Posts Tagged ‘ Pennsylvania History ’

Fashion in Ruins

With Riss Vandal of FASHION VANDALS

Photo Credit:  57NOPhotography

Goth ARooftop Anime Glam @

Fashion Vandals

It’s been said that “nothing has the power to tell the truth about an age quite like fashion”.  That statement has never been more accurate than it is today, in the era of the fashion blogger.   Just as blogging has been challenging the control of public information as wielded by big, corporate owned newspapers and broadcasting networks, independent fashion bloggers have been usurping the influence of traditional high fashion magazines.  That’s not to say that a “Devil Wears Prada” Miranda Priestly-type magazine editor still can’t declare an entire line a catastrophe by simply pursing her lips, but as she’s seated in the front row line-up at Fashion Week, amongst the fashion bloggers and their laptops, her point of view is no longer necessarily the first to reach the fashion-hungry masses or the throngs of chic-hunter consumers.  

Photo Credit:Carlos Phillips Images

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Endless Autumn @

Fashion Vandals

Just as Big Media has been losing journalists for years when they run out of formats and room for their ideas, a new breed of fashion reporter is turning to the internet to bring a different kind of fashion news coverage to their audience.    Marissa Phillips, aka Riss Vandal, is the lady who runs the show at Fashion Vandals.com.    When asked to explain the role of a fashion blogger to the uninitiated, Vandal explains, “It’s a blogger who focuses on some aspect of fashion or style–whether through tutorials, trend-reporting, outfit posts, interviews and features, or even people with lifestyle blogs that happen to have notable personal style end up being considered fashion bloggers. It can take a lot of forms. The main idea behind Fashion Vandals is to highlight designers, models, and brands that are making bold statements and taking chances, and to celebrate styles that lie outside the mainstream.” 

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Robert Smith and Siouxsie Sioux Had a Visual Kei Baby @

Fashion Vandals

While designers taking risks is hardly anything new, the cultural/historical trends and artistic expressions of any era always help to influence the fashion risk-takers of that current age.  During the height of World War II, for example, Paris fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli famously collaborated with well-known artists of the Surrealist movement, such as Salvador Dali, to transform something as ordinary and mundane as clothing, into strangely beautiful and contradictory works of art.  Her designs were considered outrageous and outright shocking.  But the women who dared to wear Schiaparelli’s designs morphed from mere mortals into surreal apparitions.  For the first time in history, life was literally imitating art!  Even today, Riss Vandal definitely agrees with that sentiment, “If you’re someone that dutifully follows trends, or simply dresses for comfort or to suit a certain situation, I guess fashion can be seen as a hobby or simply something utilitarian. But for those who use fashion for expressive or transformative means, I don’t think fashion is similar to art, I think fashion IS art.”

I asked Vandal what she thought about popular culture’s current obsession with death, which may not be completely surprising, given that we’ve lived through more than one apocalypse last year!  Since even romance is reflected via the undead in the youth of today, I wondered aloud if it is in some way, a metaphor about modern life.  Riss responded,” I feel like I can really only answer this in terms of my own experience…and when I was younger I was first drawn, I wouldn’t say to death culture, but to dark culture, because finding inspiration from the darker aspects of life is one way I sort of made sense of it all and came to terms with it.  And really, I think most people are looking for signs that there’s more to life than what it seems, a sort of magic or mystery beneath the surface, and so at times society’s attentions turn to ghosts, or magic, or aliens…just now it happens to be undead creatures such as zombies and vampires.”  

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Daywalkers Don’t Model For Lipservice @

Fashion Vandals

This pop culture death obsession is definitely reflected in Riss’s Fashion Vandals blog.  “I wouldn’t quite call it a Goth blog,” she explains, “but it certainly has a dark fashion focus.”

“Goth” or not, it is a vibe that is channeling its way into the mainstream fashion arena, and even creeping into the collections of haute couture designers like Alexander McQueen, with designs that are blatantly TWILIGHT-inspired

I asked Ms. Vandal what she thought about the fact that mainstream designers are now attempting to deliver a Goth-edge to department store consumer goods.  She states, “For the past year or so, every day has felt like Goth Christmas when I’ve went out shopping. It’s never been too easy to find affordable dark styles–but at the same time, I’ve never seen the market so inundated with horrid, cheesy takes on Goth style–do not get me started on bedazzled pentagrams and crucifixes.”

