Ghost Tour in New Orleans

Misty Graves

By Judy Berman

Fog enveloped Bourbon Street. We stepped inside a dimly lit gift shop in New Orleans where we spotted a book on ghosts.

That inspired us to book a walking ghost tour that weekend. Our guide, Richard, looked like he stepped out of Anne Rice’s “Vampire Chronicles.”

Like Lestat, he was an imposing figure – tall, dressed in black, and blond. But Richard’s hair was long and braided.

He could have passed for an outlaw, but he was a very entertaining storyteller.

Our tour was briefly interrupted outside voodoo Queen Marie LeVeau’s home. I doubt she was resting in peace as a heckler chose that moment to hassle Richard.

Several paying customers urged Richard to move on and continue with his stories. He did. Our next stop was at a voodoo woman’s home.

Except for a huge snake curled up in a cage, lit candles, burnt offering and dolls with pins in them (OK, I made that last part up), the voodoo woman’s home was like any other.

She gave us a quick tour. Then, we gathered in the backyard. The woman asked Richard if he wanted his future told. Perhaps, thinking of the unpleasant encounter, he just shook his head sadly.

“Knowing how bad my past was, I don’t want to know what my future will be,” he said.

The voodoo woman chided him, “If you know your future, your past may look good.”

We laughed and Richard joined in.

After we left her home, we continued our stroll through the French Quarter.

Each block appeared to harbor spirits. Richard stopped at one building, the Old Ursuline Convent on Chartres Street, and told us about suspicions that it was connected to vampires.

Old Ursuline Convent, French Quarter - Chartres side balcony above entrance

In the mid-1700s, young women were brought over from France to be married off to men who settled in Louisiana. The nuns at the convent gave the girls shelter and an education.

While there were women in New Orleans already, some were plying the world’s oldest trade. Definitely not marriage material.

As the legend goes, 50 girls were sent here along with 50 “casquettes” or “caskets.” They were mockingly referred to as ‘casket girls.” (The number varies according to the storyteller.)

Odd! Many were dying in France at the time. So, there should have been a shortage of coffins – not chests – for their clothes and personal effects.

Their chests, containing a dowry, were locked in on the convent’s third floor. They would be opened when the girls married. But Richard said the chests were empty.

The shuttered gable windows on the convent’s third floor are nailed shut, he said. Superstitious residents say that was done to prevent any vampires – believed to be in the coffins – from escaping.

We hastened out steps as we left the sidewalk outside the convent. Would a light from the moon reveal that one of the windows was open?

Far from being repelled by holy things, Richard believes vampires are drawn to them. He said that’s why the vampires were sent to the convent. (I’m sure the church is delighted with this theory.)

Mysteriously, there is no record of what happened to the 50 coffins.

He wrapped up his story by telling us that in Rice’s “Interview with the Vampire,” the vampire has beignets (a pastry with powdered sugar) at Café du Monde.

Cafe du Monde - Cafe au Lait and Beignets, New Orleans

The truly spooky thing is that lighter-than-air beignets do vanish into thin air along with the coffee.

Richard’s stories, however, have stuck with us for many years.

 

Do you have a non-gory spooky tale to share?

 

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Music Video: Bobby Bare singing Marie Laveau, voodoo queen from Louisiana    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpZzehuWdM4 

 

1.Main Photo: Misty Graves – Easton Maudit churchyard, taken by R. Neil Marshman http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b0/MistyGraves.jpg/536px-MistyGraves.jpg

2.Photo: Old Ursuline Convent – French Quarter – taken March 1, 2010 by Infrogmation of New Orleans http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/44/UrsulinesFQExtChartresSideBalconyAboveEntrance.JPG/640px-UrsulinesFQExtChartresSideBalconyAboveEntrance.JPG

3.Photo: Café du Monde – café au lait and beignets – taken Jan. 12, 2013 by Ed Johnson http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b6/Cafe_au_Lait_and_Beignets_New_Orleans.jpg/640px-Cafe_au_Lait_and_Beignets_New_Orleans.jpg

Spring Break – Key West

Key West - SunsetBy Judy Berman

Salty ocean spray flew up as our glass-bottom boat sped toward its destination – a coral reef in Key Largo.

Just the island’s name conjures celluloid images of Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and tough guy Edward G. Robinson in the 1948 movie, “Key Largo.” They run thru my mind like reels at an old movie theater as we pull away from Key Largo’s shores.

