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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Birds of the Mid-Atlantic #26: Crows and Ravens

As Halloween is upon us, our thoughts turn to birds with spooky reputations. Owls, because of their nocturnal habits and otherworldly calls, are a Halloween staple. Vultures, with their preference for carrion, are a harbinger of death. Few birds seems as ominous as crows and ravens. Like vultures, their plumage is funereal black and they will eat carrion. Crows will gather in large flocks to roost; such roosts may hold hundreds or thousands of birds. Their reputation is such that the collective name for a gathering of crows is a "murder" and that for ravens is an "unkindness." These dark birds are sometimes symbols for impending death, as in Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven:

But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore, 70
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking "Nevermore."

Crows and ravens are part of the family Corvidae. In North America, this family also includes jays and magpies in addition to its larger, darker members. Despite the familiar fable, members of this family are among the most intelligent of birds. They are known to use strategems to acquire food; jays, for example, will lure smaller songbirds away from their nests with imitations of hawk calls. Some studies suggest intelligence on the level of great apes. Crow intelligence is the reason that attempts to scare these birds from farms and gardens rarely work for long.

American Crow / Peter S. Weber (USGS)

The Mid-Atlantic region boasts three of these large, black birds: the American Crow, the Fish Crow, and the Common Raven. American Crows may be found throughout the region; these are the common crows whose caws may be heard in almost any neighborhood. Fish Crows are birds of the coastal plain. They may be found in marshes and along rivers; their distinctive call is a nasal nuh-uh. Common Ravens inhabit the western mountainous provinces; they may be found as far east as the piedmont, but rarely. They have wedge-shaped tails and emit a deep croaking sound instead of a caw. (This is not to be confused with a guttural croaking noise that American Crows sometimes make.)

Common Raven / US NPS

Unfortunately, our local crow population have been hit hard by the outbreak of West Nile Virus. American Crows seem to be particularly susceptible, but corvids as a group suffer a higher death rate when exposed to the virus. The graph below, derived from Christmas Bird Count results in the DC area, gives a sense of their decline in the past decade.

Because of recent worries about West Nile Virus and highly-pathogenic poultry flu in humans, crows again are becoming ominous signs. Only now, it is the dead crows rather than the living ones that are a cause for worry. With both diseases, birds are under a greater threat than humans.

Note: Audubon at Home has some good suggestions for making Halloween less wasteful.

Crossposted at A DC Birding Blog.



Sunday, October 29, 2006

Virginia's Haunted Places G-L

In honor of October and Halloween


All of the following places require permission to enter, so if you are thinking about visiting them keep that in mind.

George Washington National Forest - Braley's Pond area; go to the picnic area. From time to time a spirit hovers over the small run that flows next to the campsites. also if you hike around the pond and stay on the rugged trail that leads up the mountain, about a half mile or so up the trail I heard the sound of a horse walking and neighing also children's voices were heard.

Gloucester - Roswell Plantation - The Page Family Mansion built in the early 1600's. Several generations lived in the mansion before it burned down. Several walls are still standing from the 4-story building. The graveyard for the family is off to the side of the house, as part of the extensive grounds. Many occurrences have been reported; the drop in air temperature by a good 15 degrees or more, apparitions, strange noises, the sound of slaves coming from the fields, reportedly a young woman walks down the front steps every night.

Graham’s Forge - Major Graham’s Mansion - Owned by a slave owner, he tortured and killed many of his slaves. He burned down a slave house with over 100 men, women, and children inside. Coming close to the house, you get the sensation of pain and anger. Lights turn on and off, even though there are no electrical cables. Curtains move. You can here someone going up and down the stairs. Bloody handprints sometimes stain the basement, which is where cages are and where slaves were kept and tortured. There is a guillotine there also. If you stay too long, you will start to here voices, screaming, babies crying, and lots of yelling. Be careful; Many who enter this house say they always bring out something with them.

Grundy - Vansant Elementary School - Along the old hall ways, lights flicker without electricity, foot steps are heard by people living around it, and a friendly ghost walks the girls bathroom at night.

Hampton - Blackbeard Point - Blackbeard Point was named after the famous pirate Blackbeard. His head was cut off and stuck on a pole to warn off other pirates. It is said to this day that the decapitated pirate searches for his head in the Chesapeake Bay. People have seen him many times and say you would be stupid to go looking for this hideous pirate.

Hampton - Chamberland Hotel - This hotel is on Fort Monroe. Apparently, when the original hotel burnt down, a young teenage girl went with it by accident. She was looking for her father (who evacuated already). Employees on the seventh floor on where she died claim that they can still hear her banging on the walls, or catch her looking out the window.

Hampton - Fort Monroe - Reports of apparitions of young soldiers walking the top of the fort and around the many rusting offices. Witnesses have felt a cold breeze on a warm sunny day around the turrets and heard voices just out of understanding around these areas.

Hampton - South Hampton - A woman walking in the hallway and then goes away. Lights come on by themselves.

Hampton - Virginia beach - Dam Neck Naval Base - December of 1999, on the Dam Neck Naval Base in the "finger barracks" off of the galley. On the bottom floor of the women’s wing in the open bay showers at around 5 am. There was a sighting of a transparent naked slender woman with dark black straight hair who appeared to have come from a wall and exited through the hallway door. She walked right past the shower stall where an unsuspecting sailor was showering to go on leave.

Harrisonburg - Deer Run- Building A - They have even been herd walking up the steps late at night yelling there death chant.

Harrisonburg - Kiester School - behind the school is a wooded area that is haunted by at least two ghosts the spirits seem to be evil if you go into the woods you get the sensation that you are being watched and at times being followed there is a nature trail built in to the woods and there are two parts where there the trail was being made but never finished. There is a rumor that in the 1960's a man went into the woods (before the nature trail was erected) and was never seen again and no body was ever found!

