Monday, June 30, 2008

The Haunted Restrooms of EKU

In the early 1990s I received a firsthand account from a former Eastern Kentucky University janitor, who affirmed having witnessed the "glimpse from the corner of your eye" variety of ghosts in several of the restrooms in the Bert Combs Building.

Specifically, both sets of the third and fourth floor men's restrooms were said to be haunted (there's a men's room on diagonally opposite sides of each floor). The former EKU employee said he often felt an eerie presence in the rooms with him while cleaning the place up at the end of the day. He gradually grew accustomed to the entities, and reported that another janitor corroborated his story.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Hillbilly Days in Pikeville

I've already vented, ranted, and pedanted about the suppression of the "hillbilly" concept on my previous entry about The Li'l Abner Motel, so I won't beat that dead horse again here.

Okay, maybe just a little.

Suffice it to say that some people find this festival uncool because it chooses to embrace the old-fashioned garish Snuffy Smith hillbilly stereotype in this brave new modern space-age Splenda-drinkin' wi-fi world. Some think it makes Kentuckians "look bad" and "look silly" (as if the two were synonymous). I love it for the very same reasons those uptight folks despise it. After all, I am a hillbilly myself. I think they should declare being a hillbilly to be designated as an "alternative lifestyle", protected from discrimination by law.

However, the Pikeville Hillbilly Days isn't just a good excuse to run around in overalls and a corncob pipe - it's for a good cause. The event, which began in 1977, is a fundraiser benefitting kids at the Shriner's Children's Hospital in Lexington. It was started by Howard "Dirty Ear" Stratton and "Shady" Grady Kinney, two Shriners with the Hillbilly Clan Outhouse No. 2 in Pikeville.

Central Rock Company

Today is CRC day, commemorating the great obscure 1980s Madison County garage band Central Rock Company, who I played with back in the day. Drink a toast tonight to all weird teenage bands that existed mostly in their own bedrooms and backyards.

Who are Central Rock Company? Historian Mitchell Newport, in his 2003 treatise That Low Gruesome Sound, described them this way:

"Central Rock Company - who took their name from a local quarry business - were two high school misfits (Shay Quillen and Kurt Adams) who performed a highly peculiar act. It consisted mostly of jumping up and down with way too much teen angst and singing mostly acapella versions of 1980s hits mixed with original tunes of their own, such as "Polka De Pineapple", "Upon Hearing That Supergirl Is Dead", and "Penis". Sometimes they were backed up by a motley gang of local kids (called "the CRC Dismembers"). Jeffrey Scott Holland also played guitar on some of their studio sessions for JLK Records, and at an infamous party gig in Shay's back yard. After a handful of cassette releases that did generate some attention in their community, CRC dissipated in 1987. Strangely, these highly adrenalin-pumped kids, whose puerile and childish antics were rivaled only by RV & OI, abruptly grew up and moved on past such silliness. At least for a while."

And what exactly is CRC Day? Well, it's an old tradition increasingly practiced only by old-guard enthusiasts of the "Creeps Scene", commemorating a line from their song "Sitting In My Room" where chants, "It's the 29th of June and I'm sitting in my room".

So now you know.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Johnny Allman's Restaurant

Johnny Allman's Restaurant was located along the Kentucky River in Boonesboro, not far from the present location of Hall's Restaurant. From the 1940s to the 1970s, it was a immensely well-loved spot, with mobsters, businessmen, bikers and "river rats" side by side, enjoying the fine food and the fine view overlooking the river. Even Sweet Evening Breeze was a regular diner there (and sometimes caused a stir by choosing to use the men's restroom).

Beer Cheese was invented at Allman's Restaurant in the 1940s. There are many who would have you believe that Hall's invented it. They did not. Today Hall's offers a very similar, but not quite the same version of Beer Cheese in their restaurant. The "Hall's Snappy Spread" sold commercially in stores is a totally different formula and nothing like what you get in the actual restaurant.

Allman's went up in a gigantic fire in the 1970s. I'll never forget the day my family and I drove down there about 6pm for dinner, only to find nothing left but a charred skeleton of the building, still smoldering. Allman's was such an institution that it was unthinkable that they wouldn't rebuild. So everyone waited. And waited. But the new Allman's never came.

All that remains now are the memories of that Beer Cheese that can never be tasted again, and scraps of effluvia such as those pictured here. We are attempting to track down pictures of the restaurant in its heyday. Do you have photos of Allman's Restaurant? Please e-mail us if so!