The opening scenes of the movie were shot here.

A relic from another Bogart film, “The African Queen,” also can be found here. That boat was used in the 1951 film that stars Bogart and Katherine Hepburn. That boat was restored in 2012 to serve as a tourist boat, several years after our visit.

After we had a hearty breakfast nearby, we boarded the boat for a tour of a coral reef. Not recommended. The hearty breakfast and boat ride combo, that is. Top side, I felt much better.

After lunch, we headed to Key West. This is a nine-hour drive from our home, but getting here – well worth the view.

Seven Mile Bridge to Key West

The Seven-Mile Bridge, one of the longest in the world, offers breathtaking views along stretches of turquoise water. Clear, striking shades of blue from the ocean on our left, and the Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico on our right.

Our hotel, the Almond Tree Inn, was conveniently located near the corner of the renowned and infamous Duval Street in Old Town Key West. We headed down to Mallory Square to see the sunsets.

On our way, a drunk staggered out of a bar exposing his shortcomings for all to see. Yes, this was our first exposure to the “wild life” there – and it was still early in the day.

Key West - Golden Man

A huge crowd gathered at the edge of the southernmost city in the continental U.S. to see the sun set. Street performers – jugglers who tossed flaming torches in the air, acrobats dancing along a high wire, and a dog jumping thru a hoop – were on hand before and after that magic moment.

The Key’s most famous writer, Ernest Hemingway, lived here with his wife Pauline from 1931 until the end of their marriage in 1940. He wrote several of his most celebrated books at his pool house office out back of his historic home at 907 Whitehead St.

Our guide, Joe, told us that, when Pauline remodeled the home, she replaced the ceiling fans with ornate chandeliers.

“During the summer, we think about her EVERY DAY,” he drawled for emphasis. Floor fans cooled the room this March day of our visit several years ago.

Outside, Joe showed us a pool that Pauline had installed for $20,000 during the Great Depression. When Hemingway returned from an overseas venture, he took a penny from his pocket and told Pauline she might as well take his “last red cent.”

Pauline did. She had it set in the cement next to the pool.

Ernest Hemingway House - cat on bed

There were 49 cats living on the property. Many have six toes and are descendants of “Papa” Hemingway’s six-toed cats.

One of “Papa” Hemingway’s favorite hangouts was Blue Heaven at 729   Thomas Street. While we ate lunch there, roosters, chickens, chicks and cats wandered around the open-air restaurant.

Key West - free roaming chicken family

There’s a photo of him there when it had a boxing ring. At various times, the place was “a bordello, a pool hall, a railroad water tower, a cockfighting arena, a boxing ring and ice-cream parlor.” And, now, a popular restaurant.

If you wander over to the Southernmost Point (of the continental U.S., at the corner of Whitehead and South streets), Cuba is about 90 miles away.

On a clear day, you might see it from your back porch. (chuckle)

A man, wearing an orange-and-white “Mile Marker O” offered to take our photo. Recalling the scene from the comedy, “European Vacation,” where the photo taker took off with the tourists’ camera, we waited to see how he handled the family ahead of us.

Like Blanche Dubois in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” we often have to depend on the kindness of strangers.

And, many, thankfully, are very accommodating.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Music video – Key West  – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Du4gR-_kLEs – 2012 Trop Rock Music Asociation Songwriter of the Year Nominee, Steve Tolliver, sings Key West Is The Best from his CD “Back To The Islands”.

Main Photo – Key West – sunset – taken May 30, 2011, by Serge Melki, Indianapolis. Link to http://www.byways.org/ Copyright http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/7f/Key_West_-_Sunset_%285845637488%29.jpg/640px-Key_West_-_Sunset_%285845637488%29.jpg

Photo – Seven Mile Bridge – to Key West – Seeming to converge in the distance, the Seven-mile Bridge on the Florida Keys Scenic Highway west of Marathon, FL, runs parallel to the historic Flagler railroad bridge of the early 1900s with the Atlantic Ocean to the South and the Gulf of Mexico to the North. Taken March 20, 2003 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/2d/Looooooong_bridge.jpg/640px-Looooooong_bridge.jpg

Key West – Golden Man – taken Feb. 1, 2008 by CederBendDrive, USA  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/03/Key_West_2008_%282337699559%29.jpg/640px-Key_West_2008_%282337699559%29.jpg