I wondered what inspired Vandal to become interested in alternative fashion.  She said, “I was incredibly shy as a kid, but I remember always wanting to visually stand out, and gaining some sort of defiant confidence through that. Then when I was 12, I went to my first punk show, where everyone was fearless and rocking wigs, and spikes, and tri-hawks…and I instantly fell in love and decided I wanted to be surrounded by that forever.  I feel like I’ve pretty much had the exact same style since I was 15, now it’s just a bit more polished.”

Photo Credit: Carlos Phillips Images

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Skeletal Distinction @

Fashion Vandals

I’ve noticed that people who are into Goth/alternative fashions also seem to share a fascination with the Victorian Era.  I asked Ms. Vandal to explain why.  “There’s such beauty and drama to the era, but also a definite darkness…especially in terms of the mourning culture,” Riss said,  “I’ve just always found the visual pageantry, but also the contrasts, so fascinating. And Victorian-inspired fashion has a huge impact on Goth style–corsets, parasols, fingerless gloves—are all major aspects of Goth fashion.”

Photo Credit: Cassie McDonald

Goth FThe Wayward Ones @

Fashion Vandals

Another thing Victorians and Goth fans have in common is the cemetery.  “For those who search for inspiration in death and the darker aspects of life, how can it not be fascinating to reflect on an era that assigned exact periods of time and intricate outfits to mourning the dead? And while some people dismiss cemeteries as morbid, others view them as tranquil and beautiful. A beautiful means to come to terms with life’s greatest darkness…which I feel ties in with both the era and the subculture”, explains Vandal.

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The Blues of Ms. Vondasblut @

Fashion Vandals

Since fashion does posses the power to tell us about the age in which we are living, I asked Riss what she thought fashion was telling us about the era we live in right now.  She thoughtfully explained, “I think we’re a confused, cynical age that glorifies the past and wants to be covered in head-to-toe irony.”

Which brings me, in a roundabout way, to the reason I choose to interview Riss Vandal for my own blog about modern day ruins—- this  “cynical age that glorifies the past”, as we allow the structures of our history to just tragically rot away, like abandoned corpses, without hope of restoration or the dignity of an expeditious burial.  I asked Vandal why she utilizes so many abandoned buildings with historical significance for her fashion photo shoots, and why she thinks ruins are so popular as settings for photographers today.   “I like contrasts and I enjoy finding beauty in decay and deconstruction,” she said, “ I also like locations that have a sense of history, even if I don’t know exactly what that history is…because then it allows me to come up with my own story. And I feel as though the latter, wanting a place with a sense of history, is a feeling shared with many artists/photographers.”

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Urbanite Vamp @

Fashion Vandals

I personally have to admit, I was a little lost when it came to understanding some of the trendsetting descriptive terms used in the Fashion Vandal blog, so I asked Ms. Vandal to explain the main differences between Punks, Neo-Victorians, Goth Debutantes, and Glam Rockers.  I also wondered if there is an age cut off for any of these looks, given that I may or may not be a few decades….years….older than she is!

 “Spikes, petticoats, combat boots, and hairspray?”, Riss attempts to clarify, “There are both a billion differences and a billion similarities between highly stylized subcultures, but what I meant by the statement in my blog description about “building a world where punks, Neo-Victorians, Goth Debutantes, and Glam Rock Kids can all walk hand-in-hand” is that we should all just find unity through our shared love of loud, dramatic fashion. As for a cut off age–if you can pull something off, then you can pull it off and numbers are arbitrary. I consider fashion a form of artistic expression…and is there an age cutoff for creativity?”

Goth ILess Vamp, More Metal @

Fashion Vandals

I wondered, if the hallmark of Preppy Dressing is always looking the same no matter what the era or fashion dictates, what is the first rule of alternative fashion?  Riss answered, “That’s a tricky question for many reasons, though mainly because alternative fashion encompasses so much–Goth, rockabilly, steampunk, etc…Just anything that isn’t quite mainstream. I think there’s no choice but to say that the first rule is that there are no rules…”

I wanted to know if there are simple ways for everyone to add a little alternative fashion flair to their wardrobe, even if they tend to dress in a way that would be described as “classic” or preppy.    “For simple ways to add edge to a look, in terms of makeup, I’d recommend switching up your usual eyeliner application and try a bold cat eye liner application, or experiment with a pair of dramatic false lashes.  In terms of wardrobe, the next time you see something that makes you think “man, I wish I could wear something like that,” stop thinking about it and just buy it–there’s really nothing edgier than that,” was Vandal’s answer. 

