Sunday, October 15, 2017

Most Haunted Cities in America

With the approach of Halloween, it's natural for thoughts to occasionally dwell on ghosts, goblins, and things that go bump in the night.  This week I'm blogging about America's most haunted cities.

There are several lists of the most haunted cities in the United States, most of them basically naming the same cities in varying order.  Here's one list of 10 cities that recently came to my attention.

10)  Portland, Oregon:  Portland has a reputation for being the most haunted city in the Pacific Northwest.  It's a city of many haunts, both seasonal tourist attractions and historical happenings where the participants refuse to leave.  One of the most famous…or more accurately, most infamous…historical haunts are the Shanghai Tunnels.  We've all heard the expression of someone being Shanghaied, meaning to be abducted.  This is where it originated.  In the Victorian era (around the 1870s), ship captains would put into Portland on the Columbia River looking for fresh crew members.  Local middlemen drugged pub goers, dropped the bodies through trapdoors into the tunnels below where they were held captive until they could be carted to the waterfront and sold to the captain for $50/each.  These ships were quite often headed for China and the port of Shanghai, thus the term being Shanghaied.  Many of these drugged unfortunates died while being held in the tunnels.  Today, the Shanghai Tunnels have several ghosts, some menacing and others apparently confused.

9)  San Francisco, California:  A city of many haunted locations and happenings.  One of the most interesting is Alcatraz.  The island has a long history, first as a military prison during the Civil War.  It was used off and on by many different groups to house various prisoners from that time until 1933 when it was officially turned over to the Federal Bureau of Prisons and used as a maximum security prison for the likes of Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly. On March 23, 1963, Alcatraz closed its prison doors for good.  Over the one hundred plus years that the island housed prisoners of all types, many died in cruel and terrible ways.  Those spirits still inhabit Alcatraz.  Even today as part of the National Park system, tourists taking one of the park ranger guided tours report seeing and hearing strange things that can't be explained.

8)  Chicago, Illinois:  Chicago was the center of gangland activity during Prohibition, including the famous St. Valentine's Day Massacre.  Many gangsters of the era used Chicago as a body dumping ground.  There were also six thousand Confederate soldiers and sailors buried during the Civil War at Oak Woods Cemetery which has ongoing paranormal activity.  Chicago's most famous ghost is Resurrection Mary named for Resurrection Cemetery.  She was killed by a hit and run driver on the street in front of the cemetery and now is often seen hitch hiking along that street.

7)  Charleston, South Carolina:  The downtown area known as The Battery was an artillery installation during the Civil War.  The area is known for its ghost stories.  The Battery Carriage House Inn is the city's famous haunted hotel where visitors often see strange happenings.  The inn's two most famous ghosts are the gentleman ghost and the headless torso.  The gentleman ghost is thought to be a young man whose family owned the house in the early 1900s and, for reasons unknown, jumped off the roof and killed himself.  The headless torso is believed to be military from the Civil War.  There is no evidence that he intends any harm, but guests have felt threatened when he has suddenly materialized in their room.

6)  St. Augustine, Florida:  The nation's oldest city and the first permanently occupied European settlement on our shores, dating back to its founding in 1565.  Castillo de San Marcos is a star-shaped fort and is considered to be one of the most haunted places in a city filled with unexplained phenomenon.  The construction of The Old Fort began in 1672 and took twenty-three years to build.  Many strange sightings, including a Spanish soldier, have been reported.  It is not uncommon for individuals to capture on film strange lights, orbs, rods, spheres, and even distinct apparitions composed of strange mists.

5)  San Antonio, Texas:  The home of the Alamo is regarded as the most haunted city in Texas.  Prior to the Battle of the Alamo, the ground was a cemetery between 1724 and 1793.  It's estimated that about one thousand people were buried during those years.  On the morning of March 6, 1836, following the thirteen day Battle of the Alamo, one thousand six hundred Mexican shoulders lay dead along with the approximately one hundred forty-five defenders of the old mission.  The remaining buildings at the Alamo as well as the surrounding area is one of the most haunted places in the nation.  Tales of ghostly sightings have been reported for almost two centuries.

