tourism

Goodbye God, I'm Going to Bodie

This post was first published on SPINE Online, November 26th, 2018.


Photo courtesy of werner22brigitte via Pixabay.com

Photo courtesy of werner22brigitte via Pixabay.com

Hello, and welcome back to Voices in the Attic for your latest—and last—dose of the creepy and abandoned. This time, it falls upon me to tell you the story of another ghost town—Bodie, California, one of the most incredible and well-preserved examples of an nineteenth-century American boom town.

Bodie began life in 1859 as a small mining camp just east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, started by a group of prospectors including W.S Bodey from Poughkeepsie. It was allegedly Bodey who discovered gold there, but he died a few months later in a blizzard, long before the town was named after him.

It took another sixteen years or so before things started picking up in Bodie, which most historians attribute to the discovery of silver in Aurora and the discovery of the Comstock Lode in Virginia. However, by 1876 the discovery of a profitable gold deposit had transformed Bodie from an isolated camp to a growing mining town.

Three years later, Bodie’s population was anywhere between 5,000 to 7,000 people with facilities and an infrastructure to match. At its peak, Bodie boasted opium dens aplenty, breweries, hotels, four volunteer fire companies, railroads, schools, telegraph lines, a Taoist temple, a union hall, a busy red light district, a Wells Fargo bank, nine stamp mills, several daily newspapers and sixty-five saloons. It also had a large and thriving Chinese community, many of whom were employed supplying most of Bodie’s wood and coal. Newspapers at the time even recorded large Chinese New Years celebrations happening in Bodie each year.

Not surprisingly, jails and mortuaries were an absolute necessity because Bodie residents were killing each other in the street and committing crimes left, right and centre. In fact, the only thing the men of Bodie were exceptionally good at was getting violently drunk and shooting each other. It got so bad that Bodie earned itself a reputation for being lawless and depraved. Perhaps the most famous description was given in 1881 by the Reverend F.M Warrington, who described Bodie as “. . .a sea of sin, lashed by the tempests of lust and passion.”

Photo courtesy of McRonny via Pixabay.com

Photo courtesy of McRonny via Pixabay.com

But eventually, the get-rich-quick prospectors moved on to greater things and families settled down while the mines were still operating at peak profitability. The relative peace and prosperity didn’t last for long though because, yes, you guessed it: the mines dried up and shut down. The Bodie boom was over, just twenty years after it started.

The city began haemorrhaging residents and money, a situation which was not at all helped by the two world wars and a massive fire in 1932 which destroyed ninety percent of Bodie’s buildings. By the 1940s Bodie was officially a ghost town, held in arrested decay the way its last residents left it. Now, Bodie is a popular tourist destination for those seeking to experience an authentic ‘Wild West’ town, but with that comes the threat of vandalism and theft.

Thankfully, park rangers came up with a preventative strategy that seemed to take on a life of its own. Rangers invented an urban legend to scare people off, or a faux curse if you will. The legend goes like this; If you take something from Bodie, you will be cursed with bad luck.

It could be a rock or the piano in the old gambling hall (which was actually stolen in the 60’s but returned.) Take anything, and expect bad things to befall you immediately. That’s all well and good. We love a good curse! But somehow, the curse became real. The rangers were soon receiving stolen items in the mail from tourists, begging for forgiveness after they took ‘souvenirs’ and began experiencing bad luck. Visitors describe sudden illnesses, car crashes, family deaths, all manner of ill-tidings, after leaving Bodie.

The following excerpt is from a letter sent to Bodie in 2002 by an anonymous sender:

"Fair warning for anyone that thinks this is just folklore—my life has never seen such turmoil. Please take my warning and do not remove even a speck of dust."

So, if you are thinking of going there, don’t take anything. Not just for your own sake, but for the sake of Bodie as well. The State Parks service also discourages tourists from testing the curse, as police reports must be filed each and every time they receive stolen artifacts in the mail. Much like the number one rule of camping: leave no trace.


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Natascha Wood

Say her name three times and she will appear.

Twitter: @oldvvitch

Frozen in Time and Open for Visitation

This post was first published on SPINE Online, October 28th, 2018.


Whether or not you believe in the paranormal, the fact remains that horror is not simply limited to fiction. The debate over whether or not ghosts do exist is one that’s been argued for centuries. However, what is not up for debate is the existence of ghost towns. Perhaps you’ve seen coverage of this matter in a movie. Think Silent Hill for a popular example. But ghost towns don’t just exist in the movies. They are very real. And, ironically, considering the name, they tend to draw quite a large amount of lively tourism to them.

Have you ever wondered how many ghost towns there are, dotted throughout our world of the living? Perhaps you’ve even heard of some, like Hashima Island in Japan, or Oradour-sur-Glane in France. Or, perhaps you’ve heard of the one I intend to cover today: Pripyat.

