Monthly Archives: March 2011

Okeechobee County Zombie Apocalypse Emergency Plan

Its one thing to love zombie Halloween costumes, but its a completely different thing when a county has an official zombie apocalypse emergency management plan (Warning: PDF File). The county in question is Okeechobee, Florida. According to their zombie apocalypse management plan, which is seventy-five pages long, they have thoroughly designed a plan to help ensure that their citizenry is safe from all roaming hordes of living undead. Those tax dollars went to good use, I guess.

First, this plan starts out like any normal zombie apocalypse conversation one may have with a drunken friend or an excited zombie nerd. It covers the goals and objectives a government would have during a zombie apocalypse. Here is a brief overview of those objectives:


  • Mass evacuation
  • Shelter
  • Security / Public use of weapons policy
  • Suspension of local laws, rules, regulations, taxes, fees
  • Power, communication, water, waste service
  • Corpse removal and sanitation
  • Redevelopment of high hazard areas
  • Building and safety code adequacy

I’m going to end there, but you can see more on the first page of the document. Before we continue, I want to discuss that last one building and safety code adequacy. This is a clear sign of just how serious Okeechobee County takes their zombie apocalypse. I mean, building and safety codes? That’s one topic of discussion I have yet to hear in a zombie apocalypse debate.

But wait, it gets even more governmental.

If you look on page 42, there is a short section titled Payroll Processing. Because, you know, even during the zombie apocalypse payroll needs to be processed. To be quite honest, Okeechobee would have loved to read about the statistical analysis of a zombie apocalypse.

zombie halloween costumes

A flowchart detailing the govermental hierarchy of Okeechobee during the zombie apocalypse.

 

About halfway down page 31 is an interesting little paragraph on Disaster Recovery Centers (DRC):

The two governing factors in establishing a DRC following the Zombie Apocalypse will be 1.) can appropriate security be provided at the location? and 2.) is it safe enough to permit citizens to attempt to navigate to the location? This further assumes that supplies are available to provide to the general public. The most likely scenario will be to use the local Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Publix, CVS, and Wal-Greens as DRC sites. They are already established, and can be further fortified and resupplied by air drop.

While this sounds all nice and tidy on paper, these places will be kill-zones during an actual zombie apocalypse. The doors are designed to channel people in and out, with very few secondary access routes. Sure, there will be a ton of supplies, but everyone is going to be caught in a zombie-ridden insanity. Do you really want to take that kind of risk? Not me, I’ll keep my distance and make it on my own.

Somewhere around page 43, the document goes into an extremely detailed overview of natural and unnatural disasters occurring during a zombie apocalypse. Hurricanes, tropical storms, floods, thunderstorms, mass immigrations, coastal oil spills, brush fires, freezes, terrorism, sinkholes, drought, tornadoes, nuclear power plant malfunctions, its all detailed there for everyone to see.

Now, while this document may seem extensive and slightly excessive, it does raise a rather interesting idea: what would actually happen if the zombie apocalypse broke out? Would Okeechobee be consumed, or would they actually survive to see the light at the end of the zombie-ridden tunnel? Or are they just wasting tax payers dollars by spending so much effort at creating an official zombie apocalypse emergency management plan?

The Door to Hell

Go to Hell has become an all too common phrase among Hell Boy fans, frustrated commuters, and ill-tempered coworkers; however, if you were so inclined to actually attempt a journey to Hell, you would have to travel to a small village in the middle of the Karakum desert. The village is named Derweze, which means The Gate in Turkmen language. Near Derweze is a large hole, roughly 230 feet in diameter, which is wrapped in flames. This hole is known as the Door to Hell, and you can obviously see why:

The door to hell

The Door to Hell, as seen in 2010.

Typical to any movie involving a portal to Hell, the story of the Door to Hell starts with some curious geologists. In 1971, these geologists went poking around the outskirts of Derweze, looking from some natural gas pockets. When they started digging, the ground beneath them collapsed, nearly swallowing the geologists. Being the bright scientists that they were, the geologists decided it was better to light the natural gas pocket on fire, rather than let it rise into the atmosphere. They expected the burning of the gases would last no more than a couple days. The Door to Hell has been burning for the past 40 years, with no clear signs of stopping.

the door to hell

As seen from afar.

