Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Frankfort Cemetery

One of Kentucky's most haunted and most historic cemeteries, positioned high on a hill overlooking the state capitol. Among its residents:

Daniel Boone - Well, maybe. Not everyone believes that Boone is really buried in this grave, after a DNA test of the remains indicated that its occupant was likely a black male.

Luke Blackburn - Considered by some to be “the father of bioterrorism” because of a failed plot during the Civil War to infect Northern states, and even Abraham Lincoln himself, with Yellow Fever. Somehow, instead of being lynched for attempted mass murder and attempted Presidential assassination, Blackburn went on to become Governor of Kentucky.

William Goebel - Another former Governor of Kentucky, but one who held office for only a few days: he was assassinated on January 30, 1900 after a highly contested election fraught with irregularities.

Paul Sawyier - The well-known impressionist painter led a happy and productive life until the 1914 death of his lover, Mary “Mayme” Bull, who is also interred here. Sawyier lost all will to live after her death, and quickly dissolved into despair and alcoholism until his own demise in 1917. He spent most of his final years camping out in an abandoned church in the Catskills, and was briefly buried in a New York cemetery before being exhumed and moved to Kentucky.

See Weird Kentucky for more information on Frankfort Cemetery's heroes and villains.

Futuristic Lexington Home

This wonderful house with decidedly futuristic architecture is at the corner of Mt.Tabor Road and Kasey Court, Lexington.

Branch Davidians in Kentucky

Do you remember the controversial religious group known as the Branch Davidians? After the tragic events of the U.S. Government's botched raid on the Koresh Compound in Waco, TX, the Branch Davidians moved their base of operations to Kentucky, believe it or not.

This online church directory lists them: Branch Davidians/Church of the Seven Seals/Hidden Manna, PO Box 2166, London, KY, 40741. It also provides their web address,

According to the sporadically truthy Wikipedia, the Hidden Manna Branch Davidians believe that David Koresh will come back from the dead and return to his flock in the year 2012. The article also notes that they originally had set the date to August 6, 2000, then moved it to October 20, and now have postponed it yet again, this time to 2012.

The sect's beliefs are complex, and though I've read their entire eleven-chapter book, I can't really say I'm able to make heads or tails of it. Their doctrine, which utilizes some Apocryphal texts like the Book of Esdras, have an almost quantum-physics-like mindset. They state that our lives are an illusion operating on more than one timeline, and that our current perceived reality is one that is currently being "replayed" like an old tape. I quote from Chapter One:

"Since our world has already been destroyed by a comet's impact at the end of this world's first timeline, it means everything that existed or exists is being reproduced in God's universal mind. There are many almost simultaneous replays of our generation taking place in the mind of God. Throughout these replays, the people with a righteous spirit dwelling in their minds are being saved. If a person experiences a traumatic death, the mind of God may still manifest that person in a ghost state.

This person may or may not realize they are dead. However, by reminding the mind of God that this ghost (or ghosts) should not be among the manifested living, the ghost generally disappears (becomes unconscious). A medium may be able to recall a spirit/ghost from the mind of God. This is particularly true if the medium knows the name of the spirit/ghost and is located near the area where the person was killed - since the proximity to the area of death creates a better connection to God's memory concerning the deceased individual. In reality, the deceased and the living are all dead, except the so-called living are playing an active part in the mind of God, just as they played in the first timeline. The many Christian religions erroneously believe that manifestations of the dead are demons/fallen angels. Obviously, Christendom is not taking into consideration Isaiah 8:19, Revelation 6:9-11 or the many replays taking place according to Ecclesiastes 1:9, 10.

All events of the past and present, and many replays of these events, are all taking place in the one mind of Elohiym. Sometimes, an event of a past generation, which took place at a location, may bleed/ghost into the same location in the present generation. This is likened to watching a channel on television while another channel can sometimes faintly be seen mixing with the present channel that is being watched."

Interestingly, an image of Comet Hale-Bopp appears on the cover graphic for their book. Hale-Bopp was, you might recall, of great importance to another alternative religion called Heaven's Gate. Both Koresh and Heaven's Gate placed great symbolic significance on the mysterious "lampstands" mentioned in Exodus and Revelation.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Bull of Berea

This fiberglas bull used to stand outside Blue Grass Restaurant in the 1960s and early 1970s, then sat in some guy in Berea's backyard for a few years. Friends and I used to sneak back there and climb up on it at night when we were kids.

