Good Ole Fun With the Relatives in Fern Creek; or, Am I Really Related to These People?

August 7, 2008

This whole thing is going to sound insufferably snooty, as any story that leads off using the word “insufferably” inevitably must.

The thing is, I was pretty much dragged by my mother to a family reunion this past Sunday, gathering together those on her side of the family, of which she is now the patriarch, the oldest living survivor. There would be no avoiding this. Whatever else may have been on my calendar for that Sunday was worse than secondary – it was stricken from the record.

So I met with distant aunts and uncles and cousins several steps removed from my ability to remember, faces that in some cases I recognized but could not put names to, many of them layered with a new coating of shopworn leather wrinkles.

I mostly sat and watched heavyset adults and kids splash around in a nice big pool, while family cliques grouped off in comfortable familiarity to eat and yak. And NASCAR was revved up on the big screen TV in the basement, to one side of the NASCAR paraphernalia on wooden and glass shelves. If there was a book of any consequence to be found in this house, I never spotted it.

These were my kin, my blood, residing in a part of town that, however clean and groomed most of Fern Creek is, gets the bad rap in Louisville as the stomping ground of barbarian rednecks. That, of course, is not fair, but my overeducated, superior-feeling ass could only see in the lives of my relatives too much evidence to support the stereotype.

They were all courteous and harmless; conversations remained safe and dull. I was no help, but neither did I hinder things. I sat and ate the grub offered, happy that there was plenty enough to offset the lack of a vegan main course. Lots of bratwurst, hot dogs and cheeseburgers went uneaten. In my carnivorous days, I could have polished off at least a couple of those.

The highlight of the day, for me anyway, was when one of my distant aunts and uncles picked up one of the empty bottles of Shiner Bock I had consumed and placed on a table near them. The party was BYOB, and this slightly upscale hefeweizen was what I had chosen to bring along. The way everyone looked at it made me feel like Cinderella in rags at the ball. This was the land where watery, aluminum-tinged Bud Light ruled. “That ain’t one of those beers that’ll put hair on your chest, is it?” asked one uncle. “Well,” says I, “since I already have hair on my chest I don’t have to worry about it.” Another distant uncle picked it up and stared at it, quizzically, eyebrows furrowed in a sort of uncomprehending, baffled, slightly distressed attitude. He passed it to a distant aunt who did the same, holding it up and looking at it, like the early man in 2001: A Space Odyssey trying to figure out new uses for a bone.

I immediately was reminded of that scene in The Gods Must Be Crazy where the Kalahari man picks up the Coke bottle thrown from an airplance and wonders what the hell it is. I mentioned this to my sister, and she laughed.

Is it fair to say I’ve outgrown these people, or merely grown differently? But no, one would have to grow, period. I couldn’t see any evidence of it in their cases, and saying so here makes me sound like an arrogant upstart who’s gotten above his raisin’.

And that makes me feel guilty, but it also makes me confused. I want to be sociable, genial, open to the experiences and lives of others. But I can’t help but be judgmental, elitist. That’s just the way it is.

So, maybe my relatives are bigger than me because I doubt they harbored such corrosive, cynical, jaded, unhealthy thoughts.

And that might mean that maybe I can learn something from them. Maybe we look at each other like we would strange Coke bottles fallen from the sky.

-EG


Cherubic Statuary Hidden in Plain Sight Off Ormsby Station Rd Near Hurstbourne Lane (Unseen Louisville No. 5)

August 2, 2008

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve biked past this oddity perched atop a small incline in the Hurstbourne Green Office Park next to Ormsby Station Road in eastern Jefferson County in Louisville, Ky. All that I can say is I somehow never saw this bit of statuary; completely invisible to me in plain sight until last week. So, we make this mystery statue the subject of the fifth installment of our Unseen Louisville series. I know I’ve written too many of these Unseen Louisville segments about stuff found in the Hurstbourne Green area, but since these things are close to my house and they keep popping up in my own backyard, I say, why not? This statue with a cherubic theme obviously is a leftover remnant of the old Ormsby Village orphanage campus that sprawled all over this part of the county from 1920 to 1967 (see my earlier posting on this from last year). Now it’s all office parks, but, thankfully when the new stuff was being built someone at least had the good sense to leave this bit of statuary around instead of demolishing it or carting it away to some anonymous fate. There is no descriptive plaque on the statue, so I can’t tell you the first thing about the artist, the foundry, the date of creation and installation, title of the work, or anything else. Perhaps someone out there can provide more information. Being somewhat ignorant of styles and motivations in art history, it’s hard for me to fathom what predilections pseudo-Renaissance stylists had that inspired them to depict what appear to be children slathering around in grape juice in some sort of orgiastic reverie. We will post that information in the comments section below or in a future posting. So, lacking anything substantial, I’ll share with you a few of the images I took of this interesting, elaborate sculpture. -EG






