Ghostly “White Vortex” Captured During Texas Hotel Investigation
Paranormal investigators allegedly encountered supernatural mist at the Magnolia Hotel in Seguin, Texas earlier this month.
The video shows a “black mist” roll into the hotel’s Campbell Room at around 1:48 AM on August 5, 2017. The footage has been circulating online since it was posted last week by the YouTube channel Strange Town, based in Austin, Texas.
The black mist enters twice, first dissipating, then transforming into what the video describes as a “white vortex” much closer to the camera. It kind of swirls around, and you can even make out what some would possibly call a ghost orb or two.
“A spinning white vortex forms in the middle of the smoke-room while being preceded by a black mist entering the smoke-room…Boot steps are often heard on the wooden floor, and the smell of cigar smoke will appear in the air.” – Strange Town
Many aren’t convinced the video shows anything paranormal. Some commented on the possibility that the “white vortex” could just be smoke (from vaping or otherwise) from someone behind the camera.
However, the owners have stated that they were present at the time and smoking of any kind was not allowed. Others questioned if it could be AC condensation, but again, one of the building’s owners, Erin Wallace, commented that “the hotel does not have central ac only a small window unit.”
The Magnolia Hotel is, naturally, known for paranormal activity, hence the presence of investigators there in the first place. The hotel’s official website contains newspaper clippings regarding the death of Emma Voelcker, who was brutally murdered there in 1874 when she was only about 13 years old. She’s not the only one said to now roam the hotel from beyond the grave.
If you’ve ever wondered what it would feel like to travel back in time and walk the streets of San Francisco, this might be the closest you’ll get.
Two developers, Dan Vanderkam and Raven Keller, had the brilliant idea to take all the old photographs from the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collectionand put them on an interactive map. This map functions similarly to Google Street View, except when you zoom in on a particular place, it gives you photos from as far back as 1850.
The project, called OldSF, lets you manipulate a slider to change the range of years (it goes from 1850 all the way up to 2000). Vanderkam and Keller have geocoded about 13,000 images.
Visit the site here, or look below for some of the best photos we saw from the 1800s, marked with their locations in the city. (All photos via San Francisco History Center/San Francisco Public Library.)
Point Lobos Avenue and 43rd, Dick’s Saloon, 1890
Central Park, 8th and Mission, circa 1887
Group of people overlooking the Cliff House from Sutro Heights, 1890
Bush Street, west of Kearny, 1877
Palm Avenue in Jefferson Square, 1881
View from City Hall, looking south down 8th at Central Park, 1896
Woodward’s Gardens, 1864
California Street, looking east from Montgomery, 1865
Exterior of the What Cheer House on the south side of Sacramento, below Montgomery, 1865
Building on northeast corner of Front and California, 1890
Baldwin Hotel bar, 1880
Steuart Street, 1864
J. C. Flood Mansion, California Street, 1886
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, southeast corner of Sacramento Street and Van Ness, 1895
Sacramento and Van Ness, 1887
Woodward’s Gardens, 1874
Miss Lake’s School for Young Ladies, corner Sutter and Octavia, 1890
Howard Street, looking east from 6th, 1866
1919 California Street, 1887
Southern Pacific passenger depot, 1879
Cablecar at South Park, 1865
Fire Engine No. 13 at 1458 Valencia, 1884
Shotwell Street near 20th, Snowfall, 1887
The Willows, 18th & Valencia, 1864
Musicians performing outside the “Haunted Swing” at the Midwinter Fair in Golden Gate Park, 1894
This story originally appeared on Www.businessinsider.com. Copyright 2016
Circus Ringling Bros.Barnum & Bailey Kings of the Circus
Ringling bros and barnum bailey circus Atlanta 2016 final
“We are proud that No. 3985 pulled the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus train into Denver. A record was set when Challenger pulled a 65-car train that is more than 6,000 tons and nearly 6,100 feet long, the most for a steam locomotive in the 21st century,” said Dick Hartman, Union Pacific’s director of public affairs for Colorado and Wyoming.
The combined trains arrived shortly after 10:00 am and were met by over 500 excited fans at the intersection of York Street and East 47th Avenue. A welcome celebration followed that featured Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson and performers from Ringling Bros., officials from Union Pacific, and Denver city auditor, Dennis Gallagher, who presented a proclamation from the Mayor of Denver.
“Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey is excited to be part of this railroad heritage celebration; we’ve been riding the rails for the last 140 years, so we are a part of railroad history,” said Johnathan Lee Iverson, Ringmaster for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents Barnum’s FUNundrum!SM, is a monumental, once in a lifetime show, celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of the legendary P.T. Barnum, and can only be experienced at The Greatest Show On Earth, Barnum’s living legacy! Ringling Bros. will be performing in Denver through October 10, 2010 and then will continue on its two-year tour.
