Cult of Weird goes west, has mildly interesting adventures, and almost joins a real cult.
It’s been nearly 20 years since I visited the West Coast, so the moment I learned I would be spending time in and around Los Angeles to stand up in my best friend’s wedding at the end of September (it was beautiful and amazing, but I had to wear white, so don’t expect any photos of that), I began mapping out all the murder houses, oddities shops, and disturbing museums I’ve spent the last two decades researching and dreaming about seeing in person.
By the time I boarded the tiny metal sky tube bound for California with my kids, however, I decided they would probably enjoy the touristy things a bit more than gawking from the sidewalk at the Sowden House where some believe Elizabeth Short (the “Black Dahlia”) was murdered and mutilated.
I mean, my kids spend every day of their lives surrounded by skulls, taxidermy, and death ephemera. I drag them on detours to find graves of murderers and exorcists on the way to the grocery store. This is supposed to be a vacation—I’ll cut them some slack.
We’ll take some photos by the Hollywood sign – where an actress committed suicide by throwing herself from the top of the “H” in 1932. We’ll stroll down the Walk of Fame past buildings haunted by the stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age, like the Roosevelt Hotel. Since they’re missing school, we’ll get some prehistoric education at the La Brea tar pits – there’s nothing weird about educational dead things, right? We’ll hit the arcade on the Santa Monica pier where my favorite part of my last visit in 2000 was a one-legged seagull with a twitchy nub where the other should have been.
Back in 2000 I also stumbled into the filming of an MTV game show I don’t remember the name of and can’t seem to find any evidence of online. The female host was getting covered in cockroaches or something, and I had a conversation with the male host in which I confessed I didn’t watch his show. Charming, as always. I have a knack of inadvertently insulting famous people.
If that show wasn’t just a figment of my imagination, if it actually exists and that moment really happened…there might be footage out there somewhere of a 20-year-old goth kid from the desolate wastes of Wisconsin with hair bleached, dyed red, and gelled into insect-like antennae, hanging out on the Santa Monica pier.
I didn’t manage to get into much weirdness this time around. But I did almost get recruited into Scientology, so it wasn’t a total loss.
The wedding was held at a remote, fantastical private castle high in the mountains near Fallbrook, which my vegan readers or guacamole enthusiasts will be interested to know is the self-proclaimed “Avocado Capital of the World” according to the sign with a smiling, dancing avocado in a hat.
But more importantly, Fallbrook is the home of Nessy Burgers.
This is why no one has found the Loch Ness Monster.
The food was great, but I’m still picking scales out of my teeth.
Nessy burgers are better enjoyed in a kilt, of course.
A roadside memorial near our hotel.
What the…? They didn’t even have any hallucinatory properties…
This dispensary had a bit of a Breaking Bad vibe, but we survived.
Swami’s Beach in Encinitas.
Easter Island Heads carved by artist Tim Richards at Swami’s Beach.
Joy Froding, a jewelry designer, painter, sculptor, and beloved member of Swami’s surf community, succumbed to a heart attack after riding “one of the best waves of her life” in 2015. Her friends felt that she was the heart of Swami’s.
“It made me happy to know that she stuck with surfing and really made it her lifestyle and that a beautiful wave was her last memory of her life,” a friend who taught Joy to surf wrote after her death.
Now you can’t get down to the beach without passing by this memorial.
Found some crabs. They weren’t nearly as excited to see me as I was to see them.
A guy casually blowing his digideroo on the beach. And a guy wearing a reverse t-shirt in the background?
The Self-Realization Fellowship is probably a cult.
This is definitely a cult.
They gave me pamphlets and showed me a video about how Scientology isn’t bad. I took this photo from the sidewalk. They didn’t allow any photos inside the building.
I regret to inform you all that it seems I have body thetans. But don’t worry, once I start paying for auditing I’ll be clear in a billion years.
Statue of Robert Wadlow, the tallest man ever in recorded history, at Guinness World Records Museum in Hollywood.
Little known fact: Elvis had no fingers.
Rattlesnakes. In a children’s play area. This was at Hollywood Lake Park where everyone goes to get a good photo of themselves pretending to hold the Hollywood sign.
Columbian mammoth sculptures at the La Brea Tar Pits. Created by Howard Ball and transported from his studio to the La Brea Lake Pit in a trailer pulled by his Volkswagen Beetle in 1968.
Road cones mark new spots where asphalt has bubbled up from the pits below.
Tar pit tree graffiti.
404 dire wolf skulls found in the La Brea tar pits.
Articulated skeleton of a La Brea stork.
Tar art. Tart?
Fossil of an ancient corkscrew that became trapped in the tar pits hundreds of thousands of years ago.
