Spooky Haunts: The Winchester House

Today, the house is known as the Winchester Mystery House, but at the time of its construction, it was simply Sarah Winchester’s House. Sarah Winchester was the widow of William Wirt Winchester, heir to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company.  Born around 1840, Sarah Winchester grew up in a world of privilege. She spoke four languages, attended the best schools around, married well, and eventually gave birth to a daughter, Annie. However, tragedy struck in her late twenties when Annie died, followed by the death of Sarah’s husband William more than a decade later.  After William’s death in 1881, Sarah inherited roughly $20 million (over $500 million in 2019 dollars) as well as fifty percent of the Winchester Arms company which left her with a continued income equal to $1,000 a day (or $26,000 a day in 2019 dollars).

Newly in possession of a massive fortune and struggling with the loss of her husband and daughter, she sought the advice of a medium. She hoped, perhaps, to get advice from the beyond as to how to spend her fortune or what to do with her life.  Though the exact specifics remain between Sarah Winchester and her medium, the story goes that the medium was able to channel dearly departed William, who advised Sarah to leave her home in New Haven, Connecticut, and head west to California. As far as what to do with her money, William answered that too; she was to use the fortune to build a home for the spirits of those who had fallen victim to Winchester rifles, lest she be haunted by them for the rest of her life.

In 1884, Sarah Winchester purchased what would later become known as the Winchester Mystery House. At the time of the sale, the house was a small unfinished farmhouse, but that quickly changed.  Winchester hired carpenters to work around the clock, expanding the small house into a seven-story mansion. Due to the lack of a plan and the presence of an architect, the house was constructed haphazardly; rooms were added onto exterior walls resulting in windows overlooking other rooms. Multiple staircases would be added, all with different sized risers, giving each staircase a distorted look.  Stranger so was the fact that many of the alterations seemed pointless. Staircases would ascend several levels then end abruptly, doors would open to solid walls, and hallways would turn a corner and end in a dead-end.

Additionally, Winchester insisted that the home be built exclusively out of redwood – however, she didn’t like the look of the wood, so she insisted it be covered with a stain and a faux grain. By the time the house was completed, over 20,000 gallons of paint had been used to cover the wood.  By the turn of the century, Sarah Winchester had her ghost house: an oddly laid out mansion, with seven stories, 161 rooms, 47 fireplaces, 10,000 panes of glass, two basements, three elevators, and a mysterious fun-house-like interior.

Anyone who set foot in the home could tell that no expense had been spared.  Gold and silver chandeliers hung from the ceilings above hand-inlaid parquet flooring. Dozens of artful stained-glass windows created by Tiffany & Co. dotted the walls, including some designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany himself. One window, in particular, was intended to create a prismatic rainbow effect on the floor when light flowed through it – of course, the window ended up on an interior wall, and thus the effect was never achieved.

Even more luxurious than the fixtures were the plumbing and electrical work. Rare for the time, the Winchester Mystery House boasted indoor plumbing, including coveted hot running water, and push-button gas lighting available throughout the home. Additionally, forced-air heating flowed throughout the house.

Unfortunately, in 1906, an earthquake struck San Jose, and the Winchester Mystery House sustained a hefty amount of damage. Thanks to the floating foundation (a foundation that equals the weight of the surrounding soil) the entire house was saved from collapse. The top three floors were ultimately removed, leaving the house with only four stories, as seen today.

Throughout the years-long construction of the Winchester Mystery House, Sarah Winchester would never confirm that she was building a haunted house. However, stories and rumors swirled throughout San Jose.

The contractors who worked on the house reported Winchester having daily seances with local mediums, in an effort to reach “good spirits.” These “good spirits” were reportedly consulted to find out how to best appease the spirits whom she was allegedly building the house for. These spirits are reportedly what called Winchester to make so many illogical additions to the home.

Far after the construction was completed, Winchester continued to make efforts to appease the victims of the Winchester rifles.  Out of the 13 bathrooms in the home, only one was functional, in an effort to confuse any ghosts wishing to haunt a spigot. Furthermore, she would sleep in a different room every night in the Winchester house, and use secret passageways to get from room to room so that no spirits could follow her.

In the years Sarah Winchester lived in the house, the residents of San Jose whispered about its strange construction and even stranger inhabitant, but it was in the years after her death that the wild stories became even wilder.   After her death in September of 1922, Sarah Winchester left all of her belongings to her niece, Marion, who had served as her personal secretary later in life. However, the Winchester Mystery House was never mentioned in her will, adding to the mystery of the home.   After appraisers deemed the house worthless due to its strange design, damage from the earthquakes, and long-winded construction, Marion took everything in it and auctioned it off. The current owners of the house claim it took six weeks to empty the house of all furniture, though the report is uncorroborated.

After the house was emptied, a local investor purchased the home for a cool $135,000. Just five months after Sarah Winchester died, the Winchester Mystery House was opened to the public for tours.

Inside the home…some of it looks quite lovely…some is just bizarre.

