Monday, October 25, 2010

Most Haunted Locations

In observance of Halloween, I am posting this listing of America's Top Haunted locations. As you can see the first one is from Louisiana, in partially keeping with the theme of Cajun and Creole. I know, it's a stretch, but I love Halloween and always try to do something special for the occasion.

I am providing links to websites where you can find more information about these places and how to visit them... if you DARE!!! I have to admit I have never visited any of these places, but I'd love to! Three of my favorite shows are Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures, and Paranormal State. I love any of these shows about the paranormal, as I used to do quite a bit of ghost hunting in my college days. This was before ghost hunting was popular and all the rage.

We investigated many houses, buildings, and even a radio station. We caught some EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomenon), and had personal experiences while investigating. Now, I do believe in ghosts, I have had experiences that, although I can't swear were 100% paranormal, I do believe in my heart and mind that they were. These shows about ghost hunting are entertaining, but I don't know how legitimate they always are. I wonder when the networks need ratings, if the shows are told to "get some good evidence" or else. There have been accusations leveled toward some of them suggesting this type of behavior.

I don't care, I believe in them anyway and still love watching the shows about them. Now, some of the following locations have been investigated by many of these shows, some more than others. Any of you readers who share my fascination with these haunted locations will recognize most, if not all, of these as being some of the most prolific ones anywhere. I hope you enjoy this post and have a very Happy Halloween.

The Myrtles - St. Francisville, Louisiana
The Myrtles Plantation is located in St. Francisville Louisiana and has always been on everyone's top lists of haunted houses to visit. The haunting concerns the story of Chloe, a slave who worked in the main house. She was caught ease-dropping on a conversation of the owner. She was punished by having her ear cut off. As revenge, she baked a cake for the family and added just enough poison to make them ill, or so she thought. She poisoned and killed the wife and two daughters and was hung for her crime.

Reports claim she still walks the house and grounds as do the ghosts of the two little girls she poisoned. Pictures have been made with her showing up in the background, as well as guests and guides have reported feeling the sensation of what would be a child's touch or tugging on their clothes.

The Villisca Axe Murder House - Villisca, Iowa
The Moore family of Villisca, Iowa were murdered in their sleep on June, 9th 1912. Josiah B. Moore and his wife Sarah, their children Herman, Catherine, Boyd, and Paul, along with two little neighbor girls Lena and Ina Stillinger, went to bed after returning from a Wednesday night church service. Sometime, while they were at church, someone snuck into the house, hid in the attic, and waited until the family was asleep. He then made his way systematically through the house hacking them all to death with an axe. Eight people in all.

The house understandably went through many hands until Darwin and Martha Linn bought the house in 1994. The house was restored to it's 1912 condition and was offered for paranormal investigations after so many reports of the house's haunted condition had peaked spooky interest. Many claim it is one of the most haunted houses anywhere. Many hours of evidence have been gathered by different ghost hunting teams, including videos of the children's rooms where doors open and close, and balls that roll around by themselves.

Their murders were never definitively solved and still are the subject of debate amongst ghost hunters and amateur crime solvers to this day. It is truly a genuine haunted house.

Waverly Hills Sanatorium - Louisville Kentucky
Completed in 1926 Waverly Hills was a renown tuberculosis hospital that not only treated thousands but also saw the death of some estimated 63,000 patients. Because if the high volume of deaths, since the survival rate was so low, this place is one of the most haunted locations in the country. Many sightings range from several ghosts if children, a suicidal nurse, and a homeless man and his dog, just to name a few.

This sanatorium is very popular with the ghost hunters and paranormal seekers that schedule tours year round. For more info go to Waverly Hills Sanatorium and check out the stories and evidence.

Goldfield Hotel - Goldfield Nevada
The Goldfield was built during the heyday of the Gold Rush. According to the legend the hotel is haunted by multiple entities including George Winfield, the hotel's previous owner, as well as his mistress and prostitute named Elizabeth, whom he chained to a radiator during her pregnancy. According to legend he threw the baby down the mine shaft the hotel was supposedly built over, and this is the main cause of all the trouble.

Shadow people, full body apparitions, and mysterious sounds have been heard throughout the building for years by casual observers and paranormal investigators. I am sure after they observed something they weren't too casual after that.

