Sunday, October 25, 2020

Fright Nights

... we're familiar with three local "tales of the strange and supernatural" that for us were once first and foremost opportunity to (literally) scare the gals out of their pants...

Giant Indians and The Broadford Witch

... the "ol' pop" worked on the bygone P&LE Railroad... they had a large railroad switching yard, railroad station and roundhouse located along the bottom land adjacent to the Youghiogheny River in the small community of Dickerson Run, PA, from which he regularly worked... he hung out there a good bit even on his days off, and would frequently take us along... we got to hang around the station and, being little kids, the yard crews would occasionally take us out and we'd get to ride around on the switcher engines as they went about their yard business - lots of fun - we even got to drive on occasion, including easing the switchers into the railcar couplers - imagine doing that now in these over protective and litigious times...

(Internet Image)
... historic photo of the P&LE Dickerson Run yard...

... that whole adjacent river bottom was nothing but scrub brush and loaded with pheasant and rabbits, so once we were of hunting age we spent all our time hunting and running the beagle while pop hung out at the station - if he didn't join in... 

... there was an old oddball hermit type who used to walk the tracks all the time - everyone just called 'em the "old nut" - he was full of tales - he'd corner ya' and talk your head off about nonsensical events and such... he told one tale in particular about the construction of the railroad yard and that it was built on a large, ancient Native American Indian burial ground - we could believe that - but then he'd add that when they excavated ("dug 'em up") the graves, the exposed skeletons were all over ten feet tall...?... he'd reference other burial grounds near the "old Indian trail" - which itself is a fact - the ancient 'Catawba Indian Path' crossed the vicinity a short distance upriver (maybe a mile south) near an area called the 'Narrows'...

(Internet Image)
... partial map of the 'Catawba Path' from the book 'Indian Paths of Pennsylvania' (Paul A.W. Wallace - 1965)... a superhighway for ancient Indian tribes... maybe the "old nut" wasn't so nuts...

... he'd then go on to tell of the "old witch" who lived in an old house along Narrows road in nearby Broadford - he claimed that she gathered and confiscated many of the bones from the graves, and would "dig up bones from other grave sites she knew along the river and trail" and would use 'em in her potions and such... more fact - there was an old lady who everyone called the 'old witch' who lived as described - the house has long ago been demolished and the old lady we're sure no longer with us...

... she'd occasionally set on the front porch - she definitely looked the part - a black cat or two lounging about... driving past it was always advised to not make eye contact with her... we'd always wave, to the horror of those riding along ("don't look at her!!")... pop actually knew her and would hunt the hillside property behind her house - he'd never comment on the witch questions (no baloney with that guy) - witch or not, the few times we hunted there with him we sometimes caught ourselves looking over our shoulder...

(Google Earth Image)
... Google Earth Image of the old P&LE Dickerson Run Railroad Yard as it exists today - the foundation footprint of the old roundhouse still visible - the rest of the land reverted to scrub brush...

The Dawson Monster

... rumor had it that a spirit-demon-beast-monster - form was never specified - inhabited a patch of woods located behind a small country cemetery within the vicinity of Dawson, PA... the "monster" was in fact a large stone (marble?) sphere, maybe 3ft to 4ft in diameter, which laid at the edge of the woods, in a ditch, just off the end of the cemetery dirt road - it apparently was an old discarded cemetery monument - a big disappointment to us when first learned... that didn't stop the fun, however... gals didn't know that - so to their reluctance ("c'mon - there ain't nothin' to be afraid of) you'd take 'em there late a night, spewing tales of the monster en route... approaching along the long, lonely dirt road, past the edge of the ominous, awaiting cemetery - itself located on a small knoll rising above the landscape - and proceeding to the dark, deserted woods beyond would really seal the deal...

... viewing the cemetery from along 'Cemetery Road'...

... park and cut the engine - you make an excuse to get out of the car... "gotta' take a leak - be right back"... "don't leave me here alone!!"... "I'll be right back!"... give her some time alone in the darkness and silence - after about five minutes go over and give the rear quarter panel a good whap and shake... "EEK!!"... she starts callin' - no answer - after about another five minutes - with still no answer - you unexpectedly and abruptly open the door and hop back in the car... "where the XXX were you?!!"... "why the XXX didn't you answer me?!!"... "why were you shaking the XXX car?!!" (this all from a gal who ya' never heard utter one swear word)... "I thought I saw some deer over in the field - I went over to take a look"... "I didn't hear ya"... and... "I didn't shake the car"... instantly... "get me the XXX out of here!!...