I repeat: The Door to Hell has been burning for the past 40 years, with no clear signs of stopping.

Do you now see why this marvelous hole has received such a demonic name? This raging natural gas fire has burned countless tons of gas over the past years and we still have no idea how much more it will continue to burn. It is as if the fires of Hell itself are swelling in the one place we never expected: Derweze.

The Captain America Trailer Hits Early

Do you have your Captain America costume yet? If not, you better start getting ready. The latest Captain America: The First Avenger trailer was released yesterday. While I am not allowed to repost the trailer, you can see the latest Captain American trailer right here. Its a whopping two minutes of extreme badassery, and I don’t even like superheroes.

The movie follows the story of Steve Rogers, who is deemed unfit to serve in the American army during World War II. With his pride driving him forward, Steve finds an alternative route to help out his country: signing up for Project Rebirth. It is through this project that Steve becomes Captain America. You can watch the trailer to see a tease of what happens.

Even if you have never been sucked into the comic book world, this Captain America movie looks insane. I mean, you have Nazis, superheroes, what look to be flame-throwing robots, super villains, and then more Nazis. That sounds like the perfect melting pot for any action movie. Toss in a gun-wielding Captain America and you have me sold.

Captain America: The First Avenger is scheduled to release on July 22nd, 2011. With it being so close to Halloween, you need to get your Captain America costume ready now, before everyone else does the same thing. If you set your claim to the Captain America costume, the rest of your friends will have to find something else, like Thor or Green Lantern. Hell, you could go out as this years superhero team, fighting crime and collecting candy.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: The Explanation of Ghost Hauntings?

While ghosts make great Halloween props, they don’t make the best housemates. Individuals sharing their space with a ghost often experience hallucinations, headaches, illness, feelings of dread, and even sudden death. But there could be a more easily explained reason for these sensations and ghastly sightings. Rather than looking toward the paranormal, we now look toward the scientific.

Carbon monoxide poisoning causes severe confusion and trauma to the brain. When exposed to high doses of carbon monoxide, an individual can suffer from dizziness, headaches, loss of judgment, nausea, and convulsions. All of these symptoms mess with the mind in some way, often leading to extreme visions and hallucinations. In some instances individuals experience dementia and extreme disassociation from reality.

ghosts

A situation that could be confused for a ghost sighting.

In 2005, a 23-year-old victim of carbon monoxide poisoning was found delirious and hyperventilating. She told the paramedics who found her that she saw a ghost in the shower. One week before the accident occurred she had a new water heater installed in her house. It was installed incorrectly and was flooding excess carbon monoxide into the house. The ghost was a vision created out of her carbon monoxide induced hallucinations.

Countless individuals suffer from chronic low dose carbon monoxide poisoning, yet they are completely unaware of it. While these symptoms are not quite as intense, they are still vaguely similar to that of a ghost haunting: lightheadedness, depression, confusion, memory loss, nausea, vomiting, and headaches.

As a precaution, if you find yourself in the presence of a ghost, get your house inspected for carbon monoxide poisoning. It may kill the ghastly romanticism for you, but at least it won’t kill you.

The Immortal Jellyfish: Turritopsis dohrnii

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While most species out there tend to die at some point, there is a specific breed of jellyfish that has developed a way to live forever. Nicknamed the Immortal Jellyfish, Turritopsis dohrnii is capable of escaping death, permanently.

Jellyfish lifespans normally range from a few hours to a couple months, with only one species living up to thirty years. The Immortal Jellyfish, however, can morph back to its infant stage after reproducing, thus recreating its own lifespan. Imagine living a whole life, growing old and gaining loads of memories, only to revert back to a young child after reproducing. The Immortal Jellyfish can continue this process for as long as it is capable of reproducing, forever becoming young again. As far as we understand it, there is nothing else like this located on this planet.

Turritopsis dohrnii

Turritopsis dohrnii.

