Terra Cotta Warriors


In 1974, a group of farmers digging a well after a winter drought in northwest China, unearthed fragments of a clay figure, that would turn out to be one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of modern times. They didn’t know it at the time, but the bronze arrowheads and pieces of pottery the farmers were going to sell in their village were part of a legend. Found near the unexcavated tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi, the self proclaimed first emperor of China, an underground army of life-size terra cotta soldiers and horses, was found, hidden for more than 2,000 years.


Fast forward to 1995. In Katy Texas, the construction of the Forbidden Gardens was announced. The army was replicated in one-third scale on 80 acres of former rice land outside Houston. Six thousand soldiers stand ready on a stretch of land about the size of a football field.  When it was first under development, it was considered to be a 20-year project that would include a hotel, a 60-foot pagoda, a system of colored ponds, a waterway with boat rides and a Chinese-themed water park. The clay used to make the terra-cotta soldiers was said to come from the Chinese province that produced the originals, and the tiny palaces were built of Chinese wood.


The museum closed in 2011 to make way for a new section of a controversial ring road. With the Grand Parkway slated to cut right through it, the 80 acres was about to become very valuable freeway frontage. The soldiers could not be moved being permanantly afixed to their bases. It’s not feasible to save the Forbidden City. It will probably be destroyed because the liability is too great to leave it there.



Paris Suburban Ghost Town


Goussainville-Vieux Pays was at one time a quiet little farming village, 12.5 miles from Paris. In the center is a historic renaissance church. By the 1970s, this once quiet suburban towns ambience took an irreversable turn.


Unfortunately for the town, it was under the direct flightpath of the new Charles de Gaulle Airport. They were now so close to the country’s largest airport in Roissy that the noise from the planes became intolerable. Residents of the  village saw their neighbors and friends abandon their homes one after another.


The airport authorities, responsible for almost 150 properties in the village being deserted, were required to buy the abandoned houses as well as look after them. It had not been taken into account that the Renaissance church, Saint-Pierre-Saint-Paul was recorded as an historic monument. Not having the option to demolish the buildings, they were walled up and left to decay. Even the 14th century church began to deteriorate so badly that in 2010, years after abandonment, local authorities finally agreed to begin efforts to restore it.


Abandoned Duke Of Lancaster


A rusting, abandoned ship has become a canvas for world’s top graffiti artists. Once an elegant passenger ferry and cruise ship commanding the seas around the British Isles and North-West Europe, now the former steamer TSS Duke of Lancaster has spent the last 30 years rusting away by the North Wales coast.


Much smaller than grand liners like RMS Queen Mary and configured for more local routes, the ship featured beautifully decorated first and second class interiors. Retired in 1979 and ending her days docked near Mostyn, Wales, original plans to convert the ship to a 300-room hotel failed.


The hull of the rusting ship has been used as a blank canvas by a host of international graffiti artists, who call themselves the DuDug collective.


Turning the ship into a floating art installation was the brainchild of former street artist Maurice Blunt, who spotted the Duke Of Lancaster from a train. Seeing its potential he tracked down the owners and proposed the idea for transforming the forgotten vessel.


Oak Chapel of Allouville Bellefosse in France


Located in a French farming village, The Oak of Allouville-Bellfose is one of the biggest and oldest trees of France. In it are built two small chapels one above the other. Together with the large wooden staircase leading up to the chapels it is one of the most unusual Roman Catholic sanctuaries in Europe.


In the 1600s, the tree was stuck by lightning that burnt the tree right through its center and hollowed out the trunk. Instead of dying, the tree started to sprout new leaves. The tree’s miraculous survival drew the attention of the local Abbot, who determined that the lighting striking and hollowing the tree had happened for a holy purpose. So they built a shrine to the Virgin Mary directly into the hollow of the tree. Later another small chapel and a stair case climbing the outside of the tree was added. The chapels were named Notre Dame de la Paix (“Our Lady of Peace”) and the Chambre de l’Ermite (“Hermit’s room”).


