Tuesday, September 25, 2018

ShockaCon 2018

This past weekend, Aaron and I took a break from birthday party planning for a few hours and traveled to Charleston, WV to check out the 7th annual ShockaCon!  ShockaCon is West Virginia's very own Horror/Sci-Fi convention.  Created by Mike Winland (he did our Krampus photos!), this yearly convention brings in a variety of awesome things for the horror enthusiast to see and do.  Celebrity guests, performances, speakers, workshops, demonstrations, and many, many vendors are just a sampling of the really cool perks included in the 3-day event.

My family and I had attended the very first ShockaCon, held at The Mound in South Charleston.  We had a great time, and when the convention grew to the point where it had to be moved to the Beni Kedem Temple in Charleston, we always tried to go.  Unfortunately, we never made it; September is an especially busy month for us.  Pt. Pleasant's Mothman Festival, The ScareFest in Lexington, and my son's birthday all fall around the same time as ShockaCon.  This year, however, we got lucky!  ScareFest and the Mothman Festival were scheduled for the SAME weekend this year and my son had his party on a Sunday.  Since we had to miss ScareFest to attend the Mothman Festival and Luke's party was on Sunday, that left us with both a free Saturday AND a horror con void left by the poor timing of ScareFest.

WV Cryptids and Strange Encounters
Now, admittedly, I am more of a paranormal enthusiast than a horror enthusiast.  Thankfully, ShockaCon usually tries to incorporate a taste of the paranormal.  In past years, I believe some of the guys from Mountain Monsters have made an appearance, and several paranormal investigators have given talks.  This year's paranormal element was a talk from the guys at WV's Cryptids and Strange Encounters!

I had met Les O'dell of WV C.A.S.E. back in April at the world premier of Small Town Monsters' movie, The Flatwoods Monster: A Legacy of Fear, and had been following the group's Facebook page for some time.  He and his son collect reports of paranormal activity, UFOs, and most importantly, cryptozoological creatures from the Mountain State.  The WV C.A.S.E. Facebook page is full of interesting information and stories, so I was really pleased to get the opportunity to hear more.

Their talk did not disappoint---it was an interesting peek into what got them started in this field, their own personal experiences and theories, and plenty of case studies highlighting WV's weird and wonderful creature lore.  Les and his son were informative and entertaining.The talk was well-attended and the audience was eager to share their own experiences and get more information.  Hopefully, the success of the paranormal aspects of the con will lead to MORE paranormal guests/speakers/events in the future.

Jyoti Amge
Anyway, after WV C.A.S.E. was done presenting, our original plan had been to stay in the lecture room to hear a talk on vampires in cinema.  I missed the announcement as to what happened, but that talk was replaced with a special effects makeup demonstration.  I appreciate the artistry and the hard work involved in special effects makeup, but lack the patience to ever attempt it on my own.  So, we took the next hour to relax in the cafe area with a drink and a snack.  We sat on a comfy couch and were entertained by a game show going on at the nearby stage, and also by all the kick-ass costumes we saw walking by us.  We had an hour to kill because there was only one more event that we had planned to see while there:  Jyoti Amge.   

For anyone not familiar with who Jyoti is...she is a 24 year old woman from India who holds the Guinness Book World Record for Smallest Living Female.  She is most well-known for playing the part of Ma Petite on Season 4 of American Horror Story:  Freak Show.  

Aaron and I had seen Jyoti at ScareFest a few years back, but she was on a panel with the other 'freaks' from AHS Freak Show.  Therefore, getting to see and hear her just by herself was a real treat.  We weren't the only ones who felt that way---Jyoti drew a standing room only sized crowd, and I think its safe to say that not one person in that auditorium was disappointed.

Jyoti is such a beautiful person, both inside and out.  Obviously, she's absolutely adorable...she looks like a little living doll, and like many young women, she enjoys fashion, makeup, and having her hair done.  She's also a little charmer.  She has such a sweet, innocent disposition to her, and when she gets the giggles, which she often does, you can't help but smile.  She also has somewhat of a mischievous side and likes to pull pranks and be silly  She had a wonderful rapport with her manager, who was hilarious in his own right, and with her interpreter, who was the epitome of beauty and elegance herself. The moderator did a fantastic job keeping the talk going until audience members gained the courage to approach the mike and ask their own questions.

