Sunday, January 31, 2010

Marble Gravestones in Berrytown

No, not gravestones made of marble, but gravestones using child's marbles in a primitive folk-art way to spell out the text. (Also check out the T.C. stone in Richmond.)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

DNA Testing? No Thanks.

Last week while downtown, I saw that someone had dumped this sign in the wastebasket at the corner of 5th and Ali. Not sure whether they're making a statement against DNA testing, or whether they simply share my antipathy for plastic signs.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Orange UFOs in McCracken County

From MUFON, by way of Billy Booth:

01-04-10 - On our way home from Paducah to Mayfield, I noticed six orange lights gliding slowly in the sky just off the side of the highway. The lights appeared to be moving at a slow rate of speed. My wife, two children and I observed these lights for approximately 5 minutes or more.

Several other cars pulled over on the side of the highway in that area as well. The lights slowly faded out of sight one at a time, beginning with the one at the tip of the chevron and ending with the last light. I was able to take the picture with my cell phone shortly before the lights started disappearing.

The person filing the MUFON report doesn't say at what point between Paducah and Mayfield they were when the incident occurred, but most of the trip would be in McCracken County, and they most likely took Highway 131 South.

The sighting has great similarity to two others that recently happened in states bordering Kentucky. In, Youngstown, OH about a month prior, on December 5, 2009:

I noticed five or six orange lighted craft in formation traveling from the ground up. I pulled over to get a better look and realized that there was more like 9-12 of them. The lowest was at about 700 feet and the highest was about 2500 feet. At one point the craft had stopped and then they started to move again and climbed to the highest elevation (2500 feet) and disappeared one by one until they were all gone.

And in Lenoir City, TN, on January 3, 2010, the day before the Kentucky sighting:

I was getting a drink from the kitchen and looked out the window when I saw two orange/yellow lights in the eastern sky. They stayed in the same spot for 8 to 10 minutes. I got my camera and started to take pictures. Then the lights started to move left behind a line of trees, and then moved up over the trees and back down behind them again. They were out of sight for at least 5 to 7 minutes.

Megadeth Guitarist Joins Kentucky Band

Ever heard of Hydrogyn? Me neither. But they seem to be someone we should know.

They're a metal band based out of Ashland, KY that have been plugging away since 2004, albeit with a constant turnover of band members. They're fronted by a eye-catching vocalist named Julie Westlake. I haven't paid much attention to metal music post-90s, but the band seems to be going places, having Michael Wagener as their producer (he's produced albums by Metallica, Ozzy, Alice Cooper).

And now, in their latest lineup shakeup, former Megadeth guitarist Jeff Young has joined the band. According to Blabbermouth, "The band is currently in the midst of writing and recording tracks, has a live DVD in the offing and a simple mission: to rock every town on planet earth."

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Dinosaurs Alive!

Though I still prefer the old-school simplicity of Cave City's Dinosaur World, I'm looking forward to "Dinosaurs Alive!", the Louisville Zoo's forthcoming exhibit of high-tech animatronic prehistoric beasties.

(But will Kentucky's sizable Creationism contingent get their Archaeopteryx feathers ruffled by it? Read my article about it on Louisville Mojo!)

Kentucky's First Satellite

Gov. Steve Beshear has announced that an organization called Kentucky Space has received a launch assignment from NASA for a satellite in November 2010.

The satellite is called KySat-1, and it has a camera and a 2.4-GHz industrial/scientific/medical band radio, which will be used to test high-bandwidth communications in the license-free portion of the S-band.

KySat-1 is much smaller than the satellites of the past, and is classified as a Picosatellite, weighing no more than 2.2 pounds.

Kentucky Space is a nonprofit consortium promoting the design and development of entrepreneurial and educational space outreach. They're affiliated with the Kentucky Science & Technology Corporation and the Kentucky Space Grant Consortium.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Prisoner Escapes During Bathroom Break

A manhunt is underway in Laurel County tonight for 50-year-old Ricky Allen, who escaped from the courthouse by asking the judge for time to talk to his lawyer alone. Once they were in chambers, Allen then told his attorney that he needed to use the rest room - and he never came back.

