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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Vulcan at Night

Last November I went on a whirlwind 6 day roadtrip where I bounced around the South from Kentucky to Texas.  I drove an average of 10 hours a day and  slept about 3.  The rest was spent basking in the glory of the opening road.

During the last day and a half I was running low on time and I had to start axing stops of the list. The last stop on my list was the Statue of Vulcan in Birmingham, AL.  However, time and sunlight was not on my side.  By the time I arrived at Vulcan it was the dark of night, but I found it wasn't a total loss as Vulcan was a glowing icon bathed in spotlights.


Vulcan was created in 1903 at the World Fair, which as I have found is one of the best sources of big giant useless-yet-amazing things.  Vulcan, who is the Roman God of Fire, was built to represent the steel industry in Birmingham.  The unbelievably huge Vulcan stands 56 feet and is the largest Iron statue in the world.  Sadly, Vulcan was essentially abandoned at the fair grounds for some time as he was simply to huge to move.  His spear was removed and he was used as a mascot and held up different items he was advertizing such as can of Coca-Cola and a jar of Heinz Pickles.

During the great Depression the WPA moved Vulcan to its current location on top of Red Mountain and planted on its ridiculously high pedestal.


You can take an elevator to the top of the massive pedestal.  Getting off the Elevator the first things you notice is that Vulcan inexplicably has a naked ass.


So, at the highest point in the city of Alabama stands a 56 foot states of a naked Pagan God.

I must say however, on a cold November Alabama night, the view was amazing.


It was a perfect end to an amazing trip.


The Carpetbagger

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Murdered Elephant and Weird Taxidermy: Miami County Museum


I'm a big fan of small town local museums.  Sure, a lot of it is going to be boring history and quilts, but there is almost some crazy artifact that will make your trip worthwhile.  One such museum was brimming with promise:  The Miami County Museum in Peru, IN.  (People in Indiana like to pretend they are in Florida, to help themselves feel warmer).


Peru Indiana bills itself as Circus Capitol of the World, which is enough to get me excited.  The main event is the Skull of Charley the Elephant.

You see Charley was a Circus Elephant, who like many circus Elephants before, him decided to murder his trainer.   After Charley joyfully drowned his trainer in a river the rest of the circus decided to kill Charley and filled his brain with bullets.

This is a surprisingly common occurrence across America, Elephant murders trainer and Elephant is executed.  One of these executed Elephants is the notorious Mary the Elephant, who was hung by the neck in Erwin, TN.  I have traveled to Erwin several times and despite having a wonderful local museum, there is no mention of Mary's execution.  In fact, it almost seems that the town is somewhat ashamed that they publicly executed an animal.

This is not the case in Peru, IN as Charlie's bullet ridden skull is front and center with arrows pointing to the bullet holes.



Now, this is the point were I give my one complaint about the Miami County Museum.  While photographing Charley's skull a lady came up to me and informed me that flash photography is not allowed in the museum.  She said that it damages the artifacts.

I'm sorry, but If the Smithsonian let's me take a flash photo of Abraham Lincoln's hat I think your Elephant skull will be fine.

Lincoln's Freaking Hat: Not seen in Peru, IN
There are several other artifacts worth mentioning at the Miami County Museum, such as world's tallest man ever Robert Wadlow's Overalls....


They also have some spectacular taxidermy, including the first time I have ever seen a taxidermied bald eagle, which I can't imagine was ever a legal thing to do.


As well, as a poor sea turtle that was turned to soup.  


They have a small cabinet of curiosities featuring a siamese pig.......


A two headed calf.....


And a freaky rabbit with giant feet.


Definitely worth a stop if for some reason you are forced to travel through Indiana, just watch the flash on your camera, or it might cause the stuffed bald eagle to melt.

The Carpetbagger

I love hearing from people please comment below.  Also, feel free to email me at jacobthecarpetbagger@gmail.com

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The State of the Confederate Flag


After flying for 150 years the confederate flag has hit a sudden dip in popularity.  Actually, the flag has pretty much been controversial since it was invented, but the recent racially motivated murders in Charleston, SC have brought the controversy to the forefront.   In the video below I give some thoughts on the flag.