You can follow Riss Vandal on Twitter, Facebook and at Fashion Vandals

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Into the Belly of the Beast: Exploring The Mines That Fed The Industrial Revolution

Disclaimer:

I feel the need to have one of those “Beavis and Butt-head are not role models. They’re not even human, they’re cartoons.  Some of the things they do could cause a person to get hurt, expelled, arrested… possibly deported.  To put it another way, don’t try this at home” warnings at the beginning of this post.  

While Ed Mountjoy is NOT a cartoon character (although some may disagree), what he does is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS, and you should just resign yourself to enjoying his adventures from the safety of your computer/smartphone screen.  But since urban explorers tend to view “No Trespassing” signs as invitations to enter, I won’t bother coming up with a disclaimer of my own….I’ll just stand by what Mike Judge said, just insert Ed Mountjoy and abandoned anthracite mines for yourselves!  😉 

Ed First

Many Social Media users in Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA) recognize Ed Mountjoy as the face of The Forgotten Coal Industry of NEPA’S Facebook page.  But Ed’s following is quickly spreading beyond the “coal region” of Pennsylvania, and into the realm of the world-wide network of urban exploration.  And understandably so, since within the “explorer” hierarchy, those who explore the territory below the earth’s surface definitely carry more prestige than those of us who remain steadfastly with our feet planted above the ground. 

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While there are coal deposits scattered about the world, the coal from Northeastern Pennsylvania  is special  because it is anthracite coal, which is more pure, harder, and of higher carbon content than any  other type of coal on the entire planet.  In the Western Hemisphere, 95 percent of the anthracite coal supply is located within the 500 square mile region of Pennsylvania that is the topic of Ed’s “Forgotten Coal Industry” Facebook page. 

The story of anthracite coal mining in NEPA is complex.  It’s about pioneering industry and the entrepreneurial spirit, as well as the darker side of greed, suffering, and human exploitation. During the coal era in NEPA, the elite Coal Barons (coal company owners, a.k.a. The 1%) built magnificent Victorian mansions, as their immigrant workers often lived in overcrowded, company-owned “patch towns”, while actually having to pay their employer for the supplies necessary to do their high-risk  jobs that resulted in earning less than what we would call a “living wage” today.

 The coal mines of Luzerne County have been abandoned for decades now, but Ed Mountjoy is on a mission to document and share whatever remains he can find that relate to our local coal mining history before these remnants are gone forever—especially those places or structures that are hidden away from us as we go about our daily modern lives full of urban sprawl. 

While many urban explorers have documented popular local coal-related locations such as the Huber Breaker and Concrete City, Ed ventures into an area of local exploration that you never really hear about—the actual anthracite mines themselves.  Since exploration is ultimately about documenting the remains and ruins of the places that touched the lives of the people who once lived, worked, worshiped, or played at these locations, Ed is honoring the men who worked in these coal mines by reminding us all about the physical reality of their confined work-space. 

A Slope Leading To A Flooded Mine

A Slope Leading To A Flooded Mine

One truth remains the same today as it did for the men who toiled daily underground decades ago in NEPA–anyone entering a coal mine faces many dangers such as underground floods, roof falls, a mine collapse, fire, and countless other methods of serious injury or death.  A coal mine is not a glamorous place to be at all. The men working underground found themselves in an environment that was dirty, dangerous and most likely damp.  Standing up straight is almost impossible because mine tunnel ceilings are too low.  The air that you breathe in a coal mine is stale & dusty.  The miners actually had to use pieces of lumber to prop up the roof in the area that they were working in, as an attempt to avoid being trapped or crushed by huge rocks.  This knowledge gives anthracite mine explorers an adrenaline rush when something seems out of the ordinary during a mission.

“During a recent exploration, we thought we were hearing part of the mine collapsing, but it turned out to be some rocks sliding down an incline we just went up. That scared us but we were relieved to know it wasn’t the mine collapsing”, explained Ed.

Ed began seriously exploring abandoned anthracite mines at the end of 2010.  He had explored the remains of two collieries (for those of you outside of the NEPA region, a colliery is a coal mine and the buildings associated with it) as well as other abandoned buildings as far back as 2006, so he was already interested in abandonments.   “ I was informed about two mines and originally was just going to find them and get exterior photos of the openings into them”,  he explained, “ After several attempts looking for them, we, a friend and I, found them and saw they were low mine openings, meaning you have to crawl to get inside. We decided to enter them and the interest just sparked from there after seeing what we had inside of those two low mines.”

