Author Archive

Tee Time No More –Abandoned Mini-Golf

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If you’re looking to play a few rounds of mini-golf, you may be out of time. It’s become such an increasingly difficult business climate for miniature golf courses that it’s now trendy for owners to  leave the business behind and cash in on their property instead.

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Miniature golf as we know it today started in the 1950s when David Lloyd opened a Putt-Putt Golf course in Fayetteville, North Carolina, with two unique innovations.  On his Putt-Putt course, each hole was encased by an aluminum barrier and the carpet was specifically designed for playing conditions.

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Within 20 years the Putt-Putt Golf Corporation had franchised out dozens of locations across the southeastern United States.

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The popularity of mini-golf began to slow down during the 90s with the rise of at-home technology.  Customers started to seek more interactive forms of entertainment.  And in the age of computers, kids just aren’t as interested in outdoor activities.  Some minituare golf course owners survived by evolving into “fun centers” by adding on additional activities like laser tage arenas, batting cages, bumper cars, go karts, and arcades.  Golf-only sites used to be the norm within the Putt-Putt Corporation, but today they’re few and far between.  Miniature golf by itself just doesn’t draw in customers anymore.

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We’ve experienced the same trend here in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  Rich’s Golf Center in Wyoming still remains closed after announcing that it wouldn’t open for the 2016 season.  And there was a miniature golf course on the Dallas Highway, right before Harvey’s Lake, for as long as I can recall– but it’s gone now.  The wooden sign out front said LAKEWAY GOLF.

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I don’t know anything about the history of that location other than information online indicating that it may have opened in 1955.

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After sitting as an abandonment for quite some time, it was eventually demolished well over a year ago.  Sadly, it’s another place that seems fated to become a part of our lost history.  If you know anything about LAKEWAY GOLF and have stories or pictures to share, please do.

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Cheri Sundra © 2017

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Angela Park: An American Eulogy (Update-Ferris Wheel)

Cheri Sundra

Angela Park, a once popular roadside attraction that reads like a sadly typical American eulogy to lost community, prosperity, and small town life, closed in 1988 after being a regional landmark for three decades.

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During an auction of the park’s assets back in 1990, Gary Grant purchased the Ferris Wheel, which is roughly the height of a two-story home.  According to newspaper reports, the Grant family enjoyed their own private piece of Angela Park for about five years, especially during birthday parties. Sadly, Gary Grant passed away in 2011.  The Ferris Wheel still stands idly by on the property of the family home.

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To Learn more about Angela Park, check out:

Angela Park: An American Eulogy

 

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Cheri Sundra © 2017

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Come Fly With Me—Abandoned & Infamous: Birchwood Resort

Cheri Sundra

“Come fly with me, let’s take off in the blue

Once I get you up there

Where the air is rarefied

We’ll just glide

Starry-eyed

Once I get you up there

I’ll be holding you so near

You may hear

Angels cheer, ’cause we’re together”

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Photo Courtesy of Jenn O’Malia

Arguably, Birchwood is the most notorious of the abandoned resorts located in the Poconos. It’s most recent use as a hideout by an alleged cop killer added yet another chapter to the resort’s colorful history.

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For decades, private pilots have used the term “$100 Hamburger” in reference to the expense of flying one’s own plane to small airports and airstrips in rural areas for a diner hamburger, which, when factoring in the cost of the airplane, was an expensive but adventurous lunch.  Forget the burger—imagine the glamour of dropping down out of the clouds to stay at a resort! 

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Photo Courtesy of Katherine Rogers

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Built on the site of an old farm during the 1950s, Birchwood quickly became one of the Poconos’ most recognizable honeymoon spots. In 1969, the Birchwood-Pocono Air Park was added to cater to resort-goers who wanted to add a little extra enchantment to their visit.

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Brochures from the 70s offered “fly in” services for honeymooners who would fly, or drive, to the airport in Allentown to connect with the Birchwood Resort Plane waiting to drop them off at the resort’s private air strip.  Because of the private airport, it’s been said the resort was a popular destination among mobsters and other nefarious individuals visiting from New York and New Jersey.  

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Birchwood was quite a destination!  The resort offered all-inclusive, couples-only packages with amenities like private cabins, swimming, a night club, bowling, miniature golf, a shooting range, paddle boats, and badminton. Couples could also take off from the 2,500-foot runway using a glider to soar over the Poconos and soak in thrilling views of the Delaware Water Gap.

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Photo Courtesy of Katherine Rogers 

Like the rest of the big Pocono Honeymoon Resorts, Birchwood was struggling to stay open by the late 90s, especially during the slow season of early spring and late fall.  Since the promise of casino gambling fell through in the 80s, some resorts started to cater to fetishists who would book the entire resort for themselves. 

