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5 HAUNTED BACK ROADS IN AMERICA YOU’VE GOT TO TAKE

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H/T Antique Archaeology.

This is from the newsletter from Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz aka American Pickers. 

Local legends of phantom cars, ghosts, and murders provoke curiosity for the unknown.

Photo by Meghan Aileen

Photo by Meghan Aileen

Have you ever had that uncomfortable moment while driving down a back road when you thought you really should’ve taken a different route? Felt that tug at your gut saying, “Turn around! If you keep going something bad is going to happen!” You start believing that there’s someone or something out there in the dark waiting to jump out at you or you begin to wonder if you really are alone in your vehicle. Mike has.

“I was out near Los Angeles driving in the desert and hadn’t seen light for hours. Suddenly, for a second, I saw a man standing on the side of the road.  And then he completely vanished. I didn’t stop for anything! It’s freaky. Your mind starts to play tricks on you and you wonder if what you’re seeing is really there or just a figment of your imagination.”

Every small town has a local legend, told and retold, like a phantom ghost car that chases you for miles or a spooky spirit that likes to show up in your review mirror. What makes these stories so intriguing is that without even having been there, your imagination can totally set up  the scene. In your mind you can see yourself driving down the dark road,  waiting for something paranormal to occur. It’s the build-up to the unknown that makes the picture in our minds more terrifying that what’s actually happening. (No matter how many versions of the story there are.)

So gather round, y’all. We’re gonna tell you a few ghost stories before lights out.

Seven Sisters Road- Nebraska City, Nebraska

If you’re sensitive to sibling drama, you’ll want to stay off this old road, locale of one of the most gruesome legends to come out of the wholesome farmlands of Nebraska. An hour south of Omaha is Nebraska City. Ask anyone in this town of 7,000 and you’ll be cautioned to avoid Seven Sisters Road.  Legend has it that almost 100 years ago, a brother and his seven sisters were living in the hills outside the city. For reasons no one has ever known, one night the brother came home palm-twitching mad, poisonous thoughts swirling through his mind.  Slipping deeper and deeper into psychosis, the darkness finally overtook him, and unimaginably, he dragged each one of his innocent sisters to a separate hilltop and hung them all. While no one knows what happened to the brother, locals warn unsuspecting visitors that strange things happen on the road that curves through those seven forlorn hills.  Many brave souls who have dared to drive out there report cars suddenly drained of power, engines stalling and headlights dimming as if in warning to get away, the hills aren’t a place to be at night. But if you insist, and you park your car out on the road for long enough,you may just hear the wailing screams of those poor sisters out in the distance.

Photo by Dan Swanson via www.ncnewspress.com

Photo by Dan Swanson via www.ncnewspress.com

Let this be a warning:  If you’re in Thornton and you’re headed out for an evening drive, let somebody know where you’re going.  Or better yet, just don’t go. About 20 minutes north of Denver in the foothills less than on hour outside Golden Gate Canyon State Park sits this Colorado town. The story goes that one night, a jogger was out on a solo run on Riverdale Road, which leads to a popular hilltop overlook with a great view of the city lights.  Out of the quiet night came a speeding car, careening into the jogger, who was left to die alone in the darkness on the side of the road. Forever restless and angry at his fate, they say the jogger haunts this back road, looking for his killer in every passing car. He especially likes to creep up on people who park at the top what is now called Jogger’s Hill. Word is, if you kill your lights and engine, he’ll think you’re the one who hit him. Folks have reported hearing sounds of quick feet running toward them followed by angry fists beating the sides of their cars and handprints appearing on the windows as though the jogger is outside trying to get a look at his killer inside. Seriously, don’t go up there.  Okay, we warned you

Photos by Meghan Aileen

Photos by Meghan Aileen

Cuba Road- Barrington, Illinois

What could possibly be scary about lingering in the most haunted cemetery in Illinois? Plenty. If you find yourself an hour north of Chicago, driving past White Cemetery, maybe keep driving. The spirits there have been known to wander outside the gates since the 1820s. Police and other reliable eyewitnesses have reported seeing all kinds of vanishing objects, from people to floating black phantom cars and even a house that was supposed to have burned down under mysterious circumstances. Locals say if you see the house, don’t go in or when it disappears into the mist, you’ll disappear with it. Forever. There have been sightings of a woman with a lantern, seemingly  looking for a ride but then quickly vanishing behind the sunken headstones. Hazy figures lingering beside the trees and near the perimeter of the cemetery are a common occurrence out there too. So if you’re driving along Cuba Road and you happen to see someone out there, whatever you do,  DON’T offer anyone a ride. Chances are they’re already on the other side, heading back and looking to take you with them.

Photo by Meghan Aileen

Photo by Meghan Aileen

Route 44 – Rehoboth, Massachusetts

Possibly the most frightening local legend in these parts is the one about the elusive phantom hitchhiker who has been violently scaring drivers on Route 44 just east of Providence for the past 30 years. Described as a six feet tall, bearded, red-headed man, with dark lifeless eyes, he matches the description of a victim who years ago died in a terrible crash on that stretch of road.  Locals warn against offering him a lift because those who have had some bad experiences. One woman talks about her encounter with the red-headed hitchhiker, remembering that when she stopped for him, as he reached for her door handle he suddenly evaporated and then her car engine died. Frozen with fright, she could hear his maniacal laughter long after he had vanished from sight.

