Saturday, March 3, 2018

Story time: The Bizarre Mysteries of Deep Creek Lake

Fresh off our recent success with "A Second Chance at Love," a historical fairy tale featuring Napoleon, Ashar and I turned to a different genre — the ghost story — for our latest story based on a vintage postcard. The postcard we used is a Curt Teich & Co. linen card, one of their series of 10 moonlight scenes, featuring Deep Creek Lake, near Oakland, Maryland. Fair warning: You might not want to read this before bedtime, or on a dark and stormy night.

The Bizarre Mysteries of Deep Creek Lake
Cody Grayson and Zachariah Phoenix, both college students, arrived at Deep Creek Lake just as it was getting dark. It was autumn, so it was chilly but not too cold. They had come to the lake to find out if all the stories people were saying about the place were true.

They were best friends, and they planned to camp overnight near the lake, so that they could explore and investigate. When they put down their backpack, Cody heard a howl -- maybe it was a wolf? -- in the woods.

“Zac, how many people did you say have gone missing here?” Cody asked, his voice a bit unsteady.

“About four,” Zac replied. “Why?”

“Well, I just wonder if the stories are true. And it does seem a little spooky out here,” Cody said.

Zac didn’t want to scare his friend any more than he was already scared, so he didn’t answer. He believed that people had gone missing. And he was curious to find answers. Zac was just as nervous as Cody, but he was doing a good job of hiding it.

They put down their tent and backpacks. Zac opened his backpack and took out a flashlight.

“So what was the first weird story that came out of this place?” Cody asked.

“A few years ago, there was a girl who went by Jess, that was just like you and me, and she loved the outdoors. She had a boat her father made for her by hand. So one day, in late October, she came to the lake to get away from her family, because they had a fight and the outdoors were her escape. So she came to Deep Creek Lake with her boat on her trailer on the back of her truck. It was a colder and windier night, and she got to the lake, got her boat off the trailer, drug it from land to the water, got in it, and sailed off into the lake. And she was never heard from after that.”

Cody gulped.

“She just disappeared?” Cody asked. “How does a person just disappear? Maybe her boat just sank. Did they look for the boat?”

“The police tried to get local residents to help with the search, but they refused, because they were terrified of the legends,” Zac said.

“What legends?” Cody asked.

“The locals say this lake is haunted by a spirit called Tizheruk, who was originally an Indian maiden who died horribly. She got decapitated while she was alive and her body parts, some burned, were scattered all around the lake. Now her ghost haunts the area.”

Zac paused. He looked at Cody.

“And maybe it does more than haunt,” Zac added.

At that moment, Zac turned on the flashlight, which startled Cody.

Even more startling was that fact that the light of the flashlight was shining upon a third person. Or, perhaps, a thing.

Zac and Cody froze. Cody tried to get a good look at what was standing a few yards in front of them.

It was a young woman, a few years older than them. She was wearing a blue long-sleeve shirt, a black T-shirt over it and white jeans. Her hair was a little longer than shoulder length, and dark brown. There seemed to be a weird glow around her.

She stepped forward.

“I’ve been very lonely,” she said. “I was hoping someone would come and visit.”

Zac’s hand was shaking, causing the flashlight to bob slightly up and down.

The woman took a step toward Zac. She reached out for his hand, but before she could touch it, Cody jumped between them, pushing Zac to the ground. Zac dropped the flashlight, which rolled away from them. Now the full moon provided the only light.

“What did you do that for?” Zac yelled from the ground.

“Maybe it’s the evil spirit! Maybe it’s trying to get you and then it’ll come after me!”

Cody whirled around to face the woman.

“Who are you? Explain yourself,” he said, trying not to show his fear.

“My name is Jess,” she said. “I went boating after I left my house, because I was mad at my parents. I don’t remember what happened after that. What happened to me?”

“That’s impossible,” Zac said, standing up and brushing the dirt off his black jeans. “Jess disappeared three years ago. She’s gone. How are you possibly Jess?”

“Do you have any ID?” Cody asked, picking up the flashlight.