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According to the Pocono Record, Birchwood hosted its fourth annual spanking party on April 20, 1999.  Spankers from around the world paid $500 dollars each for a weekend of erotic play at the resort.  The weekend after that was devoted to bondage. These events weren’t exactly a secret.  The staff, who had the unpleasant task of cleaning up, knew about them. Neighbors of the resort heard rumors about naked hide-and-seek events in the woods, and gossip about a game called “spank the naked bowler”. The police knew because the spankers had a website where the curious could download pictures from their events.

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The local newspaper exposed the fetish events at Birchwood, and the story was picked up by the national news.  Even comedians on late night TV were cracking jokes about the Poconos.  After the Pocono Record exposed Birchwood, the Pocono Mountains Vacation Bureau put pressure on the resort to cancel these events.  A few years later, the resort closed.  And wasn’t heard about again until 2014. 

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On September 12, 2014, accused cop killer Eric Matthew Frein allegedly gunned down Bryon K. Dickson II, 38, of Dunmore, and wounded Trooper Alex T. Douglass, 34, of Olyphant, in a sniper-style attack outside of the Blooming Grove state police barracks.

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Photo Courtesy of Jenn O’Malia

A lengthy manhunt ensued, with many residents living in fear, while hundreds of law enforcement officers swarmed the region.  Schools were shut down. Troopers set up checkpoints on local highways. Eric Matthew Frein became a household name with his photo plastered on billboards and area storefronts. Residents were ordered to remain inside in areas where the suspect was seen. The entire community was under siege with helicopters constantly flying overhead and heavily armed officers everywhere.

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Following the 48-day manhunt that spanned two counties, he was finally captured outside the dilapidated Birchwood airport hangar in Monroe County. Frein was detained by U.S. Marshals at the resort while state police drove slain Cpl. Bryon Dickson’s car to the resort, then used Dickson’s handcuffs to place Frein under arrest.

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Photo Courtesy of Jenn O’Malia

Investigators found incriminating evidence, including the .308-caliber rifle used in the attack, inside the airport hangar. It’s not clear how long Frein was hiding out there, but a variety of items belonging to him were found including additional firearms, a bayonet, and more than 200 rounds of ammunition. He also had a computer, water jugs, toilet paper, binoculars and religious items, including New Testament writings from Psalms and Proverbs, a religious plaque, as well as seven DVDS and handwritten notes.

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Photo Courtesy of Jenn O’Malia

Birchwood resort first appeared in local phone books in 1953. Its last listing was in 2007. Some reports say the resort closed in 2001. Today the property looks like a ghost town of decaying cabins and recreational facilities, with nothing but broken windows, crumbling cabins and broken down doors looming over the lake and wetlands.

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Death and Taxes (Part 2): The Crumbling Burial Chamber

Once advertised as a “magnificent chapel mausoleum of reinforced concrete, granite and marble built to endure the ages,” this burial chamber is now literally crumbling.

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I wrote about this place back in 2012 , without revealing the location, since I thought it was the most disturbing abandonment I’d ever seen.  Sadly, I’ve since learned that abandoned interment spaces are becoming quite a common occurrence across the United States because of financial difficulties.

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2016

Due to years of neglect, the mausoleum at Good Shepherd Memorial Park on Westminster Road in Plains Township, which has been featured in numerous local news stories since 2015, is in a dangerous state of disrepair. bc5The cemetery was created in 1976 by owners known collectively as Westminster Associates. Then in 1994, Larry Deminski, who incorporated himself with the Department of State as Westminster Memorial Garden, Inc., became the sole owner of the cemetery.

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By 2003, the property was overgrown and neglected, and there was more than $20,000 owed in unpaid taxes on the cemetery. The water and electricity had been shut off.

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Good Shepherd Memorial Park Office

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Nobody was doing any structural maintenance on the mausoleum and burial records couldn’t be found anywhere. Then Deminski died in February 2004. The current owners bought it, sight unseen, at a tax sale for $4,500 in August 2005, per county records.

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According to local news outlets, Lawrence Lee and Viktoria Evstafieva were unaware that the property was a cemetery when they purchased it at a tax sale.  Their attorney, John Comitz told local papers that the property never should have been sold in the first place because cemeteries cannot be taxed or sold at tax sales in Pennsylvania.  In June of 2015, code enforcement officials roped off the outdoor crypt areas with yellow police tape and locked the mausoleum for safety reasons.

