Bureau Of Land Management Gives Advice On Finding Bigfoot


Last week we reported on how the U.S. National Ocean Service publicly denied the existence of mermaids in response to a joke documentary on Animal Planet.

Meanwhile, another federal agency has taken a different course. The Bureau of Land Management in Oregon & Washington has released this video titled “Bigfoot and the BLM.” In it, people, who I assume to be BLM staff, are asked about their belief in Bigfoot and the narrator gives handy tips about where to go looking for the mysterious creature.

Is this all just a bit of silliness at taxpayer expense? A cheap publicity stunt? Maybe. Maybe not. As Matt Moneymaker, president of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Association pointed out on his Twitter account, “Hmmm…The locations mentioned by this BLM Oregon dude all happen to be active Bigfoot areas. . .coincidence??”

Perhaps the agency hopes that by encouraging people to visit the Pacific Northwest’s beautiful natural areas, some lucky hiker will find definitive proof for Bigfoot? Hopefully it will be better proof than a pot-bellied guy wandering around in a gorilla suit like shown in this video.

Whatever the explanation for the BLM’s move, they’re obviously fond of Bigfoot. Even the banner of their blog features the creature. Click on the jump to see the image.

Bigfoot

The International UFO Museum And Research Center At Roswell, New Mexico

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Something strange happened in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947.

Rancher William Brazel found a bunch of debris in the desert that he couldn’t identify. He described it in the July 9, 1947, issue of the Roswell Daily Record as a “large area of bright wreckage made up of rubber strips, tinfoil, a rather tough paper and sticks.”

The paper reported that Brazel estimated that all together the debris “weighed maybe five pounds. There was no sign of any metal in the area, which might have been used for an engine, and no sign of any propellers of any kind, although at least one paper fin had been glued onto some of the tinfoil. There were no words to be found anywhere on the instrument, although there were letters on some of the parts. Considerable scotch tape and some tape with flowers printed upon it had been used in the construction.”

Not sure what he had, he contacted the Roswell Army Air Field, which sent two men out to gather the material. The local base commander then released a statement that a “flying disk” had been found. This gained national publicity. America was in the midst of its first wave of flying saucer sightings and this fit the bill. The next day, General Ramey of the Eighth Air Force made an official statement that it was a downed weather balloon.

%Gallery-155021%The incident was soon forgotten, even by most Ufologists, until in 1978 a UFO researcher started interviewing locals who claimed to have seen the debris and said it was part of an extraterrestrial craft. Accounts of alien bodies and a massive cover up also came to light. The stories snowballed and Roswell became the world’s most famous UFO crash.

The International UFO Museum and Research Center is dedicated to studying the UFO phenomenon in general and the Roswell crash in particular. It was founded by Walter Haut, who was the press officer at the air field when the crash occurred, and Glenn Dennis, who claims to have seen alien bodies taken from the crash. The museum displays a huge collection of photos, documents, and eyewitness accounts related to the Roswell incident and other sightings.

The result is a detailed history of the UFO craze from its beginnings up to the present day, told in newspaper stories, photos and eyewitness accounts. You can spend a lot of time here studying the various sightings, and you’ll come away with the realization that an awful lot of people think they’ve seen something strange in the sky.

I’m an agnostic in all things. Although I’ve investigated all sorts of paranormal occurrences ranging from ghosts to visitations from Purgatory, I generally come down on the side of interested skepticism. While this museum didn’t decrease my skepticism, it was highly entertaining and certainly an excellent resource for anyone interested in the UFO mystery. They get extra points for pointing out some parts of their photographs that aren’t UFOs, and showing how observers can often mistake man-made objects or natural phenomena for extraterrestrial craft.

Besides the museum, several local shops get in on the action selling alien memorabilia and there are numerous UFO tours. Roswell also hosts an annual UFO conference, held this year from June 28-July 1.

The enduring publicity over the Roswell incident, both in New Mexico and around the world, has led to numerous statements by the government that nothing happened. In 1994, the Air Force stated that the debris actually came from a secret project called Project Mogul, which attempted to use strings of high-altitude balloons, or a single giant balloon, to spy on Soviet nuclear activities.

While this prompted some UFO researchers to change their minds and state that no UFO crashed at Roswell, it only encouraged others. If the government didn’t tell the whole truth at first, they reasoned, they could be lying now. Personally, I have a hard time believing that an alien spacecraft (made of tinfoil and sticks, no less) crashed in the New Mexico desert. Sure, considering the vastness of the universe it’s unlikely that we’re alone, but that doesn’t mean aliens are coming here.

I see something more insidious going on with all of this. If the government was lying to divert attention from secret projects, it could be still doing this. Perhaps the Ufologists should stop watching the skies and use their research skills and tenacity to uncover secret activities going on right here on Earth, such as government corruption, secret military operations, support of nasty dictators (Saddam Hussein, for example) and the undermining of civil liberties. By chasing phantoms, the Ufologists are playing into the hands of those have the real power in this world, and who have a lot more sinister things to hide than evidence of extraterrestrials.