For more information about Ringling Bros., visit http://www.Ringling.com.
For more information about Union Pacific or No. 3985, visit http://www.up.com.
Ringling Bros. Circus Chooses First Female Ringmaster in Its 146-Year History
History of the Circus Sideshow / Freakshow
A visit to Ringling Brothers Circus Museum in Florida
ELLENTON, Fla. (AP) — After 146 years, the curtain is coming down on “The Greatest Show on Earth.” The owner of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus told The Associated Press that the show will close forever in May.
The iconic American spectacle was felled by a variety of factors, company executives say. Declining attendance combined with high operating costs, along with changing public tastes and prolonged battles with animal rights groups all contributed to its demise.
“There isn’t any one thing,” said Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment. “This has been a very difficult decision for me and for the entire family.”
The company broke the news to circus employees Saturday night after shows in Orlando and Miami.
Ringling Bros. has two touring circuses this season and will perform 30 shows between now and May. Major stops include Atlanta, Washington, Philadelphia, Boston and Brooklyn. The final shows will be in Providence, Rhode Island, on May 7 and in Uniondale, New York, at the Nassau County Coliseum on May 21.
The circus, with its exotic animals, flashy costumes and death-defying acrobats, has been a staple of entertainment in the United States since the mid-1800s. Phineas Taylor Barnum made a traveling spectacle of animals and human oddities popular, while the five Ringling brothers performed juggling acts and skits from their home base in Wisconsin. Eventually, they merged and the modern circus was born. The sprawling troupes traveled around America by train, wowing audiences with the sheer scale of entertainment and exotic animals.
By midcentury, the circus was routine, wholesome family entertainment. But as the 20th century went on, kids became less and less enthralled. Movies, television, video games and the internet captured young minds. The circus didn’t have savvy product merchandising tie-ins or Saturday morning cartoons to shore up its image.
“The competitor in many ways is time,” said Feld, adding that transporting the show by rail and other circus quirks — such as providing a traveling school for performers’ children— are throwbacks to another era. “It’s a different model that we can’t see how it works in today’s world to justify and maintain an affordable ticket price. So you’ve got all these things working against it.”
The Feld family bought the Ringling circus in 1967. The show was just under 3 hours then. Today, the show is 2 hours and 7 minutes, with the longest segment — a tiger act — clocking in at 12 minutes.
“Try getting a 3- or 4-year-old today to sit for 12 minutes,” he said.
Feld and his daughter Juliette Feld, who is the company’s chief operating officer, acknowledged another reality that led to the closing, and it was the one thing that initially drew millions to the show: the animals. Ringling has been targeted by activists who say forcing animals to perform is cruel and unnecessary.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a longtime opponent of the circus, wasted no time in claiming victory.
“After 36 years of PETA protests, which have awoken the world to the plight of animals in captivity, PETA heralds the end of what has been the saddest show on earth for wild animals, and asks all other animal circuses to follow suit, as this is a sign of changing times,” Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, wrote in a statement.
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, acknowledged the move was “bittersweet” for the Felds but said: “I applaud their decision to move away from an institution grounded on inherently inhumane wild animal acts.”
In May of 2016, after a long and costly legal battle, the company removed the elephants from the shows and sent the animals to live on a conservation farm in Central Florida. The animals had been the symbol of the circus since Barnum brought an Asian elephant named Jumbo to America in 1882. In 2014, Feld Entertainment won $25.2 million in settlements from groups including the Humane Society of the United States, ending a 14-year fight over allegations that circus employees mistreated elephants.
By the time the elephants were removed, public opinion had shifted somewhat. Los Angeles prohibited the use of bull-hooks by elephant trainers and handlers, as did Oakland, California. The city of Asheville, North Carolina nixed wild or exotic animals from performing in the municipally owned, 7,600-seat U.S. Cellular Center.
Attendance has been dropping for 10 years, said Juliette Feld, but when the elephants left, there was a “dramatic drop” in ticket sales. Paradoxically, while many said they didn’t want big animals to perform in circuses, many others refused to attend a circus without them.
“We know now that one of the major reasons people came to Ringling Bros. was getting to see elephants,” she said. “We stand by that decision. We know it was the right decision. This was what audiences wanted to see and it definitely played a major role.”
The Felds say their existing animals — lions, tigers, camels, donkeys, alpacas, kangaroos and llamas — will go to suitable homes. Juliette Feld says the company will continue operating the Center for Elephant Conservation.
Some 500 people perform and work on both touring shows. A handful will be placed in positions with the company’s other, profitable shows — it owns Monster Jam, Disney on Ice and Marvel Live, among other things — but most will be out of a job. Juliette Feld said the company will help employees with job placement and resumes. In some cases where a circus employee lives on the tour rail car (the circus travels by train), the company will also help with housing relocation.
