Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Capuchin Crypts - Rome, Italy

Last week I visited Rome for the first time. So much history! Needless to say I was in awe, but nothing surpassed my visit to the Capuchin Crypts.

My only disappointment was that I was not allowed to take photos (the mean girl at the ticket desk made me put my camera into my bag before heading inside), so all the images you see in this post will have been grabbed from Google Images.

When I first walked into the crypt area I knew I was in the right place because of the putrid smell. I didn't realize that these beautiful bone designs and mummified remains would be out in the open - no glass enclosure to come between me and these beauties. If you go, keep in mind that the smell was so bad to my travel companion that she immediately left and waited for me outside. I, on the other hand, walked through each chamber twice just so I could retain the glorious images in my mind.

As you approach the first chamber you will see the ornately decorated hallway. I may have audibly gasped in delight (I know, I know.) Jawbones lined the arched doorways! Each chamber (I believe there were six) had its own "theme" but each was glorious and beautiful unto itself. And the mummies! Did I mention the mummies still in their monk's robes? So gruesome! So gross! So ghoulish! SO GREAT!

There is an admission fee of 6 euro to enter. They've added a new museum to the attraction where you can see objects created and/or owned by the monks. That was okay, but the treat here are the crypts. If you find yourself in Rome, you might want to check it out!

Happy Halloween, my friends!

Monday, May 19, 2014


Well, it was bound to happen. I've fallen in love with someone who loathes scary movies and things that go bump in the night. This explains my blogging hiatus (he and I met in late October last year). Would you believe that seeing GODZILLA is the first "scary" film I've seen in seven months?! Yeesh. That confession is pretty scary in and of itself!

I'm back and and ready to get the cobwebs off of my Scare-O-Meter! This review may contain spoilers, so consider yourself warned.

I was able to catch a sneak preview of GODZILLA in IMAX 3D. This is the only way that this movie should be seen. I'm not a fan of 3D films because I think they're too campy. I know, I know. How ridiculous coming from the person who loves campy horror flicks. Maybe "gimmicky" is a better word. But this movie wasn't made in that "things flying at you from the screen" fashion - the 3D just makes the images clearer, especially on the jumbo IMAX screen.

The story actually delved deeper into the creation and research of the monsters which brought a nice synergy between this and the original Godzilla films from Japan (did I see a guy in a rubber Godzilla suit?). In fact, a lot of the plot points went back to the original versions where The King Of The Monsters is seen as a hero. In this case, he saves the Pacific from a male and female Muto who are breeding with the hopes of taking over our planet! The special effects were great and the casting was spot on. Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe were terrific as the scientific geniuses. The underlying subplot, questioning the use of an atomic bomb today, wasn't too "in your face," but it definitely made you think.

This movie was intense! Halfway through the film I realized that my fists were clenched, as were my teeth, my calves were tight, and I was sitting forward. The family sitting next to me only enhanced my movie-going experience by having to remind their 10-year-old daughter, "It's only a movie..." while the mother was jumping every five minutes. I remember only jumping once myself, but it was a good one!

It's a fun movie, but leave your little ones at home. I'm thrilled that they've obviously left room for more GODZILLA films where our hero will, no doubt, be reunited with some of his kaiju friends from the past. On a scale of one to four jumpers, I'm giving this four - mostly for the jumpy mom seated next to me - and for its intensity. Go and see this film!

Until next time (and hopefully it won't be another seven months...)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Devil's Gate Dam, Pasadena, California

Happy Halloween, everyone!

I'm closing out this glorious month with a location and a story I wasn't aware of until a couple of weeks ago. My friends know I'm a paranormal enthusiast so they often come to me with, "Hey, do you know about the...?" or "Have you ever heard of...?" and I always stop them mid-question with a definitive, "Yes." That is, until I was asked about Devil's Gate Dam.

"Where," my ears perked up, "is that? And what can you tell me about it?"

My friend went on to tell me about this old dam that sits across from the JPL building in Pasadena. She mentioned how it's thought to be a vortex, or gateway, to Hell. "Two boys literally vanished from the area, never to be seen or heard from again!" she went on. I started to press her for more details when she said that some friends of ours frequently go hiking up there. I literally backed those friends into a corner, begging them to take me to Devil's Gate Dam.

The hike itself was pretty eerie, traveling through underpasses of the 210 freeway that smelled like makeshift bathrooms for the homeless.