In the 1980s the bull got a new gig, and became the new mascot for Near New Auto Center where it remains to the present day.

Why does a used car lot have a giant bull for a mascot? I dunno, why does McDonalds have an effeminate clown and a big purple blob for theirs?


So, in Garrard County, see, there's this place called Cartersville. The city of Cartersville is grandly announced by this very large and very prominent stone-and-brick sign by the side of the road, as you begin to climb a hill:

And so your car goes over the hill, and when you reach the top, you're expecting to see downtown Cartersville in all its resplendent glory. But instead there's...... nothing.

Puzzled, you continue on down the road over another hill, around a bend, and suddenly you encounter....... still nothing.

Unless there is some sort of Romulan cloaking device in use here, Cartersville apparently consists of six houses, one barn, and a goat. Not even a run-down general store. Awesome welcome sign, though!

Squirrel invasion of 1801

In September 1801, Napoleon’s French Army was pulling out of Egypt. Thomas Jefferson was in his first year as President and was probably already pondering his first State of the Union address that lay ahead in December. A battle was fought in the Seychelles between the British vessel Victor and the French ship La FlĂȘche. And inventor Robert Fulton was close to developing the first functional steamboat.

Meanwhile, in Newport, Kentucky, something truly historic was taking place.

It began on September 1st, when a locust-like plague of tens of thousands of squirrels descended upon the city, seemingly out of nowhere. Crawling all over everything in sight, it must have been a horrific experience on a par with scenes from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. If you’ve ever had one squirrel get into your home accidentally and driven yourself mad trying to get this chattering, scampering, spastic creature out, imagine an entire city coated in a thick blanket of living, squirming, squirrelness. My teeth are on edge just thinking about it.

No one seems to know where this impossible quantity of squirrels apported from, or how they all came to be traveling en masse (squirrels are generally solitary animals that do not travel in herds or packs). There were no reported natural disasters nearby such as an earthquake or forest fire, but such an event wouldn’t create a mob of squirrels in such impossible numbers anyhow, nor would it cause them to march together in a specific direction with seemingly unified purpose.

Attempts to stave off their attack were chaotic as people began flailing wildly with all manner of implements, and even shooting them with guns. Wherever you fired, you were certain to hit a squirrel, but the sheer numbers of the rodentlike beasts made it a losing proposition. “We fired our guns and the squirrels kept-a-comin’.”

The Ohio River didn’t mean the end of the line for the squirrel blitz. The newspapers reported that the squirrels, seemingly mesmerized and being summoned by some pied piper, plunged right into the river and swam across to Cincinnati. They’d already been warned by folks on the Kentucky side about the furry armada on the march, and had their own guns ready and blazing to greet the critters.

It took several days to get the squirrels under control, with hundreds per day being killed and countless more finally being scared away and dispersed. I wonder what they did with all the mountains of squirrel carcasses? Burgoo might have been served at dinner tables for countless weeks to come.

Yellow Brick Road

It's not actually paved in yellow bricks, alas, and most of the road is impassable, but any fan of The Wizard of Oz will appreciate this street sign near Finchville, KY.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Tunnels Under Richmond

Most young boys growing up in Richmond, KY and attending Model Laboratory School in the 1970s were probably aware of the complicated lore regarding tunnels underneath the school. I know my own friends and I were fascinated with the rumors. Well, it turns out some of the rumors were true, as I have learned from a recent interview with a former classmate who prefers to remain anonymous, so we'll call him "T".

Unusual Kentucky: So first of all, where are these abandoned tunnels, really? How do you get in?

T: Well, I don't advise you go in, or anyone else go in. It's totally dangerous and I can't suggest anyone go down there. I'm pretty sure most of the old entrance ways have been closed by now. But you remember the old yellow signs that said "Danger - Electrical"? Those were always near entry points to the tunnels.

UnK: So was there really an electrical danger?

T: Oh yeah. There's bundles of very old wiring running along the ceiling and sometimes along the sides. Also scalding hot steam pipes. Very, very dangerous. We were stupid kids to ever mess around down there. It's a wonder no one got hurt. The Lord watches over the innocent!

UnK: Older kids would sell "Tunnel maps" to young and impressionable underclassmen like myself. Did you ever see any of those? Were they for real?

