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Crescent Hotel and Eureka Springs, AK – Blog for Llewellyn Post

I am longing for a second visit to the 1886 Crescent Hotel this spring for our upcoming book with Llewellyn “America’s Most Haunted Hotels: Checking in With Uninvited Guests.” Bob is out flying tonight, and I was remembering the article I wrote for Llewellyn that is linked below, and just remembering that visit so vividly.

http://www.llewellyn.com/blog/2013/10/the-1866-crescent-hotel-and-spa/

Nobody seemed to know about all of the back patios:
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As always, our travels are indexed within “Play,” by Stealth Journals. A sample entry page can be seen below:

Stealth Journals
Eureka Springs: Indexed within our Play Journal, by Stealth Journals

Inside the Jerome Grand Hotel

Ghost Hunting at Arizona’s Jerome Grand Hotel

A glimpse inside our stay at The Jerome Grand Hotel. We were traveling in January 2015 for our upcoming book with Llewellyn “America’s Most Haunted Hotels: Checking in With Uninvited Guests.”

As always, we log our adventures inside our “Play” Journal, by Stealth Journals. “Play,” is an indexed book journal by Stealth Journals that should be used to record all of your good times.

 

Bisbee, AZ – One Perfect Day

An old mining town in the Mule Mountains, Bisbee is home to The Copper Queen, and we were there on an official investigation for our upcoming book with Llewellyn “America’s Most Haunted Hotels: Checking in With Uninvited Guests.” last week. One cannot live on ghost hunting alone, so off to the streets we went. When possible, I like to soak in the culture of the local town to better understand the atmosphere and history of the place I am writing about. Artsy, quirky, and weird is what I saw during my short time there (although to be fair, it was my second visit). “Weird” is not a derogatory designation, by the way.

Bisbee is a winding, hilly town populated with too many sets of stairs for me to count, let alone climb in a few short hours. Officially, the 1,000 step challenge does come with a map at the Visitor’s Center, but I think I found myself climbing up many sets of random stairs before I realized that I was trespassing onto someone’s property instead of staying on the official path. Thank God everyone was cool and this doesn’t seem like the type of place where people are going to call the cops on you (like Charleston, for instance, where they call the cops if your dog pees in the wrong yard). I can dig that.

Random stairs?

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Back on the path:

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The downtown view and street shots:

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The Copper Queen Mine Tour and the Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum were world-class facilities that really impressed us. I know they will never do it, but if they opened up that mine to ghost tours, they would really see a lot more money roll in! You tell me, wouldn’t you pay $100 per person for you and ten friends to shut the mine down on Friday night for a few hours?! The place is AMAZING!

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After a fantastic pizza at the Stock Exchange Saloon and a brief conversation with the Duchess (who was wonderfully charming and fascinating!), we were off to meet Renee, our Ghost Host from the Old Bisbee Ghost Tour (and author), who briefed us on many of Bisbee’s historic haunted hotels. We then settled down for the night in the Julia Lowell Suite inside the famous Copper Queen Hotel.

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And that, my friends, is a tale for another time.

As always, we log our adventures inside our “Play” Journal by Stealth Journals. “Play,” by Stealth Journals, is an indexed book journal that should be used to record all of your good times!

Further Reading:

http://www.discoverbisbee.com/index.htm

http://www.bisbee1000.org/

http://www.queenminetour.com

http://www.bisbeemuseum.org/

http://www.stockexchangesaloon.com/stock-exchange-saloon.aspx

http://www.oldbisbeeghosttour.com/

http://copperqueen.com/

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.

As always, we log our adventures inside our “Play” Journal, by Stealth Journals. “Play,” is an indexed book journal by Stealth Journals that should be used to record all of your good times.

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/

Morning at the MOMA

Labor Day found me fighting for a place amongst a crowd at the Museum of Modern Art. I like to walk with my elbows protruding up around my shoulders. Correction – I do not LIKE to, it is just sometimes necessary so that others know that I am not amenable to them getting free rubs. Moving on.