Harrisonburg - Port Republic Road - Just off Port Republic Road sets General Turner Ashby's grave across the road from Deer Run Apartments, a misty foggy after 12am has been reported.

Haymarket - Haymarket (Beverly) Mill - It is said that a farmer believed his daughter was responsible for giving her mother spoiled meat that killed her so he hung his daughter from a meat hook on the fourth floor of their mill. Her image on the meat hook has been seen frequently. The mill was more recently burnt down and I haven't heard what happens since that.

Haymarket – Log mill - A little white church off Log mill road has said to be haunted. There have been white *blobs* floating are there at night.

Haywood - Angus Mountain - It is said that late at night you can see shadows carrying lamps walking through the woods. It is believed that it is the spirits of Indians from years gone by.

Henry County - Martinsville - Leatherwood - On a particular rd, Barrow's mill rd, in Henry co. there was a house called the "pink house". This house was a rental property some time or another where many families grew up and moved on. The house however has been demolished and there was an incident of a child being hit and run in a blind curve at this site; the child appears in the middle of the curve with no warning and has been seen by numerous people.

Hiawassee - Blue Ridge Scout Reservation - Old Civil War Generals, and soldiers have been seen and heard on the southern side of the reservation. Also the sprits and voices of George Washington and his men have been seen walking through one camp, where in the 1700's an old railroad route used to be.

Hiawassee - Pulaski County Virginia - Old Paint Factory - One night a hunter was walking through the woods with his dogs near the factory. Suddenly a man appeared in front of him. He knew if he let the dogs go they would tear the man to pieces but they were hurting his hand so he had to let them go. He caught up with the dogs after they ran off to find them sniffing the ground as if no one was there. He told a relative of the incident and described the man. He was wearing an old paint factory uniform. There are many apparitions in the hills of Hiawassee.

Honaker - Big A Mountain - A helicopter crash left large chunks of metal from the aircraft and bones in the trees on big a mountain. Local people from the area were first on the scene and one man found a dying victim moaning but he was too late to save the person's life. He returned to the spot years later and said he could still hear the person moaning and felt a cold chill and the smell of death still fills the air around the area where the helicopter crashed.

Honaker - Hoanker High School - Old principal walking down the stairs to the gym basement; People have smelt smoke, and report seeing him.

Honaker - Honaker Hollow - 1.Woman with washboard and tub. The closer you get the more she fades away until she's gone.

2. When a certain old house is stayed in, you can hear something land on the roof or somewhere close-by and without opening doors or windows comes into the house. There can actually be communication with whatever it is.

3. Also hear tales of when my great uncle rode out of the hollow on a horse he felt someone get on behind him and when he tried to feel behind him there was nothing there.

Hopewell - Appomattox Manor - This old house on the river front in Hopewell is known to have been a hold out for Confederate and sometimes Union soldiers during the Civil War, especially the assault on Petersburg nearby. One legend surrounding the house is where a nurse hid a Union soldier in the wall of the basement when the Confederates came to inspect the house. When they found Union paraphernalia in the storage room they arrested the woman and took her away. The Union soldier, unable to help himself escape, died and today can be heard scratching at the walls for someone to be let out. This is a story told by the caretakers of the house. In 1953, when they were rebuilding the basement of the house they found a body of a Union solder behind the walls.

Horsepen - Old Pocahontas Fuel Building - This building is built almost directly over an old mine. The mine below was the site of one of the largest water inundations (they broke through a rock wall into an underground river) killing many by drowning. Their voices call for help at night and sometimes during the day if someone is alone.

Independence - Lover’s Leap - It is said that anyone who passes over this bridge will see the ghost figure of a young girl crying, saying "I love you" or a strapping young man jumping off the bridge. The story goes that the two were romantically involved and their families were at odds. The two would rather die than be kept apart so they jumped off the bridge holding hands and whispering, "I love you."

Jamestown - Amblers' Colonial Mansion - a very angry ghost named Lydia Ambler haunts her former home.

King George County - Lambs Creek Church - off of U.S. route 301 on Lambs creek church road (R.R. 4) there is Lamb's Creek church where two civil war soldiers can be seen resting on a rainy night. This usually happens on rainy nights. Also the church's windows glow from the inside around the 27th of October. There is also a ghost of a young girl who died of pneumonia, a strange blue light and an apparition of the girl running and playing.

Lancaster - Lancaster Tavern- It was established in the 1700's, not sure exactly when, it says on the sign hanging above the door, but there is a very friendly ghost there who every morning makes breakfast. Very early in the morning you can smell bacon cooking when no-one is awake or in the kitchen.

Leesburg - Balls Bluff Battlefield - around the time of the battle at night, soldiers have been seen still trying to climb the bluffs and get across the Potomac River.

Leesburg - Graydon Manor - There is a mental hospital called Graydon Manor. Back in the early 1900's a young woman was sent there for various reasons by her parents. She was forced to leave her lover. She would escape occasionally and meet up with her boyfriend at this gazebo out in the woods. Soon it became too much, she escaped on night in her prettiest dress, met up with her boyfriend and the two of them hung themselves in the gazebo. The girl is said to haunt the woods, the dirt road, and the gazebo occasionally. The gazebo can still be seen off an old dirt road, although it recently got hit from a falling tree.

Lexington - Poor House Road Tunnel - The tunnel was part of an old railroad system that ran from Lexington to Staunton in the early 1900s. Inside the tunnel at night, voices of children are heard whispering "Come on, come on." Misty dark fog gathers around you when standing in the middle of the tunnel.

Lexington - Virginia Military Institute - a painting over the alter has been said to bleed, noises in VMI's catacombs, old cellars under barracks, and sounds of cannon fire near the Jackson Memorial Hall.

Louisa - Owens Creek Rd. Mineral - Historical Red House - The "Mistress of Red House" is said to roams the grounds of this revolutionary war house. A woman in a tan dress, She sometimes stands peering out the windows or up near the driveway entrance. Usually appearing early in the dark morning around 4 am. The house, still standing which and was redone in the 19th century, is a small house with a large yard and a forgotten unkempt graveyard is nearby.

