Historic Dun Glen Hotel Site Soon Accessible

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Historic Dun Glen Hotel Site Soon Accessible

A new recreational trail built by the National Park Service is expected to make a long-lost historical site accessible to hikers. The Dun Glen Hotel was lost to a fire in 1930; however, it remained a popular, albeit inaccessible, hiking destination for history buffs and paranormal investigators. Soon, this may change.

The Dun Glen (Dunglen) Hotel was dubbed the “Waldorf of the Mountains.” Alcohol flowed freely in this 4 ½ story, 100-room hotel situated on the New River, across from the dry town of Thurmond, Fayette County, West Virginia. Thomas (Tom) Gaylord McKell built the hotel intending to take advantage of the highly profitable adjacent coal mines and railroad. Opening in 1901, the hotel boasted three floors of guest rooms, a wrap-around verandah, and basement showrooms. And the wealthy guests arrived.

TMcKell

Within a few years, Tom McKell opened the New River Banking & Trust Company on August 11, 1904. Sadly, McKell died shortly thereafter on September 7, 1904 at the age of 59. His son William McKell took over operations.

On July 22, 1930, a devastating fire broke out and destroyed the hotel. Although no guests were injured, George Richardson and Stephen Thomas suffered minor burns. According to the Raleigh Register, the fire consumed the building, including the Earl Nichols grocery and soda counter, located in the terrace basement. Faulty electrical wiring was blamed. Damages totaled $100,000, roughly $1.5 million in today’s dollars. William McKell did not rebuild and abandoned the property.

Today the property sits within the New River Gorge National River park. The park service owns and operates the town of Thurmond as a national historic location. However, the Dun Glen area was left to nature. The new trail has been enthusiastically received. Next summer I will travel back up to Fayette County to check on the progress. I’ll keep you posted.

 

Krampus, the Christmastime Monster

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Krampus, the Christmastime Monster

Stories of the dark half-goat, half-demon monster terrorizing unruly children pre-dates Christianity. Its roots come from Central-European folklore with the exact specifics unknown. His name is derived from either Dutch krampen, meaning “pick” or “iron,” or the Austrian “pickax.” Some rely on the German translation of “cramp.” Krampus is a Christmastime monster.

The consensus is that the story of Krampus was a pagan morality tale appropriated by Christians. The cautionary tale of Krampus lives on today as a warning to all children contemplating bad behavior, for their “reward” will be living in the underworld (i.e., Hell) for one full year where they will be tortured or possibly eaten. The punishment is severe enough to whip young children into their best behavior.

Krampus Night, or Krampusnacht, begins on December 5th. The saltier companion of Joly Saint Nicholas comes above-ground seeking devilish children. His beverage of choice is Schnapps (a fruity Brandy), go figure, as he swats at misbehaving children with gold painted birch branches.

The unfavorable kidnapping tale alarmed communities in the mid-1900s; therefore, towns were encouraged to tone it down or outright ban such celebrations. However, popularity rose again when the film industry started cranking out Krampus and Krampus-like movies. The 2015 movie Krampus was filmed on a $15 million-dollar budget and grossed over $61 million worldwide. Krampus sells.

While Krampus is NOT the anti-Santa Claus, he is the dispenser of bad news (no presents for you) and discipline. Although the tales mention his eating children, no purported cannibalistic rituals involving Krampus and children have been reported. Maybe the threat of visit was all that was needed.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! And…be on your best behavior.

Suspiria (1977)

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Suspiria (1977)

“Always, everywhere, some are believed by all.”

In 1977, Dario Argento’s Suspiria exploded onto the screens worldwide. The R-rated horror film was the first in his Three Mothers Trilogy. Co-written by Daria Nicolodi, the movie became an instant cult film classic. The 2018 remake is still in theaters; however, before seeing the latest, experience the original.

An American ballerina (Jessica Harper) enrolls in the Tanz dance academy in Germany unaware that a coven of witches operates the school during the day and communes with Helena Markos, the supreme deifier of God, at night.

According to urban legends, Nicolodi’s grandmother, Yvonne, inspired the film by retelling stories of her experience at an arts school where she claimed to experience black magic. Argento dismissed the story by stating inspiration sprung from the fantastical English collection of short stories Suspiria de Profundis (1845) written by Thomas De Quincey. Regardless, this film merges fantasy with horror.

The cast is an international ensemble, which causes the strange yet satisfying dialog. The actors spoke their native tongue, which was dubbed over in English in post-production. Carefully watch the exchange between Jessica Harper’s character “Suzy Bannion” and Udo Kier’s “Dr. Frank Mandel.” While it is obvious that Jessica is speaking English, it is unclear what language Udo is speaking. (Spoiler: It’s German. A crew member fed Udo his lines off-camera) It’s practically bewitching to watch.