Sleepy Hollow

The Legend

Sleepy Hollow is a village in the town of Mount Pleasant, in Westchester County, New York.  The village is known internationally through “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, an 1820 short story about the local area and its infamous specter, the Headless Horseman, written by Washington Irving, who lived in Tarrytown and is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.

The “Legend” relates the tale of Ichabod Crane, a lean, lanky and extremely superstitious schoolmaster from Connecticut. Throughout his stay at Sleepy Hollow, Crane is able to make himself both “useful and agreeable” to the families that he lodges with. He occasionally assists with light farm work, helping to make hay, mend fences, caring for numerous farm animals, and cutting firewood. Besides his more dominant role as the Schoolmaster, Ichabod Crane also assists the various mothers of the town by helping to take care of their young children, taking on a more “gentle and ingratiating” role. Crane is also quite popular among the women of the town for his education and his talent for “carrying the whole budget of local gossip,” which makes him a welcomed sight within female circles.

 As a firm believer in witchcraft and the like, Crane has an unequaled “appetite for the marvelous,” which is only increased by his stay in “the spell-bound region” of Sleepy Hollow. A source of “fearful pleasure” for Crane is to visit the Old Dutch wives and listen to their “marvelous tales of ghosts and goblins,” haunted locations, and the tales of the Headless Horseman, or the “Galloping Hessian of the Hollow, as they sometimes called him.” Throughout the story, Ichabod Crane competes with Abraham “Brom Bones” Van Brunt, the town rowdy and local hero, for the hand of 18-year-old Katrina Van Tassel, the daughter and sole child of wealthy farmer Baltus Van Tassel. Ichabod Crane, a Yankee and an outsider, sees marriage to Katrina as a means of procuring Van Tassel’s extravagant wealth. Brom, unable to force Ichabod into a physical showdown to settle things, plays a series of pranks on the superstitious schoolmaster. The tension among the three continues for some time, and is soon brought to a head. On a placid autumn night, the ambitious Crane attends a harvest party at the Van Tassels’ homestead. He dances, partakes in the feast, and listens to ghostly legends told by Brom and the locals, but his true aim is to propose to Katrina after the guests leave. His intentions, however, are ill-fated, as he fails to secure Katrina’s hand.

Following his rejected suit, Ichabod rides home on his temperamental plough horse named Gunpowder, “heavy-hearted and crestfallen” through the woods between Van Tassel’s farmstead and the farmhouse in Sleepy Hollow where he is quartered at the time. As he passes several purportedly haunted spots, his active imagination is engorged by the ghost stories told at Baltus’ harvest party. After nervously passing a lightning-stricken tulip tree purportedly haunted by the ghost of British spy Major André, Ichabod encounters a cloaked rider at an intersection in a menacing swamp. Unsettled by his fellow traveler’s eerie size and silence, the teacher is horrified to discover that his companion’s head is not on his shoulders, but on his saddle.

In a frenzied race to the bridge adjacent to the Old Dutch Burying Ground, where the Hessian is said to “vanish, according to rule, in a flash of fire and brimstone” before crossing it, Ichabod rides for his life, desperately goading Gunpowder down the Hollow. However, while Crane and Gunpowder are able to cross the bridge ahead of the ghoul, Ichabod turns back in horror to see the monster rear his horse and hurl his severed head directly at him with a fierce motion. The schoolmaster attempts to dodge, but is too late; the missile strikes his head and sends him tumbling headlong into the dust from his horse.

The next morning, Gunpowder is found eating the grass at his master’s gate, but Ichabod has mysteriously disappeared from the area, leaving Katrina to later marry Brom Bones, who was said “to look exceedingly knowing whenever the story of Ichabod was related”. Indeed, the only relics of the schoolmaster’s flight are his discarded hat, Gunpowder’s trampled saddle, and a mysterious shattered pumpkin. Although the true nature of both the Headless Horseman and Ichabod’s disappearance that night are left open to interpretation, the story implies that the Horseman was really Brom (an extremely agile rider) in disguise, using a Jack-o’-lantern as a false head, and suggests that Crane survived the fall from Gunpowder and immediately fled Sleepy Hollow in horror, never to return but to prosper elsewhere, or was killed by Brom (which may be unlikely, since Brom was said to have “more mischief than ill-will in his composition”). Irving’s narrator concludes the story, however, by stating that the old Dutch wives continue to promote the belief that Ichabod was “spirited away by supernatural means”, and a legend develops around his disappearance and sightings of his melancholy spirit.

In a Postscript (sometimes unused in certain editions), the narrator states the circumstances in which he heard the story from an old gentleman “at a Corporation meeting at the ancient city of Manhattoes“, who didn’t “believe one-half of it [himself].”

The Village

Located 25 miles north of New York City along the eastern shore of the Hudson River, The Village of Sleepy Hollow offers a unique blend of natural beauty and urban amenities along with world-renowned historic landmarks and modern attributes.