Kenneth Feld became visibly emotional while discussing the decision with a reporter. He said over the next four months, fans will be able to say goodbye at the remaining shows.
In recent years, Ringling Bros. tried to remain relevant, hiring its first African American ringmaster, then its first female ringmaster, and also launching an interactive app. It added elements from its other, popular shows, such as motorbike daredevils and ice skaters. But it seemingly was no match for Pokemon Go and a generation of kids who desire familiar brands and YouTube celebrities.
“We tried all these different things to see what would work, and supported it with a lot of funding as well, and we weren’t successful in finding the solution,” said Kenneth Feld.
Avondale is a little town located just west of Zanesville on Route 22, at the intersection with 93. There are no other roads in this town, which contains only a handful of residents. The largest and nicest home in Avondale stands on 22 just a few feet from the intersection and has been abandoned for roughly thirty years. This is the Sidwell House–one of Muskingum County’s best-known and scariest haunted houses.
What happened at the Sidwell House, and why is it unoccupied? As is always the case with local legends, there are conflicting reports. Every version seems to deal with a family murder here, although the specifics vary. The Sidwells are apparently the current owners and may have nothing to do with the last family who lived here. According to reports I’ve gotten, the house hasn’t been occupied since at least the early 1970s and possibly as far back as the 50s. One story says the last family was a newlywed couple who were murdered in their beds by an unknown assailant. Another story is more elaborate. This is how it was told to me via e-mail:
Back in the late 40s/early 50s a family of about 6 lived in the home–four children, a mother, and a drunken father. The father, who was also very abusive, came in late one night very drunk. He climbed the stairs to the bedroom and began fighting with his young wife, and stormed away. The next morning she arose from bed to find him gone. She searched the upstairs, but he was nowhere to be found. Descending the stairs she looked everywhere and finally found him stitting in a chair in the living room with his bottle. She began to cook breakfast. Arising from his chair he grabbed the shotgun from the closet, went to the kitchen, and found his wife standing in front of the stove. He raised the shotgun and repeatedly shot her from the back of her head to the back of her knees. He then quietly walked up the stairs to his childrens bedrooms and shot all four of his young children in their beds, then proceeded to shoot himself hours later. This is the story I had heard from my grandma for as long as I can remember. She said you could find it on every radio station and newspaper cover for a hundred miles.
All of which makes you wonder why the guy did it, when he could have had breakfast if he’d just waited another hour. At any rate, the house is now supposed to be the site of mysterious lights in the windows, gunshot sounds, even the smell of bacon cooking in the early mornings. The murdered family is said to haunt its rooms and halls. This is why the house isn’t occupied; no one stays long. According to the person who wrote the e-mail, her attempts to question the old-timers at Whitey’s, which is the diner around the corner and just about the only business in Avondale, were met with the cold shoulder. Somebody even called the house “evil.” But is there really anything to the ghost legends associated with this house?
Members of the family which last occupied it say the answer is probably not. I heard from the grown children of the White family in January of 2003, and they were able to fill in many of the factual blanks in the house’s true backstory.
According to them, it was built in the 1840s by the Rankin family. The Rankins farmed the surrounding land and built was was apparently an immense barn on the property–three stories tall with livestock stalls on the second floor. They also operated the place as an inn (The Rankin Inn) and held horse races on a track out back. As is usually the case with large Civil War-era houses, it’s rumored that it was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Marks on the cellar walls are supposed to have been left by slaves who counted the days before the next leg of their journey. (This is remarkably similar to Brown County’s Rankin House, a very historic confirmed station on the Railroad with its own ghost stories.) The last surviving member of this Rankin family was Winifred Vogt, who died there in 1963. She was a schoolteacher whose fiancee left her on her wedding night.
In 1968 the White family purchased the house from the Sidwell Brothers Limestone Company and moved in–two parents, five kids, and an uncle who sometimes lived there as well. This is the family about whom the legends arose, long after the kids had grown up and moved out. The truth is that they were a fairly normal family. The father of the family owned a trucking company, worked on his vehicles in the barn, and definitely never killed his wife or any of his kids. They sold the house back to the Sidwells in 1982 or 83, after which it apparently lingered in escrow during the divorce of one of the brothers. That’s probably why it’s still abandoned.
A clue as to why such horrible stories are told about a family which could only have been the Whites is the fact that Mr. and Mrs. White had what their children term a “rocky” marriage. Mr. White did drink a lot. And he owned a lot of guns, which he would sometimes show his children how to fire in the back yard. Things like this aren’t too far outside the norm, and they probably would have been forgotten by neighbors if the house they lived in hadn’t eventually been left abandoned. There’s just something about a scary-looking place that demands ghost stories.
