Posts in History
Robber's Cave State Park: History, Hiking, and Alien Encounters

Most people tend to think about Oklahoma as a flat, boring state. Well, for the majority of the landscape you'd be right, but not the Robber's Cave State Park Area. Robber’s Cave has some really cool winding trails through giant rock cliffs and an amazing view from the top if you go in the fall, (like Tiff and I did). It’s located in the scenic, hilly woodlands of the Sans Bois Mountains of southeast Oklahoma and just might be among my favorite camping grounds within 4 hours of Dallas, Texas.

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A Brief History

The area surrounding the present-day park has been a hunting ground for hundreds of years. Archaeological evidence suggests that the earliest people were related to the builders of the Spiro Mounds. By the 1600s, the Osage and Caddo tribes dominated the area. French hunters and explorers also visited, leaving their mark by naming some of the prominent geographic features, which are still used.

After the Civil War, this area became legendary for sheltering fugitives from the law. Some of these included Jesse James and Belle Starr. Other fugitives included the Dalton Gang, the Youngers and the Rufus Buck Gang.
— Wikipedia
 “Dalton Gang” - Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

“Dalton Gang” - Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

My First “Alien” Encounter

When I was a wee lass about 10 or 11, I went on a camping trip to Robber's Cave State Park in Oklahoma. Something happened there that separated itself from other childhood trips: I saw an alien. Well, okay, I REMEMBER seeing an alien or a ghost or something. All I know was I woke up from a dead sleep, looked out of the window that was positioned at the foot of the bunk bed I was sleeping on, and BAM. In front of me stood, (or floated) this incredibly bright, green figure that eerily stared at me unflinchingly.

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In the years that have followed, I’ve tried to scour the internet for sightings similar to my own around that same location. The only similar story even remotely like it is that of “The Spooklight” or “Hollis Light”. A mysterious event that can be seen from the Oklahoma/Missouri state line from a small town in Hornet, MO.

The only issue with this commonly reported sighting compared to my own is that the two events take place a little over three hours from each other. In The Spooklight sightings, most describe it as an orb, whereas I remember a large figure that felt imposing and yet calm somehow. I had always hoped I could return to Robber’s Cave to see if I could experience the same phenomenon. In November of 2017, I got my chance.

My Trip As An Adult

My girlfriend at the time, (now wife) and I decided to go on a quick trip some place close, but out of North Texas. I told her about my encounter and my wish to return to this place that forced me into such wonderment as an adult. It had a lot of hiking and things to climb so she agreed and off we went. Below are some of the photos we took. (Click to Enlarge Them.)

Final Thoughts

As much as I’d love to say I saw the green thing again, I didn’t. Instead, the trip ended up being really great. We explored the area, climbed the rocks, cooked food over an open flame, drank wine, pet farm animals, stargazed, and more. The locals were extremely accommodating at the cabins we stayed at, the nearby gift shop, and the people in the nearest town where we ate dinner the first night.

I often think, maybe it saw me and I was completely oblivious or maybe and more probable, it was all a brain failure at a young age. Either way, I highly recommend visiting RObber’s Cave State Park for yourself. Who knows, maybe the glowing thing is waiting there to meet YOU.

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Visiting the Westerfeld House and Its Haunted Past.

When I mention the Westerfeld house to people they generally have never heard of it here in Dallas. This is probably because the house is located on the corner of Fulton Street and Scott Street in San Francisco, California. Even I hadn't heard of it until a random purchase I made a couple years back at a Goodwill in Dallas. So, how did a house halfway around the United States peek my interest and a ton of others online and eventually cause me to travel to it? Here's the story.

My Discovery of the Westerfeld House

As I've mentioned in other posts, I love thrifting. I'm sure that either makes me a 90 year old grandma or a hipster from Austin, Tx, (but what's wrong with that?) Regardless, a thrifting trip I had with my friend James mid-skateboarding sesh, ended with me and a picture of a strange, spooky-looking house.