I did get to see Starry Night and Persistence of Memory. The former was impressive because nothing you see online does it justice. The reason is because none of the photos capture the actual swirls in the paint. I probably appreciated this painting more than most because I thought about poor tortured van Gogh sitting in his little asylum cell in Saint-Remy and looking outside at the sky to paint this image. This is the first time I have ever actually seen lasting evidence of insanity in art (in person). The swirls are manic, and they impressed me with their blatant craziness. The latter was cool for novelty,  but honestly there was nothing gained by me from in-person viewing. I am very aware of time and how it will kill everything and leave rotting decay in its path.

Links from the Moma for the above-mentioned paintings:

http://www.moma.org/collection/object.php?object_id=79802

http://www.moma.org/collection/object.php?object_id=79018

The real surprise show-stopper for me was Giorgio de Chirico’s Gare Montparnasse (The Melancholy of Departure), 1914.

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The very title alone made me stop in my tracks. The Melancholy of Departure? This guy was brilliant. I always just called it a vacation hangover. But the way he writes it, you can be melancholy over your departure whether you are going home or leaving home. Montparnasse was a real train station where Chirico lived in Paris. The critics like to debate about what the bananas mean and call out his skewed sense of perspective, since he is making the wind blow from both directions – as evidenced at the top where the flags are going to the left, and the smoke from the train is going to the right. Let me tell you what I think about all of this.

The bananas don’t mean anything. There is clearly a circus tent to the left of the painting and he is telling us that the earth is populated by a bunch of monkey clowns. This is more evidence of the Great Emptiness. We are all living (or escaping from if we are smart/lucky) our own nightmares. There are things all around us (like bananas) that just don’t mean squat. We have to navigate around all this meaningless crap because we are fighting against the clock always to find meaning and purpose. But there is no meaning or purpose in the Great Emptiness! It’s a cosmic joke. Earth is hell. Surprise! And the train? The train is empty. When the clock runs down the train comes for you and you alone. There is no conductor, no other passengers. Just an empty black train.

Coming for to carry me home…

That’s what I think he was trying to say. He died in 1978 or I would call him up and ask him.

Be sure to keep all of your adventures logged and indexed in your very own copy of “Play,” by Stealth Journals. “Play” is an indexed book journal that should be used to record all of your good times!

Great Harbour Cay, Berry Islands, Bahamas

The surreal ride in:

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If you zoom in, you can see an aerial shot of the ruins of the Sugar Beach Resort & Golf Club:

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Our home base was the Carriearl Boutique Hotel, the former home of Earl Blackwell (founder of Celebrity Service, see: http://www.nytimes.com/1995/03/04/obituaries/earl-blackwell-85-a-promoter-of-celebrities-and-their-events.html), which could not have been more pleasant. Angie and Marty are gracious hosts and we loved our getaway.

One of the songs I always hear when I am traveling is Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.” I have it on my phone, and it is one of a few songs that I use as triggers to switch my mind into relax mode. It came over the Sirius XM station twice while we were at the Carriearl and I took that to be very appropriate for our venue – both the hotel itself and the island. I guess what I mean by that is the song always invokes a sense of timelessness. Read: “I have momentarily stepped away from my desk right now into Carriearl Land.”

What am I always saying I want? To be somewhere else, of course. And for a moment, I was.

There is a James Altucher quote that I thoroughly believe in and it is: “Only free time, imagination, creativity, and an ability to disappear will help you deliver value that nobody ever delivered before in the history of mankind.” You can disappear here. There will be Wi-Fi if you want it, but you can disappear otherwise. There are only 3 rooms for rent at the Carriearl, so you will be enjoying all of the amenities (including a golf cart you can take out to the caves and the ruins for two hours) with very few other people.