- One night my uncle and I were the only ones there and we were getting ready to go to bed. I could hear the sound of glass tinkling, as if drinking glasses were being carried on a tray. It was coming from the upstairs hallway. I could hear it clearly, but my uncle, who was nearby, didn’t notice it. One night, later on, my mother was sleeping in one of the downstairs living rooms and heard the exact same sound.
2. There was a barn on the property and it was one of the largest barns around. My dad had a trucking company and was working late one night on one of his trucks. The barn had 3 levels and the 2nd level was where livestock were kept. At the time there was no animals in the whole barn. My dad heard noises as if there was a stampede in the second level. There were all kinds of animal noises coming from the lower level, like it was full of livestock. It scared my dad so bad he later told my grandfather that the hair was standing up on the back of his neck. Years later, after we moved away, a man in his eighties was talking to my brother. He said that back when he was a little boy he was playing hide and seek with other kids there. He went into the barn and climbed up in a loft on the top floor. He said when he was hiding there he heard the exact same noises my dad heard. It scared him because there was no livestock in the barn at that time either.
3. An experience that I myself had was when I was alone in the kitchen. I heard the slam of the back door that went out on to the enclosed porch. I knew I should not have heard anything because I was looking at the door at the time and it was shut. Immediately following, there was a loud rap on the window nearest the stairwell going up behind the bathroom. Scared the shit out of me, I don’t mind saying. I went to the window thinking it was one of brothers and looked out. There was no one there.
That was the White family’s experience with ghosts at the historic house at 22 and 93–but they were not the first. A Ms. Katherine Martin of Cincinnati wrote with an excerpt from an old family letter, describing where her forebears lived, even though she’s not positive just who was there at the time and when. She has a general idea that it was around 1858, and that Marianna Jackson was one of the residents at that time. Here is the paragraph, transcribed verbatim:
“Hugh was so ill from malaria that Father took a pleasant house in Avondale that the child might have milk from their own cow. That is the house where everybody but Father suffered so from evil spirits (ghosts). I have never read any true account of spiritual manifestations to equal it. I was born there in October 1858. At last, Dearest said she’d not stay there another day, and so, belatedly, Father took a house in Cincinnati.”
An absolutely incredible find. There is little doubt in Ms. Martin’s mind that the “pleasant house in Avondale” described in the letter is the Sidwell House. We are left to wonder just what the “evil spirits” did that made eveyone but Father so miserable.
This background material adds greatly to our understanding of this mysterious house; my thanks to the White family and Katherine Martin for their help with the story.
Whether or not the stories are true, the Sidwell House in Avondale does stand vacant in a hollow off Route 22. It’s quite visible from the highway, which has probably helped its reputation. People who’ve never heard of the ghosts have seen the house and wondered why nobody has bought it by now. It really is amazing, considering how attractive it is after all these years empty, and the nice way it sits on a hill in the middle of its own little hollow. The location isn’t bad at all. Divorce or not, why hasn’t somebody snapped this place up? It’s similar to the case of Mudhouse Mansion.
After first noticing the Sidwell House and then receiving a few different e-mails about it, I decided to check it out for myself. After two or three attempts which were foiled by parking difficulties (there is nowhere to park in Avondale) we just pulled over on 93 one night in September 2002 and walked up to the gated driveway. To see what we found inside, click below.
Alas, the Sidwell House is no more. Nothing this interesting, cool, and historically valuable can be left standing in the world of Wal-Mart and Starbucks, a mall at every freeway interchange and a condominium block at every crossroad. Slowly but surely, Zanesville and its environs are being suburbanized for (mainly Columbus-bound) commuters, and this grand old haunted farmhouse, as beautiful and picture-perfect as it was, breathed its last on the Monday before Christmas, December 18, 2006.
One source tells me that they made an attempt to load the house onto a flatbed truck and move it, similar to what happened when Circleville’s Octagon House was threatened by development, but it didn’t work, so they simply knocked it flat instead. Whether they tried or not, the Sidwell House (or the Rankin House, as it should more appropriately be remembered) is nothing but a memory now. Also claimed in this massacre of local history was the (very meager) remains of an abandoned amusement park I’d been trying to get some photos of for a while, the Moxahala; and they shut down and demolished the old restaurant around the corner called Whitey’s. They chopped down the old trees that gave the hollow surrounding the house and the hill above the town much of its character. They even bulldozed the hilltop and filled in a lot of the “hollow” with the foundation and cellar of the Sidwell House. All of which means that about one-third of Avondale has been wiped away, apparently to be replaced by something–at least judging by the amount of construction equipment to be seen near the corner of Routes 22 and 93. What will it be–a Home Depot? A new neighborhood of prefab M/I homes in the owner’s choice of three exciting layouts? Maybe a shiny new stripmall? Only time will tell.