During the French revolution, the tree became an emblem of the old system of tyranny. A crowd descended upon the village, intent on burning the tree to the ground. When a quick thinking local renamed the tree the “temple of reason” saving it from fire.

Today the common oak is showing signs of age and stress. Now held up by poles, part of the 33-foot trunk has died and the majority of the tree has been covered over with wooden shingles where the bark has fallen away.

LaLaurie Mansion in New Orleans


Marie Delphine Lalaurie and her third husband, a doctor, Leonard Louis Lalaurie, purchased the home at 1140 Royal Street in the early 1830s. A renowned Voodoo Queen named Marie Laveau lived just a few blocks from the Lalaurie House. Although the nature of their relationship is unknown, undoubtedly these two women met and knew each other.


The legend goes that in the LaLaurie household, slaves disappeared on a regular basis. No questions were ever asked. Then on April 11, 1834, a slave provoked by the abuse piled upon her, set fire to the Lalaurie’s kitchen.

While trying to save items from the house, someone began whispering that servants were chained and locked up behind barred doors and would die in the fire. They searched the house  busting down the locked door to the attic. Madame LaLaurie had renovated the large room into a torture chamber of sorts where hideous procedures had been performed on many of the slaves.


Word spread among the people of New Orleans and the LaLauries fled when a lynch mob formed. Some people found evidence that they had fled across Lake Pontchartrain and lived there, while others say she went from there to France, escaping in a horse and buggy on the night of the fire.



American Horror Story: Coven

The Dragon Bridge

In one of the most beautiful and ignored cities in Europe is a fantastic and fantasy filled bridge.

Dragon Bridge is the most fairytale of bridges in the fairytale city of Ljubljana, Slovenia. Combining old-world charm with medieval mystery, this bridge celebrates its gothic construction and the mythical side of the area’s history. Decorated with ornamental dragon statues among the other ornate embellishments, visitors love to see the playful side of the city through this monument.


While medieval in style, this attraction came into being in the early 20th century as part of a urban renovation. An 1895 earthquake had damaged the previous wooden bridge, and the powers that be decided to try out a new, innovative technology called reinforced concrete, and throw some dragons in for good measure.Slovenia 058

In the early 1980s, the bridge was renovated with a lightweight concrete. The beautiful fantasy-themed bridge holds the titles to a couple of firsts: first Slovenian bridge paved, first reinforced concrete bridge in Ljubljana, and came is a strong third for largest arch in Europe at the time of construction.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

All technical marvel aside, obviously the main attraction is the fine example of Vienna Succession style, and the four dragons guarding the bridge on either side, with sixteen smaller ones decorating its span.

The entire country is beautiful and has a wide spectrum of activities and sights.


Dr. Evermor’s Forevertron

Ever think of escaping the frustrations of life?

Then head down to Dr. Evermor’s Forevertron in Sumpter, Wisconsin and hitch a ride on his space capsule. Forevertron is the largest scrap metal sculpture in the world standing 50 ft. high and 120 ft. wide. Dr. Evermor is the creation of Tom Every, a salvage expert turned artist.
For most of his life, Tom Every was a professional destroyer. He worked in Wisconsin as an industrial wrecker, demolishing old factories, breweries and any other building that stood in the way. After retiring in 1983, he decided he would dedicate the rest of his life to being a creator: Dr. Evermore, to be exact. For decades, he collected scrap metal and machines that he found interesting and historical.

From the highway, the top of the 320-ton Forevertron is barely visible, its trans-temporal egg chamber poking up above the foliage.

Made from industrial scrap, the sculpture park includes a decontamination chamber from NASA’s Apollo project, dynamos built by Thomas Edison and scrap metal salvaged from an army ammunition plant.
His greatest achievement is the Forevertron, “designed and built in a timeframe of around 1890 … whereas our dear doctor is a scholarly professor who thought he could perpetuate himself through the heavens on a magnetic lightning force beam inside a glass ball inside a copper egg.