Jyoti said this was her favorite scene on AHS!
It's easy to see Jyoti as very child-like.  Like I said, she physically looks like a little doll and she's just so positive and upbeat with an infectious giggle that can melt just about anyone's heart...but she has a very serious side.  She's currently working on a Master's Degree program in English and among other projects, has a very serious film role coming up.  Most importantly...she is a serious social activist!  All the money earned from her convention appearances goes back to India to aid victims of violence and sexual assault.  Wow. I mean this sincerely:  I don't think its possible to be in the same room as Jyoti and not feel inspired, hopeful and in a 100% better mood than when you started.

After Jyoti's talk, we had things to finish up for my son's birthday party the next day, so we did one more lap around the vendors' area and grabbed a few small souvenirs.  There really were some beautiful pieces of art and creative crafts being offered in addition to other horror/sci-fi themed merchandise, and we walked away with a Pokemon bath bomb and some pins.

Overall, I was happy with the convention!  The two things that had drawn me to this year's festivities (WV C.A.S.E. and Jyoti) turned out wonderful and it was fun to see all the costumes.  The collection of Hearses out front was an added bonus, and of course, it's always cool to see the WV Ghostbusters Division and their giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.  Sadly, there was an announcement on the ShockaCon Facebook page today.  Con creator Mike Winland will not be planning a ShockaCon 2019.  

I hope that ShockaCon will return in the next few years, but I understand that it takes an enormous amount of time, energy and resources to put on an event of this magnitude and that Winland has some other projects he'd like to devote more time to.  I am, glad, however, that I had the opportunity to attend both the first ShockaCon ever...and what hopefully WON'T be the last. 

*We only spent a few hours at the convention on Saturday, so this blog is just a glimpse into what my boyfriend and I did while at ShockaCon.  However, I wanted to note that there was absolutely so much more to this event than what I've covered here.  Please check out the links below for a more complete picture of all that was offered.*

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Happy First Day of Fall!

Happy Official First Day of Autumn!  It's finally Fall, and this morning is a beautiful, overcast day...not really cold, but not super hot, either.  Last weekend I nearly melted at the Mothman Festival, and today, I'll be spending a couple of hours at ShockaCon.  The spooky festivals have started, the weather is cooling down, and it will soon be October.  It's my favorite time of the year!

*I found this image on Facebook with no credit as to who created it.  If you know, please let ME know so I can credit the source.*  Happy Fall, ya'll...and stay spooky!

Friday, September 21, 2018

Synergize with Demons! A Friday Funny

If all exorcisms could be this easy...I hope this lil' demon got his fries for being so accommodating!  We're not always on the same side, but this little comic reminds us to at least be civil to each other and lend a helping hand. Happy Friday, everyone! 

This comic is the work of Mr. Lovenstein.  Check out the link and support awesome artists.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Headless Skeleton of Deer Island

Aaarrrghh!  Today is Talk Like a Pirate Day, and here on Theresa's Haunted History, I'll be celebrating the best way I know how---with a pirate ghost story!  Today's addition to my Haunted America page is an eerie one from a small island just off the coast of Biloxi, Mississippi, known as Deer Island.

It was the early 1800s and two fishermen had just set up camp on the sandy shore of Deer Island.  As they sat around the fire, preparing their evening meal, they began to hear rustling coming from palmetto bushes nearby.  At first, they assumed that an animal must be causing the racket, as the wind was too calm to produce such activity.  But then, the rustling intensified to the point that the fishermen turned around...only to find themselves face to face...uh, well maybe not face to FACE...with a HEADLESS SKELETON! 

Understandably, the two fishermen began backing up from the eerie bone man, and when they realized it was following them, they took off towards their boat at top speed.  The men left the island and all their belongings there overnight.  The next morning brought sunlight and bravado, and the men returned to collect their things.  There was no sign of their skeletal guest, but it is noted that later on, some money was found near the campsite.

