Thursday, April 30, 2009

First Kentucky H1N1 Case


A Warren County woman has been hospitalized in Georgia with Kentucky’s first confirmed case of H1N1, or swine flu, state officials announced Thursday, and a probable case has been diagnosed in an infant.

Gov. Steve Beshear and Commissioner of Public Health Dr. William Hacker announced the developments at a news conference, saying the woman had recently returned from a trip to Mexico and a couple of days later traveled to Georgia where she fell ill. A second case in the Barren River Health District is suspected but has not yet been confirmed as swine flu. The district serves Barren, Butler, Edmonson, Hart, Logan, Metcalfe, Simpson and Warren counties.

Beshear said the child “had close contact with a family member who recently went to Mexico and returned.” The child, he said, has not been hospitalized since the case is apparently a mild one. Samples have been sent to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta for further testing, but Hacker said he expects confirmation the child is suffering from swine flu.

Beshear said officials are not releasing the name of the county to avoid fear and anxiety by local residents but will identify the county if the illness is confirmed as swine flu.

On April 29, the World Health Organization raised the pandemic alert level to five, the second-highest level, indicating that a pandemic is "imminent".

Abandoned Block in Middletown

I've always admired this abandoned retail store building in Middletown, and decided it was high time to document it.

But then I realized that the house behind it was also empty, abandoned, and in disrepair. So, I trudged onward to take some photos of it also...

...and only then did it dawn on me that the house next door to it was yet another abandoned one! What the heck's going on around here?

Then I saw this sign by the road, in front of the whole area. Arghhhh. Well, that's just great. More cool old buildings destroyed to make from for crappy cookie-cutter modern ugly strip-mall retail space that will probably sit empty and unrented for some time to come... just like the unwanted shopping center that was built where John Riley's Green Garage used to be.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Shirley Ardell Mason

The name "Sybil" has become synonymous with multiple personalities ever since the book of that name by Flora Rheta Schreiber, which in turn became a hit movie in 1976 starring Sally Field.

The real-life Sybil, whose experiences were fictionalized in the book and film, was based on the life of Shirley Ardell Mason. Both the book and the films used the name Sybil Isabel Dorsett to protect her identity, but thereafter her real identity came out.

According to Wikipedia, Shirley Mason had at least 16 different personalities:

  • Sybil Isabel Dorsett: a depleted person; the waking self.
  • Victoria Antoinette Scharleau: nicknamed Vicky; a self-assured, sophisticated, attractive blonde; the memory trace of Sybil's selves.
  • Peggy Lou Baldwin: an assertive, enthusiastic, and often angry pixie with a pug nose, a Dutch haircut, and a mischievous smile.
  • Peggy Ann Baldwin: a counterpart of Peggy Lou with similar physical characteristics; she is more often fearful than angry.
  • Mary Lucinda Saunders Dorsett: a thoughtful, contemplative, maternal, homeloving person; she is plump and has long dark-brown hair parted on the side.
  • Marcia Lynn Dorsett: last name sometimes Baldwin; a writer and painter; extremely emotional; she has a shield-shaped face, gray eyes, and brown hair parted on the side.
  • Vanessa Gail Dorsett: intensely dramatic and extremely attractive; a tall redhead with a willowy figure, light brown eyes, and an expressive oval face.
  • Mike Dorsett: one of Sybil's two male selves; a builder and a carpenter, he has olive skin, dark hair, and brown eyes.
  • Sid Dorsett: one of Sybil's two male selves; a carpenter and a general handyman; he has fair skin, dark hair, and blue eyes.
  • Nancy Lou Ann Baldwin: interested in politics as fulfillment of biblical prophecy and intensely afraid of Roman Catholics; fey; her physical characteristics resemble those of the Peggys.
  • Sybil Ann Dorsett: listless to the point of neurasthenia; pale and timid with ash-blonde hair, an oval face, and a straight nose.
  • Ruthie Dorsett: a baby; one of the lesser developed selves.
  • Clara Dorsett: intensely religious; highly critical of the waking Sybil.
  • Helen Dorsett: intensely afraid but determined to achieve fulfillment; she has light brown hair, hazel eyes, a straight nose, and thin lips.
  • Marjorie Dorsett: serene, vivacious, and quick to laugh; a tease; a small, willowy brunette with fair skin and a pug nose.
  • The Blonde: nameless; a perpetual teenager; has blonde curly hair and a lilting voice.

