Sunday, June 6, 2021

Gloucester...

Our second stop for our first day in Massachusetts would be a bit further north than Salem: Gloucester.

Located on Cape Ann in northeastern Massachusetts, the city of Gloucester is not only a popular summer tourist spot, but also developed into a major shipbuilding center. The first schooner is believed to have been built here in 1713. Its proximity to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland helped it grow into a major fishing center, as well. 

Gloucester, for all its charm and opulence (some of the homes are amazing,) is still a working fishing port, first and foremost. The sea, or maybe it's just the idea of the sea, is treated with a reverence not commonly found. As an example, there's the Gloucester Compass Rose:


 "The Gloucester Compass Rose", is located near Maritime Gloucester (a museum)...

There's a rock with a plaque nearby, with the following inscription:

"Maritime Gloucester dedicates
The Gloucester Compass Rose
To All Those Who Harvest and Preserve
The Bounty of Our Great Oceans
May 24, 2014"


Some of the stately homes along the waterfront...

Gloucester Harbor...

Gloucester Harbor...

The late 19th century saw a large influx of immigrants from both Portugal and Italy looking to find work in the growing fishing industry. As more and more fishermen arrived, more and more fishing vessels were able to sail. Of course, the increased number of vessels heading out to sea meant that the chances of accidents grew accordingly.

Along the harbor waterfront you can find the Gloucester Fisherman's Memorial. The Memorial lists the names of 5,368 of those who sailed from Gloucester but have never returned. Of the nearly 1,000 ships lost to the sea, 265 of them are known to have been lost with all hands. From 1860-1906, a staggering 660 ships sank at sea; more than 14 per year, every year, for 46 years. There were a total of 3,880 men lost during that time.

Perched at the Memorial is the 8-foot sculpture "Man At The Wheel", which was modeled after Capt. Clayton Morrissey, a prominent Gloucester fisherman:

 




 

Now, admittedly, the impact of the loss of Gloucester fishermen at sea really didn't have much impact much beyond Gloucester. Most people in the rest of the country rarely, if ever, heard of such a thing. That is until Wolfgang Peterson's movie "The Perfect Storm" was released in 2000. 

The movie tells the true story of the fishing vessel Andrea Gail and her crew finding themselves at the confluence of three gigantic Atlantic storms, something that had never occurred in recorded history. The Captain and crew decided to try to sail through the storm, as sailing around it would've taken much longer and threatened to spoil their impressive catch. The decision proved fatal as the ship, and all six crew members, were lost to the deep. It's believed a 100' wave off the coast of Nova Scotia, recorded by a buoy, sent the Andrea Gail to the bottom of the North Atlantic.

If you're at the Fisherman's Memorial looking towards the harbor, you can turn to the right of the Memorial and see those six names:

The lost crew of the Andrea Gail...

The Man At The Wheel overlooking the Fisherman's Memorial...

I'm not sure who put this at the Memorial, but it seems to be appropriately placed. If I were to hazard a guess, it's a young boy's lament over the loss of his father, a fisherman lost to the sea...

The day had gotten a bit long and we still had the hour drive back to Ken's house in Billerica, so we decided to call it a day. Between Salem and Gloucester we'd seen a lot and, also, learned a lot. 

If you happen to be visiting the Boston area, be sure to make time to visit Gloucester...







Salem...

We had two stops planned for our first day in the greater Boston area. 

Our first stop would be the town of Salem , Massachusetts. Just north of Boston along the coast, Salem rose to prominence in the 1690's with what became known as the Salem Witch Trials. 

It was a dark time in the colony, to be sure, but apparently the Puritans weren't fans of taking chances. Early on, Elizabeth Hubbard became to be one of the primary accusers, and her mere accusations carried weight. A member of accusers between the ages of 12 and 20, her age (17) allowed her to testify under oath. Swearing an oath to God on the stand gave the youngster a great deal of credibility in the eyes of the court. 

Jonathan Corwin owned the house where many of the trials took place, and it's now the only building remaining in Salem with direct ties to the trials. It's now known simply as "The Witch House":

The Witch House in Salem, Massachusetts, home of the greatest witch hunt in American history...

Tours are help from Tuesday to Sunday and cost $9 per person. Much to my chagrin, photography and video recording is not permitted inside the house.

After our your of the Witch House, we decided to just stroll around a bit. Salem was first settled in 1626, so there was sure to be plenty to see (and photograph!):

I was playing around with a new lens; the Sigma 35MM F/1.4 ART. It's a bokeh beast!


The first church in Salem was a Unitarian Universalist church which was established in 1629. The physical church was not built until 1836...


The Ropes Mansion, which is part of the Peabody Essex Museum, was built in 1727...

The view from the gardens of the Ropes Mansion...

 

A lot of businesses were still closed due to Covid, but most were open. This allowed us to find an amazing place to have breakfast (well, maybe a breakfast-themed lunch) at Fountain Place. The food was good, the staff was friendly and it was well within walking distance of where we parked:

This omelette was absolutely massive. I'll recommend it but, geez, be careful...