Allen had been facing two dozen charges of theft and burglary in London, and was expected to plead guilty.

Monday, January 25, 2010

106.7 Goes All-Elvis

The Wallingford Broadcasting Company has made the wacky decision to change the programming of their Richmond, KY station 106.7 to an all-Elvis format. Though it smells like a publicity stunt - they're urging listeners to give feedback on the website - the change is said to be permanent.

You might think an Elvis-only station would quickly get monotonous and redundant, but Elvis' catalogue consists of approximately 1000 different songs, and that's not even counting bootlegs and marginally-released material. Furthermore, this number skyrockets exponentially when you consider E's voluminous wealth of live versions and alternate takes.

(The Beatles, by comparison, only released approximately 300 songs and made only a handful of live recordings.)

Then again, some of the arcane material in the King's mighty oeuvre is pretty out-there. The common radio listener who might tune in expecting "Hound Dog" or "Suspicious Minds" might be a tad confuzzled by such obscure Elvis tunes as "Queenie Wahine's Papaya", "There's No Room to Rhumba in a Sports Car", "Dominic the Impotent Bull", "He's Your Uncle Not Your Dad", "Petunia The Gardener's Daughter", "The Fort Lauderdale Chamber Of Commerce", and my personal favorite, "Do the Clam".

You can listen to 106.7 online by clicking here.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Covington's Futuro House

The Futuro House was a short-lived fad during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Okay, maybe it wasn't even a fad, because they only ever built 96 of these things.

With 525 square feet of living space, the Futuro House could supposedly accommodate 8 people, its press releases said. Hmmmm... maybe, but only if you're cozy and unclaustrophobic. These things seem more like children's playhouses to me. While it lacks the size and majesty of Berea's Spaceship School, it still possesses a certain space-opera charm.

The official reason given for the failure of Futuro is that the rising price of plastic during the mid-1970s oil crisis made production of the domed domiciles too expensive. Personally, I think the real reason is simply that no one wanted to live in a tiny plastic space pod.

Of the 96 Futuro houses originally sold, Wikipedia estimates only 60% still exist. We're fortunate to have one of them still intact in Kentucky, on Wright Street in Covington. See it on Google Maps Street View here.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Unanswered Sparkman Questions

The dust has finally settled on the Bill Sparkman case, and everyone seems to accept the final investigative report. It concluded Sparkman committed suicide in Hoskins Cemetery and faked it to appear as a murder, because he thought his cancer was coming out of remission and he wanted to leave behind an insurance policy for his son. Case Closed.

But I'm still uneasy about the whole thing. Don't know why, exactly. Something's just not quite right.

True, people do some crazy things, and true, they don't have to always make sense. In fact, the more a news story neatly makes a pat sort of sense, the greater likelihood it's been crafted and contrived. So, part of me thinks, maybe it is true. Maybe Sparkman did kill himself.

But ask yourself: if you were going to fake your own murder, couldn't you have thought of a better way? And couldn't you have done a better job of making it more realistic and believable?

Today's Washington Post:

Investigators said Sparkman's wrists were bound so loosely that he could have done the taping himself. He was touching the ground almost to his knees. To survive, "all Mr. Sparkman had to do at any time was stand up," Capt. Lisa Rudzinksi of the Kentucky State Police said.

I don't mean to speak ill of the dead, but that's just plain stupid. What kind of lynching is that? Did Sparkman really think anyone was going to believe that unknown perps captured him, tied his hands loosely, and then hung him in such an unlikely way? (And why would they even need to tie his hands, anyway? Presumably he wouldn't be going anywhere.)

Sparkman, we're told, was a teacher, a man of science, and highly intelligent. I have real trouble squaring this intelligent man with this poorly-executed hoax attempt.

Lowell Adams, a close friend of Sparkman's, told investigators that Sparkman had confessed his whole secret plan to him. Why would he do that? I don't know. It doesn't make sense. Why would Adams betray Sparkman and spill the beans? I don't know that either.

Some friend.