Lynchburg - Randolph - Macon Woman's College- A girl was murdered on campus 25 years ago and it is said that some nights you can hear her running and screaming. Also, is said that the Smith Banquet Hall is haunted by the headless ghost of a Washington and Lee U. student who was on his way here for a dance and got decapitated in a wreck.

Lynchburg - William Bass Elementary School - voices and doors opening and closing are some of the events here.

You can find A—C, here, and And D—F, here

Image by D L Ennis

Friday, October 27, 2006

Crabtree Falls: The Way Up

Well you must of thought I disappeared on the trek up Crabtree Falls with DL. But here I am back to tell you more of our adventure.

It was not an easy climb, and from the picture on the side you can get some idea of the grade. Parts of it was almost straight up, but surprisingly you saw all ages from the very young to the very old making their way up. I am not particularly a spring chicken so DL and I took our time.

You have to think of the 23 people that lost their lives in the climb. Thoughts are: that they might have been pretty foolish. Someone might have tried something on a dare, like going to a wet place off the path up, and just tumbling down in a jet of water bouncing off the rocks.

There would be some hard knocks there. Or as DL observed if the trail was wet it might not take any shannagins at all to miss step and take a fall. But as luck would have it, the only thing we had to suffer through was the climb itself. It was well worth the reward of reaching the top.

For a very splendid view:

"Elevation: 1593 ft. Several tiers of gently cascading water comprise Crabtree Falls. Surrounded by hardwood forests, with large oaks, maples, birch, and hickories, this is an awe-inspiring scenic area whose natural beauty is sure to impress any visitor."

And if you don't happen to get up there like we did, here is a picture to wet your desire.

More photos of Western Virginia, and the Blueridge Parkway can be found on my photo stream on flickr. If you would like to use any of my photos please contact me first, all are copyrighted.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Fall colors come slowly to DC. While I read reports of beautiful foliage in New England or the Blue Ridge, fall foliage takes longer to materialize in the places that I usually visit. There are a few exceptions, such as dogwoods and tulip poplars.

During my autumn walks in the Arboretum I have come to appreciate the beauty of tupelo trees. While other trees are still green, the tupelos at the Arboretum have already turned mostly red. If last year is any indication, I can look forward to seeing their brilliant red foliage for the next couple weeks, as they seem to hold their colorful leaves after turning.

The tupelos at the Arboretum appear to be the species Black Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica). You may also know this species by one of its other names, such as blackgum, sourgum, or pepperidge. The species grows best in moist soils at lower elevations, though it can easily adapt to many sites. A range map is at right. Tupelo leaves are oval in shape and untoothed. Glossy green in summer, the leaves turn a bright purplish-red in the fall. Its branches bear small, dark blue fruits. The fruits are consumed by many bird species, some of which may also use its natural cavities for nesting. (That, combined with the beautiful foliage, puts the tupelo onto lists of recommended native species for planting.)

However you wish to call this species, the trees themselves are unmistakable. Several invidual trees at the Arboretum stand out from the rest for their massive size and bright red color. In the past I have felt that their color looked almost artificial from a distance. Two trees in particular stand out: one near the entrance to the Azalea Garden, and another at the top of the same hill. Both have majestic height and shade cover that is emphasized by their green surroundings. I look forward to seeing more of these tupelos in the coming weeks.

All photographs by the author. Crossposted at A DC Birding Blog.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

An Insightful Heritage “The Old City Cemetery”

Image by, D L Ennis, The Old City Cemetery in Lynchburg, Virginia; where Civil War soldiers rest

When you first drive in to the Lynchburg, Virginia’s, Old City Cemetery you get the feeling that you have entered just another old graveyard. However, once you park and begin to explore you soon find out that this “old cemetery” is not just any old cemetery. Instead, it is engulfed in history, the history of a sad and painful time in American history; the Civil War era.

The Station House Museum tells the story of the railroad during the era and its importance to the areas economy, life and death of Lynchburg residents and the rails importance to the soldiers of WWI (1917-1919) that passed through Lynchburg on their way to the coast and the war. These soldiers dubbed Lynchburg, “Lunchburg,” because of the hospitality of the Red Cross Canteen service which provided these soldiers with food and drink on their stop in Lynchburg.

The three major railroads that ran through Lynchburg in1864, turned the city in to a regional hub of industry and tobacco and made it one of the wealthiest cities per capita in the United States. During the Civil War, the railroads made Lynchburg the second largest hospital center in Virginia.

Image by, D L Ennis, The Old City Cemetery in Lynchburg, Virginia; where Civil War soldiers rest

The Hearse House tells another part of a devastating and sad time. Across the cobble stone road, resting on a hill is the Pest House Medical Museum, one look inside reveals the crudity of medicine during the time. One can only imagine the screams of pain of a recent amputee and impending infection which followed. You can sense the overwhelming adversity endured by not only the Pest House patients but of Dr. Terrell, Rev. Louis and the missionaries that ministered to the “spiritual and medical needs of patients. During the Smallpox epidemic of 1862-1864, it is said that no one but these brave and hardy souls were the only ones that would go near the place.

Entering the Confederate Cemetery and seeing the rows of markers, over 2200, a good number of which are unmarked, you can’t help but feel how painful it was for the families of these lost soldiers: not only eventually knowing that their loved one had likely died, but where they had died, and where there remains rested as well as never having any real closure.

In the Confederate Cemetery, soldiers from fourteen states rest there, from Virginia to Florida, west to Texas. One-hundred eighty-seven Union soldiers (prisoners) died in Lynchburg Hospitals and were buried in the cemetery until 1866 when they were removed by the Federal Government and ordered to a Federal Cemetery near Norfolk Virginia. The gardens, selected trees and the old brick walls, among other things lend a rejuvenation of life that helps, if only briefly, relieve some of the pain of America’s reflective history.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

know everything there is to be known

It seems so appropriate to start this post with a quote from Winnie the Pooh:

“Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.” Winnie the Pooh

DL and I took a trek on the Parkway and decided to go to Crabtree Falls, this first photo gives you a sense of deception for soon we would being going up some 1500 feet through skip jack trails.

