Thursday, August 31, 2006

New Mexico Booklet (1942)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

"Ghost Riders in the Sky" by Stan Jones

Ghost Riders in the Sky

(Stan Jones)

An old cowpoke went riding out
One dark and windy day,
Upon a ridge he rested as
He went along his way,
When all at once a mighty herd
Of red eyed cows he saw,
A-plowin' through the ragged skies
And up a cloudy draw.

Yippee-yi-ya, yippee-yi-yo,
The ghost herd in the sky.

Their brands were still on fire and
Their hooves were made of steel,
Their horns were black and shiny and
Their hot breath he could feel,
A bolt of fear shot through him as
He looked up in the sky,
For he saw the riders comin' hard
And he heard their mournful cry:

Yippee-yi-ya, yippee-yi-yo,
Ghost riders in the sky.

Their faces gaunt, their eyes were blurred,
Their shirts all soaked with sweat,
They're riding hard to catch that herd,
But they ain't caught 'em yet,
'cause they've got to ride forever on
That range up in the sky,
On horses snortin' fire, as
They ride on hear their cry:

Yippee-yi-ya, yippee-yi-yo,
Ghost riders in the sky.

As the cowpokes went on past him
He heard one call his name,
“If you want to save your soul from hell
A-riding on our range,
Then, cowboy, change your ways today,
Or with us you will ride,
A-trying to catch the devil's herd
Across these endless skies”.

Yippee-yi-ya, yippee-yi-yo,
Ghost riders in the sky.

The name Stan Jones doesn't pop up in too many country music reference books, but most fans of cowboy songs and Western movie soundtrack music, not to mention the music of Gene Autry, the Sons of the Pioneers, Vaughn Monroe, and Johnny Cash, know his name, as the author of "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky."

Stanley Davis Jones was born in Arizona in 1915 and became a forest ranger. He had an interest in music, could sing a little and play a guitar, and occasionally wrote songs in his spare time. In the fall of 1948, he was assigned as a technical advisor on a Columbia Pictures movie called The Walking Hills, starring Randolph Scott and Ella Raines and directed by John Sturges, when the crew was doing their location shooting in Death Valley. During a slow point in the work, Jones pulled out his guitar and started singing some of those songs and was told by Scott and the rest of the crew that the songs might go nicely in Western movies and that he should try and sell them to the Hollywood studios.

Jones followed their advice and tried to publish some of his songs (including "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky," which owed its melody to "When Johnny Comes Marching Home"), only to have them turned down by the music companies that he approached -- one even said that "Riders" was too dirgeful and funereal. He recorded that song and a few others on his own, and composer Eden Ahbez (best known for the hit "Nature Boy") heard "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky" and brought it to Burl Ives, who cut it for Columbia Records. It was later picked up by Bing Crosby, Gene Autry, and Vaughn Monroe, as well as dozens of others, and Jones had a new career and major Hollywood representation.

By 1950, Jones was writing songs for major motion pictures, including Ford's Rio Grande, starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara -- Ford learned of Jones' songs when actors Harry Carey Jr. and Ben Johnson brought him and his music to the director in person, during shooting -- where they were sang by the Sons of the Pioneers, and he was being looked at by Walt Disney Studios, where he signed on as a composer and recording artist. He wrote and recorded individual songs and began releasing albums in 1961 with Ghost Riders in the Sky, followed by Creakin' Leather a year later and the concept album This Was the West.

Jones' other credits include the beautiful theme music to the Warner Bros. television series Cheyenne, written in collaboration with Hollywood veteran William Lava -- indeed, some viewers say the title theme was the best part of the program -- and the title theme from the landmark John Ford Western The Searchers. "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky" remains one of the most popular and often-covered post-World War II country & western songs, constantly re-recorded and old recordings constantly revived. ~ Bruce Eder, All Music Guide

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Haunted Shack, Knott's Berry Farm, Ca. (1954 - 2000)

