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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Fountain of Youth

Who the hell is Pounce De Leon?  We have all heard the name, we know that he has something to do with Florida and he was searching for the Fountain of Youth.

We could talk about the "truth" behind Pounce De Leon, but that takes the fun out of everything.  Trust me, don't google him. 

Here is a wax figure of Pounce seen at Potter's Wax Museum.

What is important is that Pounce was a Spanish Conquistador who had one goal in life: To find the Fountain of Youth.  And guess what.........He found it.  If you doubt this claim, how do you explain this?

This Fountain of Youth, found in St. Augustine, FL declares itself the 100% real genuine Fountain of Youth, and who am I to argue?

Let's head inside.

Behold: The Fountain of Youth......

The Fountain, which is a natural spring, is now encased in a building.  In the building you are given a sample of the famous water in a plastic dixie cup.  A docent gives you a spiel explaining the legend of Pounce De Leon in between sips of Spring Water.  He explains that Pounce De Leon actually discovered Florida on this very property.

I have to mention that there are several awesome dioramas in the building.

Such as this one which chronicles the meeting of Pounce De Leon and Chief Oriba, who told him about the legend of the Spring.  Which makes this diorama odd is the fact that an important part of the legend involves Cheif Oriba being 7 feet tall and Pounce being under five feet, leading Pounce to think that he had come across a land of giants.  Yet, this diorama lines them up perfectly to show that they are exactly the same height. 

This Diorama shows the daily life of the Timucuan Indians.  What I don't understand is why that one guy is wearing sunglasses.

The tourists all sample the sacred Elixir that is the Fountain of Youth.

Which is followed by the sounds of gagging, wretching and spitting.  You see, the the twist here is that the sacred water will grant you eternal youth, but it tastes like a combination of match heads and farts.

I feel I should take a minute here to discuss what exactly "The Fountain of Youth" is.  It seems that no one is really sure.  Does it make you turn younger?  Does it make you live forever?  Does it just lock you in the age you currently are?  If you drink enough will you turn into a baby?  I don't know, but I can tell you that it doesn't stop you from getting any fatter.

Of course a puddle of water can only interest tourists for so long.  So this attraction fills things out with some Albino Peacocks......

And a random ostrich.....

In addition to being the the location where Pounce De Leon discovered America and the location of the Fountain of Youth this is also the home of the oldest Christian Indian graves in America.  The graves were discovered in the 1930s and the good people at the Fountain of Youth dug up the graves completely and covered them with a shelter and put them on display.  However, local native American groups found this disrespectful.  The graves were re-buried, but they were thoughtful enough to cover them with a giant photograph of the formerly uncovered graves.  You should be thankful, because its still completely horrifying.

Here is a vintage photo of what the graves used to look like....

Not my photo
Of course a trip to the Fountain of Youth would not be complete without a stop at the gift shop, where you can purchase.....what else.....water....

And being the shameless tourist I am, I couldn't pass up this opportunity.

While I am on the subject, I highly recommend my friend Rick Kilby's book Finding the Fountain of Youth, which ties in the story of Pounce De Leon with Florida's famous healing springs.

Hoping to live forever...........

The Carpetbagger

Please feel free to email me at
And don't forget to check out my Flickr Photostream and my Youtube Page

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Strange Statues of the South

One of the best ways to pay homage to an event or individual is to erect a statue in the honor.  Let's take a tour of some of the more unusual and strange statues across the Southern United States.

Dolly Parton

Tennessee knows how to treat its legends.  This statue of a young Dolly Parton sits in front of the courthouse in her home town of Sevierville, TN.

Billy Graham

Speaking of Southern Icons in statue form, check out this massive likeness of Billy Graham in Nashville, TN.   The statue is on the corner that Billy started his preaching career.  What makes the statue truly impressive is its sheer size.

 That and it looks like a giant zombie.