The Washington Post again:

"In reality Bill spoke with me several times about killing himself and, on the Saturday before his death he told me he was going to kill himself on the next Wednesday," Adams said in a written statement included in more than 200 pages of investigative records.

Adams said Sparkman, who once had lymphoma, preferred to kill himself rather than to die from cancer.

"Bill said he had chosen a place to kill himself 'in the woods' in Clay County and he intended to hang himself," Adams said. "He said he intended to tie his hands behind his back so it would appear that someone else did it, to appear like a murder."

Adams said Sparkman asked him if he wanted to get drunk with him the weekend before his death. Adams said Sparkman bought a case of Budweiser beer in Richmond. An autopsy found that Sparkman was not under the influence of any drugs or alcohol at the time of his death. It also found that Sparkman did not have cancer.

Wait, so he didn't have cancer? He did all this for nothing? So why did he think his cancer had returned? Did he get a doctor's diagnosis? If so, who's the doctor? If not, why not?

The two life insurance policies that Sparkman took out on himself were for accidental death, and would not pay out in case of suicide. Wouldn't it have been far easier to fake an accident than to fake a murder? Wouldn't it have been far easier to actually set a real accident into motion?

For instance, couldn't he have driven his car off a cliff while doing 90 MPH, but stepped hard on the brakes, knowing full well that the brake marks on the road would be accepted as suitable evidence that it was an accident? (Not a very pleasant way to go, but neither is carving the word "Fed" into your own flesh and choking yourself with a noose.) For that matter, couldn't he just have deliberately overdosed on something? Or drowned in a lake? Why this bizarre and implausible kidnapping-lynching scenario?

Lastly, Sparkman allegedly did all this to help his son, who he loved very much. He left detailed written instructions to his son about what to do after his demise, and he closed the letter with "I love you and will always do so." And yet we're to believe that he, in some sort of severely misguided "Spock kills self but saves the ship" act of self destructive heroism, abandoned his son and committed suicide?

Some father.

I can't swallow it. I just can't. There's something more here we haven't been told, but I can't begin to pretend to guess what. I don't necessarily mean to imply anything in the realm of conspiracy or cover-up, but I just can't shake the feeling that there's still a third party at work here, a missing puzzle piece, a shadow over Innsmouth, a speckled band.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Missing Time

I'm alive. Where am I?

Where have I been? As Jerry Lee Lewis once answered the same question to Nick Tosches, "I don't remember. I was a ramblin' man."

I've been cutting a swath with my psychic scythe through salty seas and smoky saloons, searching for answers. "Waiting," in the words of that meat man Raymond Rohbeson, "for an excuse."

Just like my good friend and bowling partner Bill Henrickson, I've been beset from all sides by trials and tribulations, by Judases and Jezebels, by unseen forces and enemy entities. But yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil.

Okay, well, that, and I've been in the process of moving.

Like the Dick Cheney, I've relocated to an undisclosed location. One where a man can sit on the veranda in the nude and read comic books and sip Jefferson's Reserve and build a levee, brick by brick, gulp by gulp.

I haven't had internet access for the past few days during the transition and the chaos, so all blogging but the most etheric kind has been out of the question. But I'm now back in black.

Thank you for your patience, dear reader. Transmission resumes in T minus ten seconds and counting.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Night of January 16th

The play Night of January 16th by Ayn Rand is currently being staged at the Little Colonel Playhouse in Pewee Valley, KY.

What's so unusual about that? Well, the story is a courtroom drama which is very loosely based on the untimely and mysterious death of Ivar Kreuger, a wealthy industrialist who at one time controlled two-thirds of the world's matchstick supply. The audience participates in the story, acting as the jury and voting on the verdict, which literally determines the direction of the play they are watching. The play has two different endings, depending on whether the jury finds the defendant guilty or not guilty.

Despite Rand's popularity as the founder of the Objectivist movement, the play is seldom staged.

You have five chances to left to see the show. Three evening shows: January 16, 22 and 23 at 8:00pm, and two afternoon shows: January 16 and 23 at 2:30pm. You can read Keith Waits' review for Theatre Louisville by clicking here.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Scaring Away Breast Cancer


FORT WRIGHT, Ky. – Ghost enthusiasts, investigators, speakers and vendors will roll out their very best in paranormal investigations at Shimmer’s Ballroom & Tavern for a pink-ribbon cause.

