a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A cat in a pumpkin

Happy Halloween

As you can see I know someone who is talented with a pumpkin carver. And the Internet always needs more cats.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The so-called witch's tomb

This video promotes a story to appear Monday, on Halloween, in the Observer-Reporter about the tomb of Josephine Colvin at Monongahela Cemetery

Monday, October 24, 2011

The ghost of Dolley Madison ranks No. 1 in D.C.

Binnie the unconventional ghost tour guide leads a group of tourists in July around spooky LayFayette Square in Washington, D.C. (Scott Beveridge photo)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Former U.S. First Lady Dolley Madison is spotted more around the nation's capital than many of Washington, D.C.'s, elites, even though her body has been interred in Congressional Cemetery since her 1849 death.

"The city of Washington is just in love with Dolley," said a tour guide named Binnie, who leads paying visitors around supposed haunted sites near the White House. "She's one of the most prolific ghosts in D.C."

The nation first became enamored with Dolley when she served as First Lady under Thomas Jefferson. Her first husband had died three years into their marriage, leaving her alone to raise a son until she became the famous bride of James Madison, the nation's fourth president who authored the Constitution.

Binnie wears a long red period dress as she discusses Dolley in Layfette Square, where Mrs. Madison spent her remaining years after that son squandered their money and left her to charity. But, Binnie has an unconventional style, chattering away sometimes in ghetto lingo, while sporting a tattoo on her right forearm and a modern blue paisley cotton tote bag off a shoulder.

She admits her style is her own. She insists the history behind her stories actually happened.

While destitute, men delivered free baskets of food to Dolley, probably the same guys she helped to educate when they were children under her platform of improving the schools in poor, local neighborhoods. Her educational charity work defined the roll of the First Lady, Binnie explains while working for Washington, D.C. Ghost Tours.

Today visitors to Lafayette Square claim to see the ghost of Dolley Madison rocking on a porch at the pale-yellow Cutts-Madison House at 721 Madison Place NW, where she spent her final years. Others claim to see her headless ghost in town, staring from a window. Her ghost apparently also has been spotted roaming the White House gardens, becoming angry at the sight of a gardener merely plucking a rose.

People have reported witnessing so many ghosts in this part of town that it has become known as "Tragedy Square."

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bigfoot sightings have strange marriage

Stan Gordon of Greensburg, Pa., discusses a spate of reported 1973 Bigfoot sightings in Westmoreland County while speaking at the Pittsburgh Bigfoot & UFO Conference. (Scott Beveridge photo)

By Scott Beveridge

YOUNGWOOD, Pa. – There is infighting in two paranormal groups that have a strange marriage.

Bigfoot followers don’t like it when that creature is associated with UFO sightings.

“And visa versa,” Bigfoot expert Stan Gordon said today at the Pittsburgh Bigfoot & UFO Conference at Westmoreland County Community College in Youngwood, Pa.

“The UFO people don’t want to connect a zoological creature with extraterrestrials,” Gordon said after speaking to a large auditorium packed with those with a fascination for the unexplained.

His lecture focused on a string of 1973 Bigfoot sightings and other mysterious events here in Westmoreland County, including some just down the road from this college.

The first took place near Greengate Mall in early August, when a man claimed to have had an unreal experience while shaving in his bathroom. It began with his smelling rotten cucumbers. He turned around to gaze at a window, eight feet off the ground, Gordon said.

“He saw two large glowing red eyes staring at him,” Gordon said. “His dogs didn’t bark.”

Gordon later went to investigate this scene, and, he said, he found the “strangest three-toed footprint” in weeds behind the mall, which since has been demolished.

Such sightings went on for months, perplexing even the Pennsylvania State Police.

The most-convincing evidence came from animals – cats, livestock and especially dogs – by how they reacted to the sense and smell of things associated with this elusive, fur-covered animal with fangs, Gordon said.

