≈ Comments Off on The Great Potoo, Mother Nature’s Incredibly Spooky Bird
Yes, the strange bird of epic memes is real. It is the great potoo, a nocturnal large-mouthed, large-eyed bird that emits the creepiest of moans.
The great potoo is a fascinating bird. It sits in camouflage for extended periods of time, which makes it difficult to spot. Young birds learn to sit quietly alongside their parents for hours. Even though their eyes are closed, they sense movement with their “magic eyes.” Despite the resemblance, they are not related to owls. They are closely aligned with frogmouths and nightjars. The seven species are located throughout Central America and Bolivia and Brazil.
Their large mouths scoop up insects and small birds. They’re called “monstrous nightbirds’; however, they’re kind of cool.
They appear in an Amazonian folktale.
In Ecuador, the Shuar people tell the story of a married man and wife who have a disagreement. The wife, Aóho, failed to make a satisfying dinner with the pumpkins. Her husband ran away in anger. He began to climb with Aóho following. She fell to the earth, scattering her pumpkins. Upon impact, she turned into a potoo. The husband turned into the moon. Every night when the moon appears in the sky, Aóho calls “aishirű, aishirű” (translated as “my husband, my husband”). Her calls can be heard throughout the night.
In 1990, director Tim Burton transformed the Carpenters Run neighborhood into a bizarre movie set for the film Edward Scissorhands, starring Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder. Although the houses have aged and regressed back to the typical Florida décor, the neighborhood has attracted fans since. On September 11, 2020, Joey and Sharon Licalzi won a bidding war and paid $230,378 for the 3 bedroom/2 bath 1432 square foot home. They’ve transformed it back into the movie set and have opened Scissorland, a free museum.
Edward Scissorhands (1990) is a cult classic. Filmed on a $20 million dollar budget, it grossed $56 million in the U.S. and $86 million worldwide. Deemed one of Burton’s best (aren’t they all?), the film was a fantasy-romance hybrid that told the story of Edward, the man with scissor hands. The movie is currently streaming on Hulu.com.
Fast forward 30 years and you can see how the neighborhood changed. Gone are the pastel color exterior house paint and topiary scrubs. However, Joey and Sharon have started the transformation.
The exterior is now a pastel blue, and the front yard is adorned with topiaries. The backyard is a whimsical playground. The original owner saved the mushroom wallpaper, which the couple reinstalled. They offer the home with the growing movie memorabilia as a free museum. Outdoor movie screenings will begin when the weather cools.
The memorabilia are an eclectic collection. There’s a license plate that the residents had to place on their cars for filming. A pack of cigarettes supposedly belonging to Depp is on display, along with an endearing mannequin dressed as Depp’s character. The collection continues to grow.
Although reservations are not required, I encourage those wishing to visit make them. Remember, not only is the house a museum: the couple actually resides there. The address is 1774 Tinsmith Circle, Lutz, Pasco County, Florida.
Marble is the best surface for making fudge. According to one blog, “Real fudge makers … all use marble slabs.” Apparently one family in Okemos, Michigan began making fudge on a 5-foot marble slab around 1875. The slab was passed down to future generations, who also perfected their fudge-making skills with the same old marble slab. The slab was finally turned over by an estate auction dealer who posted it for sale on the Internet. One inquiring mind reached out to the Friends of Lansing’s Historic Cemeteries (FoLHC) in Lansing, Michigan, where it was identified as the long lost—some 146 years lost—tombstone of Peter J. Weller. On Sunday, September 26th, a celebration was held to celebrate the re-installation of the tombstone. Fudge was served!
Peter J. Weller was a recent transplant to Lansing. He was born in New York in 1801 and relocated to Lansing in 1845. He died from inflammation of the bowels on December 26, 1849, at the age of 48 years, 8 months, and 22 days. He was initially buried in Oak Park Cemetery. His two daughters Christina and Lucretia were also buried there. By 1875, Lansing was growing, and the city was extending boundaries. All of the interred bodies at Oak Park were relocated to Mount Hope Cemetery. Tombstones were to be reinstalled, as well. Both Christina (4.3.1832-5.11.1854) and Lucretia (dates unknown) had individual tombstones that traveled to Mount Hope and marked their new resting place. For some unknow reason, Peter’s went missing.