Photo – Ernest Hemingway House – cat on bed – taken March 16, 2013 by Abujoy http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/31/ErnestHemingwayHouse005.JPG/640px-ErnestHemingwayHouse005.JPG

Photo – Key West – free roaming chicken family – Taken Feb. 12, 2007 by Averette at en.wikipedia http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/0a/Chickenfamily.jpg/640px-Chickenfamily.jpg

Music video – “Blue Heaven Rendezvous” (1995) by Jimmy Buffet. The Blue Heaven restaurant inspired this song.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrLvg2lykLI

Overheard While Just Passing Thru

alligator - marshamallowBy Judy Berman

As a tourist, you get only a quick glimpse of what life might be like in the places you visit.

What I’ve found is sometimes you’re in on the joke that the tour guides tell. Other times, you’re the butt of the joke.

Still others, it’s like you walked in the middle of a movie and leave before it ends. You’re left wondering how it turned out.

It took only a few minutes on a bus tour in Seattle, Washington, to realize there was a real culture clash between the logging industry and environmentalists who were trying to stop trees from being cut down because of its effect on the wildlife.

The bus driver, over the speaker, told his passengers: “We’ll be stopping for lunch. You can have the condor or the spotted owl.”

Many passengers erupted in laughter at the inside joke. Both are endangered species – and will not be found on any menu.

On a swamp tour in New Orleans, we saw nutria (a large rodent that is not a native of Louisiana), great blue herons and alligators.

To make sure we saw more than the bulging, beady eyes and snout that were just slightly above the water line, our guide threw marshmallows over board.

A gator scooted over to the boat and scooped up the bobbing treats from the water.

A woman, with a Boston accent, piped up, “Don’t you ever feed the gators anything but junk food?”

Clearly irritated, the guide retorted, “Sometimes we feed them Yankees. But I guess that’s junk food, too.”

Now, I’m from New York (Syracuse). Maybe I should have been offended, but I burst out laughing at the guide’s joke. Or, at least, I hope he was joking.

dog sled - Alaska

Mealtime can also provide a few laughs. At a restaurant in Fairbanks, Alaska, we chuckled over a meal offered on the kids’ menu: liver and onions.

Well, the little wrangler will be delighted to know that, even if he is real ornery, it’s unlikely his Mom and Dad will order the yuckiest thing on the kids’ menu. The reason? It cost $28,212.99.

Now, that’s something to cheer about. That and the folks in Fairbanks obviously have a wonderfully warped sense of humor.

What a long, strange trip it was when we hit the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco, California. There, apparently, were still some folks there that looked like they were trapped in a time warp – leftovers from the Sixties when Flower Power ruled the area.

Haight Ashbury, San Francisco

As we walked along Haight Street, a guy ahead of us is trying to get the guy he’s walking with to change shirts with him. No dice.

“We got to get into a bar before the cops come,” he said.

As if on cue, a cop car pulls up. A cop steps up and politely says, “Can we talk for a second?”

“Sure,” the guys says, acting nonchalantly.

Ten minutes later, as we walk by on the other side of the street, the “talk” continues. Now, four cops are on the scene.

This is where I’d thought we’d stumbled into one of Alfred Hitchcock’s pranks.

Ever the Master of Suspense, he’d appear to be in the midst of a gruesome story when new passengers stepped into the elevator he was on. Naturally, they were all ears. But, as luck would have it, they reached the main floor before he wrapped it up. Which was Hitchcock’s mischievous scheme all along.

No telling what you’ll see and hear on your travels. But I sure wish I knew the rest of the story about that “talk.”

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Alfred Hitchcock’s Elevator Story as told by Peter Bogdanovich http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqXFtWSBBd4  

Photo: alligator – marshmallow – http://www.wwtid.com/2012/11/20/the-alligator-and-the-marshmallow/  

Photo – dog sled – Alaska – A musher departs Slaven’s Roadhouse in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve during the 2005 Yukon Quest sled dog race. Taken Feb. 5, 2005 by the U. S. National Park Service http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/69/Slaven%27s_Roadhouse.jpg/640px-Slaven%27s_Roadhouse.jpg

Photo: Haight Ashbury, San Francisco, California – Piedmont Boutique on Haight   Street. Taken by Bernard Gagnon, Sept. 3, 2008  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/5d/Haight_Street%2C_SF.jpg/640px-Haight_Street%2C_SF.jpg

North by Northwest

North by Northwest - Cary Grant - plane - 1959By Judy Berman

Mistaken identify, darkness, light and double cross play significant roles in Alfred Hitchcock’s (1959) movie, “North by Northwest.”

