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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Bible Burning

In 2009 I had a great time sampling the Bible Belt's collection of alternative Halloween celebrations.  I went to my first Christian Haunted House.  I attended the Devil's Funeral.  But the strangest event I attended  was unquestionably the Halloween Bible Burning in Canton, NC.

What!?!  Burning bibles in the South?  Who would do such a sacrilegious thing?  Baptist Preacher Marc Grizzard, that's who.

Here is a photo of Grizzard from his very own facebook page.

Very Subtle Mr. Grizzard
So why would a baptist preacher burn bibles?  Grizzard felt that the ONLY Bible was the King James Version and all other interpretations are blasphemy.  He even denounced other Christian books, including anything by Billy Graham, going as far as calling Graham a heretic.

The sign outside Grizzard's church always had something interesting plastered on it.

Grizzard set off alarms all over the place when he declared that he was intending on setting fire to bibles on Halloween.  Not surprisingly, this wasn't a mainstream view and this angered quite a few Christians.  Quickly the Bible Burning was called off, not because of the negative backlash, but rather the fact that the local fire department reminded Grizzard that burning books was illegal in NC.  I guess this legislation was to discourage North Carolina Nazis.

Grizzard later decided that he would not be deterred by mortal fireman.  Grizzard announced that the Bible Burning was back on, however he forbid any non members from attending.

This is possibly the first time in history Christians have told people to not come to church.  Of course I had to show up just to see the fireworks.

Protestors showed up and declared they were against book burning.

It was pouring rain.  The irony was not lost on anyone, except for maybe Grizzard, who never made an appearance.  The owners of a neighboring business let people in to try to hear Grizzard through the wall.  All that could be heard was garbled fire and brimstone.

Of course the real crazy did not start until a Nazi showed up.

It turns out that he wasn't a real Nazi, but rather making a statement.  Never the less, it sure kicked up the circus-like atmosphere.

No one knows if any actual Bible's were burned, there was a rumor that they were shredded instead to keep with local fire code.

Grizzard faded into obscurity, appearing occasionally to post something really mean and crazy on his beloved sign.

I actually met Grizzard at one point, as he gave me a free CD of self recorded gospel songs at the county fair, but I didn't realize it was him.  I never actually listened to the CD.

Sadly, now Grizzard's church is closed and is replaced by Sassy Girl's Sweepstakes

The Carpetbagger
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Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Devil's Funeral

Halloween of 2009 was a fun time for me.  I took it upon myself to explore the bible belt alternative Halloween celebrations that were offered in my area.  I had the pleasure of seeing my first Christian Haunted House.

But the very same year I also had the honor of attending the Devil's Funeral.

A friend of my send me this picture in a text message.

My initial reaction was:  "I didn't even know he was sick."

My second reactions was:  "There is no way I am going to miss this!"

Me and my buddy showed up for the Devil's Funeral.  We just so happened to be the only 2 white people in attendance.

Now this was the first time I had ever attended an African American church service and I must say: In the words of Bart Simpson "Black God Rules!"

I have never been one to enjoy sitting in a church service.  Going to church as a kid was something I dreaded.  I was way too ADD to sit in one place for a whole hour.

I remember going to church growing up, everyone sat quietly, only to occasionally drone on together to sing a song out of the hymnal.  The black church had electricity in the air.  People were excited.  People made spontaneous declarations.  The congregation was laughing, smiling and shouting back positive feedback at the preacher.  It also seemed like EVERYONE in the congregation was a preacher.  Out of nowhere someone would stand up and start sharing their beliefs or a personal story.  The microphone was handed around liberally to anyone who wanted to share.

These people were so sincere and passionate I kinda felt guilty that I showed up primarily out of sheer curiosity.  I simply wanted to know what the Devil's Funeral was.

During the service sat a closed coffin.  I stared at it longingly wanting to know what was inside.  Occasionally one of the preachers would reference it or sling insults at it, but I sat waiting for the blow off.

Finally the big reveal came.  I was expecting this:

But it turned out to be this:

A mirror.  There was a mirror in the casket.  Because we are all the Devil. Expectations can be a dangerous thing.

Well, its turns out I didn't get to see the Devil's corpse, but I did get to experience 2 energy filled hours of black church, which is an experience I will always remember. 

The Carpetbagger
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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Christian Haunted House

The Christian faith has had a very troubled relationship with Halloween.  I'd say its safe to say the majority of Christians celebrate Halloween and consider it all in good fun, but the connection between the occult and satanism leaves some Christians a little leery of celebrating it.  Some Christian groups have chosen a unique way to celebrate this holiday, by incorporating aspects of their faith into the celebration.

A popular expression of this is the so called "Hell House".  This is a haunted house put on by a Christian group that often deals with Christian ideals and themes.  Some of these displays can be very controversial and deal with topics such as abortion or homosexuality.

I had long wanted to attend one of these Houses to have the experience.  The year was 2009, and I had my chance to attend the local "Eternity House".

First off, Eternity House was packed.  I waited in a line that rivaled Space Mountain.