4)  New Orleans, Louisiana:  With a history of voodoo and slavery in its past, it's no wonder that New Orleans is considered a very haunted city.  Its most famous ghost is voodoo priestess Marie Laveau who was buried at St. Louis Cemetery #1, considered one of the most haunted cemeteries in the country.  New Orleans is well below sea level, so the dead are buried in above ground tombs or vaults resembling small architectural buildings.  Located on the edge of the haunted French Quarter, this oldest still in service cemetery has been the setting for many haunted New Orleans movies such as Easy Rider, Interview With The Vampire, and Johnny Handsome.  But its biggest draw is the tomb of Marie Laveau.

3)  Salem, Massachusetts:  This site of the infamous Salem Witch Trials in the late 1600s certainly makes the list of haunted cities.  Gallows Hill is believed to be haunted by the spirits of the nineteen women accused of being witches who were hanged there.  It also shouldn't be surprising that Salem has one of the largest Halloween celebrations in the country for people of all ages.

2)  Gettysburg, Pennsylvania:  The Civil War battle at Gettysburg resulted in fifty-one thousand casualties.  It is believed that nearly all forty miles of the Gettysburg battlefields have paranormal activity.  Many of the ghosts show up in photos, including the ghost of Robert E. Lee.  In July 1863, Gettysburg's living population was out numbered twenty to one by the dead.

1)  Savannah, Georgia:  Savannah was named "America's Most Haunted City" in 2002 by the American Institute of Parapsychology.  The city was home to a Revolutionary War battleground as well as Civil Way actions.  Savannah offers several different haunted tours and is also famous as the location of the bestselling book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that all of these cities offer ghost tours.  Have any of you ever had any first hand experience with hauntings?

Sunday, October 8, 2017

HIS MAGICK TOUCH—an interview with Devon and Raina

HIS MAGICK TOUCH an erotic witch romance available in ebook that tells us the story of Devon Bainbridge and Raina St. Clair. So, in honor of the upcoming Samhain celebration and it's more modern Halloween incarnation, I've invited Devon and Raina to be my guests today.

Welcome to my blog, Devon and Raina.  Thank you for taking time from your schedule to be here today, especially with how busy you are due to the special gathering of covens for the Samhain celebration.

Raina:  It's our pleasure, Samantha.  Thanks for the invitation.

It's my understanding, Devon, that as a High Priest you've been invited to open and close the special ceremony involving the gathering of many covens from various states at this year's Samhain celebration.

Devon:  Yes, it's a very special gathering this year.  I'm honored to have been chosen.

And isn't it that gathering of the covens that's indirectly responsible for bringing the two of you together?  Two people who had never met but each with your own agenda in seeking out the other?  And you first encountered each other at a Halloween party, of all places?

Raina:  (laughs) That succinctly describes it.  The uncomfortable situation of a witch of the bloodline at a mortal's Halloween party.

Why would you be attending such a party?  Doesn't it violate everything you stand for and represent?

Raina:  Even though I'm a witch and immortal, I still need to earn a living.  The man throwing the party, the one who invited me, is one of my best clients.  So, even though the party theme wasn't to my liking, I felt an obligation to put in an appearance.

Devon:  And it was due to Raina being at the party that I needed to be there.  I didn't know if I would be able to make a connection with her at the Samhain celebration, so I sucked up my personal feelings and teleported inside the country club to the party location where I waited for her to arrive.

So why were you each trying to make contact with the other?  You had no prior connection, right?

Devon:  A prior connection?  That's an easy answer. A definitive yes…and no.  (chuckles)  I had never met Raina but I had crossed paths with her sister, Miranda, a century ago.  Miranda and I had some unfinished business.  Since Miranda had been deftly avoiding me, my plan was to use Raina as a source to locate her sister.  I've always lived by the witch's credo of Harm To None (a quick scowl darts across his face), but my unfinished business with Miranda was in total violation of that honorable intention.