Now, something I was unaware, but which Jess seemed pretty well aware of, is the fact that there's a statue here to honor actress Elizabeth Montgomery, who played Samantha Stevens in the sitcom "Bewitched" from 1964 until 1972: 


Samantha Stevens, astride her broom in Lippin Park...

 

There was one more "must see" site that, being a Dad, I was completely unaware of. Right along Ocean Avenue in Salem is a two story house which was used in the filming of the movie "Hocus Pocus", which starred Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker:


This is probably the most photographed private home in all of Salem, Massachusetts...

Salem offers no shortage of souvenir stores, occult stores and the like.As walking is the main mode of transportation in the central downtown area, it's easy to check them out:

 




An actual witches hat, made by a witch...



 

The array of souvenirs one can buy is mind-boggling, as well is the fact that you can buy a cap and a hat which were made by actual witches. I figure that's gotta' count for something, right?

We ended up spending about three hours in Salem, but you could easily spend twice that and not see everything there is to see. From the whimsical to the bizarre, Salem's got something for every witch and warlock in the family, for every spell and incantation. 

 Just be sure to wear comfortable shoes, as you'll be doing a lot of walking...









Saturday, June 5, 2021

The Road To Beantown...

After what had been right about a week, I got a phone call from Caliber Collision in Wooster, Ohio. The repairs on my car were complete, and I could come pick up the car. 

We ended up spending an additional week in Ohio. As much fun as we'd had, and as good as it was to spend time with our friends there, the inescapable reality is that we were a week behind schedule. Of course our schedule, such as it was, was pretty flexible. Still, I was ready to finally start making tracks back to St. Augustine.

The main thing we did during the drive out of Ohio was look for Harley Davidson dealers. More than a few friends collect Harley t-shirts, and up to this point I'd hit dealers across the country, but it's always fun scoping out another one. A growing trend I've seen is that dealers don't only want to be a place where you can buy a motorcycle, they want to be museums, too:

 

I believe this is a 1973 model, once owned by Elvis Presley...

A small portion of the Harleys on display at Southeast Harley Davidson in Cleveland, Ohio...

We decided to split the drive to Boston into two days. The first day we drove to New York, where we met up with my friends Mike and Tamara and their daughter Ariel for dinner at the New York Beer Project in Victor, New York:


L to R: Yours truly, my daughter Jess, Ariel, Tamara and Mike, whom I've known over 50 years...

If you ever find yourself in Victor (they have another location in Lockport, NY as well), you could do a lot worse for lunch or dinner.

The next morning we got on the road at a reasonable hour; not too late and not too early. We had about four to five hours to get to Kenny and Karen's house outside of Boston, so we didn't feel incredibly rushed, which was good. After what seemed like just a couple of hours, we were crossing into "The Bay State", Massachusetts:

 


And, after only what seemed like an hour from there, we were pulling up in front of Kenny and Karen's house. Kenny, always happy to play the gracious host, introduced himself to Jess as "the funny uncle in Boston:

My buddy Ken, up way past his bedtime...

It was good to see how quickly Kenny and Karen bonded with Jess. The next few days could not have been more comfortable, and they could not have been more welcoming and accommodating. Their home was ours for as long as we wanted to stay. Genuine friends can be sometimes be few and far between, but they're always worth finding. Kenny and Karen are worth it.

The late hour told us it was time to call it a day. It had been a long day, and the coming days would prove to be just as long...

Ohio State Reformatory (aka Shawshank Prison)...

One of the things I like about traveling with my daughter is that, in some cases, I end up going back to places I've visited in the past. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was that way. I knew my daughter would dig it, so we went. Such was the case with the Ohio State Reformatory.

I visited "OSR" last year during my road trip but, because of Covid restrictions, was unable to get into the prison. All I could do was take some long distance shots through a chain link gate from quite a distance away. This year, thankfully, the prison was once again offering tours, so it made sense to visit.

 

Shawshank awaits...

 

First, let me say that I love shooting old prisons. My first was West Virginia Penitentiary back in 2013, and then Eastern State Penitentiary, near Philadelphia, later that same year. Like the other two prisons mentioned, Ohio State Reformatory has been seen in countless television shows, movies and music videos, including no shortage of "paranormal investigation" shows on television. Needless to say, it checked off the "Ghost Adventures" box.

The prison (hereafter known as "Shawshank") is located just outside of Mansfield, Ohio.  It was built from 1886 and 1910, and it continued operating until it was ordered closed in 1990. Most of the support buildings and outer wall have been demolished, and the same fate awaited the prison itself when Hollywood came calling, wanting to use the prison for the famed Shawshank. Following that, there was a renewed interest in saving the prison from the wrecking ball.

Now, I wrote about this prison after I visited last year, so I'm just going to let the pictures do the talking in this entry (with a little photographer input here and there), save for this: One of the cooler aspects of this prison museum is that they're able to exhibit actual artifacts from the Ohio State Reformatory pretty seamlessly with props from the movie. Also, many of the rooms in the prison which were used in the movie remain as they were seen in the movie.