During the early part of the century, a strange roadside phenomena occurred. Places where the geomagnetic forces appeared to be mis-aligned... places where gravity and light were distorted. People promoted the gimmick as a tourist attraction where round objects and streams run uphill, folks walked on walls, brooms stand on end.
Such sites were:
• The Mystery Shack at Calico Ghost Town, Yermo, CA
• The Mystery Spot, Santa Cruz, CA
• The Oregon Vortex House of Mystery Gold Hill, OR
• Confusion Hill Gravity House, Percy, CA
• Cosmos of the Black Hills, Rapid City, SD
• The Teton Mystery, Jackson, WY
• Confusion Hill, Ligonier, PA
• The Wonder Spot, Lake Delton, WI
• Mystery Spot, St. Ignace, MI
• Mystery Hill, Irish Hills, MI & Marblehead, OH
• Mysterious Tuttle House, North Woodstock, NH
• Mystery Hill, Blowing Rock, NC
• Mystery Shack, NC
• Spook Hill, Lake Wales, FL
• Casa Magnetica, Arlington, TX
• Magnetic Mine Shack, Brainerd, MN
• Mystery Shack, Maggie Valley, NC
Knott's Berry Farm had a haunted shack that was moved directly from the ghost town of Calico, CA. Fortunately for Walter Knott and his family business, he moved it to another, equally powerful geomagnetic anomaly!!! The house of strange phenomena was opened in June of 1954. Daily tours revealed the gravity defying mysteries as told by Slanty Sam in "The Legend of the Haunted Shack."
Your wisecracking guide walked you through a mysterious shack where water ran uphill, chairs balanced precariously on walls, and bad jokes abound. For a sample of the humor you were subjected to, a barrel in the waiting area warned you of its dangerous "Baby Rattlers." It was filled with very small rattles. News of the planned replacement of Knott's Haunted Shack hit the public in early 2000. Due to the attraction's age, operational cost, declining attendance and lack of ADA (Americans With Disabilities) requirements, Knott's decided to remove the attraction to allow room for a new roller coaster. This news was met by great sadness from both enthusiasts and normal, everyday patrons. The Shack was a staple of Knott's Berry Farm, and a reminder of the slower and more unique attractions which used to dominate the Farm.
The Haunted Shack's last patrons went through in September 2000, right before it was transformed into Dead Man's Wharf for Halloween Haunt. As soon as Haunt closed for the season, the Shack closed forever. As soon as the final Haunt props were removed, the destruction began.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Chris-Pin Martin (1893 - 1953)

Chris-Pin Martin was born in Tucson, Arizona of Mexican parents. He made his earliest film appearance in 1911, playing an Indian. Wall-eyed and chubby, with a distinctive high-pitched voice, Martin provided comic relief in dozens of B westerns, notably as Cesar Romero's sidekick Pancho in the "Cisco Kid" films of the 1930s.

He is also memorable as Chris in "Stagecoach" (1939) and as Gordito in "The Mark of Zorro" (1940). His other credits include "Billy the Kid" (1930), "The Ox-Bow Incident" (1943), "The Fugitive" (1947), and "Mexican Hayride" (1948). His last film was "Mesa of Lost Women" (1953) in which he played Pancho the Jeep Driver. Martin died of a heart attack at 59, while addressing a Moose Lodge meeting in Montebello, California.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Cowboy Songs (1937)

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Treasure Chest of Cowboy Songs (1935)

Friday, August 25, 2006

Gems and Minerals - (Sept. 1969)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Haunted Lemp Mansion, St. Louis, Missouri

America's First Lager Beer Brewers

When John Adam Lemp arrived in St. Louis from Eschwege, Germany in 1838, he seemed no different from the thousands of other immigrants who poured into the Gateway to the West during the first half of the 19th century. Lemp originally sought his fortune as a grocer. But his store was unique for its ability to supply an item sold by none of his competitors - lager beer. Lemp had learned the art of brewing the effervescent beverage under the tutelage of his father in Eschwege, and the natural cave system under St. Louis provided the perfect temperature for aging beer. Lemp soon realized that the future of lager beer in America was as golden as the brew itself, and in 1840 he abandoned the grocery business to build a modest brewery at 112 S. Second Street. A St. Louis industry was born. The brewery enjoyed marvelous success and John Adam Lemp died a millionaire.