The City of Lansing and the FoLHC attempted to locate any living descendants. None were found. The historic society paid for Peter’s tombstone to be clean and installed once ground penetrating radar was used to verify there were remains and a coffin buried in an unmarked grave. The daughters’ broken and aged tombstones were also clean and restored. The family are resting in a 10-plot family site. Peter’s first wife Louisa, and the known mother to Christina, is in another unmarked grave in Mount Hope. The second wife is not buried in the cemetery.
This is another one of those stories where tombstones are removed from cemeteries and used for odd purposes. A house in the neighborhood I grew up in had tombstone fragments in the turret in their house. Strange, indeed.
Two lucky residents of the United Kingdom will spend £95 to spend one night in Winnie the Pooh’s house. The open dates are September 24th and 25th, which coincides with the 95th anniversary of A.A. Milne’s first publication of the adorable honey loving bear.
The one-room house has all the hallmarks of Pooh’s house. Kim Raymond, who has illustrated the Pooh books for 30 years, incorporated small details into the construction of the house, which sits along the Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, England. A.A. Milne lived here and based his famous Hundred Acre Wood on the forest.
The guests receive a guided tour of the wood, along with honey-inspired meals. They will also play Poohsticks on Poohstick Bridge and enjoy naps in the cozy beds.
The outside façade has Pooh’s tree and the “Mr. Sanders” sign. The mystery surrounding who Mr. Sanders was remains; however, the house has been beautifully realized. I hope that the house will be open on future dates for international tourists.
TheAngel of Grief, as it is known, is one of the most iconic funerary sculptures that exist. It is also one of the most copied. The original was created by American lawyer, poet, and sculptor William Wetmore Story. TheAngel of Grief would be his last major work and lovingly dedicated to his recently deceased wife, Emelyn. It captures the grief he experienced at the prospect of living without his spouse.
William Wetmore Story (1819-1895) saw an opportunity to quit practicing law and become a full-time artist. He was the son of Associate Justice Joseph Story (1779-1845) who served on the Supreme Court of the United States, also known as SCOTUS. William graduated from Harvard College and began his career in law. He was successful but unfulfilled. When his father died, William accepted an offer that changed the course of his life.
A committee set up to honor the late Justice Joseph Story wanted to commission a statue in his memory, and they asked William to create it. William was a hobbyist and accepted the commission as long as he and his family moved to Italy for him to study.
By this time, William and Emelyn nee Eldredge had married and started a family. They had two children: Edith “Edie” Marion and Joseph “Joe.” And so, the family moved to Rome, Italy where William embarked on an apprenticeship. Tragedy struck the young family when little Joe died from gastric fever on November 23, 1853. He is buried in Campo Cestio in Rome.
The family grew while William honed his craft. Thomas Waldo, born December 9, 1854, and Julian Russell, born on September 8, 1857, joined older sister Edie. (Note: All four surviving children embarked on careers in the arts: T. Waldo became an acclaimed sculptor; Julian was a famous painter; and Edit, known as the Marchesa Peruzzi di Medici, became a writer.)
Although William returned to the United States to erect the monument for his father, he would make Rome his home. During the forty years he and Emelyn resided in Italy, William created other famous sculptures and gained acclaim as a poet. They enjoyed life and each other.
Emelyn died in 1894, and William’s heart broke. He prepared and created one last sculpture: The Angel of Grief. An angel dressed in Roman attire drapes her body over the altar with her large wings slumped in despair. The sculpture personified the grief that embraced William.
William died in his sleep a year later. He is buried beneath the sculpture with the love of his life. The monument sits in Campo Cestio, also called the Protestant Cemetery or the Cemetery for the Non-Catholic Foreigners. It may be viewed during posted business hours. If you’re unable to see it in person, you can visit some of the copies in America. I cannot state if the cemetery is haunted; however, I can tell you that it has some of the most beautiful funerary monuments that I’ve ever seen in one location. It also has about 40 cats that roam the cemetery listening to classical music when the cemetery closes for the day. Well worth a visit, in our post-COVID world.
While researching this article, I wanted to find a photograph of Emelyn; however, I was unable. There are a few of William and his children who survived into adulthood, but nothing for Emelyn. That is also heartbreaking. I would love to see the woman who supported and encouraged her husband to create so many famous pieces of art, especially the most important piece that is one of his most well-known.