  • After the events depicted in the book and film, Mason moved to Lexington, KY. In Lexington she operated an art gallery out of her home taught classes in painting. After Mason died of breast cancer on February 26, 1998, her legacy as an artist continues with the Lexington-based website.

    Tuesday, April 28, 2009

    Closing Doors of Closing Stores

    Each day when I'm out and about, I'm stunned by the ever-increasing flood of businesses that have gone belly-up.

    As the economy continues to spiral downward, I'm going to take a moment each day on a brand new blog, Whitewashed Windows and Vacant Stores, and say farewell to a local Louisville-area establishment that's gone the way of Carthage. Reading the blog may turn out to be as repetitively depressing as, say, being slapped with a wet oven mitt each morning, but you know, I just do what the little voices in my head tell me to do.

    It's all grist for my someday-to-be-published 15-volume book What Used To Be Where Back In The Day; start reserving your copies now.

    Monday, April 27, 2009

    Swastika Grave

    Although the appearance of a swastika on a gravestone may seem surprising to some, the swastika is actually an ancient mystical symbol that predates its unfortunate appropriation by the Nazis by many centuries. It's still used with its original pre-modern connotations in Buddhism, Raelism, Jainism, and other world religions.

    Sunday, April 26, 2009

    Graves of the Periphery

    When visiting a cemetery, I always make a beeline for the outer edges, the fringes, the periphery of the property. As often as not, I find "lost" graves that have gradually been forgotten by all.

    It usually starts when foliage on the edge of a cemetery is allowed to begin to overtake graves nearby. At first whoever mows the cemetery is aware of these graves, but they lazily stop mowing around them because of the overgrowth. Years later, someone else is mowing the cemetery and doesn't realize the graves are there. Decades pass and they end up becoming completely obscured as the woods and shrubbery move the outer border of the graveyard inward by several feet.

    I estimate that in the last decade, I've rediscovered 200-300 "lost" graves in Kentucky cemeteries. They may have been listed in the cemetery records (or they may have not if the lists were compiled after the graves were covered up) but they were completely invisible. From the looks of them, many had not seen the light of day since before my lifetime.

    For example, today in the historic old Louisville Cemetery I was puttering around the far corners and came upon this grave marker well on its way to being lost. Covered in leaves and debris that's been piled up on it and around it, only a corner peeked out. This area has increasingly become part of the wooded edge, rather than the cemetery proper. But there's a grave here, and deserves better treatment than this.

    It's a fascinating marker, actually: mailbox letters are used to spell out the name, and some sort of ink drawing seems to be encased under glass but has faded to an ethereal pale blue with time.

    Saturday, April 25, 2009


    The Eckankar religion has a considerable presence in Kentucky, and why not? Their founder, Paul Twitchell, was a Kentuckian.

    Twitchell was born in Paducah in 1909, and went on to attend Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green and Murray State University. He dropped out of both colleges each time.

    After returning from a stint in the Navy during World War II, he began dabbling in mysticism, Eastern religion, and New Age belief systems. He followed Swami Premananda for a time, then Scientology, then Kirpal Singh.

    In 1965 he announced that he had been chosen by an ancient society of holy masters, to become the new leader of the formerly secret religion known as "Eckankar" to the world. He claimed a 500-year-old man (who supposedly still lives to this day) named Rebazar Tarzs visited him regularly in his apartment to guide him in his writings. According to Wikipedia:

    Rebazar Tarzs presently resides in the Hindu Kush mountains, and is "the emissary of ECKANKAR in the physical universe". There are several essays by ECKANKAR followers who report having met him, including one who describes Rebazar Tarzs's guiding him to herbs that cured his heart condition, and one who tells of receiving a gift from Rebazar Tarzs during the Korean War, the gift later being traded for desperately needed food.