Partial shot of bar/restaurant for all your drinking and (blue crab ravioli with vodka cream sauce) eating needs:

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Pool views, view from the beach, and the beach in front of the Carriearl:

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Note the hammock:

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Exploring the ruins of the Sugar Beach Resort and Golf Club:

When I first heard there were ruins here, of course I was fixated on it until I was able to wander through. If you zoom in on the aerial photo linked above, you can tell just how sprawling these grounds are. We were only able to access just a small part of the remains, because we went in bathing suits and sandals.

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To gain entry, we shimmied across this wall on the left. One foot in front of the other, and don’t look down or think about it too much (these are good rules for life, by the way).

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Haint blue ceiling:

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Surveying the land:

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View of the ruins from the beach:

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Exploring the Caves at Sugar Beach:

High tide, looking down from a rock we climbed:

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Low tide, preparing to make a swim for it:

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Besides exploring the ruins, enjoying the peaceful luxury of the Carriearl and the beach, I have two other favorite memories from the island. Those are going to the marina and watching locals make conch fritters right on the dock, and discarding the shells:

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and meeting two sweet ladies who worked at the small deli at the airport. There was a small thunderstorm we were waiting out before we could takeoff. The younger lady engaged me in conversation by asking me where I was from. She said: “Oh, I just love Atlanta. I love Golden Corral.” The older lady, perhaps even her grandmother, chimed in on that one. “Oh yes, I love Golden Corral. I always get so mad when I fill up on soup and salad.”

I looked at them and raised my left hand. They could tell I was about to testify and impart some great piece of wisdom, perhaps something that had been passed down to me from my ancestors. They were absolutely correct. Like my father told me, and his mother who went before him told him, I gave them everything I had. “Ladies, when you go to the Golden Corral, you have to start at the hot bar.”

They howled at me. And I joined in, three of us shaking with laughter, united in our venture to come out ahead when partaking in a buffet.

Be sure to keep an analog version of all of your travel adventures too! We like “Play,” the indexed book journal from Stealth Journals that should be used to record all of your good times!

Further reading:
http://www.carriearl.com/
http://www.greatharbourcay.com/WebPages/history.htm

Investigating Lost Things: Midway Church and Cemetery – Midway, GA

On our way home from St. Simons Island yesterday, we took a detour through Midway, Georgia. The first time I had ever heard of this place was from Chris Wangler’s 2006 book, Ghost Stories of Georgia. By complete happenstance, we met the last tour group of the day at the Midway Museum and were able to join in.

I loved the original civil war-era clothes that were on display upstairs.

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Also, check out the original key to the 1792 Midway Church:

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You can’t tell by looking at this photo, but the key is huge! The tour guide used one that was very similar to let us in the church later.

Midway Church

According to the museum’s brochure, the exterior of the church was painted red in 1792, and the floors were painted in black and white diamond patterns. The present day appearance of the church dates to 1849. For six weeks during the Civil War, General Judson Kilpatrick used the church as a slaughterhouse and the church was abandoned after this.

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The pews have their own little swinging doors for entry, and we were told that they used to be sectioned off for subscribers.

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View from balcony of pulpit:

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Upstairs view of right side of balcony area:

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I expected the church to have some sort of feeling or smell to it, but instead the place just felt empty. Not cheerful or peaceful or even sad, or anything whatsoever. Completely devoid of emotion.

Midway Cemetery

Mr. Wangler recounts two haunting tales about the Midway Cemetery in his book. The first story involves two young people who allegedly involved themselves in an illicit affair and had a habit of meeting in secret in the cemetery. Sylvia Brown was a blond seventeen year old, and Anthony was one of her father’s slaves. When Sylvia’s father got news of the affair, he had Anthony murdered. The story is that Sylvia found his body hanging from the tree in the cemetery where they used to rendezvous and slit her own throat right there at the scene.  Visitors report shadow figures underneath the tree.

