Sunday, October 27, 2013

Scary Places

I'm getting old.

 I don't really feel old, but I just attended my 20 year High School Reunion, so all evidence points to me being old.  Then again, I'm the same age as these people, and they don't look old, so maybe I'm not that old after all.

Anyway, while planning my trip back to my hometown of Louisville, KY, I found that my airplane ticket would be much cheaper if I stayed a couple of extra days - even after considering the cost of a couple more nights in a hotel and car rental.

So there I was, about to spend 5 days in my hometown.  My reunion was only going to occupy a single evening.  What would I do with all the extra time?

Well, since it's October, it only made sense to visit some Haunted places.  Did you know that Louisville is generally considered to be the city with the most Halloween events (per capita) in the country. There are a lot of spook alleys!   But I didn't want to spend a ton of money visiting all of them.  Instead I decided to visit some actual haunted places.  

I'll share a few with you.

The Goatman of Pope Lick Trestle

I don't have the time to talk about all the legends and theories about the Goatman, but here's a quick rundown.  
    The Goatman has a hairy body of a human and the head of a goat.  He haunts this trestle and the area surrounding it.  He is said to cause people to have an overwhelming urge to want to try and cross the trestle on foot.  

It's a VERY bad idea to try and cross it.

The trestle is 700 feet long and nearly 100 feet high.  There are no handrails or walls of any kind along the track.  There is no floor under the track, and the spaces between ties are big enough for a grown man's foot to fall through.

Additionally, the geography of the area makes it nearly impossible to hear or see a train coming until it's right on top of you.  People die trying to cross it.

When I was a teenager, my Mom overheard us talking about going out to see the trestle.  She didn't like the idea one bit.  I wasn't planning on actually trying to cross it, but my Mom was very adamant: "Promise me you will NEVER try to cross the trestle!"  I promised.

 So here I am 20 years later at the trestle.  I'm not dumb enough to think I could actually cross it successfully, I had no intention of even getting close.


But then again, I found myself here:

I don't know what that sign says because someone scribbled it out with spray paint.  And the chain on the gate is really lose, I could easily slip through without even sucking in my ample gut.  And it's only about 20 feet to the track.  I could quickly climb up there onto the track and not actually go more than a few feet out on the trestle.  I would be safe if I had to jump off because of a train.  And think of how awesome the picture would be - taken of the TOP of the trestle - out across the valley.

I was ready to do it, but then I had 2 thoughts.  The first was my Mom's voice making me promise to never try to walk on the trestle.  The second was "I don't think the cops will believe that I couldn't read the scribbled-out sign and I might spend my week seeing the inside of a jail".

So after a bit of an internal struggle, I decided to walk over and get some pictures of the forrest all around:  The Goatman's territory.

I walked about 20 feet (the same distance I would have gone if I went up to the track).  I heard a noise in the woods.

The Goatman?

I raised my camera with a zoom lens to see if I could see anything moving around in there.

The a huge racket sounded over my right shoulder!

Yes.  A train crossed the trestle.

If I had gone up there, I would have reached the track right as the train did.  

Twenty years later, my Mom saved my life.  Thanks mom.  

Now I'm trying hard to remember all the other things you told me when I was a kid.  I hope it didn't all just fly in one ear and out the other.

After my heart settled down I walked under the trestle and got some more pictures.  Like this one:

This picture is unique.  No one will ever be able to take this same photo if they go and visit the trestle.  I'm not going to say why.  

Hey, did you know that some Airport security people think that heavy, rusty, a-little-bit-sharp hunks of iron, like, I don't know, a railroad spike, might be used as a weapon on a plane.  And their bosses might think that it's no big deal because what are you going to do with it really, so you can go ahead and continue on as you were?  

It's true.

Eastern Cemetery

This cemetery is east of Cave Hill Cemetery (the place where Colonel Sanders is buried).  People began being buried here in the late 1700's, but it was officially incorporated in the 1830's.

The significant thing about this place is that it can hold about 30,000 plots. But there are actually about 130,000 people burried here.

Um, how is that even possible?

I'll tell you - and it's horrible!

Bodies are buried as much as five deep!  Now, I don't mean five coffins stacked on top of each other, I mean that they buried someone, then later, using a backhoe, dug them up, destroying the coffin and bones.  Then they buried someone else and filled it in with the dirt,coffin,and bones fragments. Then they did this again a total of five times!

The result is that sometimes when it rains, coffin parts are exposed.  Also, burrowing critters like groundhogs often push out bones and coffin pieces in their dirt.  You literally have to watch where you are walking to avoid steping on someone.

The incorporation that owns the cemetery is bankrupt and has done nothing to maintain the cemetery for decades.  Luckily there are some good souls who volunteer their time and money to try to keep it presentable.