T: Some of those were probably my own maps! I was all about mapping them out completely. I treated it like a serious expedition and treated everything we found down there like it was a important historical discovery.

UnK: Like what?

T: Well, there was a roomful of huge barrels of water, dated from the early 1960s. We thought, "hmm, that's weird, what's the purpose of that?" until we came upon a room filled with metal tins of "survival biscuits" with the Government's Civil Defense logo on them. So the whole thing was, I guess, like a backup for emergency kind of thing, in case Castro or Russia dropped the bomb, you know.

UnK: Yes! A friend got several cans of those, and we actually devised ways to use them in cooking, in recipes.

T: I can't imagine eating them voluntarily. They tasted like unleavened crackers that had been left in a moist room for years. And you know, I guess that's exactly what they were!

UnK: What else did you find down there?

T: A lot of graffiti, mostly from the 1960s. There was a note written in, like, grease pencil, commenting about how John F. Kennedy had died that day. There were also the usual signs of civilization - Playboy magazines, condoms, liquor bottles.

UnK: And these tunnels go all under Eastern Kentucky University?

T: No. I'm very doubtful about that. I know the Model system of tunnels used to connect to a couple of nearby dorms and the Coliseum, but they don't anymore and I dont think they ever connected to most EKU buildings. There are different sets of other tunnels on campus, but they're from older buildings and probably not connected to Model's at all. But there are the storm drains, which would take you all over the place, under Richmond.

UnK: Yes! We called them "The Tubes", those cylindrical tunnels that were built to be storm drains but many of which apparently never served that function. I did explore those several times in my youth.

T: Some did. There was a steady stream of water running at all times down one that would deposit you out in some forest if you followed it long enough. You quickly learned how to run in a splay-legged position in those round drainage tunnels. I think all those have been done away with. Probably for the best.

UnK: Yes, I remember one had slightly buckled from above and cracks were forming. But we kept exploring them anyway.

T: Kids always think they're indestructible. I know I did.

UnK: What about the rumors of abandoned sewer tunnels that also connected to the EKU tunnels?

T: No, there was an open sewer manhole in the Model tunnels that had a never-ending river of sewage going by, very fast. We'd stand around it and watch it forever like it was television. But Richmond doesn't have any big-city kind of sewers that you could actually go down into and walk around.

UnK: Any other fun memories of Model's tunnels?

T: There used to be a tunnel that brought you up through a trap door into a teacher's office, which was a really weird, Hogan's Heroes kind of thing. I never could figure out what purpose such a tunnel could have been intended for. They boarded that up somewhere along the way. I also remember there were kids playing live-action Dungeons & Dragons down there, which I tried to discourage. I always felt protective of the tunnels and didn't want dumb people running around smashing things just because they could.

UnK: Would you like to ever go back down there, just for old times sake?

T: No way. It's way too dangerous and I can't stress strongly enough, nobody should ever go down there again.

UnK: It's enough just to know that they're there.

T: Yep. Kids today are more interested in playing video games than actually doing things anyhow. Maybe they'll make a virtual simulation of the tunnels one day!

The Inflatable Cone

This portable ice cream stand sets up for business every year at the Kentucky State Fair. The cone part is a metal building with an inflated ice cream balloon that twists in the wind.

Kentucky Statute on Corpse Abuse

I’m not sure why, but I just felt like you might want to know this:

525.120 Abuse of corpse.

(1) A person is guilty of abuse of a corpse when except as authorized by law he intentionally treats a corpse in a way that would outrage ordinary family sensibilities. A person shall also be guilty of abuse of a corpse if that person enters into a contract and accepts remuneration for the preparation of a corpse for burial or the burial or cremation of a corpse and then deliberately fails to prepare, bury, or cremate that corpse in accordance with that contract.

(2) Abuse of a corpse is a Class A misdemeanor, unless the act attempted or committed involved sexual intercourse or deviate sexual intercourse with the corpse or the deliberate failure to prepare, bury, or cremate a corpse after the acceptance of remuneration in accordance with any contract negotiated, in which case it is a Class D felony.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Where is the Daniel Boone Parkway?

Ask anyone for directions in the vicinity between Laurel County and Perry County, and there's a good chance that they'll mention "The Daniel Boone Parkway". However, you may then be confused to find nothing but signs for a "Hal Rogers Parkway".

