Nearly 150 years after his death, Abraham Lincoln remains a polarizing figure. To some, he is the greatest president the United States of America ever had, a man who freed the slaves and saved the Union. To others, he was a power-hungry tyrant, who invaded his own country and used back-room, sometimes scandalous politics to get what he wanted. No matter what one’s personal view of him, however, all can agree on two things: he was a master politician, and a deeply conflicted man, both internally and his public persona. No person of such high standing in American history has had his views gradually change to the point of nearly a complete reversal. No president has ever been in office in the midst of such terrible and chaotic internal strife.
It is difficult today to look back upon Abraham Lincoln and give him a singular label for what he should be remembered for, but almost always, it boils down to the slavery issue, and how he had the Emancipation Proclamation drafted and then his fight to get the 13th Amendment passed to free the slaves prior to the conclusion of the American Civil War. However, as is the case with many figures when studied through the looking glass back through history, people see what they want to see. Lincoln is a much more complicated figure to study, because at the same time this country was experiencing its single greatest moment of political dissent, Lincoln was dissenting against his own government and party, and sometimes, even himself. His views, which began as quite simple ones began to change and morph over time to what we know them as today, but to ignore the journey that he went through would be a disservice to both the man and the history of this nation.
The members of “Haunted Travels” present for the investigation. From left to right: Brett Bodner, Tom Burke, Jake Reid, Greg Caggiano, Doug Balduini, Carla Balduini.
2014 was a busy year for us at Haunted Travels, a web-series I co-founded along with Jake Reid in September of 2013 which would consist partly of ghost stories, myths, folklore, and also actual paranormal investigations. In the last twelve months, we have managed to film 25 episodes, visit 10 locations, host four public investigations at our regular stomping grounds at Strauss Mansion, give nine lectures on paranormal activity at historic sites in New Jersey, see me have my first book published, welcome in some new crew members, and of course, happen upon an untold number of stories at each and every location, some of which do not make it into our videos or appear on our social media. This write-up is a recap of our adventures during the last year, some of which you have seen, and others which you have not. Please check out the hyperlinks to be redirected to relevant additional content such as videos and investigation reports.
And I’ve seen ‘em all, or at least a few episodes of every one of these series which happens to blare across my television screen in the late afternoon hours as I try to get some time in on my exercise bike. It was by this chance misfortune that I am able to review Amish Haunting for you, the latest and greatest paranormal-themed show from that treasure trove of goodies that are not good enough to make the Discovery Channel, yes, the graveyard of sub-par entertainment reality known as Destination America. In order for me to adequately describe Amish Haunting, I would need a thesaurus and a glass—no, a bottle—of Johnnie Walker Red, if I had to watch an episode in its entirety, as the shows slaves away and harps on centuries old traditions of evil within the seemingly peaceful Amish culture, located mainly in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and parts of Ohio. This show, which comes on with a tour-de-force opening credits and disclaimer, giving it the illusion of being something groundbreaking, is a laughable, disgusting mess that fails to scare, except by way of how scary the acting is. These are the stories of ghost stories within the Amish community, the ones you would not get while sitting down for a $5.99 country breakfast at Diener’s Buffet in Ronks. The opening credits mention how these stories have always existed, but only now are the Amish ready to tell their story! But wait, there’s more!
This might be the most difficult list I have ever compiled. As an avid horror film enthusiast, I had to narrow down my top ten of all-time, out of the 177 horror movies I have seen to date, according to my IMDB account. For good measure, I added three honorable mentions to get us to a lucky 13. When it comes to horror, generally I like older films; those campy, cult-classics or ones that make you think, even if they are not really scary. Very rarely do I see one nowadays and actually enjoy it. Horror has always been a rewarding genre because you can take so much from them: you can be scared or mystified, which is the goal, but if one is so bad, you can get some humor by making fun of how deplorable it was. But on this list, there are no such films. These are my absolute favorites, for various reasons. The ones I could watch over and over again!