When asked how he finds mines to explore, Ed responded, “Well, I normally do research about what mines were in opperation around a particular area before exploring.  Sometimes, we’ll just run across a mine and, after exploring, will do research afterwards on what mines they may have been and what companies owned them during their years of operation. As for preparing to explore one of these mines, we’ll examine the conditions of the opening before entering; making sure the ceiling isn’t in horrible condition.”

Props Holding Up Mine Ceiling

Props Holding Up Mine Ceiling

As far as equipment goes, Ed approaches mine exploration on the lighter side by just carrying a flashlight, camera, tripod, and a drink.  He is also sure to take someone else with him. “I NEVER explore any place alone”, he stated, “I always have at least one other willing friend who comes with me. You never know what can happen when exploring any abandoned place, and mines are no exception.”

I wanted to know if he ever got lost while engaging in his underground exploration adventures.   Ed’s response was that he has never been lost, not even while exploring the largest mining system that he has been in, “I have a rather good sense of direction and can retrace my steps back, plus some of the mines still have arrows painted on the walls and ceilings pointing to the exit from back when they were mined”.  

I was curious to know what Ed considered to be the most difficult aspect of this type of exploration.  “Finding any mines that haven’t been sealed closed, and seeing if they are safe enough to enter, if they are still open.  Most of the mines that were in operation have been sealed off, whether they were blasted shut, filled or grated off.   Even many of the ones that were left open, either due to being forgotten about or just haven’t been attended to yet, have since collapsed on their own”, was his response.  He further added, “It’s more dangerous than an above ground structure. The deeper you go, there is more of a chance that something can happen and less of a chance you’ll be found, unlike a building where if you get hurt, chances are you can get a cell signal and call for help. Mines and other underground places tend to have no cell service, so it’s best to tell another the location of where you’re going, in case something does happen”.

A Steep Pitch Mine

A Steep Pitch Mine

While describing what it is like to spend time in these abandoned underground work spaces today, Ed thoughtfully explained that it’s quite peaceful, “Its dead quiet in the old mines. The most you may hear, besides yourself and whoever is with you, may be a few bats, which I have seen hanging from the ceilings, and water dripping from the cracks in the ceiling. The quietness adds to the thought of knowing that at one point, there were men down there digging those tunnels, setting up those props and loading coal into the mine carts to go to the surface to be processed at the breaker, which, during those times, the mines would have been anything but quiet.”

I asked Ed what he was hoping to accomplish by exploring these abandoned anthracite mines.  “To show others an aspect of our history that is overlooked today. Most know about the coal mining history, and others may have explored some of the places that are still standing, such as the Huber Colliery, but not many get to see the very mines where the coal was brought out of to be processed at these breakers.  My photos are a way to document and preserve the history of a once prosperous industry”, was his response.

What really leaves an impression on Ed about these underground spaces where men had to work every day is “how low some of these mines were, and knowing that there were men who actually dug those low mine tunnels out to get to that coal. Just try to imagine crawling around in a tunnel no more than four feet tall trying to dig further into it, trying to reach as much of the coal as you can without the solid rock above you crashing down on top of you. That’s what it must have been like for those miners.  What would probably surprise most people is how low some of these mines are and the fact that men were actually down there, crawling around, grabbing the coal from those low mines to earn a paycheck.”

A Prop Holding Up A Low Mine

A Prop Holding Up A Low Mine

You can follow Ed Mountjoy and all of his coal mining exploration endeavors on Facebook at The Forgotten Coal Industry of NEPA

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 “Because it’s their time. Their time!  Up there!

Down here, it’s our time. It’s our time down here!”

–The Goonies

I encourage anyone interested in learning more about

abandoned mine underground research to visit :

The Official Website of Abandoned Mine Research, Inc.

and please note this warning about abandoned mine exploration:

Stay Out….Stay Alive!

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Cheri Sundra © 2012
All Rights Reserved

I’ve Got The Power…..

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Generations of families living near the Susquehanna River in Plymouth, or passing over the Carey Avenue Bridge, have grown accustom to seeing the huge smokestacks looming in the background. 