William J. Lemp succeeded his father as the head of the brewery and he soon built it into an industrial giant. In 1864 a new plant was erected at Cherokee Street and Carondolet Avenue. The size of the brewery grew with the demand for its product and it soon covered five city blocks.

In 1870 Lemp was by far the largest brewery in St. Louis and the Lemp family symbolized the city's wealth and power. Lemp beer controlled the lion's share of the St. Louis market, a position it held until Prohibition. In 1892 the brewery was incorporated as the William J. Lemp Brewing Co. In 1897 two of the brewing industry's titans toasted each other when William Lemp's daughter, Hilda, married Gustav Pabst of the noted Milwaukee brewing family.

The Family

The demise of the Lemp empire is one of the great mercantile mysteries of St. Louis. The first major fissure in the Lemp dynasty occurred when Frederick Lemp, William's favorite son and the heir apparent to the brewery presidency, died under mysterious circumstances in 1901. Three years later, William J. Lemp shot himself in the head in a bedroom at the family mansion, apparently still grieving the loss of his beloved Frederick. William J. Lemp, Jr. succeeded his father as president.

Tragedy continued to stalk the Lemps with startling ardor. The brewery's fortunes continued to decline until Prohibition (1919) closed the plant permanently. William Jr.'s sister Elsa, who was considered the wealthiest heiress in St. Louis, committed suicide in 1920. On June 28, 1922, the magnificent Lemp brewery, which had once been valued at $7 million and covered ten city blocks, was sold at auction to International Shoe Co. for $588,500. Although most of the company's assets were liquidated, the Lemps continued to have an almost morbid attachment for the family mansion. After presiding over the sale of the brewery, William J. Lemp, Jr. shot himself in the same building where his father died eighteen years earlier. His son, William Lemp III, was forty-two when he died of a heart attack in 1943. William Jr.'s brother, Charles, continued to reside at the house after his brother's suicide. An extremely bitter man, Charles led a reclusive existence until he too died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The body was discovered by his brother, Edwin.

In 1970, Edwin Lemp died of natural causes at the age of ninety.

The Mansion

The Lemp Mansion was built in the early 1860's and was subsequently purchased by William J. Lemp as a residence and auxiliary brewery office. Although it was already an impressive structure, Lemp used his massive brewery fortune to turn the thirty-three room house into a Victorian showplace.

The radiator system was installed in 1884, five years after radiant heat was patented. The grand staircase was removed to accommodate an open-air lift that ran the gamut of the house. The decorative iron gates in the basement restaurant are all that remain of the elevator. In 1904 the house was completely renovated. To the left of the main entrance is the former brewery office, where William Jr. committed suicide. The decorative mantle is Italian marble.

To the right is the parlor, with its hand-painted ceiling and intricately carved mantles of African mahogany. Behind the parlor is an atrium where the Lemps kept exotic plants and birds. The main bathroom is dominated by a unique glass-enclosed, free-standing shower that Lemp discovered in an Italian hotel and brought back to St. Louis for his personal use. Other unusual fixtures in the room are a barber chair and a sink with glass legs. At the rear of the house are three massive vaults that the Lemps built to store great quantities of art objects. The Lemps were such avid art collectors that they could not display all of their acquisitions. Each vault is fifteen feet wide, twenty-five feet deep, and thirteen feet high.

The bedrooms were on the second floor. The main bathroom has a white granite shower stall and a marble and cast-iron mantle. The servants' quarters were located on the third floor, which boasts cedar walk-in closets, a skylight and an observation deck. The mansion does not have a ballroom in the traditional sense because the Lemps built an auditorium, ballroom and swimming pool in a natural underground cavern that could be reached from a now-sealed tunnel in the basement. Another tunnel led from the house to the brewery.

The wine and beer cellars, laundry and kitchen were located in the basement. The huge kitchen that once served the elite of St. Louis society has been completely modernized and now serves the honored guest of the historic Lemp Mansion Restaurant.