Tomatoes Beat the Prediction

July 10, 2008

I planted my backyard tomato and jalapeno pepper garden on Sunday May 11, a week and a day after the Kentucky Derby, and predicted a couple of weeks after that upon seeing the fast progress of the growth that I would be harvesting the first ripenings by July 20, but a number of factors seem to bode well for a harvest well before that date. First of all, the climate this summer in Kentucky, so far, has been superb for gardening – not too hot, adequate rainfall, relatively low humidity. Second, I really put a lot of work into proper soil preparation this time. Last year my first batch of tomatoes had to be tossed away due to rot, due to poor soil and underwatering. This past winter I composted a thick pile of leaves and pine needles from my yard and my next door neighbors’ and plowed as much of that under this spring as I could. Excess amounts were shoveled out into a compost pile outside the garden fence. Prior to the first turning of the soil by spade I added a few hundred pounds of peat humus and cow manure ($1.50 a bag at Meijer x how ever many bags) and then turned the soil over three times, once each weekend, before planting. Ever since I have been diligent about daily watering and weeding as much as possible. My weeding methodology is simple and organic and time-consuming: I pull the roots of the errant grass and clover and other undergrowth by hand. As of last week my first grape tomato was turning red and probably will be ready to pick by tomorrow or so, more than a week before my prediction. But let’s see how we do where it really counts: with the regular, full-sized tomatoes. I have some romas that are three inches long and looking about ready to turn. I have a good variety of tomato types: Mr. Stripey, Early Girl, Better Boy, Roma, grape and maybe a couple more. Also, the jalapeno peppers are coming along nicely. The mole who had dug a hole on the eastern edge of the garden has not been seen and evidently has not hurt the garden at all. Here are some pix of the lush garden. There won’t be any salmonella or pesticides in this harvest – just good eatin.’ -EG


We Don’t Need No Stinking Pensions Anyway

June 25, 2008

While the CEOs of the American oligarchy continue to reap obscene bonuses and raises, even when their profits and share prices slide, “our” legislate-whores—the ones who constantly kowtow to these captains of magic paper wealth (not so much of industry any more)—are voting to make life worse for average working people.

Instead of trying to find ways to fund future pension needs, Kentucky’s piss poor General Assembly “leaders” are taking the easy, expedient route to ensure the solvency of the state’s public pension fund by, voila !, reducing the amounts it will pay out in the future.

I’m sure that among all the charts and graphs to which those brave souls refer in making their decisions is the one showing how the cost of things will be staying the same or going down in the future?

They call it a pension “reform” bill. Reform, of course, rarely means what it once did, which was improvement. Now it just means cutback, and underlying that is the same insulting “code” philosophy that was behind welfare reform: those lazy bums are sucking too much off the public teat. Never mind that state workers pay their dues for decades in order to reap this so-called exorbitance.

But hey, what other kind of decision-making would you expect from these wannabes. After all, they’re only following the example of their CEO heroes, the ones hailed as geniuses for coming up with the original idea of cutting payrolls to boost profits. Wall Street always lauds them and corporate boards always reward them handsomely for it.

The legislators have gotten the message, cut the heart out of the peons and everything will work out OK.

“We live in dangerous times,” says an expert whose company protects CEO’s from kidnapping and other threats.

Yes we do, and just why might that be?