The matter is a serious bone of contention for many Kentuckians and non-Kentuckians alike. The controversy dates back to the year 2000, when then-Governor Paul Patton decided to rename the Daniel Boone Parkway after the sitting U.S. Representative from Kentucky, Hal Rogers. This was an extremely unpopular decision, and remains one to the present day. The outcry from insulted Kentuckians, outraged at the removal of Daniel Boone's name for the sake of a political favor, reached the national and even international news media, but in the end nothing was done.

The "Hal Rogers Parkway" signs are frequently targets of defacement and vandalism, and some have even been surreptitiously removed in protest. Complicating the matter further is the impending Interstate 66 project, which would combine the Hal Rogers Parkway with the Cumberland Parkway. It's not known for sure whether those parts of the new Interstate would retain their previous names, so we may end up with neither Boone nor Rogers, but a mere 66!

In 2005 Governor Ernie Fletcher, as a gesture of good will, renamed a small stretch of U.S. 25 the "Daniel Boone-Cumberland Gap Wilderness Trail". Not bad, but most of us would still rather have the Daniel Boone Parkway back.

Estill County Religious Billboards

I adore the removable 3-D cutout letters approach these signs utilize, and someday hope to rip off the idea for some billboards of my own. This one, located in a vacant lot in Irvine, has a different message every couple weeks. See page 147 of Weird Kentucky for more examples.

UFO over Richmond Wal-Mart

On June 29, 2002, having just driven back into Richmond after taking photos of the Blue Grass Army Depot, a friend and I saw a strange object floating across the Eastern By-pass, from the K-Mart side over to a position above Wal-Mart's parking lot.

At first we thought the object was a kite. I used the digital camera as a binoculars by looking through the zoom lens, and after close inspection I clearly saw a person's legs move, which put the whole object in size perspective. The object was scarcely bigger than the person himself, like he was in a flying chair. It could only be one thing: an Autogyro.

Autogyros are basically super-tiny and super-simple helicopters, essentially a guy strapped to a chair with copter blades attached. They've been used for spy and reconnaisance missions by our government and others.

Was this someone from the Blue Grass Army Depot running a test flight over civilian airspace? Or just some shmo who built one himself (they're actually no harder to build than a go-kart) and took it for a spin?

Skeeter Davis

Like many stars of the Grand Ole Opry, Skeeter Davis was born and raised in Kentucky before reaching fame and fortune in Tennessee. And like many good Kentucky folk, her story is one riddled with peculiarities:

First and foremost, her name wasn’t even Skeeter Davis. It’s hard to fathom someone deliberately choosing “Skeeter” as a stage name, but there it is. Apparently it was her grandfather’s affectionate nickname for her, and she thought it would be a great idea to adopt it permanently. Her real name was Mary Penick, and she was born in Dry Ridge, KY in 1931.

The “Davis” name comes from her dead former partner, Betty Jack Davis from Corbin, KY. Skeeter and Betty sang together as a duo, billing themselves as The Davis Sisters. That they weren’t sisters and that Skeeter’s name wasn’t Davis didn’t seem to matter. Ms. Penick began calling herself Skeeter Davis to fit their story, and soon they had a hit record with RCA, “I Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know” which reached number one on the Country charts and hit the Top 20 pop charts.

The two were in a late-night car accident in Cincinnati in 1954, killing Betty instantly and injuring Skeeter. Rather than dissolve the duo at a time when their hit record was climbing the charts, it was decided that Betty’s sister Georgia - a real Davis sister - would be sent out on the road to take the dead one’s place singing with Skeeter. The hope was that the average listener wouldn’t notice the switch, but evidently they did - the duo bombed without Betty.

Skeeter dissolved her partnership with Georgia in 1956 and went solo, using the latest multi-tracking technology to overdub harmonies with herself. Now Skeeter was her own Davis sister. She began a long string of hits as a solo artist throughout the next decade, most notably her apocalyptically oddball pop-crossover hit “The End of the World” (which many people assume is Lesley Gore when they hear it on oldies stations).

The 1970s were not as kind to Skeeter. In 1973 she was banned from the Grand Ole Opry for making a “political speech” complaining about the recent arrests of members of a conservative Christian group. It was noted by some that Roy Acuff had, only the week before, made an onstage plea to reinstate the death penalty after the murder of Stringbean, which was just as much a political statement as Skeeter’s yet received no fallout. Skeeter was allowed to return to the Opry in 1975, but the damage to her career had already been done and the hits had stopped coming by then.