The woman reached into her back pocket and pulled out a beat-up wallet. She opened it, showing a driver’s license. It had her picture, and the name Jessica Gold.

Zac and Cody both gasped.

“It’s not possible,” Cody said.

Zac looked closely at the woman. She certainly looked like she could be Jess. And there was that driver’s license as proof. But what about the weird glow they had seen around her body? It made Zac suspicious. Then he came up with a plan. He pulled Cody close and whispered in his ear.

“We should be careful and, just in case, be ready to run,” Zac said to his friend.

Zac turned back toward the woman.

“We have all been very worried about you, Jess,” he said. “Just tell me one more thing, though. How did you get your boat? The one you brought out to the lake.”

The woman stared at them for a moment. Then she spoke.

“My head is a little foggy,” she said. “I can’t remember what store I got it from right now.”

“A-ha! It wasn’t from a store!” Cody yelled, pointing a finger. “Your own father built it. Surely the real Jess would remember that!”

The woman hissed. Her face -- its face -- flickered for a moment, as if that wasn’t its real face at all. It took a step toward Cody.

“RUN!” yelled Zac, and the two of them dashed for their car.

As they ran, they couldn’t hear anyone -- or anything -- behind them. But they definitely sensed that something was behind them, and they kept running to the car.

Zac and Cody, both absolutely terrified at this point, quickly got into their car. Zac pulled out the keys and tried to start the car with a shaky hand. It finally, after the third try, started. As he slammed his foot on the gas, they both heard a high-pitched, angry scream. It was very close.

Off they drove. Cody had to keep reminding Zac not to speed on the dirt road leading away from the lake. Finally, they got back to the highway. After a few miles, they came upon a well-lit gas station. Zac pulled over and actually exhaled for what seemed like the first time in a long time.

The gas-station attendant, an old man, walked slowly over to their car. He was Native American and was wearing an old-stained jumpsuit. He chin was covered with a little bit of gray stubble. He looked like he had seen a lot of things during his long lifetime.

“What’s wrong, fellas,” he asked.

They told him what they had just been through, what they had just narrowly escaped.

He nodded wisely and looked up at the sky.

“You’re the lucky ones,” he said. “She always comes out on a full moon.”

“She?” Zac said, nervously.



* * *

Addendum: Here's the book cover that we designed for this tale...

Mid-winter mailbox arrivals from Postcrossing

A bundle of dandy international Postcrossing cards arrived in my mailbox during the first two months of 2018, so I thought I'd share some of them here, as I tend to do on a somewhat irregular basis. One of the cool things this time around is that a lot of folks wrote long — for a postcard, anyway — messages in tiny handwriting. It's neat to see people put that much time and care into handwritten correspondence in 2018.

Here's a rundown of some of the arrivals...

From Michele in Germany (pictured above): "My name is Michele, 24 years old from Germany. It was pretty hard to find a card refering to folklore in Germany so I chose this card with the sand man ("Sandmännchen"). He brings good dreams to the kids as he throws sleeping sand in their eyes. In TV, there is every evening at 18:50h a show with him, with the popular "Sandmannchen-Lied" and a short story. All the best."

* * *

From Pieter in the Netherlands: "Hello. My name is Pieter and I living in the Netherlands in the city Rotterdam. On 31 Decembre we eat Oliebollen, you can read more about Oliebollen on Wikipedia. I working in a Maritime Museum and living together with my cat and we are very happy."

* * *

From Monika in the Netherlands: "Many greetings from the Netherlands where I've been living since 2014. Originally I come from Germany, but have lived and worked for many years in France after having finished my studies. I miss France a lot and hope to return there one day. I have so much difficulty to get used to Dutch mentality and the hectic, stressful way of life. I live in a small town close to the Hague and situated at the North Sea with my son who is 3 years old and our cat. I work from home as a translator and am very happy with my independence. On the card you see people ice-skating which is a tradition here in winter. I don't know how to skate, I'm not a very sporty person."

