks adjacent to the Express as it left Paris’s Gare de Strasbourg.) Aboard the train, the delighted passengers felt as though they’d entered one of Europe’s finest hotels; they marveled at the intricate wooden paneling, deluxe leather armchairs, silk sheets and wool blankets for the beds. The journey from Paris to Istanbul lasted a little over 80 hours.


The Orient Express became the train of choice for Europe’s wealthy and high-born, a rolling symbol of the economic disparities of its age. “Peasants in half a dozen countries would pause in their work in the fields and gape at the glittering cars and the supercilious faces behind the windows,” writes Cookridge. It came to be called “the King of Trains and the Train of Kings.”

Some of these kings exhibited very odd behavior on the train. Ferdinand of Bulgaria was observed locking himself in the bathroom, scared to death of assassins. Belgium’s King Leopold II rode the train to Istanbul after making elaborate arrangements to infiltrate a Turkish man’s harem. The king of Bulgaria, an amateur engineer, insisted that he be allowed to drive the train through his country, which he did at perilous speeds. Czar Nicholas II demanded that special cars be built for his visit to France, and some decades later the French President Paul Deschanel clumsily tumbled from one of these cars in the dead of night, an event that prompted such ridicule that he eventually resigned.

In its heyday, the train duly earned another nickname: “Spies’ Express.” Continent-hopping secret agents loved the train, writes Cookridge, since it simply “made their jobs so much easier and their travels much more comfortable.” One of the most remarkable of these agents was an Englishman named Robert Baden-Powell, who posed as a lepidopterist collecting samples in the Balkans. His intricate sketches of the forms and colors of butterfly wings were actually coded representations of the fortifications he spotted along the Dalmatian Coast, which served as great aids to the British and Italian navies during World War I.

‘Fiat lux’

A global, secret society’s not so secret headquarters is a Washington, D.C., tourist destination for the conspiracy minded. From The Smithsonian Magazine:

Mammoth sphinxes guard the House of the Temple of the Scottish Rite, a formidable neo-Classical building in the heart of Washington, D.C. Inside, Egyptian hieroglyphics adorn a soaring atrium. The building’s nine-foot-thick walls hold human remains. Bronze coiling snakes flank a large wooden throne, canopied in purple velvet, in a second-floor inner sanctum called the Temple Room, where men from around the world gather behind closed doors every two years. Over the centuries the select membership has included signers of the Declaration of Independence; George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Gerald Ford and 13 other presidents; Senators Charles Schumer and Robert Dole; Chief Justice Earl Warren and other Supreme Court justices. Formally they are known as Freemasons, but most people know them simply as Masons. And this artfully forbidding edifice, a mile from the White House, is their southern headquarters.

Long viewed by outsiders as a mysterious society and one of the world’s most powerful fraternities, Masons have recently become the object of even more curiosity as filmmakers and novelists mine Masonic legends and symbols for the stuff of conspiracy. In the 2004 thriller National Treasure, Nicolas Cage followed Masonic clues and invisible writing on the Declaration of Independence in search of a hidden cache of gold. Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, has said his next novel would involve Masonic architecture in Washington, D.C. His Web site challenges readers to find Masonic clues on the dust jacket of The Da Vinci Code. Perhaps because of such intrigue, the number of visitors to the temple has tripled over the past two years to 12,000.

Which shows that Masons have nothing to hide, says retired Maj. Gen. Armen Garabedian, a Mason for 49 years. “This secret thing stems from way back,” he says. “If we were a secret organization, tours would not be offered.” The temple has always been open to the public.

Masons, who number 1.3 million in the United States (down from the 1959 peak of 4 million), maintain that their organization is dedicated to philanthropy. The organization donates more than two million dollars a day to healthcare, education and other causes, according to its spokesperson. Still, even Masons acknowledge that the group’s origins are murky, though the fraternity probably emerged from a 15th-century medieval guild of master cathedral builders in Europe and evolved into an elite gentlemen’s club. Freemasonry arrived in the United States in the early 18th century. Originally an all-male, white organization, today’s Masons are ethnically diverse and some chapters include women.

By the early 1800s, actual tools of masonry, such as the compass and surveyor’s square, had come to symbolize building one’s own spiritual temple through virtue and discipline. The House of the Temple abounds in

ancient, if not always interpretable, symbols, from the 17-ton sphinxes flanking the entrance to nine-point stars, two-headed eagles and images of the Greek god Hermes. A stained-glass window bears the ancient Egyptian “all-seeing eye,” which, theorists of Freemason conspiracies like to note, also appears on the Great Seal of the United States, designed in 1782, and the dollar bill, which acquired the ocular icon in 1935, thanks to FDR, a Mason.

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