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That same year, the troubled Plains Township cemetery was pulled from yet tax another tax sale on September 24th, because the matter was in litigation with Luzerne County and its tax claim bureau.  At the time, records showed $15,477 were owed in back taxes by the current owners since 2010.  They were also sued for damages, both financial and emotional, by a woman who sought restitution for having to remove her father from Good Shepherd’s mausoleum to have him relocated to another cemetery.

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Described as peaceful and beautiful 30 years ago, today the structure is so unstable that people can’t pay respect to their loved ones.  Although it’s been so long since the police tape went up that it’s now gone, locks and chains still hang heavily at the doorway, prohibiting anyone from entering the crumbling final resting place of its inhabitants.

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“Criminal” and “disrespectful” are words used by family members to describe the situation.  “When you make arrangements to Rest in Peace they should be able to rest in peace” is what one distraught family member told a local news station.  “I worry everyday what’s going to happen to that structure where my parents are,” said another. “This is terrible. This is one big nightmare.”

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Some families with loved ones interred there would like to move them, but cost is an issue, as well as the fact that bodies can no longer be removed until the structure has been stabilized.  An inspection was done, and it was determined that it wasn’t safe for people to take remains out until the building is secured. Removing the heavy marble panels and taking the caskets out of the vaults could jeopardize the integrity of the entire structure.

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Other families wanted to take over the mausoleum, hoping to restore it since their deceased loved ones had expressed a desire to be laid to rest in that location, but no visible work can be seen taking place on the structure–just more deterioration as observed by these two pictures taken just four years apart.

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August 2012

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Obviously financial obstacles are a barrier to finding any workable solution.  An estimate given to repair the roof came in at around $52,000.  Obviously the township can’t pick up the tab, but it has agreed to waive the fees for the permits that will be required for any work done to the mausoleum. But who is going to take over the property and put up the money needed for repairs?

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“It’s a terrible situation up there,” according to Plains Township Commissioner Chairman Robert Sax . “It’s the strangest, saddest situation I’ve ever dealt with as a commissioner.”

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Cheri Sundra © 2016 All Rights Reserved

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The Haunted Monkey Candle Shoppe

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Cellars are creepy, especially in old houses.  That’s why the employees rarely ventured into the cellar of the 100-year-old The Candle Shoppe Of The Pocono’s— spooky things were happening down there!

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About four years after the business opened in the large house on Route 611 in the Poconos, those working the closing shift say they could hear strange sounds in the cellar after dark, when the store started staying open late on Fridays and Saturdays.  They even refused to walk around the premises alone at night.

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Because the business continued growing, the owner got ready to expand, and everyone could no longer avoid utilizing the basement.  That’s when the employees told the owner that the store was haunted.  She told them they were crazy and brushed off their experiences by saying it must be the furnace making noise or floorboards just squeaking.

As business needs required the use of the basement more and more, old medical equipment and cages were found down there.  The weirdness only intensified.  There were unexplained pounding sounds and candles would fly off the shelves by themselves.  According to some newspaper reports, employees said they heard stampeding sounds and smelled animals, even though the candle shop has an aroma of perfume and wax.  Then the owner started to hear the noises herself and was convinced that something unnatural was happening in her store.

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Finally, a neighbor filled them in about the house’s grisly history—it was used by a scientist to conduct experiments on spider monkeys that were locked in the basement.

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The house was built in 1897.  A doctor employed by Pocono Biological Laboratories, which is known today as Sanofi Pasteur, took up residence in 1901. He was working on a smallpox vaccine and a cure for yellow fever.  Were the people at the candle shop experiencing the restless spirits of medical experiment monkeys?  You can decide for yourself.

Today, The Candle Shoppe of the Pocono’s offers an attraction on the premises based on the history of the house. It’s located in the basement of the shop and has an amusement park-like vibe.  There are fake monkeys and skulls and strobe lights and gore. But another focus is the authentic documentation gathered about the doctor, William Redwood Fisher, who lived in the house with his family. No photography or video is allowed inside the actual attraction (but when you reach the bottom, you’ll see a video currently available on YouTube).

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The Candle Shoppe of the Poconos has been featured on Animal Planet’s The Haunted and investigated by the Pennsylvania Paranormal Association (not just once, but twice). You can visit the Biological Research Testing Facility turned Candle Shoppe at 1900 Route 611 in Swiftwater, Pennsylvania, which is open year-round.

Have a Happy & Safe Halloween!

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Photo Courtesy of Photography by Jennifer O’Malia 

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Video from The Candle Shoppe of the Pocono’s

 

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An Anniversary of Decline: The Significance of the Demolition of the Hotel Sterling

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This is every community’s story in 2016 America. Crazy as it sounds, as you hear residents debate about the possibility of “saving” an abandoned or endangered  building, especially one of historical significance, have you ever considered the issue from the building’s point of view? Now you can, for free (at least from July 27th thru July 29th, 2016) at Amazon.com.