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I'm not sure why, but when I saw this buried among a pile of random picture frames and old, reprinted landscape photos at Goodwill, it seized my attention and wouldn't let go. I purchased it for somewhere around $3.99 and immediately googled the address and the artist's name. Sadly, I've never been able to make out the artist's name, but I did find the Westerfeld on those cross streets. The Victorian house was filled with a rich history that filled every bone in my body with a sense of wonder and curiosity. I was entranced and I had to learn more.  

The Westerfeld's Wild and Haunted Past

 Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

The Westerfeld house was built in the late 1800's by builder Henry Geilfuss on behalf of the home's owner, William Westerfeld. William died in 1895 and the structure was sold to a contractor by the name of Jonathan J. Mahoney who loved to entertain celebrities as guests, (who wouldn't?). The list includes radio pioneer, Guglielmo Marconi, who reportedly used one of the top rooms to transmit the very first radio signals on the west coast. The lineup also included the famous escape artist, Harry Houdini, who experimented in the same room by attempting to send telepathic messages to his wife across the Bay. 

Fast forward to 1928, when the house was bought by Czarist Russians who turned the place into a nightclub called "Dark Eyes" while making the upper floors into meeting rooms. It was then that it was renamed the "Russian Embassy".

In 1948, the night club had shut down and the house became a 14-unit apartment building that was rented to African-American Jazz Musicians, including John Handy

By the 1960's, the house had all sorts of residents inhabiting its many rooms. One of the most interesting occupants (IMO) was occult filmmaker, Kenneth Anger. Because of Kenneth's dark body of work, his visitors lended themselves toward a more sinister nature. This included the famed criminal/cult leader, Charles Manson, as well as Bobby Beausoleil who later joined Manson's cult and was involved in the first Helter Skelter murders.

Kenneth would often film his projects in the Westerfeld house where he had carved a giant pentagram into the wood of the top floor. Anger and his friends would also hold satanic rituals in the ballroom. This attracted another famous visitor, Anton Zandor LaVey, who founded the Church of Satan and wrote The Satanic Bible. At one point, they had removed the ceiling in order to create a medium for their dark energies, as well as to view passing UFOs. In fact, many unidentified spacecrafts were claimed to have been seen from the top of the westerfeld, but I'm guessing the amount of drug use probably assisted these sightings.

Here are two of Anger's films. (Be warned: there's nudity, so probably not a great film for your kids to watch.)

Many more notable characters passed through the hallways of this house while it served as apartments. This included: Mick Jagger, Jerry Garcia, Chet Helms, James Gurley, Janis Joplin, Fayette Hauser, Tom Wolfe, Jimmy Lovelace, Heidi McGurrin, Art Lewis, and Ken Kesey. You can see the full list HERE.

In 1969, two men purchased the home for $45,000 and began remodeling random sections of the house. Many odd additions and replacements were made until it was purchased again in 1986 by someone more equipped to remodel an historic landmark like the Westerfeld.

Jim Siegel purchased the home and has since retrofitted the foundation, removed the dropped ceilings, re-wired, re-roofed, and re-plumbed, and restored the interior and exterior woodwork and the historic, ground-floor ballroom, and decorated the 25-foot ceiling with period wallpaper crafted by Bradbury & Bradbury.
— Wikipedia

The Westerfeld is still owned by Jimmy Siegal to this day and is maintained exquisitely as you can see below. Every detail is as wonderful as the last and compliments the home incredibly well. (Photo collection from Photographer Patricia Chang via sf.curbed.com.)

My Visit to the Westerfeld House

Almost two years after I found the drawing in a Dallas Goodwill, My girlfriend (now fiancee) and I traveled to Sequoia National Forest and then to San Fran, where after a lot of walking up and down the insane, but beautiful hills that make up the Castro neighborhood, we came upon the house I'd been dreaming of seeing for some time. The Westerfeld looked like it belonged on r/evilbuildings and yet, it was astonishingly beautiful.

As I stood in the park across the street, I felt this wonderful sensation of the house's presence. It was dark, brooding and fantastic all at the same time. One could feel the history emanating from the property. With the famous painted ladies on one side of the park, the Westerfeld stood out as a Victorian structure from another time and vision.

