Friday, April 30, 2010

Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike (Lost Highway)

Every year millions of people travel the Pennsylvania turnpike. Though there's a 12 mile stretch that hasn't felt the rumble of an engine for over 40 years. In 1968 the existing 2 lane tunnels were becoming far too congested. So the state decided to expand four of the seven tunnels to 4 lane passes of highway. The other three tunnels were bypassed for new tunnels, leaving three abandoned tunnels and miles of highway that would be forgotten.

Today near the town of motels you can visit two of these abandoned concrete monsters. Here people dare each other on a daily basis to pass through these dark hollows. The area has a very mysterious aura to it. Grass and weeds poke through the asphalt. You see faintly painted lines representing parking spots at a former service plaza. And you keep looking back over your shoulder expecting a car to zoom by anytime.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Roadside GIANTS: Bedford Coffee Pot

While most towns seem to shy away from the odd, the county of Bedford in Pennsylvania seems to embrace it. Driving along the Lincoln highway through the many small towns you'll encounter it first hand. From roadside giants to gravity defying roads, you'll find it in this rural, peaceful area.

In 1927, David Koontz built a two story roadside lunch stand unlike any other. Hoping to attract weary roadside drivers in need of a perk, he designed an 18 feet high and 24 feet in diameter giant coffee pot. Just ten short years later the place would be delegated to a dive bar. With the arrival of the Pennsylvania turnpike in the 1940's, so came the demise of the coffee pot. By 2003 the coffee pot had become so run down the county of Bedford bought it for $1.oo. After lots of TLC, the coffee pot was back in shape and relocated across the street where it now serves as a visitor's center.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Outta the Way! Tours the Haunted Dungeon

Last week Outta the Way took our first group tour. We paid a visit to the dungeon, located beneath the Columbia market house. As we descended down the wooden steps into the dark hallways we knew we were in for a treat. The halls were lined with gothic lamps giving of an orange hue. Giving you the feeling Hell couldn't be too far away.

As we visited the cells, each white with obvious years of abuse. We learned about the dark history hidden under this seemingly pleasant country market house. Our guide informed us on how the prison got started, about it's architectural structure, and some of the torment felt by the prisoners of past years. The dungeon holds many terrifying tales within it's walls, perhaps even more.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Outta the Way! Goes to the Movies Part 2

A lot of residents of Pennsylvania may not even be aware that a movies been made about all the quirky characters living in the keystone state. From the good hearted, confused country boy to the Civil war buff a little too fascinated with Jennie Wade's butt. Throw in a few Amish who like television, and a quirky shop keeper with a fondness for elephants. The result is Route 30, a small budget independent comedy, filmed mainly along the famed route 30 also known as the Lincoln Highway.

But a lot more odder places in Pennsylvania have made it to the movies. The historic state hospital in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania played an important role in the film Girl, Interrupted. The imposing structure and the massive size of the place allowed it to be another character in the film.

Director M. Night Shyamalan has always been drawn to filming his movies in his home state. For his upcoming film The Last Airbender he found some Asian influence in the hills of Pennsylvania. Quite a few of the scenes were filmed at the pagoda, perching high on the hilltops overlooking the city of Reading.

There's a 12 mile stretch of abandoned turnpike in Pennsylvania completely desolate. So much so that the filmmakers of the movie The Road decided to use it for the post- apocalyptic thriller. With grass and trees fighting through the asphalt, and such a deserted sense of eerieness it's no wonder they were attracted to this lost highway.

The near ghost town of Centralia, Pennsylvania has been an inspiration for a few movie settings. The 1991 debacle Nothing but Trouble takes place in a rural Pennsylvania town that's on fire. Sound familiar? Even The Simpsons Trash of the Titans episode was loosely based on Centralia. When Homer becomes sanitation commissioner, he charges other towns to dump their trash into Springfield's abandoned mine, eventually causing the town to relocate.

The most famous movie inspired by Centralia was actually a video game first. Silent Hill tells of a mother searching for her lost daughter in a town full of smoke and fallen ash due to a prolonged mine fire. The film depicts characters wandering through fog and smoke wearing mining gear. It also depicts the mother battling monsters within the town. Of course if you wanna get a real look at Centralia without leaving the house, I'd recommend The Town that Was. This is a full length documentary focusing on the remaining residents, sharing what the town was like before and what's in store for it's future.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Abandoned Storyland

Traveling west on route 30 past the town of Bedford, Pennsylvania, you'll hear the pied piper calling you. Standing over 18 feet tall and inviting you into a country craft store. But what we found behind this store was more interesting to us. A giant Humpty Dumpty, a large blue whale, an ice cream house. What was going on here?

In the 1950's and 60's before all the giant amusement parks of today, families would gather at storybook parks. Here children could live out all of their favorite fairy tales. Storyland was one such place, and unfortunately met the same fate as most all of the other storybook parks; gone and forgotten.

You can still get a good look at what Storyland was like with a bit creepier feel. There are about a dozen of these characters in the woods behind the quaint country store. Though trampling your way through may earn you a trespassing fine. It's best to pay a visit to the crafty store and get a look on your way out.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Roadside GIANTS: S.S. Grandview Point Hotel

Herbert Paulson was looking out over the mountain near his gas station and small hotel, when he had a thought. The fog that was hovering around reminded him of an ocean. Always the entrepreneur, his mind sprang together a crazy idea.

In 1932 Mr. Paulson opened up the S.S. Grandview Point Hotel. Making the hotel and restaurant look like a ship, the place soon became an immediate hit. Hollywood stars and starlets spent the night in this hotel. Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Tom Mix, and even Thomas Edison to name a few.

The hotel flourished until the 1940's when the Pennsylvania turnpike put a damper on things. With the new more convenient route most tourists by passed the giant ship on the mountain. The Grandview Point hotel suffered through hard times until 1978 when the Loya family bought the property. The Loya family went for a religious theme and transformed the ship into a Noah's ark. Their venture proved unsuccessful and the place eventually closed. The hotel eventually met the wrath of arson's and was burned in October of 2001.

The spot where the ship hotel was located is still a fairly popular tourist spot, and was long before the hotel ever opened. The fact that you're 2,464 feet above sea level, and can see 7 counties and 3 states doesn't hurt matters.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Outta the Way! Goes to the Movies part 1

Besides having an a fascination with visiting odd and mysterious places, I also have an obsession with watching odd and mysterious movies. Since visiting all these strange locations has inspired me to write a travel zine about them. I thought I'd share some movies that were inspired by these places as well.

The campy sci-fi classic The Blob, which was filmed outside of Philadelphia inspired us to write a zine just visiting some of the spots made famous by the film. The Colonial theatre in Phoenixville is a great place to start a "Blob" tour, or just take in an art house film the mainstream theatres don't show.

One of the most notorious places we visited was a stretch of rural by-way known as Devils road. This stretch of road is shrouded in tales of Satanism, racial hangings, and even a house of inbred mutants. These are of course just tales, but director M. Night Shyamalan was so intrigued by the area he used it in the filming of The Village. Maybe he was aware of the heinous activity which occurred in the late 1970's on this farm lane. A notorious gang of tractor thieves had four teens buried in a shallow grave nearby. The story is much too detailed for me to give you all the information here. I would advise you to take a look at the film At Close Range, which gives a good dramatization into these heinous murders.

Another film to deal with a grisly murder is Apprentice to Murder. This film delves into the murder in the "hex hollow". It's loosely based on the murder of Nelson Rehmeyer an apparent sorcerer. Donald Sutherland does a fine job portraying the imposing man but the film falls into too much 80's cheese. So grab a bucket of popcorn and take a trip outta the way through the movies.