In diabolical plot twists that even Cary Grant found difficult to follow, he is confused by the rapid-fire events that happen to his character.

He plays advertising executive, Roger O. Thornhill. Yet he winds up in a labyrinth of mystery and murder when an enemy espionage group mistakes him for George Kaplan, an undercover agent who really doesn’t exist. Or, does he?

“Cary Grant came up to me and said, ‘It’s a terrible script. We’ve already done a third of the picture, and I still can’t make head or tail of it,’ ” Hitchcock confides in Francois Truffaut’s book, “Hitchcock.”

Without realizing it, Hitchcock said Grant was using a line of his own dialogue from the movie.

It’s not the only deception going on in the film.

The spies believe that Thornhill is Kaplan. They kidnap him and take him to a Long Island country estate owned by Lester Townsend. He meets who he believes is Townsend, Philip Vandamm (James Mason), and his personal secretary, Leonard (Martin Landau).

His captors keep peppering “Kaplan” with questions. When they fail to get any information from him, Vandamm’s goons force whiskey down Thornhill’s throat.

They put an extremely intoxicated Thornhill in a car. Their scheme is to have the ride and Thornhill’s life end after the car goes over a cliff. But, as drunk as Thornhill is, he manages to escape. A police car pulls up, and the bad guys quickly drive off.

No one, not even his mother, believes his story.

North by Northwest - Eva Marie Saint shooting Cary Grant

Thornhill attempts to unravel the lies. He learns that Townsend is at the United Nations. At the U.N., Thornhill discovers that Townsend is not the man who held him captive. Enemy spies kill Townsend and frame Thornhill for his murder.

On the run again, Thornhill hops aboard the 20th Century Limited bound for Chicago. There, he meets Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) who helps him hide from the authorities.

When they arrive in Chicago, Eve tells Thornhill she’ll call Kaplan for him. Then, she gives Thornhill instructions to meet Kaplan at Prairie Stop, which turns out to be in the middle of nowhere. He waits in the harsh, hot daylight. Another man waiting for a bus at the same stop notes that a crop-duster plane is dusting where there aren’t any crops.

After the man boards his bus, Thornhill realizes that the crop-duster is flying his way and zeroing in on him. Again, the bad guys fail to eliminate him.

Thornhill returns to the hotel. He finds out that Eve works with the spies and is Vandamm’s mistress.  When he discovers later that Eve is an undercover agent, he realizes his actions have put her life in jeopardy.

He warns Eve and helps her escape certain death. The spies are hot on their trail as Thornhill and Eve scale the shadowy heights of the Mount Rushmore monument in an effort to elude them.

As the pair scramble back down the face of the stone carvings, Thornhill tells Eve that if they get out of this alive they should get back on the train together. He’s talking marriage.

North by Northwest - movie trailer screenshot - climbing Mt. Rushmore

As they hang from Mount Rushmore, Eve asks why his two previous wives divorced him. “I think they said I led too dull a life,” (Grant) Thornhill says.

“The genius of Hitchcock lies in how he gets the audience as well as Thornhill (Grant) to believe in the existence of George Kaplan, until by the end of the film, it is Kaplan who survives, while Roger Thornhill simply ceases to exist …,” says Marc Eliot, author of “Cary Grant.”

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Movie (trailer): North by Northwest (1959) with Alfred Hitchcock  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRfmTpmIUwo  

Main Photo: North by Northwest – Cary Grant – plane (1959) http://cdn.hitfix.com/photos/2500715/North-by-Northwest-1959_gallery_primary.jpg

Photo: North by Northwest – Eva Marie Saint shooting Carl Grant  – movie trailer screenshot http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/07/North_by_Northwest_movie_trailer_screenshot_%2831%29.jpg/640px-North_by_Northwest_movie_trailer_screenshot_%2831%29.jpg

Photo: North by Northwest – movie trailer screenshot – Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint climbing Mount Rushmore  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b0/North_by_Northwest_movie_trailer_screenshot_%2828%29.jpg/640px-North_by_Northwest_movie_trailer_screenshot_%2828%29.jpg

The Ghosts That Haunt Ashley’s

Ashley's Restaurant - October 2013 029By Judy Berman

Sunday mornings are the eeriest. It’s pitch-black out when Rick Austin opens Ashley’s Restaurant in Rockledge for the day.