As you can probably see, these photos were taken on Christmas Eve of 2006, just days after they did away with the house. (Thanks to Tim Holdcroft for the images.) The featureless plowed dirt field doesn’t even resemble the intersection as it appeared pre-demolition. It’s pretty clear that they’re bringing the roadside up to be level with the highway beside it, but beyond that, I’m not sure what’s going on. Anyone with further information about the fate of the Sidwell House, maybe a newspaper article about the demolition, or even a rumor about what’s next for the location–please drop me a line. In the meantime, we should mourn the Sidwell House, which lent its character to this little corner of Ohio for more than a century and a half.
By Jonathan H
Editor’s Note: The post below was originally published in March of 2008. Since the tragic events last week, I felt compelled to write a follow-up. View the farewell post and the entire set of Neverland photos here.
Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch is up for auction next week. Bearings has gained access to the ranch, and has posted the images below.
As an aside, I personally believe Jackson is innocent of all charges. I speak as someone who has been on Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. It’s a bit disconcerting to think that I stand in solidarity with Geraldo Rivera, but what can ya do?
Many images I am not posting, out of respect for Jackson’s privacy. What I do post are places that were largely seen by the public (or at least by hordes of kids who count it a privilege to have been on “the Ranch.”) Whether or not you believe he’s innocent, one can still appreciate the beauty of Jackson’s vision in creating such a place. None of us should ever lose our sense of wonder and amazement at the world, and I think Jackson truly wanted children to have this, largely because he never had it as a child himself.
Without further ado, here are the photos.
The train station at Neverland Ranch, taken on Kodak T-Max 100 speed film. Taken using a Tachihara large format field camera.
The ferris wheel – What I would give to have a ride on this puppy.
The classic, 50-foot carousel. Each horse and character seemed to be unique.
The bumper car tent.
Statues near the front gate with aspen behind.
The Neverland clock at the main train station. I believe the time was accurate.
Ride designed exclusively for Michael Jackson. These were the controls for the bumper cars.
The front gate of Neverland Ranch.
A lithograph of Michael Jackson with children at the front gate.
By Jonathan H
I wanted to make this post, not simply to jump on the bandwagon of the media outpouring for Michael Jackson. I’m not here to judge his life or talk about his finances, or his troubled past, or the allegations, or even Bubbles. I’m writing this simply to tell a story. It’s a story that I didn’t really have the inclination to say before. Now that Michael’s “Ranch” no longer exists, and — rides dismantled — it simply stands as a bank-owned shadow of its former self, I wanted say a few things about my experience at Neverland, and the truth behind how I was able to get in.
In many ways, I feel this is sort of a confession. I never saw Neverland as an interesting place. At first, I didn’t understood its potential to tell a photographic story. As someone who finds significance in historic architecture, I neither saw Neverland as significant, nor historic. All of that changed.
In December of 2007, I was on my way down to Ventura for the Holidays. I had taken multiple trips down the 101 before. Each trip, I made it a point tostop at a roadside abandonment to photograph at night. As it invariably is every December, just prior to Christmas, the radios are filled with the repetitious yuletide jingles of yore. Usually, the six-hour drive is bearable if I switch from one station to the next – between commercials. This particular drive down, I grew weary of the music. I’m not exactly sure why Michael came to mind. Part of it probably had to do with the silence and the habit of mine to imagine music in my head in such moments. It’s also possible that I passed the off-ramp for Los Olivos and thought of the place, only to think of it more and more. Whatever it was, the idea of then-abandoned Neverland began to roll around in my mind. The radio was off, and I began mentally turning over rocks in the process. What did Neverland mean about Michael? Then the big one loomed: Why couldn’t Neverland be “historic” in my mind?
I must admit, I suffer from the myopic view, like most historians — amateur or otherwise — that history must always be equated with old. That’s why Graceland was “history” to me, but Neverland never would be — at least not until it was gone. Hours passed, and the desire to see the inside of Neverland grew stronger. I had essentially exhausted all other photographic possibilities down the 101, and I knew this opportunity wouldn’t last long. Then, a day before I began the drive back up to San Francisco, I exited a theater to find what seemed like snow falling on me. I immediately realized they were large flakes of ash from a fire nearby. The sky was dark and orange. It was an eerie, foreboding signal, or at least that’s what I made it out to be. I needed to photograph Neverland, or else — and I had a strong feeling — it would all go to ashes without proper documentation.
Once it was decided, there was no convincing me otherwise. Still, I thought more than once of giving it up altogether and to continue driving North. I tried to convince myself that I had trespassed many times before at other locations — but the implications had never really bothered me until I considered walking into Michael’s private park. As I write this, I still try to justify my actions by thinking how much Michael truly wanted to share his world. It was a genuine wish of his for everyone to understand things the way he did. And the world largely didn’t understand what he was trying to communicate with Neverland, so he abandoned it.