Twenty three people have died on this journey, in recent years. The trail is much improved now, and they worked on trying to make it very safe, but people do fall.

The bridge here reminds me of one that was on my grandfathers farm in West Virginia. It however, was a swinging bridge. One of my Aunts, my Dad's sister, told me that they use to skate under the bridge and there was one time, when they lost track of my Dad. (he was about six at the time)

They finally found him hanging from underneath the bridge watching them skate. Like Winnie the Pooh, he knew it all, and had no fear at the age of six.

In the upcoming days I am going to take you on an adventure through pictures up the trail that leads up the cascades of Crabtree Falls.

Other things you might enjoy perusing:

My photostream on Flickr. If you have not seen high dynamic range photography you are in for a treat.

A Slide Show of some of the best photographer's around the world. (All photos used with permission)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Ruffed Grouse Society Fundraiser

451 McCormick Road, Coraopolis, PA 15108
(412) 262-4044
October 17, 2006
For Immediate Release
RGS to hold fundraiser dinner in Fisherville
Proceeds used to restore and protect grouse and woodcock habitat
The H.C. Edwards Chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) will hold its 17th Annual Sportsmen’s Banquet on Saturday, October 28, 2006 at the Augusta Expoland, Expo Road, Fisherville, VA beginning with cocktails at 6 p.m. Dinner will be served at 7:30 p.m.

As is the custom at all RGS fundraiser’s, this event will feature live and silent auctions, games, drawings and door prizes; highlighted with the finest selection of quality firearms, artwork and collectables.

According to Matt Smith, tickets are $55 for individuals, $75 for individual /guest and $25 for youngsters age 16 and under. Bronze, Silver and Gold Cup sponsorship packages are also available at $250, $500 and $1,000 respectively.

As with all RGS fundraisers, proceeds from this event will be used to restore and protect grouse and woodcock habitat.

For more information and/or tickets contact Smith at (540) 432-7732 (day) or (540) 459-3559 (evening).

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Virginia's Haunted Places D - F

In honor of October and Halloween...All of the following places require permission to enter, so if you are thinking about visiting them keep that in mind.

Today’s listing, D – F:

Danville - The Danville Museum - Danville Museum, aka. The Sutherlin Mansion. This was the last capitol of the confederacy. Jefferson Davis spent hours staring out the window of the parlor, after he heard the news of the surrender of the confederacy. To this day, you can take tours through the mansion, but the real tour is at night. You can hear foot steps, hear a young girl moan, see a young woman in mirrors, and smell cigar smoke.

Danville - Lanier House - Owned by the first mayor of Danville who then sold it to the seventh mayor. It is the oldest building in Danville. At one point, during or close to the Civil War it served as a children’s clinic. Footsteps can be heard as well as voices. Several people have actually seen apparitions. It now serves as a Law Office and is at 770 Main Street.

Danville - Oak Hill cemetery - A report of a headless man walking around the cemetery at night. He might me looking for his head

Eastern Henrico - Pocahontas Parkway Rt. 895 - Pocahontas Parkway was built where Indians once lived, hunted, and fished. Now there is a huge road there instead and they aren’t happy. Nightly you can hear them, drumming, chanting, whooping, and talking in foreign tongue. And occasionally you can see them.

Emory - Emory & Henry College - Music Hall was at one time a debate/courtroom building. It is said that a heated discussion became too much for one of the men, therefore he left the room to get some air. As he was leaning on the windowsill, his opponent pushed him out. The man caught the hanging lamp outside, but fell to his death from a third story window. To this day, that hanging lamp will constantly swing even when the weather is not windy. Also, some nights, mysterious walking and piano playing can be heard when no one is at the piano. The third floor of "MaWa" Hall is also haunted! It is said that a young woman who lived there was stood up for the fall formal dance. She hanged herself from the middle shower stall in the community bathroom. Sometimes that showerhead will squirt water out of control from the hardware connected to the wall. And also the sound of high heels has been heard going up and down the hall late in the evening hours.

Fairfax - George Mason University - Gazebo - A small gazebo bordering the campus lake is said to be frequented by the spirit of a young man. He apparently drowned in the lake one evening. His body was found sitting in the gazebo by two females the next morning. Since that time, the man’s figure has been seen standing at the edge of the lake, or sitting in the gazebo. He has been known to beckon young women to come sit with him, and quickly disappearing when accommodated.

Falls Church - Haycock Elementary - Reported to be haunted by an ex-Vice Principal. The following year, on the same day of her firing, strange events occurred. People were shoved against walls; papers were thrown around, doors slamming, desks being toppled over, but all when no one else was around. That week, the head custodian reported that he saw a strange figure beckoning him to come closer, after school hours, when everyone had left.

Falls Church - Longfellow Middle School - Back in the 1960's, the principal of Longfellow suffered a massive heart attack and died in his office at the school. After hours, custodians and other faculty report seeing him walk around the halls, apparently looking for troublemakers - as he would do normally as principal. They also have reported doors shutting, lights turning off, voices, and other noises, all of which have no explanations. This school, reportedly, is one of the most haunted in all of northern Virginia. In 1995, a teacher even reported hearing a moaning and screaming down the hallways, with no one else around.

Farmville - Longwood College - Curry Hall - A three-year-old boy rode his bicycle into the elevator shaft and died, falling to his death. It is reported that if one rides the elevator to the tenth floor and then to the basement, the boy's ghost will be seen when the doors open.

Fishersville - Woodrow Wilson Rehab Center - Reports of dorm rooms opening by themselves as one was entering, feelings of being watched, radios changed stations, footsteps, and feeling a presence.