    There is a story of a taxicab driver who picked up Rebazar Tarzs in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in around 1952, and during the ride, Rebazar Tarzs was able, among other things, to read the driver's "secret prayers." In a second incident, Rebazar Tarzs miraculously repaired the driver's automobile.

    Twitchell claimed that past members of the secret ECK society included Plato, Pythagoras, and St. Francis of Assisi. He also made some pretty lousy predictions, such as that the Vietnam War would end in 1968, and that Lyndon Johnson would be elected US President for a second time.

    So what exactly do Eckists (followers of Eckankar) believe? Their website says this:

    "Eckankar teaches that there is an audible life current known as the ECK, or Holy Spirit, that connects each of us with the heart of God. We can experience the ECK as Light and Sound. Through study and practice of the Spiritual Exercises of ECK, we learn to recognize the Light and Sound of God as It touches our lives and brings increased divine love."

    They also believe in the power of HU, which is a Sufi vocal ritual considered by Eckists to be "a love song to God". Reincarnation and astral travel are also important parts of the religion.

    Twitchell died in 1971, which also dashed another of his predictions; he said he would live into the 1980s. Currently Eckankar is headed by one Harold Klemp (pictured above), who attended Indiana University and was connected to military intelligence before joining the ECK movement while in Japan. Klemp is regarded to be "the 973rd Living Eck Master" in an unbroken line that goes back to the dawn of human life.

    Mammatus over Middletown

    Mammatus clouds starting to form over Garden Gate in Middletown, KY, day before yesterday. Mammatus clouds are among the most mysterious of atmospheric phenomena, as scientists still cannot figure out why or how they are formed. Theories involve everything from gravity waves to something called Kelvin–Helmholtz Instability.

    Friday, April 24, 2009

    Feral Kroger Sign

    I chanced upon this massive discarded Kroger sign in a wooded area in Butchertown yesterday. I felt in awe of its enigmatic majesty, rather like the apes and astronauts who encountered the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

    Clown Convention

    I just found out that this very week, Louisville is hosting "Run For The Noses", the 2009 Convention for Clowns of America International.

    Those of you who follow my artistic escapades know that I have a real love/hate obsession with Clowns. Mostly hate. In 2005 I had a one-man exhibition called Clowns in Love in New York City (with a special guest appearance by Kentucky's very own Grillo the Clown).

    I've always felt that the guy in the film Killer Klowns From Outer Space was on to something when he theorized that our Clowns of today represent a distant vestigial memory of the frightening ancient alien civilizations that seeded our solar system in prehistory.

    Nevertheless, your humble author is always willing to take one for the team, au service de la révolution, and I looked into the possibility of donning some clown white facepaint, making a balloon Cthulhu, and infiltrating the Clown Convention for this blog as an investigative reporter. Unfortunately, with a $185 registration fee, that would have been a pricey scheme.

    Considering that all Clowns on Earth know each other and recognize each other immediately, I'd be outed in no time. And I don't know the secret Clown handshake, nor the Clown "password for the house". If captured by Clowns and grilled about my Clown credentials, I'd collapse under questioning faster than Peter Graves in Stalag 17.

    But, if you're a braver soul than I and have $185 to blow, check it out and let me know what you learn. Some of the fascinating experiences you may expect:

  • Lectures from Bunky & Blinky, Priscilla Mooseburger, Salty the Clown, Buff Phoon, Peachey Keene and Judy "JuJuBee" Johnson.

  • Classes in "Face Painting for Fun and Profit", "Working with Shaped Balloons", "Losing Your Inhibitions through Improvisation", "Magic So Easy A Cave Clown Can Do It", and "Clowns in Church".

    I keep thinking I'll run into some Clowns in town to party down, but so far I haven't spotted a one. I guess they're all sticking close to the convention's hotel. I'd give anything to be a fly on the wall at the bar late at night as these Clowns get schnockered and start talking Clown gossip.
  • "Prepare for Death"

    An inscription from a gravestone in Jeffersontown Cemetery:

    Weep not for me, oh kindred dear
    I am not dead but sleeping here
    My grave is silent as you see
    Prepare for Death and follow me...

