Friday, January 29, 2010

Book updates and blog uncertainty, still

So I've begun work in earnest on the book, and I've begun gathering as much information as I can on cases (descriptions, etc.) and I'm going to try my hand at a bit of statistical work painting a better picture of what certain critters really look like. I've completed a good-sized chunk of the chapter on sightings of winged monsters in Pennsylvania, and I've also completed some work on a chapter on high strangeness Bigfoot reports. That one's kind of on hold as I've discovered some unexpected references embedded in the "weird" abilities. I have a potential publisher lined up as well.

More opinion time: should I put Maryland stuff into the book, or just concentrate on Pennsylvania and maybe do a Maryland follow-up? Or should I just wait and see how long the Pennsylvania section turns out being?

I still haven't decided what I'm doing with the blog, so bear with me and don't give up. It'll be back eventually in one form or another.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Readers, input! Questioning the future

I've begun to question what direction I should take Masks in. I've recently started more seriously tossing around the idea of writing a book or two on things and I don't really want to keep posting things on here as that would make a book sort of irrelevant. I'm mulling over whether I should switch focus to breaking news, or maybe to a more general worldwide focus rather than strictly regional.


Monday, January 11, 2010

The wild man of Morgantown

On September 20, 1874, the Williamsport Sun-Gazette ran an article about a hair-covered "wild man" which had been seen near Morgantown (Berks County), in a region enclosed by hills and ridges. It was nearly seven feet tall and uncommonly for a Bigfoot frequently walked on all fours. It was described as having "altogether a horrible appearance."

The Bigfoot creature was reputed to steal pigs and sheep from mountain farms, and to utter a "demonic laugh" as it did so. A group of hunters pursued the beast, but it yelled and leaped and vanished into a forest.

More Biscardi Bait

A video was posted on January 5, 2010 on YouTube. It was posted anonymously by someone using the name "bobywade517". The attached description says that sightings of a white Bigfoot had been taking place in this Pennsylvania town, though, oddly, it's not mentioned at all what town that is. It obviously, therefore, can't be confirmed that there even were Bigfoot sightings here, and the creature in question sounds like a guy breathing heavily in a mask and looks like someone in a store-bought costume. Chalk one up as fake.

The only white Bigfoot I'm aware of seen in Pennsylvania is a four-foot one seen in Carbondale this summer. Otherwise, I'm drawing a blank.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Seven Gates of Hell

The story of the "Seven Gates of Hell" in York County really has nothing to do with either the cryptozoological or zooform realms. In fact, it scarcely has anything to do with the paranormal realm. But it is a topic I'm semi-obsessed with, since we visited there a few years back, and writing about urban legend creatures in Maryland brought it back up to the surface.

It's a pretty famous urban legend in south-central Pennsylvania: a massive fire in an asylum on Toad Road, a bunch of dead inmates. Several inmates escaped and were killed in the woods surrounding the asylum by over-zealous locals. There was a path leading back to the asylum, and either the city of York or the original administrator of the facility - versions vary as to who it is - constructed seven gates along the path. Why the administrator would do this, I don't know. Story goes that the city did it to curb trespassers.

Supposedly, supernatural things happen as you pass each gate. The last gate is, variously, withing the asylum or right outside the asylum. A moot point, because nobody's ever made it past the fifth. So how they know there's seven is up in the air.

Some versions have it that the home of Nelson Rehmeyer (the tale of Rehmeyer's Hollow and the murder of Nelson in 1928 is one of the more famous tales of Pennsylvania's darker history, although the Hollow is, of course, changed in legend) was near the asylum.

A good story, but there's some problems. First of all, there is no Toad Road as mentioned in the tale, and never was. Second of all, the gate shown above is the only one. It's a plain red cattle gate off Trout Run Road. The stories will say that the gates are just invisible during the day, but then explain how I went out there at night and didn't see any other gates.

Some stories will tell you there's one of the dreaded phantom black SUVs that'll patrol the area. Well, having been there, I can vouch that there is an old man in a pick-up truck that tried to scare us off. I've later heard that the entire Seven Gates area is this old man's backyard - and there's a lot of modern houses in the woods, so he's not some creepy hermit-type.

To put a bit of a cryptozoological angle on it, there was a rumor that Bigfoot hunters at one time trampled through the woods here. Whether that's true or not, I don't know.

But like all good urban legends, it's based on something. Though how many people know it, I don't know.