* * *

From Daphne in Taiwan (pictured above): "In my country, everyone's preparing to celebrate our lunar/traditional new year on Feb. 15. Like Xmas, we go home and gather with family. This year I will take my two boys back to my hometown (not my husband's). In Taiwan, we usually go back to husband's hometown. Maybe you can google 'Chinese new year' to see our celebration, and 'Wulai' to see my hometown where is famous of hot spring and cherry blossom. I choose this card 'cause I love ruin aesthetics, and the place showed is nearby my house. Pretty ethereal!"

* * *

From Kirsten in Germany (pictured above): "This card shows you what most people here like to do in January and February (if it is cold enough). There are also some artificial ice-skating halls around. Unfortunately I can't do it anymore as I had serious knee problems (ligaments) a couple of years ago, same goes for jogging. Only walking and swimming is possible. The man on this stamp [Heinrich Böll] is a famous writer, he also received the Nobel prize for literature in 1972, do you know him? Wishing you sunshine."

* * *

From Anaïs in France: "My name is Anaïs, I 26 and I live in France at Brigueuil. In life I carer for elderly people and I love my job! I too have animals, a dog and a cat! I send you this gourmet postcard because with us, we love to make pastry at Christmas. Our culinary traditions in January is the epiphany (the king's cake). And in a few days the first of February is the candlemaker, so we make pancakes to eat with the family! I send you sweet notes. See you soon."

Note #1: Anaïs and I have no actual plans to see each other. It's just a figure of speech.

Note #2: I'm not sure what she's referring to with February 1, candlemaker and pancakes. My guess would be something to do with the Eastern Orthodox church.

* * *

From Ralph in Germany (pictured above): "My name is Ralph and I'm from Germany. I work in a school for kids with special needs. This postcard is painted by my pupils."

Old postcard: "The World's Most Famous Chicken Dish"

This amazing vintage postcard was a gift from Sarah and Joan many moons ago, and I have been quite delinquent in writing about it. It's an advertising postcard for the Chicken in the Rough franchise. You probably haven't heard of it, because while it had about three hundred U.S. locations at its peak, today it has just one restaurant in the entire country.

First, though, let's look at the green-and-orange postcard, which is full of interesting text and illustrations. There's a golf-playing, cigar-smoking rooster, which is the company's logo. (Get it? The chicken's shot went "in the rough.") And there's a chick that is improbably serving as a caddie and is stating — much to my horror1"I'll gladly be fried for Chicken in the Rough." The other text on the front of the card, for the digital record, states:

  • Where You See This Sign, It's Genuine
  • Chicken in the Rough
  • Fried 1/2 Chicken
  • Served Unjointed Without Silverware
  • Every bite a tender delight
  • Lots of Shoestring Potatoes
  • Jug Honey and Hot Buttered Rolls
  • Copyright by Beverly Osborne
  • Reg. U.S. Pat. Off.

More on some of that in a bit, but I just wanted to note how interesting it is for the restaurant to brag that you get no silverware. But there's a good reason for that, it turns out.

This unused postcard was supposed to be used as part of a contest to win a $100 cash prize. To win, you had to be the first person to eat at 25 different franchise locations, with each stop documented by one of these Genuine Curteich-Chicago linen postcards mailed to Oklahoma City. Here are the full details:
"A $100.00 cash prize will be award to the first person who eats 'Chicken in the Rough' in as many as 25 places listed on our Place Mat or Picnic Box over a period of six months. Mail one of the post cards, which may be obtained from the cashier, to the home office, Beverly's Chicken in the Rough, 209 West Grand, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Each post card mailed must be signed by the owner or manager of each restaurant and Beverly Osborne reserves the right to be the sole judge in issuance of this award."
So who was Beverly Osborne? For the early history of Chicken in the Rough, we can turn to the company's own history page online. Here's an excerpt:
"In 1936 Beverly and Rubye Osborne were driving west from Oklahoma to California. They had no reason to be joyful. They were middle aged and the Depression had wiped out their savings. On this particular afternoon it seemed that everyone in the state was attempting to escape the famine of the Oklahoma dust bowl. With not much more than their meager belongings and a basket of fried chicken, Beverly Osborne coaxed his Ford pickup across the barren prairie. Suddenly, a bump in the rutted road scattered the chicken and basket. Picking it up, Rubye complained 'this is really Chicken in the Rough®.' With that chance remark, a fortune was born. Beverly turned his truck around and headed back home. A man who, on instinct, had made a modest fortune and lost it — Beverly reasoned that 'fingers were made before forks' and that chicken could be a cheap source of food at a time when incomes were sparse. Beverly learned from his previous business experience and failures that every business must provide customer satisfaction by identifying customers' needs and how to satisfy those needs better than anyone else. Soon, with the money he had received from the sale of his wife's wedding ring, he had an operation serving fried chicken with shoestring potatoes, hot biscuits and honey."
I'm sure there are elements of that tale that are exaggerated or apocryphal, but every company needs its own mythology and legend, right? And so Chicken in the Rough was born, and it soon began franchising fried-chicken restaurants, apparently many years before Kentucky Fried Chicken got the same notion.