Here is more information taken from the The Phoenix Blog....

Here’s a quick list of just SOME of the reported activity: The attic is haunted by “Monkey Boy.” People have reported seeing his face in the windows, objects moving, and footsteps.

The downstairs women’s restroom used to be William Jr’s study. There, women have reported a man peeking over the stalls, only to find the restroom empty. In William Sr.’s room, people have reported hearing someone running up the stairs and kicking the door. It’s said that when Sr. shot himself, William Jr. came running up and kicked the bedroom door down to get to his father.

A tour guide heard horses neighing and galloping towards his window. It was just a parking lot, and there were no horses there. When the lot was expanded, they found evidence that the area just outside that window had been used to tether horses.

Childrens’ voices have been heard throughout the house. One guest heard a child say, “help me” over and over again. And another visitor heard, “Come play with me” several times. The bar area has had several incidents as well.

Workers have witnessed glasses lifting into the air and moving on their own, voices coming from nowhere, and the piano playing by itself. As you can imagine the “Cherokee Cave” running underneath the mansion is also quite haunted.

Sounds of weeping and strange sights have been reported. Long before the Lemps built
their mansion, it’s said that a young American Indian couple, hid in the cave and starved to death – and that story was verified when white explorers did find bones of two people in the cave (near Jefferson Ave. and Arsenal for you St. Louisans). Cherokee Cave There have been many ghost hunters and researchers visiting the mansion and trying to find evidence of it being haunted. Needless to say, they don’t have to work very hard to find it.

Tours Are Available, please call 314-664-8024

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Injun Joe's Cave

Written off and on from 1872-75 by Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was published in 1876, by the American Publishing Co. In it, Twain introduces us to a character named, “Injun Joe”.

Injun Joe was horsewhipped by Judge Douglas for vagrancy, and this led to a lifelong burning for revenge against the Judge, and later on, his widow. Injun Joe also uncovered loot in a haunted house and buried it in a cave; however, around the same time, Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher were trapped in the cave and soon rescued, leading to the entrance to the cave being sealed and Injun Joe being trapped inside, leading to his demise.

The story is memorialized by a tamer version of Injun Joe's Cave on Tom Sawyer Island at Disneyland. A man-made cavern, which Disney renamed Injun Joe's Cave to fit the island's theme, runs from one side of Tom Sawyer Island to the other. It is a dark, spooky passage, filled with fossils, low rocks for adults to bang their heads against, and a bottomless pit half filled with drink cups and fallen Mickey Mouse hats.

From Mark Twain's Autobiography the cave is described:

Injun Joe, the half-breed, got lost in there once, and would have starved to death if the bats had run short. But there was no chance of that; there were myriads of them. He told me all his story. In the book called Tom Sawyer I starved him entirely to death in the cave, but that was in the interest of art; it never happened.

The cave was an uncanny place, for it contained a corpse - the corpse of a young girl of fourteen. It was in a glass cylinder inclosed in a copper one which was suspended from a rail which bridged a narrow passage. The body was preserved in alcohol, and it was said that loafers and rowdies used to drag it up by the hair and look at the dead face. The girl was the daughter of a St. Louis surgeon of extraordinary ability and wide celebrity. He was an eccentric man and did many strange things. He put the poor thing in that forlorn place himself.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Django (1966) & Django 2: Il Grande Ritorno (1987) Trailers

Django (1966) Directed by Sergio Corbucci

Originally banned in Britain for its comic-strip iconoclasm and graphic violence, this rates alongside Leone's 'Dollars' trilogy as one of the daddies of the spaghetti/paella Western. Nero's mud-spattered ex-Yankee soldier, first seen squelching towards a US-Mexican border ghost town, a coffin forever in tow, has every Western hero's quality in extremis. His speed-of-light gunslinger outlaw has a romantic heart - his wife was killed by one of Major Jackson's henchmen. Corbucci's style is a mix of social realism, highly decorative visuals, and finely mounted action sequences. For the rest, there are enough mud-wrestling prostitutes, whippings, ear-loppings, explosions and scenes of wholesale slaughter to keep any muchacho happy.