The idea that money was found near the site sparked rumors that the headless skeleton must surely be the ghost of a deceased pirate.  A tale was told that many years before the fishermen made camp on Deer Island that fateful night, a pirate ship had landed on that same shore.  After the booty had been buried, the captain asked if any of his men wanted to volunteer to guard the treasure.  A naive, young man responded that he would do it, not knowing that it was customary for the designated security for buried pirate treasure was to be...supernatural.  The captain took out his cutlass, lopped off the man's head, and threw the body in the palmetto bushes.  The young pirate was true to his word, and his spirit, in the form of a creepy, headless skeleton, watched over the treasure for many years.  It seems as though he has finally retired, as no 21st century encounters with the skeleton have been recorded.

This fascinating bit of local lore was first recorded in a Mississippi newspaper column titled "Back With Father Time in the Early Days of the Mississippi Coast."  The article,"Headless Ghost Haunted Deer Island In Olden Times," appeared on May 20, 1922 and was written by local historian, Anthony Ragusin, aka Mr. Tony.

Mr. Tony was introduced to the story of the Deer Island skeleton by 78 year old local, Eugene Tiblier Sr.  The Tiblier family had been in the Biloxi area since the French Colonial times and were respected citizens with a deep knowledge of the area's history.  

*Information for today's blog came largely from a SunHerald article dated 17 October 2015:
Coast Chronicles: Stories of ghosts on Deer Island

Monday, September 17, 2018

Mothman Festival 2018

Another year and another Mothman Festival behind us.  For me, the Mothman Festival usually signifies the official beginning of the Halloween season, and this was one of the most fun years yet!

For the second year in a row, I didn't get my own vendor table, but I DID end up Saturday helping Aaron work the table his aunt/mother rented, and despite the unbearable heat, we had a really nice time.  That oppressive heat kept me from moving around too much, but I did get out a few times to see the sights.

One of the first things I did this year was see Tonya and Joey Madia speak at the State Theater.  Their talk, titled "Ghostesses, Portals, and MIBs: Our Haunted Life So Far", was a really interesting look at the hauntings and other strange things they've witnessed while living in West Virginia and elsewhere, as well as their journey into becoming investigators of the paranormal and developing their psychic gifts.  I was personally fascinated with the story they told about an odd experience of theirs after visiting Pt. Pleasant's famous TNT area.  An episode of missing time and a shared visual sighting of an interdimensional being on the side of the road led to a series of friendships and opportunities that resulted in them being able to share their knowledge on the Mothman Festival stage.

Joey and Tonya Madia's Speaker Promo

While I was glad I got to catch the Madias'  talk, it couldn't have come at a worse time!  Shortly after settling into my seat at the back of the theater, I get a text message from Aaron, saying he had met Jacob The Carpetbagger!!!

For a couple of years now, I've been following the Carpetbagger on YouTube.  I love his dry wit and hilarious commentary as he travels around the country visiting strange festivals, unique museums, old school roadside attractions, and just about everything else strange and fascinating.  A couple of months ago, Aaron sat down and watched a few of the Carpetbaggers videos with me and apparently became an instant fan.  I was really upset I didn't get to meet the Carpetbagger, but was quite bemused that Aaron actually shows up IN THE CARPETBAGGER'S MOTHMAN FESTIVAL VIDEO!!!!

Aaron and The Carpetbagger

My other highlight of the festival was spending way too much money.  I picked up a Mothman headband and ornament from a vendor outside the Mason Jar.  I bought a kickass pair of Mothman leggings from a little boutique on Main Street.  I picked up two books, The Unexplained Presents The South Dakota Road Guide to Haunted Locations and The Unexplained Presents The Iowa Road Guide to Haunted Locations, both by Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk. Aaron walked away with a huge bag of baked goods.

We also purchased a few pieces of epic art from The Art of Eerie Eric.  Eerie Eric takes these idyllic, pastoral painted scenes...and then adds a creepy twist!  Unfortunately, we weren't for us---we purchased them for an out-of-town friend who couldn't make it to the festival.  But, we are definitely planning on ordering something online in the near future!