Power in the 50s

1950s (?) era picture with smokestacks in background

While the smokestacks have been dormant for many decades, and in some ways, have even changed with the times because, apparently, they now have something to do with providing cellular service, they still stand as a monument to a more powerful time—a time when humans first became God-like in their ability to provide artificial light, on a grand scale, during the darkest hours of the night.

"I've Got The Power......."
"I've Got The Power........"

In 1882, the first commercial power station opened in New York City.   Just two years later, The Wilkes-Barre Electric Company, along with Hildreth & Co. (Nanticoke), started offering service in some areas of Luzerne County.   

"I've Got The Power........”

Locally, it was primarily our West Side Communities that were the pioneers in electrical power and lighting for the area.  Nanticoke, Kingston, Wyoming, Forty Fort, Luzerne, Plymouth and Shickshinny all constructed power plants to meet the growing needs of this exciting, new industry. 

"I've Got The Power........It's gettin' it's gettin' it's gettin' kinda hectic”

“I’ve Got The Power……..It’s gettin’ it’s gettin’ it’s gettin’ kinda hectic……”

"I've Got The Power........It's gettin' it's gettin' it's gettin' kinda hectic”

Eventually, they all merged and consolidated into one big “light plant” that took over the responsibility for serving the entire area, which is what you still see standing today  at the river’s edge, on the corner of Bridge and Beade Streets.  Built in 1905, it was the fifth power plant erected in Plymouth.   

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The very first power plant to operate in Plymouth opened in 1886 on Cherry Street.  During the early years of the lighting industry, commercial lighting was only furnished during “lighting hours” and only street lights were on the “moonlight”, or “all night”, schedule. I find it compelling to contemplate the notion that at one point humans had little control over darkness, and then we found a way to master the darkness by distributing artificial light. 

Abandoned Pennsylvania:  "I've Got The Power...."

"I've Got The Power........It's gettin' it's gettin' it's gettin' kinda hectic”  {EXPLORE}Can you spot the wire hanger still in place on the wall?

Today, the Plymouth Light Plant still stands, in a state of semi-abandonment.  The front portion of the building, bordering Bridge Street, is used as a rental storage facility, while the back portion of the structure remains unused.  The grounds around the back, with all of the “High Voltage” electrical service structures, make up the UGI Electrical Service Plymouth Substation. 

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Power A

A big “thanks” to the Plymouth Historical Society for providing me with the information about the Plymouth Power Plant!  I was unable find anything on my own…..

Power Ghost Sign

Luzerne County Gas & Electric Corporation “ghost sign” overlooking the Susquehanna River

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a Power

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I've Got The Power
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Smokestack as it looks from the front of the home

that belonged to my grandparents on Beade Street

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Cheri Sundra © 2012
All Rights Reserved

And They All Came Tumbling Down

The event that I am most often asked about is the collapse of a pavilion at the (now abandoned) Croop’s Glen Amusement Park —during a baby contest, of all things! 

In April of 1917, a newspaper blurb announced that “A new picnic ground with every known amusement device is being built at Hunlock’s Creek and will be open on May 28th as Croop’s Glen”.  By the 1930s, the park became a very popular venue for civic group outings which were often publicized in the local newspaper. 

Between 1926 and 1927, two wooden roller coasters were added.

There was a full size coaster named Twister, and one Kiddie Coaster.

Both pictures  of “Twister” courtesy of the Philadelphia Toboggan Company

Roller Coaster Entrance

Photo Courtesy of Ellen Geisel

During an outing planned by the Nanticoke Unemployed League in June of 1935, as mothers were assembling on the pavilion with their children for a baby show along with observers, the floor of the pavilion, which was situated between 20 & 30 feet above the bed of Hunlock’s Creek, parted in the middle and then dropped.  A witness account described a “roar of furniture, crockery, glass and human bodies falling into the creek”.   

Croop's BAbandoned Park Picnic Tables in 2010

According to the newspaper ““The floor of the Pavilion broke in two, creating a large funnel into which tumbled men, women and screaming children, together with benches, chairs and tables and the paraphernalia   usually taken along by picnickers”.   Witnesses estimated that between 250 and 300 people were standing on the pavilion at the time of the accident. 

Dance Pavilion?  Could be…..