Django 2: Il Grande Ritorno (1987) Directed by Ted Archer

In Django Strikes Again, the only official sequel of Corbucci's famous film, Franco Nero returns as Django who, now a sign of the times, resembles a cross between Keoma and Rambo more than the original Django. Shot entirely in Colombia and inspired by various genres, the result is a rather strange mixture, a sort of bad B-movie somewhere between a western, war and art house film.

Monday, August 21, 2006

"Mammy" Pleasant - San Francisco Voodoo Queen (1814-1904)

Mary Ellen "Mammy" Pleasant was born a slave on a plantation near Augusta, Georgia. She became an important western terminus of the underground railroad in San Francisco during the 1850s. By placing maids and servants throughout the homes of San Francisco's rich, she came to wield (secret) power among San Francisco's elite.

When Mary Ellen was 10, her mother gave her the name of her white plantation-owning father, and also disclosed that Mary Ellen was descended from a succession of Voodoo Queens of Santo Domingo. A year later, Mary Ellen was sold to a man in New Orleans, Americus Price, and he decided to place her in a convent where she would be educated, and eventually freed. Later he sent her to live with friends in Cincinnati, since her educated intelligence would have eventually betrayed her in the antebellum South.

Mary Ellen's life took her in and out of various families and situations in New England and Virginia. She married James W. Smith, a Virginia plantation-owner and abolitionist. Throughout the late 1830s and early 1840s Mr. and Mrs. Smith smuggled hundreds of slaves to Canada as couriers along the Underground Railroad. When Smith died in 1844, Mary Ellen continued to outrage southern planters by helping scores of slaves to escape.

Things became too hot and Mary Ellen made her way first to New Orleans where Marie Laveau, the voodoo queen, deeply impressed Mary Ellen with her social power among all levels of New Orleans society. Mary Ellen stayed in New Orleans for a few months and learned about the practice of voodoo from Marie Laveau, though she didn't plan to copy Laveau's version exactly. By 1852, Louisiana planters were urgently searching for Mary Ellen Pleasant as the crafty intrigante who would stop at nothing in smuggling slaves through the Underground.

She sometimes visited plantations dressed as a jockey, other times as a shabby man on a delivery wagon. After getting trained as a cook, Mary Ellen found a job on a local plantation, right under the noses of the local gentry. Overhearing speculation about her origins one night, Mary Ellen made a hasty escape, and took the four-month sea journey around Cape Horn, arriving in San Francisco on April 7, 1852. On the journey she met a Scottish fellow named Thomas Bell, over whom she would maintain a powerful influence throughout the next three decades, as they both became millionaires speculating on mining and banking interests. By her death in 1904, Mammy had lost most of her fortune, and a good deal of Thomas Bell's as well.

Thomas Bell became a director of the all-powerful Bank of California and Mammy was his closest (and secret) advisor. Meanwhile, she bought and sold dozens of properties, running boarding houses and specializing in developing "proteg's" (i.e. beautiful young women) whom she would endeavor to marry off to the nouveau riche miners and bankers that frequented her boarding houses. She also built a house, then far out of town, known as the "Geneva Cottage," at the corner of the San Jose road and Geneva (now the corner of Geneva and Bayshore Boulevard near the toxic wasteland of the Southern Pacific railyards and the Brisbane lagoon), which was the infamous site of numerous wild bacchanalian parties, attended by wealthy San Franciscan men and a bevy of beautiful young women.

The mysterious death of one young woman at the Geneva Cottage led to a consolidation of Mammy's influence as she collected blackmail from the attendees to keep quiet the circumstances of her death. Other associates of Mammy also died mysteriously, often after trying to turn the blackmailing tables on Mammy, but she was never accused, tried, or convicted of any such crime.