Did I say their beer cheese could never be tasted again? Well, that's not exactly true. Bob Tabor of Winchester is keeping the original Allman's recipe alive with his River Rat Beer Cheese which started out available strictly in the central Kentucky area but now is branching out all over the state. When I first tasted it, I almost cried. It is indeed, as their slogan states, "Just Like Johnny's".

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Fake Fort Boonesboro

Coming into Boonesboro off I-75, you'll see several signs directing you towards Fort Boonesboro, leading you down into a valley off the right-hand side of the road where a huge and majestic fort awaits you impressively. Problem is, it's not Fort Boonesboro.

It's a somewhat fanciful "replica" of the original Fort, which no longer exists. This Fort is a strangely clean and pristine shaker-like community with many buildings containing profoundly unhappy-looking people in period clothing, giving capsule dissertations on soap making, whittling, wooden toy making, and other rustic stuff.

Historical accuracy here is, well, shaky. The setting looks and feels about as authentic as, say, the final season of Little House on the Prairie than the rugged primitive shelter the real Fort was. Everyone is clean and dapper in their machine-stitched polyester colonial duds. The plaque at the Fort's massive gates tries to give the impression that this is the actual original Fort, and only uses the word "replica" deep in the text.

The real Fort Boonesboro is depicted as being much smaller in size in this old idealized drawing - see below - which is in itself is believed by many historians to be already highly exaggerated.

Even the towering stone monument out front in the parking lot, which at a glance seems to be a tribute to the Fort settlers, is actually a self-congratulatory tribute to the people who built this Disneyesque simulacra, with a complete list of all their names. I'm not making this up.

As we were taking these pictures, a family from North Carolina rolled up and eagerly headed to the Fort, marveling at Daniel Boone's amazing handiwork. Far be it from me to pop their bubble. As a tourist attraction, I suppose one could do worse, but I'd like to see a lot more done with this Fort-replica concept to guarantee more repeat visitors to our state, and less disenchantment and disappointment.

Incidentally, the fake-Fort people tend to spell it "Boonesborough", which is kind of ironic, adding "ugh" to Boonesboro. We here at Unusual Kentucky prefer the more elegant shorter spelling.

The Real Fort Boonesboro

What's left of Fort Boonesboro is here, alongside the Kentucky River near Boonesboro Beach. This small square of foundation is all that remains, and even it has been reconstructed (it now has concrete holding the stones together) and altered (the stone stairwell is not original).

Although the nearby fake Fort Boonesborough "replica" was built in 1974, no one got around to recognizing the real one as a national historic landmark until 1996.

Paint Lick Cemetery

Paint Lick Cemetery is on Manse Road, just outside Paint Lick city limits in Garrard County. It's across the street from the Old Paint Lick Presbyterian Church.

The cemetery and the area around it have always been said to be haunted, with stories of men in some sort of odd uniform standing around and then disappearing. That would make some degree of sense, because there are soldiers here from both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Some of the graves here go back even farther, even though Paint Lick Cemetery was only officially established in 1782.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

World's Largest Baseball Bat

Without a doubt, this is the world's largest baseball bat, which can be found at the Louisville Slugger Museum, 800 West Main Street, Louisville, KY. It's 120 feet tall and said to be modeled after Babe Ruth's bat. Someday in the future, after giant radioactive mutant cockroaches rule the Earth, their archeologists will find this and be utterly confused.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Grave of Martin Andrew Matthews

This grave, belonging to Martin Andrew Matthews, has one of the most breathtaking, attention-commanding markers in all of Lexington Cemetery. It depicts Jesus coming through a wall, spiritlike, or bridging the gap between dimensions. Must be seen to fully appreciate the eerie quality of this magnificent piece of graveyard statuary.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mothman Sighting in Russell

These two photographs have been circulating the net for several months now, and are alleged to be a Mothman sighting on a bridge connecting Russell, KY and Ironton, OH.

I'm not buying it, for several reasons; not the least of which is that I just don't believe in the "Mothman" in the first place. I'm also troubled by the fact that the two jpgs are small and of different sizes (where are the originals?). And it sure is a coincidence that the Mothman is seen clinging to a bridge on the Ohio River, just as in its original alleged 1966 sighting. The photos are claimed to have been taken in the evening near dusk, yet the second photo of the "Mothman" leaving shows a considerably lighter sky - indicating that the photos were taken in the morning as the sun is rapidly rising.

