November 20, 2007

The Baker Hotel

One of my favorite shows on TV is entitled Dead Famous. Two people, a sensitive and a sceptic go and try to find the ghosts of dead celebrities. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, there is some damn good historical knowledge to be gained from watching the show.

On one episode they were investigating the legend of Bonnie & Clyde. The famous outlaw lovers that met their end with police on May 23, 1934 in Bienville Parish, Louisiana. Chris Fleming (the sensitive) and Gail Porter (the sceptic) visit the historic Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells, Texas, a favorite hang out of Bonnie & Clyde.

The Baker Hotel construction began in 1926 and opened in 1929, just two weeks after Black Friday. Built by T. B. Baker at the height of the roaring 20s the hotel welcomed quite a few celebrities, including Judy Garland, Clark Gable, the Three Stooges, Lyndon Johnson, Helen Keller, and Ronald Reagan. The Baker Hotel closed it's doors for good in 1972 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

To walk into the hotel now is to walk back in time. It's amazingly beautiful even though it is in a state of bad deterioration. The hotel is supposedly home to quite a few ghosts, disembodied voices, and flying orbs.
Check out this links on the hotel:

November 16, 2007

Tacoma's Stadium High School

High school students living in Tacoma Washington have an awesome high school. Dubbed "Castle on the hill" Tacoma High school definitely looks like it is set in a English country side in the 1600s rather than a modern day high school. The school was featured in the movie 10 Things I Hate about You. I didn't really care for the movie, it was the school that caught my eye. I was ecstatic to found out it was an actual building and not a set.

The building was meant to be a luxury hotel and construction began in 1891 but the depression and a fire hampered the construction and the dreams of it becoming of Washington's most beautiful hotel. It was converted into a high school in 1906.

November 4, 2007

The Undertaking

"A man that I work with named Wesley Rice once spent all of one day and all night carefully piecing together the parts of a girl's cranium. She'd been murdered by a madman with a baseball bat after he'd abducted and raped her. . . . Most embalmers, faced with what Wesley Rice was faced with after he'd opened the pouch from the morgue, would have simply said "closed casket," treated the remains enough to control the odor, zipped the pouch, and gone home for cocktails. It would have been easier. The pay was the same. Instead, he started working. Eighteen hours later the girl's mother, who had pleaded to see her, saw her. She was dead, to be sure, and damaged; but her face was hers again, not the madman's version. The hair was hers, not his. The body was hers, not his. Wesley Rice had not raised her from the dead nor hidden the hard facts, but he had retrieved her death from the one who had killed her. He had closed her eyes, her mouth. He'd washed her wounds, sutured her lacerations, pieced her beaten skull together, stitched the incisions from the autopsy, cleaned the dirt from under her fingernails, scrubbed the fingerprint ink from her fingertips, washed her hair, dressed her in jeans and a blue turtleneck, and laid her in a casket beside which her mother stood for two days and sobbed as if something had been pulled from her by force. It was the same when her pastor stood with her and told her "God weeps with you." And the same when they buried the body in the ground. It was then and always will be awful, horrible, unappeasably sad. But the outrage, the horror, the heartbreak belonged, not to the murderer or the media or the morgue, each of whom had staked their claims to it. It belonged to the girl and to her mother. Wesley had given them the body back . . . it was what we undertakers call a good funeral."

That's an excerpt from the book: The Undertaking: Life studies from the dismal trade. The author named Thomas Lynch is a hometown mortician. I saw a documentary on Mr. Lynch and his business Lynch & Sons on PBS entitled The Undertaking. It provide a intimate look into the life of a undertaker, how they carefully balance overwhelming emotion with business.. The book is beautifully written giving the reader a sense of mortality. I highly recommend you check out both the book and the documentary.

October 19, 2007

What's with all the dead people?

I hear that question often, along with getting the look, the look that I just sprouted antlers, when someone finds out about my interests.. So I like cemeteries, funerary history, and forensic pathology leaves me weak in the knees.. So what if I have a large collection of books with the words corpse, funeral, and death in the title? I don't consider myself Gothic. I'm not suffering from a mental illness, or happen to be a serial killer...