A guard's hat from the original OSR, ca 1920...

Warden Morton's office as seen in the movie...

Another view of the Warden's office...

Another view of the Warden's office...

The prison is widely believed to be haunted, and this room is in the center of "spook central"...


This large room used to house the prison library...


Unclaimed personal items of a prisoner...

Just a cool stairway...


A life-size cut out of Warden Morton, portrayed in the movie by Bob Gunton...

A prison issue shirt from the 1930's...

An inmate's file card from the 1930's...


Despite the presence of an electric chair, no one was ever executed at the Ohio State Reformatory...

This electric chair, which was previously used at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Columbus until 1963, has never been used at the Ohio State Reformatory...

This hat was worn by Morgan Freeman, who played Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding in the movie...

This panel was originally found in another room. That room, which in the movie was in a halfway house, was actually just another room in the prison used for filming...

Prison guard uniform shoulder patches which were made for the movie...

The letter to Red, from Andy Dufresne, played by Tim Robbins.

The letter to Red was actually written by Tim Robbins...

The tin box in which Red Ellis found the letter from Andy Dufresne...
 

In the movie, this compass was purchased by Red Ellis at a pawn shop after his release from prison. The pawn shop is actually an antique store on Main Street in nearby Mansfield, Ohio...


This was a bunkroom for prison guards during OSR's operation...

For the movie, an old guard bunkroom served as the room at a halfway house to which both Red Ellis and Brooks Hatlen (played by James Whitmore) were sent after they were paroled...

The prison chapel could accommodate the entire prison population, which could reach over 1,000...

At six tiers high, the eastern cell block is the largest free-standing steel cell block in the world...

Home sweet home. A typical two-man cell...


A window looking into the prison hospital...

Some of the finest doctors in the state of Ohio worked at the reformatory...

The eastern cell block...

My daughter Jessy, exploring solitary confinement, which is considered the most haunted portion of the prison. She said the hair on the back of her neck was standing up by the time she got through it...

Spooks confirmed. You've been warned...

And, as you might expect, there are plenty of souvenirs and trinkets available at the prison gift shop. All proceeds, as well as admission fees, go to maintaining the prison...

 

So, whether you're a fan of history, the movies, or the paranormal,the Ohio State Reformatory, just outside of Mansfield, OH should certainly be on your list of places to check out the next time you're on an epic cross country road trip. Some things to keep in mind if you visit:

1 - Wear comfortable shoes; tennis shoes, or any shoe with a soft sole, are best. The prison is massive, and you're walking the entire way.

2 - A comprehensive tour can easily take two to three hours, so be ready for that. Maybe keep a bottle of water with you, as there's none to buy along the way.

3 - The prison is not ADA compliant, and it's status as an historical landmark means it doesn't need to be. But be forewarned, there are a lot of metal stairs to climb, both up and down. There's only one elevator in the prison, and it stopped working sometime back in the 1980's.

4 - When you find yourself in, say, Warden Morton's office, feel free to sit down at his desk, use the phone, etc. This is one of the nice aspects of this museum, I think, so why not?

5 - Pay the $5 fee for the self-guided tour audio wand. Nine times out of ten you simply won't know what you're looking at, so the wand comes in handy.

6 - If you're a photographer, paying an additional fee allows you to bring a tripod with you, for doing HDR and long exposure stuff. I was unaware of this when we purchased our tickets, or I definitely would've done so. I was told it's a nominal fee; maybe five bucks.

7 - They offer a $2 military discount (active or Veteran) and seniors. While kids under age 6 are free, I really wouldn't recommend bringing them along.

Lastly, anyone who reads my blog knows that I dig the paranormal. Anytime I shoot an old cemetery or church or prison, I always scrutinize my photos a little more than if I was taking photos at a city park. The Ohio State Reformatory has been investigated by numerous groups and organizations over the years, including both Ghost Adventures and Ghost Hunters, and there's little doubt that "Shawshank" is, in fact, haunted.

Why am I telling you this? Well, two reasons. First, I like recommending haunted places for people to check out. The second reason I'm telling you this is the picture below. It's ill-composed, out of focus and has motion blur. It's a technical train wreck:

 

 

Now, here's what I'd like you to consider: I didn't take this photograph

It seems clear to me that this was taken while we were in the gift shop. But I never moved around the room with my finger on the shutter release. I took the photo of the t-shirts and that was it. Had I been walking around, the picture would be sideways, as I don't use a neck strap and walk with my "camera hand" down next to my body. What we're looking at here is, clearly, the floor. For me to have taken that inadvertently, though, it would've required me to hold my camera in a position that I never hold it in.

Ever.

I'm not saying what it is, because I don't know. I know what it's not, though, and it's not a picture taken by me.

All in all a trip to "Shawshank Prison" is exciting, spooky, informative and one Helluva' good time so, enjoy.

And keep an eye on your camera...



Gloucester...

Our second stop for our first day in Massachusetts would be a bit further north than Salem: Gloucester. Located on Cape Ann in northeastern ...