Photo Courtesy of Ellen Geisel

Fortunately, the sides and roof of the structure stayed intact, contributing to the fact that no one died during or after the catastrophe.   As a result of the collapse, 145 people were admitted to the hospital.  A local newspaper reported that “after the rescue work, shoes, purses, hats and bits of clothing could be seen in the wreckage, mute testimony of the horror that overtook the hundreds who were on the pavilion.”

The park was owned by B.F. Croop and the land was leased to Charles Shelly who was the park manager.  According to the newspaper, officials of the Nanticoke Unemployed League Council initially expressed belief that over-crowding caused the accident.  Complete details about the accident are available thru the Luzerne County Library System’s Sunday Independent online archives at “200 Picnickers Injured Here As Dance Pavilion Collapses”.

On July 10th, 1938, the newspaper reported that the park was being sued by 12 people for injuries sustained during the pavilion accident.  The majority were seeking $5,000 in damages, a few asked for $10,000 and the highest amounted to $15,000.  Visit “$96,000 Damages Asked by 12 for Injuries In Pavilion Crash” to see a list of the plaintiffs. 

While many people speculate that the accident and subsequent lawsuit led to the closing and abandonment of Croop’s Glen Amusement Park that does not seem to be the case.  An article from August of 1943 states:

 “Noted for years as one of the regions natural parks, Croop’s Glen this year is a complete casualty of the war effort.”

Carousel – photo by Croop’s Glen Art Studio

Photo Courtesy of Ellen Geisel

”The park has been renovated substantially since the dance hall collapse ten years ago, but the rollercoaster, whip, dodgem, merry-go-round and kiddies train, to mention the leading amusements have not turned a wheel this summer.”

Carousel

Photo Courtesy of Ellen Geisel

“They, as well as the penny arcade, refreshment and prize stands, are covered as protection from the elements.  The swimming pool, which for many years was one of the best patronized in the region, because of its mountain-fresh, ever-flowing water, has also gone to pot.”

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Swimming Pool Remains in 2010

“It was a favorite place for basket outings and still has excellent facilities, including a large outdoor oven and scores of tables and benches if people were so inclined.”

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Concession Stand/Picnic Grove in 2010

The article also mentions that lack of public transportation was contributing to the decline of the park.  You can access the full text of the article at “Park At Croop’s Glen Complete War Casualty” 

I was unable to find anything stating when the park officially closed, by some accounts; it remained open as a picnic spot through the mid-50s, with the dance hall serving as a skating rink. 

Croop's AAbandoned Park Picnic Grove Structure in 2010

More Croop’s Glen Updates Here

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Abandoned Pennsylvania--Lost History Found:  Croop’s Glen Amusement Park, Hunlock Creek   Cheri Sundra © 2012 All Rights Reserved

 

 

The Ghost of Gangster’s Paradise

 

Al Capone’s cell at Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia.

ESP:  Gangsta Paradise

Everyone knows that legendary gangster Al Capone’s reign ended when he was found guilty of tax evasion, but did you know that doing time for a minor charge helped the notorious prohibition-era crime boss lay low after he ordered the most spectacular gangland slaying in mob history?

In 1929, on February 14th, seven members of Chicago’s North Side Irish gang were lined up in a warehouse/garage by two men from Capone’s South Side Italian gang dressed as police officers.  Thinking that it was a routine police raid, everyone peacefully did as they were told as the rival gunmen removed their weapons and then proceeded to pump their bodies full of lead using two Tommy guns, a sawed-off shotgun, and a .45.  Each of the seven victims received at least 15 bullets, mostly in the head.  The event became known as The Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre.

Shortly after The Massacre, during what is said to be a planned arrest, Capone is picked up in Philadelphia for carrying a concealed weapon, and sentenced to a year in Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP) where he could reside in safety behind bars in the “Park Avenue Block” of the prison. The warden and guards at ESP gave special consideration to Mr. Capone during his stay.   He was permitted to hang artwork in his private cell, was allowed to have tables, lamps, a velvet duvet, comfortable chair and even an expensive radio so he could listen to waltzes after dinner.  Capone was allowed to continue to conduct business.  The organized crime boss was able to use the warden’s office to make long-distance phone calls and to meet with his lawyer.  Capone was released from ESP two months early for good behavior!