I have always been fascinated about what happens when we die.. Where does the energy go? It is simply fade to black, or is there something out there we can't see or experience until we cross that great divide? My father allowed me to be myself and entertain those thoughts. My Dad, and I were birds of a feather.. I remember always watching horror movies with him. He would call me into the room especially when Bela Lugosi was on the TV in his most famous role. Dad was a mystery and horror lover and he instilled that into me. I can still hear him reciting The Raven, or see his copy of Dracula on his bookshelf.

Death, to me is the ultimate mystery.. I don't fear it, or consider it a negative thing. The Victorians were masters, next to the ancient Egyptians, at mourning and putting death front and center. It used to be something that wasn't hushed about, or feared. It wasn't clinical, neat or clean. When a family member died the body was laid out in the family home in the parlor.. hence, the word funeral parlor. Children weren't spared the sight of a dead body. The family was responsible for taking care of their dead. Death was accepted as something natural..

I know there are people out there like me, that are interested in the same thing.. I don't have an outlet for these interests in real life so the internet, including this blog, have become my oasis. It's the place were I can learn and express my interest in death, and the paranormal.

After the death of my parents, I realized how important a mortician's role is. They give the ultimate gift to the grieving, a chance to say goodbye. They do the dirty work. They make the dead presentable. They strive to make them look at peace for the family. Few people know what goes on in the basement of a mortuary, or understand the painstaking process of cleaning and embalming a corpse. It's not fun, and it certainly isn't pretty. Death doesn't work from 9-5 Monday through Friday. It doesn't take vacations. I was grateful to the mortician that took care of my parents. I admired his work ethic and compassion. He made it possible for me to say goodbye to my parents. Have you hugged a mortician today?

These are some of my favorite websites when it comes to death, and dying:
Find A Grave
National Museum of Funeral History
Taphophilia (dot) Com

August 9, 2007

White Light, Black Rain

To see more pics like this one check out Nuclear Art Pictures at

I saw a documentary on HBO tonight entitled White Light, Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I was born in 1980 over 30 years since the bomb was dropped killing over 210,000 people. My father was in his late 40s when I was born so he was old enough to remember the war. He was a prejudiced man, referring to any oriental as a "jap". I used to be shocked at the way he looked at orientals or anyone of a different color or race but now I just think he was a product of his time. Though it doesn't make it right, it was a different time back then and my father along with millions of other Americans, Japan was the enemy, the monster behind Pearl Harbor.I have always been interested in Nuclear Engineering and the Atomic bomb so I Tivoed the documentary. It really opened my eyes to the sheer horror that happened that clear, August day in 1945. It's almost unreal the damage caused by that bomb. People unlucky to be close to ground zero were vaporized on impact. The few survivors suffered from missing limbs, eyes, and skin melting off their bodies. Many died from their injuries. The light and heat was so bright and intense from the bomb that human shadows were burned into the concrete. The few people who survived and had no outward signs of disfigurement or injury began to develop mysterious symptoms, such as purple spots, hair loss, and fever. Bones and charred bodies were littered all over the Japanese cities. A survivor said in the documentary that the only to move was the flies swarming over the numerous bodies. Everything was in ruin, rubble, and death. Today, Hiroshima and Nagasaki are thriving Japanese cities. If not for the numerous memorials marking the cities, one may never know what had happened there.What surprised me the most was the attitude of the pilots of the planes who carried and dropped the bomb. They seemed to have no remorse or a real understanding of the complete and total destruction, and evil that was released onto the cities those days in August. They had a job to do, in order to end the war, and they accomplished that objective.
So much destruction, so much death. It just makes me wonder what will happen to mankind with that kind of technology that can destroy every living thing on earth. What happens if someone actually decides to use it again?


Hiroshima bomb pilot dies aged 92

Paul Warfield Tibbets Jr, the man who commanded the first atomic bomb mission, is seen in front of Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima.

Gen Tibbets (centre) always said he had no regrets Tibbets on Hiroshima The commander of the B-29 plane that dropped the first atomic bomb, on Hiroshima in Japan, has died.
Paul Warfield Tibbets Jr died at his home in Columbus, Ohio, aged 92.

The five-ton "Little Boy" bomb was dropped on the morning of 6 August 1945, killing about 140,000 Japanese, with many more dying later.