What kind of unfinished business?

Devon:  To put it as simply as possible, Miranda St. Clair misused and abused her witch powers and in so doing was responsible for the purposeful destruction of my brother.  I fully intended to make her accountable to the council for her misdeeds and personally see to it that she did not escape retribution.

And did you?

Devon:  I can't reveal that here, but it's all in the book.

(LOL) Fair enough.  How about you, Raina?  How did you discover the truth of Devon's agenda?  And what did you think when you found out what he really wanted?

Raina:  Devon voluntarily told me about trying to locate Miranda and why.  But his assumption that I could help him with that was mistaken.  Miranda and I…well, we've…(a look of sadness comes into her eyes, Devon reaches over and gives her hand a reassuring squeeze).  Well, it's all in the book.

LOL…It seems that you're both stonewalling me.  Let me try this. Raina, what about your agenda in wanting to make contact with Devon?  What was that all about?

Raina:  I had never met Devon in person, but knew his excellent reputation as a very powerful High Priest and the respect paid him by the members of the witch community.  I had planned to seek him out at the Samhain gathering and was quite surprised to see him at my business client's Halloween party.  Why was I determined to meet him?  Devon is an acknowledged expert in all facets of sex magick.  I wanted him to teach me…to school me in the proper rituals.

Was he surprised by your request and did he agree to teach you the rituals?

Raina:  Well, to quote something I heard recently—I can't tell you that…you'll need to read the book.

The two of you are telling me the same thing?  Neither of you will disclose the information about how you resolved your issues?  You won't tell me what kind of impact Raina's unexpected request about sex magick had on Devon's quest to find Miranda and seek retribution?

Devon:  (winks at me)  I believe you've grasped the core of the situation.

Raina:  In other words…that's right!  (LOL)

Fair enough.  The answers are in the book!  Thank you, Raina and Devon, for being with us today.

HIS MAGICK TOUCH  R-Adult Excerpt #1:

She grabbed a napkin from the bar and dabbed at her neck and upper chest, leaving most of the champagne to trickle between her breasts.

He set the half-empty glass on the bar, surprise covering his features. “I’m so sorry.” A sincere concern surrounded his words. “Are you okay?”

Just the sound of his smooth masculine voice sent a ripple of desire coursing through her body, headed directly for her pussy. She gave him her most seductive smile as she continued to dab the champagne from her skin. “I’m fine, no problem.”

He ran his fingertip along the edge of her plunging neckline. “Can I be of assistance?” A quick glance down the front of her dress noticeably quickened his breathing. “I can lick up the excess champagne…if it will help.” His voice and words teased and a sexy grin tugged at the corners of his mouth, but the glow in the depth of his eyes radiated pure passion and sexual magnetism. The kind that could melt the most determined woman’s defenses.

Her nipples puckered, partly from the cold champagne and partly from his obvious perusal of her body combined with the sexual energy that practically sparked from him. Her heartbeat increased. Being this close to him had her juices flowing and her desires running at full speed. She definitely wanted to experience Devon’s sexual prowess and learn the techniques of sex magick from a master, to discover and embrace the untapped potential of her sexuality.

She smiled seductively. “That’s a very gracious offer."

BLURB:  As the powerful High Priest of his coven, Devon Bainbridge lives by the witch's credo of Harm To None. Yet he is willing to sacrifice everything in his century long quest for revenge. He intends to use Raina St. Clair as a means of locating her sister, the witch who misused her powers to destroy his brother. But once he meets Raina, his plan doesn't go as intended, especially when he discovers her agenda. She wants to learn sex magick.

Is Raina the one woman who could save Devon from himself?