Finally, the story that the couple who took these photos claim to have seen its red eyes glowing - even from that huge distance - is just plain silly.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Purple People Bridge

So, they had this abandoned railroad bridge in Newport, KY, see. And they renovated it as a pedestrian bridge, see. But someone hired "focus groups" to determine what color it should be painted, and the answer came back: purple. That's what you get for having more money than sense, and for not being able to make a decision yourself. Then again, the focus groups recommended a darker purple, and the powers-that-be decided to ignore that part and chose a pale lavender.

More infamous than the bridge itself is the "attraction" they tried to organize around it, which consisted of walking a set of steps that go up and down the top perimeter of the bridge. It might have been interesting, had they not charged 60 bucks for the experience, and not made you don idiotic-looking yellow and purple full-body costumes (in the dead of summer, even!) and made you wear headphones blasting music and ridiculous sound effects into your ears. They also made you sit through a painfully boring hour-long "orientation" video before the walk.

Not surprisingly, almost no one wanted to take part, and they withdrew the program in Summer 2007 due to utter lack of interest. (You can still cross the "Purple People Bridge" as a pedway to Cincinnati, though.)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Cain's Diner

This tiny little micro-car of a 1930s diner has always been one of my favorite eateries in Madison County, even though it barely seats eight patrons. This photo was taken in 2004; does anyone know for sure that it still exists? In these modern space-age times we live in, all the good places are disappearing faster than you can say "blueberry pie".

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Henry Earl

For years I knew this man simply as "James Brown," because that's what he usually prefers to be called. He led a very marginal existence, sometimes homeless, always begging for cash on the streets of Lexington, and often engaging in confrontationally surreal conversations with passersby. For years "James" was a figure alternately feared and beloved by locals for his antics.

Imagine my surprise, then, when he suddenly became world famous, thanks to attention given him on television by late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel and a plethora of websites canonizing him for his mile-long arrest record and unorthodox mugshots.

It's a peculiar defensive trait we Kentuckians have: now that every net-geek and frat boy on the planet was yukkin' it up about "that funny homeless guy from Kentucky", most of us suddenly felt a bit offended. "You can't make fun of Henry! He's our crazy street person!"

Though I was initially angry that this man was being held up to worldwide ridicule (mostly without his knowledge) simply for comedy's sake on a TV program, I lightened up when I saw the effect Henry's newfound fame was having: people were suddenly showering him with money, food and gifts, and his sudden popularity with local college students softened any rough edges of his personality. I guess like they say, there's no such thing as bad publicity.

I haven't seen him in a couple years and I don't know what he's up to now, but I'm glad Henry got more than his fifteen minutes of fame. He deserves more, though, and under better circumstances.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Jim Varney's Grave

One of Kentucky's weirdest celebrities ever was the great Ernest P. Worrell, better known to his mom as Jim Varney. His character, which began in TV commercials and ended up spawning a movie empire, was something like a hillbilly Pee-Wee Herman meets Larry the Cable Guy meets Ace Ventura, but years before any of them. Ernest was definitely ahead of his time.

Most people don't even realize Jim Varney was a Kentuckian, and even fewer realize he's buried in Lexington Cemetery. When you enter the cemetery, veer left and watch for his grave on the right-hand side.

Among the many fascinating films in the Ernest oeuvre: Ernest Rides Again, in which Ernest and a professor must protect an antique Revolutionary War cannon from thieves; Slam Dunk Ernest, in which an angel (played by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) gives Ernest a pair of magic shoes that enable him to play pro basketball; Ernest Goes to Africa, wherein Ernest and his girlfriend are inexplicably kidnapped and taken to Africa over some stolen jewels; and Hey Vern, It's Ernest!, a Saturday morning children's television series.

Varney's final work, Ernest the Pirate, had completed shooting and was in post-production at the time of his death, but still remains unreleased.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Elliott County Dumpsite

In the Weird Kentucky book, you may recall I urge my readers to take a greater interest in the relics of the 20th century buried all around us. Here's a prime example. This forgotten rural dumpsite in Elliott County contains mostly trash from the 1970s and 1980s on the surface, and likely has artifacts going back to at least the 1930s buried underneath.

You can see how little these plastic items, almost a half century old, have deteriorated. And what you can't see is the microscopic molecules of plastic being sloughed off by these items, and permanently entering the ecosystem. This is precisely why I am opposed to all modern plastics.

Pigs at Vernon Lanes

Hey, we just drove by Vernon Lanes, a great old bowling alley in Butchertown, and just happened to see these stone pig figures newly mounted outside. Check out our old entry for The Frankfort Avenue Art House and note the pig in the back of the pickup truck and the pig amongst other stuff in the background - they're clearly the same pigs as these.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Drone UFO near Morehead?

