Friday, July 30, 2010

Cub Run Cave

In 1950, two young boys in Cub Run, KY made an intriguing discovery: a small hole in a rock outcropping was emitting freezing cold air.

Their suspicions that they'd discovered a cave were confirmed as they hacked apart the rocks to make the hole big enough to crawl into. They found themselves in a mud-filled passageway, and crawled 60 feet further to find the tunnel opened up into a large chamber with more passages going off into darkness.

Excitedly, they went back to tell everyone what they'd found. Unfortunately, you can always leave it to grown-ups to screw up a good thing. The underground cave system sprawled beneath more than one person's property, and a bitter dispute between landowners erupted. Unable to come to any agreement on how to share the cave, they instead sealed it back up and put it out of their minds for the next 55 years.

Thankfully, Cub Run Cave was finally reopened and made available to the public in 2006. It's one of only four caves in the United States to have a rare formation called "Box Work", and hosts a plethora of critters such as cave crawfish, lizards, cave crickets and three different species of bats.

See more images of Cub Run Cave here.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Man Called Daveiss

Kentucky's Daviess County is named after Joseph Hamilton Daveiss, the Grand Master of Freemasonry in Kentucky. And no, that's not a typo - his name was actually spelled "Daveiss", despite it uniformly being misspelled as "Daviess" on everything from roads to schools to courthouses to entire counties. This would also suggest that the correct pronunciation of his name would be like "Davis" and not "Davies".

Daveiss was something of an eccentric sort, preferring to practice law dressed in the buckskin outfit of a frontiersman. He was the first lawyer west of the Appalachians to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, and he wore his woodsman suit even there. Far from being appalled, at least some were apparently impressed with something about Daveiss: he ended up marrying Chief Justice John Marshall's sister Nancy while he was in town!

Daveiss became the U.S. District Attorney for Kentucky, and relentlessly pursued Aaron Burr. In 1806, Daveiss brought treason charges against him but Burr somehow managed to get those charges dismissed thanks to his slick attorney: Henry Clay.

Despite being opponents in the courtroom, Clay and Daveiss were brothers in the lodge: they were both fellow members of the Freemason Lexington Lodge #1 in Fayette County. (And Chief Justice John Marshall was also a Mason - the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Virginia, in fact.)

Strangely, at the age of 47, Daveiss volunteered to fight with the Indiana militia in Tecumseh's War and was killed at the Battle of Tippecanoe. The Freemasons have erected a monument sign dedicated to him on the battlefield site.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Oomp Boomp

Spotted on YouTube: a rare 45 record from 1959 called "Oomp Boomp", by the obscure Louisville band The Rhythm-Addicts. This highly peculiar recording sounds a lot like the style of rockabilly weirdo Marvin Rainwater, but is also loaded with hipster nonsense verbiage, in the tradition of Slim Gaillard and Babs Gonzales.

According to, "Oomp Boomp" was the first of four singles the Rhythm-Addicts released and is the only known release from Louisville's Frantic Records. The band, whose members included Carl Frey, Bob Struck, Josh Noland, Bernie Schweickart, and Bob Smith, also recorded as The Coachmen.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

More Kentucky Babes

Back in May we looked at the 1907 recording of "Kentucky Babe" by the Vassar Girls Quartet. While wandering aimlessly around YouTube, I've just now stumbled upon several other versions of the song.

Most interesting of all to my tastes: an extremely rare early "Colgate Comedy Hour" TV clip of Dean Martin & the Four Vagabonds performing the tune. Dean never recorded or performed the song again. But there's also versions by The Lennon Sisters, The Clovers, The Crew-Cuts, and even a rendition at the Maconaquah High School 1985 Talent Show.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


While driving through Hart County, you might spot this cryptic road sign for Uno, Kentucky,

Supposedly its name is intended to mean "You Know" which, further supposedly, refers to the area's once-booming illicit moonshine industry. According to Wikipedia, another name for the town is Clearpoint, which supposedly really means "clear pint", as in moonshine. (I am deeply skeptical, however, of all fanciful local-lore retconned explanations of the name origins of small towns, which rarely turn out to be true.)

