The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Saturday, August 12, 2000

Day II

Day II

OBJECTIVE:

  1. Pensacola
    • Dorr House
    • Lear House
    • Old Christ Church
    • Lighthouse on Pensacola Bay
  2. Milton - Arcadia Archeology Project

And if possible, head along I-10 back east towards Jacksonville.


Check Out & Breakfast

I awoke this morning to Kurt watching old Thundercats cartoons on the Cartoon Network. This was a uniue episode—the Mutans had managed to nearly take out the Thundercats but due to the Thundercats superior intellect and physical prowness they were able to fend off the Mutants and restore peace back to their compound.

On second thought, that sounds like most Thundercat episodes.

After showering and packing, we checked out of the Hampton. Driving along the road looking for a restaurant for breakfast we found a place called the Golden Corral, a buffet style restaurant with a western theme to it. People pile in, pay their money and gorge out on a vast array of food, helping themselves to overly generous portions of food.

It certainly had an appropriate name: Corral everybody in and make the gold (a sentiment my Dad would probably make about the place). The food wasn't bad though; it certainly beat eating at McDonald's for breakfast.

Afterwards, he headed into downtown Pensacola for the first three of our objectives.


Recon

I drove us to the Pensacola Historic Village. It just so happened that the first parking space I found was in front of the main office of the Pensacola Historical Society. I loaded up with video camera, a digital camera and a more traditional 35mm camera, along with carrying cases. As Kurt quipped, I looked like quite the tourist.

We entered the office. There we met Bob, a tour guide. Medium hight with that slighty stocky middle-age build and an easy going personality, he welcomed us to the village. Kurt told him we were there to see the Dorr House, Lear House and the Old Christ Church. Bob informed us that those were on the tour he was giving in another hour. So Kurt and I bought the tickets.

With about an hour to kill, we decided to walk around the Historic District. Looking at the map I found the three sites we were interested in, less than a block away and grouped together. We approached the Dorr House and took a look from the sidewalk, as a wooden fence blocked access to the house. The gate was closed but not locked. Across the street was a woman dressed in period clothes sitting on the porch of another old house. Kurt introduced himself and asked if we could walk through the gate. She said that if we had purchased tickets to the tour we were free to walk anywhere on the grounds but not to enter any building as they were locked.

We then spent the next hour exploring the outside of each site, then went back to the main office to start the tour with Bob.


To Build a Fire

We started the tour with Bob telling us that Pensacola is the oldest placed city in the United States, unlike St. Augustine which is the oldest continuous city in the United States, but both were started by the Spanish.

Pensacola is also the only city to fly under five flags, the Spanish, French, Brittish, Confederate and American, since the bay was very important strategically. Bob also stated that the waterfront has been expanded outward by all the ships dumping their ballast overboard when being loaded.

But our tour started with the oldest house in the Historical District—a simple box structure with a few windows owned by a freed slave woman in the late 1700s/early 1800s.

Next up was a facinating demonstration of fire building. In Florida, most of the cooking was done outside, it being way to hot to actually cook indoors for most of the year. One of the employees, dressed in period, demonstrated how they used to light fires. A patch of flax, a dry stringy material, is placed on a flat surface. On top a small piece of charred cloth is added. Then a rod of iron, curled at the ends would be placed across the top of the fingers and struck with flint. The sparks are caught by the charred cloth and the person would blow on it, catching the flax. Once the flax is burning, the bundle is then placed under the kindling of the cooking fire. The demonstration had a fire going in under two minutes, albeit with lots of smoke from the burning flax.


“Two handles to serve soup.”

Next on the tour was a duplex built in the early 1800s. The ground floor had four rooms total, two for each family living in the building. Both rooms weren't much larger than 15' by 15' and both rooms were more or less used for bedrooms (remember, all the cooking was done outside in Florida).

He also showed us the bathroom. A small stand in the corner with a pitcher, a bowl and a chamber pot. “One tourist told me,” he said, “that his grandmother used to serve soup in such a pot. I told him he should ask his grandmother how many handles were on the pot. Two handles to serve soup.”

He then showed us a bar of soap. “Made of ash and animal fat. And smells just as good too.” He handed it around the room and everybody took a whiff. Yup, smells about as good as you would think it would.

It's amazing how far we've progressed in the past two hundred years. Especially in waffle iron technology.


Dorr House

Tour guides have reported moving items only to find them moved back to their original location when they return. It is speculated that it might be one of several Dorr children, some of whom died at a young age. It might also be Clara Dorr, who had the house built. It has also been reported that people have seen a woman like figure sitting in the chair at the top of the stairs and it's speculated that the figure is Clara Dorr.