[Photo courtesy Kimble Young]

Three nights in a haunted hotel room


The best thing about being an agnostic is that you don’t have to live your life fearing the unknown. The worst thing is admitting the possibility that there might be something to fear after all.

Instead of pretending to have all the answers, my belief system ranks things in order of likelihood, and ghosts are pretty far down the list. Not as low as Santa Claus or the “we never landed on the Moon” conspiracy theory, but a poor ranking nonetheless. So when I heard that my hotel room in England was supposedly haunted, my only thought was that I’d bagged a good story for Gadling.

Unlike a lot of supposed hauntings, this one’s actually based on a true story, related to me by local historian and folklorist Steven Wood.

Back in 1906, Haworth, Yorkshire, was holding its annual gala. Like in other years, brass bands played, entertainers wowed the crowd, and food stands sold all sorts of delicacies. This year, however, the people of Yorkshire had been promised something special. Lily Cove, a famed “aeronaut”, was going to do a death-defying parachute jump from a balloon. This was only three years after Kitty Hawk, so nobody in the area had ever seen an airplane, and balloons were a rarity too. Seeing a lovely lady jump from one and land safely was something of a miracle.

Lily Cove stayed at The Old White Lion Hotel in Room 7, the very same room I had. While waiting for a day with good weather the glamorous aeronaut made many acquaintances in town and became very popular.

On June 11 the weather was fair and thousands gathered to see her performance. After she and her manager Captain Frederick Bidmead checked the balloon, she secured herself to a trapeze hanging from the bottom. The balloon soared into the air with Lily waving to the crowd with a handkerchief. The idea was that once she got to a good altitude, Lily would leap from the trapeze and a ripcord would open up her parachute. She’d then float gracefully to earth.

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The balloon floated over the fields. After it got up to about 700 feet Lily jumped. The parachute opened as planned, but one witness saw Lily shrugging her shoulders and a moment later she detached from her parachute and plummeted to the ground. Farmers rushed to the spot, but she was dead. Her broken body was carried back to her room, my room, and laid out until a coffin could be made for her.

The whole town went into mourning. Captain Bidmead, a veteran of 83 parachute descents, said he might never fly again. At the inquiry he gave the opinion that she’d deliberately separated herself from the parachute. He suggested that because she was drifting towards a reservoir and didn’t know how to swim, she decided to get to the ground early. She must have thought she was much lower than she was and could land without injury. Others said she committed suicide, but there seemed no reason for this. The court ruled that Lily Cove died of “misadventure.” Parliament soon banned parachute performances so such a tragedy would never happen again.

According to local ghost story collector and guide Philip Lister, it wasn’t long before guests began reporting strange happenings in Room 7. Some woke up with a start, thinking they were falling through the air. Others saw an attractive young woman standing at the foot of their bed. The sightings have continued to the present day, and everyone in Haworth knows of Room 7’s reputation.

I didn’t hear any of this until I had spent my first night in the room. Tired from a day’s travel from Madrid, I slept fine, although I woke up once, glanced at the clock, saw it was 4:10, and went back to sleep.

The next day one of my travel companions told me my room was haunted. She started telling me the story but I stopped her. I didn’t want to be subject to suggestion. I wanted to test Room 7, and not have my own mind play tricks on me. The conversation turned to ghosts stories in general, and over the course of the day four of my nine travel companions told me they’d seen ghosts at least once in their lives. I was amazed. These educated, quite sane travel writers were telling me in all seriousness that they’d seen spirits. Nearly half of our group had a story to tell, and I didn’t even get around to asking all of them! Apparitions from the beyond are more common than I supposed.

The second night I slept fine again, although I briefly woke up again shortly after 4am. I think it was 4:08, but I was too sleepy to be sure.

By my third night I’d heard the whole story. I even went on a ghost tour, which I’ll describe in my next post in this series. So when I tucked myself in I knew just what had occurred to that poor woman who had stayed in my room. Once again I saw nothing, except I briefly woke up and looked at the clock.

It was 4:11 in the morning.

Waking in the middle of the night isn’t unusual for me, but I never wake up at the exact same time three nights in a row. Is this significant? Well, by the third night I was wondering if I would again awake shortly after four, so that might have been autosuggestion. The time seems to have nothing to do with the haunting, since Lily did her ascent at seven o’clock in the evening.