While these Immortal Jellyfish are still vulnerable to prey and disease, there is no definitive end-point for their lives. There is no grand finale or final destination for them to eventually reach. They simply float on with their lives, literally and metaphorically speaking, continuing from one spot in the ocean to the next.

Biologically, a jellyfish has no mind and no sense of self. It is simply a collective network of nerves, which detect specific stimuli such as the touch of another organism. However, if we were to get philosophical for a moment, what would happen if a jellyfish actually retained memories? Since their biological structure is being rewritten by itself, would it erase all of its experiences and memories? What if this occurred to a human? To add a bit of science fiction flair into the mix, could we utilize this biological anomaly for our own human understanding of the world, for either medical purposes or otherwise?

Immortality has been an often sought after subject for the human race, with nearly every pursuer ending with failure. Could these jellyfish be a small step toward the concept of true immortality, or at least a skewed version where everyone reverts in age?

By the way, these jellyfish are also slowly dominating the ocean.

Exploding Ants: Beyond Creepy

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Nothing sends shivers up my spine like the sight of a swarming anthill. Thousands of those little buggers cover the land in a blanket of black and red, searching for food and trying to kill anything they touch. Even the thought makes me squirm and wish I had a can of ant poison in reach. But now, I’ve learned about a whole new breed of creepy ants: exploding ants.

Carpenter ant

A typical Carpenter Ant.

There are nine Southeast Asian species of ants which feature enlarged mandibular glands. These glands act like explosive biological packages, which the ant can willfully explode whenever it needs to defend its colony. The mandibular glands produce and store toxic chemicals that act like glue, so anything that comes in contact with the glue becomes immobilized and entangled. While humans are much too large to suffer from this immobilizing glue, other bugs and smaller critters can easily fall prey to the suicidal, explosive ants glue bomb.

As if these ants are not badass enough already, the glue is actually expelled out of its head boom! The explosion leaves the ants body ruptured and permanently broken, and they often become the first prey of their own glue bomb. The glue is designed so that a single ant can destroy numerous enemies. Where one ant falls, nearly a dozen others may fall with it.

Carpenter Ant

Try to picture its head exploding in a plume of glue.

I am no proponent for any living organism committing suicide, but I find it interesting that there are some species out there that use it as a natural defense. And ants are not the only ones that utilize a suicidal defense mechanism. There are some termite breeds out there that also rupture their bodies and expel a glue toxin on their enemies. This may be rather sadistic, but I would love to see some suicidal ants take on a bunch of suicidal termites. It’d be one explosive show.

Leap Castle: Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

In celebration of St. Patricks Day, we are delving into the history of Leap Castle, one of Irelands most haunted places. Leap Castle was once a thriving Irish castle, built in the late 15th century. It was built by the O’Bannon family and was originally known as Leap of the O’Bannons.

Castle Leap

Leap Castle.

In 1513, Gerald FitzGerald, a rival Earl, attempted to seize the castle, yet he was unsuccessful and only managed to partially demolish it. By 1557, the O’Carrolls, who were the ruling family over the O’Bannons, managed to fully repair the castle and bring it back to normal.

Backtracking a bit, in 1532, the O’Carrolls struggled with family problems. It seemed like everyone in the family wanted to control the castle, which led to fierce inner family feuds. In one instance, a bitter rivalry erupted between the two O’Carroll brothers, whose names have been lost to time. One of the brothers was a priest and he decided to hold mass in Leap Castles chapel for his family. While he was performing the religious rites, the other brother appeared and stabbed him through the heart, leaving his body on the altar. Since then, the chapel has been renamed Bloody Chapel, and it still remains standing today.

bloody chapel

Bloody Chapel, located at the top of Leap Castle.

Throughout the years, there have been countless executions and imprisonments within Leap Castle. Supposedly, the castle is now haunted by several ghosts and specters, which roam the halls and terrify anyone foolish enough to enter. One of the specters is simply known as It! It is a small gray humanoid with a decaying face and black holes for eyes. It smells of sulfur and the decaying rot of a human corpse. Some have suspected that It! is more of an Elemental than a specter, but the case remains open.

In recent years, the castle was renovated and the workers discovered an oubliette, which is a dungeon where people are locked away to die. While cleaning out the dungeon, the workers found three cartloads of human bodies at the bottom, with one of the bodies owning a pocket-watch dated to the 1840s.

