Friday, January 28, 2011

More News from Our Weird World...

It's been a while since I've posted anything, much less the stranger side of the news. Here are a few of the oddest stories I've encountered during my study break.

This Water is as Hot as...

Everywhere, people are trying to save money, especially in government. In Redditch, Worchestershire, the council discovered it can save £14,500 annually in pool heating costs for Abbey Stadium by using a greener (and creepier) heat source. Ongoing discussion revolves around the crematorium next door and the heat wasted from incinerators which could do the job quite nicely. "I'd much rather use the energy rather than just see it going out of the chimney and heating the sky," council leader Carole Gandy told the Guardian. "It will make absolutely no difference to the people who are using the crematorium for services."

Next Time, Remove the Price Tag...

Welsh asbestos remover Neil Simons was sentenced to five years in jail following a string of robbery attempts in Llandaff, Cardiff. Simons first robbed a gas station brandishing an ax and wearing a Halloween mask. . . which he purchased from the same station three days prior. A second robbery attempt nearby was interrupted by a customer. Simons, 30, told the court he felt shameful for his actions, becoming desperate to pay off a £20,000 debt (including money demanded from a drug dealer who had sold him cocaine). Public defender Kieron Malloy told Wales Online “The fact his son bought the mask then returned to the same petrol station wearing it, shows it wasn’t a sophisticated crime.” Here's the CCTV footage:

Getting High on Death...

White powder isn't always snow, flour, or even cocaine. Yet three robbers in Silver Springs Shores, Florida, saw a couple urns and thought they discovered the latter, so much so that they snorted what turned out to be the cremated remains of a man and two Great Danes. 19-year-olds Waldo Soroa and Jose David Diaz Marrero, along with Matrix Andaluz (18), stole electronics and jewelery from the home along with the remains of the owner's pets and father. Realizing their mistake and fearful of fingerprints, they tossed the urns into a nearby lake.

The Blood-Bound Gang...

If you're on Team Edward, it's no surprise that vampires are a sexy, popular topic. From The Vampire Chronicles to Twilight, the increased popularity of blood suckers has evolved into its own subculture, says Sociologist D. J. Williams. The Idaho State scholar (interviewed by Reuters) was consulted for a vampire documentary and has been researching this and similar alternative lifestyles for many years. The important aspect Williams points out is that self-identified vampires are largely misunderstood. (That in itself almost sounds a little emo.) People like Jeffrey Dahlmer give the community a bad name. "They see themselves as normal, regular people in normal regular jobs: they are teachers, lawyers, accountants, they may be parents," Williams told Reuters. "They have normal lives but there is this aspect to needing to take energy from time to time and in certain ways."

A Tale of Two Murderers...

A skull stolen from the allegedly-haunted Old Melbourne Gaol in the 1970s has surfaced again amid questions of its true identity. Originally said to be that of famed outlaw Ned Kelly who was hanged and buried at the gaol in 1880, others speculate that it could belong to murderer Frederick Bailey Deeming (alleged to be "Jack the Ripper") who was also hanged at the gaol 1892. The skull closely matched the death masks of both killers so researchers are pleading for descendants of Deeming to come forward and supply DNA for testing.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ghouls Giving Back...

As most of you are probably aware, the weather in Queensland hasn't been very kind. Torrential rains have led to damaging floods costing the lives of many Australians. Yet there are people doing what they can to help out, however small the amount. And if you're in southern Australia for the weekend you can donate to a good cause while seeing a very real "ghost town."

January 22nd is "Queensland Flood Relief Day" for the Walhalla Ghost Tour. Walhalla is a small town high in the Australian Alps, a product of the Victorian Gold Rush during the late 1800s. The town boomed with the discovery of gold in the mountains but quickly dwindled back to its current population of around two dozen people. For a tiny rustic town perched precariously on sloping creeks, it might have just as many living inhabitants as ghosts.

The town's ghost tour takes visitors on a journey through the spooky, rugged streets by candlelight through old haunted residences and businesses and around a few of the many mines with dark and sinister stories to tell. From disappearing tools and horse apparitions visitors follow their guide to the town's cemetery to spy on its cursed grave. Tours start at the office for the Walhalla Chronicle and cost $20.

Here's a little taste of the town: a clip from an episode of Haunted Australia hosted by Melbourne's very own Drew Sinton:

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Graduating from Paranormal Television...

With a new year there are bound to be some changes. Some are good or bad while others can only be described as indifferent. While we loathe change it is inevitable. Even in the paranormal most things eventually come to an end. At least that's true with television. This weekend marks one such final curtain call. Fans of the A&E show Paranormal State were likely caught by surprise when Ryan Buell announced he won't be returning for another season of the series.

"It wasn’t easy coming to this decision," Ryan said on his blog. "There are a lot of factors involved. The main one, of course, is that I’ve become a different person. I have different goals and views on things... But now it’s time to move on to other possibilities." While he is closing out the chapter on his televised ghostly exploits he reassures everyone that his days of investigating haunted places are far from over.