Chicken in the Rough grew from its first Route 66 restaurant to many, many more locations along that fabled highway2 and, eventually, a worldwide total of nearly 300. Its decline began in the 1960s. Today, there is just one United States location, in Port Huron, Michigan. There are also two Chicken in the Rough restaurants in Sarnia, Ontario.3 The corporate website duly notes all three.

I can't find a recipe for Chicken in the Rough, which I reckon makes sense, because the brand still exists and would want to protect its proprietary blend of spices and its specific cooking methods.

Finally, here are a few memories of Chicken in the Rough from a circa 2003/2004 Roadfood forum. If you have your own memories, please share them in the comments section!

  • "When I was a kid, we dined at Novack's Chicken in the Rough in Lincolnwood. I loved the chicken and fought with my brother and sister for the hot buttered rolls and the dipping honey. When Novack's closed, the building on Lincoln Avenue was sold and became the first Lou Malnatti's Pizza in the Chicago area. The last Chicken in the Rough was in Northbrook on Dundee Road. It was located on a golf course which was sold in the 70's and the land was developed into an upscale subdivision."
  • "There was a 'Chicken in the Rough' in Richmond VA many years ago on West Broad Street. The name of the restaurant was the Wakefield Grill. Great fried chicken, but I was too young to remember much else about it. We would go there after church for lunch on Sunday. They had great homemade biscuits too. It was near another bygone great place called The Clover Room, which had great ice cream, malteds and sodas."
  • "I moved to Oklahoma City in 1944, and there was one Beverly's at that time, on Lincoln Blvd. By the time I was in high school and college, there was the May Avenue location too, and they became the place to go after a movie or game. Sixty years later, if we've been to a play or movie, often we'll say, 'Let's go to Beverly's!' So far, no one has mentioned the 'finger bowls' that were brought to the tables along with the chicken baskets -- little metal buckets with warm water and a lemon slice, for rinsing off the chicken grease! One of the charms of '40s and '50s Beverly's!"

1. It's been about 58 months since I've eaten poultry or red meat. I wish I had started down that humane path much sooner.
2. The 2010 book Greetings from Route 66: The Ultimate Road Trip Back Through Time Along America's Main Street contains several pages about Chicken in the Rough.
3. James "Scotty" Doohan attended high school in Sarnia.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Book cover: "Five Acres and Independence"