“The dogs were like paralyzed in fear,” he said.

Some family dogs hid in fear under porches, he said, while others refused to eat for up to three days after those stories emerged and soon would make local and national news.

“State police even said you couldn’t fabricate that.”

Derry Township was a hot bed that year for those odd events, which included repeated Bigfoot sightings at two farms.

“For whatever reason this thing kept coming back at night,” Gordon said, adding that witnesses there also noticed strange lights and UFOs between hearing weird animal screams.

Elsewhere in Derry residents of a mobile home claimed to have seen a Bigfoot staring at them at their front door after opening it at the sound of a baby crying and scratching, Gordon said. The electric lights began to flicker inside that home. Later, investigators discovered the electrical supply line ripped out to the mobile home, Gordon said.

He moved on tell an equally strange story from near Kecksburg in Westmoreland about a nut-shaped metal object that crashed into a hillside. The U.S. Army showed up, along with a tractor-trailer, which sped off with the thing and supposedly took it to a military base under strict secrecy in December 1965.

“There is more to this mystery than meets the eye,” Gordon said.

Assorted Bigfoot sketches on David Dragosin's booth at the Pittsburgh Bigfoot & UFO Conference at Westmoreland County Community College. (Scott Beveridge photo)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Dark alley, Pittsburgh

So tonight I wandered around Pittsburgh and noticed these mod places:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Brownsville mural, like a big wallpapering project

Artist Jim Winegar of Graysville, Greene County, Pa., works on an informational sign for a new Brownsville mural with Juliana Gernot, 15, of Monessen, who is attending his summer art class at Douglas Education Center in Monessen. (Scott Beveridge/Observer-Reporter)

By Scott Beveridge

MONESSEN – Jim Winegar's most rewarding experiences teaching art involved prison classes attended by men, including some serving life sentences for homicide.

The convicts where he worked at State Correctional Institution-Fayette, were some of the best-behaved students the Graysville potter has ever worked with, "even though they were men who did some terrible things," Winegar, 63, said.

"They monitor their conduct. They have to earn the right to qualify for the art program," he said. "They conduct themselves better than probably most students I've had."

He oversaw their work on a large mural on cloth of Brownsville's historic cast iron bridge in a scrapbook design now adhered to a brick wall beside the borough's downtown Market Street parking lot. His job later was eliminated by state budget cuts.

That mural caught the eye of Brownsville resident Patricia DeConcilis, vice president of academic affairs at Douglas Education Center in Monessen. She decided to get Winegar involved in creating a second mural for her hometown this summer at the school in a program for teens ages 14 to 17.

"I just love that mural down there," DeConcilis said. "I feel we have a real pro here," she said, while Winegar and his new students worked on a mural depicting the steamboat Enterprise.

The side-wheeler launched at Brownsville in 1814 became the first to navigate the Monongahela and Ohio rivers to Louisville, Ky., and back. It also made the first round trip between Louisville and New Orleans, revolutionizing transportation in the nation.

"I think it's really good for the kids because they have something to show, take a friend, parent and say, 'Look what I did,'" said Bobbi Fine, a Washington tattoo artist who also teaches at Douglas.

"It's pretty amazing," added student Garrett Werner, 16, of Belle Vernon. "It shows one of the world's greatest inventions."

Winegar said he chose to do the murals in panels in a process developed at the State Correctional Institution-Graterford.

"This is the best practice," he said. "It's perfect for inmates who can't leave a prison."

The designs are enlarged onto a wall covered with the fabric, using an opaque projector, and then sketched onto the material. The thin material is the same used to stiffen shirt collars.
Ultraviolet light-resistant paints made in Culver City, Calif., are then used to create the art, which has a durability of at least 25 years after being glued outdoors and covered with sealant.

"It's almost like a big wallpapering project. It shrinks after it dries and looks as if it's painted right onto the brick," Winegar said.