We eventually made it to the Dorr House where Bob lead us inside. Normally he isn't allowed to tell the tour group about the ghost stories in the Historical District, but since Kurt and I brought it up earlier before the tour, he threw all caution to the wind and brought up all the ghost stories.

Ms. Dorr is said to appear in the fainting chair at the top of the stairs. The fainting chair is named because at the time, women would wear corsettes and walking up a flight of stairs would leave them a bit short of breath, hence a chair for the lady to resume breathing. I took several pictures of it using both the 35mm and digital camera. I'll see if anything shows up.

It was upstairs in the daughter's room that an odd event happened. On the bed was an old book opened to this incredibly detailed illustration. I decided to take a picture of the illustration using the 35mm camera. I adjusted the camera and pressed the button, but the shutter snapped open and remained that way for nearly a minute; nothing I did would cause it to close.

I suppose it could have been a malfunction. Normally the shutter speed is adjusted automatically depending upon the apature, but quite possibly the apature was such that the shutter speed fluctuated between two choices and the electronics messed up.

Yea, that's what happened.


Old Christ Church

Three rectors (reverends) of the Church were buried beneath the church during the 1800s. During later renovation work, their graves were dug up and the three were hastily reburied just outside the church in unmarked graves. Even later, an extention of the church was built over their graves and it was only in 1988 during an archeological dig to find the missing bodies were they found.

The three bodies were then reburied beneath the church in an elaborate ceremony. There are two accounts of three men wearing white robes, carrying a black book and were barefoot also attending the ceremony.

The three rectors were buried in white robes, barefoot and each had a Bible placed with them in their grave.

We then went across the street to Old Christ Church. We couldn't go inside as there was a wedding in progress (it seems that the church is rather popular for weddings). Bob told us that the church, throughout its history, has been a church, hospital, abandoned, a library and finally a church again. Both the State of Florida and the City of Pensacola funded a restoration effort a few years ago and it was re-dedicated as a church.

Bob, again against the regulations of his post, told us about the story behind the ghosts but it wasn't much we didn't already know about and furthermore, since a wedding was in progress we couldn't investigate the inside of the building.


Lear House

The reports are mostly items being moved about with no explanation and an unknown female apparition has been sighted. No one knows who or what could be responsible for the odd occurences.

Located behind the Old Christ Church, the Lear-Rocheblave House was the last stop on the tour. It was also the last site to visit in the Pensacola Historical Village. The Pensacola Historical Society has just recently come into ownership of the house and the upstairs, where all the paranormal manifestations occur, was off limits due to restoration work. We were, however, shown about the ground floor, showing us the most modern house on the tour as of yet—around the turn of the century.

As soon as the tour was over, Kurt and I left the Historic Pensacola Village for our next planned site, the Lighthouse at Pensacola Bay.


Interlude

The next site is located on the Pensacola Naval Air Station, south of Pensacola along the coastline. We arrived at the front gate but Kurt felt that it might be better to arrive via the Back Gate as per the instructions we had to the lighthouse. That meant turning around and driving several miles around to the west and south.

We arrived at the Back Gate were we checked in, the Pensacola Naval Air Station being an open base we were allowed in with no problems. Within a few minutes we were at the Lighthouse but tours are only given on Sundays. It was quickly decided to inquire at the Naval Aviation Museum just down the road.

This museum gives the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum a run for its money. Mounted outside the front entrance is an F-14 Tomcat. Not a model mind you, a real F-14 Tomcat. Walk inside and hanging from the ceiling are four Blue Angel jet aircraft. Model aircraft carriers, several feet long, dot the front entrance hall. Walk into the main exhibit hall and you'll see various forms of prop and jet airplanes, along with helicopters. The first airplane to cross the Atlantic is housed here. A hideously ugly bi-plane, with a wingspan of 120' commands center stage.

Kurt made the inquiry and its okay to walk around the grounds of the Lighthouse but not to enter it. We decided to spend a few minutes looking around the museum and noting how several of our friends would really enjoy visiting it.

Unfortunately, not being an aviation nut like my friend Greg, I can't even remember what we saw, other than the displays being impressive.


Lighthouse at Pensacola Bay

The original lighthouse keeper, Jeremiah Ingraham (who may have been killed by his wife), is said to haunt the place. There are also reports of mysterious blood stains that can't be removed, and unexplained items being moved without cause have also been reported.

There are also locals who state that three separate ghosts haunt the lighthouse, one being Jeremiah Ingraham, and the other two being lighthouse keepers who died a normal death.

The Lighthouse at Pensacola Bay is an imposing structure, painted for the most part black. Attached to the structure on the side opposite the ocean is the keeper's house, a wooden two story structure. The Lighthouse is now fully automated so the keeper's house is no longer in use.

Kurt and I walked around the structure for a few minutes but because we could not enter the structure, we did not stay for very long.