  • Title: Five Acres and Independence
  • Subtitle: A Practical Guide to the Selection and Management of the Small Farm
  • Author: Maurice Grenville Kains (1868-1946)
  • Cover illustrator: Not credited
  • Original publication: 1935
  • This edition: Sixteenth printing (revised and enlarged edition), March 1943
  • Publisher: Greenberg, New York
  • Original price: Unknown (dust jacket is clipped)
  • Pages: 401
  • Format: Hardcover
  • First sentences: People who think they "would like to have a little farm" naturally fall into two groups; those who are sure to fail and those likely to succeed. This book is written to help both!
  • Random sentence from middle #1: Borrowing money for production is not more dishonorable than borrowing tools for the same purpose.
  • Random sentence from middle #2: No fruit is easier to grow, quicker to yield a crop, surer of a demand, or more likely to be profitable than the strawberry.
  • Goodreads rating: 3.98 stars out of 5.0.
  • Excerpt from a Goodreads review: In 2014, Alger wrote: "There is not an ounce of bad advice in this book, if you only have access to 1930s technology, and if you really want to achieve a depression-era standard of subsistence this book will get you there comfortably. I never really made a complete go of the Independence part of the title, but I got close enough to see that it was just possible. That's why I keep this resource around; maybe someday I will need it again."
  • Amazon rating: 4.4 stars out of 5.0
  • One Amazon review: In 2015, Gary F. Strickland wrote: "I originally purchased this book 35 years ago when I had bought a 5 acre parcel of land. While it has some useful information, much of it is dated. Still, it is a book worth having, if only for the sake of dreams."
  • Notes: Kains' resume is shoehorned onto the title page: "Special Crop Culturist, U.S. Department of Agriculture; Formerly Head of Horticulture Department, Pennsylvania State College; Horticulture, Agriculture and Botany Editor, New International Encyclopedia; Garden Editor, Pictorial Review and other National Magazines; Lecturer on Horticulture, Columbia University." ... The front of the book leads off with this quote from Abraham Lincoln: "The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small piece of land." ... Chapter titles include: City vs. Country Life, Tried and True Ways to Fail, The Farm to Choose, Where to Locate, Farm Finance, Drainage, Frost Damage Prevention, Green Manures and Cover Crops, Grafting Fruit Trees, Something to Sell Every Day, and The Farm Library. ... If you're looking for some more recent books on this topic, check out this list from The Anarchist Family Blog.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Old postcard of the long-gone Head House in South Boston

This postcard, mailed in 1910 and published by Valentine & Sons, features "The Head House, City Point, South Boston, Mass." I'll spare you the suspense and report that it's been gone for more than 70 years. After being constructed around the turn of the 20th century, it suffered the double whammy of the 1938 New England hurricane (aka the Long Island Express) and a 1942 fire. The remains were demolished.

You can view some great vintage pictures of Head House at BostonZest and watch a short video about it from the Boston History Project on YouTube.

In the 1988 book South Boston, My Home Town, Thomas H. O'Connor writes a bit about Head House:
"The ocean, of course, was a major source of refreshment and recreation for the residents of South Boston. With its unusually long shoreline and its splendid array of beaches, the district soon became popular. Now that streetcars had become electrified, the 'Bay View' trolley would travel along Eighth Street alongside Dorchester Bay, turn up K Street, and then move along Sixth Street until it reached its terminus at City Point. During the host summer months, visitors traveled in open-air trolleys with a top speed of six miles per hour and a fare of five cents a person. Thousands of families from all over the Boston area, loaded down with blankets, bathing suits and huge box lunches, enjoyed the beaches or held picnics on the grass at Marine Park. In the background loomed what had become the popular landmark of the City Point area — the restaurant and bathhouse known as the Head House, so called because it was at the head of the peninsula that jutted out into Boston harbor. An ornate, gingerbread structure, the Head House was designed in 1897 by city architect Edmund M. Wheelwright after a rathaus (municipal building) erected by the German government in Chicago at the 1893 Columbia Exposition."
The message on the back of this 1910 postcard ties in a bit with O'Connor's description of the area during his childhood:
Dear Aunt Kattie
I was downtown buying my trolley ticket to Fall River so I thought I would answer your postal by saying I arrived home allright. Boston looked so dirty to me. John is up now though he got pretty thin for his little sick spell. I am spending my days at the Point.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

In which Greta complains about the high price of sending postcards

In 1960, my great-grandmother, Greta Miriam Chandler Adams, mailed this Scottish-themed postcard1 from Nordkapp, Norway, to my uncle (her grandson), who was spending the summer at a camp in Vermont.2

For context, keep in mind that Greta was an extensive world traveler, especially during the 1950s and 1960s. And, during her travels, she often mailed home to Pennsylvania clothes, souvenirs and other fine trinkets that she accumulated during her international shopping outings. (I've seen the receipts. She saved 'em.)