Udo--Jessica

This would be iconic screen legend Joan Bennett’s (1910-1990) final full-length feature film appearance. She exudes sophistication and glamour as Madame Blanc, head of the Tanz academy.

The set design is equally captivating. Argento based the color scheme off Disney’s 1937 classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Each scene is purposefully and beautifully designed.

The creepy music performed by Goblin, an Italian progressive rock band, enhances the horror experience and can be called hypnotic. Over the years several well-known bands have covered Goblin’s music. Listen to the film’s soundtrack here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkZ2rdbDHM4. (Note: Do you hear Harry Potter when listening like I do?)

Goblin

The art-house horror movie appears on numerous Top Horror Film lists including #28 Cinema Blend, #18 Thrillist, #6 The Guardian, and #5 Mental Floss. It certainly is a top 5 on mine!

Suspiria is streaming for free with limited commercial breaks on Tubi.

Don’t Fear the Opal

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Don’t Fear the Opal

As the holiday gift-giving season kicks off, many are fearful of receiving opals. This fear is unsubstantiated. There is no rational reason to fear opals.

Opals were revered through ancient times. The colorful gemstone represented fidelity. The Ancient Greeks believed that the gem bestowed foresight and prophecy to their owners. Equally, it was the number one favorite gemstone in Ancient Roman times, equating to purity and hope. Further, the Ancient Arabs believed the stone came to earth via bolts of lightning and were, therefore, incredibly special. The stone brought good luck to those in possession during the Middle Ages. Today, the stone is lucky for businesses in China and Japan.

However, the opal is thought to bring bad luck. It is said that only those born in October should wear the gem. Opals were the birthstone for the month until 1912 when the listing was changed to favor transparent gemstones. But do not be dissuaded. One may offset the bad luck if one wears the opal with diamonds. Or if one was born during the 6 PM hour. One urban legend states to never gift an opal. Instead, one should exchange money for the pricey stone. Another legend claims that when the owner of the opal dies, the opal loses its shine. These false stories are rooted in fact.

In 1829, Sir Walter Scott published Anne of Geierstein; or the Maiden of the Mist. The character Lady Hermione wore enchanted opals. In her hair, the opals displayed her mood by changing her hair’s appearance. Lady Hermione met an unfortunate end when a drop of holy water fell onto her opal. The story was popular as readers associated death with the stone.

One person failed to believe the hype: Queen Victoria loved her opals. She helped reignite the opal market, which was displaced by the growing popularity of diamonds. Hence, the second source of the myth.

The diamond broker company De Beers, founded by Cecil Rhodes, began spreading lies about opals in order to sell more diamonds. Luckily, the Black Opal was discovered in the Australian opal mines, and the opal regained its place as an expensive, luxurious gemstone. It is also worth noting that Australia mines 95% of all opals. The Australian government gifted Queen Elizabeth II with the exquisite Andamooka Opal for her coronation. The monarchs jewelry collection boasts a lot of opals.

Today, opals appear in fantasy stories. They were called patronus furum in Latin, translating to “patron of thieves,” due to people believing that if they carried opals wrapped in fresh bay leaves, they would be invisible. Although modern magicians probably don’t believe this, they do use opals to assist in astral projection.

Consider purchasing and wearing opals. And if someone warns you to beware, merely educate them on their worth.

October 21st: Best Ghost Story

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TheOthers

October 21st: Best Ghost Story

Writer/Director Alejandro Amenabar based The Others (2001) off an episode on the British TV show Armchair Theatre. Nicole Kidman plays Grace, a mother of two anxiously awaiting the return of her military husband from World War II. The children suffer from a debilitating disease where sunlight makes them violently ill. Grace spends her time toiling within the dark mansion and admonishing the staff to keep the curtains closed. But then the curtains open, doors open, and sunlight is let in.

Originally written in Spanish and then translated into English, The Others was a box office hit. The budget of $17 million was easily recouped with US gross at $96 million and worldwide gross at $209 million. It remains the highest grossing film in Spain, where most of the scenes were shot. This traditional ghost story does not disappoint.

October 20th: Best Slasher Film

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October 20th: Best Slasher Film

Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) revolutionized the horror genre with his low-budget slasher film. Initial reviews were tepid at best. With an incredibly low budget of $300,000, this film grossed over $30 million in the US alone.

The plot was simple: Cannibalistic psychopaths feast off 5 teenagers on a road trip to visit a grandfather’s grave. The film is entirely fictional; however, it was loosely inspired by infamous killer Ed Gein. It was the subject of lawsuits and mafia ties. After all these years, it remains an iconic slasher film. The movie is part of the permanent collection in the Museum of Modern Art, where it has found newfound praise and criticism.