HIS MAGICK TOUCH, erotic witch romance is available in ebook at The Wilder Roses, the Scarlet Rose line of erotic romance from The Wild Rose Press:

Additional excerpts from HIS MAGICK TOUCH and information on my other books available on my website at www.samanthagentry.com

Sunday, October 1, 2017

5 Most Haunted Roads In The World

It seems that almost every country has a list of haunted roads, haunted towns, haunted houses/castles, and anything else that can be put into the category of a haunted something, with one or more entities attributed to the paranormal/supernatural condition.

I recently came across a haunted road list that claimed to be the top 5 in the world and I'd like to share that with you. I do not agree with this list. I've read about roads purported to be considerably more haunted than some of these.

5)  Belchen Tunnel, Switzerland:
It's claimed that the ghost of an old lady haunts this Swiss road. There was one specific report that said two women picked her up and she warned them that something dreadful was going to happen. Then she disappeared.

4)  Stocksbridge Road, UK:
This is also known as the Killer Road and has been home to many ghostly sightings. One report said some security guards witnessed children playing on the road late one night, but they disappeared before the guards could reach them. Numerous reports have been made of the ghost of a monk appearing on the road's bridge.

3)  Highway 666, USA:
Travelers on this haunted American highway (known as the Devil's Highway) have reported speeding ghost cars, packs of devil dogs, and a flaming demonic semi-truck that drives directly at the spooked travelers. Many people attribute these sightings to a biblical association between the numbers 666 and Satan. In 2003, the highway number was changed to Highway 491. There are still a few places where you can see the highway 666 sign (labeled as old) next to the Highway 491 sign (labeled as new).

2)  Tuen Mun Road, Hong Kong:
Local residents blame the high number of accidents along this road on the sudden appearance of ghosts in the middle of the road. It's claimed that a person suddenly appears, forcing the driver to swerve and crash. They say with every new car fatality that another ghost will haunt the road.

1)  Clinton Road, New Jersey USA:
If you find yourself on this haunted road, be sure to toss a coin into the river at the Old Boy Bridge. The ghost of a boy who drowned will throw it back. There have also been reported sightings of UFOs, mutated circus animals, and mysterious glowing eyes.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

10 AWESOME MUSEUMS NOT OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Museums…those public and private repositories of anything and everything that might be of interest to someone, collections open to the public to enjoy and that educate.  They encompass a wide variety of interests such as fine art, items showing the natural history of a region, or something as specific as a hair collection.

I recently found a list of 10 very specific museums/collections with a common thread—they are not open to the public.

CIA Museum
Needless to say, one of the most secretive agencies in the entire United States government (and the world) wouldn’t just throw the doors of their archives open for everyone. The Central Intelligence Agency’s internal museum is one of the most thorough collections of intelligence memorabilia on Earth with over 3,500 items. The collection includes documents from the OSS [Office of Strategic Services created in WW II, the forerunner of the CIA], spy weapons and equipment, and even an AK-47 rifle that belonged to Osama Bin Laden. The only public aspects of the Museum are three showcases at the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia. And that building isn't easy to get into, either.

International Museum And Library Of The Conjuring Arts
If you’re looking for a community of people who like to keep secrets, the CIA isn't the only place to look.  Professional magicians are right up there, too. Considering that their careers hinge on being able to fool people, magicians aren’t crazy about opening up to the public. David Copperfield has used his vast fortune to amass a collection of over 150,000 pieces of magic history from practitioners like Harry Houdini and hundreds of others.  It’s located in a 40,000 square foot Las Vegas warehouse that has a fake hat shop in the front. [I saw a television special about Houdini including an auction of items from his career with David Copperfield being one of the major successful bidders on several items]

MIT Museum Of Espionage [in Turkey, not the Massachusetts Institute of Technology :) ]
The United States isn’t the only nation that keeps its intelligence archives in a private museum. Turkey’s MIT spy group has been amassing an impressive collection of memorabilia from top-secret operations for years. Stored at the group’s headquarters in Ankara, the museum’s glass display cases contain such spy craft relics as a shoe wedge designed to store a hidden microphone, hollowed-out objects for secreting code books, and bugging devices discovered in Turkish embassies abroad during the Cold War. A Turkish newspaper requested access to the museum and was allowed in for one day, but that’s the only time the Museum of Espionage has ever been seen by the public.