The second mural now adorns a wall of a building at the entrance to Brownsville Riverside Wharf Park.

After receiving approval from the state Department of Corrections, the other one contains the names of eight prison artists, some of whom are serving sentences for drug or sexual assault convictions. Three of them, Tito McGill, Terry Kightlinger and Charles "Duffy" Linton, are serving life sentences for murder.

Eventually the town will contain a string of such murals, using the scrapbook theme of looking back on its history, said Norma Ryan, a member of the Brownsville Area Revitalization Corp.

Watch a video montage of the mural being hung.

(This article first appeared in the Observer-Reporter newspaper in Washington, Pa.)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Broken glasses

DONORA, Pa. – The best asset of the Donora Historical Society is its vast collection of old photographs, and the one, above, now ranks among my favorites.

Like most of these images, this unusual portrait was captured by a man I have nicknamed the "mysterious photographer of Donora steel" because so little is known today about him.

And, nothing was jotted down by the photographer, Bruce Dreisbach, to identify the young black steelworker who posed for this photograph, or explain why the kid was wearing at the time shattered eyeglasses.

Brian Charlton, curator of the historical society's equally-unusual Donora Smog Museum, reminded me the other day when I noticed this photo that the photographer had worked in town during the 20th Century as a product inspector for U.S. Steel. It's possible, Charlton said, that Dreisbach used the image as a reminder for employees to wear safety goggles while on the job. It's anyone's guess.

Regardless, the society recently had 197 new prints made from the more than 1,000 glass negatives it inherited from Dreisbach.

They were produced by Photo Antiquities, a Pittsburgh museum dedicated to preserving vintage and antique photos.

I look forward to sharing more of Dreisbach's photos here, as soon as possible.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pittsburgh Zombiefest 2011

Monsters, sideshow freaks and Ghostbusters come together to form this video of the bizarre Pittsburgh Zombiefest 2011.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Zombie alert

Chris Bane dresses as a mean, bloody Popeye today at Pittsburgh Zombiefest. Check back because I am going to be mashing and posting a video of more scenes from this crazy - cool party. (Scott Beveridge photo)

Monday, October 3, 2011

A clown, FBI agents and other newsmakers form an odd collection

By Scott Beveridge

The business card of an “Experienced Gulf War Lab Rat” is the oddest in my weird collection of such items amassed during a 25-year career as a newspaper reporter.

It was given to me a few years after the first Gulf War ended in 1991 by a veteran of the conflict, Candy Sweet Lovett, who had given herself that title after undergoing numerous inconclusive medical tests for illnesses associated with the mysterious Persian Gulf War Syndrome.

“I have a listening EAR. Are you tired of the Runaround? Please know that I care,” the Silver Spring, Md., woman had printed on her card beside an image of a black rat.

Her story since has disappeared from the radar, as have the titles and occupations of some of the hundreds of people who have given me their cards during interviews.

I immediately plop them in the breast pocket of my dress shirt, beside a nerdy ink pen and my prescription sunglasses, to make sure I later spell their names correctly in the newspaper story du jour.

And then for reasons I cannot fully explain these business cards pile up on my desk because I refuse to throw them away. Eventually they end up beside others in small boxes stuffed in a desk drawer.

I’m not a hoarder. I try to convince myself this as a coworker at the Observer-Reporter rolls her eyes today while I prepare to take them home to confess this habit to the blogosphere.

Believe it our not on can easily walk around my house and even up the stairs to use the bathroom without tripping on stacks of newspapers and magazines. I don’t still own the same skinny jean I wore in college, either, or wash and store margarine tubs for reuse. My first transistor radio didn't survive seventh grade thanks to a jealous baby brother who destroyed everything I owned as a kid.

Yet I still have the business card of a car salesman who, in 2001, sold me a Ford pickup truck, which I retired eight years later with 200,000 miles on its engine.

Maybe I keep these cards to help remember people I meet professionally, those who I might need again for a source, or to contact about faulty merchandise.