Fort Belvior - Abandoned Sewage Plant - Went there a few times as a kid...abandoned in a hurry, books, TV, cloths etc were left in the watchman's house. Underground Tunnels. A lot of dead animals and skeletons around it and inside of it. Located in Jadwin Village, down the road that says do not enter, if you go along the sides you can get under the fence in a few areas...the MPs sometimes go down there if someone calls them....Strange feeling when you look at the tunnel...or get close to it.

Fort Myer - Old Post Chapel - This is a military chapel used for funeral services since the 1930's at Arlington National Cemetery. Soldiers have reported hearing voices, footsteps and also previously locked doors opening and closing by themselves. Also there have been reports of soldiers finding all the cabinets and drawers in certain rooms being found open to perfect ninety-degree angels, when it was impossible for anyone to have been in those rooms. Finally, there have been sightings of a figure sitting in the bridal room, previously used as a mourning room for grieving families.

Fort Monroe - The Chamberlain - George Washington has been seen here, among others. It is said that the top floor of the hotel is haunted by several apparitions and was closed for this reason.- February 2005 Update: Has been sold and is reopening as a veterans hospital.

Fort Story - Coast Artillery Rd. - On the coldest, wettest nights There has been at least two sightings by soldiers who regularly patrol the base of a mysterious ghostly being who allegedly disappears into the wetlands of this area. It has been said that this may be the ghost of a soldier who was stationed here who committed suicide by hanging himself about 6 years ago.

Fredericksburg - Aquia Church - the ghost of a woman killed there has been seen in the belfry.

Fredericksburg - Chatham Manor - The apparition of a white lady walks a path on these grounds that has become known as Ghost Walk. Chatham was built in 1771 by William Fitzhugh. He named it after a close friend, William Pitt, the Earl of Chatham. Another English friend of Fitzhugh brought his daughter to live at Chatham in an effort to break up her romance with a commoner. But the man followed her to America, and the two planned to elope from Chatham Manor. He gave her a rope ladder and waited in a small boat in a nearby river. Unfortunately, none other than George Washington, another close friend of Fitzhugh, was staying there at the same time. He learned of their plans from a maid and had his men arrest the suitor. The girl returned to England with her father and later married. But she vowed to return to Chatham Manor to look for her lover. Her ghost was first sighted there on the day she died, June 21, 1790, and returns every seven years on the anniversary of her death to wander along the path to the river, looking for her lost love.

Fredericksburg - Fall Hill Plantation - Reports of electrical problems, cabinets opening and closing, ghostly figures circling one’s bed, cold spots, strange odors, and disembodied voices.

Fredericksburg - There is a ghost of a small black child, perhaps three or four years old. He sleeps curled in the fetal position about two feet off of the ground in one of the Civil War battlefields.

Front Royal - Frederick Avenue - There have been many sightings of a child walking in the graveyard behind Frederick Avenue. Also, some of the people in these houses on the avenue have sighted ghosts within their own premises such as children crying out to them.

You can find A – C, here

Friday, October 13, 2006

Log Structures of the Appalachians - Part II - The Log House

The log house was unknown in America until the Swedish and Finnish peoples settled in Delaware and Maryland in 1638. Horizontal log houses were traditional in Scandinavia and were well suited to the new, heavily-timbered American landscape. In the early 1700's Germans and Scotch-Irish immigrants settled in Pennsylvania. Again, each group brought their traditional European construction methods with them in the form of stone cottages and log cabins. The practice of building log houses in Appalachia developed from the influence of German and Scandinavian traditions. This form of construction combined with Scotch-Irish stone masonry and English design elements to produce the typical Appalachian log house.

Logs used in house construction were usually of chestnut, oak, poplar, and spruce. A good working log was generally 12 to 15 inches in diameter and 25 to 30 feet in length. These were hewn flat on either 2 or 4 sides, or left in the round. Early cabins were usually rough, temporary structures, with non-hewn logs. Hewn logs were used when a more finished look and permanence were desired.

Logs are held in position at building corners by a system of notching. The particular style of corner-timbering used is one of the most distinctive features of log building. Notching is studied by scholars to determine the age and origins of log architecture. Saddle or round notching was sometimes used with projecting corners and round logs. This was one of the most common forms of notching in Appalachia, because it was quick and relatively easy. V-notching was characteristics of Pennsylvania German houses and it found its way south to the mountains of Appalachia. Each log was hewn with an inverted V on the edge and on the underside. These fitted tightly together, forming a strong joint.

Full dovetail notching, developed in Europe and found frequently in Pennsylvania, is rarely found in the mountains of Appalachia. A full-dovetail is cut at a compound angle on both top and bottom edges and is the most elaborate form or corner timbering. Early in the development of log construction in Appalachia, full-dovetail seemingly evolved into the half-dovetail notch which provided the same sound joint with less labor. The top edge of the logs has a simple notch angled downward from back to front, and the bottom has a simple notch angled upward from the end. This dovetail is often known simply as "dovetail" in the mountains. Square notching is believed to be English in origin and is usually found in the Eastern portions of Virginia and the Carolinas. However, a few examples of square notching are found in the mountains.

Other features of folk architecture are studied for origins and age. The Germans and Scotch-Irish excelled in the art of stone masonry. This skill was reflected in the fireplaces, chimneys, and foundations of their log structures in Northern Appalachia. Solid stone foundations are rarely seen farther south on buildings other than homes. Barns, outbuildings, and most houses in the Southern region were almost always supported by a simple series of stone piers. These are laid dry, or with mud, one on top of the other. Stone piers and foundations provided a means of leveling a building as well as helping to prevent termite infestation. Sometimes posts of locust or oak logs were used as foundation piers.