Canadian Museum Of Making
It is possible to get inside the doors of the Canadian Museum of Making, which is located on a private ranch near Cochrane, Alberta, but it’s not easy. The museum’s owner, Ian MacGregor, is very picky about who he allows through the doors. From the outside, you’d never know that the 20,000 square foot museum is even there, because he constructed the complex entirely underground. Inside is one of the world’s most extensive collections of mechanical objects from between 1750 and 1920. Every once in a while, MacGregor will open the doors to select people, but it's a rare occasion.

El Museo del Enervantes
Intended for use in the training of military staff waging Mexico’s seemingly endless war against the drug cartels, El Museo del Enervantes, located in Mexico City, is a private museum that chronicles every aspect of the world of narcoterrorism. In-depth exhibits illustrate the manufacturing process involved in making cocaine, heroin and other drugs. A huge display case shows off dozens of handguns confiscated from drug lords, many encrusted with gold and jewels. There is also a plaque commemorating all the Mexican soldiers who died on duty since 1976.

The Honda Secret Museum
Many automakers rent out space to spotlight important moments in their history, but Honda defies the trend by making their history museum closed to the public. Assembled by company veteran Lou Staller, it’s a collection of almost 50 cars and motorcycles that commemorate Honda’s successes and failures. Included in the collection is a Honda N-600 from 1970—the first passenger car the company sold in the States—and the 1997 EV Plus, the very first electric vehicle to be marketed here. The museum is only accessible to Honda employees, and the vast majority of them have never been there, making it a treasure trove for car enthusiasts.

Musée d'Anatomie Delmas-Orfila-Rouvière
The Musée d'Anatomie Delmas-Orfila-Rouvière permanently closed its door to everyone—public and invited only—in 2005. Prior to that time, it was the largest and most complete anatomy museum in France. The Museum’s collection began in 1794 and expanded steadily over the years to include upwards of 5,800 anatomic items from humans and other animals. Some of the coolest stuff on display includes casts of the heads of executed 19th century criminals, comparative anatomy displays of reptiles and birds, and skulls of deceased mental patients. It occupied the eighth floor of the Descartes University’s school of medicine, and access was granted only to the medical elite.

The Black Museum
Scotland Yard, one of the most famous crime-fighting institutions in history, has amassed some serious items. If you want to see them, they’re kept in the Black Museum. Located at police headquarters in London, this collection of evidence from some of Scotland Yard’s most notorious crimes includes the pots serial killer Dennis Nilsen used to cook his victims and a taunting letter from Jack the Ripper. Also on display is a vast array of weapons used in the commission of crimes, including some cleverly disguised tools of mayhem. There is a current discussion about finally making the museum open to the public, but as of now it’s still police only.

The U.S. Secret Service Museum
It appears that taxpayer money is supporting a disproportionate number of museums that aren’t open to the public. Located in the nondescript office building that houses the Secret Service headquarters is a small private museum that’s only open to invited guests. Inside the one-room museum are artifacts from some of the most shocking crimes in American history—assassination attempts on Presidents. Among these artifacts is the bullet-scarred window from Ronald Reagan’s limousine on the day that John Hinckley attacked and the assault rifle that Francisco Duran used to spray bullets into the White House in 1994.

The Zymoglyphic Museum
The Zymoglyphic Museum in San Mateo, California, is open to the public—but only for two days out of every year. The museum's creator houses his collection in a small outbuilding off of his garage, down a nondescript suburban cul-de-sac. Inside is the world’s largest assemblage of animals and artifacts from the Zymoglyphic Era…a period in Earth’s past that never existed. The dioramas, housed in aquarium tanks, are well thought out and executed with incredible attention to detail.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

10 SURPRISING THINGS SPOTTED WITH SATELLITES



Satellites have become integral to our daily lives—such things as telephone, television, internet, weather forecasts, and gps tracking just to name a few.  And with the launching of the Hubble telescope we can now see billions of light years into the vastness of space.  And we can't overlook those scientific discoveries including rediscovering things long forgotten and/or overlooked.