Blarney Castle

While I could not find a picture of Leap Castle’s oubliette, here is a picture of a dungeon located in Blarney Castle, Ireland, to give you a visual similarity.

Leap Castle is now privately owned by Sen Ryan, who continues to restore and renovate the castle.

Flying Dutchman: The Sailors Bane

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The legend of the Flying Dutchman, a ghost ship that once struck fear into the hearts of countless sailors, originates from 17th century nautical folklore. The ship itself has been vaguely described by many sources, but all of them attest to its ghastly glow – a light that attracts sailors like a beacon or a lighthouse. It is said to be unable to make port in any harbor, doomed to sail the seas for all eternity, with its crew longing only to see their landlocked loved ones. But, more importantly, where did this legend come from, and why has it survived so many years?

the flying dutchman

The Flying Dutchman, circa 1887.

In 1795, George Barrington wrote the novel A Voyage to Botany Bay. In Chapter VI, he writes:

I had often heard of the superstition of sailors respecting apparitions, but had never given much credit to the report; it seems that some years since a Dutch man of war was lost off the Cape of Good Hope, and every soul on board perished; her consort weathered the gale, and arrived soon after at the Cape. Having refitted, and returning to Europe, they were assailed by a violent tempest nearly in the same latitude. In the night watch some of the people saw, or imagined they saw, a vessel standing for them under a press of sail, as though she would run them down: one in particular affirmed it was the ship that had foundered in the former gale, and that it must certainly be her, or the apparition of her; but on its clearing up, the object, a dark thick cloud, disappeared. Nothing could do away the idea of this phenomenon on the minds of the sailors; and, on their relating the circumstances when they arrived in port, the story spread like wild-fire, and the supposed phantom was called the Flying Dutchman. From the Dutch the English seamen got the infatuation, and there are very few Indiamen, but what has some one on board, who pretends to have seen the apparition.

In 1803, John Leyden wrote:

It is a common superstition of mariners, that, in the high southern latitudes on the coast of Africa, hurricanes are frequently ushered in by the appearance of a spectre-ship, denominated the Flying Dutchman. […] The crew of this vessel are supposed to have been guilty of some dreadful crime, in the infancy of navigation; and to have been stricken with pestilence […] and are ordained still to traverse the ocean on which they perished, till the period of their penance expire.

In 1880, Prince George of Wales and his brother Prince Albert Victor of Wales, who were the sons of King Edward VII, were sailing across the sea. While off the coast of Australia, their tutor wrote:

At 4 a.m. the Flying Dutchman crossed our bows. A strange red light as of a phantom ship all aglow, in the midst of which light the masts, spars, and sails of a brig 200 yards distant stood out in strong relief as she came up on the port bow, where also the officer of the watch from the bridge clearly saw her, as did the quarterdeck midshipman, who was sent forward at once to the forecastle; but on arriving there was no vestige nor any sign whatever of any material ship was to be seen either near or right away to the horizon, the night being clear and the sea calm. Thirteen persons altogether saw her … At 10.45 a.m. the ordinary seaman who had this morning reported the Flying Dutchman fell from the foretopmast crosstrees on to the topgallant forecastle and was smashed to atoms.

Smashed to atoms is exactly what seems to happen to most that cross paths with the Flying Dutchman. From death and plague to sickness and vertigo, the Flying Dutchman seems to emanate an aura of doom and destruction, leaving very few to survive and return home with their stories of dread and despair.

Fear has always been an extremely powerful motivator. Whether it is the fear of failure, fear of death, or fear of humiliation, everyone has felt the powerful pull of fear. Similar to vampire, werewolf, and zombie folklore, the Flying Dutchman spread fear through the hearts of countless sailors, leaving them awake on dark and stormy nights. With so many testaments of its existence, it is no wonder that the legend grew and continued to thrive. Combine that solidified fear with 18th century forms of technology and you can easily see why so many sailors found themselves terrified by the unknown and unexplainable happenings of the Flying Dutchman.