    Thursday, April 23, 2009

    Kentucky Doctor Cloning Humans?

    Who is Dr.Panayiotis Zavos?

    Well, he's a Lexington doctor who runs something called the Zavos Organization, dedicated to cloning; President and CEO of Zavos Diagnostic Laboratories, Inc. which markets infertility products and technologies; Founder, Director and Chief Andrologist of the Andrology Institute of America; Founder and Director of Reprocell Technologies and The Home Fertility Network. And don't even get me started on the The BioTranz Chilled Semen Shipper.

    As if all of this weren't dazzling/confusing enough, Dr. Zavos also operates The International Institute for Gender Selection, which hawks something called "Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD)", which, their site says, "is a medical procedure which allows embryos to be tested for gender-related genetic conditions, prior to being placed in the womb, giving the best opportunity to select the healthiest embryos and simultaneously choose the gender of your baby". And then there's the impenetrably named EZYIUI, and my personal favorite, Home Semen Analysis.

    All of these websites, organizations, institutes, companies, corporations, and services emanate from 181 Southland Drive in Lexington, which turns out to be the offices of Dr. Zavos. Even The Andrology Institute of Pakistan is run out of this office!

    Dr. Zavos (I keep starting to type "Dr. Zaius") put Kentucky in the news a few years back when he claimed he'd produced the world's first human cloned embryo intended for reproduction. But later, when pressed for proof, admitted that the procedure hadn't worked. Next he reported having produced hybrid half-cow-half-human cloned embryos. (As if humans aren't bovine enough already!)

    Now Dr. Zavos is back, claiming to have finally successfully cloned human embryos from the DNA of a dead little girl. But instead of going through the traditional scientific channels, the good Doctor decided to take his case to the Discovery Channel instead, who have videotaped a special about his alleged Frankensteinian breakthroughs. Needless to say, this rather oddball move has elicited more jeers than cheers from interested parties.

    Now, I won't go so far as others have and accuse this whole thing of being outright quackery. Zavos is apparently one imaginative and ambitious freethinker with a flair for razzle-dazzle and PR, and I can't fault him for his self-determinism. I won't even necessarily come out against human cloning, in principle. But as Will Smith once said, "This definitely rates about a 9.0 on my weird-shit-o-meter."

    Meanwhile, the world will just have to sit and wait and see if the scientific establishment accepts these latest findings from The Island of Dr. Zavos. Peer-reviewed qualitative analysis of his work could take years, assuming anyone even bothers to try. But while we wait, we can visit more of his baffling websites like BioTranz Express, The Zavos Home Conception Pak™,, The Middle East In Vitro Fertilization Clinic, Conceive At Home, Repromed International, Zbay, The Fertility Zone, Fertility Zoom, and, of course, Fert Mart.

    Wednesday, April 22, 2009

    Jesse James' Hallucination

    The Talbott Tavern (right next door to the Jailer's Inn) in Bardstown is the oldest "stagecoach stop" tavern and hotel in the United States, built in 1779.

    Although Jesse James’ ghost is claimed by some to walk these halls, I see no reason to believe that he should haunt a tavern just because he used to drink here. Ghostly activity predates his death, with numerous child ghosts said to be creeping around, plus the spirit of a waitress who committed suicide here by hanging herself.

    By some accounts, Jesse James may have had a paranormal experience himself at the tavern: one night while sitting around drinking, he claimed that he saw the murals painted on the walls of an upstairs room coming to life, and shot the walls full of holes in his panic.

    Then again, it may have just been the fact that he was three sheets to the wind. And maybe hallucinating on a bad batch of bourbon. Other accounts say he was merely shooting at a butterfly, either real or imagined.

    The bullethole-riddled mural has always been a point of historical pride for the Tavern, but sadly was destroyed in a fire. It has been speculated that the fire was of supernatural origin as well.