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I had the opportunity to photograph what remained of the historical Hotel Sterling, prior to demolition, and I swear, it “spoke” to me–about the price of preservation, and the cost to communities when non-action occurs, while waiting for some unknown entity to step up with a solution and much needed funding.

First published in July of 2013 and currently ranked on Amazon’s Historical Preservation world-wide category at #121**, Welcome To The Zombie Hotel Sterling, will be available for free, in honor of its demolition anniversary, until Friday, July 29th, 2016.

**(Update: Currently #1 in Pop Culture on 7/27/16 & 7/28/16.  Sorry Taylor Swift!  Just kidding, I love Taylor….)

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“History meets Pop Culture in a tale about time, consequence, and unrealized visions for the future, as an entire community attempts to outrun diminished expectations for a way of life they can no longer hope to maintain. Abandoned and rotting away along the banks of the mighty Susquehanna River, the zombified Hotel Sterling tells its tale of fading grandeur and woe to a photographer visiting the deteriorating structure, seeking to document the reality of the condition of the building, as the hotel waits for its beloved community to decide its fate, once and for all.”

So grab a digital copy for yourself, while you can, for free.  If you don’t have a Kindle App, you can get one, for you smartphone, computer, or tablet at:  Amazon Free Kindle App  .

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 What does local Abandoned Pennsylvania History

have to do with the 2016 Presidential Race?

Visit:

Abandoned Scranton Lace:

A Visual Autopsy of The American Dream

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Cheri Sundra © 2016 All Rights Reserved

 

 

No Fun In The Sun Moon Lake Park

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In 2011 and 2012, local papers were running stories about coming up with a multi-million dollar plan to save Luzerne County owned Moon Lake Park, because today, all plans have to be “multi-million”. For those who are not familiar with the area, Moon Lake Park, located in Pennsylvania, was a low key, inexpensive  (mostly free) kind of place, where people could go to enjoy the great outdoors, with access to a few amenities.  You could camp and fish.  You could bike and hike. It had a pool and some tennis courts.  Picnic tables, were sprinkled throughout the property.  It was a great place to kick back, enjoy nature, catch some rays, grill burgers, and hang out with friends and family.

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The View Thru A Missing Office Window

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By the time the public discussion began about how to fix the park, many amenities had been closed by Luzerne County for several years due to budgetary concerns. The facilities did show obvious signs of neglect when I started photographing the decline in 2012.  But it could have been greatly improved upon with some simple repairs, like repaving those tennis courts and repairing the picnic tables.

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But instead of coming up with a real world workable plan, government red tape dictated that the financially struggling county had to waste time and precious resources, like money, creating a completely unattainable $37 Million Dollar Master Plan, which was required to apply for grant money to move forward on an improvement project that could never possibly be implemented within the near future.  Input coming from the public suggested the plan include a water park, snow tubing, rock climbing, zip lining, and nature-survival activities so it could be designed to compete with places like The Great Wolf Lodge in the Poconos.

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Despite having a yearly budget of only $119,626 to run the park in 2011, the county commissioners approved a $120,000 contract with Sasaki Associates Inc., located in Massachusetts, to be the consultant in charge of creating the master plan that same year. The state agreed to pay for half of the cost while the county planned to spend bond proceeds borrowed in 2008 to fund its $60,000 share according to news reports. How did all of our little community improvement projects turn into these multi-million dollar endeavors, that are never going to be attainable in a county as financially strapped as this one? We couldn’t even afford to write the plan, let alone find the funds to execute it.

Maybe that’s the real issue. Government red tape, and community input with Dom Perignon taste, while trying to scrape together enough change to buy a dollar draft, wastes so much time creating these dream scenarios that our leaders don’t have the opportunity to think about realistic plans which would actually make sense.

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Recently, ownership of Moon Lake Park was transferred to the state of Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Forestry.  According to reports, they plan to allow most of the park area to return to its natural state, with paved roads being replaced with crushed stone as they deteriorate. The pool and other structures will disappear.  The new public bathrooms will be non-flushable sealed concrete vaults, and the designated camping areas will be rustic with no utility hook-up. Future plans include a new well-manicured area for picnics and a boat launch near the lake.

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It was Jennifer O’Malia who introduced me to the concept of Urban Exploration

Style Photography in 2010.  Jenn, who has the unique vision of a

social documentarian, is now offering her services as a freelance photographer.

Photo by Jennifer O’Malia

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