If there is a coming revolution, breakdown, apocalypse or whatever in this country, our so-called leaders are bringing it on themselves. –EG

House to Vote On Pension Reform Bill (Courier-Journal)

Keeping the CEO Safe Can be Costly (Wall Street Journal)

Why CEOs are Giggling (Jim Hightower)

-EG


Forest Green Fitness Trail at Hurstbourne Green Office Park (Unseen Louisville No. 4)

June 16, 2008

It has been awhile since our last Unseen Louisville posting. That our latest entry should be relatively unknown should not be surprising, since it is new, or rather, is a newly monikered way to present a setting that was already there. In a low-lying heavily wooded area adjacent to the ever-growing office sprawl in the Hurstbourne Lane and Ormsby Station Road area of Eastern Jefferson County is a graveled fitness trail cut through some of the last (relatively) untouched deep woods in that part of town. The Forest Green Fitness trail begins at the back edge of a vast parking lot for several new post-modern glass boxes a few hundred yards south of a McDonalds. (Specifically the parcel is bounded to the north by Forest Green Blvd which parallels the slightly more northerly Hurstbourne Lane and to the west by the head of Dorsey Way and to the east by Dorsey Lane). The woods there seem to have been set aside as part of mitigation, I suspect, required by planning and zoning to ensure that some green space remains in the area. I visited the trail this past weekend, and a nice day it was too, as the following pictures will show. On the way there I checked out another bit of unseen Louisville that I only recently discovered—a wide tunnel that passes directly under Hurstbourne Lane adjacent to the McDonalds. I’ve biked through this tunnel several times in the last few weeks without ever encountering one soul there. If you go there, be careful, it gets mighty dark; the lights do not appear to be working. If you bike, be careful not to hit anyone that might pop up while you’re going through there. Use a headlight. The fitness trail to the south is officially closed after dusk, which only makes sense. You probably don’t want to be down there after hours. During the day the dense foliage makes the air noticeably cooler. While I was visiting, a group of kids were sitting at a picnic table in a clearing, resting from doing whatever it is that kids do in the woods. Make sure you have good heavy mountain bike treads if you try to bike the gravel, as it gets fairly thick and loose in spots. The sign at the ‘official’ entrance (although there are several places to enter the trail) says the path is a mile long, but it only seemed to me to be at best a half mile, at least on the parts passable by bike. I know it only took me a couple minutes to bike it from west to east. There are some wooden steps to the east that were impassable by bike, so maybe that constitutes the rest. A walking trip in the future will tell or not. The creek water that runs alongside some of the trail is contaminated by suburban runoff, as several ‘no swimming’ signs note. I ran into at least three spider webs across the path, indication that not too many people walk through here much. Anyway, here are some views of the trail and of some of the office park area surrounding. You’ll notice my old Roadmaster pressed into service in some of these shots; that’s because my regular bike is in the shop for repairs (broken axle; happens to me all the time). Also, at the end of this series is depicted an awesome perfect anvil-shaped cloud that I captured just before it dissipated at dusk. -EG


Can You Hide a House? Old 851 Mansion at Spalding University Proves You Can (Unseen Louisville No. 3)

July 9, 2007

851-entrance-13-100_0960.jpgYou know the Chinese box? The box inside the box inside the box.

Spalding University between Third and Fourth streets in Louisville has its own version of that novelty in the form of an 1800s Gilded Age mansion enclosed within its larger administration building.

Some of the tour books mention this attraction, but I know of nobody in my circle of acquaintances who is aware of it.

When I visited the mansion last week, Spalding’s administration building was quiet and almost lifeless. Summer is the slow time, as it typical at a university, and even though a few students and administrators wandered through the halls, I pretty much felt like I had the mansion all to myself. The tour is self-guided, so you can hang around the old dark house without anyone so much as noticing.

851-centerlight-100_0959.jpgThe mansion entrance is just a few feet to the right of the reception desk in the administration building. I flagged down a student to ask if she knew of anyone could turn on a few lights for better picture taking. She didn’t know but pointed to a table that was supposed to have a booklet explaining the history of the mansion. But there were no brochures available.

Obviously this is one attraction that is handled very informally by the university, which can be a good and a bad thing.

Bad because the lack of security makes me feel that some of the holdings here could be vulnerable to mischief. Good, because one can enjoy and contemplate the spaces without bother.