"I have other projects that I’ve had to sit on because I’ve been so preoccupied with 'Paranormal State'... Deciding to do 'Paranormal State' was a big commitment. It took over our lives.” Without the hectic filming schedule, Buell said he'll be able to focus on many other things he has wanted to give more energy to including private investigations and UNIV-CON. "There are some truly exciting and remarkable projects coming up, so please do not take this as a permanent goodbye. It’s simply time to close one door and enter a new path in life."

In many ways, this is a wise decision. And I don't mean that in any derogatory way. I respect Ryan for having the clarity to step away gracefully and forge ahead with other planned pursuits. It's far better than clinging to a single achievement and becoming that tired old one-trick pony. Yes, it's disappointing to me for paranormal television to lose its one openly non-heterosexual personality. But this isn't something for me or anyone else to decide. It's purely Ryan's own decision. It's his life, after all, and he's the one who has to live it as he sees fit.

Perhaps one of the more amusing points Ryan made was this:

"Do I believe in the paranormal? Yes. I have received much criticism for standing up for what I believe in. People claiming that I’m crazy for believing in ghosts; some investigators thinking I’m crazy for believing in demons; some people who convinced themselves that I faked evidence; some people who just thought I was plain nuts as a whole."

On one hand, I can relate wholeheartedly to what he says. And then there's the section I highlighted in bold. Well... for the record I don't think that belief in demons or angels makes someone crazy. Do I agree with people when they label something as demonic or angelic? Not really. I believe more in a sense of good and bad and find it perplexing when virtuous or evil behaviors are assigned a non-human entity. Humankind is quite capable of both. Though I imagine that my own view is colored by my own religious beliefs... or lack thereof.

As Ryan Buell spends the next few days in front of a camera for the last episodes of Paranormal State, I wish him all the best. And here's to hoping for more interesting adventures in the future.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A New Year and Old Spooks...

A new year is finally underway. Anyone else dealing with that post-holiday depression? For me it's that coupled with post-vacation depression where you realize where you were a few weeks ago and the reality of being back home. Added together with those all-too-common feelings of regret, worry, guilt, and other emotions still lingering from Australia it's a tough transition back to normality and my return to university study. I don't need to tell anyone out there who has been to college how that can be, or the challenges of sorting through financial aid. 

The clock is ticking away with my library talk on Australia's ghosts and I'm slowly piecing together what I'll cover. One thing has struck me as I delve into the many, MANY ghost stories from the nation: I managed to see more allegedly-haunted places than I previously thought! There are quite a few landmarks with hidden legends and dark histories to tell. Even iconic symbols of Sydney often carry supernatural undercurrents which most tourists never know. And then there's the cemeteries. Well, what used to be cemeteries. 

I did mention Rookwood last year and Old Sydney Burial Ground which once occupied the land where Sydney Town Hall stands today. I did, however, fudge slightly on the re-interment. There was another cemetery created before Rookwood within Sydney city limits before the bodies were moved to both the Necropolis and another graveyard. It too became the site of another Sydney landmark building. Of course, I didn't find out until after being there. Every year millions of people pass through the very ground where some say bodies and coffins still remain. I will say that it did feel slightly creepy for an unexplainable reason when I was there. As for the identity of this location, I'll wait until after I discuss it at Cuyahoga Falls Library to mention it here. 

Honestly I could spend two hours talking about ghosts and legends of Sydney itself. We so rarely hear about haunted Australia in the United States that it's amazing to discover the number of stories floating around, often unspoken. Australians aren't quite as ghost crazy as Americans. Few places have reached the legendary status of comparable buildings in the states. Still, there are a few well-known haunted places across the country: Monte Cristo Homestead, Quarantine Station, Port Arthur, Maitland Gaol, and a few others. On Thursday night SciFi Australia aired three episodes of Ghost Hunters International featuring Aussie paranormal hot spots. I've only been to one of them since my trip didn't include Tasmania. 

I did manage to watch all three episodes of GHI from Season 2 shown on Foxtel last night. While I often cringe at most of what I see on these shows the history and places can be entertaining. And for that reason, it was interesting. If you take away the bad EVPs, cold spots, and pitch black investigating it's not all bad. I can't quite bring myself to become as obsessed with these shows as some people can be. I love learning about new haunted places but I could do without a lot of the theatrics and suspense. But it was nice getting a visual tour of a few sights. When I eventually get back to Australia I'm hoping to see more of them for myself. A souvenir or two wouldn't be bad either. I can put them on my bookshelf next to the Q Station mug.

While I'm not sure if I'll get back to Australia before 2012, I will probably write here and there about some of the country's ghostly legends. It's still a fascinating country with a rich, dark history. And given that the novel I'm starting to work on again is set in a rather scenic region of the land down under it will always be on my mind. Yet there's a lot more to explore this year. I have places from my book to see and research, more gay and lesbian ghosts to discover, and new cities that deserve a bit of exploration. I have no doubt this will be another year of travel opportunities. And hopefully every place I see will unveil its darker, more mysterious sides when I have the chance to see them.