Her lust for power was pursued through several primary techniques: she continued to sponsor runaway slaves as hundreds arrived in SF thanks to her aid. These people she placed in businesses and homes of the city, and they became her ears on the town. She sponsored and housed a number of young women, many of whom continued to follow her wishes for years. She spent a lot of her large fortune on the poor and destitute, earning considerable good will and power. She also used her position as madame to gain control through blackmail over many of the richest men in San Francisco, even helping them dispose of various children their dalliances gave rise to. And finally, Mary Ellen "Mammy" Pleasant used her talent with the voodoo religious rites to control her followers through religious terror.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

"The Happy Cowboy" Songbook (1934)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Tony Lama Boot Ad Featuring Slim Pickens (1966)

Friday, August 18, 2006

Ancient art of water witching survives the centuries


Tuesday, March 28, 2000

Don Klein is a down-home sort, a plain-talking, snoose-chewin' retired dairyman who describes himself as a Ford man and "an honest Dutchman."
Decor in his Arlington farmhouse is strictly cow-&-country, with pictures of his prize-winning jerseys on the wall, a wood pellet stove for heat, and racks of mesh baseball caps gathered over decades: There's The Whey Man hat, a B.T.F. Trucking and Hay Sales hat, the goin'-to-town Land O' Lakes hat, and a hat with two lusty elk makin' bacon.

The tools of his controversial calling aren't highfalutin either: a vine maple branch with a slingshot crotch, the sucker off an apple tree, steel survey stakes.
But there's something else at play here. Something intangible, mysterious. Call it a gift. Call it voodoo, as some skeptical geologists do. Or call it The Force.

Resistance is futile. Or so say local practitioners of the ancient art of water witching, who describe tightly clutching sticks that suddenly pull, twist, jerk and wrench as they pass over underground water deposits.

"My hands have been rubbed raw from the sticks," says Klein, one of the region's better-known witches -- also called dowsers or diviners. "If it's a strong vein of water, it can break the stick."
White-knuckling his forked stick, eyes clenched in concentration, Klein has dowsed for real-estate developers, well drillers, Microsoft executives and other private property owners, from doctors to county building inspectors.

"There's probably not a driller in Snohomish County who hasn't used him," says Greg Halverson at Affordable Water Systems in Mount Vernon.

Klein's most recent job was witching water for a new real-estate development on a sheer bluff above the Stillaguamish River.
"They had one well up there at 400 feet, and they were sucking sand," says the retired dairyman, whose earnest little Winnie-the-Pooh eyebrows dance above oversize glasses. "I've got two up there so far, one at 130 feet and one at 116 feet, and they've both got all kinds of water."

Klein is one of a handful of local witchers who purport to not only locate underground water, but to estimate its depth, describe the rock and soil layers above it, and gauge the number of gallons per minute that a well might yield at the site.

The forked stick is his locator. He uses the survey stakes to mark the drilling site -- often at a spot where he says two underground water sources cross. The apple-tree sucker is for estimating depth and soil conditions.

He sets the flexible sucker in motion, judging the depth of the water by the number of bounces. If the bouncer stick slows, he says, it could mean there is hard pan or heavy clay below. "If there are small boulders, it will twirl. And if it stops, there's a good chance it's a big boulder."

Klein does up to a hundred witchings some years, many at the behest of well-drilling companies whose clients request a dowser. When a 400-foot hole comes up dry, it can drain the pocketbook some $10,000, and many new property owners are eager to hedge their bets before the digging begins.

At $75 to $150 a pop, a witching session may seem a bargain.

"It's not that it's 100 percent, but it's another ace in the hole," says Halverson. The Mount Vernon well driller estimates about 30 percent of his sites have been dowsed before he starts to work -- sometimes by a family member, sometimes by a known witcher like Klein.

"Most of the time, people think they can do it, but they really can't," says Halverson.
Dowsers have different reads on who, exactly, has "the gift."

The American Society of Dowsers maintains everyone is born with the capability. But Joe Nunes, a Camano Island well driller who does double-duty as his own witcher, estimates only one in a thousand can do it.

Klein isn't sure. He has been witching almost 40 of his 62 years, and learned it from his brother. He tried to teach his own children, "but it just doesn't work for them. Why, I just don't know."
Maybe The Force is with him.
Maybe he is the force.