One thing we do know for sure is that the famous Smith's Country Hams got its start in Uno. Though that original store no longer exists, their Cave City location is still going strong.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Wacky Wonder in the Woods

I love the odd architecture of this kiosk nestled in the nature trail area of St. Matthews Community Park - it's like Bauhaus meets New-wave 1980s style, or an post-Expressionist outpost Dr. Caligari might build on another planet.

As an enclosure from the elements, though, it isn't terribly functional - half the ceiling is open. Don't get caught in the rain out here.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Phoenix Cafe

Here's a nice old postcard from a photo archive on the I Survived Covington group.

Oh, to have lived in the days of Covington's Phoenix Cafe (any relation to the one over the river in Cincinnati?) - a vaudeville house that, given the slightly seedy nature of the area, was probably closer to the realm of burlesque.

The Phoenix Cafe was located at the corner of Pike and Russell, and later became the Depot Cafe. In this incarnation, its name turned up in the legal case United States of America v. Sykes:

A bartender at the Depot Cafe testified that the three appellants would occasionally be together in the cafe and on one occasion told him while he was serving them drinks at a table that "they had a big job planned." Strunk testified that shortly before the arrest he and Preston were in the back room of the Depot Cafe and Sykes came back there and said, "I have the opportunity to make $5,000." Preston testified substantially the same, and added that Sykes wanted their opinion as to whether or not he should go through with it, whereupon Strunk said, "Well, if you are going to make $5,000, you must be going to rob a bank," to which Sykes replied, "Well, how did you know?". Sykes testified that he had been approached by some men to drive a car for them on a bank robbery and that he went to Strunk and Preston and had the conversation above referred to.

Currently the Welcome House is in this location.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Kentucky Colonel Cocktail

One from my bartending blog, Transmissions from Agent J:

The Kentucky Colonels have their own official cocktail, and it may come as a surprise that I have yet to try it. I do have several recipes for it in my files, but this is basically it:

2 oz. bourbon
1/2 oz. Benedictine (the liqueur, not the cucumber dip)
Twist of lemon peel

Shake well. Pour over crushed ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with the lemon peel.

The term "Kentucky Colonel" is an honorary title bestowed by the governor of Kentucky. It dates back to the War of 1812 when the Kentucky Militia were called out and Governor Isaac Shelby found their services useful; he decided to appoint one of them (Charles S. Todd) an aide-de-camp on the Governor's Staff with the rank and grade of honorary Colonel. Since then, the ranks of these Colonels has swelled to many thousands, including Bill Clinton, Johnny Depp, John Glenn, Tiger Woods, and yours truly.

Sooner or later I'll get around to trying the Kentucky Colonel Cocktail, but it may have to be out somewhere and not here at home, because I just don't keep Benedictine around, and am not inclined to go out and buy a bottle just for this recipe. My next liquor store purchase will probably be St. Germain's, so maybe I'll report back here at some point with a newer and truer old-world drink for the new millenium.

(Thanks to The Tipsy Texan for the photo!)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Edgar Cayce

There have been many self-proclaimed psychics over the last century, but none so interesting as Kentucky's Edgar Cayce, the "sleeping prophet" from Beverly, KY just outside of Hopkinsville. Totally lacking the razzle-dazzle showmanship of your garden-variety professional psychics (which almost always turn out to be frauds), Cayce was a very reluctant psychic - once word got around about his powers, they had to practically drag him kicking and screaming into using them.

There were indicators early on that Cayce had the psychic "shining" gift as a child, and he gradually became famous in adulthood for his ability to go into hypnotic trance states. During these, he essentially browsed the so-called "Akashic Records" and spouted remedies for diseases and solutions for problems. He became so in demand for these readings, that by the end of his life, he was giving eight readings a day and his appointment book was full for two years in advance. Unlike other psychics and spiritualists who gave vague, open-ended, non-specific advice, Cayce channeled accurate recipes for home-remedy treatments that worked. But because of his strict upbringing in the Disciples of Christ church, he had great misgivings and anxiety about whether what he was doing was sacreligious. But as long as his channeled cures worked, he reckoned he must be doing the Lord's work by helping people, despite the unusual methodology.