Phytoplankton Blooms
It's kind of bizarre to think that some of the smallest living things on Earth can make a display that you can see from space. In August of 2012, NASA's Aqua satellite captured some remarkable images of a massive phytoplankton bloom surrounding Russia's Novaya Zemla island. These particular plankton contain plates of a calcium-containing mineral that give them a bright blue color, and when they gather in massive numbers they make an incredible visual image. Temperature and salinity conditions have to be absolutely right to trigger this phenomenon, so capturing it this clearly is pretty amazing. [pictured above]

Hundreds Of Sunken Ships
Much of the ocean is resistant to satellite photography because we don't have cameras powerful enough to penetrate those depths from space. However, there are still amazing things to be seen in the shallows, such as the ghost fleet of Mallows Bay. At the start of World War I, the United States needed to quickly build transport vessels. In April of 1917, 1000 ships were ordered to be built. By the end of the war, the boats had become obsolete and eventually they were sunk to the bottom of the Potomac River at Mallows Bay. From space, the ship graveyard is a striking and amazing sight.

A Marijuana Farm
If you're doing something illegal, it used to be sufficient to put up a fence and keep prying eyes out. But when the eyes are in the sky, things change. Spotting marijuana growths from small planes has been common practice for quite a while. But the owners of a massive marijuana growing operation in Switzerland found that out the hard way in 2010 when Google Earth satellite images revealed their pot fields. Police in Zurich discovered the two-acre field by chance while looking up the address of area farmers, and quickly moved in for the bust. Sixteen people were arrested and over a ton of marijuana was impounded.

Kazakh Geoglyphs
The people of the ancient world did some things that still confound us today. One of the most perplexing is the practice of creating geoglyphs—massive drawings in the earth that are too large to be comprehended from the ground, but show up clear as day from high above. The Nazca lines of southern Peru are the most famous. In 2014 archaeologists happened across a completely new set of geoglyphs in Kazakhstan. The drawings, which depict a number of different geometric shapes, have yet to be explained.

A Hidden Rainforest
It's well-known that the truly wild areas of the planet are dying at a rapid rate, but satellite imagery can often reveal hidden oases that mankind hasn't managed to ruin…yet. That happened in 2005, when scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens were going over Google Earth images from Mozambique. At the top of Mount Mabu, isolated by steep slopes, was one of the largest untouched rainforests that scientists had ever seen. Villagers had used the site to hide from the civil war that rocked the nation, but aside from that it was on no map and not recognized by the government. Three years later, an expedition found previously undiscovered plants and animals there.

Lost Egyptian Pyramids
One of the most frustrating parts of the archaeologist's craft is having to guess about ancient civilizations buried beneath the surface. Egypt, with its constantly-shifting sands, is especially tough. Thankfully, satellites equipped with infrared cameras have changed the game completely. In a 2011 survey of the country, heat-sensing photography was used to reveal the shapes of seventeen lost pyramids, as well as thousands of other buildings buried beneath the desert.

A Methane Hotspot
Satellites don't just take photos of things we can see with the naked eye. Their advanced sensors allow them to record wavelengths we can't perceive. That's how we found an enormous packet of the greenhouse gas methane hovering over the American southwest. The Four Corners area, where Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah meet, is a hotbed of natural gas extraction. Scientists believe that the methane was released as a side effect of that industry, and claim that it's equivalent to the entire greenhouse gas output of Sweden.

A Meteor Crater
One of the coolest things about satellite surveillance is that it allows us to see things that would be virtually invisible from the ground. Case in point: the crater from one of Earth's most recent meteor impacts, a scant 5,000 years ago. Measuring just 150 feet wide, this tiny hole in Egypt was first noticed in 2008. But it wasn't until a team analyzed Google Earth images in 2010 that they realized what makes it unusual. The site is what's known as a "rayed crater," featuring lines of lighter-colored rock emanating from the impact area. These craters are common on the Moon but typically eradicated by erosion on Earth, so it's an advantage to science to find a new one.