Professional skeptic James Randi, a former escape artist dedicated to debunking paranormal claims, attributes the witching phenomenon to what he calls the "ideomotor effect." He suggests that an idea or thought process evokes an involuntary body movement in the dowser, and the dowser unknowingly exerts a small "shaking, tilt or pressure" to the witching device.

Controversy has followed dowsing throughout its tangled history. The earliest records of water witching are 6,000- to 8,000-year-old cave paintings in Africa that are believed to show a figure with divining rods.

The first detailed description of the practice was in a 1556 description of mining techniques in Germany. Mineral dowsing was adapted to water dowsing during the reign of Elizabeth I in England.

Many modern-day critics call dowsing a superstitious relic, a delusional pseudoscience, a deliberate sham.

"For a driller to witch for water or to recommend a witcher is as reprehensible as for a doctor to be or recommend a quack," writes geologist E.H. Boudreau in a widely circulated article for the Northern California Real Estate Reader.

A U.S. Geological Survey pamphlet on dowsing notes that the practice has been almost unanimously condemned by geologists and technicians. Many cite experiments that show dowsers scoring little higher than random guesses in controlled conditions.

"The natural explanation of 'successful' water dowsing is that in many areas water would be hard to miss," states a USGS pamphlet on dowsing.

Unearthly explanations don't sit well with earth scientists.

"As a trained water person, my opinion of someone locating water 300 to 500 feet underground holding a willow stick is that it's pretty much voodoo," says Jim Ross, a hydrogeologist at GeoEngineers in Redmond.

Even property owners who call in a dowser may be skeptical.

"There are a lot of people who don't believe it, a lot of people who are afraid of it," says well-driller/witcher Nunes, at Camano Well Drilling. "They believe it after they spend $30,000 to $40,000 and still don't find water. Then I come in and find 'em a well."

Despite centuries of condemnation, dowsing remains very much alive, and very little changed, in an age of fast-forward technology.

Dozens of countries have dowsing societies, from Britain and India to Argentina and Austria. The dowsers of France have a national union. A team of German scientists has combined water engineering with dowsing skills to locate village wells in historically difficult, semi-arid regions of developing countries.

The practice is all over the map, but so are the practitioners.

Dowsers seldom agree on the hows, whats and whys of witching. Some use metal L-shaped rods of copper or steel, gripped tightly below the bend. Some insist on traditional Y-shaped sticks, often limber branches of willow, peach or witch hazel. The sticks are held stem-to-sky, hands clutching the forks, palms up.

"The forked stick is the true test," says Nunes. "You put tension on the stick so it kinda bows, squeeze as tight as you can and start walking. The stick actually twists in your hand."

But does it go up or down?

The stem of Nunes' "Y" heads to the sky. Klein's heads to the earth. There are similar discrepancies with the L-rods. Some dowsers' metal rods will cross, some will fly backward.

Nor are rods the gold standard. Keys, scissors, wire coat hangers, pliers have all been used to dowse. And some dowsers use pendulums -- maybe a simple hex nut secured on a string -- or bobbers. A bobber might be a fresh shoot off a tree, a sturdy wire, even the plastic tip of a fishing rod.

Some practitioners claim to enter into an alpha state, or a trance, to dowse. Even Klein holds mental pictures in his head as he witches.
"When you're doing it, it's a state of mind," he says. "It's what you're thinking is what you get."

But few agree on how far a witcher's powers extend.

The psychic Uri Geller -- whose spoon-bending tricks were challenged by skeptics -- reportedly found riches for international mineral companies simply by dowsing a map. Map-dowsing for buried treasure, or veins of gold, or even water, is still a hot topic.

Some witchers claim to locate human bodies, find downed planes, track storms, dowse for disease in a human body, analyze a person's character, determine the sex of an unborn child, determine if signatures are forged, or track submarines.

Fred Welk, a witcher based in Medina, belongs to a decidedly more modest school.