We continued further until we reached the bridge toward the dam. There's just something about old dams that creeps me out. Maybe it's the stories my parents used to tell me of the Baldwin Hills dam breaking when I was a baby, with so much water rushing down the hillside that the water actually came trickling down our street, at least three miles from the dam itself. I remember driving up that hillside with my parents throughout my childhood and finding the need to stare at the ominous wall of the abandoned dam while my mind tried to conceive of the tragic events that unfolded in 1963. I would always shudder, imagining some malevolent force behind the wall, looming and staring back at me.

But back to Devil's Gate. As you can see from the photos at the very top of the page and the one directly below, it was completely dry that day. My friends told me that when we have a rainy season in Los Angeles, those trees you see in the background are almost fully covered with water. They've promised to take me back there the next time we have a hefty rain storm.

After snapping a few photos with giggles under our breath and feigned fear on our faces, we came to the stairway that takes you to the area named Devil's Gate. Here's a photo of that stairway.

And here are a couple of photos of the caged stairwells leading down into the gorge.

It was at this point I was relieved to be with other people. Had I come here on my own I would have certainly hightailed it out of there!

Now for the backstory. In my research I found that the story of two boys disappearing wasn't entirely true. No, four children had gone missing from the area. In the summer of 1956 a 13-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl disappeared from the area. Local authorities and volunteers combed the area, including divers who also searched the reservoir itself. No children. No bodies. Only their bicycles and the little girl's jacket.

The end to that story wasn't, in fact, paranormal. Over a decade later, Mack Ray Edwards would confess to the kidnapping and murders of the two children. Seems Edwards, who had a job building the highways of the Golden State, had hidden the corpses by incorporating them into the highway and covering them with asphalt. So next time you're on one of the freeways near Pasadena, you might want to check your rear view mirror to make sure the ghosts of these restless children aren't in your back seat.

The two boys that my friend told me about had actually disappeared at different times. In the spring of 1957 an 8-year-old named Tommy was hiking near Devil's Gate with his family. He was literally a few paces ahead of his family when he went around a bend and vanished. Hundreds of people joined the search team throughout the week, but Tommy was never found.

Then in 1960, a YMCA group was hiking not far from where Tommy vanished when a 6-year-old named Bruce started to feel weak. His leader instructed him to return to camp and, under the leader's watchful eye, Bruce was seen just steps away from the campsite. Thinking Bruce was safe, the leader joined up with the rest of the group but Bruce was not to be seen again. More search teams scoured the area, but as in the case of Tommy there were no clues and no answers as to what happened to Bruce.

Visit Devil's Gate Dam, if you dare!

(Note: As always, my photos are copyrighted and are not to be used without my written permission. Thanks, guys.)

Sad to see October end. Until next time.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Touring the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office

Friday at the office dragged on for what seemed like weeks. I could have attributed my impatience with the fact that I would be leaving for a 5-day vacation on Monday, but that couldn't have been further from the truth. My impatience was definitely due to the fact that at 6:00 I would be one of the few, privileged people who would be touring the service area of the L.A. County Coroner's office!

Arriving early, I found myself completely unsettled by the creepiness of the parking structure at 1104 N. Mission Road. An extremely low-hanging "ceiling," the rusty and outdated steel beams, the lack of lighting within the structure all made for a nice introduction to my evening. I walked over to the Administration Building where the first part of the "festivities" would take place and waited for the doors to open.

At approximately 6:15, Chief Craig Harvey opened the doors and welcomed us to his domain. I couldn't believe we were having cocktails at the Coroner's! And while I waited for all of the guests to arrive I couldn't resist shopping at one of my favorite stores in Los Angeles: Skeletons In The Closet. It figures that the L.A. Coroner's Office is the only coroner's office in the nation to have a gift shop!

Scott Michaels and Mark Masek started the evening off and Mark gave us the history of the facility.

What is currently used as the Administration Building was formerly the Los Angeles General Hospital. The beautiful entry way says it all:

Thereafter, Erin Murphy (who used to play Tabitha on the TV series Bewitched, spoke about her experiences with the cast and crew of the show. She was charming and her stories were endearing, especially those about Elizabeth Montgomery, "the Dicks" (York and Sargent), and Agnes Moorhead.

And then it was time for the coveted tour by Chief Harvey, who told us we could take as many photos as we wanted except for two restrictions: 1) No photos of bodies (darn!) and 2) no photos of staff members without their permission. OK, so with that, we were on our way!

As we made our way to the service building, I couldn't help but feel like a kid going to Disneyland. I know... My Mom cringed when I told her that.