851-glass15-100_0933.jpgBecause the mansion mainly serves as a cut-through access point for the rest of the administration building it is probably not noticed by the university employees and student people going about their everyday business.

lioni-851-lionpot.jpgBecause of this integration, it would probably be impossible to charge a fee to see the mansion, and that’s OK because the mansion is really not a charge-worthy sight in my opinion.

But is it worth seeing? Yes, I would say so—if you’re in the area and have some time to check out a lovely curiosity that’s hidden and unknown to most folks. Finding such nooks is always cool.

Spalding’s website has some info on the 851 Mansion. The quick and dirty is that the house was designed and built in 1871 for local importer Joseph Tompkins and was later owned by some distillery tycoons. Spalding has occupied the place since 1920, but no reference is given as to when the administration building was built around it.

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People interested in home interior designs and accents will be very interested in the mansion’s features which include stained glass, Viennese glass, a gas chandelier, walnut stairway and lots of handcarved moldings and old furniture.

mainroom-851-73.jpgBecause it’s free and sort of unique, I’m going to give this attraction a respectable two-star rating. I wouldn’t put it at the top of my list, but if you want to see something different and don’t have much time and have empty pockets, this could be your destination.

The mansion is on the National Register of Historic Places.

851 Mansion
at Spalding University, Louisville, Ky.

GRAVY BREAD LOUISVILLE RATING: horse_head_rating_2_.gif

-EG (all photos in this posting copyright 2007 Evan G)

A few more:

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Lawyer Alert: The White Castle on Westport Road in Louisville, Ky., is Begging to Be Sued (Here’s Why)

July 6, 2007

100_0853-20whitecast.jpgLife and commerce go on without cause for reflection and must not be stopped, and in all that unregulated Wild West hustle bustle of the USA, fucking retarded things like what I’m about to show you happen.

It’s the kind of “what me, worry?” attitude that led to 9/11 (no coordination, the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, etc.), and so stupid things slip through the cracks that anyone in any kind of authority should have spotted right off the bat.

What we’re talking about here is the brand spanking new White Castle restaurant on Westport Road, just a few steps from its old location at Hurstbourne Lane in front of the Kroger and across from Zachary Taylor Elementary School in Eastern Jefferson County (Louisville, Ky.)

Why a replacement restaurant of apparently no greater size needed to be built just a few yards from the old one is anyone’s guess. At least with the old locale the traffic direction was fairly simple and controlled.

100_0860-13-white-castle.jpgSo what strikes you about this photo that also struck me instantly when I saw this scene? Something that should have struck the supervisor who supposedly oversaw the finishing and painting of this roadway, or that should have struck the manager of the White Castle who deemed everything hunky dory and safe and ready for business?

Or was everybody just itching so much to open for business that nothing else mattered?

So, in case you’re like those so-called supervisors, let me point out that the traffic arrows indicate that it is perfectly OK for two cars driving past a corner blind spot where neither can see each other to be directed—without any caution or stop signs—to drive into one another.

Not only that, but whoever painted the arrow near the front door the first time sort of had the right idea: keep the traffic flowing out and away from the service window. But somehow, somebody decided there needed to be two-way traffic in front of the store, so the arrow was repainted, but the old arrow is still visible so the whole thing seems to point in two directions at once!

white-castle-2.jpgAdding to this interesting mix is that fact that a whole row of parking spaces abutt this frontal roadway, so that large pickups and SUVs backing out of the spaces can run into people and cars pulling out from the drive-through pickup lane. I saw just such a thing happen here last night (large pickup truck in middle of parking lot row backs toward the outgoing drive-thru lane and nearly backs into car coming out of it)—and I was only here taking pictures for five minutes.

As the fender benders and broken-legged pedestrians pile up here, as they no doubt will, a light bulb might finally turn on in the head of the dimwits in charge.

d-isaccs.jpgSo until the Messrs. at White Castle decide to stop being dumb shits, be ready to call everybody’s favorite TV lawyer, the Louisville Heavy Hitter. I got the pictures, big guy…which can be had for a reasonable fee.

-Evan G


That Weird Sky Last Night in Louisville, July 5

July 6, 2007

sky-15pct-july5-07.jpgHeat lightning flashes added to the already unusual dusk backlighting of the clouds made last night an interesting one in the sky here in Louisville, Ky.