While an unusual name, “Sunnyside” is a name for a home in Sleepy Hollow. Washington Irving took over ownership of the structure in the year of 1835. At that time, it was nothing more than a small, ordinary cottage. He and his family worked hard to renovate the structure, and took great pride in the final project. This home is a beautifully designed structure that sits on the bank of a river – the Hudson to be exact. You can get a good look at the river by a small, secret path that leads from the home to the banks of the river. It has been said that apparitions have appeared, doing various tasks. It is believed that the nieces of Irving are often seen tidying up the home. Many have claimed to have seen Irving himself.

If you would like to visit the grave of the famous Washington Irving, you can do so at the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. While there, you can also discover the final resting places of the following famous individuals: Andrew Carnegie, William Rockefeller, Walter Chrysler, and even the notable Elizabeth Arden. It has been said, on more than one occasion, that an apparition has been seen among the graves. Many who have walked through the cemetery often express the fact that they hear silent whispering which cannot be explained.

Old Dutch Church and Burial Ground – The burial grounds that are located at the Old Dutch Church are said to be among one of the oldest ones in all of the United States. It is said that the popular “Headless Horseman” can be clearly seen making his route through and around these burial grounds. When visiting here, you can see some very popular names on the grave stones. These include Eleanor Van Tassel Brush, who Washington Irving used a personality called “Katrina” from his story. Abraham Martling, who was reflected as the character “Brom Bones” can also be discovered here.

Patriot’s Park – If you go to the area that is between the cities of Sleepy Hollow, and Tarrytown, you will discover a park. During the American Revolutionary War, the Americans captured a soldier that was of Hessian decent. He was immediately executed by way of beheading. An apparition that lacks a head is often said to linger throughout the park grounds. Irving took this legend of the soldier that is headless for his tale.

If You’re Going Through Hell, You Must Be in Pennsylvania

In May of 1962, the town council of Centralia, Pennsylvania met to discuss their new landfill.

Earlier in the year, Centralia had built a 50-foot-deep pit that covered an area about half the size of a football field to deal with the town’s problem with illegal dumping. However, the landfill was getting full and needed clearing before the town’s annual Memorial Day celebration.  At the meeting, council members proposed a seemingly obvious solution: burning out the landfill.

At first, it seemed to work. The fire department lined the pit with an incombustible material to contain the fire, which they lit on the night of May 27, 1962. After the landfill’s contents were ash, they doused the remaining embers with water.  However, two days later, residents again saw flames, and then again, a week later on June 4. Centralia firefighters were baffled as to where the recurring fire was coming from. They used bulldozers and rakes to stir up the remains of the burned garbage to try to locate the concealed flames.   Finally, they discovered the cause.

At the bottom of Centralia’s trash pit, next to the north wall, was a hole 15-feet wide and several feet deep. Waste had concealed the gap. As a result, it had not been filled with fire-retardant material.  And the hole provided a direct pathway to the labyrinth of old coal mines over which Centralia was built.  Soon, residents began complaining of foul odors entering their homes and businesses, and they noted wisps of smoke coming out of the ground around the landfill.

The town council brought in a mine inspector to check the smoke, who determined that the levels of carbon monoxide in them were indeed indicative of a mine fire. They sent a letter to the Lehigh Valley Coal Company (LVCC) stating that a “fire of unknown origin” was burning under their town.  The council, the LVCC, and the Susquehanna Coal Company, which owned the coal mine in which the fire was now burning, met to discuss ending the fire as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. But before they reached a decision, sensors detected lethal levels of carbon monoxide seeping from the mine, and all Centralia-area mines were immediately shut down.

 The commonwealth of Pennsylvania tried to stop the spreading of the Centralia fire several times, but all attempts were unsuccessful.

The first project involved excavating beneath Centralia. Pennsylvania authorities planned to dig out the trenches to expose the flames so they could extinguish them. However, the plan’s architects underestimated the amount of earth that would have to be excavated by more than half and eventually ran out of funding.   The second plan involved flushing out the fire by using a mixture of crushed rock and water. But uncommonly low temperatures at the time caused the water lines to freeze, as well as the stone grinding machine.  The company also worried that the amount of mixture they possessed could not completely fill the warren of mines, so they elected to fill them only halfway, leaving ample room for the flames to move.  Eventually, their project also ran out of funding after going almost $20,000 over budget. By then, the fire had spread by 700 feet.

But that didn’t stop people from going about their daily lives, living above the hot, smoking ground. The town population was still about 1,000 by the 1980s, and residents enjoyed growing tomatoes in the midwinter and not having to shovel their sidewalks when it snowed.

In 2006, Lamar Mervine, the then-90-year-old mayor of Centralia, said people learned to live with it. “We’d had other fires before, and they’d always burned out. This one didn’t,” he said.