People have asked me over the past year what it felt like to be in Neverland at night, alone. I didn’t want to say anything except that it was the most surreal and incredible experience of my life. Others asked me how I felt about Michael, after seeing Neverland, but I couldn’t completely answer that. I was withholding judgement. Maybe, like all battle-bruised humans, I had the sneaking suspicion that all of my best feelings about the man would be shattered when another allegation would arise. But it never happened, just as I suspected, because everything I saw at the Ranch indicated to me that he was an innocent man.
The night I drove up to the front gates, the security guard was there, sitting in a well-lit pillbox on the side of the road. Neverland itself is up the road about 400 yards from the front gate. It happened to be a dark night. In fact, there was a new moon, and the sky was clear of any clouds. Out in Los Olivos, the stars shone brightly, and there was little light pollution in the atmosphere. I was sure to maintain my speed as I passed the guard, and I drove up the road to small parking area east of the park. The walk to Neverland was about a half-mile through rolling hills in pitch black conditions. I carried a GPS, set to its dimmest level, and continued on a straight click, towards the North end of the park.
I came upon a back road that seemed to have been a utility road for the animal caretakers. By then, all of the animals were gone, save a few dogs in the old aviary. Bursting out from the branches of valley oak, I found myself in a miniature city. I had emerged right at the petting zoo. From there, my adventure began.
Strangely enough, the moment I entered, a howling wind spread across the valley. Trees cracked their massive arms and fell; I could hear the Ferris Wheel creaking; the rope drawbridge waved wild and unpredictable. When I walked up to the deserted bumper car tent, the wind had become so strong, that it was tearing the red, canvas roof. It’s fortunate that the wind also allowed me to roam freely around the park without a single bark from the nearby dogs.
In the midst of all of this wind, the only static elements of Neverland were the frozen, bronze faces of the myriad statues that dotted the grounds. The children’s smiles almost seemed sad, in the context; and other than the occasional jolt of fear that hit me when I encountered a new frozen figure (thinking it was a real person), these statues were the subjects that I found my camera most drawn to. The rides themselves could have been found on any county fair in any state in the country. But it was the psyche of Michael Jackson that drew my curiosity. The statues were a conduit; they were my artifacts to catalog before the time of their eventual liquidation arrived.
I took two more trips to Neverland, each time with close friends. In all, I captured hundreds of photographs of the park. Many of these photographs, I will never publish. Each trip became progressively more bittersweet. I don’t really have any regrets about doing what I did, but if there is one thing I wish I had done at Neverland, it would have been to ride down the Super Slide; I think MJ would have liked that, and I’m sure the friends with me on my final trip would have turned it into a photo shoot.
Despite how kitschy it all seemed; despite the controversy; and the fact that I could only see Neverland from one perspective (that of night), the times I spent at Neverland are among the most memorable moments of my life. Neverland allowed me to escape the cynical, xenophobic world of a country mired in war, terrorism, and daily reports of suicide bombers. They may have been only a few nights of escapism, at best, but they allowed me to put myself in the shoes of Michael — moon walking my own way among the soon-to-end dreamscape of a truly magnanimous soul. May you rest in peace, Michael; your dream will live on.
Additional Neverland Sets
BEST Products Company, Inc. – 1975
In 1972 SITE was commissioned by
BEST Products Company to design
a series of nine‘big box’ shopping
centers. Since these retail structures
are ubiquitous in the public domain,
people’s reflex acceptance of their
archetypal imagery has been used in
each case to invert and change the
meaning. Instead of approaching the
BEST buildings as conventionally
‘designed’ architecture, they are
treated as a ‘subject matter for art’
and a source of visual commentary
on the American commercial strip.
– Retail Store – Houston, TX – USA – 1975
– Façade brick pile
BEST Indeterminate Façade
– BEST Products Company, Inc.
– Retail Store – Houston, TX – USA – 1875 –
Parapet edge of the facade
BEST Tilt Building –
– Retail Store –
Towson, MD – USA –
1976 – Main view of facade
BEST Tilt Building –
BEST Products Company, Inc.