The opening scene was gruesome, depicting a car accident, with some very dedicated actors laying motionless in the cold October night. 

As we head into the old barn converted into Eternity House, we get a small sampling of traditional haunted house antics as two kids in Satan masks shriek at us from an above loft.

We are then ushered into "Heaven".  The two friends who were killed in the car accident stand at the gate to see if their names are in the book.  The louder more obnoxious of the friends is sure he is going to heaven as he brags in a loud redneck accent.  His quieter friend is on the list, but unfouratetly the loud friend finds himself dragged off screaming.

Next we enter the Funeral Room.

In a small room we are treated to an eerie funeral scene as we sit in the audience.  If the goal is making the participants feel uncomfortable I think nails it.

Finally, we get to the grand finale.

Satan himself makes an appearance, in the smoke machine filled seizure inducing Hell.  Our loud obnoxious dead teenager is told that because he did not give his life to Jesus he will now spend an eternity in Hell.  He is dragged off pleading for his soul.

After leaving we are greated by a preacher with a Bible who explains the importance of giving your life to Jesus as you certainly don't want to end up in a smoke machine seizure inducing Hell.  I must say, in the world of fire and brimstone, this is a fairly effective medium.

So overall, it was a fascinating experience.  Definitly a clear expression of the Baptist Church's no nonsense "you will go to hell" doctorine.  Although I must admit that part of me was a little dissapointed that they didn't do anything political. :)

The Carpetbagger
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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Funeral Chicken

A few years ago I was asked to be a pallbearer for my wife's great-aunt.  She was a very nice lady, her late life hobby was to go into cemeteries and find stranger's graves with inadequate tombstones and buy them big new elaborate stones.  When she died she was very advanced in age.  She had no children and the large majority of her relatives were also advanced in age.

Although I had only met her once I was recruited as a pallbearer simply because I was strong enough to lift as a casket.  I was happy to help out.

As the funeral came to an end I was standing with my wife's grandfather (who had handled the arrangements) and the funeral director came up to him and said "The chicken is the back".  The funeral director proceeded to pull take a pan of steamy, hot, fresh fried chicken out of the hearse and hand it to my wife's grandfather.  Then he left.

I was a bit puzzled.  Why did the funeral director give my wife's grandfather a pan of chicken at his sister-in-law's gravesite?  When I asked my wife, she simply replied that that was just a service the funeral home provided.  A complimentary pan of fried chicken with every funeral.

Funeral Chicken.  I am still confused.

The Carpetbagger

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Welcome to Uncanny Valley

Pretty creepy, eh?  The young lady above is a perfect example in what is known as "The Uncanny Valley".  The Uncanny Valley is a scientific theory that states we become more uncomfortable the more human-like something appears.  The more human something appears the more horrified we are by things that are "off" or unhuman.

See it all makes perfect sense.  But simply put: facsimiles of of people always seem to possess a creepiness that we don't understand.

I remember feeling this uneasiness as a child.  My father used to take me to the Milwaukee Public Museum.  There is a fantastic section known as "Old Milwaukee" where the streets of turn of the century Milwaukee are recreated.  I still love to visit this place, but as a child it filled me with a certain feeling of dread.  The scariest part was the grandma.  There was a mannequin of an old lady sitting on porch.  For some reason I was terrified of her.  I would hid behind my dad and clung to him for dear life, afraid to look her in the eye.  She's still there, and still just a little bit creepy. 

As an adult who is obsessed with taking pictures, one of my fascinations was capturing this idea of the Uncanny Valley.  I love taking pictures of creepy mannequins, wax figures and dolls.  The creepier the better.  Here is a small introduction to my collection.

This photo was taken at the Scottish Tartan Museum in Franklin, NC.  Now the Scottish Tartan museum is an excellent historical museum, full of great information on Scottish heritage.  It is however, also a bomb shelter full of creepy mannequins.

Sometimes even well done wax figures can give use the creeps.

That's actually a fairly lifelike rendition of Barbara Walters, but there is still something about it that makes us uneasy.  The blank look in her eye, the odd shiny skin.  The parts of her that look human make the parts of her that inhuman look all the more disturbing.

All though there is something to be said about creepiness of celebrity figures that are less accurate.  They can be equally  disturbing.

Great Scott

Here is one of my favorites.  This Mannequin choir used to exist at Santa's Land Amusement park in Cherokee, NC.  When you pushed the button garbled choir music was piped in as the mannequins sparsely moved their arms and heads.  Sadly, it is gone and I do not have a video.

Also in Cherokee is this chemically treated gentlemen.

At the Natural Bridge Wax Museum in Natural Bridge, VA you will find this monstrosity, which I like to call "Pinocchio's Midlife Crisis"

One of my favorite Wax Museum's is Musee Conti in New Orleans, LA.  The figures are very old and look like a bunch of dead bodies propped up.

Here is a pirate wench at a miniature golf course in Gatlinburg, TN that looks like someone's drunk aunt.

Of course there is no reason while you need a full body to be truly creepy.  These disembodied faces prove that.