Twenty years after the fire started, however, Centralia, Pennsylvania began to feel the effects of its eternal flame underground. Residents started passing out in their homes from carbon monoxide poisoning. The trees began to die, and the ground turned to ash. Roads and sidewalks began to buckle.  The real turning point came on Valentine’s Day in 1981, when a sinkhole opened up underneath 12-year-old Todd Domboski’s feet. The ground was searing and the sinkhole was 150-feet deep. He only survived because he was able to grab ahold of an exposed tree root before his cousin arrived to pull him out. In the 1980s, Pennsylvania ordered everyone out to raze the town’s buildings and the federal government even revoked its ZIP code.

By 1983, Pennsylvania had spent more than $7 million trying to put out the fire with no success. A child had almost died. It was time to abandon the town. That year, the federal government appropriated $42 million to purchase Centralia, demolish the buildings, and relocate the residents.  But not everybody wanted to leave. And for the next ten years, legal battles and personal arguments between neighbors became the norm. The local newspaper even published a weekly list of who was leaving. Finally, Pennsylvania invoked eminent domain in 1993, by which point only 63 residents remained. Officially, they became squatters in houses they had owned for decades.

Even so, that didn’t put an end to the town. It still had a council and a mayor, and it paid its bills. And over the next two decades, residents fought hard to stay legally.  In 2013, the remaining residents — then fewer than 10 — won a settlement against the state. Each was awarded $349,500 and ownership of their properties until they die, at which point, Pennsylvania will seize the land and finally demolish what structures remain.

Mervine recalled choosing to stay with his wife, even when offered a bailout. “I remember when the state came and said they wanted our house,” he said. “She took one look at that man and said, ‘They’re not getting it.’”  “This is the only home I’ve ever owned, and I want to keep it,” he said. He died in 2010 at the age of 93, still illegally squatting in his childhood home. It was the last remaining building on what was once a three-block-long stretch of row houses.

Fewer than five people still live in Centralia, PA. Experts estimate there is enough coal underneath Centralia to fuel the fire for another 250 years.  And the abandoned Route 61 that leads into the town center was also given new life for many years. Artists transformed this three-quarter-mile stretch into a local roadside attraction known as the “graffiti highway.”

Even as the pavement cracked and smoked, people came from around the country to leave their mark. By the time a private mining company purchased the land and filled the road with dirt in 2020, nearly the entire surface was covered by spray paint.

Today, Centralia, Pennsylvania is better known as a tourist attraction for people looking to glimpse one of the plumes of noxious smoke rising from beneath the earth. The surrounding forest has crept in where a once-thriving main street was lined with long-demolished stores.

“People have called it a ghost town, but I look at it as a town that’s now full of trees instead of people,” resident John Comarnisky said in 2008.

“And truth is, I’d rather have trees than people.”

Fonthill Castle, Doylestown, PA

Fonthill Castle was the home of the archaeologist and tile maker Henry Chapman Mercer. Built between 1908 and 1912, it is an early example of poured-in-place concrete and features 44 rooms, over 200 windows, 18 fireplaces, 10 bathrooms and one powder room. It is modeled after a 13th-century Rhenish castle, with Gothic doorways, 32 sudden stairways, dead ends and the 44 rooms are each in a different shape. It’s said that Harvard-educated Henry Chapman Mercer built his storybook stone mansion, with its turrets and balconies, from the inside out and without using blueprints.

The interior was originally painted in pastel colors, but age and sunlight have all but eradicated any hint of the former hues. One room in the Terrace Pavilion (built on the site of the former home’s barn), has a restored paint job so visitors can view the home’s former glory. The castle contains built-in furniture and is embellished with decorative tiles, made by Mercer at the height of the Arts and Crafts movement. The castle is filled with an extensive collection of ceramics embedded in the concrete of the house, as well as other artifacts from his world travels, including cuneiform tablets discovered in Mesopotamia dating back to over 2300 BCE. The home also contains around 1,000 prints from Mercer’s extensive collection, as well as over six thousand books, almost all of which were annotated by Mercer himself.

The Castle was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, and was later included in a National Historic Landmark District along with the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works and the Mercer Museum. These three structures are the only poured-in-place concrete structures built by Mercer. The Moravian Pottery and Tile Works is located on the same property as Fonthill Castle, and the Mercer Museum is located about a mile away.

Henry Chapman Mercer, an expert in prehistoric archaeology, a homespun architect and a writer of Gothic tales, built three memorable structures, including Fonthill Castle, the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works and the Mercer Museum. These historic attractions make up what’s now known as the Mercer Mile.  Each of the buildings was constructed with reinforced concrete using a technique perfected by Mercer in the early part of the 1900s.

Mercer’s collection of books, prints and Victorian engravings are preserved in this grand home, whose stark concrete exterior belies the ornate and eccentric style of the interior.

Interior pictures:

Grand Canyon, PA

Fall is my favorite time to visit the Grand Canyon in Wellsboro, PA.  Unlike its larger cousin in Colorado, the Grand Canyon in PA is tree lined and offers stunning fall views!