On Sunday, Jan. 17, from 12:30-6:30 p.m. you can engage in ghost-hunting talk and paranormal investigations, all the while raising money for breast cancer research at Shimmer’s in Fort Wright, Ky. You could even win the chance to hunt with one of the best.

If you come out to help Tri-State Paranormal of Northern Kentucky (TSP) "Scare Away Breast Cancer" you may just win the opportunity to go on a ghost hunt with SyFy’s own Shannon Sylvia from "Ghost Hunters International"...

And not only is this all about ghosts and scaring away cancer, but all proceeds will go to benefit the research of metaplastic breast cancer and TSP’s own team member, recently diagnosed Marybeth Stagman.

Tickets are $15 at the door and vendors interested in renting a booth at the benefit can do so for $25. Donations are also welcome at the door or prior to the event.

For more information or to make a donation call Chris Maggard at (859) 620-3062 or e-mail him at

Thursday, January 14, 2010

KISS Tribute Band Robbed

KISS Army, Kentucky's own KISS tribute band, was on the verge of relocating to Las Vegas when their trailer filled with gear was stolen. Help find the lost trailer and missing equipment! Get the full story on my Louisville Mojo column.

(Image above: This painting of mine was acquired by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley's KISS Coffeehouse in Myrtle Beach after my art show Fuel To Build A Fire there in 2007. Image below: KISS Army in all their doppelganger glory.)

Internet Gossip

A Northern Kentucky woman's reputation is slandered by a gossip website. A Facebook account dishing unsourced dirt about Louisvillians gets shut down. And a Jefferson County 911 phone operator is busted for running a Twitter account devoted to ridiculing the callers. Read about the growing penchant for cowardly anonymous internet gossip in our sick sad world on my latest Louisville Mojo entry!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

PETA Coming to Corbin

The Cult of PETA, in their blind zeal to use KFC as a scapegoat for their radical and sociopathic agenda, have done it again.

They had no problem with proposing a "crippled chicken" statue emblazoned with a libelous "KFC Cripples Chickens" motto, but now they're preparing to organize a protest rally over a statue of Harland Sanders in his hometown of Corbin.

Previously, PETA has pulled such morally tasteless stunts as sneaking a fake gravestone into Cave Hill Cemetery near Sanders' grave.

PETA don't seem to understand that all of the things which they wring their hands about regarding KFC's business practices today, even if they were true (which they aren't), have nothing whatsoever to do with Colonel Sanders, who sold the small company in 1964. Though Sanders' likeness is still used to this day as a cartoonish mascot for the brand, this is no reason to cast aspersions on this man's reputation, and to hound him posthumously for alleged events that, even if true, happened long after his watch.

PETA has also blanketly insulted the entire city of Louisville, calling it the "Cruelty Capital" - just because KFC's parent corporation, Yum! Brands, happens to be headquartered here.

Cynthiana: Post-it Note Capital

In 1969, 3M established a major factory in Cynthiana, KY, and they developed Post-it notes in 1972.

Up until just a few years ago, every Post-it Note on Earth, from North Dakota to Brussels to Taiwan, was manufactured in Cynthiana. After the patents expired, a few other companies have made knock-offs, but today, the Cynthiana 3M plant still accounts for nearly all of the world's production of Post-it Notes.

Monday, January 11, 2010

World's Smallest Mother

Stacey Herald of Dry Ridge, KY, has given birth to Malachi, a healthy baby boy. At only 2 feet 4 inches tall, this makes a new world record for the smallest mother. Literally, a world record. Herald has osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic disorder that causes bones to become brittle and in danger of breaking easily. She has two other daughters, one of which inherited the condition but the other did not.