Welk claims only to find water. He doesn't do depth. He doesn't do soil. He doesn't estimate gallonage. And he doesn't form pictures in his head. He just grips his L-shaped copper rods and lets them do the talking.

"They've got to do whatever they do, no matter what I'm thinking about," says the tall, fit, white-haired 78-year-old retiree.

What they do is whang back at 90-degree angles as he locates an underground spring. Welk delicately dances back and forth over the site, a Fred Astaire for the wet set. The rods flap like elongated arms with each motion. "You can feel it. Whatever forces there are, they are there," he says.

Welk has a Web site (, but like most local witchers, he gets the bulk of his clients from word-of-mouth recommendations. "The bad part of it is so many people call after they have already spent $4,000 or $5,000 drilling at random. In desperation they call around and find my name."

One of his clients is Lynn Cash, who called on Welk after watching her neighbor in Woodinville drill three dry holes before finding water -- at a cost of $28,000.

"I was really doubtful of the whole process," says Cash. "I thought, well, I'll give it a shot. Otherwise, you're just taking a chance.

"We found water, and it only cost us $6,000."

Fred Welk has a theory that the powers of witching have to do with electrical currents coursing through human bodies. As evidence, he holds two wires attached to an ohmmeter. The needle flies far to the right.

Others suggest the attraction has to do with empathy, magnetic fields, the chemistry of a body, or simply belief.

"Water doesn't really attract anything," says Gene Hitt, at Gene's Well Drilling in Stanwood. "I don't care if you use a stick or wires -- but if someone believes, you aren't going to change their mind."

Certainly no one is going to change the mind of Tom Leary, at Leary Construction Company in Ballard. The water-main contractor keeps a set of witching rods on his backhoe at all times. And he's not apologetic.

"People think you're crazy, but we use them all the time," says Leary. "When I dig down, I want to make sure there is something there."

The contractor uses welding rods bent into the L shape to search out the water mains that evade their metal detectors.

When he hits water, says Leary, "it whips 'em right around."
He doesn't guess at the reason. "I don't know. I really don't."
But he likes the results. "We're right on the money with it most times."

And most times beats the alternative.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

"Chief Wahoo" Cleveland Indians Mascot

According to the Cleveland Indians organization, its mascot, Chief Wahoo, was not created to offend American Indians, but to honor them. The team says both the team name and Chief Wahoo pay homage to an early baseball player, Louis Sockalexis, one of the first American Indians to play professional baseball.

Born in 1871 on a Maine reservation, Sockalexis rose to become a college baseball superstar at Holy Cross and Notre Dame.

Then called the Cleveland Spiders, the professional National League organization signed Sockalexis, a Penobscot Indian, in 1897. His first season, Sockalexis batted .338 with eight triples and 16 stolen bases.

Racism wasn't a stranger to the baseball stadiums. Spectators would shout racial slurs and emulate war dances at him when he was up at bat.

Later that year, his promising career was cut short by an ankle injury, which occurred when a drunk Sockalexis jumped from a second-story window at a party. The injury forced him to an occasional appearance on Cleveland's lineup for the next two seasons. His baseball career was over by age 27.

The injury prompted press reports to cite another American Indian stereotype — alcohol abuse — as the reason his career ended.

In 1915, two years after Sockalexis died at age 42, the Cleveland team — no longer called the Spiders but the Naps — changed its name to the Cleveland Indians.

The ballclub maintains that the name change was to honor Sockalexis, though critics doubt the motive.

In 1948, the Indians' owner at the time, Bill Veeck, commissioned a 17-year-old named Walter Goldbach to design a mascot. The result: an orange-faced Indian with a large nose and big teeth later dubbed Chief Wahoo.

The image underwent several revisions in the next several decades in an attempt to quell complaints from American Indians that the caricature was racist.

In 1973, then-owner Nick Mileti asked for another revision to give Chief Wahoo a more politically correct look. That logo lasted for almost 10 years before more revisions eventually paved the way to the current Chief Wahoo.

Chief Wahoo Rubber Toy from the 1950s.

Chief Wahoo's MySpace Page

Anti-Chief Wahoo Site