You can read Part I, "The First Settlers" here.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Birds of the Mid-Atlantic #25: Black-throated Blue Warbler

As I noted in my post on Saturday, I never get tired of watching black-throated blue warblers. They are a bit easier to watch than other warblers. Black-throated blues tend to stay in middle-level foliage: the tops of bushes and small trees like dogwoods and devil's walking stick. They keep their colorful spring plumage throughout the year, even when other warblers are at their most confusing. They are not shy and will go about their business even with a human watching at close range. Some guides refer to this quality as "confiding."

Black-throated Blue Warbler / Photo by Steve Maslowski (USFWS)

As you might expect, a male black-throated blue warbler has dark blue upperparts and a black face and throat, with white undersides. Females have greenish-blue upperparts with light-colored underparts. Both sexes show a white patch on the wing at the base of the primaries. Immatures might not show this patch, but otherwise it is a good indicator for the species. In spring, the black-throated blue song is a rising buzz, sometimes transcribed as beer beer beer beeee.

Relatively few black-throated blue warblers breed in the DC area, and those that do nest well to the west, among the ridges of the Appalachians. We only get to see them during two brief periods of the year: spring and fall migration. Luckily, their fall migration is sometimes quite protracted. In DC, they may be seen from mid-August through mid-November. Last year, my last sighting was on November 6; the Maryland Yellowbook gives November 16 as the late migration date. Even though most warblers are already gone, there still may be a chance to see a few black-throated blues before the winter.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Caution: Deer Crossing

Heed these words; because you cannot depend on the idea that areas marked with these signs are the only places a deer is going to cross the road. You have to stay alert and be prepared to avoid a deer at any time, and not only in the country, but in suburban areas in even in the city.

In the fall, October, November, and December is when there are more deer-vehicle collisions than any other time of the year. Approximately one-half or more of all deer-vehicle collisions occur this time of year.

It’s mating season for deer, commonly called the "rut" by deer hunters, and the time of year when deer are the most active. Also, there are more people in the woods keeping deer spooked making them jittery and unpredictable near roads.

Approximately 25,000 deer-vehicle collisions happen in Virginia each year…people die or get injured, and then there is property damage. In the 3-year period of 1999-2001, 10 people were killed, more than 1,500 people were injured, and there was an estimated $31.9 million in property damage in reported deer-vehicle accidents. Don’t become a statistic!

How can you avoid being involved in a deer-vehicle collision?

Well, if you are thinking about buying a deer whistle to put on your car or truck, don’t, save your money because they don’t work.

There is no data or research to show that deer whistles are effective in reducing deer vehicle collisions. Research conducted at the University of Georgia over a decade ago indicated that these devices did not produce the ultrasonic sound as advertised. Even if they did, it would not matter; deer do not hear in the ultrasonic range. A deer's hearing range is very similar to ours.

Here are some suggestions, from the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries that will help minimize your chances of hitting a deer.

Be especially careful when driving at dawn and at dusk. This time of day is when deer are most active. Unfortunately, after the fall time change, these are also the times of day that most people commute to and from work.

If you see a deer crossing the road up ahead, slow down immediately and continue to drive slowly until you are past the point where the deer crossed. Female deer frequently travel in groups and more deer may be about to cross.

Deer habitually use particular areas to cross roads, usually crossing between areas of cover. Drivers should slow down when driving through these areas, particularly at dawn and dusk in the fall. If you see a VDOT deer crossing warning sign, slow down and be more attentive. It is there for a reason.

Do not swerve to miss a deer. You should brake and stay in your lane. Losing control of your vehicle, crossing into another lane, hitting an oncoming vehicle, or leaving the road and hitting a tree will almost always result in a more serious accident than hitting a deer.

You need to report a deer-vehicle collisions if it happens to you; It’s the law.

From the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries:

Any person who is involved in a motor vehicle collision that kills a deer or bear is required by law to immediately report the accident to a game warden or other law enforcement officer in the county or city where the accident occurred. The State does not pay for damages incurred from collisions with wildlife. Consult your insurance company. Drivers who collide with a deer or bear may keep the animal for their own use, provided they report the accident to a law enforcement officer where the accident occurred. The officer will view the animal and give the person a possession certificate.

So please drive safely, stay alert and watch out for deer crossing the roads whether there is a deer crossing sign posted or not.


Monday, October 09, 2006

Winter on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Image by D L Ennis, Otter creek in winter, on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

From November through early spring, winter weather can come to the Blue Ridge. Sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway with accumulations of ice and snow will be closed to motor vehicles. The most up-to-date road closure information can be found by calling (828) 298-0398, the Parkway information telephone number.

During the winter months on the Blue Ridge Parkway there are some wonderful activities you can engage in. The Parkway road remains open during the winter for travel except when it snows or there is ice on the roads. Then sections of the Parkway are gated off to where no vehicle traffic can travel on the Parkway. In these gated sections of the parkway visitors are welcome to walk, hike, snowshoe, or cross country ski.

Image by D L Ennis, Blue Ridge Mountains in winter

Experiencing the Parkway on foot or on cross-country skis in a blanket of snow is a magnificent experience during those times when the road is closed to vehicle traffic. Once the trees are bare you’ll find that many of the Parkway vistas open up to extraordinary views that can only be seen during this time of the year.

Don’t forget, as with any outdoor activity, take the necessary precautions to ensure a safe visit. Have a few emergency supplies in the trunk of your car in case you encounter bad weather and always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return.

Please remember that the winter months can be very cold, and climate changes can occur rapidly along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Temperatures can drop rapidly in the higher elevations and snow or ice showers can approach quickly. So, be prepared for cold temperatures, and tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back.

Image by D L Ennis, Otter Lake in winter, on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

There are some facilities on the Blue Ridge Parkway that stay open year-round:

In Virginia Peaks of Otter Lodge and Restaurant are open throughout the winter. Otter Creek Campground will remain open throughout the winter and the Peaks of Otter Picnic Area will be open weather permitting.