It looked like another summer thunderstorm was trying to get going, but it fizzed out, but not before we had one of those unique skies that last only for fleeting moments. This light lasted for only about 20 minutes to half an hour about 9pm. You to have your antennae out, an eye on the window, and a willingness to turn off and leave the TV for awhile to sense when something interesting like this is going on.

I took lots of pix, but for now I’m just posting this one, which sums things up well enough.

I’d like to think my cat was enjoying the show, but I think she was just locked onto some bird.

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-Evan G 


Say Ya Wanna Revolution? Check out This Oddball Museum (Unseen Louisville No. 2)

June 20, 2007

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Why, you ask, is Barbie’s boyfriend, Ken, wearing Revolutionary War garb? Well, this, of course, is not Ken. (Because, as you know, he and the Beaver were killed in Vietnam, fighting alongside the Red-bearded G.I. Joe.)

No, what we have here are some anonymous cannoneers from our great war of independence.

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Where we are is 1000 S. Fourth Street (Fourth and Kentucky streets), in Louisville, Ky., USA, and this is PART TWO of our ongoing “Unseen Louisville” series of places around town that you probably don’t know about, but maybe should.

Extrapolating from an unscientific poll of folks I queried, it’s probably safe to say that virtually nobody in Louisville knows about the existence of the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, or at least that its headquarters is just a few blocks south of the Louisville Free Public Library main branch. Even worse, that means the locals are missing out on a pretty nice little museum that encompasses the first and part of the basement floors of the facility.

100_0782-10-25starflag.jpgThis is the kind of place you’d expect to find in Washington, D.C., and indeed this headquarters was in the nation’s capital until it moved to Louisville in 1978, according to Denise Hall, a representative who spoke to me as I toured the building.

Eyeing the rather undistinguished-looking concrete slab office structure from the outside doesn’t bode well—no wonder so many people pass by this building without a notice or thought.

Yet, what’s inside is a treasure trove of authentic and reproduced Revolutionary War paraphernalia—and lots of vintage colorful paintings of war scenes and heroes.

100_0796-13-bacc-crystal.jpgThe main goal of the place is to provide geneological and other resources to its membership, which includes 26,000 male descendents of the war’s veterans.

It is in fact not really considered a museum, just a headquarters. The exhibits are displayed in the main lobby, several side rooms and some stairwells—all of which adjoin various administrative offices. The mix of real-use offices and museum space gives the place a nice vibe actually. Bunches of old geezers with bright vest coats flit about back and forth amid the bric-a-brac of their long-dead ancestors. A nice sense of continuity and living history in that.

100_0772-indyhall.jpgThe small size of the display area means you can take it all in fairly quickly; it’s even a nice stop for part of your lunch hour, and is worth a drive to see.

Displays include a full-sized replica of George Washington’s office (immediately to the right of the entrance), a “Martha Washington” room that includes an actual letter from George and a remnant from a dress of the First Lady. There’s also a remnant of a flag Washington carried into battle, an actual ring worn by him, and a life mask.

100_0770-10wash-letter.jpgHighlights also include a letter from later president, James Monroe, original 13-star and 25-star flags, an enormous bronze bust of Washington and full-sized reproduction of the Liberty Bell, authentic period costumes and guns, and baccarat crystal objects containing likenesses of Revolutionary War figures. And the place is filled with beautiful oil paintings—many enormous—of period subjects.

This is one museum I plan to visit again to explore in greater detail.

And it’s free and open to the general public during business hours (despite a misleading sign on the door that says it isn’t.)

While I was touring the lobby, a super-nice lady at the entrance desk named Senoria Williams was putting together for me a packet filled with informational brochures and a mini American flag suitable for desk mounting. I did not ask for this, she just did it.

100_0768-11-wwash-g-room.jpgNor did she ask for a donation, and none is required. But I brought up the subject and a collection jar was produced, whereupon I volunteered freely a modest dollar.

Seems the organization is in the middle of a fund-raising drive to build a new, larger geneological center on an adjacent lot.

I hope, though, that the historical collection remains in its present building. It fits nicely in there and the lighting is good, using big windows and exterior sunlight well.

Plus, it’s a no-frills, old-school museum setting—and that’s what I like.