On the 60th anniversary of the bombing, the three surviving crew members of the Enola Gay - named after Tibbet's mother - said they had "no regrets".

'No headstone'

A friend of the retired brigadier-general told AP news agency that Paul Tibbets had died after a two-month decline in health.

Gen Tibbets had asked for no funeral nor headstone as he feared opponents of the bombing may use it as a place of protest, the friend, Gerry Newhouse, said.
The bombing of Hiroshima marked the beginning of the end of the war in the Pacific.
Japan surrendered shortly after a second bomb was dropped, on Nagasaki, three days later.
On the 60th anniversary of Hiroshima, the surviving members of the Enola Gay crew - Gen Tibbets, Theodore J "Dutch" Van Kirk (the navigator) and Morris R Jeppson (weapon test officer) said: "The use of the atomic weapon was a necessary moment in history. We have no regrets".
Gen Tibbets said then: "Thousands of former soldiers and military family members have expressed a particularly touching and personal gratitude suggesting that they might not be alive today had it been necessary to resort to an invasion of the Japanese home islands to end the fighting." Air show Paul Warfield Tibbets Jr was born in Quincy, Illinois, in 1915 and spent most of his youth in Miami.

He enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1937 and led bombing operations in Europe before returning to test the Superfortress.
He retired from the forces in 1966.
In a 1975 interview he said: "I'm proud that I was able to start with nothing, plan it and have it work as perfectly as it did... I sleep clearly every night."

In 1976, Gen Tibbets was criticised for re-enacting the bombing at an air show in Texas.
A mushroom cloud was set off as he over flew in a B-29 Superfortress in a stunt that outraged Japan. Gen Tibbets said it was not meant as an insult but the US government formally apologised.
In 1995, Gen Tibbets denounced as a "damn big insult" a planned 50th anniversary exhibition of the Enola Gay at the Smithsonian Institution that put the bombing in context of the suffering it caused. He and veterans groups said too much attention was being paid to Japan's suffering and not enough to its military brutality.

Story from BBC NEWS: 2007/11/01 16:57:00 GMT

August 8, 2007

My very dear Sarah

My very dear Sarah:
The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days -- perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure -- and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine O God, be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing -- perfectly willing -- to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows -- when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children -- is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country?I cannot describe to you my feelings on this calm summer night, when two thousand men are sleeping around me, many of them enjoying the last, perhaps, before that of death -- and I, suspicious that Death is creeping behind me with his fatal dart, am communing with God, my country, and thee.I have sought most closely and diligently, and often in my breast, for a wrong motive in thus hazarding the happiness of those I loved and I could not find one. A pure love of my country and of the principles I have often advocated before the people and "the name of honor that I love more than I fear death" have called upon me, and I have obeyed.Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me -- perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar -- that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have oftentimes been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more. But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night -- amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours -- always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father's love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue-eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters. Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God's blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.


This letter was written by Sullivan Ballou in 1861. He was a Major in the Civil War. He wrote the letter on July 14, 1861 and died one week later at the Battle of Bull Run. I have always been interested in history particularaly the Civil war. I first came across this letter at the library. A book caught my eye For Love and Liberty by Robin Young. The book goes into detail about the author of the letter, and his family. If you are at all interested in the Civil War, I recommend this book. It's unbelievely touching and brings the terrible cost of war into perspective.

August 5, 2007

Old Wagon & Consolidated Machine Co.

I was informed that an old building in the downtown area of Idaho Falls, which was the site of the old Wagon & Machine Co was set for demolition. The branch of the company in Idaho Falls was managed by Gilbert George Wright in 1889. If you haven't figured out yet, I'm a history buff.
So I went down and took some pics of the building.

I wasn't able to get inside, but got some good shots of the outside of the building. I also found the graves of the Wright family in Rose Hill Cemetery.
It just seemed kinda of strange to me that a 100 years ago the Wright family was a prestigious, popular, welcomed part of the community and now most people don't know their name. The only thing left is a few stones in the old part of Rose Hill Cemetery. You can check out Rose Hill Cemetery and some pictures of the Wright plot on my website. It amazes me how much this city has changed. I love looking at old photos of the city, with model T Fords and the ladies with the wool skirts and sun hats.