“Time Ribbon” or “The Evolution of Life on Earth” at the La Brea Tar Pits Museum is a mural of an 83-foot-long ribbon depicting the entire history of life on Earth beginning with the origin of the planet five billion years ago. Each inch represents about five million years. The story of primitive man to astronaut happens only within the last half inch.
“Levitated Mass,” a 340-ton granite boulder art installation by Michael Heizer at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
“The kids will thank you forever and definitely won’t be traumatized by a Hollywood murder tour.” – Smiling star on map of crime scenes
Beneath the Santa Monica pier. Living here when I’m old, poor, and homeless is my new retirement plan.
Sunset from the Santa Monica beach with the “Singing Beach Chairs.” The backs of the oversized chairs are aluminum tubes that produce low oboe-like tones when the wind blows off the ocean through them. They were created by Douglas Hollis and installed in 1987. All art created for Santa Monica beaches had to adhere to the guideline that it “must interact with natural phenomena.”
A selection of the strangest and most fascinating headlines in science, history, archaeology, travel, and more from last month:
- Cannibal killer becomes prison cook
- Strange gel-like substance found on the dark side of the Moon
- ‘Huge drug bust’ was actually vegan cake mix
- WANTED: Missing bones of a Scottish witch
- Robbers demand Popeyes chicken sandwiches at gunpoint
- Cult of Weird gets a shoutout on the Stuff You Should Know podcast
- Scientists say eating people could save the earth
- New show ‘Murder House Flip’
- India plans to engineer smart kids using cow urine
- Underwater observatory vanishes without a trace
- Florida student to marry her NES Tetris game
- Irish Lore of the Land
- Firm found liable for employee who died having sex on a business trip
- Missing man’s remains found on Google maps
- Turkey prepares to flood 12,000-year-old city to build a dam
- The CIA’s secret quest for mind control
- The lost continent hiding beneath Europe
- Modern life makes it easier for serial killers to thrive
- Human corpses keep moving for a year after death
- Hey, Google! Let me talk to my departed father.
- The eerie-sounding theremin was created a century ago
- 2019 Cult of Weird Fall Reading List
- Man has horn removed from his head
- KFC offers chicken-themed weddings
- Solid gold toilet worth $5 million stolen
- Family of abortionist makes grisly find after his death
- Husband fakes his own death to prove wife tried to kill him
- Priests air-bombed a Russian city with Holy Water
- Bizarre creature found deep under Antarctic ice
- Owner of haunted hotel lands Anne Rice’s doll collection
- Explosion at lab that stores smallpox
- Ancient Roman skeletons holding hands were men
- New THE FAR SIDE comics are coming
- Drought causes ‘Spanish Stonehenge’ to resurface
- FYI: Knives made from frozen human feces do not work
- Woman claims adopted kid was actually a murderous dwarf
- Rare 8mm footage of the 1958 Gein property auction
Octopus Changes Colors While Dreaming
October 4-6 – Windigo Fest Halloween Festival
October 9 – Feast of St. Denis, the headless saint
October 12 – Happy birthday Aleister Crowley
October 13 – Templars arrested on this day in 1307
October 16 – Anniversary of the Cardiff Giant discovery
October 20 – Anniversary of the Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot film
From the Cult of Weird Community
Share your oddities and weird adventures by tagging your photos #cultofweird
Photo courtesy of Sketchy Mother Artistry
The Peshtigo fire ravaged northeastern Wisconsin on October 8, 1871. The firestorm (with reported “tornados of flames”) burned approximately 1,200,000 acres and killed between 1,500 and 2,500 people, making it the deadliest wildfire in American history. So many people died in the fire that there was no one left to identify them. More than 350 unidentified bodies were buried in a mass grave. But the tragedy was overshadowed by the Great Chicago Fire that occurred on the same day…along with several more fires in Michigan.
What caused all those fires?
In his 1883 book Ragnarok: The Age of Fire And Gravel, Igantius Donnelly proposed that the Earth had passed through the broken up remains of the Biela Comet. The comet was discovered in 1926 and predicted to pass by Earth in 1872 but never showed. According to Donnelly, the fragments of Biela could have entered our atmosphere and started the fires upon impact.
Numerous other strange phenomena was reported during the Peshtigo fire, including black balloon-like objects in the air that would burst into flames when they collided with other objects. Even today, the area is still ripe with supernatural activity, including shadow people seen on the streets of Peshtigo, and the only apparition of the Virgin Mary officially validated by the Roman Catholic Church in the United States.
Listen to this podcast to learn more about the strange phenomena surrounding the Peshtigo fire.
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