    The room was still in a charred shambles when I dropped in to take photos for the book, but they graciously allowed me to go in the locked room and snap a few shots of what was left.

    The bullet holes don't all seem to follow the same trajectory, which I suppose could be explained if James ran all around the room when he did the shooting. I suppose.

    Tuesday, April 21, 2009

    Jailer's Inn

    The Jailer's Inn, located at 111 W. Stephen Foster Avenue in Bardstown, is a bed and breakfast occupying the former Nelson County Jail building. Originally built in 1819, the building is still pretty much unchanged today, except that most of its rooms have been renovated into luxurious suites.

    However, some cells have been left intact for historical display purposes, and one of the rooms available for rent still has a decidedly spartan cell-like quality to it (albeit done up with an Elvis/50s motif!)

    The Jailer's Inn, like the Talbott Tavern next door (see page 194 in your copy of Weird Kentucky), is often reported as being haunted. The Travel Channel even named the Jailer's Inn on a list of the ten most haunted places in America, although I wouldn't go that far.

    I haven't experienced anything creepy at Jailer's Inn myself, but certainly, it would make sense that it would be a potentially haunted place; after all, old jails would be a place of accumulated human misery and even death, just like old hospitals and asylums.

    Of course, this isn't necessarily the kind of PR that every bed and breakfast wants, and so there's no mention of any hauntings on their promotional brochure. But they do take part in so-called "ghost hunter" events such as Patti Starr's "Ghost Hunting Get-a-way Weekend", which charges 500 bucks for a double-occupancy room, dinner and breakfast, a ghost-hunting seminar with Patti, and tours of Jailer's Inn and Talbott Tavern. If this sort of thing is your cup of tea, you can find more info here.

    Monday, April 20, 2009

    Tree Bursts From Crypt

    Another find from the German Reformed Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Jeffersontown. That cemetery has some lovely Revolutionary War above-ground graves, such as the ones pictured in the bottom image below. One, however, has been completely destroyed by a tree that somehow managed to grow inside the crypt and eventually burst it apart.

    "O Death, O Grave"

    This uprooted gravestone laying on the ground at the German Reformed Presbyterian Church Cemetery has the inscription "O Death, O Grave". This inscription was completely buried under the soil for who knows how many years, but is now revealed to be viewed again.

    It's apparently a quote from the poem Su ruhest du, o meine Ruh by Salomo Franck, circa 1711:

    To me the darksome tomb
    Is but a narrow room,
    Where I may rest in peace from sorrow free;

    Thy death shall give me power
    To cry in that dark hour,
    O Death, O Grave, where is your victory?

    The grave can nought destroy,
    Only the flesh can die,
    And e'en the body triumphs o'er decay:

    Clothed by Thy wondrous might
    In robes of dazzling light,
    This flesh shall burst the grave at that last Day.

    Sunday, April 19, 2009

    German Reformed Presbyterian Church Cemetery

    It had been awhile since I'd been by one of my favorite cemeteries, the German Reformed Presbyterian Church Cemetery (which apparently also somehow doubles as the Jeffersontown Lutheran Cemetery). This past weekend I dropped in and was surprised to find an enormous amount of damage to the graves.

    This place has always been in some state of disrepair, but this is more extreme than the last time I was here.

    The cemetery had previously undergone restoration in 1967, but I do believe it's time for another.

    Friday, April 17, 2009

    Kentucky: Saddest State?

    A new scientific survey just released in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine breaks down by state the statistics on FMD (Frequent Mental Distress). This term applies to people who are generally sad, stressed, or depressed for 14 or more days of the month. And guess who came in first place as the saddest state by a long length?

    Yep, you guessed it - our humble commonwealth.

    (West Virginia is the second most depressed state, by the way, and Southern Indiana and Northern Arkansas are also excessively sad, in effect forming what TIME Magazine calls "The Gloom Belt".)

    So what can we do to help make our fair state a happier place to be?

    For starters, let's repeal the nutty new liquor tax. And then let's get rid of pollution and Oxycontin. Then let's eat more burgers and shakes and ice cream. And some beer cheese too.