... a buddy of ours got the tables turned on him one night... there was a movie playin' at the Drive-In at the time about a hooded killer terrorizing a town in Texas (The Town That Dreaded Sundown)... pulling the same cemetery routine, he decides to take a hooded mask along with him... he said that when he popped up at the windshield wearing' that hood, the poor girl starts gasping for air and can't even scream - he's thinking that he's causing her a heart attack - said that it scared him so bad that he started hyperventilating himself... ha... they could have both been found there the next morning having scared each other to death - sounded like a twist ending episode of the 'Twilight Zone'...

(Google Earth Image)
... Google Earth Image of the cemetery and woods - annotation shows the old location of the "monster"...

The Casparis Crater

... we posted about this place previously... reportedly a crash landing site for an alien UFO - the craft supposed to still be buried underground to one day emerge a' la 'War of the Worlds'...

... recent image of the "crater"...

... not so certain about that... it is always full of clear fresh water - we figure from sink and artesian spring activity (the whole area sits atop a near surface bed of karst limestone)... but it's more probable that the UFO penetrated an underground water aquifer (don't want to ruin the narrative)...

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Spacemen Saturday Night

... time was goin' to the movies was somewhat an event... before the emergence of soulless, corporate run multiplex cinemas of the past forty years, theaters were for the most part mom and pop operations with a flair for showmanship and motion picture exhibition... first and foremost (to our affection) was the Saturday afternoon 'Super Spook Show Spectacular' - a two and sometimes four bill showing of cheesy Grade B Horror and SciFi flicks featuring a between feature stage show emceed by a ghoulish host, with ceiling dropping skeletons and spiders, audience buzzing bats and ghosts, and randomly scattered "electric shock" seat buzzers that always got an abrupt loud scream from the gals (and an occasional guy too) - in addition you had all the mayhem of an audience of two hundred screaming kids in a dark theater with consequential deviltry, all executed under a steady barrage of popcorn, milk duds, M&M's, malt balls and (the worst) hard candy fireballs and jawbreakers, all directed at the frontline (usually first ten seating rows), all delivered from rear seating (ground floor) and overhead aerial (balcony seating) assault - some "dug in" front row seating participants (veterans from prior shows) would go as far as bringing their plastic army helmets, cowboy hats etc.. to the event - but that just made ya' a bigger target - most would just lift their coats over head or set there with an empty popcorn box on their head until the ushers would restore some semblance of order to the proceedings, which always occurred at least by the end of the first feature... the highlight of the show was always the promoted appearance of a popular movie "monster", which was usually one of the ushers doin' double (hopefully hazard pay) duty dressed in a rubber Frankenstein mask and gloves, who would lumber across the stage to loud screaming sound track and flickering stage lights while artillery bombardment re-opened as the audience recognized the apparent "ruse"  and ushers scrambled to again restore order... talk about a good time...

 
(Internet Image) 

... Drive-In theaters delivered similar entertainment, although a lot more tame... minus the four-walled captive audience, along with the flicks the live entertainment was relegated to the snack bar concession which was decked in a horror motif of rubber bats, skeletons and the like, while zombies and vampires manned the behind counter operations and rubber-masked Wolf Men and Frankenstein monsters roamed the lobby floor and nearby grounds... occasionally beloved local TV horror show host 'Chilly Billy Cardille' (ref. previous post) would 'copter in for appearance and autograph signing - we had an autograph photo identical to the following - have no idea what ever happened to it...

(Internet Image)
... "Chilly Billy"...

... the best Drive-In entertainment (other than lone accompaniment with a gal) was following the screening of then popular hot rod, biker and similar considered "juvenile delinquent" flicks, which, when let out at 1:30am, fifteen to twenty souped up Fords, Chevies and such, amped by the features, would go drag racing the highway back to town...

(Internet Image)
... Invasion Of the Saucer-Men...

... we always enjoyed the flicks which featured peril, in the form of little green aliens, slithering blobs, disembodied crawling hands and such, to teenagers cruising backwoods country roads in souped-up rides between town, party and make-out spots (that's all everyone we knew pretty much did anyway come Friday and Saturday nights), the thoughts of which always got the gals to set a bit closer when alone on "location"...

