Newport, Rhode Island – One Perfect Day

It had been some months since we had One Perfect Day outside of Georgia. Truth be told, I had just vowed in October to stay the hell off the airlines until at least 2015. Fast forward to Friday, November 15, 2014, and Bob and I could have been seen strolling through Forsyth Park around 1:30 p.m. We were talking about scheduling and work, and how we really just needed to go play the next day. A breeze or a certain reflection of sunlight will sometimes tell you things about the world, much like the many and varied looks a woman can convey according to her mood, and this was one of those times. I imagine I probably had the dog look. You know, when a dog catches a whiff of something in the air, and pauses and tilts his head until he sorts it out? I had to sort it out.

The message was that the world was ripe for another game of Delta Roulette. And so, like any gambling addict, I was back to the airlines again. There are only so many places you can get to out of Savannah around 5:00 p.m., so that is how we picked Newport, much like our Omaha game last April. The real key to winning Delta Roulette is to not care where you go, you just have to have a desire to go SOMEWHERE ELSE. The objective is to be loose in the world. Bags were packed in less than thirty minutes, and we were gone. Reservations were made at the gate. This is wing and a prayer travel, and not for the faint of heart.

Downtown Newport

I cannot even imagine what this place must be like in the summer months. It was so crowded that we could barely even function in the town after lunch. Much like Savannah’s River Street, the closer you get to the harbor, the tackier and more crowded it gets. Think more Bellevue Avenue and less Bannister’s Wharf.

Mansions of Newport

The plutocrats of the Gilded Age built their summer cottages along the cliffs. Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt built The Breakers in 1895 and they managed to keep it in the family until 1972, when the Preservation Society of Newport County purchased the home. Bob hates tours, so off I went by myself to take the audio tour, which was actually quite interesting. I imagine fans of Downton Abbey and Highclere Castle would be fans of this place.

For those of you who have seen George Vanderbilt’s (the Commodore’s grandson) Biltmore Estate in Asheville, you will not be impressed with this tiny cottage. The Biltmore has secret passages, a bowling alley, an indoor pool, and a library that taunts me to this very day. The Breakers is just a country cousin. I’m not in the habit of going to visit people’s homes and then picking apart how tacky they are, so I will suffice it to say that the view from the second floor looking out onto the cliffs and the Atlantic Ocean was breathtakingly beautiful.

There is no accounting for taste, but the drive along Ocean Avenue and Ocean Drive is undeniably one of the most picturesque in America. No, I have not driven along every single road along the coast of America to be able to speak authoritatively, but I don’t need to. I know something great when I see it.

Exterior shots of The Breakers, as seen from Cliff Walk:

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Exterior back view (from Cliff Walk) of part of Salve Regina University’s Campus: 

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Fans of Dark Shadows should swing by and gawk at Seaview Terrace (Carey Mansion).

Cliff Walk

After my tour, I walked through the backyard and toward the cliffs, where Bob was waiting for me.  They had erected a fence to separate the amateurs from the professionals. Having no desire to turn all the way back and then exit through the giftshop, I scaled their pitiful fence that attempted to separate me from Bob and part of the Cliff Walk path. While ascending, I was thinking about Sylvia Plath’s “Two Campers in Cloud Country,” where she talks about finding comfort in meaning so little. I think she was writing about the great pleasure of just being. The greatest peace I ever had was when I came to terms with the fact that there wasn’t really anything more than that (all of our projects and life’s great works are essentially just things we are picking to fill the time and occupy our minds until we expire – sorry, but think about that for a minute), and I began to view our leisure time as a sort of church.

It was too cold for me to enjoy the full 3.5 miles of trail along the Cliff Walk, but I would make a special trip back up here in spring to do it. This has got to be one of the best places I’ve walked in America. Sadly for you, I did not take any pictures. I was too busy living.

Enjoying the crispest of New England fall days, listening, and watching the ocean hit the rocks. Over and over again. And thinking about winning Delta Roulette.