Two State Parks, Leonard Harrison on the east rim and Colton Point on the West Rim, offer nearly 1,000 acres for outdoor recreation and are separated by the 47 mile long Pine Creek Gorge. The Gorge, also known as the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, is 800 feet deep in the area of the parks.

Hiking the PA Grand Canyon

Everything from short strolls on ADA compliant paths to 30 miles of backcountry hiking and backpacking can be found at Leonard Harrison and Colton Point State Parks.  Overlook trails at both parks are quite short, with easy trails ending in rewarding views. The trails are well marked from beginning to end.  The Turkey Path trails in both parks are short but quite steep, taking hikers to the bottom of the gorge. See Pine Creek up close, and catch a glimpse of some waterfalls at the bottom.

If backpacking is your style, check out the West Rim Trail. This 30 mile trail can be covered in 2-3 days with primitive campsites along the way. No fees or permits are required if only spending one night at any given campsite.

Also of note: the trails around the PA Grand Canyon are dog friendly! Well-behaved, leashed dogs are welcome, as long as they are cleaned up after.

Rafting & Boating Through the PA Grand Canyon

Bring your own kayak, canoe, or tubes to float down Pine Creek. There are places to rent canoes and kayaks with various trip length packages available, from just a few hours to multi day endeavors. Campsites are available at multiple sites along the river, but must be registered (for free) ahead of time. The water flowing through the Pine Creek Gorge can be at times considered Class II rapids. Upper Pine offers a more leisurely float trip, for those wanting a relaxing adventure.

A few words about the conditions and water levels, for safety! Safety recommendations for temperature advise wet suits for air temperatures under 75 degrees. Don’t fall victim to hypothermia! The water levels can change quickly in the summer and fall, so prepare to be flexible with your intended itinerary. Sometimes, floating in a tube is the only option due to the low water.

Catch a ride on a train or old-fashioned wagon

The Tioga Central Railroad offers trips both during the day and sunset times to view the Pennsylvania countryside. Enjoy both enclosed and open-air cars to take in the scenery.

If you’re not into trains, you can hop on an “Ole Covered Wagon,” a horse drawn wagon tour, to catch views of the Gorge and other scenic points of interest along the way. Tours are tailored to some of the more seasonal attractions, and they travel along the Pine Creek Trail.

Additional pictures of the canyon…

Kinzua Sky Walk

Located at the Kinzua Bridge State Park in northwestern Pennsylvania, the skywalk was constructed on six of the historic Kinzua Viaduct massive steel towers remaining after the tornado of 2003. The Kinzua Viaduct was once the highest and longest railroad viaduct in the world. The park amenities include forestland picnic areas, a park pavilion-available for rental, hiking trails and the new Kinzua Bridge State Park Visitors Center. The access road to the park is the Kinzua Bridge Scenic Byway a shared use road for bicycling.
The Kinzua Sky Walk extends out 624 feet into the Kinzua Gorge offering panoramic views. The skywalk features a walkway with a set of railroad tracks leading to the end of the overlook which has a partial glass floor. At a stunning height of 225 feet above the valley floor, visiting the Kinzua Sky Walk is an exciting opportunity to “Walk the Tracks across the Sky.”

Kinzua Visitor’s Center

Start your journey at the Kinzua Bridge Visitors Center, located at the edge of the Kinzua Gorge. Arriving at the entrance, visitors are greeted by huge steel towers flanking the doorway. The new 11,000 sq. ft. building features two exhibit halls with displays showcasing the three E’s – Engineering, Energy and the Environment. The flagship PA Wilds Cooperative Artisan Shop features handcrafted and handmade items from the region. Modern classrooms welcome school groups and special functions.

Are you brave enough to experience this sky walk in Pennsylvania? Mother Nature simply won’t take no for an answer but, then again, neither will the Kinzua Bridge. When Mother Nature unleashed her fury with a furious tornado that ripped through Kinzua State Park in 2003, she succeeded in bringing down all but one-third of the 2,053 foot long Kinzua Bridge.

But, despite the vicious storm, part of the Kinzua Bridge refused to collapse. Today, the 600 feet of bridge that survived has become one of the state’s most spectacular sky walks, promising visitors a stunning view of the forest floor and the remains of the bridge scattered haphazardly some 300 feet below.

Destroyed Bridge
Glass Floor

Old Bedford Village in PA

Old Bedford Village in Bedford County is a living history museum that gives you a glimpse into what life was like in western Pennsylvania from 1700 until 1899. Rather than viewing old photos and dusty relics, visitors learn by seeing reenactors demonstrating activities that would have been common in Bedford County from colonial times up through the Civil War.  Like any good museum, there is a visitor center and a gift shop, but the bulk of your visit to Old Bedford Village will be spent touring the 40-plus buildings that make up this replica of a western PA frontier village.

The History of Old Bedford Village

The land on which Old Bedford Village sits today was once occupied by a Monongahela village, sometime between 1250 and 1600 A.D. Today the Shoop House at Old Bedford Village houses an impressive collection of artifacts and exhibits related to those Native Americans who once called this land home.