As the years passed, however, Cayce gradually began to accept more and more of the "New Age" (though no one called it that back then) concepts associated with his trance readings, to the point where he went the other direction off the deep end, some assert. He began to embrace Egyptian mysticism, astral projection, communication with the dead, aura reading, reincarnation, karma, astrology, and channeled wisdom from a supernatural civilization on the lost continent of Atlantis. These super-Atlanteans, he proclaimed, also populated ancient Egypt and pre-Columbian America. He began to espouse a radical reinterpretation of Christianity that alienated many of his original devotees, much in the same manner as the Kentucky faith healer William Branham was doing contemporaneously.

Cayce also began to speak of a cosmic conspiracy regarding an evil interdimensional secret society called the "Sons of Belial", who supposedly turned Earth's prehistoric early hominids into slaves. Cayce claimed that in a past life, he helped the forces of goodness free the apes from the aliens. He also claimed that he had once been an Egyptian priest named "Ra Ta" who was a master healer presiding over something called the "Temple of Sacrifice" and the legendary "Hall of Records" purportedly hidden beneath the Sphinx (as well as two branch locations in Bimini and Mexico).

And in between our past lives, said Cayce, our souls go on tour in space, visiting the other planets of our solar system. The planets may seen uninhabited to the naked eye but are actually densely populated by other-dimensional beings that we cannot perceive. (However, Cayce's cosmology didn't mention what modern science now knows - that our solar system is far bigger than it was thought to be, and that there are hundreds of thousands of planets, both major and minor, in it.)

Further, Cayce taught that an alien civilization on the planets of Arcturus is one of the most advanced in this galaxy. He described it a "fifth-dimensional civilization that is a prototype of Earth's future". From this, an entire army of spinoff UFO religions devoted to the Arcturians sprouted in the subsequent century, with many post-Cayce wannabe-channelers claiming to be Arcturians themselves, such as Commander Theda.

Cayce finally died of exhaustion in 1945, but his voluminous teachings are kept alive by the Association for Research and Enlightenment in Virginia Beach. Alas, there's very little tribute paid him here in his home state by Kentuckians, save for an exhibit at the Pennyroyal Area Museum and my own painting of him with a two-headed calf.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dead Cat Asked to Join Foreign Legion

From WLKY:

They say it was more than a mistake, it was an insult to veterans. A Central Kentucky family says their deceased cat got a letter inviting him to join the American Legion, even thanking him for his service.

Colleen Harris says her husband, Cecil, loved serving his country, and raising his daughter and step-son. The family lost Cecil last May, and lost their cat Samson a few years before that. Surprisingly, it's Samson's service in combat now being recognized by the American Legion.

"The only war he ever fought was chasing mice," says Harris.

She wants to thank all the veterans she knows, hoping the American Legion will do the same before turning to more cats for more membership dues.

"They need to be maybe a little more particular on how they solicit and not be so worried about everybody sending in their $25."

The Kentucky American Legion says unfortunately, letters are sometimes sent to non-service members. They say national headquarters purchases mailing lists that aren't always accurate, but credentials are later verified through local posts.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Is Manchester Too Fat?

Clay County seems to be getting quite the bad rap lately, what with the Kentucky State Police Cockfighting Scandal earlier this year and the mysterious death of Bill Sparkman last year. Now there's a study that, according to The Atlantic, says the population of Manchester, KY is twice as obese as the national average.

Twice as obese. Twice as obese. How is that possible? Is that possible?

The Washington Post puts an especially sinister-sounding spin on it all, almost begging for a creepy soundtrack music cue and the gravelly-voiced guy on City Confidential:

The residents of this town of 2,100 -- 95 miles southeast of Lexington and deep in the Appalachian foothills -- indeed appear to celebrate the joys of community closeness. The bake sales, the volunteering. But it's what goes uncelebrated, and even ignored, here that has become Manchester's defining feature: In an increasingly unhealthy country, it is one of the unhealthiest places of all.

When I read these reports, I started racking my brains of everyone I know in Manchester - and I have to say, they're not morbidly obese by any stretch of the imagination. Is the statistic flat-out wrong, or are there just hordes of unseen fat people hiding in the bushes, out of sight like "the Others" in Lost?