 Me standing at Fulton and Scott - Taken by Tiff

Me standing at Fulton and Scott - Taken by Tiff

I'm not sure a house (other than the one I grew up in) has ever left such an impression on me like the Westerfeld has. I love this house. The architecture; the city it sits in; the history; it all blends to create one of my favorite places and I've never even been inside. One day I'd love to walk through this historic home, but until then, my visit to the exterior will have to suffice.

Below are some other angles I captured when I visited. 

If this post was of any interest to you, you may check out the film currently being made about the Westerfeld House called House of Legends. You can find more information and even donate to the project HERE. Thanks for reading!

Harold Washington and Why He's One of My Heroes.

Each day I try my best to find a new podcast to listen to and last nights happened to be This American Life. The episode was titled "Harold". Little did I know, I was about to learn about someone who would quickly be added to my list of heroes.

 Photo courtesy of the Rebuild Foundation

Photo courtesy of the Rebuild Foundation

Harold was born on April 15, 1922 in Illinois. His father was a precinct captain in the city of Chicago and his mother was a singer. At the time, Chicago was the epicenter of African American culture for the entire Midwest in early and middle 20th century.  This article won't be focused on his early childhood though, his schooling at Roosevelt, career as a lawyer, or his military service, but rather his political life.

Harold was the 41st Mayor of Chicago, but that didn't come without opposition from the senators in power at the time and the white community in general. Even though this was the early 80's, racism was still commonplace in the richer neighborhoods and upper societies (similar to today, but that's a different article).

Existing patterns of racial segregation must be reversed if there is to be a chance of averting the desperately intensifying division of whites and Negroes in Chicago,
— federal district judge Richard B. Austin

Richard B. Austin had said that in 1969 and yet little had changed 13-14 years later when Harold ran for office. I may be jumping ahead a bit, but it's important to note that after Harold's death in 1987 during his second term as mayor, most of Harold's movement became scattered as most of his supporters hadn't thought of a reality without him. Chicago today still suffers heavily from racial discrimination according to interviews I've listened to and this article from 2011, but let's get back on topic.  

 Photo courtesy of Sun Times Media

Photo courtesy of Sun Times Media

Harold quickly became my hero because of how dedicated he was to bringing people together. His ultimate goal was to be "fairer than fair". He didn't want anyone put down, even the people who had once acted opposite to him. 

Before Mayor Washington, Chicago was run by either all white politicians with racial agendas or African American politicians who where bought by these racist institutions. Harold was different and above all, he seemed genuine and real. He was the champion Chicago desperately needed at the time. 

Just look at his exchange during a debate against Richard M. Daily and Jane Byrne in the fall of 1983. The moderator asked, "What would you do, if anything, about the police department's Office of Professional Standards?" This office, as described by the This American Life podcast host as the place in the police department which handles complaints about police misconduct and brutality.

 

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I believe that the members of the police board, chaired by Reverend Wilbur Daniels, really do take that job very seriously.
— Jane Byrne

The audience talked among themselves. Then Mr. Daily answered.

I think, like anything else, there must be improvement. And there is nothing wrong with improvement in the Office of Professional Standards.
— Richard M. Daily

A very typical answer from a politician as he didn't really say anything pertaining to the question. Applause still followed though, but then Harold answered.

The precise question is, what would I do to improve the Office of Professional Standards? When I answer it, I’ll be the only one who answered the question.

The Office of Professional Standards was arrived at after a long and tortuous situation in this city in which members— not all, but members— of the Chicago police department consistently refused to be adequate and professional in their handling of hispanic, black people. It’s just that simple.
— Harold Washington

From this moment on, Harold become a beacon of light in an otherwise bleak political playing field. His power came from how well spoken and real he appeared to his supporters. A lot of people know of his legacy, but some are unaware of his role in government after his death.

[...] he was the mayor who played the largest role in American history, because of his relationship with a young man he met only once: Barack Obama. If Harold Washington had never been mayor of Chicago, Obama would not be president.  
— Edward McClelland

I find it absolutely insane that I hadn't heard of this man until I listened to this podcast episode. Everything about him inspires me to keep pushing forward. This man deserves notoriety.