Continuing to follow this controversy, I tracked down a convoy of confederate flags and spoke to their leader.


I also had an opportunity to interview Toby Hatfield, a  man who originally set out to walk to the Nation's Capitol with the Confederate Flag.


The Carpetbagger

I love hearing from people please comment below.  Also, feel free to email me at jacobthecarpetbagger@gmail.com

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Monday, July 13, 2015

Funtown Mountain: Guntown Mountain Reborn


Back in 2011 I rolled into Cave City, KY to soak in some roadside goodness.  After visiting the Mammoth Cave Wax Museum and Wildlife Museum I noticed a interesting billboard.


Guntown Mountain, a true roadside relic, was one of the last of the Wild West Towns that used to be a staple of the American Vacation.  Guntown Mountain is much in the same vein as Ghost Town in the Sky in Maggie Valley, NC.  Must like Ghost Town the only way to the top is in an ancient Chair Lift.


After a nostalgic, yet rickety ride to the top I was dumped off into a charming little replica of a an old western town.


Sadly, most the building were just facades and were not functional.  The undertaker's shop did contain this fellow.


The "Lucky Lady Saloon" was open.....


Featuring this delightful mannequin bartender.....


Fairly soon after I arrived the main event begin: The Gunfight.  Unlike Ghost Town Gunfight, the Guntown fight did not have an M.C., but rather a prerecorded narration.  The fight itself was pretty no frills.

Some hooligans harass and rob a poor sap....


Then "The Stranger" rolls into town.......


Before you can blink the Stranger mows down the villains.........


The show is over and their are dead cowboys everywhere.....


An extremely bare bones gunfight compared to Ghost Town, who incorporate stunt work and comedy into their fights.

Before the shock wares off and the children start crying, the cowboys hop up and pose for pictures with tourists.


Apparently they also did hangings, but I didn't get a chance to witness one.  Actually, that seems kinda messed up.


Guntown did not last much longer after my visit.  Guntown sat shuttered and was at risk of being demolished.  That is until Kentucky businessman and noted local eccentric Will Russell purchased the Mountain reopened it this year under the new moniker "Funtown Mountain".  Russell has re-imagined Funtown as not only a celebration of the American Roadside, but also a celebration of American pop culture.   One thing that is being eliminated  is the gunfights, which Russell felt glorified violence. 


The lower half of the park opened this June and I had a chance to visit a week after it opened.  The Old West Town on top of the Mountain is still under construction and is supposed to be open this fall.  Fortunately, they was plenty of roadside goodness to make my trip worthwhile.  One of the most noteworthy sections of Funtown to be open is its "Haunted Hotel".  The oldest Haunted Attraction in America.


Truly an old school walk through haunted attraction, the Hotel employs classic haunted house elements in order to terrify you.

Funtown also features a black-light putt-putt course, which in turn features a minature version of the Haunted Hotel.


Not to mention a little Lucky Lady Saloon as well.....


Why do all the buildings have eyeballs?

At this point Funtown is centered out of the Souvenir Shack.


Its a souvenir shack like none I have ever seen before.  Its packed with super weird kitchy antiques that are all for sale.


They also have a Wax Colonel Sanders...........


Uncle Sam.............


The Clown from Pee Wee's Big Adventure.....


An animatronic bear.....


The Kraken.....


and some creepy taxidermy......


Funtown also claims to have the World's Oldest Ham....


I hate to break it to them, but the Oldest Ham is in Smithfield, VA...........

They also have one of the coolest Old Timey Photo area which they call "Funtime Selfies"......


To see my entire trip through Funtown check out the video below.




The Carpetbagger

I love hearing from people please comment below.  Also, feel free to email me at jacobthecarpetbagger@gmail.com

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Friday, July 10, 2015

Biblical Mini Golf

 
I have talked about the roadside oddity that was Golgotha Mini Golf in the past.  A few years I stopped by and the place was pretty desolate, with only a few Jesuss remaining.  They tried to reopen with a race car theme, but that didn't last to long.