Towing Statue

In the city of Chattanooga, TN there is a Towing Hall of Fame celebrating great Tow Truck drivers through history.  It isn't completely random as the tow truck was invented in Chattanooga.  What is truly impressive is this super dramatic statue that is erected outside.

Strom Thurmond

In front of the State Capitol building in Columbia, SC is none other then racist icon Strom Thurmond.  While it is a bit embarrassing that a legendary segregationist like Strom is honored in such a prominent place, what makes the statue more interesting is the fact that it was altered after news came out that he had a secret black daughter.  They crudely changed the engraving to say he had five children instead of four.

Chicken Monument

Gainesville, GA proudly declares itself  "Chicken Capitol of the World" due to its chicken production industry.  To celebrate this the town erected this monument.  It is quite an awkward monument as there is a life size chicken placed on top of a Washington Monument-esque Obelisk.

Even stranger, this may end up not being the only chicken monument in Gainesville.  Peta has stated that they wish to erect a 10 foot monument commemorating the crash of a chicken truck then ended up killing a large number of chickens (on their way to be eaten).

Rabbit Town Monument

Remarkably, this is not the only animal monument in Gainesville, GA.  There was previously a community known as Rabbit Town in Gainesville due to its production of rabbit meat.  As Gainesville grew size it swallowed up Rabbit Town and the community ceased to exist.  Some hold outs erected this statue out of pride in their phantom community.  Sadly, all that is left of the community is a diner and a pawn shop.

Brer Rabbit

And of course, Georgia can't have just one rabbit monument.  This monument commemorates southern literary hero Brer Rabbit.  This statue sits outside of the Uncle Remus Museum in Eatonton, GA.  You have to love monuments to fictional characters.  What you will learn at the Uncle Remus Museum however, is that Uncle Remus himself was a fictional character.  Uncle Remus was the fictional persona of white writer Joel Chandler Harris.  Harris used the Uncle Remus character to write about African American Folklore.  Brer Rabbit's origins actually date back to Africa.  He portrays a sly trickster who outsmarts those who would do him harm, which are often stand ins for white slave owners.

John Henry

Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to pay my respects to this monument to the folk legend John Henry which stands in Talcott, WV.  I did however find this cool vintage postcard of him.  Actually the statue does not stand here currently.  Apparently of being in a secluded area for over 40 years has caused a lot of vandalism and weathering.  John is being restored to be placed in a park.

Of course everyone knows the story of Henry.  He was the last rail driver, who was being put out of business by the evil railroad barons and their newly invented steam drill.  Henry claimed that he could lay railroad spikes faster then the steam drill.  Henry would go on to beat the steam drill in a competition.  Despite winning, Henry would die while driving the steel, making the moral of the story kind of depressing.

Christ of the Ozarks

Another statue I have not had the honor of seeing in person is this giant Jesus that can be found in Eureka Springs, AK.  The statue is controversial as some people simply think its really ugly.  Despite this, it is the largest statue of Jesus in America and the third largest in the world.  Hopefully, someday soon I will see it with my own eyes.  I found this image in a box of vintage slides.

Old Man Traffic

This interesting golden statue in Charlotte, NC is known as "Old Man Traffic".  It is a likeness of a man named  Hugh McManaway who for no apparent reason would stand in the road and direct traffic in a completely unofficial capacity.  It is also said that he spoke only in rhyme.  When Hugh died the locals missed him enough to erect a statue at the same intersection that he used to stand at.

Old Man River

This statue dubbed "Old Man River" sits in a prominent location next to the Mississippi River in the city of New Orleans.  I'm not really sure what to say about this one. He is a naked man, with no hands and has a strange brick for genitals.