We started out in the area where bodies are initially brought in, weighed, identified, photographed and where the toe tags for the deceased would be created. Two toe tags (no longer paper and wire, they now look like blue credit cards) are made - one is attached to the toe of the deceased and the other stays with the paperwork. (Note the camera on the ceiling in the photo below.)

Our attention was then called to the steel door on the opposite side of the room. This door leads to the Coroner's "crypt." Chief Harvey explained that they don't refer to it as the morgue because USC handles the County Morgue. The bodies that end up at the morgue are typically of people who died of natural causes. The bodies that end up at the crypt have died of suspicious circumstances, including homicide and suicide.

As soon as the door to the crypt was opened the stench of the dead bodies overwhelmed me. I have to say I will never forget that smell. Chief Harvey explained that the smell is the combination of the plastic the bodies are wrapped-in, the fact that some people were not in the cleanest state when they arrived, and of course a bit of decomposition. It was completely surreal to me that I was viewing dead bodies. I was fascinated. I was amazed. I was hogging up the front of the line! Had it not been for the smell I probably could have stood there gawking (I know that's very insensitive) for another ten minutes.

The facilities were immaculate! Chief Harvey explained to us the various parts of the labs, the equipment used to perform autopsies, and showed us the room which was previously used for high-profile cases coming through the facility (Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson, specifically) but that has now been turned into a mens' restroom!

All in all, it was an amazing evening and I must give a huge thank you to Dearly Departed Tours for setting-up the tour. It's an experience that I will always treasure!

I hope you're enjoying this Halloween season as much as I am!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

2-Year-Old Boy "Gives Birth" To His Twin?!

This news story was sent to me by a good friend of mine (she obviously knows me well). I'm so fascinated by scientific anomalies like this. Growing up I'd do my best to research (we didn't have the internet back then) stories I'd heard of women having cysts removed from their ovaries, and the doctors finding hair and teeth in the cysts. Blech. But I guess a good blech?

Today's story has to do with a Chinese boy who had his conjoined twin growing within his stomach. Unbeknownst to his family and his doctor, the boy had a twin whose egg didn't fully separate in vitro and those cells began to grow within him. Yikes! Take a look at this footage and be sure to check out the x-rays closely. Amazing! And blech!

Happy October, everyone!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Halloween, my favorite season!

Hello, my pretties! Would you believe it's already the start of the holiday season? Well, no, not that holiday season. It's my favorite holiday season: Halloween.

October's the month where my DVR is blowing up with recorded horror movies that I've seen a million times, causing me to giggle in anticipation of watching them again. And again. It's the month that I've impatiently waited for since the end of last season's The Walking Dead. It's the time when I try to convince just one of my friends to accompany me to a fright fest of some kind. My best memory of one of these jaunts was when I took my friend Isabella to Universal Studios' Halloween Horror Nights. When she couldn't take it anymore she stopped in her tracks and literally sat on the ground in a fetal position, begging the ghouls to leave her alone. Good times.

This year, however, may actually top my list of Halloween festivities. I will be attending the October 4th evening event hosted by Dearly Departed Tours in Hollywood. Does anyone recognize the building in the photo above? If you do, are you excited for me, jealous of me, or both? The photo is of the Los Angeles County Coroner's office on Mission Road. AND I GET TO GO ON A TOUR!

Promoted as a "bare bones" tour of the facility, the evening will begin with a bar set-up in the hospital building with the promise of spirits (see what I did there?) accompanied by revolting finger foods. Why am I imagining something like this?

One can only hope!

More nail-biting will ensue when author Mark Masek (Hollywood Remains To Be Seen: A Guide To The Movie Stars' Final Homes) tells us the history of the Coroner's facility, followed by a tour of the service floor by Chief Craig Harvey.

There are many other exciting activities during the 2013 Dearly Departed Weekend, including dinner in a mausoleum on Saturday night (I didn't feel as compelled to be a part of that since I've already dined in the crypt at St. Martins in the Field). If any of you want to partake in the fun, you can find all of the information at www.ddtweekend.com.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

American Horror Story is coming soon!

I have to say I'm very intrigued by the beautiful promotional campaign for season 3 of American Horror Story. Unfortunately, I don't have much faith that I will be able to endure watching the entire season. Were there others of you out there that were extremely excited about seasons 1 and 2, only to lose interest halfway through? I understand that this is typical of Ryan Murphy's projects, but I wouldn't know since I wouldn't be caught dead watching Glee.