Sample of Eerie Eric's art

Like every year, we were completely blown away by how nice everyone was.  There is simply no place like the Mothman Festival where people from so many walks of life come together to celebrate cryptozoology, the paranormal, horror, history, and fandom in peace.  The big draw for this year's festival was Bethesda.  Their new Fallout 76 game features several creatures from WV mythology, notably the Mothman, so giveaways, cosplay, and exclusive merchandise were big hits this year.  And again, for another year we were so blown away by the level of creativity displayed by the various vendors.  For all price points, you can take away a really cool handmade Mothman souvenir, fine art, T-shirts, books, and so much more.  The variety of food offerings was also really good this year, and there were plenty of Mothman themed treats to go around.

I can't wait to go back next year, but first I've got a few more paranormal conventions and events to tackle!  Stay spooky, ya'll!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Valley Park's Fairy Door Trail

A little fairy magic can be found in (what I would have previously thought to have been) an unlikely place!  Dozens of beautifully decorated little fairy doors can be found sprinkled throughout the trees lining the back walking trail of Hurricane's Valley Park.  Valley Park, which is normally known for being home to Waves of Fun wave pool, is a great little spot for trail walking, and this added dose of whimsy is a wonderful new improvement.

The idea of the fairy doors came to CVB's Information and Events Specialist, Dusty Hurly, after she had seen similar fairy door trails dotting the Irish countryside during her family's trips abroad.  In order to make the idea a reality, the Bear Wood Company out of Hurricane, constructed the doors, which were then distributed to local artists of all ages to decorate.

On Thursday, September 13, I decided to take my morning walk at Valley Park in order to seek out this peek into the fairy realm.  I was quite pleased to see the sheer number of fairy doors gracing the trees along the path.  I was also quite pleased to see how beautiful the little doors were!  All those who participated in the project so far (the doors had to be submitted by July 25, 2018) really went all out to create a little wonderland to walk through.  As someone whose back issues make walking even the simplest trails difficult, the excitement of what little doors would be around the next corner definitely kept me motivated and kept my mind off the pain, lol.

And...the project isn't going to stop at the Valley Park trail!  Fairy doors will also be installed around town at various small businesses!  I'll have to plan another outing to track down THOSE doors, which I will be sure to share. 

Information on the Fairy Doors is from the article, Initiative aims to add magic to Valley Park, by Anya Wakefield for the Herald-Dispatch (20 July 2018).

You can also see my full photo album of the photos I took of the Fairy Doors HERE.  Stay magical, everyone!

Friday, September 14, 2018

Aaron...Just Do It

It's been a trying week, and its shaping up to be a trying weekend for many along the East Coast.  So...here's a little funny to hopefully brighten your day!  Poor Aaron. I'm not sure which is worse:  the abuse he takes from Zak, the fear he feels from his work, or the many, many memes that document both, lol. Keep fighting the good fight, Aaron.  Just do it!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Braxton County Monster Drawing

On September 12, a group of kids playing football noticed what they thought may have been a small plane crash outside Flatwoods, WV.  The boys, accompanied by two of the group's mother, a teenage neighbor, and a dog, grabbed a flashlight and made the trek up the hill to discover what was going on.  What they saw that night was, perhaps, literally out of this world.  The creature, which would be known as The Flatwoods Monster, the Braxton County Monster, or simply just 'The Being' was so unique in appearance, that even 66 years later, its form is immediately recognized.

Red face framed by a strange spade-shaped head.  Tiny, claw-like arms.  Glowing yellow eyes.  A green pleated skirt?!  What the hell was this thing? Some believe that the group saw a creature from outer space.  Others believed that it wasn't the creature itself, but a small vehicle or protective suit for a spaceman.  Some simply believed that the group chased down a meteorite and were spooked by a large owl seated on a low hanging tree branch.    

No matter what you believe the Flatwoods Monster to be, it is pretty undeniable that its form is easily recognizable to many, in and out of the paranormal community.  The creature has been featured in video games, toys, lanterns, comic books, over-sized chairs, etc. There is simply nothing else like it in the world.  But...is the iconic monster image that we immediately recognize as the Flatwoods Monster REALLY a good representation of what the group saw that evening?  And where did the artwork for it come from?