People who do not know the legend of Mothman would be extremely confused on why there is a statue of a horrific monster standing on main street in the small town of Point Pleasant, WV.  For the uninitiated Mothman is a legendary creature that was the focus of a series of strange sightings in the 1960s.   Horrified residence claimed that this giant red-eyed winged monster haunted the local dynamite factory.  There is a variety of possible explanations, could he be a undiscovered species?  A ghost? A barn owl?  An Alien?  Regardless the legend has captivated people for generations.  The mothman is also connected with UFO sightings and was the beginning of the "Men in Black" legend that inspired the movies.  During the height of the Mothman sightings there was a horrible bridge collapse the killed dozens of people.  After the collapse the Mothman sightings stopped and the Mothman has always been connected to this deadly collapse, with some blaming him for the destruction.  So, your town is haunted by a horrifying monster that is also possibly a mass-murderer, what do you do?  Erect a statue to him, of course.

The Capitoline Wolf

Just look at that thing.  What on earth is going on there?  This abomination sits in front of the municipal building in Rome, GA.  Apparently, the statue portrays legendary figures from Rome, Italy.  This however, does not change the fact that it is a statue of a wolf breast feeding two naked babies.  What makes this even worse is that fact that this statue was a gift to the city of Rome by Mussolini.  The damn thing still has Mussolini's name on it.

Nathan Bedford Forrest

 This one has to be the strangest as well as the most offensive.  Behold:  Nasheville, TN's statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest.  Nathan Bedford Forrest was a relevant confederate general, but more notoriously, he was the first grand dragon of the KKK.  Why does this statue exist?  It was erected on private property, but sits in clear view next to the freeway.  The statue is obviously very controversial and is often vandalized and shot at.  But, if you put the controversy aside, the thing is still bizzare.  He is a garish silver color, his face his horrifying, and for some reason his horse is a shiny orange.

The Carpetbagger

Please feel free to email me at
And don't forget to check out my Flickr Photostream and my Youtube Page

Monday, February 10, 2014

Weeki Wachee

As we are hit by yet another blistering snow storm in the Smoky Mountains I try to keep my mind on warmer times and warmer things.  When things get this cold all I can think about is the great state of Florida.  As I sit here in the cold shivering, I figured we should take a look at Florida's most unique and fantastic tourist attraction:  Weeki Wachee Springs.

Now Technically, Weeki Wachee is a city in Florida, but only has a population of 12.  Despite this small number it still has its own elementary and high school.   However, Weeki Wachee is best know for its namesake state park, which is the only state park featuring living breathing mermaids.

Weeki Wachee Springs was founded in 1947 by professional swimmer Newt Perry, who invented a unique breathing device, a modified air hose that allowed underwater divers suck in air without any body mounted scuba gear.   For a complete history I highly recommend reading Weeki Wachee City of Mermaids, unfortunately it cost 80 dollars on ebay.  Luckily, my local library has a copy.

There are some beautiful waters to explore in the park, but the main attraction will always bee Weeki Wachee's underwater theater.  In this theater "mermaids" have been performing since the park opened. 

Keep in mind they are not performing a giant aquarium, the theater is essentially an glass auditorium that has been sunk in the spring.  The performers are swimming in the naturally formed spring that connects to the river.  This means that fish, turtles, manatees and alligators are free to wonder into the performance.

The park nearly went out of business in 2008, but luckily the state of Florida stepped in an purchased the park.

I was lucky enough to visit with my family a few years back, and it was truly an amazing experience.

There were two separate shows being performed in the underwater theater while we were there.  The first one was a rendition of the little mermaid, stripped of all of Disney's copyright material.  So, the Little Mermaid is not called Ariel, and has blonde hair.....

The sea witch is nameless as well.........

Along with the unfortunate prince that nearly drowns in the water.....

The Little Mermaids singing crab Sebastian is also copyrighted, so instead we get the awesome "Chester the Sea Turtle".......

Speaking of turtles, during both performances the mermaids were constantly fighting off turtles that were attacking their hair.

The second show was a celebration of Weeki Wachee springs and had an old school feel.  The mermaids performed some classic tricks such as this spiral......

The kick line......

Eating and apple and drinking a grape Nehi underwater......

And the trademark Weeki Wachee lift......

As immortalized by the statue out front.....

Of course after the show you have the opportunity to get your photo taken with a real mermaid.....