Towson, MD – USA – 1976 –
Main view of façade
from the highway
BEST Tilt Building –
– Towson, MD – USA –
1976 – Lifted doorway
Lot Building –
locations in Houston,
TX and Los Angeles,
CA – USA – 1976 –
Overview of the
showing, a fusion
of the asphalt
parking lot with the
Houston, TX and Los Angeles,
CA – USA – 1976 –
Detail of the project model,
showing a fusion of
the asphalt parking
lot with the retail building
BEST Forest Building –
Richmond, VA – USA – 1980
Cutaway façade section,
to penetrate the
building as an
BEST Forest Building –
Richmond, VA – USA – 1980 –
Existing forest incorporated
as an intrinsic part
of the building
BEST Forest Building
Richmond, VA – USA – 1980 –
Existing forest as an
intrinsic part of
BEST Forest Building
Houston, TX – USA –
Section of the façade
with glass terrarium
revealing sections of
the area’s geological strata
BEST Rainforest Building
– Hialeah, FL – USA – 1979
– Water wall façade at dusk
BEST Rainforest Building
– Hialeah, FL – USA – 1979 –
Detail of the water wall
and section of tropical
BEST Notch Building
Sacramento, CA – USA – 1979 –
of the façade, showing
the ‘wandering wall’
in its open position
BEST Notch Building –
– Sacramento, CA – USA – 1979 –
Mechanized façade section
in the process of
opening the entrance
to the building
BEST Inside/outside Building
– Miami, FL – USA –1994 –
Cut-away section of the façade
to reveal the layers of
technology and merchandise
BEST Inside/outside Building
– Milwaukee, WI – USA – 1984 –
of store merchandise,
showing the transition from
real objects on the
interior to ghosted
counterparts as they pass
through the glass wall
Company, Inc. – Retail Store
– Milwaukee, WI – USA – 1984
– Inside/outside display
of store merchandise,
showing the transition from
real objects to ghosted
counterparts as they pass
through the glass wall
– Milwaukee, WI – USA – 1984 –
General view of the façade,
showing cut-away sections
and inside/outside merchandise
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Wavy Gravy: ‘I’m Supporting Anything But Trump’
The Grateful Dead clown and Woodstock emcee on acid tests, ice cream and the horror of a Donald Trump presidency
May 10, 2016
Wavy Gravy will forever be associated with Woodstock, but from the moment you start talking with the clown prince of the counterculture, the former Hugh Romney makes it clear he isn’t a relic from the ’60s. “Did you like my haiku?” he asks, referring to one he’s just penned in honor of Prince: “A sexy God weeps/Soft wet tears fall on St. Paul/A purple rainbow.” “I enjoyed Prince,” Wavy says. “I like all good music, I bounce around.” Then he adds, with just a hint of solemnity, “It’s something in my geezer-ness, that, as people expire, I create haikus.”‘
Although he’ll turn 80 on May 15, Wavy Gravy works hard at avoiding his own geezer-ness. He continues his work with Camp Winnarainbow, a performing arts camp for kids in Laytonville, California, and the Seva Foundation, the nonprofit group dedicated to curing blindness for people around the world. In honor of Wavy’s milestone birthday, Steve Earle, Blues Traveler’s John Popper, the New Riders of the Purple Sage (still led by singer-guitarist David Nelson), and other acts will join forces on May 22 at the Somo Village Event Center, the solar-powered outdoor venue in Rohnert Park, California. Proceeds from the event (along with those raised by another Wavy tribute in Mill Valley on May 15) will benefit Seva. Those on the East Coast can honor Wavy’s 80th as well at “Unlimited Devotion: An Evening of Goodness,” which will feature an appearance by Wavy and a collection of rare Grateful Dead posters, all at the Main Line Art Center in Haverford, Pennsylvania on June 10 and 11. (A portion of proceeds will go toward the Rex Foundation, the charitable non-profit spun off from Wavy’s longtime friends, the Grateful Dead.)
Given all this activity, it felt high time to catch up with Wavy, a one-man tour of American counterculture over the last five decades.
How do you feel about turning 80?
All I got to do is keep breathing. In 20 years, I’ll be 100.
How did you come to be involved with Seva?
The [first] benefit was a Grateful Dead show. [Co-founder] Dr. Larry Brilliant’s boss came to him: “Larry, we must do something about this blindness.” And in Larry’s Rolodex were me and my wife Jahanara. I was given the task to get the Dead to do some music. I went to Detroit and who was on the airplane? The Grateful Dead, and they didn’t have parachutes. I sided with the drummers. I got Mickey and Billy to concur and then Jerry was a pushover. He always said, “Might as well.” It’s his exact quote. I used to talk to Jerry mostly about art. The last discussion I had with him was about a conceptual artist named Andy Goldsworthy who makes stuff out of logs and trees and bushes. That was ’93, ’94. Jerry was bubbling. But it was a hard ride for him.
You were there for some of the early Acid Tests, of course.
I was there in the beginning with the Merry Pranksters and I spent the better part of the early evening at one saying, “The Kool-Aid on the right is the electric Kool-Aid. The Kool-Aid on the left is for the children.” Two giant galvanized ash cans, brand new, one with acid and one not. Tom Wolfe got the information that I put the acid in the Kool-Aid at Watts. I didn’t. Fucking Owsley [Stanley] did. I still have mothers hit me with umbrellas, because they think that probably 50 people committed themselves that night.