View of the church from inside the cemetery:

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The second legend is that of the crack in the north wall of the cemetery. The wall was built in 1813 by slave labor. Two of the men had been arguing all day and had fallen behind with the day’s construction. The master made the two stay late and finish the job and one wound up murdering the other and hiding him beneath the wall. The next day he claimed his partner had run away. The wall that remained covering his crime was reported to crumble at an unexplainably fast pace. One day, the master ordered the wall torn down so it could be rebuilt from scratch. The remains were discovered, and the wall was rebuilt. But the crack continues to this day even though the wall was rebuilt.

Info display inside the cemetery:

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My photo of the wall:

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The cemetery felt to me exactly as the church felt – empty. It could be that the harsh south Georgia heat is stifling my radar. But, Bonaventure in Savannah has always felt very peaceful and serene to me, and I have made plenty of summer visits inside the walls of Bonaventure (I don’t mean to imply that Bonaventure is haunted, just that it does make me feel a positive energy at least).

I look forward to a visit in October, to hear some legends on the Halloween tour. The story about the crack in the brick wall is well-embraced in Midway.

Be sure to keep an analog version of your travel adventures logged and indexed inside your very own “Play” Journal, by Stealth Journals. “Play” is an indexed book journal that should be used to record all of your good times!

Further reading:
http://coastalcourier.com/archives/61008/

http://coastalcourier.com/archives/37420/

http://coastalcourier.com/archives/3526/

http://www.exploresouthernhistory.com/midwaycemetery.html

http://www.themidwaymuseum.org/index.html

One Perfect Day – Biking Jekyll Island, GA

On our last Do What You Want Saturday, we found ourselves in the car headed for Jekyll Island. We were purely interested in taking advantage of the twenty miles or so of bike paths. This is my favorite place to ride so far!

You will see everything – marshland, beaches, shaded forests, the golf course, and even Millionaire’s Row, the Historic Village, and the Jekyll Island Club Hotel.

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The Jekyll Island Club Hotel is quite the place. From their website:  “Our historic Georgia Club was described in the February 1904 issue of Munsey’s Magazine as “the richest, the most exclusive, the most inaccessible club in the world.” Its impressive members included such luminaries as J.P. Morgan, William Rockefeller, Vincent Astor, Joseph Pulitzer, William K. Vanderbilt, and other recognizable names on the roster were Macy, Goodyear, and Gould.” The reason this stuck out to me is because I was reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Last Tycoon last weekend and on page 16 he describes one of his main characters as “He knew them all – Gould, Vanderbilt, Carnegie, Astor – and he said there wasn’t one he’d care to meet again in the hereafter.” That line just killed me.

Moving on…

I had not seen the island in twenty-five years, when my grandparents took me and my cousin to stay in a condo at Villas by the Sea. I am pleased to report that it was just as I remembered it (in a good way). Driftwood Beach is not as good as Cabretta on Sapelo. But, the Villas did have a nice private boardwalk to rest awhile, and I got to see a wrinkly, swirly, old (assumingly) tree. Not pictured was a set of stairs leading directly into the sea. It was high tide, and of course the stairs normally just lead onto the beach, but when I saw them it was a stairway leading down into the sea. We stood as far down as we could until a wave pummeled us. One day I will write a great American novel and the characters will be: God as a child who is scared of the rain, people who decide to disappear from this terrible world by walking down stairs into the sea (they aren’t suicides – der, this is a gateway), and the princess who has been reincarnated and trapped in a middle class working life as penance for her previous sins. But I digress.

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On the way back from the beach through the property at the Villas, walking in the great shade cast over me by giant and looming oak trees covered in Spanish moss, there was a slight change in the wind. The whisper wasn’t audible, it was more of a heart sound. It came to me in the form of my eight-year gone grandfather’s voice. The sound told me I was going to be okay, and it caused instant joyful and peaceful tears.

We passed the airport and stopped to watch a family load themselves into a 1966 Cessna 310 that was painted eggshell blue and looked like it should be set on a permanent loop of “Wouldn’t it be Nice,” and if you were flying it, you wouldn’t even care if it was. I tried to get an ice cream in one of the fancy shops close to the hotel. The lady lured me in because she was so audacious she put a sign outside her shop that read “Ice cream.” After I walked all the way in there, I found that the woman was nothing but a damned liar. She was selling frozen novelty items, NOT ice cream, and if you don’t know the difference there’s nothing I can do to help you. Four miles back up the road to the Dairy Queen where at least they actually sell ice cream, and I was happy.