Growing up in Fort Myers, I was fortunate to have parents who owned a boat. We would spend weekends out on the water, eating on Little Shell Island, and motoring up and down the Gulf of Mexico. When we were making it an all-day affair, we would head down to Collier County and look at the three odd houses perched on Cape Romano. The most famous was and remains the Dome House.
I didn’t appreciate my youth living on a canal where manatees swam and seahorses grew until I left. I guess that’s the age-old adage. Many years later and well into my adult life, I was able to spend the day on the water sailing past Cape Romano. While the Pyramid House and the Stilt House are long gone, the Dome House remains.
Bob Lee made his fortune in the oil industry which led to his ability to retire at the age of 44 and become an inventor. He envisioned an eco-friendly home where his family could vacation. The home would be off the grid and powered with renewable energy. He first built a prototype on his property in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
In 1978, Bob purchased four lots on Morgan Island in the Ten Thousand Island chain south of Marco Island, Collier County, Florida. The island was pristine, unlike the rapid development taking over Marco.
Bob decided to build a home linking 6 dome structures all perched on cement stilts. Bob bought a barge, a flat motorized water vessel that easily transports equipment, and ferried over steel forms (molds) and 2 concrete mixers. He mixed the concrete with freshwater and built the domes. Bob installed under-dome heating via fire; the walls were insulated with foam. Dell Jones installed solar panels. Along the bottom of each dome was a gutter system the collected rainwater which was filtered for use.
If the house seems rustic, you’re wrong. It was actually quite lavish. Pinterest has a large collection of images. Carpet and tile were laid for flooring. There was air conditioning, satellite TV, and even a hot tub. It was the perfect vacation getaway.
The 2400 square foot 3-bedroom and 3-bathroom house was completed in 1982. Bob along with his wife Margaret and family enjoyed two years at the house. In 1984, Bob sold the property to George Wendell. Caretaker Brian Slager moved into the house. By 1987, the house was back in Bob’s name, and the family made it their primary residence.
John Tosto of Naples purchased the lots in 2005 for $300,000. He sought to develop and protect the home. Bob encouraged building a seawall; however, it was too late. The island was eroding beyond conservation.
Mother Nature has not been kind to the island chain. All three houses had generous beach sand buffering them from the water. Over time, erosion and natural weather phenomena took away the sand. In 1992, the category 5 Hurricane Andrew destroyed the interior of the Dome House. By October 2005 when Hurricane Wilma churned past, the sand was eroded further. Two of the 6 domes fell on September 10, 2017, in Hurricane Irma.
After several years in court battling the land use of the Dome House, the State of Florida now owns the land while Tosto owns the structures. The house sits in the water and has become part of the Rookery Bay Aquatic Preserve. It is a destination for tourists and urban explorers. Sea creatures and birds have made it their home. Nature has reclaimed what was always hers.
The house is viewable only by water. As the erosion continues, there are growing fears for the safety of boats attempting to anchor or to sail close. Hire a licensed boat captain or company to sightsee. Never attempt to trespass.
Cape Romano is an island just south of Marco Island, off Naples, in Collier County, Florida. Back before climate change was mainstream, people purchased lots of these fragile islands and built houses. Of the three on Cape Romano, the Dome House is the most famous. (Blog forthcoming). However, personally, I’m captivated by the Pyramid House. Not only did the family live in the structure, they brought their pets to join them in island bliss…until it wasn’t.
Cape Romano is the southern point in a chain of islands making up the Ten Thousand Islands off just south of Marco Island. At some point in the 1060s, entrepreneurial salesmen decided to sell plots on the beach facing the Gulf of Mexico. This was Florida’s “I’ve got a bridge to sell you” land scam. It was also before climate change became our generations danger.
Montague “Monte” Innes convinced his wife, Judy, that he could build a house on the island where they could live an almost off-the-grid lifestyle. And it worked for several years.
According to a recent interview with Judy, the plot was on Caxambas Island, part of the Ten Thousand Island chain. (Note: the landscape of the island chain has substantially shifted with erosion. The island boundaries have changed over the years.) Monte purchased a barge to bring over the supplies and with the assistance of a friend named Harry, they constructed the 3-story cedar pyramid-shaped house.
Honestly, Monte, and with the Dome house builder Bob Lee, were decades before their time. Both men devised ways for the families to survive and thrive with solar power for Bob and windmills for Monte, generators, and water filtration systems. Judy and Monte even had a waterbed! Monte used extra pilings to secure the floor.