The photo above is a clipping from a Charleston Gazette article dated Tuesday, September 23, 1952. The caption states that the drawing was made by a New York sketch artist based on the descriptions of the creature given by Kathleen May and Gene Lemon. It was most likely created when the pair, accompanied by Sutton publisher, A. Lee Stewart, Jr., traveled to New York City to appear on the television show, "We The People." As they told their tale and showed the image, which both witnesses agreed was accurate, eerie music played in the background for the audience at home. Later when they returned to West Virginia, a photo was snapped of May and Lemon at the Charleston Greyhound Bus Station.

As the years rolled by, interest in the sighting waned, but then later saw a resurgence.  Aided by researchers, namely Frank Feschino, it was discovered that maybe the ridiculous, cartoonish portrayal of the creature wasn't EXACTLY what the witnesses had seen. What the witnesses had really seen was described as much more mechanical in nature, with the creature's flowing, pleated skirt really being similar to corrugated metal and its claw-like arms being more like antennae.  This updated version of  the creature's appearance can be found on the cover of Frank Feschino's book, The Braxton County Monster: The Cover-Up of the Flatwoods Monster Revealed.   

Although perhaps more accurate, the newer version of the Flatwoods Monster's appearance is decidedly less fun than the older version and the original is still the main inspiration for artists creating memorabilia and souvenirs to this day.  And, as an added bonus...just recently the original drawing itself has been found!  Believed for years to have been lost, an anonymous citizen of Braxton County came forth and let the piece be photographed.  You can see the photographs over at the  Braxton County Convention and Visitor's Bureau website as well as find tons of information about West Virginia's 'other' monster.

*If you find yourself in Braxton County, make it a top priority to visit the visitor's center for a HUGE collection of monster memorabilia, souvenirs, and information on the creature and other attractions around the county!*

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Idaho's Haunted KMart

Awhile back it was announced that my local KMart store would finally be joining the long list of closed retail chains throughout the tri-state.  This store, which held on while other area KMarts bit the dust a couple of years ago, now joins Elder-Beerman, Magic Mart, Rite-Aid, and Toys R Us in becoming an empty and abandoned shell of a building.

There are numerous reasons why I hate to see this death trend in brick and mortar stores, and one of those is...where are all the ghosts going to go?  Retail stores, many of which are located in relatively new strip malls or shopping complexes, don't usually come to mind when it comes to spooky places with a haunted reputation.  But...there are more haunted retail stores out there than you'd think!  We've seen the infamous Toys R Us ghost photo taken at a Sunnyvale, CA location, and there's even a haunted KMart here in Parkersburg, WV.  Back in my early 20s, I worked at a haunted Dollar Tree where the resident ghost liked to walk the aisles after closing, unplug vacuums, and knock merchandise off shelves.  Today's blog, however, is about another haunted KMart---this one located in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho!

Okay, so in the spirit of full disclosure, the KMart itself isn't haunted.  The haunting involves an object housed within the store.  This KMart is home to a possessed cash register.

The story of the spooky cash register surfaced back in October of 2013 when a local newspaper in northern Idaho asked its readers to send in their own ghostly experiences for a Halloween piece.  One such story that came in was so fascinating that it got its own feature in The Coeur d'Alene Press!  Cashier Tamara Dobbs wrote in to share her experiences with Register two at the Kmart store, located at 201 West Neider Avenue.

Register 2 is accused of being possessed by a potential poltergeist because of its penchant for malfunction.  The older register is the only one in the store that is known for frequently freezing up, dumping transactions, and generally causing chaos for the cashier assigned to it.  When a manager is called in to assist with the problem, or when technicians are called in to service the machine, there are never any problems.  It seems like the ghost, whom employees believe to be a male spirit, only likes to mess with cashiers.

The Coeur d'Alene Press reached out to store manager, Lauren Larson.  Larson confirmed that the register in question was known to cause problems for cashiers and even referred to the machine as "an independent thinker" that regularly "loses its mind."