Nor did we see any paranormal activity to investigate.


The Arcadia Project

Unexplained noises and two ghosts, possibly the orginal partners of the saw mill built on the site.

“Two men. One video camera. No map. No compass. Welcome to the Arcadia Project.”

Me, on video tape at the start of our visit to the Arcadia Archeological Project.

Several miles east of Pensacola is Milton, the location of the next site, the Arcadia Archeological Project. Looking at a local map we were able to make sense of the directions given and in the late afternoon found ourselves driving through an upscale neighborhood to a deadend.

The information given stated that appointments were required before visiting the site but both Kurt and I laughed—nothing could keep us from our appointed rounds, neither rain, nor sleet nor dark of night (well, actually, dark of night might have kept us from our appointed rounds). I parked the car next to two others there.

We walked down a trail to a T-intersection. Off to the left we could hear several people so we did something you're never supposed to do in such situations—we split the group. Kurt headed off towards the left down the path, and I headed down a boardwalk towards the right.

The boardwalk appeared to be more of a nature trail than something that leads off to an acheological dig of a potentially haunted site. Several hundred yards later the boardwalk ended, but a trail carried on. I stepped off the boardwalk, stepped around the barricade at the end and carried on. A dozen yards later I came to a set of wooden stairs, obviously older than the boardwalk behind me. I carefully made my way down the stairs, along a short walk and up some stairs leading to a ridge. From the ridge two trails snaked off through the woods and I started walking down the one to the right for a few yards before thinking better of it.

Walking back I ran into Kurt. He talked to the other people down his path and they informed him that the mill we were seeking was the other direction; the direction I picked. So we crossed back to the ridge and picked one of the paths. Each time I mentioned the current situation is similar to the Blair Witch Project Kurt would have nothing of it. Eventually we ended up on the street we came in on. Instead of walking back through the forest we walked down the street back to my car.

At the car we finally noticed a mill-like structure off to one side. Upon investigation it seemed too new—too recent to be the actual mill. We figured it must be a recreation of the mill. We then went back along the nature path to see if we could find the archeological site. We were headed towards the end of the boardwalk.

“Wait a second!” Kurt said.

“What?”

“We're looking for a mill! It won't be back in the forest. It'll be along the creek here.” He slapped his forhead. “I should have realized that.”

“Oh,” I said. “You're right.” I didn't think of that either.

Then we examined the ridge just past the end of the boardwalk. There were several stone formations that looked manmade but weathered, and covered in dirt and moss. Kurt was certain we found the foundation of the mill and the evidence was pretty compelling.

I took extensive photographs of the rock formations to bring back to our friend Tom the architect. We'll see what he has to say about them.

We then walked back along the boardwalk and took the path Kurt took earlier. This was a path, not a boardwalk but it lead to a suspention bridge made of wood planks suspended by rope strung across the creek. There were three people, two men and one girl, swimming in the stream. We exchanged hellos as we crossed and it became apparent that this was simply a nature walk as the trail lead away from the creek into the forest. We doubled back, crossed the bridge, took a side path that parelleled the creek for a score of yards then turned back towards the car.

Again, no paranormal phenomenon manefested itself in the area.

Since it was still fairly early, we decided to drive to Jacksonville on the east coast of Florida that night.


Interlude II

For dinner we stopped off at the Cracker Barrel, a predominately eastern chain of restaurants with a country theme to both the architecture and style of food and found mostly along interstates (and featured in my friend Hoade's book Ain't That America). The food is very good, if you like heavy southern cooking, which I do.

Anyway, while waiting for our food we played with the small puzzle that every table has—the Jump All Till One puzzle. A triangular piece of wood with fifteen holes drilled into it. It is populated with fourteen golf tees, leaving one hole empty. The puzzle is to leave one golf tee in the puzzle. To remove a tee you jump over it with another tee, removing the tee just jumped. I can usually get two tees left, although by “cheating” I was able to solve the puzzle. By “cheating” I started with one tee, then jumped holes and filled the puzzle in backwards.

I did that technique as well, and usually ended up with two tees I can't place.

Kurt did not fare any better.

One of these days I'll get around to writing a program to solve the puzzle once and for all.


Drivers and Computers

Kurt's driving the car and I'm in the passenger seat (weird feeling, being a passenger in my own car) typing away on the laptop, which is getting power from a transformer plugged into the cigarette lighter. It feels weird.

Just a few minutes ago we came across a small traffic jam—and it's nearly 11:30 pm. Rubberneckers, have to check out anything involving cars and flashing lights. Kurt almost ran into the car in front of us.

Our plan for tonight is to make it to Jacksonville, which is only about half an hour away.

Obligatory Picture

[It's the most wonderful time of the year!]

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Obligatory Miscellaneous

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