He’s alone. So, what accounts for the sounds of someone knocking on the doors of the bathroom stall, a door slamming and flickering lights in the kitchen?

“Sometimes, you feel like someone’s behind you. I’ll sense someone is there. I look over my shoulder. But nothing’s there. You see a reflection, but it’s actually yourself,” Austin said.

His experience is not unique. Ashley’s is said to be one of the most haunted restaurants in Florida. It first opened in 1933 as Jack’s Tavern, about the time of the repeal of prohibition. Since then, it has gone thru several name changes and owners.

It is believed that the murder of 19-year-old Ethel Allen “is the main source of the ghostly activity” at the restaurant. She died in 1934. Her killer was never brought to justice.Ashley's Restaurant - October 2013 009

Greg Parker said he was unaware of the ghostly legends surrounding the restaurant when he bought it in November 1985.

Its reputation has attracted ghost-hunters, psychics, paranormal investigators and a television crew hoping to include its story in a pilot called, “Haunted America.” Their encounters were picked up by Fate Magazine. But the show never materialized.

They saw “what looked like a head-shaped spot of darkness, which on the Thermograph means a cold spot. That quickly vanished,” states Fate Magazine, July 1994.

Then one of the three-man team, R. Andrew Nichols, from Florida’s Center for Paranormal Studies, yelled from the ladies’ room, “Do you see that?”

Spirit on the staircase?

Spirit on the staircase?

What they saw on the monitor “was what looked like a cylindrical object floating in mid-air. It was not solid, but fairly well-defined.”

Parker has heard all the stories. He said his wife, employees and customers have experienced some of them.

“My wife was walking downstairs once. She said she felt someone touching her on the shoulder,” Parker said.

Others have reported feeling they were “pushed by an invisible force” while going up or down the stairs closest to the ladies’ room.

Ghostly encounters have rattled a few customers and employees.

“One night, Lisa, a waitress, was outside crying. She said she saw the ghost, and never came back,” Parker said.

Someone going by the building said they saw a couple fighting in the apartment that was upstairs at the time, Parker said. On the restaurant’s website, it states that “one manager has seen the feet of a woman dressed in 1930s-era footwear in the next stall” in the ladies’ room, “only to exit her own stall and find that the other one is empty.”

“Patrons have also reported apparitions of a young woman in the bathroom mirror.”

“A psychic said that’s where the woman ran down the stairs and hid. He found her and killed her. That’s why the ladies’ room is haunted. The spirit stays there,” Parker said.

caught in a spider web - Halloween decorations at Ashley's

caught in a spider web – Halloween decorations at Ashley’s

Ethel Allen is not the only ghost on the premises. Parker said a man and a little girl also have been spotted there.

Liz Burton, a bartender and waitress at Ashley’s recalls a little girl, about 4 or 5, who was quite agitated as she described an encounter she had to her grandfather.

“Pop Pop, tell that little girl to quit messing with me,” the girl said of the ghost girl. “No one had told her about a ghost,” Burton said.

Is Ashley’s haunted? Parker says after all the investigations; each has drawn their own conclusions. He suspects ghosts do hang out at Ashley’s because they have a connection to the restaurant and they went before their time.

Or, maybe they’re drawn to the excellent food and the wine. That’s the only spirits we saw when we were there, ones being poured by the bartender at the bar.

Video: Ethel Allen and Ashley’s – A real short, short on the haunting of an eatery in Florida. Narrated by author Charlie Carlson  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wBZwVU1qa0&list=PLtGzb-24ISTBK2U2snCKG_qQjTlgUe6tA&index=2 

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Photos taken by Judy Berman at Ashley’s Restaurant on Oct. 5, 2013:
* Ashley’s Restaurant, U.S. 1, Rockledge – it’s said to be one of the most haunted restaurants in Florida
* Greg Parker, owner of Ashley’s Restaurant
* a spirit on the staircase? – a framed photo in Ashley’s
* caught in the spider web – Halloween decorations at Ashley’s

Fate Magazine article – Psychic Frontiers – July 1994 http://www.spookhunters.com/spookhunt/ashleysrestaurant/Fate0794.doc

Photo – a spirit on the staircase at Ashley’s Restaurant in Rockledge? The original photo is on the website of Ashley’s of Rockledge hauntedhouses.com http://www.hauntedhouses.com/states/fl/ashley-rockledge.htm

Into the Wild

Alaska - big bull mooseBy Judy Berman

I was just 17. Mad at my folks because they wouldn’t let me go on an end-of-the-year school picnic.