I encourage you to listen to the episode the I've posted below and then watch a three part interview he did before his untimely death. You may have passed, Harold, but you and the principals you stood for will never be forgotten. You are truly an American Hero. 

Origin of Halloween / Samhain

Sometimes I write articles to inform others and sometimes I write to inform myself and force myself to do the research. As Halloween approaches I thought I'd take some time to explore the origin of the holiday. What better way than to write a post on it right? ...right? Well, it doesn't matter because I did it anyway.

The Origin.

 Why did I make this

Why did I make this

Halloween began as a the Festival of Samhain about 2,000 years ago. It was created as a way for the Celts to scare away ghosts and spirits. They believed around that time of the year, the wall between their realm and ours thinned. And what better way to scare old people spirits away than throwing a RAGER and playing music too loud? 

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In Irish mythology, Samhain was one of the four festivals celebrated throughout the calendar year focusing mainly on the dead. Samhain's opposite was Bealtaine; a holiday celebrating the living. To better understand Samhain within lore, you can read The Boyhood Deeds of Fionn and Aillen

It's hard to accurately describe how exactly these holidays played out 2,000 years ago, but tales from around that period hinted at sacrifice. Some scholars have even speculated that human sacrifice was involved, many times being kings.

Not only was Samhain about the dead, it also marked the end of the harvest and beginning of winter. One element that always stuck was the image of a bonfire in later literature. Families would take a piece of the main bonfire home with them. They would then light a fire at their own place securing a communal bond with the others.

Samhain eventually intertwined with the Christian Holiday "All Hallows Eve" on November 1st and then...

It Became SUPER 'MERICAN.

 Photo from the blog  Is This Why I'm Still Single

Photo from the blog Is This Why I'm Still Single

In the 19th century, the Irish brought their shenanigans here and SHIT GOT SPOOKY. Then the 20th century hit and Halloweens popularity skyrocketed further. Everyone, whoop out your spooki bois and let's beg for candy!

People are somewhat split on the origin of Trick or Treating. Some think it came from Celts who believed that during Samhain, spirits would visit their homes despite the totally scary party going on. To appease them, they would give the spirits a gift. How'd they hold them you may ask? I don't know. I need to re-watch Casper for clarification on non-corporeals handling corporeal items.

Others believe it was a tradition people held of going door to door and asking for soul cakes. 

 Soul Cakes from "Dinner Night" for reference^

Soul Cakes from "Dinner Night" for reference^

Whatever the origin, 3-10 year old me really appreciated the candy-begging tradition. Okay, maybe like 3-15 year old me. Okay, 3-18. Okay, 3 to now and I wear a full costume and get my friend Neil who looks and is a dad to take me around a neighborhood. Are you happy?

Most people ask, "Is Halloween a Pagan or Christian holiday?" The answer: It's both! And also, who cares! Lighten up! Everyone can celebrate it without offending their god, gods, or lack of one.

I don't know if it's the decor, the movies, the dressing up, the candy stealing from children; whatever it is and whatever its exact origins are, Halloween is one of my favorite holidays.

TLDR:

Celts made it. Christians did something similar. The two holidays merged like a Megazord. Irish people drunkenly brought it to America. Now spooky decor takes half of our paycheck each year as Target and the At Home Store stocks go up.

Free Online Educational Resources, All in One Place.

When I first started this website about two years ago, one of the projects I began to build out was an all-in-one page for free online learning. The concept was simple, yet important to me since my interests, like others, varies from week to week. I wanted to create an index for free educational spots all over the Internet, so that's what I did. 

Educate Yourself

The Educate Yourself page is dedicated to bringing FREE education from around the web to everyone, all in one place.

Educate Yourself has grown more and more as time goes by. I have recently updated it with not only links to all of these sites, but also a constantly updating stream of videos from various E-learning channels. As education becomes more readily available, these resources become more and more important as an alternative or sidekick to attending a university. Some of these sites, like Coursera, offer actual credits from large and generally expensive schools(though this has a small price).

If you, the reader, have any suggestions of websites for me to add, let me know! Please share this page as well so everyone will have access to these resources. Enjoy!