Eastern State Penitentiary - Philadelphia. Pennsylvalnia
Eastern State Penitentiary broke sharply with the prisons of its day, abandoning corporal punishment and ill treatment. This massive new structure, opened in 1829, became one of the most expensive American buildings of its day and soon the most famous prison in the world. The Penitentiary would not simply punish, but move the criminal toward spiritual reflection and change.

By the 1960's, the aged prison was in need of costly repairs. The Commonwealth closed the facility in 1971, 142 years after it admitted Charles Williams, Prisoner Number One. The City of Philadelphia purchased the site in 1980, intending to reuse or develop it. Since its closure visitors, employees and those researching paranormal activity have reportedly heard unexplained eerie sights and sounds throughout the prison.

Get out this Halloween and visit one of these Haunted Places. Thanks to Patricia Barden, and Pam Culver for their wonderful photographs.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Ridgewood Barbecue

As some of you know I have featured quite a few barbecue places on this blog. Although it might not fit into a "Cajun and Creole" theme, it is a Southern food and is a point of interest amongst foodie readers. Besides, smoked meats are a staple of the Cajun diet. Now, people all over believe their region has the best barbecue and I am no different. The big difference though is... I am right, these others are wrong. My barbecue restaurant back home is the best ANYWHERE. So here is my post about the famous Ridgewood Barbecue, the finest barbecue in the South, (or any direction for that matter.)

Ridgewood was opened 1948, as Ridgewood Inn, on a tiny road in Tennessee between the towns of Elizabethton and Bluff City. I grew up in Bluff City and Ridgewood soon became my favorite restaurant as a lad, although my mother didn't like it because of her dislike of smoked meats or anything for that matter, Dad sure loved it. Their sauce is phenomenal. It is a tomato based sauce sweetened with brown sugar and molasses. For any of you North Carolina barbecue snobs this is a real barbecue sauce not a bucket of vinegar with some pepper flakes in it. Please, keep that ole' swill for your Korean Kim Chee. This is barbecue sauce made the way God meant for it to be made.

Back when I was a kid, (remember the dinosaurs?) yeah, that was my era, anyway, when I was a kid we'd go and Mrs. Proffitt (Grace Proffitt, the owner) would meet you at the door and sometimes would close it in your face. Now, she wasn't being rude, this was because the restaurant was full. You'd hear people bitchin' and complainin' about her, but I understood it perfectly well. So now here is the secret... can everyone hear me? OK here it is, WHEN THE RESTAURANT IS FULL, THERE'S NO ROOM TO STAND!!! Is that soooooo difficult of a concept to grasp??? I don't know about you, but if I am eating I DO NOT want some tool looming over me goonin' at every bite I take. Set you ass outside and wait your turn. Now if you showed up with a baby, you were allowed in, if the place is full and it's raining... TOO BAD! Grace was always as sweet as could be to me, never did I set foot in the place without her asking how Mama was. She was a barbecue Godess.

Now about this particular visit. My best friend growing up, Terry, (or Ted as he now likes to be called, some California thing) was in visiting and he loves Ridgewood as much as I do, if that is at all possible. We made our way over and nearly panicked when the parking lot was jammed full. We actually parked on top of someone else's car, I believe, and made our way into the holding pen. Yes, griping whiners, there is now somewhere you can sit and cool your heels while you await entering the restaurant, sort of.

Any-who, the girl came over and we ordered identical meals without even glancing at the menu. Menu, shmenu we already knew what we wanted before leaving the house. Heck, we set our menu back in the 70's and it hasn't changed hardly at all. Pork Sandwich, Fries, Barbecue Beans, Iced Tea, that's the menu as far as we are concerned. Keep the sauce bottle handy, by the way. Now the waiting commences, look around a bit... oh great, we're in the add-on dining room and there are at least 3 screaming babies, and 2 big-hair women talking WAY TOO LOUD! Where do they still find polyester pantsuits?

Here it is... the Heavens open and the cloud part. I hear the singing of angels, I can imagine Michelangelo’s “Last Judgment” in the Sistine Chapel, where God is reaching out to man, but there's a pork barbecue sandwich in his mighty hand. Yes, MY pork barbecue sandwich, oh and I got the fries and beans too. Suddenly all was well in the world. No Middle-East conflicts, North Korea and South Korea were buddies, it was like we were propelled back into a kinder, gentler era where Reagan was president, and french fries were actually made out of potatoes.