What do you get out of being involved with Seva?
We’ve been at it for 40 years and 3.5 million sight-saving surgeries. So it was all about making a little music in the free world and then causing somebody on the other side of the world to not bump into shit anymore. How could you not jump at it? Standing next to cataract surgery performed on the poorest of the poor was one of the highest moments of my life. It’s a high that is not achieved in that pharmaceutical cabinet.
How did you round up the musicians for this show?
I’ve watched Yonder Mountain String band rise over the last five years and they keep going up, up, up and getting better and better. They take bluegrass into the stratosphere. Steve Earle has been with Seva for at least five years; it’s his second main cause, along with being against people being executed. John Popper, from Blues Traveler – we’ve been great friends over the years. Of course, the New Riders, we go back to the ancient times. I thought David Nelson would have been the most logical person to step into Jerry’s vacant shoes. I don’t know why that didn’t happen – because I was not in charge, obviously.
Ben and Jerry are also attending the 80th birthday event in Sonoma, giving out free ice cream. Bu they don’t make the Wavy Gravy flavor anymore, do they?
No. I was a flavor for eight years and then they went public stock and all. They sold it to people who immediately sold out to this big Dutch corporation, who immediately dumped me for not being cost effective. But some day, I’m trying to resurface as a rainbow sorbet. I used to get $30,000 a year when I was a flavor. I donated all that money to Camp Winnarainbow.
Do you have a stash of it somewhere?
I wish. I’ve been offered hundreds of dollars.
Did you ever think the legalization of weed would happen?
I thought it would happen about 30 or 40 years ago. Lenny Bruce was my manager at one point, and he convinced me: “Look, it’s going to happen. Everybody knows a lawyer that smokes pot or a law student. They’re going to carry it through and it’ll be legal in five years.” He was really, really off about that. But it’s happening now – “An eternity, now!” I always say. That’s a line of mine, by the way, that I began with the Nobody for President presidential campaign. We ran nobody from 1976 up until Obama with cross-country tours. When nobody did speeches, we used these windup clicking teeth. It was pretty hilarious.
Are you reviving Nobody this year?
No. This time, I’m supporting anything but Trump. And people should make their vote count. I suspect that if we do, and if people realize the horror of that possibility, that people that never voted before will rise in mass numbers and blow him out of the water. And I suspect we’ll have a woman president.
I hope you’re right.
Trust me on this. The alternative is so horrific. I don’t know anybody that I ever talked to that would support that fucker. He’s got the right-wing crazies and the disillusioned ones. But we’re so much more. I think you’d be stunned to discover how many we are. They always say to me, “Wavy Gravy, you were at Woodstock. How many people do you think are here at this event?” Well, count their feet and divide by two and hope there aren’t any pirates.
Woodstock still follows you around.
I was a teenage beatnik, turned into a standup comedian who became a hippie icon at Woodstock. “Good morning. What we have in mind is breakfast in bed, for 400,000.” It just flew out of my head at the moment. It was without thinking. I maintain that thinking gets in the way of thought.
And you were at Woodstock 3 in 1999, which got pretty gnarly.
Let me tell you – it was fine. I was all the way back to my hotel. I was exhausted. And what happened was, Limp Bizkit was the band that ignited it and this asshole, Fred Durst, says, “Go out and destroy something, it’s good for you.” So they set a semi on fire. People were screaming about the high price of water, but what about the free water that came out of the taps? That was never brought up. I got very steamed by a lot of that. I’m a very dear friend of [Woodstock promoter] Michael Lang and I think he’s always trying to do right. If anyone was to blame, it was Fred Durst igniting the crowd of Limp Bizkit fans.
How is your health—your longstanding back issues, for instance?
Oh God. I got beat up a lot by the police and the National Guard. I spent months in body casts. In fact, the picture of me in the first Rolling Stone that I appeared in, which was a huge article, had a picture of my all-star cast. It went from my knees to my nipples. We painted it blue and put stars all over it. They would bring me on stage to Grateful Dead shows and put me under the piano. I believe I was under Keith [Godchaux]. The second cast I had, we covered with money from all over the world and I called that one the cast of thousands. I try and use humor with hard stuff.
What’s left on your bucket list at this point in life?
Well, I’d like to see more and more blind people not bump into shit. Ken Kesey said to me, “Always put your good where it will do the most.” I’ve underlined that one in my heart, in my mind and everything in between.
1. Gator rides (fun if you don’t get eaten)
2. A three-day mud festival
3. Complete with jumping in puddles.
4. This Ron Swanson look-a-like who also woodworks
5. A stadium with bad timing
6. The best pork sausage
7. Mailboxes bigger than NYC apartments
12. Airboats faster than your car
13. More voodoo than you could shake a medicine stick at
16. And cajun food that dreams are made of