Herald says she and her husband want to have even more children in the future.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Freak Lightning Strikes Asylum

From the Times Picayune, New Orleans, July 3, 1901:

Louisville, Ky., July 2 - A bolt of lightning from a clear sky that struck among eighty inmates of the Central Kentucky Asylum for the Insane at Lakeland, eleven miles from Louisville, at 3:30 this afternoon, killed JAMES HOWARD, aged 38, of Stevensport, Ky., and knocked unconscious Nat Mercer, an attendant, and three other patients.

Great excitement followed among the insane persons who had been taken into the yard for air, but rain came and drove them back to their quarters. The attendant and the patients who were knocked senseless will recover.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


Goetta is a food item that's little known outside of areas historically populated by those with German ancestry. Here, it's most commonly found in the Northern Kentucky area and in a few select spots in Louisville. Over the river, it's hugely popular in Cincinnati, and it can also be found in several places in Southern Indiana.

What is it? It's highly seasoned ground meat (usually pork, sometimes pork and beef) mixed with steel-cut oats and onions. It's most commonly seen in a wrapped log, much in the same way polenta is offered, but also can be found in smaller sausage-like links.

In recent years, Goetta burgers and Goetta pizza have been growing in popularity at German-themed fairs, and it also has two fairs dedicated completely to it: the Glier's Goettafest is held every year in Newport, and the Original Goettafest is in Covington.

Crossdressing Bankrobber Caught

Well, that was fast! The crossdressing bankrobber reported on here yesterday has been captured. Troy Lear of Brodhead is being held at Madison County detention center on three counts of 1st degree robbery, having confessed to the robberies of a bank in Berea, a Danville Check Exchange, and a Richmond hotel. According to WTVQ-TV's report:

Surveillance pictures taken at the scene show the suspect wearing a wig, a green coat with fur trim and makeup. The pictures also show the suspect using a silver semi-automatic handgun to rob the bank.

We had a witness that was at the scene that got a tag number that identified the vehicle," Chief Gregory said.

Police were able to use that tag number to track down the suspect's vehicle at a Berea KFC on Friday.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Crossdressing Bankrobber

Does Central Kentucky have a crossdressing serial robber? On Thursday, a man in drag entered Cumberland Valley National Bank & Trust on Big Hill Road in Berea, brandishing a handgun and demanding money.

The robber, who got away, was described as a tall thin white man, about 6 foot 2, probably in his 30s. Part of the money was recovered after he dropped some of it on the way to his getaway car.

Two other recent robberies have taken place in Richmond and Danville, by a similar man wearing women's clothing.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Cumberland Gap Tunnel

The uber-spooky Cumberland Gap Tunnel takes U.S. Route 25E underground, going beneath hills in the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. The east portal of the tunnel is in Tennessee and the west portal is in Kentucky, making it one of only two American highway mountain tunnels that cross state lines. (The other is the East River Mountain Tunnel between Virginia and West Virginia.)

There's a lame and pointless Blair Witch-wannabe homemade hoax on YouTube that was supposedly "found in the woods" in this area. A comment someone left on the page is far more interesting than the video itself:

"It does not surprise me,if there are apparitions/ghosts,or residual paranormal activity in and around Cumberland Gap.
A lot of history and death,especially from the Am.Civil War,and car wrecks on Cumberland mountain.

Also my grandmother who would be 102, if living told me of a young blonde heaired blue eyed young man 18 yrs.old was killed on the old highway and rolled in a wool blanket and left there. Reminents of the old highway from the 1920's & 30's is still present on the mountain"

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Louisville's Forgotten El-Trains

They've fallen down the memory hole now, but believe it or not, Louisville once had an elevated passenger train system back in the 19th century. Now Ron Schooling has pored over what little remaining fragmentary historical evidence there is about the trains. Read his fascinating findings on Brandon Klayko's perpetually useful Broken Sidewalk blog.

There's no reason - absolutely no reason - we couldn't get something like this going again, right now, and inexpensively. If they could do it with 19th century technology and resources, so can we. And as people have commented here:

"We've already got tracks in place running to West Point alongside Dixie Hwy and Peewee Valley on the East side. Strikes me it wouldnt cost much money to wake up existing train stations that been in place 100 yrs."