But who knows, maybe it is real? Maybe one of us will find ourselves stumbling across it one day, with our atoms being smashed to pieces only moments later. Just to be safe, I’m going to remain on land.

Seattles Underground

Take a break from shopping for Halloween masks and learn something interesting!

When Seattle was originally built in the late 1800s, every building was made from wood. Obviously, this made the whole city one large fire hazard. In 1889, a cabinetmaker accidentally ignited his glue pot. Nowadays, this would be a small, contained fire that would be quickly put out; however, combined with the absence of the citys fire chief, this tiny fire managed to set 25 city blocks on fire.

A picture of the Seattle fire in 1889.

The Seattle officials decided to rebuild using stone and mortar, so they never again had to fear of burning down their whole city. Oddly, though, they also decided to elevate the city. Rather than building on ground level, they lifted the city two stories using concrete walls and ceilings. This process is known as regrading.

To regrade the city, Seattles original streets were filled with concrete alleyways. Once the alleyways were complete, various materials were washed into the alleyways, acting as the new ground level support.

Seattle Underground

This is one of the many underground buildings still standing. The photo shows the front of the building, with the old street running in front of it.

Since the second or third floor was going to be the new first floor, landlords and storeowners stopped decorating their lower floors, leaving them barren and lifeless. However, not everyone immediately moved up from the old ground level to the new one. Countless pedestrians and storeowners continued to do business in the old underground of Seattle. Various slits and glass cubes in the floor of the new ground level let sunlight into the lower levels. If you travel to downtown Seattle today, you can still find some of these slits and glass cubes in the ground.

In 1907, Seattle condemned the underground level out of fear of a pneumonic plague. All of the buildings underground were left to deteriorate, with very few of them being used as storage. Typical to human society, some of the abandoned buildings were used as illegal gambling halls, opium dens, and speakeasies.

Seattle Underground

The concrete floor on the right used to be at the same level as the wooden platform on the left. Overtime, the sawdust landfill supporting the concrete floor has sank.

Today, there are some companies who offer tours into the abandoned underground of Seattle, where very few buildings remain. If you have been aching to see find yourself deep in the underground heart of a thriving city, Seattle is your best opinion.

Forty Whacks: The Story of Lizzie Borden

Born on July 19th, 1860, Lizzie Borden was a New England resident who was accused of murdering her father and stepmother with an axe. Oddly enough, the murders, legal trial, and media attention caused Lizzie to become a pseudo celebrity, similar to our modern tabloids causing train wrecks like Charlie Sheen to become the center of attention. And now, thanks to whoever came up with the song all of those many years ago, we have this little jingle to remind us of the horrors of Lizzie Borden:


Lizzie Borden took an axe

And gave her mother forty whacks.

When she saw what she had done

She gave her father forty-one.


Lizzie Borden

If you look hard enough, you can see the crazy in her eyes.

While some sources claim that the song was written by an anonymous writer to sell more newspapers, there are others that claim it was the anonymous Mother Goose. To be honest, though, the focus should not be on the song or the catchy lines about a woman murdering her family. We should be focusing on the truth behind this little limerick.

On August 4th, 1892, Lizzie Borden found the deceased body of her father, Andrew Borden. Sometime later in the day, the Borden’s maid found the body of Lizzie’s stepmother, which was located in a guest bedroom. Both Lizzie’s stepmother and father had been killed by a hatchet, with blows to the skull being the final kick into the afterlife.

Lizzie Borden

Photo of Andrew Borden’s body.

While Lizzie was being questioned, her stories about finding the bodies were inconsistent and suspicious. Plus, Lizzie had a reason to kill her father Andrew was trying to split the family’s estate. Some days after the trial started, Lizzie tore apart a dress and burned it on the kitchen stove. This is believed to be the dress Lizzie was wearing when she killed her parents, but the evidence was gone and forever lost.

After an extensive investigation and trial, Lizzie Borden was acquitted of all charges. Because both of her parents were dead, her parents estate was split between herself and her sister, leaving both of them with great wealth.

Whether Lizzie Borden actually killed her parents or not, its too late to even speculate. But we did get a nice song out of it.


Lizzie Borden took an axe