While Capone’s time at ESP many have been relatively pleasant, he may not have left unaffected by his stay.  During the early years of the Twentieth Century, rumors about ghosts began to circulate at the prison.  While he was incarcerated at ESP, Capone began to be “haunted” by the “ghost” of James Clark, one of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre victims and the brother-in-law of his rival Bugs Moran.  Other inmates reported that they could hear Capone yelling in his cell begging “Jimmy” to leave him alone.  The crime boss even contacted a psychic to get rid of the angry specter.  Years later, Capone would say that Clark’s vengeful spirit followed him from Eastern State Penitentiary and would follow him to the grave.  Fact, fiction, imagination or was Capone starting to show signs of the full-blown psychosis that would eventually start to haunt him when he was later incarcerated in Alcatraz for tax evasion?

Can’t get enough ESP?

Don’t miss the rest of the ESP Halloween Tales:

1. Haunted ESP (ghost on film)

2. The Eye of God and The Mad Chair

And

3. The Ghost Cats

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Cheri Sundra © 2012
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ESP: The Eye of God and The Mad Chair

Eastern State Penitentiary is the first prison in the world designed to inspire penitence (true regret) in the hearts criminals.  Inmates were to spend their time reflecting upon their crimes and seeking redemption.  At Eastern State Penitentiary, each cell was lit by a single light source from either a skylight or a window that was considered the “Eye of God”.

ESP: The Eye of GodThe Eye of God

It’s not at all farfetched to think that negative energy could be left behind in a place where prisoners were subjected daily to a variety of physical and psychological torture regimens.  Even the most minor infractions could lead to guards dousing prisoners with freezing water outside during the winter, chaining their tongues to their wrists so that struggling against the chains would cause the tongue to tear, strapping prisoners into chairs with leather restraints only to leave them there for days on end and putting them into a pit where they would have no light, no human contact and very little food for up to two weeks.  No wonder, this prison turned museum is considered “one of the most haunted places on earth!”

ESP Death Row

This is Cellblock 15, or “Death Row”, where men waited out the last months of their lives at Eastern State Penitentiary, before being transferred to Pennsylvania’s only death chamber at the State Correctional Institution at Rockview. This cellblock has been inhabited by some of Pennsylvania’s most violent, aggressive criminals, who lived here in physical isolation from each other and the prison staff.

ESP: The Red Barber Chair (or is it the "mad chair" as shown on Ghost Hunters) {EXPLORE}

This is THE MAD CHAIR.  It was given this name because it was not uncommon for an inmate to go mad before his punishment ended. As seen on Ghost Adventurers….

Watch Ghost Adventurers at  THE MAD CHAIR

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Cheri Sundra © 2012
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The UE Magazine Interviews: SCRANTON LACE FACTORY

Scranton Lace Factory: The Loom Room is History Now  {EXPLORE}

Speaking as one myself, I can tell you that urban explorers are vastly misunderstood and our motives are grossly underestimated.  I began photographing ruins in my community about two years ago.  What compels me to do it is a mixture of curiosity and a drive to capture the sense of abandonment in these beloved places where people once lived or worked.

As America moves onward during this current age of our industrial decline, and communities find themselves littered with more abandoned structures than they can financially deal with, urban exploration is growing in popularity.  Explorers are assuming the very public role of modern-day archeologists as they set out to document our downfall, one image at a time.
Abandoned Scranton Lace Factory:  Mass Production Breeds Mindless Repetition

Yet, Urban Exploration is a lot like Fight Club.  It is its own subculture filled with intrigue and drama; it attracts thrill seekers who are bored with the banality of modern ”consumer culture”  life, and it’s a very secretive fraternity.  In fact just like Fight Club, the first rule of urban exploration is that you don’t talk about urban exploration.

Luckily, while we gathered to explore the Scranton Lace Factory, I was able to convince a few “professional” urban explorers—photographers Kevin Brett, Jennifer O’Malia, Katherine Rogers and documentarian Erik Hummel —to participate in a group interview as an attempt to understand the driving motivation behind their passion for this way of life.

The article, “As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us”, is now available through UE Magazine  .

Grab your own copy today and enter the world of Urban Exploration!

Enjoy!

Cheri Sundra

~~ Taking one of NEPA’s most “Urban Exploration Worthy” sites to an international audience!

Extreme Bowling: Uncharted Frontier EZine

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Cheri Sundra © 2012
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The Ghost Cats

Eastern State Penitentiary2027 Fairmount Avenue, Philadelphia

Once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, Eastern State Penitentiary exists today in a conflicting condition known as  “preservation ruin”.  The result is a haunting world of empty guard towers and crumbling cell-blocks serving as a functional museum thanks to preservation efforts started by the Eastern State Task Force in 1988, the same year the building first opened for limited group tours.