I stopped by a couple weeks back and it was depressingly grown over, almost all of the religious figures have been removed or stolen with only a few remaining out back.


Fortunately, all is not lost.  Later in the week I was able to stop at ANOTHER bible themed golf course in Lexington, KY.   Check out the video below as I take you on a walkthrough of this amazing religious golf course.


The Carpetbagger

I love hearing from people please comment below.  Also, feel free to email me at jacobthecarpetbagger@gmail.com

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Videos from Helen, GA


Helen, GA is a former asbestos mining town that found itself in hard times when the asbestos market collapsed.   The town lifted itself up with the spirit of tourism as it morphed into a misplaced German town in the Appalachian Mountains.

Let's take a look around town.....


I also took a look at an abandoned bear pit.....



And finally we take a look at the legendary Nacoochee Indian Mound....




The Carpetbagger

I love hearing from people please comment below.  Also, feel free to email me at jacobthecarpetbagger@gmail.com

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Howard Finster's Paradise Gardens


Howard Finster: The man that brought Folk Art to the masses.  Pretty much setting the bar for what Folk Art would become, Howard rocketed to main street fame by painting album covers for REM and the Talking Head.  Howard was a Baptist Minister, and may not have necessarily listened to the music and may not have agreed with everything they stood for, but he knew that his paintings, which were loaded with bible verses, would reach the masses through this venue and spread the word of his lord.


Though Finister is best known for his paintings, he also turned his home into a living work of art which he called his "Paradise Gardens".   One of the original "Folk Art Environments"

The Gardens still exist today and ownership has been passed around with a board of directors controlling it.  I know there is some controversy about the treatment of the Gardens and its preservation, but I don't know enough about this to explain it fully.


Of course I HAD to go see this Iconic Southern Location.  I know that the Gardens were always in a state a flux and it was hard to tell whether or not it was currently open to the public.   A few years back I was able to get in telephone contact with the current caretaker.  He was a very nice man and happily invited me down to visit the Gardens.  So I made plans and drove three hours to Summerville, GA.  When I got there my heart sank in my chest.  The Gardens were closed.  Locked up tight and surrounded by a fence.  I called the caretaker and asked why the Gardens were closed when I had previously confirmed that it would be open.  He informed me that they had shut down because it was too hot.  Too hot.

Okay, I will admit it was probably a solid 100 degrees outside, but this is the deep South and we are not supposed to be phased by this sort of this.   I sadly walked along the perimeter hoping I could take a few errant photos.  But God winked at me.  A giant tree had fallen on the fence and smashed it almost to the ground, creating a perfect bridge for me to enter the gardens.  I figures if God had not wanted me in the gardens he probably wouldn't have given me the bridge. 


I carefully entered the Gardens, took only pictures and left only footprints.

The Gardens were in an overgrown half wild state, which on one hand is kinda sad, but on the other hand kind of adds to the charm.






The gardens features fantastic art is all different mediums.....










Howard's resume is is painted on the individual windows of an old shack.


The gardens are full of strange and unusual structures built by Finster.....




One of the most magnificent structures is Finster's "Prayer Tower", which apparently has been sealed off for years, because of its lack of structural integrity.


A proper church exists on the property as well....



Howard was supposed to cremated and placed in the coffin at the front of the Church.


Sadly, Finster's wishes were not followed and he was buried in a family plot.

Of course there actually is a body immortalized at the Paradise Gardens....


A skeleton of an unidentified body was dug up locally.  The body was old and foul play was not suspected.  The local officials had no idea what to do with it, so they gave it to Finster because "It felt like the right thing to do".   The body was respectfully preserved by Finster.


I also love this "self portrait" of Howard Finster......


A wonderful place to visit and a great legacy left behind by a fascinating man.

The Carpetbagger

I love hearing from people please comment below.  Also, feel free to email me at jacobthecarpetbagger@gmail.com

Make sure you add me on Facebook and Instagram.

Check out my Youtube Page where I regularly post videos. 

And I can't forget my Flickr Photostream, where all this got started.