In North Carolina the Folk Art Center in Asheville will remain open throughout the winter. The Museum of North Carolina Minerals near Spruce Pine will be open daily from 9:00 a.m. to noon and from 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. throughout the winter. Linville Falls Campground will have one loop open throughout the winter. Price Park Picnic Area will remain open throughout the winter, weather permitting.

Before you set out on the Parkway in winter, you should call the Parkway information line at (828) 298-0398 for updated weather and road closure information.


Contributors Wanted

We are looking for contributors to join the Blue Ridge Gazette.

Things you should know: We do not get many comments. However, we do have a large readership that is growing daily and this is a wonderful opportunity to be read and improve your writing!

If interested you can email me here.

We are also accepting article submissions!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Benefit for United Plant Savers

A Benefit for United Plant Savers

At Soulflower Botanical Sanctuary

(in Little Sandy Mush outside Leicester, NC)

Live Music from String Mountain Music!

Seed & Herbal Remedies Exchange
(please bring any herbal things you have in abundance to barter)
Soulflower Woods Walk w/ CoreyPine Shane

Woodland Gardening w/ Joe Hollis

Propagating At-Risk Medicinals w/ Robin Suggs

Flower Essences with Ceara Foley

Fall Edibles Plant Walk w/ Juliet Blankespoor

Extreme Hoolah Hooping w/Julia Hartsell

Raffle & Herbal Beverage Tasting Contest
(bring a tea, mead, elixir, cordial or root beer to enter!)

For Kids: face painting, African dance, yoga, martial arts & building faery houses

Sun Oct 15th 10am-5pm
Call 828.350.1221 for directions

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Virginia's Haunted Places

In honor of October and Halloween...

All of the following places require permission to enter, so if you are thinking about visiting them keep that in mind.

Today’s listing, A-C:

Abingdon - Martha Washington Inn - The ghost of a young woman haunts the inn believed looking for her lover. Sightings are so common/reliable that they at one time charged extra for her “favorite” room. The workers are very helpful and acknowledged the sightings. no matter how many times they put down new carpet, blood stains reappear from old soldiers who were wounded during the war.

Alexandria - Brown House - Revolutionary War soldiers have been seen here.

Alexandria - Gadsby’s Tavern - Known to be haunted by a young women; in period clothing.

Alexandria - Ramsey House - The first house in the city (King and N. Fairfax) has had people see figures in period costume in the basement.

Amelia - Haw Branch Plantation - There is a picture of a young lady that is said to blush at times when you look at her, also the smell of oranges sometimes in the parlor. Frequently you can hear people talking and laughing in the parlor, and it stops when you enter the room. Footsteps on the stairway are heard. There is also a screaming woman outside on a certain nights.

Amherst - Winton Country Club - People have reported seeing things, hearing strange noises. And a few people have reported coming down the steps and seeing a woman’s reflection in the window.

Annandale - Annandale High School – Boy’s Restroom - Believed to be haunted by a student that committed Suicide. Reports of seeing the dead boy in a mirror in the bathroom.

Annandale - Round Tree Park - Known to many residents in Annandale and Arlington. Many sightings of a lady holding her baby who torments many people who happen to wonder in the park at night. It is said that when the fog rises then that is when she is most seen.

Ashland - Randolph-Macon College - Mary Branch girl’s dormitory has had doors opening and closing by themselves, items disappearing/reappearing, etc. Washington-Franklin Hall has at least two ghosts that have appeared to teachers on several occasions.
Ashland - Randolph-Macon College - SAE Fraternity House - Strange noises are also present, noises other than those normally found in a frat house. Some of the soldiers are only visible from the midsection up, presumably walking on the old house floor.

Ashland - Randolph-Macon College - Wash Frank Hall -two ghosts were seen by a student in Wash Frank Hall. Wash Frank Hall had recently been renovated and was kept locked after classes. The history department was housed in that building. A guy named Buzzy found the door unlocked, went in and played the piano (he has just lost a football player friend that evening who died in the library). He looked up sensing a presence in the room and there was a man dressed in turn of the century clothes sitting across the room. The man gestured for him to continue playing but Buzzy got freaked out and ran out of the place.

Barhamsville - Makemie Woods - This place is haunted by the ghost of a Civil War nurse who can be heard playing the piano at night. She has also been spotted walking the fields at night, still looking for wounded soldiers to help.

Bassett - Junkyard - At night when you are riding down the road you can see headlights flashing on and off in the field. If you go out there at night you hear doors shut all by themselves and you hear radios playing. At the very bottom of the field you can hear motors from the cars like they are being drove around. They say this happens from the ghost that were killed in car wrecks and come back to haunt the junkyard.

Bedford - Avenel House - Reports of seeing “The White Lady walking around the property, sometimes accompanied with a gentleman (also in white). An apparition of a black man has been reported to be looking out an upstairs window.

Bethel Manor - Langley Air force Base - Bethel Reservoir - What is now covered by Bethel reservoir was once a Revolutionary War and Civil War battlefield with many casualties buried there. Supposedly before the Revolutionary War it was sacred ground to the PaMounkie Indians. Several drownings have occurred there over the years, along with some alleged kidnappings and rapes. One of the more famous drownings happened the summer of ‘88. The aptly named Dewy Banks fell out of a canoe and drown. No one actually witnessed the event but his body was found several weeks later. Strange occurrences have been reported there for years including hearing your voice called; strange fogs, ball lightening, etc.

Blacksburg - A women walks through the walls of the tunnel and then vanishes during the day.

Boissevain - Boissevain road - Reports of hearing footsteps following along side in the fields. Bowling Green - Civil war soldiers can be heard calling out commands and then firing, also confederate soldiers have been seen walking through the graveyard behind the church. The church has also been said to be haunted.

Bowling Green - Old Mansion Inn - the ghost of Colonel John Waller Hoomes haunts his home.