I thought I was alone in having this kooky obsession until the television news magazine “Sunday Morning” put out a call about a year ago on Facebook looking for people like me who collect such cards.

I responded with a brief comment about mine.

However I neglected to identify on Facebook the names of the “important” people in my files.

Nestled in my box are cards bearing names of FBI investigators, academics, lawmakers and corporate executives.

One of my favorites came from George E. Barbour, a former city editor of the Pittsburgh Courier, a prominent black-owned newspaper that fought for civil rights. Another shiny gold one promotes David Van Deveer, a "fearless conjury" from Virginia who claims to have talents for knife throwing, unicycling, bullwhip artistry and, yes, comedy.

The aforementioned television news show hosted by Charles Osgood ignored my Facebook reply, much like I do the people who have given me these cards.

“Sunday Morning” has yet to even air a segment about the people who collect business cards.

I’m now thinking the TV producer who had that bright idea is using a different business card.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Social media app users approve this Thai place

The popular shrimp red chili at Nicky's Thai Kitchen in Pittsburgh. (Scott Beveridge photo)

By Scott Beveridge

PITTSBURGH – A location-based social networking app had long ago convinced me that Nicky’s Thai Kitchen is an especially popular place to eat in the Burgh.

Some of the people in my circle of "friends" who use the mobile phone application named foursquare routinely check in there, sending my Droid X an alert upon their arrival to the Asian-style restaurant in Pittsburgh’s North Side.

One particular mysterious individual known by a gourmet-inspired username stops there so often the mobile website has appointed him the unofficial mayor of the place.

So today finally I venture to this kitchen at 856 Western Ave., knowing the food will be worth the drive into a tough neighborhood in competition with trendy preservationists who have fallen for its historic architecture.

Nicky’s is in a century-old redbrick townhouse whose first floor has been remodeled to accommodate a tiny, intimate dining room. Fresh yellow and purple daisies sprout from vases on the two rows of tables set in an off-angle floor plan. The walls are warmly painted in moss green and heavily adorned with Buddha statues.

Surprisingly my waiter is a tall, white American with a buzz cut. I am seated on this rainy, cold October afternoon beside a window overlooking the street, where he recommends a cashew chicken dish. I say I’m in the mood for shrimp.

“The shrimp red chili is one of our best sellers,” he replies.

“I’ll have that,” I say.

“On a scale of one to 10 how spicy do you want that?” the water asks.

I go for a five, preferring food I can taste over the fire sauce, and then select a small house salad rather than a sampling of soup.

The salad is rather small, but attractive with decorative cucumber slices nestled in slivered carrots and red onion, iceberg lettuce and a chunk of tomato all sprinkled with ground peanuts. It is perfectly drenched in a spicy pineapple dressing blended with a hint of garlic and ginger.

About 10 minutes later the entrĂ©e is served. I take one look at the mound of brown rice in the bowl and know I will be forming a long relationship with Nicky’s. The rice is so beautifully dark it has a purple cast, and becomes delicious swirled in chili sauce and coupled with forkfuls of stir-fried green and red peppers, onions and fresh mushrooms.

The dish is decorated with a small flower carved from a sliver of carrot and enhanced by just one of the creamy crab Rangoon appetizers that has helped to put this restaurant on the map. That is verified in one of the 26 foursquare tips, all of which are flattering.

“The tofu Phad Thai is to die for! I could eat it bunches,” states a foursquare subscriber named TLD, who uses a pink hydrangea for a profile photo.

I am a bit disappointed, though, to find only four shrimp in the bowl, but hey, it’s a lunchtime serving that costs $11.50.

And, this meal leaves the restaurant in a satisfied belly.

Nicky's is nestled in a renovated redbrick townhouse at 856 Western Ave., Pittsburgh. It has a second location in the area at 321 South Ave., Verona. (Scott Beveridge photo)