Honorable Mention 1: The Pit and the Pendulum (1961; Roger Corman)
Honorable Mention 2: In the Mouth of Madness (1994; John Carpenter)
Honorable Mention 3: Vampyr (1932; Carl Theodore Dreyer)
10. The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971; Robert Fuest)
There is only one word needed to describe this film: bizarre. There can be no other film like it—it is that unique. It plays out like an acid-trip set to organ music from start to finish, as we follow the post-resurrection life of Dr. Anton Phibes (Vincent Price), who was possibly killed but definitely horribly disfigured in a car accident many years earlier. Dying in the crash was his beloved wife, who he is still madly in love with, and whom he seeks vengeance for. Also, a biblical scholar in addition to being a world-renown organ player, Phibes begins to murder every doctor and nurse who worked on his wife after the crash and failed to save her. Each death would be a variation on the different biblical plagues. Everything about this movie is outrageous. The costumes, sets, and music. Everything! It is a one of a kind film that you have to see to truly know how unique it is. If some of the murders and, uh, daily habits, of Phibes do not make you squirm, his self-embalming in a glass coffin to a brass band tune of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in the finale will certainly leave you comically uneasy. The first time you watch it, “What the hell did I just watch?” comes to mind, but with each viewing you will realize that this is a hidden gem of horror film-making.
As you may know, I will be having a book published and released this coming September. Perhaps it was fate that led me to this publication, because just a few months ago, not only was there no book written, but I did not have any aspiration to write one after many frustrating attempts to get something done all ended in failure. I either finished a manuscript and never had the drive to edit it and send it in to try to get it published, or started on a tear and cranked out a lot of pages before losing interest and not completing it. This spring, when my computer crashed and I lost nearly every document I had written in the previous seven years, my mind was pretty much made up for me: it’s just not in the cards—focus on something else, Greg. My paranormal investigating hobby has kept me extremely busy since last September, when I co-founded Haunted Travels along with Jake Reid, which is a web series that we shoot whenever we have the chance. So I focused on that. I have also found a home at Strauss Mansion, working for their board, and being the go-to guy for paranormal investigations. After several very successful public investigations and lectures there in May, it dawned on me: I have enough notes, stories, and experiences written down about this place that I could very well have a book here. I started typing them up and throwing it all together. It was not exactly long enough, but with a few chapters on background information on ghost hunting methods and technology, as well as a brief history of the hobby and some thoughts on popular culture, I realized why yes, yes I do have a book here.
There is an old saying that goes, “When legend becomes fact, print the legend.” That is exactly what the late-Gertrude Neidlinger, former curator of the Spy House Museum in Port Monmouth, did during her time from the 1970’s through the 90’s; only she went one step further: she did not just print the legend, she made it up entirely.
There might not be a more alluring and mysterious house in all of New Jersey than the humble, little establishment that rests close to the beach overlooking New York City on what was once known as Shoal Harbor. It is a building, historically known as the Seabrook-Wilson House (two families that made it their residence during its history), and more affectionately by folklorists and locals, as the Spy House, that has many different myths and legends surrounding it, that have been cultivated over the last few decades. It is a house that is so incredibly rich in history that one would imagine it too good to be true. In fact, after doing some investigating and researching, I have found that might be exactly the case.
I didn’t want Tanner Glass either, but as I said yesterday on Twitter, amidst an overabundance of complaints about his signing, if the biggest thing Ranger fans have to complain about this off-season is an annual salary of $1.45 million being paid to a fourth liner, then that means Glen Sather did not do so bad after all. It’s a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Sather didn’t, hence the damning, and a furious one at that. The onslaught continues on social media today towards the team for signing a bottom-three grinder who really is not that good. Yes, I am disappointed, but it’s not the end of the world, and what’s done is done. In the weeks leading up to the beginning of free agency, I saw many a post from fans hoping that Sather “learned from his past mistakes” and will not sign anyone to a long-term deal. He didn’t. Now, fans complain that he did not make any big moves. Would you have rather had him blow everyone out of the water and offer perennial 60-point center Paul Stastny a seven-year deal, then complain when he does not turn into a 100-point scorer overnight? There were not that many players on the free agent market that had interest in coming to New York, or would have fit if they did, both physically and salary cap speaking. Instead of putting his ability to re-sign RFA’s Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider, Derick Brassard, and John Moore in jeopardy, he went out and signed veteran defenseman Dan Boyle for two years/$9 million, a steal, brought back Dominic Moore for 2 years/$3 million, which is pure perfection, and Tanner Glass at a questionable three years/$4.35 million. Horrible? Not exactly. Puzzling? Yes. Based on the reaction from fans, it is like he is the be all, end all of signings this season, as if the fan base was promised gold and given a tin cup instead. Ranger fans are some of the most passionate and knowledgeable in all of sports, but my goodness, there certainly are some dumb ones out there.