It was 5:30 in the morning. I stepped out of my bedroom window onto the back porch. No packed bags. No money. I got as far as turning the corner of our ranch-style home by our front porch.

Dad always said I thought seven steps ahead. Sure enough, I begin to fret on how I’d make a go of it with no money, no skills, not even a high school diploma.

Then, I turned around and entered the house the way I’d left and went back to bed. I never mentioned this to my folks.

But, what if? What if I’d left? Forget the gender ramifications. In all likelihood, like “Alex Supertramp” in Jon Krakauer’s “Into the Wild,” I probably would have starved to death.

“Alex’s” real name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. On the book’s cover, we learn that, in April 1992, this “young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mount McKinley.”

“He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter.”

I read Krakauer’s book after we returned from Alaska years ago, and Alex’s experiences haunt me still.

 

It’s odd how I can relate to a character that I have little in common with. What intrigued me about Alex is that he did what I’d wanted to do for decades – just run off, on my own and see the world. The difference is I thought about the ‘what if’s’ and how I wouldn’t want to hurt my family.

Alex was a likeable guy, intelligent, musically talented and well-read. But it seems that any time people got close to him, he’d pull another vanishing act. He’d bummed around the country for about two years, doing odd jobs and living with people he met along the way.

He aimed for Alaska, a place he’d dreamed about since he was a kid. Alex/McCandless told a friend “about his intent to spend the summer alone in the bush, living off the land.” He wanted to be alone in the wilds and “wanted to prove to himself that he could make it on his own, without anybody’s help,” said Gaylord Stuckey, a trucker, who drove Alex to Fairbanks before they parted ways.

Jim Gallien was the last one to give Alex a ride. He thought Alex’s “scheme was foolhardy and tried repeatedly to dissuade him.“ When Gallien couldn’t, he insisted that Alex take “an old pair of rubber work boots.”

The only food Alex carried from Gallien’s truck was a 10-pound bag of long-grained rice he’d purchased, “plus two grilled-cheese-and-tuna sandwiches and a bag of corn chips” that Gallien had contributed. Alex’s backpack also contained library books that included Thoreau and Tostoy.

Grizzly Bear, Denali National Park, Alaska

Grizzly Bear, Denali National Park, Alaska

Some 20 miles into the wild, “he stumbled upon the old bus beside the Sushana River. It was “outfitted with a bunk and a barrel stove” and other provisions left by previous visitors.

In time, he missed the companionship. In his remaining days, he noted: “Happiness is only real when shared.”

Perhaps, Alex discovered some truth in Henry David Thoreau’s quote: “Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”

Young moose, Alaska

Young moose, Alaska

In August, “McCandless penned a brief adios: “I have had a happy life and thank the Lord. Goodbye and may God bless all!”

“Then he crawled into the sleeping bag his mother had sewn for him and slipped into unconsciousness. He probably died August 18, 112 days after he’d walked into the wild, 19 days before six Alaskans would happen across the bus and discover his body inside,” Krakauer wrote.

No longer that starry-eyed teen who once fantasized about running away, I now look at Alex’s journey thru a mother’s eyes. I wish he’d been able to say good-bye to his parents, as well as others who missed and loved him.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Movie trailer, “Into the Wild:”      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LAuzT_x8Ek 

Photo: Alaska – big bull moose. Photo was taken in 2005 in Chugach State Park, Alaska.   http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/47/Bigbullmoose.jpg/622px-Bigbullmoose.jpg

Photo: Denali – Grizzly Bear, picture taken by Jean-Pierre Lavoie in 2004.  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/36/Grizzly_Denali_edit.jpg/640px-Grizzly_Denali_edit.jpg

Photo: Alaska – Young moose near Point Woronzof, Anchorage. Taken: April 2008. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/8a/Young_moose_with_the_munchies_near_Point_Woronzof%2C_Anchorage%2C_Alaska.jpg/526px-Young_moose_with_the_munchies_near_Point_Woronzof%2C_Anchorage%2C_Alaska.jpg

Next Stop – Area 51

UFOs are not alien to Pat Travis-Laudenklos, owner of Little A'LE'INN in Rachel, Nevada

UFOs are not alien to Pat Travis-Laudenklos, owner of Little A’Le’Inn in Rachel, Nevada

By Judy Berman

Leaving Las Vegas, we headed out in search of aliens. There was a reported sighting in Rachel, Nevada – about 145 miles outside Vegas.