Eating ice cream under the sun. Listening to the heart sound.

Be sure to keep your travels logged and indexed inside your very own “Play” journal, by Stealth Journals. “Play” is an indexed book journal by Stealth Journals that should be used to record all of your good times!

Death Valley National Park

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Faced with all that Las Vegas had to offer (insert sarcasm), Bob and I decided we preferred the desert. The morning was spent in the car heading out of Vegas to Death Valley National Park. This is the only park I’ve ever visited where an entire page of the Visitor’s Paper is devoted to a section entitled “Survive!” We were perhaps not exactly equipped for an entire day in Death Valley. We had a nice drive and Bob got some great photos of the park. We walked across Badwater Salt Flat, the lowest place in the western hemisphere, and called it a day.

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I knew the famous Amargosa Opera House and Hotel was in nearby Death Valley Junction, and that they had a café that I was looking forward to patronizing.

Amargosa Opera House and Hotel

The café was about what you would expect it to be out in the middle of nowhere. I wanted to go take a peek back in the kitchen to see if I could spot Odd Thomas (who is both my favorite short order cook and Deen Koontz character). Our waitress was an interesting character herself. For one thing, she had her right arm all slinged up because of carpal tunnel that had manifested itself after much griddle cooking. In addition to being a mother of three small children and working at the café, she is also the town’s Fire Chief.

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We tried to stay overnight, but the young lady working the front desk assured us that there were no vacancies. An older gentleman passed us on the dirt driveway and inquired about our current state of affairs. We assured him we were doing just fine and posed the question back at him. He said he was “Tolerable. Now, tolerable covers a multitude of sins.” We thought this was just about the best response to a “How are you?” that we had ever heard. Before I could ask him just what sins, exactly, he was guilty of, he was gone.

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There has been quite a bit of media attention addressing “Spooky Hollow” over in the old section of the hotel that hasn’t been refurbished. I understand that Pacific Borax built the town for its miners in the early 1920’s, and the hotel housed them. The building also contained a hospital and morgue. Since we weren’t officially investigating or spending the night, I don’t have any paranormal tales of my own to share.

The stop was more interesting to me because of Marta Becket’s story. In 1967, a flat tire brought her here. While the tire was being repaired, she wondered around the complex and peered into the old abandoned theatre. Marta was a dancer from New York City and she was immediately moved by the building and knew she would spend her life here. I am fascinated by her story of being pulled to a place that was so drastically different from the place she knew before as home.

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It was her dream. This place, out in the middle of nowhere. She chose her life and by all accounts loved it. Maybe it doesn’t look like a picture of success for you, and that’s okay. It doesn’t have to. Each individual striving to live their life in their own way is what success is. That’s it. To focus on anything else is to be distracted from the purpose and will keep you from staying on the right path.

That’s my thought from the desert. Oh, and Bob said to mention how quiet it was. He was sitting outside the opera house on one of those benches while I strolled around snapping pictures. He said he could hear the gravel crunch under my feet from a hundred yards away. Sweet sounds of isolation.

As always, we log and index our adventures inside our “Play” Journal, by Stealth Journals. “Play” is an indexed book journal that should be used to record all of your good times.

Further Reading:

http://www.nps.gov/deva/index.htm

http://www.amargosa-opera-house.com/

http://www.legendsofamerica.com/ca-deathvalleyjunction.html

http://www.travelchannel.com/video/recap-amargosa-hotel

http://www.seattlepi.com/news/article/Ghost-towns-of-the-Southwest-5793603.php#photo-6937988

http://www.sacbee.com/2014/10/05/6755647/where-decay-is-fun-ghost-towns.html

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