So, that said, here's her note to my uncle:
Air mail cards are 20¢. Reg. postage is 15¢. So not sending many cards further north we go, more expensive. Loved Edinburgh, it rained but I saw alot of historic bldgs on a sight-seeing trip abroad that night. Sun out 'til 11 p.m. last night. Pretty sight! I go to bed too late, not time to write much. Busy! Love, Grandma.
Twenty cents in 1960 would be about $1.68 today. So I'm not sure how much my great-grandmother actually saved during her travels by cutting corners on the sending of postcards.

1. This postcard of the pipe bands at Edinburgh Castle is an "Art Colour" card that was published by Valentin & Sons, Ltd., of Dundee and London.
2. Camp Norway, on Lake Fairlee in Ely, Vermont.

Day-After Addendum

This popped into my Twitter feed the day after this post, and it's too interesting not to share, especially given that I'm a weather nerd.

Nifty endpapers from a Nelson Doubleday Junior Deluxe Edition

In 2014, I wrote a little about the Junior Deluxe Editions from Nelson Doubleday, and the folks who love and collect them.

I came across another beautiful edition from this series the other day, and, before I release it to a Little Free Library, I wanted to share the endpapers illustration for posterity. It's full of castles and dragons and animals and witches and many more images to captivate young readers. (The image of the gun is less than entralling, though.)

I'm not sure if these endpapers were used for every Junior Deluxe edition. This one is the 1957 Norwegian folk-tale collection East O' the Sun and West O' the Moon, by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe. I hope this nice copy ends up sparking the imaginations of many future generations of young and young-at-heart readers.

Other posts with endpapers illustrations

Monday, February 26, 2018

"Secret of the Old Museum,"
with tangents, footnotes & Nimoy

I bought this used book late last year during a day that Sarah and I spent cruising the antiques stores of New Oxford, Pennsylvania. (I think it was from Black Shutter Antiques.) I picked it up mostly because I liked the cover and because it was cheap, which are my modus operandi in buying old books I don't specifically need.

The book is one of the knock-offs of the Choose Your Own Adventure series that blazed through kids' literature in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. As you can see, it's titled Secret of the Old Museum, and it was written by Roy Wandelmaier and published by Troll Associates in 1985.1

Troll tried to hit several different audiences in the mid 1980s with its "The Choice is Yours" books. They fell under several subsets, including Fantastic Adventures, Alien Adventures and Solve it Yourself.2 Secret of the Old Museum was one of four books in the Fantastic Adventures collection. Others were Shipwrecked on Mystery Island, Adventure in the Lost World, and Mystery at Loch Ness, which ties in perfectly with where I'm headed.3

As I said, I bought this book primarily because I liked the cover art, which is by Dick Smolinski. And that gets to me where we're going. The style of the illustration — with mysterious creatures and places and hints of aliens4 and the unknown — reminded me greatly of the TV series In Search of..., and that catapulted me back in time slightly farther than the Choose Your Own Adventure books. Nostalgia is a hell of a drug.

And so I'm going to write a little about In Search of...

The show, hosted by Leonard Nimoy5, originally aired in syndication from 1977 to 1982. I watched plenty of episodes, packed with ancient mysteries, sasquatches and strange disappearances, during that time. But my main memory evokes place; it involves watching it at the house of my friend Michael, who lived across the street from us in Clayton, New Jersey.6 It was a tiny town, far enough from Philadelphia and the Jersey Shore that you felt small and isolated and forgotten about by the rest of the crazy world, connected only by the one-directional TV and radio waves.

When In Search of... came on the air, we still only had five or six channels, and there was, of course, no Internet. So Nimoy's show and the library were the only two places we could really scratch our itch for knowledge about the world's spooky and supernatural mysteries. (Creature Double Feature didn't really count as learning.) The show introduced many from my generation to the Nazca Lines, the Bermuda Triangle, King Tut's curse, Atlantis, the Loch Ness Monster, Stonehenge, Easter Island and much, much more. Certainly, some of those topics have more scientific weight and credibility than others, but the show treated these things even-handedly and encouraged viewers to be skeptical and open-minded.