Eastern Cemetery is filled with broken headstones.

And headstones covered by shrubbery.

And headstones that don't have a place.

And unmarked graves of slaves.

There is supposedly the ghost of a woman who wanders around the area where babies where buried. She apparently takes care of them.

I wanted to take home a souvenir from my visit here.  I found a tiny bone near an animal hole.  I almost took it, but then I thought that these poor people have been disturbed enough.  Anyway, for all I know, it was either an animal bone or just a piece of wood. So I left with only these photos as a souvenir.  

That's good enough.

Waverly Hills Sanatorium

If you ever watch any of those Ghost Hunters-type shows, you've probably heard of this place.  It's considered to be one of the most haunted places in the world.  
I got many of these pictures from the internet because they are very picky about not allowing photography (unless you pay them ridiculous amounts of money first).

I first visited this place 20-ish years ago with my brother and my cousin and some friends (I really can't remember exactly who was there).  It was very overgrown.  We parked some distance away and picked our way along a trail on foot.  There was a trail wide enough to walk single file, but you could tell it was cement or pavement.  It turns out, it was a full sized road that was just overgrown.  It's cleared now and you drive up on it.

So have the trees and brush that had grown up close to the walls.

I remember how terrifying that place was when I went as a teenager.  I didn't even know it was supposed to be haunted.

Waverly Hills was a tuberculosis hospital.  As many as 63,000 people may have died here.  There are tons of ghosts in it.  You can pay to do an overnight ghost investigation almost anytime of the year.  However, in October, they put on a spook alley on in the first floor to raise money toward the preservation of the building.   So you can't do any overnight tours.  But they do offer "mini-tours", where they lead you through the second, third, fourth and fifth floors. The tours last about 45 min.

I did this. 

And it was AWESOME!

And I saw ghosts!

The entire tour is done with the lights off.  No flashlights, no cellphones, nothing.  Your eyes get used to the dark and you become sensitive to slight changes in light and any movement that may happen.
On the fourth floor, I saw many, quick moving shadows and the shadow silhouette of a man.

We stopped at one end of a very long hallway.
There were open doorways all along both sides of the hall, so there were rectangles of moonlight along the floor - all the way down.  As we looked toward the end of the hall at the rectangle of a window, we would see periodic shadows moving toward us very quickly.  These light shadows would block the light coming from both sides of the hall, so the shadows were originating in the hall.

At the end of the hall, beside the window, I could see the silhouette of a man standing against the wall.  I thought it was one of the two tour guides.  We began walking down the hall toward the shadow figure, who seemed to be leaning against the wall, waiting for us.  When we were about 10 feet away, I was distracted by a noise to my left, I reflexively looked to my left, then realizzing it was nothing, looked forward again.

The man was gone!

In the time it took for me to look away and back again, he disappeard.

And there was nowhere for him to go!  No doors, no opened windows.

Freaking AWESOME!

After the tour, you could pay to take a "Coffin Ride".  You get locked into a coffin hooked up to hydraulics that lifts it and shakes it.  There are night vision cameras inside so the spectators can see your face throughout the ride.

Other Scary Locations:

U of L Old Medical School.

This was the site of "The Resurrectionist".  That was a guy in the early 1800's who would rob graves and bring the bodies to the medical school for research.  He would then dispose of the bodies by dropping them in a well a couple of blocks away.

The Hanging Tree

Now its just a fountain, but there used to be a tall tree here.  It was the site of numerous lynchings and several suicides.  Including a suicide in the early 1900's where a guy hung himself 50 feet off the ground.  It took 3 days before they were able to get him down because there were no ladders tall enough.

The Old Colgate Factory (Indiana)

The rumor is that those people who worked in the basement were paid extra for being brave enough to work amongst all the ghosts!

Other Things.

Here are a few other pictures of not-so-scary places:

My childhood home.

The Woods I Used to Play In.

The Tree We Built a Tree House In

The Belle of Louisville

Churchill Downs

Louisville Slugger

The Ohio River (and Indiana)

I got to catch up with several friends from school and church while I was there.  I love that place! I had an awesome time!

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Flying Anvil

At work there is this open common area that our offices surround.  We wanted to turn it into a comfortable, fun lounge area.  We decided to decorate it with a "backstage" theme.  One thing we were going to do is run several ropes up one wall to pulleys on the ceiling.  So we got some rope.  We planned on building a smoothie bar that would sit in front of the rope wall.  Someone came up with the idea of having a heavy object hanging from one of the ropes like a counter weight.

The obvious choice was a piano.