And who could resist?

Complete with Crocs and Socks

The Carpetbagger

Please feel free to email me at
And don't forget to check out my Flickr Photostream and my Youtube Page

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Creation Museum

Finally the final showdown between Science and Religion occurred tonight.  My friend Eartha Kitsch pointed out to me that tonight there was going to be a debate showdown between beloved scientist Bill Nye and Australian Creationist Mogul Ken Ham.  The debate occurred LIVE on Youtube.

For those who don't know Ken Ham is the president of "Answers in Genesis" a creationist organization behind the notorious Creationist Museum in Petersburg, KY.

As excited I was about the debate, a debate with Ken Ham can only go so far.  While Nye would go into long scientific detail, Ham would simply refute him by saying that the bible is true.  The debate started to feel really pointless after awhile.  Ken only uses science until it backs him into a corner and then throws up his hand and goes "BIBLE!".  

The debate is up HERE for now.

Of course this debate brought back memories of the Creationist Museum for me.  I visited in 2009 and it is flat out the most insane thing I have ever seen.

I guess I should start out by running down the beliefs of the museum.  The museum (obviously) has a creationist perspective.  They operate on a "young earth creationist" believe, meaning that they believe the earth is less then 10,000 years old.  This of course means that humans and dinosaurs lived together.  Interestingly enough the museum does not try to discredit Darwin, instead twisting his studies and insisting that mainstream science misunderstands them.   The museum believes that there is not an evolution "tree", but instead an evolution "orchard".

You follow that?

But the underlying rule at the museum is that Bible is right.  If something contradicts with what the bible says, the bible wins.  The bible is the starting point, and science fills int he cracks, but only if if the science doesn't contradict the bible.

I should mention that before the museum opened there was actually protests from other creationist groups fearing that this museum would make them look foolish.

Walking into the museum the first think you see are animatronic people hanging out with animatronic dinosaurs.

You know you are in for a good time.

The one thing that is so striking about the museum is how well done it is.  The exhibits and displays are extremely professional.  The production values are just as good if not better then your "mainstream" museum.

The museum eases you into the idea of creationism, by simply explaining that there are different ways of looking at evolution.  This is illustrated in a video by a jolly bearded creationist scientist and his partner a skinny Asian atheist who doesn't speak.  Here are the characters in Wax form.

From here things start to get a bit more intense, as these wax school children introduce you to the part they "left out in school".....

The museum goes into detail about how man has turned his back on God in dramatic fashion....

Of course the museum is not afraid to use fear tactics to get their point across.....

Humanism leads to starvation, nuclear war and wolf attacks you know.....

Then we head into a little bit of bible history as we join Adam in the garden of he frolicks with sheep and penguins.

All the watchful eye of a friendly dinosaur....

Then we get a surprisingly risque scene with Eve.....

We are introduced to a fairly badass version of  "The Serpent".....

Then we get the "Fall of Man" scene which was designed specifically to give children nightmares.   I am no biblical scholar, so I'm not sure why Adam and Eve are crying over a gruesome pile of skinned sheep.

In case you wanted a closer look at those sheep carcasses, here you go.....

Man.  That's gross.

Moving on we get an abbreviated Bible History Lesson.

Highlights include Kane killing Abel....

A talking Methuselah.....

Which is possibly the most unsettling animatronic I have ever come across.....

And finally we get a look at Noah building the ark.....

Which leads to the best part of the whole museum......They state that Dinosaurs actually rode on the Ark with Noah....

There is a nice diorama of the arc setting sail, living the sinners behind to battle bears on a hellish island....

And there you have it....The Creation Museum, which will leave you feeling like someone literally beat your head in with a bible.....Luckily, they have a petting zoo outside where you can go and hang out with some fuzzy animals while you try to process what you just saw.  Oh, yeah.....and they have a Zonkey....

The Carpetbagger

Please feel free to email me at
And don't forget to check out my Flickr Photostream and my Youtube Page