(Internet Images)

... although we could generate a list, for simplicity we'll discuss only one favorite which comes to mind - Invasion of the Saucer-Men (1957) - don't think that it's been shown on TV since Chilly Billy's late Saturday night Chiller Theater days - we understand that there's been no official DVD release because of legal and copyright issues (although, we possess an old DVD bootleg copy) - there's a copy available for viewing on YouTube - we checked it out, however, and it blows - all the saucer-men scenes have been edited out...

... we don't want to ruin the tale for those that haven't seen it, but in short it's a bunch of fun nonsense about a group of little green space aliens terrorizing the local lovers lane - the shrimps possess extractable hypodermic needle fingernails that inject 150 proof alcohol "venom" - their hands, which can disembody from a dead alien, possess a single cycloptic eye, and apparently have a mind their own, perfect for hidin' under the car seat, eventually to crawl up and over shoulder of the unsuspecting heroine... none of the adults believe the teenagers and in turn suspect them as boozing slackers - subsequently, the teenagers have to face the alien menace alone... you get the idea...

... some great saucer-men costumes by the great low budget special effects artist Paul Blaisdell - great special effects overall considering the low budget - we still prefer the old "plaster of paris, rubber band and paper clip" method of special effect production even when compared to multi million dollar modern CGI effects, most of which come across as glorified video games (our opinion - who cares) - lots of soul in the old stuff...

... the film is based in part on a pretty good short story by sci-fi author Paul W. Fairman titled The Cosmic Frame - pretty good tale about a group of little green space aliens who frame a teenager for one of their murders as an automobile hit and run death, which is incorporated as subplot to the film narrative...

... film critics always hated and for the most part lambasted these productions - they were usually always older guys - we always figured the older guys you'd see settin' alone in the rear of the theater full of adolescents and teenagers, wearin' dark sunglasses and long raincoats - and hoping, we always figured, to score a dutch choirboy...

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Living Dead

 ... George Romero's 'Night of the Living Dead' premiered October 1, 1968...  at the time, along with two buddies, we caught the following Saturday night late show at the (now long gone) local movie theater... liked it so much that we again sat thru the late, late show viewing - our recognition for a "two thumbs up" movie rating...

 

 ... filmed on location here in SWPA, the filmmakers include a lot of references to local places and communities, scripted in part in a sort of "breaking news" format, lending further credence to the doings - one news "bulletin" even included our own home town with instructions for local shelter against the zombie menace, however, if it had been actual circumstance, about everybody we knew at the time would have said "Shelter Hell! We're goin' zombie huntin'!!...  they even included a cameo appearance by local TV spook show and news media personality "Chilly Billy" Cardille, who then hosted a Saturday late night twin bill of classic horror and SciFi flicks interspersed with campy schtick throughout the commercial breaks - we were faithful followers...

(Internet Image)
... 'Chilly Billy' and Chiller Theater cast...

... was a little after 1am when the show let out - couldn't have been a more perfect night - a bright October full 'Harvest' Moon with just the right amount of intermittent cloud cover adding a bit of atmosphere for the late night walk home... the two buddies lived a bit closer to town, so bid them farewell with about another mile walk home alone, for the most part through several blocks of familiar residential neighborhood, well lit with corner street lamps and the occasional porch light - nothing to fear while walking the deserted streets alone with images of all the ghouls and zombies we had just witnessed thru two late show viewings replaying in our mind - nothin' scares us anyway...

(Internet Image)

... the final half mile tread home involved a long steep hill - the final block a football field length of dark and deserted encroaching dense woods between street lamps... we hesitated below the final street lamp before the deserted, dark woods, surveying the trek ahead, illuminated by only a bright full moon beaming thru the trees, in turn casting a black widows web of long shadows across the path - dead silence - all of a sudden all those images of ghouls and zombies leapt from our thoughts and took position behind every tree on...

... standing below that final corner street lamp, watching overhead like one great cycloptic eye, we took one final deep breath and bolted up that hill like a rocket... duckin', dodgin' and hurdlin' every shadow zombie stepping into path - don't think our feet ever touched the ground... around the final turn, up a short alleyway, thru the back yard and finally bursting in thru the rear kitchen door - with a full high step wind-up, we 100mph fast balled that door shut with a f*k'n SLAM!! - shook the whole house like a bomb just went off! - shocked the sh*t out of the ol' pop too, who had shortly before gotten home from work and was at the kitchen table butterin' a ham sandwich - he must have jumped three feet into the air - eliciting his favorite line with exclamation...