The problem is, that it couldn't be a real piano, because that wouldn't be very safe. Anyway, the folks down the hall got themselves an antique player piano and we didn't want to seem like copycats. So the next obvious choice was an anvil. And we would call the bar (and lounge) "The Flying Anvil".

We wanted the anvil to be unrealistically big.  The problem with that is that "unrealistically" means "not real".  You can't find things that are not real - I've tried.  So the obvious solution is to make a not-real anvil.  It would probably be safer too, which would please our facilities guys - and the lawyers.

People always ask me how I did things, so I'm putting the explanation here:

The first thing I did was some research.  I found pictures of real anvils and drew up orthographic diagrams to use as a template.

I was going to make it out of pink foam - the kind that is used for insulation.  It's the same stuff I used for tombstones.  So I took about 12 pieces of 2 inch foam and glued them all together to make a rectangular cube about 4 feet by 2 feet by 2 feet.

I used my template to draw the shape on a few sides of the foam. Using a number of tools:  a sawzall, bread knife, hacksaw, and drywall saw, I cut out the shape of the anvil.

In order for it to be believable as metal, the surface had to be very smooth.  The process of hacking out the shape, and the glued layers left lots of  cracks, dents, and holes.  The first thing I did was sand the whole thing.  I used an orbital sander, a dremmel tool, a multitool, and my hand with a sheet of sandpaper.

To fill the cracks and holes, I used joint compound.  If you are not familiar with this stuff, it's a type of plaster that is used for hiding the joints in drywall.  It has the consistency of peanut butter, so it can be spread very easily.  When it dries, it is very light, unlike heavier plaster of paris.

Once that dries (overnight), I sand it again.  The joint compound shrinks a bit when it dries, so I put another coat where needed to smooth out the surface.  Then I let it dry again, then sand again.

It's time to start painting. The pink foam can get pretty smooth, but there is always a bit of fuzziness to it. To smooth it even more, I prime the whole thing with a thick coat of latex-based house paint.  The color doesn't matter.  This paint will do a number of things to prepare it for the real paint.  It smooths the fuzzy surface, it fills micro cracks that may still remain, and it protects the foam from spray paint. Spray paint will eat away the foam.

So I paint the whole thing, let it dry, and then sand it.  Then I paint another coat and sand it again.  Now I've got a nice smooth surface that can take whatever paint I need to do next.

I thought it might be nice if there were some distress on the top surface that made it look well used.  I figured some hammer dents would do the trick.  So I hammered it with a rubber mallet.  If I were to hammer the pink, unpainted foam, it might tear or crack.  The layer of house paint adds some strength to it so you get dents without tears - pronounced like 'pairs' (but tears - like 'ears' would also apply).

Now its time to do the real painting.  I'll start with a base coat of silver spray paint.  This stuff is nice, but it never looks like real metal by itself.  For the look of old steel or iron, though, it's an important place to start.

After it dries and I sand it smooth, it's time to add some character.  I want to fill and dents or cracks with dark color.  I do this by making a black wash by simply adding water to some black acrylic paint in a bowl so that it has the consistency of milk.  Then I use a soft, damp rag, and sip it into the paint then rub and dab the black paint all over the surface.  I immediately wipe it off with a dry rag.  This leaves behind a nice patina of black in general, and a deeper black in the recesses.

You can see that I left some areas fairly rough.  These areas exist in real anvils as a result of the forging process.  It also allows for some interesting detail with the wash.

For another level of detail, I sprinkled some powdered graphite on the surface and rubbed it in with a soft cloth.. Graphite has a metallic feel to it, so it adds to the realism.  But be careful!  It's super messy, and even after you rub it on, it will come off onto anything that touches the surface.  We'll seal it later.

Nearly done now.  But no hunk of metal is going to last long without some oxidation happening.  I don't want it to be super rusty, but a hint of rust here and there will add a ton to the realism. Similar to the black wash, I prepare a rust wash using raw sienna and a touch of red.  Then I dab it here and there and wipe it off.  In some places, I didn't wipe it off to make it look more rusted.

 The last bit of painting to be done is to bring some silver back to the work surface.  I dry-brushed some silver acrylic paint across the to surface and the top of the horn with a rag.  I also dry-brushed some onto the edges where you might expect more wear to occur.
Finally, I sealed the graphite by spraying it with a light coat of clear gloss spray.  Once it's all dry, here's what you get:

It looks heavy.  Like it should weigh 1000 lbs.  But it actually weighs 2.8 lbs.  Less than 3 pounds!  Here's proof!  My kids are strong, but not 1000 lbs strong!

Sadly there were some office moves, so our plan for "The Flying Anvil" smoothie bar fell through.  But I've got a giant anvil and a bunch of rope.  What do I do with it?

I hang it over my office door of course.