Unfortunately, it appears as if the Coeur d'Alene KMart closed last October.  I'm not sure if the register is still in use at another location, but if it is, today it would be 18 years old. I hope that wherever the machine ended up, its paranormal inhabitant can now find peace. 

The Coeur d'Alene Press
Article by David Cole; October 24, 2013

Monday, September 10, 2018

Ghost Walk of Old Wilmington

Last month, my family went to Carolina Beach, North Carolina for our summer vacation!  There was so much to see and do during our week-long stay, including spending some time in nearby historic Wilmington. With limited time to cram in everything, we decided that a ghost tour would be the coolest way to see and learn about the downtown area...and we were not disappointed!

Since we had my 8 year old son with us, we couldn't do the haunted pub crawl, but luckily, the same company offers a more kid-friendly Ghost Walk of Old Wilmington tour that we could take.  We purchased our tickets online, but they can also be purchased at the Black Cat Shoppe on Market Street.  The price runs $13 for adults and $11 for kids over 6.  (Check website for further pricing options.) Through most of the tourist season, tours run nightly at 6:30 pm and 8:30 pm. 

We took the 6:30 tour Friday evening with Jake and had a wonderful time!  Even my 8 year old son really enjoyed the stories, which were sufficiently spooky without relying on gore or really disturbing details. The history was fascinating, and Jake did an awesome job storytelling---he made the history and the hauntings interesting and was really quite entertaining, adding in a dose of humor where appropriate.

Paradise Alley
 As someone with back issues, I was hesitant at first at the thought of a 90 minute walking tour, but the pace and terrain were easy enough, and several of the stops offered a place to sit down. The emphasis on storytelling, rather than just a quick overview of each haunted location, led to there being less actual locations than I would have thought on the tour, but I found that surprisingly refreshing. On other tours I've been on, so much info is thrown at you in such a short period of time that it all runs together. With this tour, we still got in a good number of stops with a couple of additional tales without feeling  overwhelmed.  Plus, there was ample opportunity to take as many pictures as you'd like without feeling rush.  They do, however, ask you to refrain from recording the actual storytelling, due to copyright issues.

Throughout our jaunt around town, we learned the tale of Gallus Meg, a no-nonsense tavern keeper who is still making sure men who come to have a drink at the Blue Post behave themselves.  We heard the touching tale of a dog who refused to leave her owner's side, even in death.  The pair are still sometimes seen walking the streets of Wilmington, side by side.  We made a stop at the Burgwin-Wright House and even experienced the ungodly phantom stench that seems to be associated with the location's paranormal reputation.  Our next stop on the tour was at the local modern library which housed a painting with a mind of its own.  That was a really interesting tale that tied directly to the racial tensions in Wilmington during the Race Riots of 1898.  And finally, we ended the night in the world's creepiest alley/tunnel behind a former hospital where overnight visitors often report seeing children playing, hearing their laughter, and even feeling their tiny hands pressing down on them while in bed.  As I find the time, I hope to give each one of these locations (and a few more in the area!) their own blog posts.

Overall, I was very pleased with the experience, and I would definitely recommend this tour to anyone visiting Wilmington.  Our tour guide was obviously passionate about teaching the history of this fascinating former pirate town through a fun and spooky way.  He was knowledgeable, and really knew how to work a mixed-age crowd so that it was enjoyable for everyone.  However, one cool aspect of the this particular tour is that each one is a little different.  Each  tour guide has his/her own way of telling the stories, and not all tours stop at the exact same locations. So, you can definitely take the tour multiple times for a totally different experience. And, I personally thought that the price was very fair for a little under 2 hours of entertaining storytelling.

If you cannot make it to Wilmington, or if you simply want a taste of what you might experience while on the Ghost Walk of Old Wilmington, consider picking up a copy of the book, Ghosts of Old Wilmington, by John Hirchak!  Hirchak is the creator of the tour, and his book gives a really nice glimpse into some of the local legends you might hear on your tour. It makes a great companion piece to the tour, and can be purchased, along with other tour merchandise, in person at the Black Cat Shoppe or online.