Further reading:

http://www.newportmansions.org/explore/the-breakers

http://www.cliffwalk.com/

http://www.salve.edu/about-salve

http://www.seaviewterrace.org/

http://www.discovernewport.org/

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A Look Inside Beautiful Abandoned Noisy Castle

I first learned of Chateau Miranda (a/k/a Noisy Castle) from one of my photography books. It is a place that might inspire a brilliant novel!

http://www.slate.com/blogs/atlas_obscura/2014/09/29/abandoned_noisy_castle_or_miranda_castle_in_belgium.html

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The 1876 Kirkbride Building at Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital is Coming Down This month

I never got to see the Greystone Kirkbride building in person.This news is so sad and doesn’t even make financial sense! It is such a shame that the government is spending nearly $35 million to demolish a building that private corporations would have saved. It just doesn’t make any sense to me. This is how the State of New Jersey thinks it should manage taxpayers’ funds? Really? Unbelievable!

http://www.nj.com/morris/index.ssf/2014/09/company_demolishing_greystone_expected_to_start_cleanup_within_the_next_couple_weeks.html

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A Look Inside the abandoned Glenn Dale Hospital in Maryland

The abandoned Glenn Dale Hospital in Maryland would be on my wish list of places to explore if it was cleaned up a little and open to the public. I know, an urban explorer I am not!

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2763803/Empty-morgues-abandoned-wards-corridors-overrun-ivy-Inside-deserted-Maryland-tuberculosis-sanatorium-children-deadly-infection-left-isolated-say-s-haunted.html

http://www.wtop.com/541/3718241/Ghost-Tales-Inside-Glenn-Dale-Hospital

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Craig Frazier: Drawing it Out

Yesterday was the first day here in Savannah that actually gave some indication that we just might finally get to enjoy the fall season that I keep hearing about elsewhere in the country. After lunch, Bob and I took off for downtown to take a walk and enjoy the overcast day that makes the city look particularly green and magical somehow. We stumbled into the Gutstein Gallery and checked out the Craig Frazier exhibit that is showing through November 1.

Many of the color print exhibits appear surreal, and I would direct you to Mr. Frazier’s website to peruse his portfolio and collection. I very much like the series of the man who climbs on rocks to lasso the moon. Unfortunately, the photos I took of the color prints did not translate very well because of glare in the display windows. However, I did manage a few passable shots of some of the sketches that interested me the most. This is how it all begins, anyway. A man with a pen and paper, birthing a new idea.

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Links:

http://craigfrazier.com/

http://www.scad.edu/event/2014-09-08-craig-frazier-exhibition-savannah-drawing-it-out

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Asylums That Are Being Repurposed

As you might imagine, as the author of Haunted Asylums, Prisons, and Sanatoriums, I like to keep up with the news on which abandoned asylums are being repurposed and opening to the public. I get so excited thinking about the history and architecture of the buildings being preserved! For me, my initial interest has always gone back to the thrill of just exploring a magnificent, historical building. Are these buildings haunted? Yes, in the sense of having stories and a rich history. Sometimes we can just appreciate art and architecture for what they are and put the ghost stories on hold.

The asylum conversions that I am most excited to see are:

1. Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane – Buffalo, New York:

This is a Kirkbride building from the late 1800′s that is being repurposed for a hotel and conference center. They are still doing events while the conversion is going on. I have tried twice to get up there to Buffalo and take an in-depth tour, but I keep having flight issues getting out of Atlanta!

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2. Fergus Falls State Hospital – Fergus Falls, Minnesota:

Another Kirkbride that is being saved by Historic Properties, Inc. If all goes according to plan, the hotel that is planned will open in December 2015. This will be a mixed use development, which will include restaurants and apartments.

3. Traverse City State Hospital – Traverse City, Michigan:

The Minervini Group has truly made The Village at Grand Traverse Commons a community. This is quite possibly the gold standard for asylum conversions. They have created a live/work community with park space, biking and hiking trails, and even a farmers market! If I moved to Michigan, I would SO live here.

4. Danvers State Asylum – Danvers, Massachusetts:

The former Danvers State Asylum was converted into apartments in 2008. The asylum is perhaps most famous for the movie Session 9.

5. Lakeville State Hospital – Lakeville, Massachusetts:

This is one that is purportedly still up for sale at a cool $7 million.

6. Fairfield Hills State Hospital – Newtown, Connecticut:

Commercial opportunities are abundant over on the Fairfield Hills campus. The public is welcome and hiking trails are available to enjoy.