Dr. Evermor believes that if he can combine magnetic force and electrical energy, he can propel himself through the heavens on a magnetic lightning force beam, that will take him to his salvation. The Forevertron is a fantastical 300-ton sculpture made of recycled parts. At the top of the Forevertron sits a glass ball inside a copper egg that is Dr. Evermor’s space capsule.  There’s also an antigravity machine, a teahouse for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to observe the event, a telescope to watch as Evermor is hurled to his meeting with God, and a listening machine that will transmit Evermor’s messages back to Earth.

Alaska Igloo City Hotel

igloo phot by bob keefer

photo by Bob Keefer

What else would you build in Alaska but  igloos? That appears to have been the thought behind Igloo City, a planned hotel located in Cantwell, Alaska, along the George Parks Highway. Construction on this architectural fantasy began and ended in the 1970s, abandoned because the developers failed to follow building codes. The four-story concrete structure is so large, it can be seen by airplanes at 30,000 feet. At this point too much of the hotel has deteriorated to make renovation worthwhile. Now it’s just a roadside attraction, drawing both vandals and those interested in this bit of curiosity.

igloo hotel city alaska cantwell george parks highway 5

Travelers driving between Anchorage and Fairbanks can still see Igloo City rotting on the side of the road. What might have been a convenient spot for a hotel is now a convenient spot for photographers looking to capture its decay. The unfinished interior is considerably more attractive than its exterior.

igloo hotel city alaska cantwell george parks highway 10

Traveling Bookcases

Portable libraries have quite a lengthy history, with aristocrats. Very popular in England and France during the 18th and early 19th century, they often saw use on the European Grand Tour, and were also fairly commonplace among military and naval officers (frequently very well educated, at least in England.)
book lv

One of the most elegant is this Louis Vuitton’s combination steamer trunk and portable library.

book huanghuali02

This is a  huanghuali wood traveling bookcase dates from the early 1600s. The stain really brings out the wood grain, and it look like the doors were cut from the same board. The metal work is also very simple, but together they make a very elegant package. Inside it contains two small drawers and a single shelf.


Lighthouses were often time located in remote areas and as such had no access to city services such as libraries. One of the items the tender supplied was a library box on each visit as pictured to the left. Library boxes were filled with books and switched from station to station to supply different reading materials to the families.

Christmas Island Crabs


Every fall, Christmas Island is overcome by a red wave of migrating crustaceans, on a mad dash from the forest to the sea. Terrestrial crabs that are unique to this area, their offspring must be born in the ocean or they will not survive. As soon as the humidity is just right, around October or November, they swarm the island.

The locals are protective of their sideways-scuttling neighbors, and are careful to minimize driving, hang “Crabs Crossing” signs on the roads, and watch their feet during the migration, but a few million become casualties every year to vehicles, other animals, and clumsy tourists not accustomed to carefully watching their steps. Once they reach the ocean and go about their business, they return to the forest, first the males, then the females, exhausted and spent, to wait for their offspring to return.

A few weeks later, the hatchlings have grown into their land legs, and it’s time for them to journey across the island to their woodland home. With 100,000 hatchlings per female, the magnitude is hard to imagine as they wash back across the roads and buildings like a sea of red spiders, swarming over everything in their path. The islanders do their best to help them along , but it’s a losing battle. There is nothing to do but work around them as much as possible, and try to ignore the invasion.
crab christmas_005
To be able to see this you have to hurry, because of the  accidental introduction of the aggressive “yellow crazy ant” the numbers of the red crabs are declining at an alarming rate. The highly invasive insect has wreaked havoc on the ecology of the island, their excretion is poisoning the crabs as well as several other species unique to Christmas Island. Over a quarter of the red crab population has been wiped out so far, and the crabs now face extinction.