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.com

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.com

For those of you that aren’t familiar with the Chernobyl Disaster, this is the breakdown: On the morning of April 26th, 1986, in Pripyat, Ukraine there was a power surge in the fourth reactor of the Chernobyl power plant. It triggered a chain reaction that ultimately led to a catastrophic nuclear disaster. Prior to this event, Pripyat, the city most directly affected by the accident, held a population of approximately 14,000 people. After the disaster, it held 0.

But the thing that makes Pripyat so fascinating is the tourism that it attracts. The reasons for the abandonment of all ghost towns in this world vary greatly, but Pripyat’s is still relevant, even now, some thirty years later. It remains to this day extremely radioactive, and experts predict that it will remain that way for hundreds of years still to come due to health risks posed from the radiation. The include various kinds of cancer, deformations, and acute radiation syndrome. In fact, many people who evacuated Pripyat in the early days following the accident developed cancer and subsequently died from it.

Despite this level of danger, Pripyat has attracted countless tourists from all over the world. Evidently radiation has died down just enough to allow tours through parts of the city, but if you ask me it’s still a very calculated risk by all those that enter. After all, every person that goes into Pripyat on a tour must be cleared by a radiation detection machine before leaving. How inviting!

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.com

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.com

But I can understand the fascination that ghost towns such as this generate. Maybe it’s a side effect of being a writer, this unrelenting curiosity, but it’s astounding to me that a place which was once so thriving and grandiose could turn into something so haunting and left-behind. Pripyat in particular looks and feels like a place completely frozen in time. There are pictures of dolls and teddy bears left behind, old classrooms and nurseries completely as they were, but with a thick layer of dust and decay covering them now. There is even a ferris wheel that was new and completely unused at the time of the evacuation that stands in this vacant world inhabited by nothing but radiation, dust and debris, and perhaps the occasional animal.

But when I really get thinking, I have to wonder if the radiation is truly the only thing that haunts the city.

I’m not saying outright that Pripyat is a town full of ghosts. But I have a hard time believing that a town that was abandoned so quickly and so entirely by all its living inhabitants wasn’t taken back over by inhabitants of a different kind.

For a more detailed guide on the requirements of touring Pripyat, please refer to this blog written by Stephanie Craig, a woman who participated in a tour group through the city herself.


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Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.

Salem Witchy Tourism

This post was first published on SPINE Online, October 31st, 2018.


In the early 90’s Wicca, a branch of Paganism, became officially recognized as a religion despite developing activity in the 1940’s. This acceptance of a religion that actively promotes the idea of witchcraft and rituals shows that society has developed quite a bit since the time of the Salem Witch trials.

Photo courtesy of Rondell Melling via Pixabay.com

Photo courtesy of Rondell Melling via Pixabay.com

The Salem witch trials were a horrifying time that was founded in hysteria and paranoia that spread throughout the community, spurring people to isolate suspicious members and accuse them of treachery and consorting with the devil. These accusations were particularly devastating because torture and a biased justice system followed, and ended with a death sentence. More than 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft, with a high number of the accused being women, but only 20 overall were executed.

Present day Salem has changed quite a bit since the days of the witch trials. Nearly 1500 local women have publically announced their status as witches, and have helped establish a strong witch tourism trend in the area. Storefronts publically announce fortune readings and a variety offer spellcasting. This tourism feeds off of the deliberate atmosphere that Salem has promoted, by hosting a variety of events like ghost tours and parades celebrating the dead. These events are popularized with the intent in gaining economic revenue, and sustaining the area.

Witchcraft has gained popularity due to the change in popular culture. People have grown up with television shows like Bewitched and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, as well as books like the Harry Potter series. Typically, witches are presented as positive members of their respective societies. The shift in trends pushed witchcraft into a popular light and in turn popularized Wicca.

However, with this tourism so fixated on the promotion of witchcraft as well as theatrical performances, the question of historic sensitivity comes to light. The Salem witch trials had represented massive torment within a community, but less attention is being focused on the historical sufferings that people faced and instead being put on celebrating Halloween inspired events to promote revenue streams.

It can be argued that this is an attempt to take and transform the brutality into something positive. The witches of Salem suffered because a powerful group of men occupied positions of power in the justice system. It can be powerful, retaking a brutal narrative and turning it into something positive that celebrates women. Women in Salem today no longer need to hide their identities and are able to commemorate these differences in lifestyle.

The Puritan church leaders must be rolling in their graves as women actively participate in their community based off of witchcraft and rituals. Salem witchcraft attracts a wide variety of tourists who want to participate in the customs and traditions, and also engage with the festive events that Salem hosts.

The power of the original Salem witches clearly lives on in Salem today, as generations later they are still remembered. If you’re interested in checking out some tourism related to these events, check out the official website for Salem.

Photo courtesy of Coco Parisienne via Pixabay.com

Photo courtesy of Coco Parisienne via Pixabay.com


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Rachel Small

Rachel Small is not a small person and might be the present day reincarnation of Lizzie Borden. She crawled to life one night after midnight in the basement of a bookstore.