Townspeople Reenact An Early Civil War Battle… On Twitter

There are a number of Civil War commemorations happening this year, most notably Gettysburg’s big 150th anniversary. But even if making it out to watch a reenactment of a battle isn’t in the cards, there is still an option to get in on the action. Tonight and tomorrow, more than 30 people will be “live-tweeting” William Quantrill’s 1863 raid on Lawrence, Kansas — one of the bloodiest events in Kansas history that left nearly 200 people dead and much of the town burned. Tweeters have created accounts for figures integral to the battle — townspeople, Union soldiers and proslavery leader William Quantrill — that will be used to recreate the act of terrorism minute-by-minute. Follow the hashtag #QR1863 to be transported to another time and place. I guess you can call it Twitter time travel!

Sinkhole Swallows Resort Near Disney World

Visitors staying at a resort near Disney World in Orlando, Florida said they heard loud “popping” and “cracking” just before a 60-foot-wide sinkhole opened up underneath them last night. A three-story building collapsed and another slowly sank into the 15-foot-deep hole. Luckily, all the guests staying at the affected buildings at Summer Bay Resort — an estimated 35 people — were safely evacuated just before the ground gave way.

Passersby are no doubt ogling at the buckled resort buildings this morning, as they have been doing in western Kansas, where tourists are flocking to a 200-foot-wide sinkhole. Despite warnings from the landowner and town law enforcements, visitors are coming from miles around for the rare chance of getting to watch the earth open up.

Sinkhole Tourism: ‘It’s Just Human Nature To Want To See The Hole’

If watching the earth open up wide and swallow itself is your thing — and it apparently is for more than a few people — western Kansas is currently the place to be. That’s where, in a pasture in Wallace County, a 200-foot-wide sinkhole has become a tourist attraction.

The Examiner’s Roz Zurko reports:

The town’s sheriff is warning people to stay away, but you know how that goes. People have to get a look at this opening supplied by Mother Nature.

The landowner is doing his best to keep people away from the sinkhole before someone gets hurt. The town officials have called in experts on sinkholes to get some advice on where to go from here as the hole grows.

Sightseer Gavin Mote told local news station KWCH 12, “I’d seen pictures and I knew it was deep, but I didn’t think it was this deep. You get out here and you get a whole different perspective on how deep it is.” Some geologists believe a mix of water and salt about 1,000 feet below the surface caused the event. Nobody is sure, though, if or when the sinkhole might expand. So those curious onlookers are all potential victims if it grows.

Potential danger, apparently, doesn’t scare sinkhole tourists. The Kansas sinkhole is just the latest to draw in tourists. Other places to check them out, according to Gadling’s Jamie Rhein, include:

Morristown, Tennessee, Sink Holes Trail in Panther Creek State Park, Morristown, Tennessee. The trail leads past seven limestone sinkholes.

Rockspring, Texas. Devil’s Sinkhole– The 360-foot deep sinkhole is Texas’s 3rd largest cave and summer home to a slew of bats. At dusk you can watch them come out in droves. Join a tour at the Rockspring Visitor’s Center.

Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, 17 miles from Heber, Arizona. Sinkhole Trail-The trail leads to a sinkhole and then down into it where the landscape makes a dramatic change.

Follow the trail here to more sinkhole hotspots.

Also see: Corvette Museum Sinkhole Swallows Eight ‘Vettes: Watch Them Sink

Photo Gallery: Abandoned Amusement Park

Is there anything more creepy than an abandoned amusement park? Because everything I find truly perverse and creepy pretty much goes hand in hand with abandoned amusement parks.

That’s why the below gallery by Kansas photographer Brandon Vogt is so powerful. Vogt visited Joyland (an oxymoron if ever there was one), a shuttered theme park in Wichita, KS, and shot a series of 33 haunting images. From the death’s head roller coaster to the abandoned log jam house, Vogt’s photos evoke a sense of nostalgia mixed with primal fear. At least, that’s my take. Impressive work.

For complete gallery, click here.

[All images by Brandon Vogt]

Barbed Wire Museums Take On A Prickly Subject

I’ve always loved museums on obscure subjects because they teach you how overlooked objects can have a big influence. Barbed wire is one of those objects.

While various inventors started experimenting with barbed wire in the 1850s, the founder of barbed wire is generally considered to be Joseph Glidden, whose 1873 design soon stretched across the American West. Before then, it was nearly impossible to enclose the vast rangelands of the West. There were constant fights over whose animals were on whose land. With the advent of barbed wire, land became enclosed, and the fights turned to passage rights and boundary disputes.

It’s often said barbed wire tamed the Old West, and while that’s true it also led to its demise. The West became more organized; freedom of movement suffered, and bigger and bigger ranches began to enclose huge swaths of land. Barbed wire was a boon to some and a curse to others. Many called it “the Devil’s rope” or “the Devil’s hatband.”

There are three major museums devoted to this humble but important invention. The Joseph F. Glidden Homestead & Historical Center in DeKalb, Illinois, is devoted to the inventor of barbed wire and his carefully restored home, barn and blacksmith shop. The museum has a blacksmith who gives live demonstrations of his traditional craft including, of course, wire making.

%Gallery-155001%The Devil’s Rope Museum on Route 66 in McLean, Texas, has a huge collection of barbed wire. The original design inspired countless variants and supposed improvements. Also, thefts of barbed wire led manufacturers to design specific wires for large companies and ranches. Hundreds of these variants are on display, as well as art created from barbed wire and a room devoted to the history of Route 66.

Over in LaCrosse, Kansas, there’s the Kansas Barbed Wire Museum, which has more than 2,000 varieties of wire as well as wire-making tools and displays of barbed wire being used in peace and at war. It’s the headquarters of the Antique Barbed Wire Society, one of several societies of collectors and historians. Yes, there are collectors for everything, and with so many variants of wire and so much history for each one, the hobby has attracted some devoted followers.

Lots of historical societies and pioneer museums have small displays of barbed wire, so the next time you pass one on the highway, stop by and check it out. Just remember: look, but don’t touch!

[Image courtesy Coyote Grafix via flickr]