"There is also another great commercial track that runs from Shepherdsville into Germantown, going past Ford, UPS, PJ Stadium and UL. In fact, the tracks run right THRU UofL's Student Center and it virtually looks like a train station is already there. When this line reaches Shelby Park, it turns before crossing over Baxter at the aformentioned Lexington intersection (and its decrepid old, graffiti covered station. From this, the line continues up Frankfort into the east end. The junction of this track at Lexington and Franfort could be extened with a nice elevated line up the much too wide, and largely deserted Jefferson street, which is seeing new life with high density developments like Liberty Green and the east market gallery district. The final line could eventually be developed built from scratch up Bardstown Road to Mt Washington, but the conundrum would be where to lie tracks thru the Highlands."

(Meanwhile, I'm currently designing a human-powered pedal train. Be afraid. Developing...)

Monday, January 4, 2010

“I Love You Too, Honey Bunny.”

Like the tag-team stickup lovers in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, a husband-and-wife crime duo has been robbing Louisville restaurants, gas stations and motels for the last month. Get the details on their crime spree and ultimate capture on my Louisville Mojo column!

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Ten percent of the 21st century is already over. Think on that.

The arrival of a new decade, drifting out of the oughts and coming into the teens, has me thinking long and hard about - what else? - extraterrestrial contact.

Never mind that we're already swimming in a sea of invisible Lovecraftian beasties brushing up against our reality (you probably think I'm joking, don't you?) and never mind that certain microscopic critters most likely actually came here from interstellar space. I'm speaking here of more tangible, wrap-their-lunchhooks-around-you kind of aliens, which may or may not be little green men or Autogyro-piloting entities or what have you. (Some might even tell you to "Drop the Tunug" if you don't block their voices out with your Thought Screen Helmet.)

The tagline for the film version of Arthur C. Clarke's 2010 is "The Year We Make Contact". Given that all my high-weirdness detector readings are off the scale these days, I wouldn't be surprised if this isn't indeed the year that all humans finally realize (as John Titor once predicted) that we have not been living in the kind of world we've grown up thinking we're in.

With the upcoming full-throttle-firing of the Large Hadron Collider this year, some paranoid nuts - in other words, my dearest friends and associates - believe an interdimensional portal is going to be opened as a result. And something from somewhere else could end up here.

Perhaps it already has.

Our ally JLK's Ending Sentences With Ellipses blog has a great feature about the conversation between Helen Mirren and Roy Scheider about Kentucky in the 2010 film.

But when Roy says we play very good basketball, does he mean the Cats or the Cards? Most likely the Cats. But you never know. He may also have meant both, in a general, all-encompassing, Neutral Zone kinda sense.

Anyway, I'm glad to see that they still drink Kentucky bourbon in the future. Or I would be, that is, if the future were not right now.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Cornbread Red

Walter Tevis isn't the only renowned billiards hustler from Kentucky; there's also Cornbread Red (1931-2004), born in Mayfield, KY to sharecroppers during the Great Depression.

According to the book Cornbread Red: Pool's Greatest Money Player, "in a fast, thrilling and sometimes dangerous culture, Red learned the "Rules of the Road" from hustlers, gamblers, con-men and champions."

Cornbread, whose real name was Billy Burge, went on to Las Vegas and Detroit and became one of the greatest money-earning players and proposition men of all time. According to Wikipedia, when someone asked Cornbread about the highest-stakes game he ever played in, he replied that it was a Race To Six for $100,000.

Not bad for a Kentucky farmboy.

The Derby Clock Returns

The Louisville Derby Clock, designed by sculptor Barney Bright in an uncharacteristically folk-art style, is returning to life after being in storage since 1993. The Adam Matthews Foundation will be displaying it on the grounds of the Louisville Zoo.

The clock was originally dedicated on River City Mall (later the Galleria, now Fourth Street Live) in 1976. It often malfunctioned and it was moved several times over the following years. Barney Bright's son Jeb has been working on restoring the clock's figurines, which mechanically race around in a circular motion. Among the persons depicted on the clock: Thomas Jefferson, D.W. Griffith, Zachary Taylor, Henry Watterson, and Daniel Boone.