Many folks in town will tell you to never, under any circumstances, drive Route 44 with anything less than a full car because one of the most common ways to see this phantom hitchhiker is in your rearview mirror as he appears in the backseat. Just as you look up and see him staring at you, he disappears, but then all by itself your car radio will start scanning stations so fast and loud that your car will begin to shake.  And through the radio static, you’ll hear that laugh.  Anyone up for a little New England road trip?

Photo by Meghan Aileen

Photo by Meghan Aileen

Gudgeonville Bridge- Girard, Pennsylvania

This story is set just a ways south of Erie, Pennsylvania on a covered bridge built around 1868. Stretching 84 feet across Elk Creek, the Gudgeonville Bridge claimed its first life a little over 100 years ago. Legend says that a farmer named Obadiah Will was delivering a mule to a nearby farm when the animal suddenly began acting strange. It led Obadiah down the road to the entrance of the covered bridge, but stopped short, unwilling to cross. Frustrated, the farmer snapped the reins a few times to get the mule moving, but to no avail. The balking mule refused to take another step. Unable to turn around on the narrow bridge or to go forward, Obadiah grew more and more enraged, flogging the poor beast until he literally beat him to death. It is said that after having so brutally killed the animal, the farmer unhitched him from the wagon and buried him along the bank of the creek. Years later, a young girl playing along Devils Backbone, the cliffs above the creek, fell to her death and drowned in the rushing water. When her family went to look for her, all they ever found was her left shoe. Today locals say that if you park on the Gudgeonville Bridge and roll the windows down, you can hear the clanking of hoofs — the mistreated mule approaching your car. It’s also said that along the banks walks a young girl, wearing just one shoe. Don’t linger too long, or she may get her hands on your shoe. Maybe with your leg still attached…

Photo by Kelly Kemrer

Photo by Kelly Kemrer

 

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5 UNIQUE NEW YEAR’S BALL DROPS IN AMERICA

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H/T Antique Archaeology. 

Vincennes, Indiana is about 45 miles south of where I live.

It’s almost New Year’s Eve! Soon we’ll be gathered around the TV or jammed into a small space outside watching the Times Square ball drop. We’ll wrap ourselves around those we love and direct our gaze to the plummeting ball of bright crystals and begin the countdown. But did you know the first New Year’s ball drop was actually intended to help sailors? It’s true. Originally called a “time ball” in England back in 1829, sailors set their telescopes towards shore. They knew when the ball began to descend it was officially time to adjust their watches and chronometers. It wasn’t until 1845 when the U.S. Naval Observatory caught on to the idea that many cities and port towns began implementing time balls.

Since then, we’ve graduated to brighter, more gaudy and creative versions of the time-honored tradition. Here are five cities ringing in the New Year dropping something other than a ball. (Be sure you tell us your favorite in the comments at the end!)

The Great Pine Cone Drop – Flagstaff, AZ

For the last 16 years, locals and tourists have met in the town square to watch the giant, glittery pine cone descend from the roof of the historic Weatherford Hotel. Entering the ring at 6 feet and 70 lbs, this pine cone looks more like an opera house chandelier. (No swinging allowed!)

The Maple Leaf and Great Sardine Drop – Eastport, MA

The sweet townspeople of chilly Eastport, Maine have been ringing in the new year with two ball drops since 2002. Eastport needed a way to breathe new life into the town after having had their last sardine factory, which is what they were known for, close in the 1980s. As a way to boost morale on a budget, and to be friendly with their New Brunswick neighbors, the township decided to throw a party for both themselves and Canada.

At 11PM Eastport drops a giant maple leaf from the top of the Tides Institute & Museum of Art in Bank Square while a small volunteer brass band plays “O Canada”.

Afterwards, the party continues for another hour until midnight EST when a commemorative 8-foot sardine drops and the brass band warms themselves up performing “Auld Lang Syne.”

The Moon Pie Drop – Mobile, AL

Who doesn’t love a Moon Pie? Created by the Chattanooga Bakery in 1917,  this sugary, southern staple serves as the inspiration for Mobile’s New Year’s Eve celebration. About 50,000 people gather to watch the 600lb Moon Pie sign, along with some customary fireworks, illuminate the sky. (This year is their 100th anniversary too! Celebratory midnight Moon Pies, anyone?)

The Watermelon Drop – Vincennes, IN

This New Year’s ball drop is one you almost have to see to believe. Since 2008, the party has built quite the reputation as “7 Wacky Ways to Ring in the New Year” and making 2011’s “Top Ten Quirkiest New Year’s Eve Celebrations in America” by TripAdisor.

A 180-foot, 500lb watermelon is hoisted by a crane then when the clock strikes midnight, the bottom of the melon drops out and actual watermelons that had been stuffed inside hit the “splatform” below. The earth-shattering splat is immediately followed by fireworks and singing.

Why a watermelon? The county is located on soil that is ideal for growing the fruit. (more than 7,000 semitruck-loads every summer!). With thousands of watermelon fields producing some of the best-tasting melons around, the town doesn’t mind setting aside a supply for the celebration.

The Pickle Drop – Mt. Olive, NC

Pickle people! We’ve got your ticket to one of the saltiest celebrations around right here. Travel to Mt. Olive for your brined cucumber fix, and also an earlier bed time. When the clock strikes 7:00pm on December 31, an illuminated 3-foot pickle nosedives into a pickle tank below. Why 7:00pm? Because that’s the same time as midnight in Greenwich, England, home of Greenwich Mean Time. Meet you at the corner of Cucumber and Vine!

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