The piece quote a local resident, Charles Rawlins, as saying: "The kids around here, they'll eat cornbread and taters for lunch. They'll get a 20-piece chicken meal. It's killing them."

I'm not so sure about that. My people back in Estill County are still in great health despite being born and raised on chicken, cornbread and taters.

I blame the processed junk they put in goods nowadays, like high fructose corn syrup, MSG, Nutrasweet, Splenda, partially hydrogenated oils, and genetically modified crap. I also blame cable, internet and especially video games turning America into a bunch of sedentary monitor-watching insensate food tubes who can't spell, can't talk, can't socialize, can't communicate coherently, and can't find their own ass on a map if their lives depended on it.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Louisville Egg UFO Redux

We reported on an old Courier-Journal article about the Louisville Egg UFO of 1993 recently, and as with most things, it turns out there's more to the story. Our friend Dan Brandenburg contacted us to say:

I very much remember this story. In fact, the Weekly World News tabloid ran it as a front page cover story some months after it took place (it would be awesome to find a copy of it). The Weekly World News story distorted everything a bit and claimed a massive dog fight over the skies of Louisville. Their version of the story was awesome.

However......the real story came out a few days later when a guy stepped forward and told how we was showing his wife how to make miniature home made hot air balloons (I.e., chinese lanterns). Apparently he had made these in the Boy Scouts as a child and thought it'd be fun to make another. He launched the balloon about the time a police chopper was near. As the chopper approached the balloon, the wind from the rotors would push the balloon away. The fireballs were supposedly melting plastic.

Interesting, to say the least. I'd be curious to know what the cops themselves thought of this revelation, and if they still stuck to their story. The original report claimed the object "literally flew circles around the helicopter, even though the fliers say they were moving at speeds approaching 100 mph", and that doesn't really sound consistent with balloon behavior.

The bit about the fireballs being shot out from the main object being "melting plastic", I don't know. It all sounds a bit specious, but on the other hand, the idea of a basketball-sized UFO sounds pretty unlikely as well.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Reclining Figure on Grave

I like this reclining female figure on a grave in Louisville's Eastern Cemetery, worn by the elements to the point it now resembles sort of archaeological artifact.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Louisville Egg UFO of 1993

From the Courier-Journal, March 4, 1993:

Two Jefferson County air unit police officers — described by their lieutenant as "solid guys" — swear they had a two-minute dogfight with a UFO during a routine helicopter patrol Friday night.

Two officers on the ground said they, too, spotted the object. The UFO — a glowing pear-shaped object about the size of a basketball — literally flew circles around the helicopter, even though the fliers say they were moving at speeds approaching 100 mph.

In one blinding moment when both craft were hurtling toward each other, the UFO shot three baseball-size fireballs out of its middle, all three officers said. The fireballs fizzled into nothing. Officers Kenny Graham and Kenny Downs haven't talked much about their Friday night flight over General Electric Appliance Park because they fear few will believe them. But they are convinced they weren't hallucinating.

Lt. David Pope, who was roused out of bed at 12:30 Saturday morning by a call from the startled officers, attested to their sanity and sincerity. "These guys are totally solid guys," Pope said. "There's no doubt in my mind there was something out there."

Officer Mike Smith, in his squad car below, said he saw the object for only about a minute. But he confirmed the UFO shot three fireballs into the air and then disappeared.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Mayor Punches Newspaper Editor

From the Associated Press:

PIKEVILLE, Ky. — A Kentucky newspaper editor who says he was punched in the face by a small-town mayor has agreed to drop an assault complaint after the mayor issued a public apology.

Jerry Boggs is editor of the Appalachian News-Express in Pikeville. He said in a complaint that Pikeville Mayor Frank Justice II was angry about an article in the newspaper and confronted him at a sports bar Tuesday night. The article reported on a political donation by Justice's business that helped fund an attack ad in a local campaign.

The criminal complaint reported that others at Champs Bar and Grill pulled Justice away from Boggs. Justice released a statement apologizing for "the aggravation and duress" that he caused Boggs. Boggs said Thursday he wants to put the matter behind him.