A New Species Of Hominid
One of the most fascinating discoveries in the history of paleontology—a completely new hominid species that fills in information about the evolution of Homo sapiens. In 2007, South African professor Lee Berger was using Google Earth to examine caves around the so-called "Cradle of Humanity" area of South Africa when he started to notice a pattern. Following it out, he marked 500 other sites that he thought had the potential to produce fossils. The next year, he started to explore them on foot, and one gave up an incredible find: the first bones of Australopithecus sediba, a species that some believe might be the missing link between man and ape.

A Mars Lander
Let's look away from Earth and cast our attention to our nearest planetary neighbor for a look at a mission gone wrong. In 2003, the European Space Agency launched a mission to Mars that involved landing an unmanned craft called the Beagle 2 to take samples and return data. Unfortunately, after launch the ESA lost contact with the Beagle and it vanished into space. A dozen years later, NASA staff operating the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's cameras spotted an anomaly on the planet's surface. Upon investigation, they realized they had found the long-missing Beagle 2. The craft's solar panels had failed to open, resulting in mission failure, but it's been sitting on Mars this whole time.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

10 Miscellaneous Facts From Around The World

With this week's Labor Day holiday, the summer season is over for most of us.  We've already taken our annual vacation, the kids are back in school, we've brought the boat home from the lake and put it back in storage. But that doesn't mean it's too early to start thinking about next summer's vacation. So, I'd like to offer you some miscellaneous travel tidbits and trivia.

I came across an article that listed bits of trivia about various travel destinations.  Little snippets of miscellaneous information usually not included in travel guides.  Things I found interesting.  I hope you find them interesting, too.

1)  Mt. Everest (pictured above)
It's a commonly known fact that Mt. Everest, on the Nepal–Tibet border, is the highest point on earth.  You'd think that would be enough, wouldn't you?  Well, apparently it isn't.  The precise height of Mt. Everest is somewhat disputed.  It's generally thought to be 29,029 ft (8848m) above sea level.  And the interesting little fact?  It's still growing!  Mt. Everest is pushing upward at a rate estimated to be 4mm a year thanks to the clash between two tectonic plates.

2)  Mexico City
While Mt. Everest is growing, the interesting little fact about Mexico City is that it's sinking at an average rate of 10cm a year which is 10 times faster than the sinking rate of Venice, Italy.  And the reason for this?  Mexico City was built on a soft lake bed and subterranean water reserves have subsequently been pumped out from beneath the city.  The obvious result?  The city is sinking.

3)  Vatican City
The world's smallest independent state, 44 hectares (110 acres) is totally encircled by Rome.  The Vatican's Swiss Guard still wears the uniform inspired by Renaissance painter Raphael.  Its population is 800 with only 450 of those being citizens.  It even has its own coins which are legal tender throughout Italy and the EU.

4)  El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles
What is all that?  In English it's Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels.  In it's shortened version it's better known as Los Angeles, California.  The town came into being in 1781 and today, in an area of downtown Los Angeles referred to as Olvera Street, there is a cluster of museums, ancient plazas and lively markets providing a taste of life in 1800s Los Angeles.

5)  Nuestra Senora Santa Maria del Buen Aire
What is all that?  In English it's Our Lady St. Mary of the Good Air, better known today as Buenos Aires, Argentina.  It's the best spot to savor the tango.  And don't take the tango lightly.  In Buenos Aires, it's very serious business.

6)  London Underground
London's Metropolitan Railway was the world's first subway, opened in 1863.  The first section ran between Paddington and Farringdon and was a hit in spite of the steam engines filling stations and tunnels with dense smoke.  Today, if you take the Circle Line between Paddington and Covent Garden, you'll travel part of that original route.