    Attend the Pikeville Hillbilly Days this weekend. And the 400 Mile Yard Sale. Visit the Red River Gorge. Eat more donuts. Play more miniature golf. Drink more moonshine or bourbon, preferably while doing all of the above. Or just go drinkin' at Selena's/Willow Lake Tavern.

    And most importantly, support local theatre!

    Tuesday, April 14, 2009

    Berserk naked man shoots girlfriend, cop, neighbor, self

    From, who in turn got it from WLKY:

    A domestic situation involving a nude man escalated into a shooting situation in south Louisville Wednesday morning.

    The shooting happened in the 5200 block of Ronwood Drive. Among the wounded is LMPD Officer Andrea Rice.

    According to Metro Police Chief Robert White, Rice was called to scene on a domestic disturbance call. When she arrived, she saw a nude man in driveway at the residence.

    "He was approaching the officer and she was telling him to stay back, and as he approached her, she started to go around her car to put some distance between them, and he followed her around the car," said witness Larry Gaus. The suspect has been identified as Joseph Starcher, 24.

    According to a police spokesperson, Starcher tried to wrestle Rice's gun away from her. Both the officer and Starcher were shot during the struggle.

    Rice was shot twice in thigh. Starcher was wounded, as well.

    According to Police Chief Robert White, Starcher got Rice's gun and shot his girlfriend and a neighbor.

    When backup arrived, Starcher was shocked with a Taser. "They Tased him and contained him, and all four were transported to the hospital," White said.

    And from WAVE-TV Channel 3:

    "It was like a horror movie," said Larry Gaus, who was on his way to work when everything unfolded. "As I'm driving down the road, I seen a police car and a naked man come out from around the corner."

    According to LMPD, Officer Andrea Rice, a 15-year veteran of the force, was sent to 5205 Ronwood Drive on a domestic call. LMPD Chief Robert White describes what happened next.

    "And she noticed a female outside that appeared she had been assaulted. And moments later, the suspect came running out of the house toward the officer," said White.

    Gaus said the man "just took off straight toward her (Rice). She was giving orders to stay back."

    White says that Rice tried to use her taser on the naked man, but that didn't work. That is when she pulled out her firearm. "She felt threatened, pulled out her gun, fired it which apparently didn't work either.

    White said the naked man finally caught up with Rice and they began to struggle over her weapon. "He eventually retrieved the gun. He fired several shots striking her twice and two other individuals were also struck."

    Monday, April 13, 2009

    "Patrick Amsterdam"

    Jeffrey Scott Holland (your humble author)'s short play Patrick Amsterdam makes its world premiere at the Finnigan’s Festival at The Rudyard Kipling in the glorious Old Louisville district!

    Patrick Amsterdam concerns an increasingly washed-up lounge singer and his downward spiral. George Robert Bailey stars as Patrick, Todd Ziegler plays his hippie sidekick and Sarah East plays the card girl.

    The dates are: April 16, 17, 18, 23, 24 & 25, at 7:30pm.

    Meanwhile, you can help support JSH's Catclaw Theatre Company by making a Paypal donation to or clicking here. Help us bring weird theatre to the masses!

    Saturday, April 11, 2009

    Kentucky soldier's remains found in Korea after 59 years

    In 1949, 17-year-old Beattyville resident Lloyd Stidham joined the Army, lying about his age and telling them he was 19 in order to qualify.

    On November 27, 1950, he was reported missing in action in Korea, two days after being captured by the Chinese. He was never seen or heard from again.

    But half a century later, in 2000, a joint team of Americans and North Koreans led an investigation to a place overlooking the Kuryong River in P'yongan-Pukto Province where U.S. soldiers were long believed to be buried. The area was excavated, and sure enough, human remains were found.

    American scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used dental work, circumstantial evidence, and DNA analysis to identify as many of the soldiers as possible. The work took several years, but earlier this month, the Department of Defense finally announced that the remains of Lloyd Stidham and three other soldiers had been conclusively identified.

    On April 13 Lloyd Stidham will be interred at Camp Nelson National Cemetery in Nicholasville.