When this region of York County was originally settled and the roads laid out, the road that would later become Trout Run Road continued north along the banks of Codorus Creek and eventually emerged to intersect what is now known as Furnace Road, right by Codorus Furnace, an old iron furnace dating to the Revolution. And at the intersection stood a house. The extension leading up to Furnace Road has been inaccessible for years.

It's no longer there, but I recall seeing it when my grandmother and I made trips up to the furnace in my younger years. The house in question stood at the curve leading up to the furnace and was a ramshackle wooden affair, the kind of place which looks like a fire waiting to happen. Probably not a coincidence, then, that it was indeed a fire which destroyed the house totally. In front of the house was a row of trees growing along the road, and every tree had one or more 'No Trespassing' signs on it. Some variants of the tale had it that the administrator of the asylum was paranoid and had signs posted.

I talked to various people from York County, and was able to determine that the asylum version of the tale seems to have appeared in the late 1960s or 1970s. My grandfather, who's been in York County since the 1950s, reminded me about this house and told me that back at that time it was home to an old hermit who he said had claimed that he was a doctor. My mother mentioned that there was a road kids would drive back along.

Given that, I've been wondering whether the hermit was the basis of the tale, whether Toad Road was the old extension of Trout Run, and whether the asylum of the story may have been a simple wooden house that was, despite the stories, still standing until a decade ago. I also have come to wonder whether the original version was merely kids driving the road when the extension was still accessible hassling the guy; after the hermit died in the 1970s, the story was confused with that of Rehmeyer's Hollow (many of the elements of the Hollow story, or the urban legend thereof rather than the true one, feature in the Gates story - a portal to Hell, a number of murders, a fire). I have seen pictures of the Rehmeyer house in 1928 and it was a similar wood-frame affair to the 'Hermit House'. It's possible that the similarity in the appearance of these two houses contributed to the confusion.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Weird creatures of Maryland

"A Field Guide to the Monsters and Mystery Animals of Maryland", a Strange Magazine article by Mark Chorvinsky and Mark Opsasnick, gives a listing of many strange creature, the majority of which were one-off sightings. Some of these are given below:

Another Odenton Humanoid: Odenton in Anne Arundel County was home to a famous sighting of the Patuxent Swamp Monster in 1968, but on May 27, 1989 two children playing at a home on Brietwert Avenue saw a creature in the clearing behind the home. It was 3-4 feet tall, with a white stripe on one leg of its dark brown furred body.

Boaman: The Prince George's County News (October 27, 1971) gave an account of this creature. The half-human, half-serpent was reportedly seen slithering around alongside the Lanham-Severn Road near the Lanham Inn. This area is south-west of Lanham-Seabrook. A legend was given that a young girl was "chewed up" by the Boaman. The area of the Lanham Inn is extremely urbanized and near a railroad track.

Buggerman: The boundaries of Charles County are patrolled by a creature known as the Buggerman. It is said that he prevents local children from crossing the boundaries of the county. He is variously described as a ghost, or more interestingly as a great hair-covered black man.

Catoctin Mountain Imps: A "troop of horned and cloven demons marked all over with spots like a leopard" were seen in this South Mountain ridge by a resident of Frederick in 1883. The rather stylish demons haven't been seen since.

Cabbage Head Man: Butch Dory claimed to have seen a humanoid entity emerge from a lake on 54th Street in College Park. Dory and his friends reportedly shot at the creature to no avail.

Cow People: A number of cow-folk have been reported over the years, the first being a Victorian-era tale from Dorchester County of a wildman who ate marsh grass and suckled from cows. A bipedal cow-creature was seen near Bel Air in February 1978, and a cow woman was reported from Charles County in the 1970s. this one, though, turned out to be a hunchbacked man.

Eggheads: These creatures were seen by Dan Long in October 1973 near Westover (Somerset County). Long was in the Pocomoke Forest with some friends when he claimed that he saw a number of glowing white humanoids with large egg-shaped heads near the Perdue Farms facility. However, the entire account must be called into serious doubt as Long admits he was drinking in the woods.

Goblin Damned: These ill-described "questionable shapes" were seen several times on the railroad bridge spanning Big Seneca Creek near Clopper (Montgomery County).

Jabberwok: Not to be confused with the Jabowak described below, this reptilian humanoid was seen across Frederick County from Creagerstown to Thurmont in the 1880s.

Jabowak: This tall and horrible-faced animal prowled McMurray Street in Frederick in 1870. At one point, a dog was shot and killed as the culprit.
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