7)  Venice, Italy
As mentioned earlier, Venice is sinking.  But in the interim…one of the things immediately associated with Venice are the gondolas on the canals, especially the Grand Canal.  Each gondola is made from 280 pieces of 8 different types of wood.  The left side is larger than the right side by 24cm.  The parts of a gondola represent bits of the city—the front echoes its 6 districts, the back is Giudecca Island, and the lunette is the Rialto Bridge.

8)  Great Wall of China
Most everyone knows this is the largest military construction on earth.  However the part about it being the only man-made structure able to be seen from space is an urban myth.  The sections were built by independent kingdoms between the 7th and 4th centuries BC then unified under China's first Emperor Qin Shi Huang around 210 BC.  A not well known fact is that the sections near Beijing which are most visited by tourists are reconstructions done in the 14th to 17th centuries AD.

9)  Table Mountain, South Africa
This large plateau of sandstone looms over Cape Town.  But this huge table has its own table cloth.  The plateau's cloud cover gathers across the flat top and spills over the sides when the wind whips up from the southeast.  You can reach the top by hiking trails or cable car.

10)  Uluru, Australia
This is probably the world's largest monolith, rising from the Australian desert.  More commonly known for years as Ayers Rock, it is now referred to by the Aboriginal name of Uluru.  The rock glows a fiery orange-red color, especially at sunset.  Where does its red color come from?  It's made from arkosic sandstone which contains iron.  When exposed to oxidation, the iron rusts thus providing the red color.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

History Of Labor Day Holiday

The Labor Day holiday is celebrated on the first Monday in September.  This is the same day that Canada celebrates their Labor Day holiday.  This year, that date is September 4, 2017.

The history of Labor Day in the U.S. goes back to the labor movement of the late 1800s and became an official federal holiday in 1894. It's celebrated with parties, parades, and athletic events.  Prior to 1894, workers who wanted to participate in Labor Day parades would forfeit a day's pay.

Over the ensuing decades, Labor Day has come to symbolize something else, too.  In defiance of the Summer Solstice and Autumnal Equinox signaling the beginning and ending of the summer season, Labor Day has become the unofficial end of the summer season that unofficially started on Memorial Day weekend (the fourth Monday in May in the U.S.).

What led up to the creation of a holiday specifically designated to honor and celebrate the workers and their accomplishments?  The seeds were planted in the 1880s at the height of America's Industrial Revolution when the average American worked 12 hour days/7 days a week in order to earn a basic living.  
Although some states had restrictions, these workers included children as young as 5 years old who labored in the mills, factories, and mines earning a fraction of the money paid to the adults in the same workplace.  Workers of all ages were subjected to extremely unsafe working conditions in addition to insufficient access to fresh air and sanitary facilities.

Labor Unions had first appeared in the late 1700s.  As America changed from an agrarian society into an industrial one, these labor unions became more vocal and began to organize rallies and strikes in protest of poor working conditions and low wages.  Many of these events turned violent.  One prominent such incident was the Haymarket Riot of 1886 where several Chicago policemen and workers were killed. 
Other rallies were of a more positive nature such as September 5, 1882, when 10,000 workers took unpaid time off from their jobs and held the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history when they marched from City Hall to Union Square in New York City.

It was another 12 years before Congress legalized the holiday.  This was primarily brought about on May 11, 1894, when employees at the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago went on strike to protest wage cuts and the firing of union representatives.  Then on June 26, the American Railroad Union called for a boycott of all Pullman railway cars thus crippling railroad traffic nationwide.  To break the strike, the government sent troops to Chicago.  The resulting riots resulted in the deaths of more than a dozen workers.  As a result, Congress passed an act making Labor Day a legal holiday in all states, the District of Columbia and the territories (many of which later became states).

And now, more than a century later, the true founder of Labor Day still hasn't been identified.

So, for everyone enjoying this 3 day holiday weekend, now you know why you have that additional day.  And why the banks are closed and you don't have any mail delivery.  :)