The newest craze among UFO buffs is the concept of the "Drone UFO", a very specific type of alleged spacecraft that's supposedly being sighted with increasing regularity. Now Kentucky may have its own Drone sighting, and captured on video to boot.

On August 28, 2007, Jeromy Staggs of Wallingford, KY was filming the lunar eclipse and ended up accidentally capturing some sort of man-made object hovering in front of the partially obscured moon. He took the videotape to the Morehead Space Science Center and the professors there were intrigued. Click here for details, and click here to see Staggs' video on YouTube.

Red River Gorge

If the Brady Bunch had come to Powell County, Kentucky instead of Arizona, they would have saved themselves all the drama and danger on vacation. They could have even made it a side trip during the time they traveled to Kings Island amusement park near the Ohio-Kentucky border.

The grand canyon is much bigger, to be sure, and is a well-known national monument. But it's mostly a dead empty arid barren hole in the ground, whereas the Red River Gorge is literally pulsing with life and energy, resonating with mystery and power. This place has drawn many a seeker of the weird, as well as seekers of nature.

So what is the Red River Gorge, exactly? Well, when most people refer to it, what they're really talking about is a much larger general area known as the Pottsville Escarpment. This is a dense mountainous area of forests and swamps combined with elaborate rock formations and outcroppings, the kind most people only think of as being a feature of the Western United States. The actual gorge itself is but one feature of the escarpment - it's a huge canyon that includes natural bridges, waterfalls, and archeological remains of ancient civilizations.

This area is well known for being a treasure trove of petroglyphs (rock art) etched by members of those ancient civilizations. I'm not going to tell you where to look, because so many of these precious artifacts have been vandalized in recent decades.

The area is very popular with rock climbers, campers and outdoorsy types in general. You could spend your entire life here - and many have - and still not explore all this region has to offer. Among its many bizarre natural wonders are:

* Natural Bridge. This is what draws most people here first. It's a beautiful "natural bridge" rock arch with a breathtaking view. It has its own park with miles of nature trails. Nearby Hemlock Lodge provides food and lodging.

* Sky Bridge. Although smaller than Natural Bridge, I prefer this one because of the way it splits in two at one end, giving the effect that you're standing on an immense dinosaur claw.

* Hopewell Arch. So named for the enigmatic ancient Hopewell civilization that once roamed Kentucky, and about whom we know precious little today. Amazing examples of their elaborate burial mounds still exist, as well as mystifyingly beautiful works of art.

* Star Gap Arch. Another stunning natural bridge formation, less traveled than the others and a bit of a walk off the beaten path from Tunnel Ridge Road.

* Slade Twin Arches. Still more amazing landbridges sculpted by time and erosion. These are a lot harder to find because their location is improperly marked on a lot of common maps. Many more arches exist in Kentucky, such as Rainbow Rock in Logan County, Fishtrap Bridge in Laurel County, and Smokey Bridge in Carter Caves State Park, but the ones in Powell County are the biggest and best.

* Cloudsplitter Rock. This is but one example of the gorge's sizeable stone promontories that make for great camping in the fashion of prehistoric cliff dwellers. (It was near this spot that a Feral Human was encountered by the author, but don't let that put you off from visiting.)

* Revenuer's Rock. This was once used by law enforcement as a scouting vantage point to watch for moonshine manufacturing activity. Many a harmless campfire was mistaken for smoke from a still, and many an innocent camper was harassed by government agents, so this spot soon fell into disuse for this purpose.

* Nada Tunnel. This is a narrow tunnel into rock which Route 77 takes you straight through, with one-way, one-lane traffic. It was originally a railroad tunnel built for loggers in the early 20th century and now has a considerable reputation as one of Powell County's most haunted locales, with numerous reports of hearing strange and unidentiable moaning and thumping sounds coming from inside the Earth when you're in the center of the tunnel. It's such a dangerous tunnel that ghosts no doubt lurk here from a century of automobile accidents. Some claim the tunnel is haunted by the ghost of a man who died in an explosion while working on the tunnel's construction. It's over seven hundred feet long with no interior lighting, so turn your high beams on and proceed with caution. If you're on foot or on a bike, we'd advise you to go some other way and skip the tunnel entirely - don't get yourself killed trying to listen for the ghost sounds.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Paducah purchased for Five Dollars

"In 1827, Gen. Wm. Clark purchased 37,000 acres of land, including the site on which Paducah now stands, for $5".