So was Lily Cove waking me up? Probably not. The tricky thing about ghosts is they’re unprovable. Even if I’d awoken to see a spectral woman at the foot of my bed, that wouldn’t prove anything except I had a weird experience that could have been a hallucination. Yet ghost stories are found throughout history and in most if not all cultures. We seem to need ghost stories. That doesn’t necessarily mean there’s life beyond death or that dead people occasionally come back to scare the crap out of the living, but it does show ghosts are a part of the human experience. What they signify is something we’ll probably never know, and not knowing is far more interesting than pretending you have all the answers.

Don’t miss the rest of my series Exploring Yorkshire: ghosts, castles, and literature in England’s north.

Coming up next: The good old days were horrible!

This trip was sponsored by VisitEngland and Welcome to Yorkshire, who really should have put someone more impressionable in Room 7.

At Fells Point, Maryland ghosts reside year-round

Even though it’s almost Christmas, and Halloween is long gone, it’s not the end of haunted travel. Fells Point, Maryland is one of those towns where ghosts and their stories don’t go on vacation until the next season of fright delight. In Fells Point, the ghosts are woven into the town’s lore all year long.

Located on the waterfront as a section of Baltimore, Fells Point, founded in 1763, is one of those U.S. locations that has gradually woven its historic lore into modern amenities.

The result is cobblestone streets edged with an eclectic mix of buildings that range from the pubs, to independently owned shops and eateries to museums that touch on area history.

Amid it all, ghosts wander. At the Admiral Fell Inn ghosts are embraced as an important feature.

Ranked in 2007 as the “Best Place to Stay in Baltimore” by Philadelphia Style Magazine this hotel offers ghost tours every Friday and Saturday evening. The tours are family-friendly and a chance to hear about Fells Point’s unique history. Some say that Edgar Allen Poe’s ghost is one of the area’s visitors. Fells Point is the last place he was seen alive.

The hotel which consists of seven different buildings has had many purposes over the years. Starting in 1770, it has been a ship chandlery, a guest house for sailors and a theater among other things.

There are other haunted places in Fells Point. For a guided ghost walk tour you’ll have to wait until March when the season starts. Tickets are on sale for 2010 at Baltimore Ghost Tours. The company also has ghostwalk tours of Mt. Vernon.

Here’s a preview of the ghosts at Admiral Fells Inn. If you go, ask about the ghost tour package at the hotel.

Five haunted attractions for Halloween: options around the world

Halloween is the one day a year we seek fear rather than try to avoid it. We invite the prospect of ghosts, witches and vampires, and even if we concede that they aren’t real, it’s fine to suspend disbelief for a day. To heighten the sensation, consider wrapping your next trip in the Halloween spirit. There are plenty of destinations around the world that will help the hairs on the back of your neck to stand on end.

1. Melbourne’s Haunted Bookshop
Ghost-hunter and historian Drew Sinton is waiting for you at The Haunted Bookshop in Melbourne, Australia. If you’re not afraid of the written word, this starting point won’t scare you, but along the way, you’ll hit a number of spots where ghosts have been sighted. Old Melbourne Goal (jail, that is) was home to 135 hangings. One of them, Ned Kelly, is said to have resulted in a ghost that won’t leave the site of his demise. While you’re there, walk the road to the gallows. If this isn’t enough for you, look for nutty ghosts on the Beechworth Ghost Tour at what was once the Mayday Hills Lunatic Asylum.

2. Under the Royal Mile
Beneath Edinburgh‘s Royal Mile, you’ll find a warren of hidden “closes” where people once lived, worked … and perished. Mary King’s Close, once abandoned and forgotten, is now open via the Supernatural History Tour. Explore one of Scotland’s most haunted locations, get the scoop on urban myths and hear about sightings that occurred as recently as 2003. A few claim to have felt ghosts brush past on this tour. Will you be one of them?

3. Follow New France’s Great Master
Old Montreal‘s cobblestone streets set the scene for any supernatural encounter. The sun goes down; the wind blows off the river. You don’t know what’s gust and what’s ghost! History is the breeding ground of the other-worldly, and the Great Master will take you through the century’s that have contributed to what is now the “New France Ghost Hunt.”

4. The Darker Side of Luxury
No, you won’t have to worry about peasant uprisings, but if you’re looking for paranormal trouble, you can find it at a handful of Fairmont hotels. At the Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa (where I suffered through a business trip from hell a decade ago), keep an eye open for Victoria, a now deceased member of one of the founding families of the Sonoma Valley. A former steward, now dead, of course, hangs out in the silver room at the Fairmont Royal York, and a hotel maid who fell to her death in 1908 has yet to leave the Fairmont Empress.

5. The Ghastly Side of Downtown Orlando
I’m sure there’s something going on at Disneyworld, but skip it in favor of downtown Orlando (my favorite part of Florida). On the Orlando Ghost Tours, you’ll get two hours to pick up the basics of parapsychology and poke around in locations confirmed to be haunted. You’ll even get to use specialized equipment to conduct your own paranormal investigation. Who you gonna call? After this, probably yourself.