The organization really could use a better website, though, especially with a less dismal-looking photo of its building (it obviously was scanned, poorly, right off a brochure). I would suggest to them that a picture from their display area (like the one I took at the top of this posting) would look better.

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It was kind of cool that when I took this last shot against the backdrop of the headquarter’s side entrance, the wind caught the little flag on my brochure packet and it unfurled just as I snapped. Karl Rove couldn’t have orchestrated it better.

National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution headquarters
GRAVY BREAD LOUISVILLE RATING: horse_head_rating_3_.gif

-EG (all photos in this posting copyright 2007 Evan G)

FYI: below are a few other images from my visit:

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Be Very Afraid: Old Ormsby Village House—Trick of the Light, or Something More? (Unseen Louisville No. 1)

June 18, 2007

100_0736-curious-skull-2.jpgAt dusk last night I biked through the Hurstbourne Green Office Park in Eastern Jefferson County, east of Louisville. Long before this area sprouted with corporate glass boxes and manicured greenery, it once was considered the “country.” That’s why back in the 1920s a home and complex for “wayward” children was built here on the advanced idea that rehabilitating kids in the fresh rural air would do them better than punishing them and forcing them to stay in prison-like buildings in the grimy city.

From 1920 to 1967, The Louisville and Jefferson County Children’s Home operated properties in this part of the county, one for white kids called Ormsby Village and another for black kids called Ridgewood (about a mile or less to the southeast).

100_0750-ormsby-rd.jpgOrmsby Village was mostly cleared out in the ’80s and ’90s for development, yet one large and very stately home from the complex still stands almost completely hidden behind a lush grove of trees. Few people in the area seem to realize that this creepy, but beautiful old abandoned home still exists just a few yards from the corner of Ormsby Station Road and Ormbsy Station Court. It appears, at least from the exterior, to be maintained somewhat, possibly by the managers of the office park. It doesn’t appear dilapidated, but there is no sign of life inside. The windows reveal a pitch dark interior. The house stands like a ghost, out of place in its time. Very eerie and isolated despite being in the middle of heavy development.

I took pictures of all sides of the house, but a sense of foreboding kept me from venturing any closer than about 10 yards. The thick hedgerow surrounding the house presented a slight obstacle to closer view, but the sense that something might be hiding in the hedgerow—a crazy caretaker or some such—made me feel some trepidation. And those large pitch-dark windows were like big black irises. You felt a head might appear from the gloom and peer out at you at any minute.

100_0731-14faroff.jpgI didn’t see anything out of the ordinary as I snapped the pix, but when I got home I used the zoom feature on my camera to see if I could glean more exterior details of the house. I was very impressed by the sweeping iron portico around the front entrance. I had wanted to get closer shots of these, but as I said, I felt better keeping my distance.

As I started looking at zoom-ins of many of the windows, I noted lots of patterns created in the glass due to the reflection of light and tree leaf shadows and the wavy nature of the old-style panes.

In several of the panes I noticed shapes that resembled human forms: faces, a devil head, an old woman, and a skeleton like figure. I believe that these are nothing more than tricks of the light created by the conditions I previously described.

However, fans of the paranormal still might find this of interest.

Check out this scan-in view of the house-front. And pay particular attention to the dark window at the upper right.

I took several pictures of this housefront, each from only a very slightly different angle and distance. Yet, even these slight changes of perspective changed the light patterns in the windows significantly. Either that, or something inside the house changed between the times I took the shots. (Images copyright Evan G, please note)

Reflections of leaves, or something else….?

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Now, check this view of the back side of the house. Then look at the zoom-in of one of the windows of the second floor…

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A nurse caretaker, perhaps?

And below, on yet another side of the house (facing southeast), we have an oddity depicted in the widow at bottom left. Somehow a knight from Monty Python’s Flying Circus seems to have taken up residence… And to the right, notice the frolicking skeletal figure profile.

 

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And below, if you strain a bit, you can make out a demon-faced fellow peering back in this next one…

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So maybe the Ormsby Village house should be thought of in the same way as the popular haunting spot, the old Waverly Hills Sanatorium on the far southwest side of the county.

I won’t hold my breath waiting for Art Bell to call…

-EG