My sandwich was awesome. Dripping with sauce, especially after I gave it an extra dose for good measure. Those beans are downright sinful, savory, sweet, with scraps of smoked pork swimming around in the decorative bowl like the three Bradley girls of Petticoat Junction would swim around "au naturale" in the Cannonball's water tower. Well, at least that's what my small twisted mind could imagine went on before the whipped their petticoats off of that railing. Oh Bobbie-Jo, you were the woman for me... oops sorry, I got carried away.

Proper Ridgewood etiquette requires you to DROWN you fries in the barbecue sauce, I mean really, there are fresh-cut fries, deep fried and crispy. you can see the browning on the edges where the natural sugars in the potato had caramelized. By the way, the use GIANT potatoes for the french fries. These are simple natural fries, no season salt, heck, no salt. Terry and I settled in for a session of quiet eating only to be disturbed by the occasional offer of more tea.

We are getting near our full level though, I don't think I can eat any more, but there is still delicious goodness left on the plate, how can I leave that. I can't take it home, no matter how good it is here it can never achieve this standard after a go-around in the Fridge and the Microwave. There has to be room somewhere mayb... oh, there it is, just under my 4th rib. I sop up the last remnants of the sauce with my final bite of sandwich and even catch an errant french fry I had somehow missed. Well Mister French Fry, thought you could get away did you?

We have done it! Another perfect meal at Ridgewood. OK, I rarely get there because I do overeat when I am there. Even their Bleu Cheese Dressing is awesome. My brother-in-law Frankie would sometimes order just a bowl of Bleu Cheese dressing and a fist-full of crackers. Evidently, this dressing is made to go on something called a Sa-Lad. Some with lettuce or, whatever. You have to go to Ridgewood. Mrs. Proffitt has passed on now as has her son Terry. Her Grand-Daughter Lisa Peters now runs the restaurant and luckily little to nothing has changed, and I hope nothing ever does. HERE is a nice little history and write up on the place in an interview of Larry Proffitt.

To get to Ridgewood, just make your way to Bluff City Tennessee and let your nose take you to the heavenly aroma, or you can type this into you Garmin, or whatever. Ridgewood Barbecue, 900 Elizabethtown Highway, Bluff City, TN 37618. (423-538-7543). No website that I know of but they do have a FaceBook Page. Try some real barbecue when in East Tennessee. Call me and I'll meet you over there. Enjoy!


Friday, October 1, 2010

Sassafras Leaves and Filé Gumbo

Wow, it is such a beautiful day here in East Tennessee, I am so glad I got out amongst nature and accomplished something I have been wanting to do forever. I called my brother Phil and he and I went down to our family's property (actually it's a cemetery our family owns) and we scouted out some Sassafras Trees. Other than the tea, most people might not know what sassafras is good for. If you dry the leaves and grind them into powder, you will have made filé powder. "Great" you say, "what is filé powder???"

Filé (fee-lay) is used in cajun cooking, primarily in the preparation of my favorite cajun food... GUMBO! The sassafras tree has 3 different and distinct leaves as pictured. These three leaves all came off the same tree. There is a 3 lobed leaf, an ovoid leaf, and one shaped like a kid's mitten. Most say it was the Choctaw Indians in Louisiana that taught dem Cajuns to use it for flavoring and thickening the gumbos. I have bought filé powder before but it doesn't seem to have the strength to work properly. I found THIS ARTICLE on making filé powder that will help.

You can find the trees in most wooded areas of the southeast on down as far as Texas. Since this is my first time harvesting it, and I've read you should break off small limbs, spray them off with water and let them dry for about a week out of direct sunlight. Direct sunlight will make them brown. I have a few pics here for you. So, while the weather is nice, get out and pick some, and make you some good filé powder. Be sure not to put it in until your gumbo is nearly finished. Some put it in after cooking or offer it at the table for guests to use at they're discretion.

Both my Chicken and Sausage Gumbo and my VooDoo Bayou Seafood Gumbo recipes are accessible by clicking on their highlighted titles, try your new sassafras leaf Filé out on one of those recipes. Have fun and enjoy the fresh air once you're outside picking leaves.