In a bit of kismet that occurred during the time I've been mulling over and procrastinating about this post7, I discovered a great article on the website We Are The Mutants. And so my foot-dragging has allowed me to share with you "Theory and Conjecture: ‘In Search of…’ and the Golden Age of Paranormal TV." It offers some intelligent perspective and context for the show. Thoughts that are more eloquent than my own. Here are three short excerpts:
In Search of... edited and assembled its pieces with an express eye towards engaging the viewers. Which could mean, quite often, scaring the pants off them or creeping them out! Every uncanny, foreboding, warbly, synth sting from the show is burned into my formative memories. Some of the reenactments definitely cross over from cheesy to genuinely frightening.

In Search of... epitomized a certain mood, more than anything else. That's the sense I get watching it now. Before drones and GPS, before our final and despicable capitulation to the technocratic oligarchy ... the extraordinary was still possible and tangible; it couldn't be bought, and ordinary people might chance upon it on a back road or a dark lake. It was our last collective moment of magic.

The coming of cable in the 1980s, where there were fewer restrictions on programming, diluted the Weirdness of America's television landscape. ... I mentioned at the outset that In Search of... feels like outsider art, and it's not just the Weird topics the show covered or the array of oddballs they interviewed. It's the visual and sonic aesthetic as well: the grainy film stock, those eerie synths, the charmingly amateurish recreations. Try to get something like this on cable television in the mid-to-late '80s and you'd have been absolutely out of luck.
If you said that some of this gives the same vibe that you get from David Southwell and Hookland, I think you'd be correct.

Thanks to inexpensive DVD technology, the In Search of... full-series box set — it's just a quarter per episode! — is now sitting on a shelf here in Dover, 115 miles west of that small town in southern New Jersey where I first experienced it. The journey won't be the same. But I'm looking forward to taking it again. And maybe Sarah will find Nimoy's show just as enjoyable as checking out antiques stores in New Oxford ... and discover a sprinkle of the magic from my youth.

1. More about this paperback: It's 99 pages (though there are several blank pages at the end) and, per the inside front cover, it was once owned by Eric Hoffman, whose third-grade teacher was Mrs. Himes. The first sentence is "It is Sunday afternoon, and you have reached the end of your rope." The last sentence is "You never do find Dr. Walker, but you live a long, simple life with the prehistoric people." There are 30 endings, plus plenty of illustrations, packed into the 99 pages.
2. One of the Solve It Yourself books was Mystery at the Bike Race. (What a boring title!) The premise was: "As you, the reader, work on a newspaper story about your town's annual bicycle race, your suspicions are aroused that something sinister is happening involving the new electronics plant."
3. Assuming I'm going anywhere.
4. OK, it's more than a hint. Blue alien dude has a ray gun.
5. Here are previous posts featuring Leonard Nimoy:
6. Here's a 1981 picture of Michael (left) and me that the world probably does not need. But we can't hide from the past. In addition to occasionally watching In Search Of..., Michael and I rode our bicycles around the neighborhood a lot, made obsessive lists of the Philadelphia Phillies' roster, sang and played air guitar to The Muppet Movie soundtrack, debated whether Star Blazers was better than Battle of the Planets, and generally played outdoors way, way more than we played indoors.
7. The average Papergreat post has an incubation period of one to three weeks. Some take much longer. The oldest post still sitting in my "Drafts" section on Blogger was begun in July 2015.

Tattered, torn and creased photo of pure mystery

The decades have not been kind to this mystery snapshot. It measures 2¾ inches wide, has heavy creases that affect its structural integrity and is missing a big chunk in the upper-right corner. There is zero identifying information on the back.

So we have a man and a woman posing for a photograph in a residential yard. The man is sitting in a chair that looks too nice to be an outdoor chair; it was probably brought outside just for the occasion. The woman is leaning on the chair and has an arm draped around the man's shoulders. It looks more like a brother-and-sister pose than a boyfriend-girlfriend pose, but who knows?

And what is it they're wearing? Are those swimsuits? Is that a swim cap on her head, with a lot of flowing locks tucked inside?

It's a sunny day. It's, perhaps, the 1940s?

What are your thoughts?

Final note: This post from last month is a good jumping-off point, if you want to peruse more mystery photos.