Maybe it was the burning, hot desert sun or the long drive. But on the way to the Extraterrestrial Highway (Route 375), I was shocked when I did see green. There were miles of green pasture and free-range cattle just off the side of the road.

Dave by the Extraterrestrial Highway (Route 375) - dedicated by the Nevada Department of Transportation in April 1996

Dave by the Extraterrestrial Highway (Route 375) – dedicated by the Nevada Department of Transportation in April 1996

But that’s not what Dave and I came out here for.

Then, we spotted it – the Little A’Le’Inn. It’s the travel destination for people across the world – and, perhaps, intergalactic travel. It became a popular UFO seminar headquarters, following reports by KLAS-TV investigative reporter George Knapp on Bob Lazar, who claimed he worked on flying saucers at nearby Area 51.

“Area 51, Dreamland, Groom Lake, the Ranch, the Box – all these names refer to the top-secret research installation located 100 miles north of Las Vegas that has prompted speculation about captured alien spacecraft and hidden bodies of extraterrestrial beings. The facility and surrounding areas are also associated with UFO and conspiracy stories,” according to “Off the Beaten Path Nevada,” by Heidi Knapp Rinella.

“George Knapp wrote about Bob Lazar in 1989, and it snowballed from there. (Our restaurant is) the destination stop for foreign travelers,” said owner Pat Travis-Laudenklos, who has owned the restaurant for 25 years.

Area 51 - Groom Road gate warning sign about the restricted area

Area 51 – Groom Road gate warning sign about the restricted area

The international buzz prompted Pat Travis-Laudenklos and her late husband, Joe, to change the restaurant’s name from the Rachel Bar and Grill to the Little A’Le’Inn. in 1989.

A popular stopover for folks on their way to Area 51

A popular stopover for folks on their way to Area 51

During our brief visit last month, we met people who had driven to the restaurant from Virginia, and visitors from Las Vegas and London. She estimates that they get a minimum of 200 visitors a day. The restaurant’s World Famous Alien burgers, Saucer burgers or Galaxy Wrap (low-carb) might be part of the appeal. The tourists said they wanted to see what the place was about before they went to Area 51.

She’s no stranger to UFO sightings.

“I’ve watched a craft do maneuvers, moving faster in either direction than any I’ve ever seen,” said Pat Travis-Laudenklos. “Can I prove it’s one of ours? No. I can’t.”

Watch out for low-flying vehicles traveling at warp speed

Watch out for low-flying vehicles traveling at warp speed

But another encounter late one night still leaves her shaken. Pat said that she and Joe saw “a beam of light shoot thru the back (steel) door. It illuminated the door jamb. I still get goose bumps when I talk about it.”

Still not convinced?

Order the restaurant’s “Beam Me Up Scotty beverage, which reportedly helps the staunchest skeptic see UFOs,” according to “Off the Beaten Path Nevada.”

As you leave this tiny town, you’d be well-advised to be careful on your drive – especially after sundown. You don’t want to run into any little greys, or risk a collision with a low-flying vehicle traveling at warp speed thru the night.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Video: Area 51 – the alien interview with Bob Lazar and George Knapp and David Adair (Steven Williams, host)    

Video: Update on Area 51 Whistleblower Bob Lazar – interview by KLAS-TV investigative reporter George Knapp – http://www.openminds.tv/update-on-area-51-whistleblower-bob-lazar-1064/

Video: UFO – Sightings UFO Report with Tim White – George Knapp, investigative reporter, and Area 51 whistleblower Bob Lazar   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4s6kQuoLqM

KLAS-TV – Area 51: UFOs (May 7, 2005) – George Knapp, investigative reporter on  Area 51, photos and comments about Little A’Le’Inn http://www.8newsnow.com/story/3313227/area-51-ufos?clienttype=printable

An Update on Bob Lazar by George Knapp (and an interview at the A’Le’Inn – on Above Top Secret’s website http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread192047/pg1

Photo: Warning sign in Area 51 Groom Road gate – Author: Tim1337, taken 6-9-09 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/61/Area51_gate.JPG/640px-Area51_gate.JPG