ESP1

Representing a testimony to survival, The Ghost Cats was an artist installation at ESP created by Linda Brenner.  A colony of cats decided to take up residence at the abandoned jail after it closed in 1971.  For 28 years, “Dan the Cat Man” (Dan McCloud) devoted his time to visiting the abandoned prison to care for the cats.

ESP: Ghost Cat

Can You Find The GHOST CAT?

In 1993, The Spayed Club neutered the ESP cats and their population finally started to dwindle.  The last of the cats died off between 2002 and 2003.

Ghost Cat

Observant visitors could locate all 36 cat sculptures throughout the prison museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The installation was placed beyond the areas where on-lookers are allowed access, in the hopes that the sculptures will be viewed as a part of the larger past existence of the life and history of the building.  The exhibit was dedicated to “Dan the Cat Man” who passed away in April of 2002.

Guard Tower ghost catGuard Tower GHOST CAT

Ghost Cat AlleyGHOST CAT Alley

 

ESP Death RowDeath Row

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Kirby Park Ruins: Walk With History Along The Olmsted Trail

A Companion Post for Kirby Park Ruins: The Video

The Central Park / Kirby Park Connection

Credited with inventing the profession of “landscape architect”, Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr. is said to have   planned the American landscape itself.  This 19th-century visionary designed Central Park in New York City (with Calvert Vaux) and conceived the idea of a “parkway” for vehicles— on a driving tour of nature. During a history spanning 125 years, the Olmsted firm completed more than 3,000 landscapes across the United States and Canada, with Fredrick Law Olmstead, Jr., eventually heading the family firm and becoming internationally renowned as a landscape architect himself. The Olmsted impact touched upon parks, suburbs, cemeteries, private estates (including the Vanderbilt Mansion), conservation areas, and university campuses.

Fred Morgan Kirby donated more than 70 acres of riverfront land on the west bank of the Susquehanna River and Wilkes-Barre City commissioned the famed Olmsted Brothers firm to design “a park for the people” in 1921.

 Obviously, since it is so prone to flooding, Kirby Park has experienced many changes since the Olmsted Brother days.  But ironically, it is because of the flooding that a piece of “lost” Olmsted history still remains in Luzerne County today, hidden away in the “natural area” of Kirby Park, near the banks of the Susquehanna River, because it remained abandoned for several decades.

The path to abandonment began when Kirby Park was washed out with the flood of 1936. At that point, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided that a levee system that sliced through Kirby Park would best serve the city of Wilkes-Barre in terms of flood protection. This division created the divide that distinguishes between the “natural” and the city-maintained areas of Kirby Park.

 While the park on one side of the levee remained a neatly manicured public area, the other side became overgrown and even served as an illegal dumping ground for unwanted debris for several decades.   During the 1990s, preservationists started clearing the long-forgotten area between the levee and the Susquehanna River, uncovering a handful of lost ruins.  

The paved part of the trail that still remains today is the remnant of an old bridle path that wound thru that part of the park decades ago and is now known as the Olmsted Trail. Riverside, you will find the Reflecting/Wading Pool area, which was part of the original Olmsted design, in addition to the remains of the Caretaker’s Cottage.  According to the plans, this area was used as a children’s playground, although no attempt was made to install the usual playground equipment.

The intention was to use the Cottage as a rest room for women and children in the front, with an apartment available for the caretaker in the rear.  Outside of this rest room was a pergola with stone pavement.  A broad flight of concrete steps led to the wading pool and sand beds below. 

As you continue further down the trail, if you look hard enough, you will locate the remains of a bandstand in the wooded area off to the left, near the Olmsted Trail sign.  The Kirby Park Bandstand included a concrete foundation with a large storeroom beneath.   In November of 1944, local news reports describe the structure as having “fallen into disrepair” in an article about a fire started in the bandstand by youngsters playing in the shell. 

On the remainder of the path you can search for the remains of a pavilion and two other abandoned structures of controversial origin.  Some of the structures are difficult to locate during the summer months because of the abundance of plant life in the area.

The next time you visit Kirby Park, consider taking a walk with history along the Olmsted Trail.  Or, you can just watch the video for a look at the Olmsted trail “then and now”.

You can find the video at:

Kirby Park Ruins: The Video

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