Construction of Old Bedford Village began in 1974, to promote the area’s rich historic heritage and in preparation for America’s Bicentennial in 1976.  Many of the buildings at Old Bedford Village are in fact authentically old – they were disassembled elsewhere in the county are reassembled on new lots at the museum.  The Eight-Square School, for example, was built in Bedford County in 1851, and utilized this unique shape to allow for equal distribution of light and heat.

exterior of Eight Square School
interior of Eight Square School

TheClaycomb Covered Bridge was built elsewhere in the county in 1844, and was later dismantled and relocated to Old Bedford Village, where it now serves as the entrance to the property.

As a living history museum, many artisans occupy various shops around the village, demonstrating their trades and wares. Gunsmiths, blacksmiths, tinsmiths, and candlemakers are just a few of the artisans you can watch, and in some cases, buy their finished products.  Some of the shops, like the tinsmith shop, allow you to try your own hand at these frontier skills.

Aside from arts and crafts shops, you can also see what a typical frontier home looked like at Old Bedford Village.

Old Bedford Village is located at 220 Sawblade Rd, Bedford, PA 15522, just south of the I99/ PA Turnpike interchange.  In addition to the permanent exhibits there, Old Bedford Village hosts many special events during the year.

(Pat’s note: there is also a special spot reserved for unruly children and politicians…lol)

Source: PABucketlist.com

National Lighthouse Day

In honor of National Lighthouse Day, I present 10 amazing lighthouses from Michigan–the state with the most lighthouses in the whole country. With it’s 3,200 miles of shoreline, Michigan has about 115 lighthouses! Tall and elegant or short and utilitarian, beautifully restored or lying silently forgotten, they are worth a visit. Many of Michigan’s lighthouses are open for tours, if only seasonally. Others are home to bed and breakfast lodging or museums. Still, others are privately owned or otherwise inaccessible, inviting admiration from afar a few souvenir photographs. Here are some of my favorites…

Grand Island East Channel Lighthouse | Photo Courtesy of Trevor Mahlmann

Built in 1870, Grand Island’s East Channel light sits surrounded by the wilderness of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Although the light is privately owned and inaccessible to travelers, its weathered wooden exterior is so attractive that shutterbugs are still drawn to photograph the light on boat cruises through the channel.

Granite Island Lighthouse in Marquette | Photo Courtesy of Instagram fan emmafink

Tiny Granite Island pokes up above the surface of Lake Superior north of the city of Marquette, its rocky promontory topped with the Granite Island Lighthouse. Originally built in 1869, the stone lighthouse fell into horrid repair after its decommissioning. But a complete renovation of the light was completed in 2011. The Granite Island Lighthouse is available to rent for special functions.

Port Austin Reef Lighthouse | Photo Courtesy of Instagram fan michiganskymedia

Built in 1878, the striking six-story Port Austin Reef Light sits in a shallow area of Saginaw Bay nearly 2 miles from the mainland. The six-story tower and its adjoining keeper’s house were crafted of a tough, buff-colored brick meant to withstand the most severe weather conditions. The lovely Queen Anne “Castle on the Lake” isn’t open to tours but can be viewed up close via boat.

Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse | Photo Courtesy of Trevor Mahlmann

In the 19th century, the narrow Straits of Mackinac were no tourist attraction. They ranked among the most treacherous stretches of water for mariners. Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse, the unusual Norman Revival “Castle of the Straits,” began illuminating the shipping lane in 1889. The light served an immensely important role until 1957 when the Mackinac Bridge and its superior navigational aids rendered the lighthouse obsolete. Costumed interpreters guide visitors through the lighthouse tower, a restored keeper’s quarters as well as the Straits Shipwreck Museum.

Bois Blanc Light | Photo Courtesy of Instagram fan katielx

Set on an island neighboring Mackinac Island, the Bois Blanc Lighthouse stands out from its wooded backdrop, its tower and keeper’s quarters of sand-colored brick, the lantern atop its 38-foot tower a vivid white. The light was constructed in 1867 and operated along the Lake Huron shoreline until the mid-1920s. Today the light is privately owned and can only be enjoyed from a distance, by boat.

Grand Traverse Lighthouse | Photo Courtesy of Trevor Mahlmann

Set at the end of the Leelanau Peninsula near Traverse City, the 1858 Grand Traverse Lighthouse stands vividly white and red against the deep green pine forests and turquoise waters of Lake Michigan. Visitors can climb to the top of the lighthouse tower and explore the keeper’s quarters, which have been restored to their 1920s and ‘30s appearance.

Ludington North Breakwater Light | Photo Courtesy of Mark Miller Photography

The white, bullet-shaped Ludington North Breakwater Lighthouse sits at the end of a pleasant pier in the heart of Ludington, surrounded by the beach and playground facility at Stearns Park. Built in 1924, the light is open to tower climbs all summer long.