There is nothing like finding out that a Mannequin is staring at you from above.

To this day I continue my search for the Uncanny Valley and its denizens.  I will be scouring Roadside attractions, mini golf courses and wax museums as long as I am able.

The Carpetbagger

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Southern Monsters

America is a country that loves its monsters.  We still have not given up the quest to find bigfoot and every time a raccoon with mange shows up we declare that we have finally found a living Chupacabra.  Recently, when an big eyeball washed up on a beach in Florida, we all thought it came from a sea monster.  It turned out to be a completely normal swordfish eye, making us wonder how this turned out to be a new story in the first place.  Here are six of the South's most notorious monsters.

The Honey Island Monster

It seems like every region has its own Ape Man.  The Honey Island Monster is Louisiana's version of the Sasquatch.  Local legend is that a circus train crashed near the Honey Island Swamp and released a train car full of Chimpanzees.  Supposedly, the Chimpanzees interbred with the local alligators and created the horrific Honey Island Monster.

Here is an actual cast of the Honey Island Monster's foot print.

It resides at the Abita Mystery House, which happens to be my favorite museum in the whole world.

Interestingly enough the Honey Island Monster isn't the most fantastic mythological creature in the museum.

The owner John Preble constructs and displays amazing works of crypto-taxidermy.

But that is a subject for another time.  Today we are talking about REAL monsters.

The Scape Ore Lizard Man

Not every humanoid monster is ape-based.  Some are lizard-based.  At Scape Ore Swamp in Lee County lives the Scape Ore Lizardman.  Locals report seeing a horrific bipedal monster living int he swamp.  It also appears that the Lizardman really hates cars, as he is reported to scratch the crap out of cars.  One account even has him jumping onto a moving car action-hero style and clinging to the roof.

Despite the fact that the Lizardman terrorizes the local population and trashes their cars, he is beloved figure and every year the county hosts a 5K race in his honor.

The Skunk Ape

My favorite Sasquatch sub-species is the Everglade's Skunk Ape.  He is Florida's version of the Sasquatch.  He's a lot like your normal Sasquatch except he smells like a rotting corpse (supposedly from sleeping in Alligator dens) and he is a Psychopath.  One sighting involved him ripping the door off a semi and assaulting a trucker.  He apparently has a reputation of hating white people, but being friendly to the local Indians.  An account in 1822 chronicles a posse of white settlers the set out to kill the Skunk Ape which led to Skunky straight up murdering several of them.  He is one Squatch you don't want to screw with.

Those curious about the Skunk Ape can find the Skunk Ape Headquarters in the middle of the Everglades.

The Research Center is run by Dave Shealy who has dedicated his life to researching the Skunk Ape.  Inside you can purchase his field guide to the Ape.

And view some of the photographs he has taken.

The Rougarou

The Rougarou is a beast from the swamps of Louisiana.  He stalks animals and humans alike, in some accounts he has a particular fondness for the blood of people who don't observe Lent.  This of course makes him a great monster to threaten catholic children with.  When hearing about the Rougarou one will find that accounts of what he looks like appear to vary widely.  Some people refer to him as a Sasquatch type creature, where other descriptions more closely match the idea of a Werewolf.  Sometimes he is even portrayed as being a half-man/half-alligator type creature.  These inconsistencies can be explained though, as the Rougarou is said to be a shape shifter, switching his form to assist in his hunt for the blood of lapsed Catholics. 


The Mothman is one of the most legendary and feared Southern monsters. Hailing from Point Pleasant, WV the Mothman was known to haunt a local dynamite factory.  There was a rash of sightings of a winged creature with glowing eyes in the mid 60s.  During the outbreak of sightings the Silver Bridge, connecting WV to Ohio collapsed and killed 46 people.  Mothman suddenly disappeared, leading many to believe that he was somehow connected with this horrific event.  This inspired the book "The Mothman Prophecies" by John Keel, which was turned into a movie starring Richard Gere.

The nature of Mothman has been largely disputed and depending on who you talk to he is either a rare animal, a ghost, an alien or a demon.

So how does a town deal with being associated with a evil harbinger of Death?

They erected a giant statue in the middle of town to Mothman.  Point Pleasant knows how to treat their monsters.

There is also a Mothman festival every year where you can eat Mothman shaped pancakes.

If you look closely, behind that adorable pancake monster is the Silver Bridge.  The one that collapsed and killed 46 people.....good times.

Point Pleasant also has a Mothman Museum which features real authentic Mothman memorabilia.

As well as props from the movie.  When I visited, I was thrilled to find they had my favorite prop from the movie: the creepy chapstick.

In case that does not ring a bell, check out this CLIP.

Sugar Flat Road Monster

There it is.  The Sugar Flat Road Monster.  The story is that a man ran over it with his truck in in 1989 and taxidermied its head.  They say that another monster still lives in the area.  This supreme monster artifact sits in the window of Cruz's Antiques in Lebanon, TN.  I drove 10 hours just to see it.

The Carpetbagger 

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and feel free to contact me at