What the sign forgot to tell you is that Clark purchased the deed to the land directly from the United States Government, not from the people who actually owned and occupied the land, who were forced out. Oops.

The city was called Pekin then, by the Native Americans and white settlers who lived together in an unusual-for-then arrangement of harmony and cooperation, until Clark showed up, claimed to have bought the land for a five-spot, and told everyone they had to scram.

The Indian Chief Paduke, who ran Pekin, could have fought Clark over the land, but was smart enough to realize that most likely, he would be wiped out (along with everyone else) by the U.S. Army who would come in as Clark's backup if needed to enforce the land transfer. So, Paduke and everyone else in Pekin peacefully moved along to Mississippi. As a gesture of thanks for being so cooperative and docile, Clark named the city after the Chief but got his name wrong. What a sport.

"Gas is way to high"

Just saw this charming and hastily scribbled sign (and an identical one on the other side of the pole) at the corner of Mellwood and Frankfort Avenues, Louisville.

I'm not sure I would take advice from someone who can't spell "too" in the first place, but I'm not even certain what sort of advice is being offered here. While I certainly agree with the assertion that gas prices are too high, the sign lacks any clear suggestion on how we're supposed to "stand up" about it. Are we supposed to, what, call our congressmen? They know gas prices are high, and they can't do anything about it any more than you and I.

"Do something", the magic marker sign exhorts. But what?

John Riley's Green Garage

Sometimes I feel like my camera is cursed and that everything I take a picture of disappears. Take for example: the John Riley Auto building, which stood empty for several years now but still retained its classic peculiar shade of green to help beautify the neighborhood. No sooner than I took its photo, workmen and construction crews began fixing the place up and gentrifying it with a butt-ugly brown facade. Grrrrreat.

As an additional insult to injury, I tried to get some last-chance photos of it one evening before the construction goons ruined it, but got stopped, searched, and patted down by one of Louisville's finest, who asked the Million Dollar Moron question that all photographers just love to hear - "now why would you want to take a photograph of THAT?"

"Because it's green", was my smart-ass but nonetheless perfectly factual reply.

Well, it's green no more. And the Bardstown Road area of Louisville is a lot duller now for its passing.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Elmwood Mansion

The stories are numerous about this huge mansion in downtown Richmond being haunted, and we believe them. There is a definite sense of a presence one feels when one is here. The house is empty now (Emma died in 1970) but the house is still furnished just as it was at the time of her death. The Richmond City Council holds occasional events in the front yard of the property, and gives tours of the home every Halloween. They refer to the mansion as "Elmwood", but in my childhood everyone just called it "The Emma Watts House".

According to rumor, Emma despised EKU with a passion and arranged to have it written into her will, in perpetuity, that EKU could never, ever get their hands on her property. Let us hope it will always be so. They'd probably turn it into a parking garage or a soccer field if they got half a chance.

There is another rumor that Emma is buried on the premises, but we found her grave in Richmond Cemetery.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Pentagram Gate

This occult-looking pentagram decorates a very old cast-iron gate on Main Street in Richmond.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Cassius Clay's Child Bride

If you're familiar with Stephen Sondheim's musical Sweeney Todd and the subsequent film adaptation, you may remember the character of Judge Turpin. Turpin is an educated and well-spoken man, but also cantakerous, hotheaded, and perverted. After kidnapping a child named Johanna that he obsesses over, he locks her in a room in his mansion to prevent her escape, and prepares to marry her against her will.

Sound familiar? No? Read on.

According to several sources, such as William Lynwood Montell's "Haunted Houses and Family Ghosts of Kentucky", Cassius M. Clay married a fifteen-year-old daughter of one his sharecroppers, and at the age of eighty-four, no less. Presumably the marriage was against her will, because like Johanna, she was locked in a room in Clay's Whitehall Mansion to prevent her escape! It's also been reported that she made a failed suicide attempt by leaping from the window of her room.

Montell also notes a 1980 occurrence with two witnesses:

Two park rangers were there in the house one night. They saw a light in the room where Clay had locked his young bride. Yet there were no light sockets in the room, no furniture, and it was closed away from the other rooms. The rangers drew their guns and searched the lighted room, but found nothing to explain the light. As a result, they resigned from their jobs.

Clay's obituary in the New York Times didn't shy away from the subject, devoting several long paragraphs to it, albeit couched in soft language like "the old warrior's eccentricities".

Ultimately, Clay divorced Dora, but soon began plotting to get her back. He never did.