Holland Harbor Lighthouse | Photo Courtesy of Brian Hammond

Referred to merely as Big Red by locals, the Holland Harbor Lighthouse dates from 1907. Fire-engine-red against the blue waters of Lake Michigan, the lighthouse sits at the end of the city’s southern pier, which in turn leads to Lake Macatawa and Holland’s working docks. Entrance to the lighthouse tower is rare, and to its grounds through a gated community. It is best to enjoy Big Red from the beach at Holland State Park, just across the channel.

St. Joseph North Pier Outer Lighthouse | Photo Courtesy of Pure Michigan

In 1907 St. Joseph extended its pier by 1,000 feet, rendering its 1859 lighthouse obsolete. In its place were built the North Pier Inner and Outer Lights that you see today. The white lights rank as a beloved landmark in St. Joseph, the lights are still joined by their original catwalk. Access to the lights themselves is prohibited, but visitors and locals enjoy walking the pier to see the lights up close. Good photo opportunities can be had at Tiscornia and Silver Beach Parks.

40 Mile Point Lighthouse (Rogers City) Photo Courtesy of Mike Fritcher

This lovely brick lighthouse in Rogers City sits tucked among greenery and trees, giving it an almost ethereal appearance. You’ll want to snap a few photos of the picturesque building, which was constructed in 1896. Depending on the time of year, it’s also possible to climb to the top and enjoy the breathtaking view of the Great Lake.

This map details a lighthouse road trip: driving time for this lighthouse road trip in Michigan is just over 18 hours, so if you want to stop and get out at each lighthouse you’ll probably want to plan on doing the trip over a long weekend.

Genghis Khan’s Bizarre Burial: Hidden Graves

There’s an ancient legend that Mongolian Ruler Genghis Khan desired that no one ever know the location of his grave, so he sent an army of men to murder anyone who came in contact with the funeral procession.

The Mausoleum of Genghis Khan is an ornate blue and white octagonal hall. It’s a top-rated tourist attraction outside of Ordos City in Inner Mongolia, which is an autonomous region landlocked inside of China. As many as 8,000 tourists visit each day to pay tribute to Genghis Khan. The main hall of the mausoleum contains a cenotaph – that’s a fancy word for a burial monument that contains no body. That’s because for 794 years, no one has ever figured out where Genghis Khan was buried.

The Mongolian ruler Genghis Khan was born sometime around 1162 near the Burkhan Khaldun mountain in Mongolia. He was the founder and the first Khan – which is a title meaning emperor of the Mongol Empire. His legacy is being an absolutely brutal conquerer.

His armies conquered hundreds of cities and murdered millions of people. In doing so, he created the largest contiguous land Empire in the history of the world – a mass of land equal to around the size of the continent of Africa. Genghis Khan’s Mongol Empire stretched as far West as modern day Poland and as far South as what is now Egypt. While he is remembered for ruthlessness and violence, he was once remembered for spreading culture, science and technology to many parts of the world. His empire was ethnically and racially diverse. He is considered the most successful military conquerer of all time.

The last conquest of Genghis Khan was Yinchuan, the capital of the Western Xia province of China. The Mongols conquered the city and slaughtered it’s entire population in 1227. It’s believed that it was during that battle that Genghis Khan died. No one is certain how he died. Theories range from being killed in battle to falling off his horse to dying from wounds he sustained while hunting – which is a theory that was spread by explorer Marco Polo. A legend that was circulated later was that he was killed by a Western Xia Princess that he had abducted.

The army that the Khan had amassed when he died was more than 129,000 men. So why is it that one of the most famous humans to have walked the Earth has an unknown burial site? The simple answer is he wanted it that way.

Quite a few famous people from history have lost, unmarked or unknown graves. Take Mozart. When Mozart was buried, he was buried in a common grave. He wasn’t ultra wealthy and he wasn’t aristocracy, and as such, his grave was subject to excavation after a period of ten years after his death. This was the practice in Vienna at the time as there wasn’t enough room in the cemeteries. After a period of 10 years, the remains were gathered and added together with other interments to consolidate space. Because of this, over the years, the actual remains of Mozart were lost.

Alexander the Great’s current tomb is unknown. After he was entombed, his grave was repeatedly raided and looted. It was moved, but since then sea levels have changed, earthquakes have changed the land, and entire cities have been built over what was once ancient Alexandria.

Alexander the Great Sarcophagus

Atilla the Hun, Cleopatra – many rulers from history have graves that are now lost. But looking at the burials of people closer to our time might help us to understand why some would want their gravesites to be hidden.

The grave of John Belushi became a place for people to party. The family didn’t like this, nor did the cemetery, so he was moved to a quiet hillside cemetery. The family says that his grave marker there doesn’t actually mark the site of his grave, which has been kept a secret. [Who knows if he is actually buried at either of these sites!]

Nobody knows the location of the gravesite of Steve Jobs. He was a very private person and his family made sure that the location of his gravesite at Alta Mesa Cemetery in Palo Alto has been kept a secret. People wishing to pay respects can sign the guest book at the front lobby of the cemetery.