Bridgewater - Bridgewater College Campus - Is a very beautiful campus, but it has many secrets. Founded in 1880, it is built on Native American hunting grounds. is said to be haunted by the ghost of it’s namesake, Mr. Cole. His ghost has been sighted many times by members of the drama club, musicians, and audience members. Usually seated on the balcony, the ghost appears when he is particularly pleased with a performance. Once, at the end of a play, the lights overhead began to flicker rapidly, and a cold spot was felt near a particular seat on the balcony. Once again, Mr. Cole was pleased.

Bristol - Virginia Intermont College - Every time the room has been remodeled, it has suffered an electrical fire and a ghostly presences felt.

Buena Vista - Southern Virginia College - This college is supposedly haunted by the ghost of a young boy who died here. He is said to haunt the fourth floor, which is one of the women’s dormitories. The ghost can sometimes be heard riding his bicycle up and down the hallway. There has also been an unusual death every year since the college was built.

Bullrun Manasses - Cobblestone Bridge - Civil War soldiers have been seen crossing the bridge at night.

Chantilly - Walney Road - It is said that many years ago before the windy road was paved a man was killed while hitchhiking. On Wednesday or Thursday nights at 11:30 if you drive down Walney and you see a hitchhiker, it is recommended that you stop. He appears up to three times to give you the chance to pick him up. If you still don’t pick him up by the third time, a car will come out of nowhere and kill you.

Charlottesville - Castle Hill Manor - Castle Hill Manor was built before the Revolutionary War in 1765, by a Dr. Thomas Walker. Many guests who have stayed at the manor have been aroused and really frightened in the middle of the night by uncanny noises or footsteps. Some guests over the years have seen a female and described her as a young pretty woman who is sometimes playful and whose main goal is to disturb the people that she doesn’t like sleeping in her room. However other guests who she does like have slept in peace in her room. In the early 1800’s a prince and princes lived in the house and had many festive parties. Guest are also woken by sounds of chairs moving across the floor, glasses clinking, and footsteps walking swiftly across the floor. Possibly the ghosts are reliving the parties they had hundreds of years ago.

Charlottesville - Monticello - home Thomas Jefferson - Monticello employees have often heard him whistling on the grounds, as he was know to do during his living days. Apparitions of a 10 year old boy wearing a uniform and a tri-cornered hat peering out a 2nd floor window. During the house tour the tour guide said that no one was allowed upstairs because of the fire codes. They knew nothing of the boy.

Charlottesville - Tandem Friends School - The “Old Building” of the school was supposed to be a civil war hospital. It is located about 2 miles from Monticello. There have been numerous reports of a confederate soldier that walks in the upstairs hall.

Chester - Parker’s Battery - Civil war bunkers are still occupied by spirits, some of which seem to be very sad and confused.

Chilhowie - CHS Hauntings - This school is buried on an Indian burial ground from Many years ago!!! There are Indians that appear and walk the halls mostly late at night! There is one that likes to appear in the gym very often!

Christiansburg - Christiansburg Middle School - Reports of lights coming on at night and go off before the light switch is touched, witnesses see shadows of 3 women, and in the cellar baby’s cries are heard.

Clifford Winton Country Club - This is a haunting concerning the periodic return of Sarah Henry (Patrick Henrys Mother) to Winton, the home they once lived in. Sarah Henry died on Christmas Day 1784. Her footsteps & the swish of her petticoat heard, & her presence felt.

Clifton - Bunnyman bridge - a man who escaped from a mental institution hid in a tunnel under a bridge where he hung people. It is called Bunnyman because when searchers looked for the man they found the carcass of rabbits. His ghost still haunts the bridge and sightings of people seen hanging from the bridge are common.

Covington - Panther Rock - Back in the 1960’s there was a woman riding along on her horse. A slick black panther came out of the woods with the taste for blood. The panther startled the horse. The horse throw the woman off and she hit her head on a jaggit rock and was sreaming for help. If you go up there at night when it is raining and get out of your car. You can hear the woman screaming for help and the panthers bone chilling cries. The rain on the rock will turn red from where the panther slatured her and all goes quiet.

Crockett - Crockett Post office - There was a woman checking her mail late one night, and was killed by a murder on the loose. She is said to be standing at the mail box at which she had owned with her back toward the entrance and when she turns around you can see the knife marks where the guy slit her throat. And on the anniversary of that night it is said that when you go near the building you can hear the woman calling for help and screaming.

Cumberland - Small Abandoned Graveyard - There are four or five graves that are abandoned in the woods. It is said that slaves were buried here in the 1800’s. It is also said that they cross the street at night looking for a way to the north.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Log Structures of the Appalachians - Part I

The First Settlers - Part I of VIII

The first settlers in the Appalachian Mountain Regions emigrated from previously settled areas in the United States. Germans and Scotch-Irish from Pennsylvania, English from the Eastern sections of Virginia and the Carolinas, and Scandinavians from the Delaware Valley—all traveled further West and South to the rugged, isolated mountains of Appalachia.

As they settled the area, these people retained elements of their distinct European heritage and changed their traditions to suit a particular environment. Old and altered traditions merged with one another in the mountains to produce the distinct culture of Appalachia.

The architecture of early Appalachia is one variety of folk art which exhibits the unique combination of German, Scotch-Irish, English, and Scandinavian cultures in the Southern Highlands. These structures were as unique, as the individuals who built them.

Log construction began in the Scandinavian regions before the Bronze Age. The first structures were simple rectangular buildings made of horizontally-laid round logs with corner notching. This basic form, known as the "Single Crib" or "Single Pen" has remained unchanged from as early as 10,000-8,000 BC and is ancestor to all log construction in America.

The first log structures constructed in the American Colonies were the English "Garrison Houses" and Dutch "Blockhouses" of New England. Intended as military fortifications, these structures were built to withstand siege. The logs were hewn and vigilantly fitted together, and the second story was cantilevered over the first.

Although the English settlers were familiar with this system of horizontal log construction they built their homes of the frame-clapboard or "Half-Timber" construction that was common in England.