Whitehall can be found just off U.S. 25 near the Boonesboro exit.

Liberty Hall

One of Kentucky's most haunted locations is Liberty Hall, located at 218 Wilkinson Street in Frankfort. It's reputed to be the home of at least three ghosts, the most interesting of which (to me) is that of an opera singer who vanished without a trace in the garden out back. Some versions of the story say she's Spanish, others say she's from New Orleans. Both could be true, of course.

The "Gray Lady" is the most famous Liberty Hall ghost, however, and most poltergeistly encounters there are usually ascriber to her. Robert Norman, a former caretaker of the building, reported seeing pages torn from a calendar, candles removed from candlesticks, and ceiling fan blades slowly turning even when off; all acts of mischief committed by an unseen hand.

No mention is made on the house's official website about any of the various haunting legends.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Grillo the Clown

The first reported sightings of this unique Kentucky eccentric were in the early 1990s, on the streets of towns like Winchester, Paris, and Cynthiana. Nowadays, however, Grillo is mainly found around the downtown/UK areas of Lexington, dressed in his usual outlandish regalia and masks. A self-styled performance artist, street musician, and panhandler, Grillo also has his own rent-a-clown business, but we'd be surprised if anyone has ever hired him.

There are many stories about Grillo's past but all are contradictory. Grillo himself tells radically different versions of his life story when asked. Although his only internet access comes from visits to the public library, he maintains a considerable web presence with numerous sites by and about him.

The stories of Grillo's misadventures and malfeasance are legendary and worthy of compilation in a tome of their own. My favorite Grillo story is the time he actually took up residence in the men's room of a University of Kentucky campus building, to the extent of actually bringing in chairs, lamps, books, and a TV set. Apparently this went on for many weeks, with only a few "Do not remove" signs taped to his stuff being sufficient to keep unquestioning janitors - or anyone else - from messing with his belongings. It was then that I knew Grillo really was a true performance artist!

Thinking I could harness his radioactive powers, I hired Grillo to perform his act at my Clowns in Love art exhibition in New York City and paid for his bus fare, but it was not to be: he showed up at the very end of the show in an altered state of consciousness, made a mess of the place with shaving cream pies for a few minutes, and then departed into the night with my 200 bucks and two bottles of vodka.

Oh well, that's show business.

A couple years back, my indie record label Creeps Records cut a deal to release Grillo's album Grillo Sings the Hits of the 90s (He wanted to call it Blubbering Buttsteaks of Eternal Torment). Despite the painfully low-fidelity nature of the recording we were given, and despite the fact that he's singing these songs acapella, the album is actually selling pretty well, so maybe this is a new career for the clown.

Then again, we also received a report from someone that one cassette recently purchased from Grillo on the street, supposedly of music performance by him, actually turned out to contain the audio portion of a TV broadcast of a 2003 Bengals-Chiefs game.

More about Grillo on page 99 of Weird Kentucky.

Sylvester Weaver

Born in 1897 in Jefferson County, Sylvester Weaver was one of the greatest and most creative early Blues guitarists, with a jaunty, unpredictable, brittle style (predating the quirkiness of Tom Waits guitarist Marc Ribot) on songs like the immortal and truly bizarre "Me and My Tapeworm," which should be required listening for any students of real American music.

At the peak of his career, he abruptly quit the music business and moved back home to Kentucky, leaving a short recording legacy that spanned only from 1923 to 1927. When the blues revival occurred in the 50s and all the old guard were seeing new fame, Weaver stayed home and preferred to remain obscure.

He was buried without a proper headstone in the Louisville Cemetery in 1960, but funds for one were raised by the Kentuckiana Blues Society in 1992.

Harry Collins, the Frito-Lay Magician

Louisville's Cave Hill Cemetery is the final resting place of the great Harry Collins, a master magician from Glasgow, KY. He was a spokesman for the Frito-Lay company for many years and would exclaim "Frito-Lay!" as his magic words.

This is easily one of the spookiest graves in the whole place. Harry's slightly larger than life-size countenance, hollow eyes, and crafty smile make for a very unusual statue.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Estill County Religious Billboards, pt.2

Our obsession with Estill County's religious billboards with stick-on applied wooden letters continues! Click here to see more, and also turn to page 147 in your copy of Weird Kentucky as well!

I'm not entirely sure what "dark hours" the above billboard is referring to, and what sort of statement is being made here in observing that churches are remaining silent about it. And the minimalist "Go" billboard is even more bewildering.