Going back in time to the 13th century, Genghis Khan had been explicit in the years previous to his death about how he wanted to be buried. He left very detailed instructions about what was to be done to ensure his wish was granted – that no one would ever know where he was buried. This was a tradition in his tribe.

Much of this is legend and very difficult to prove. The sources that are commonly pointed to are that of Marco Polo who journeyed across Asia at the time of the Mongolian Empire, and the Altan Tobchi, which is a 17th century chronicle of Mongolian customs.

The funeral procession was carried out by an army of 800 soldiers. Those soldiers murdered anyone who they encountered on the procession, as well as everyone who attended Genghis Khan’s funeral. They reached the likely site of his burial near the Burkhan Khaldun mountain and Onon River, buried him, and were then killed by a separate group of soldiers who came in at that point. A thousand horses were led to trample the ground of the entire region to obscure any trace of the burial. Additional legends even go so far as to suggest the Mongols redirected the flow of the Onon River to cover the region where Khan was buried.

This is how important it was to Genghis Khan for his burial place to remain a secret. I mean, after you’ve killed as many as 40 million people establish your empire, what are a few thousand more? There have been countless expeditions through the years to locate the body of Genghis Khan. None have been successful. Partly, this is due to the fact that Mongolians don’t want him to be found – they tend to respect the tradition and wishes of the ruler. Some superstitions claim that if the burial is ever discovered, the world will end.

This is probably linked to the fact that in 1941, the tomb of 14th Century Mongolian ruler Tamarlane was opened by Soviet Archaeologists and soon after, Nazis invaded The Soviet Union.

It’s been made even more difficult for researchers to find the site because the region around Burkhan Khaldun mountain has been made into a UNESCO World Heritage Site and as such is off limits for any sort of excavation or research.

Mongolia Badaam Festival

For Mongolians, they’re happy he’s never going to be found. In Mongolia, Genghis Khan is their most celebrated figure. He’s immortalized with statues and monuments throughout the nation and his face appears on their money. The rest of the world may see him as a vicious murderer and conquerer, but for Mongolians, he’s the ruler that united the East and West. He established what would become the Silk Road to enable trade and commerce for future generations. And for that, they want to continue to respect his final wishes.

1000 Tögrög Note Of Mongolia

The Legendary Tayos Caves of Ecuador

The Tayos caves of Ecuador are a legendary vast natural underground network of caves spanning many kilometres, very little of which has been officially explored. The Tayos caves (Cueva de los Tayos) reached worldwide attention in 1973 when Erich von Däniken released his bestselling and controversial book ‘The Gold of the Gods’, in which he claimed that piles of gold, unusual sculptures, and a library of metal tablets had been found in a series of artificial tunnels within the caves. Tayos was also mentioned as the location of Father Crespi’s collection of mysterious golden artifacts, given to him by the indigenous people of Ecuador. Ancient Origins recently carried out the first of a series of expeditions to the caves to explore just what lies within this enigmatic subterranean world. Here are some of the never-before-seen photographs of the caves.

Hidden Entrance
Taos Caves
Rock Formations in Tayos Caves
Walking thru a small alley in Tayos Caves

Rapelling down a Tayos Cave

Legendary Metal Library in Tayos Caves

The elusive Metal Library in the Tayos Caves

Library of Metal Books

Map of massive Caves of Tayos
Father Crespi plays a big part in this story because the local tribes’ people liked him and gave him artifacts as gifts. They gave him so many artifacts throughout his 60 years of being a missionary in Ecuador, that he displayed them and opened a local museum for all to see.

Neil Armstrong the astronaut and treasure hunting? That’s correct. Neil heard about Father’s Crespi‘s collection and he traveled down to see them. It wasn’t long until people came to the realization that points to one fact; these artifacts must have come from a nearby area, and the local tribes know of their whereabouts.

People started to research and even though the village people were closed-mouthed of the location of more artifacts and where they came from, people learned of a great mystery. The local tribespeople knew of an ancient site that they deemed spiritual and secret. People started to learn that these modern day village people knew of a great underground city that they have been protecting for hundreds, maybe thousands of years.

After further inquiring, people learned that the local people were not as friendly about this story and inquiries as they thought. These village people gave the gifts to Father Crepsi out of love and respect but these local tribes didn’t want outsiders to learn about the ancient site.

Neil Armstrong and his large group of professionals and military men did learn that there was a massive cave system not far away.

Could this be the site where Father Crepsi’s artifacts came from? After a large man-scaled hunt, Neil Armstrong’s group did in fact find a cave system. In this cave system, they did find man-made structures, carved tunnels, rooms, and more. It was an exciting find. Newspapers and magazines wrote about the discoveries and the world thought that the collection of artifacts from this lost civilization would be found. The hunt wasn’t unsuccessful but Neil and his group didn’t find the lost treasure that they were hoping to find.

Neil Armstron in the Tayos Caves