... "What the Hell's wrong with you boy?!!"...

... not a fresh breath to be had, we're thinkin' but not sayin'...

... "F*k you man!!! - there's zombies snappin' at our ass!!!"...

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Brother Viper

 ... we were out and about a few days back and encountered two hikers - clearly rock climbers (they were totin' some ropes strapped to their packs) - apparently makin' their way back to a small local crag that has become popular following a bit of climber specific "gentrification"... while striking up a bit of friendly passing small talk we noticed that one fellow was wearing open toe strap sandal footwear which evoked us to suggest a bit of caution considering we were in the heart of rattlesnake and copperhead territory - his return was a bit snappy, righting us that "rattlesnakes and copperheads in Pennsylvania are mainly relegated to the Allegheny National Forest and Northern Tier localities" while adding an emphatic and bit sarcastic "there are no rattlesnakes in Pittsburgh"... ???... we let it go at that (and ya' ain't in Pittsburgh)... have a nice day... what do us dumb ol' country boys know...

... we've posted most of these images previously - if not new, then here they are again... a few of many encounters over the years...
... this is what you'd have seen stumblin' down the trail in your strap sandals...

... if you were a few steps behind you would've seen this...

... yellow phase timber rattlesnake from many years ago...

... watch steppin' around that rock...

... that rock too - and watch jammin' those fist cracks at this particular crag ...

... another big yellow phase...

... here's a big pregnant yellow phase - notice the swollen tail end - was probably just about ready to give birth...

... medium size black phase...

... medium yellow phase trailing a black phase which just dropped over the edge of the rock...

... here's a monster black phase - some gorgeous markings on this guy... our partner hiking ahead of us this day stepped in perfect sync dead center right across the top of this snake as it lies in the upper photo and kept walking - totally oblivious to the fact - he about sh*t when we called him back - "hey - hold up - I want to get a photo of something!" - dumb (and lucky) f*k - and we told 'em a thousand times to keep an eye out for snakes...

... another monster - we'll bet he was four inches in girth...

... captured this yellow phase enjoying a dinner of fresh chipmunk - you can see the bite in the chipmunks back in the fifth photo down - would probably have stepped right on this guy if he hadn't rattled a warning - talk about getting your heart pumping...

... this could possibly be a small Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake judging from it's appearance - they're only supposed to habitat the Butler County area here in WPA - so we're not positive...

... thought we'd include this huge blacksnake from years back - a large snake den inhabits this area - we ain't sayin' where...

... another large blacksnake...

... we're actually blood brothers with this particular Northern Copperhead... we find that you gotta watch for these guys locally around water - particularly small ponds and swampy ground... we were pulling a canoe out of the boat dock at the SCRGC one late afternoon and ran into two snake hunters walking along the railroad tracks, returning from a day out - we asked them if they had seen any snakes - they replied thirty-one, all copperheads, while hunting along the railroad ROW on the (west facing) eastern bank of the Youghiogheny River from the SCRGC south to Casparis fishing hole - a distance of about two miles...

... it was a relief to us to finally learn from that guy earlier that there are no venomous snakes in this neck of the woods...

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Road Test

... James Dalton: "pain don't hurt" ...
... Doc Clay: "most of my patients would disagree with you"...

                                                                    - Road House (1989)

... definitely an uneventful summer - lots of time spent tending a fractured knee since mid April... finally showing some significant improvement so we thought that we'd take it for a trial run up over the ridge this afternoon - not too rigorous - not too easy... we conjured up our old buddy Ghost Rider to partner along - hadn't seen 'em in a few years - don't matter - there's no such thing as time in the spirit realm...

... toted along the Olympus TG4 - a few images...

... ride'n the high ground...

... ridgetop pond...

... some nice purple late August wildflowers...

... the notorious root on the old 'Root Hill' hill climb - this image doesn't even come close to conveying the steep nor ruggedness of this f*k'd up climb - the root and line appears to be even more washed and loose than we recall from glory days... maybe not...

... we'll find out first thing in the morning as to how well today's therapy went (when we roll out of bed)...