Links:

http://www.richardson-olmsted.com/

http://www.buffalonews.com/opinion/buffalo-news-editorials/renovation-of-the-richardson-complex-is-transforming-an-architectural-gem-20141016

http://www.buffalonews.com/business/real-estate/effort-begins-to-transform-fantastic-jewel-of-the-city-20141009

http://www.kare11.com/story/news/local/land-of-10000-stories/2013/10/09/historic-mn-insane-asylum-spared-from-wrecking-ball/3867719/

http://mnprairieroots.com/2013/06/19/plans-underway-to-repurpose-an-historic-treatment-center-in-fergus-falls/

http://www.thevillagetc.com/

http://www.oddthingsiveseen.com/2008/06/avalon-danvers-apartments-nee-danvers.html

http://www.bozzuto.com/apartments/communities/630-halstead-danvers/media

http://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/2014/10/25/what-like-live-danvers/vCSaVqX3PyhAiy9caPWF8N/story.html

http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130520/NEWS/305200317

http://fairfieldhills.org/property.html

http://www.prairiebizmag.com/event/article/id/21549/

http://www.9and10news.com/story/27389125/cordia-building-50-project-completed-at-grand-traverse-commons

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Q&A with Ryan Dunn, Savannah Author and Owner of Afterlife Tours

I am very excited about Ryan Dunn’s book that is coming out in March 2015. The book is entitled Savannah’s Afterlife: True Tales of a Paranormal Investigator. In addition to being an author and paranormal investigator, Ryan also operates Afterlife Tours in historic Savannah, Georgia. He was kind enough to let us tag along on an 8:00 tour last Friday night.

The locations we visited included: Twelve West Oglethorpe, the Foley House, Savannah Theatre, Colonial Cemetery, the Olde Pink House, and Moon River Brewery. Since moving to Savannah a year ago, I have been captivated several times by the old dilapidated home at Twelve West Oglethorpe.

Twelve

I have heard many various stories about the home, but Ryan’s tour is unique in the fact that he has not only personally investigated each location, he has actually done extensive research with the Georgia Historical Society and other sources to tell the truth about the history of the locations. He is not just standing on a corner spouting recounts of local legends. He’s telling visitors what the documents actually show. I respect that a lot.

The other unique characteristic about how he runs his tours is that he shares evidence that he’s personally collected during investigations. You may see a combination of photographs, videos, and hear Class “A” EVPs.

Ryan has been featured on A&E’s My Ghost Story.

Five Questions for Ryan Dunn:

What made you interested in the field?
I became interested in the field when I moved into a haunted house here in Savannah’s Historic District in April of 2010. I began doing paranormal research as a hobby, but soon started catching very compelling evidence. It soon became a full time business and also evolved into a ghost tour company too.

Any dream locations to investigate?
My dream locations would be 432 Abercorn Street here in Savannah, Waverly Hills Sanitarium in Louisville, Kentucky, and the Winchester Mystery House in California just to name a few.

Can you talk about the pilot you are filming at Central State Asylum in Milledgeville, Georgia?
The upcoming investigation in Milledgeville will be a filming of a pilot for a new paranormal show based here in Savannah that we will be pitching to national networks as part of a 5 episode package. We intend to embody the flare of Savannah itself and the fact we live in the paranormal hotspot of the United States. Not only do we do investigations, but we live this day to day.

Do you have a favorite place to investigate in Savannah?
One of my favorite places to investigate in Savannah is the Savannah Theatre because we always capture great evidence there. Also, the Moon River Brewery always gives us great results too. We will be doing our 8th investigation there on October 19.

Any plans for a second book?
I am currently conducting research for a sequel, and intend to began writing that one this fall.

Thank you to Ryan for having us out. I am particularly interested in getting an update about the Central Asylum investigation!

Further reading:

http://www.afterlifetours.net/

http://www.schifferbooks.com/savannahs-afterlife-true-tales-of-a-paranormal-investigator-5639.html

https://www.facebook.com/3DGhostHunters

http://savannahnow.com/accent/2013-12-14/savannahs-very-own-ghostbusters#.VAuAlcJ0xMs

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Filed under Haunted Asylums, Savannah