The house had rooms butted against the front wall and a large 3-story lanai along the back. What made the Pyramid special were 4 golden mirrors placed upon the top. Sunshine reflected off the mirrors, resembling the Egyptian pyramids. The other feature consisted of a menagerie of animals Judy kept. Monte built 5 aviaries for Judy to breed birds. Five emus had full run of the island.
Online forums house postings from people from all over who passed via boats the homes while growing up. As the homes were only accessible by watercraft, the homeowners had to bring over supplies and animals on barges. The horses are the most discussed topic. Judy brought over two horses, Notice Me (Twiggy) and Koko individually in a horse trailer fastened to the barge. They arrived in 1978. By May of 1987, Judy removed the horses and relocated them to her Naples property.
The youngest daughter, Heather, was a high school student while residing on the island. Each school day, she took a small John boat to Marco Island to get to school. What an incredible life!
In 1988, Judy was injured while riding a horse and never returned to the island. Monte and Judy divorced; Heather would look after the animals and began to bring them to mainland.
Shortly after Judy and Monte sold the pyramid house to a couple from Ohio, it sustained great damage from a hurricane. Judy says a tornado brought down the house.
Erosion, however, was always on their minds. When they constructed the pyramid, there was roughly 2,000 feet between the house and the water. Rapid erosion quickly diminished the distance, and then Mother Nature finished it off.
The area is not haunted—that I know of. However, it is a part of my childhood, having seen the houses and heard the talk, and I wanted to share that Florida is known for some odd things. And a cedar pyramid on an island in South Florida is one of them!
The Withybrook shrunken medieval settlement dates back to the 12th century. One of the earliest structures, the All Saints’ Church, was restored in 1995. The area is deserted; however, it contains significant ancient monuments and is protected under the British Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act of 1979. It is also privately owned. The owners were recently fined £160,000 pounds for unauthorized destruction.
Withybrook is located in Warwickshire, England. Government documents show that people inhabited the area as far back as 1188. The area is now deserted and co-owned by mother and daughter, Heather and Elizabeth Mac. Along with Heather’s husband, John, they began excavating an area by ripping out plants, grading the land, and installing plumbing. The intent was to set up a yard for horses to graze. All of the work was unauthorized. The family were issued several warnings. They refused to stop.
Community residents appealed to the government. The Warwick Crown Court issued £160,000 pounds in fines and court fees. The Court cited the family’s lack of remorse for the high fines. They have until September to pay or face up to 14 months in jail.
Historically designated sites are important. The designations ensure preservation of culturally significant properties. Owners are well educated in the laws and know what can and cannot be done. Any changes must be approved by governing bodies. Although the Mac family are probably not the only people to commit heritage crimes, they received some of the highest fines known.
Sunday night (and birth anniversary of Vincent van Gogh), The Singer Laren museum experienced a smash and grab. The museum was closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The art thieves entered through a large glass window and made off with one of van Gogh’s oil paintings. Here are some facts about the master painter and his lesser-known piece:
Dutch post-impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh (March 30, 1853-July 29-1890) tried several careers before settling on artist. He attempted to be an art dealer, like his brother; a schoolteacher; and a preacher.
He was self-taught and began to paint seriously at the age of 27.
He was an avid letter-writer. He exchanged over 600 letters with his brother, Theo.
The stolen painting, The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring 1884, represented a time when he painted about everyday life. He uses a somber earth-tone palette.
Colors played an important role in his paintings. His favorite color to use was yellow, representing emotional health. He used yellow for sunlight, life, and God in his work.
Vincent suffered from mental illness. He committed suicide in 1890 by shooting himself in the chest. He survived 2 days but died from an infection.
The stolen painting measure 10×22 inches and is done in oil. Over his lifetime, he created 2,100 artworks, of which 860 were oil paintings.
The stolen painting was on loan from the Groninger Museum.
American couple Willian and Anna Singer own the museum the painting was stolen from.
One of Vincent’s famous quotes: “The sadness will last forever.”
Since his paintings do not come up for auction often and fetch millions of dollars, it is highly unlikely that we will see it in any auction house publications. Hopefully, it will not be hidden in some uber-rich family’s private collection—removed from the world to experience.
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