Smithsonian's Hidden Collection Rooms are Amazing.
 Photo courtesy of Washington.org

Photo courtesy of Washington.org

I've always been intrigued by hidden rooms. Obviously, it's the mystery that is so interesting and thought-provoking, but knowing the psychology behind it all doesn't make it any less fantastic. I'd love to one day see the Vatican's hidden vault, (which is not very likely), but at least the Smithsonian has revealed their back room.

Today, I'd like to take you through the mesmerizing collection of artifacts, insects, plants, and so much more that the Smithsonian Museum harbors. Some of which date back billions of years. Come along with me as we enter the past.

All Photos Courtesy of NMNH
A Dip Into the Archives: Speciation
 Photo courtesy of  Berkeley  

Photo courtesy of Berkeley 

Today's post is somewhat of a random post...

One of the most interesting aspects of science to me is biological evolution. I didn't become entirely interested in the concept until my mid-20's, a few years ago. The entire process, a process I was never taught about in school by the way, has intrigued me ever since.

As I was coming to terms with the idea and learning how such a complex system could evolve from such a rudimentary beginning(if the word 'rudimentary' even applies here), I began creating my own slides. I'm extremely visual when it comes to learning, so translating what I've learned from a book into my own visual explanation helps quite a bit. Below was the first slide I created on speciation. 

This is a pretty simple and rough approximation on how a section of speciation works, but it was interesting for me to create as a thought exercise. This is something Darwin discovered in the 1800's on his H.M.S. voyage to the Galapagos Islands. As I created this, I could feel a fraction of what he probably felt as the realization hit him, though a lot of the scientific theory would of course build over the following 20+ years until "The Origin of Species" was published. 

Here is a video I later found on the subject, from one of my favorite living advocates of science, Hank Green, who is a lot more informative on the subject than my small picture is.

Women In Science Series: Katherine Freese
 Photo Courtesy of un.org

Photo Courtesy of un.org

This week, I will be writing a series called "Women In Science" where I will pick out 5 different influential women in the differing fields of S.T.E.M. Each person will be someone who is currently contributing to further our knowledge of the world around us in one way or another. For the first post, it is my honor to write about theoretical astrophysicist, Katherine Freese. 

 Photo Courtesy of Umich.edu

Photo Courtesy of Umich.edu

Dr. Freese is such an amazing scientist. In her career, she has already contributed to early research on dark matter and dark energy, as well as being one of the first to propose a way to discover dark matter. Her ideas are currently be experimented on at the IceCube Neutrino Observatory. She also produced the idea of a "Dark Star" where dark matter annihilation, rather than fusion, is its power source.

The beginning of the universe has become another main focus of hers. 

Her natural inflation model is a theoretically well-motivated variant of inflation; it uses axionic-type particles to provide the required flat potentials to drive the expansion. In 2013, observations made by the European Space Agency’s Planck Satellite show that the framework of natural inflation matches the data.
— Wikipedia
 Photo Courtesy Alan Guth/YouTube

Photo Courtesy Alan Guth/YouTube

Katherine Freese was born in Germany, but studied at Princeton, Columbia, and the University of Chicago, where she received her PhD in Astrophysics/Cosmology. She currently teaches at University of Michigan. To get a grasp on how smart and creative Dr. Freese really is, check out her public lecture below on Dark Matter! You can also follow her on Twitter as I do @ktfreese.

Inspiring Words To End Your Work Week.

Carl Sagan, to me, was a scientist unlike any other. When I watch past videos and read his words, I'm always forced to lean back in my chair in amazement. He was an amazing educator, speaker, and scientist. Not only did he spread the importance of logic and imagination, but he furthered our knowledge of the cosmos (mostly in our own cosmic backyard).

The series below, captures and displays his passion for science and humility. I encourage you all to take 31 minutes and 46 seconds out of your day to break free of a worldly view, and national view, or a personal view, and embrace a cosmic perspective. I don't mean this in a "new age spirituality" kind of way, but in a "our national conflicts, societal and racial differences, and financial variations are unimportant when viewed from this scale" kind of way.

Enjoy.