As years went by, Skeeter gradually morphed into a sort of eccentric and spacey southern hippie character, and her onstage patter provided some of the more spirited - surreal, even - moments onstage at the Opry. Having been a second-tier member of the ensemble for much of her previous tenure there, her personality and charisma tended to dominate and shine above the non-entities she was forced to share the stage with in later years.

She died in 2004 at the age of 72, leaving behind a legacy of albums that range from the majestic (Singin’ In the Summer Sun) to the puzzling (Skeeter Davis Sings Buddy Holly).

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Mines of Boonesboro

These mysterious tunnels, locked behind gates, have fascinated me for many years. They burrow straight into a Boonesboro mountain in three different directions, and have been abandoned for as long as I can remember.

Many years ago, anyone was free to wander in here and snoop around. But now the main entrance is securely closed off, and many overkill signs have been placed indicating that trespassing here is a federal offense (federal? why?). but It's truly an awe-inspiring sight inside, with a row of huge sculpted round pillars of stone, each big as a house, going off into the dark distance as far as the eye could see and as far as the flashlight could shine.

Once, while standing around the entry way, a group of teenagers emerged from deep within the catacombs. They told me they were trying to map out the place and it just kept on going. With a pedometer they said they'd mapped one corridor going for 6 miles, and that there were many other corridors going off in other directions. That simply boggles my mind. Yet I see no reason to disbelieve his story, as I've read about other mines that have gone ten miles straight down below the Earth's surface.

The first reported mine in Boonesboro was in 1863, though we're not sure where. This mine, though extremely old, is probably not that old, and the huge cavernous rooms and giant pillars were definitely not done with 19th century technology.

The place has always had a reputation for being a center of occult activity, and the graffiti around the area certainly bore this out. Rumors of a vampire/blood-drinking cult using the place as a meeting spot were common in the 1990s, and indeed there were some indications that there might be something to these rumors.

The Squire Boone Rock

Squire Boone isn't as well as known as his brother Daniel, but he was just as much a frontiersman and explorer as his more famous kin. This is one of the few public tributes to the man.

If you go into the lobby of the Richmond Courthouse in Madison County, you'll find a glass case containing this large rock on which is etched "1770 Squire Boone". This stone was only discovered in 1892, in the woods off Jackson Lane (which is located between Pilot Knob and Big Hill), and was immediately deemed genuine.

Many doubt the authenticity of the carving, and rightly so, since basically anyone could have done it at any time.

The Wall Lizard

The high diversity of Kentucky's terrain is unmatched by possibly no
other state but Texas - mountains, forests, swamps, highlands,
lowlands, everything but deserts. This means that when you transport a life form here that's not indigenous, there's a really good chance that it will be able to carve out an ecological niche for itself.

There's no better testimony of this than in the case of the Wall Lizard, which is increasingly common here but never existed in the United States until just a few decades ago. In September 1951, a young boy named George Rau released ten Wall Lizards into the Ohio Valley's ecosystem. He'd obtained them while on a trip to Italy, brought them back to the states, and set them free in his back yard in Cincinnati, on the Ohio/Kentucky border.

Today the Wall Lizard is thriving exponentially in northern Kentucky and southern Ohio, to such great extent that it's now considered a native species, although it's acknowledged as an introduced one.

Rau's experiment in European reptile introduction didn't stop there, however: in 1958, returning from a trip to Spain, he brought back specimens of a strange blue-bellied lizard he'd found there, and once again, he released them into the wild at the Ohio/Kentucky border. It has been reported that interbreeding occurred between the two lizards he released, thus creating a new, third, anomalous lizard!

These lizards are often referred to as the "Lazarus Lizards" because Rau was related to the Lazarus family, once well known locally for their Lazarus line of department stores (now merged with Macy's).

Friday, April 25, 2008

Unusual Kentucky is back!

With my new book "Weird Kentucky" now available in stores, I've decided to move the old Unusual Kentucky website that started it all. Now we're here in a blog format, which should solve the old bandwidth problems we had at our Geocities site (not to mention the original dot com site).

Any and all Kentucky-related oddities will be discussed here, including material that didn't make it to the final cut of the book. If there's any subjects you'd like to see covered here, contact me and let me know.

Also, I've discontinued the old Unusual Kentucky message board and set a new one here.

There will be a new blog entry at least once a day, so keep checking back here!