Saturday, February 29, 2020

Murder Mystery Aboard the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad

It was a dinner and the "Late, Late, Late Show" while riding our favorite scenic railroad through the mountains of Western Maryland, filled with comedic improvisation and interactive murder mystery fun!

The conductor welcomes us aboard.

We were seated at our table in one of the two "heritage" dining cars for the evening's journey. The performance started as we pulled out of Cumberland. During the journey up to Frostburg, we enjoyed a 3-course meal consisting of salad, choice of entrĂ©e -- either filet mignon, crab cakes, honey-glazed salmon or vegetarian lasagna, and a signature dessert of Chef’s choice. Wine was option; we opted.

Station security officer and erstwhile investigator Anthony Tenna is on the case!

As we dug into our salads, we learned that big changes are taking place at a small local television channel! A desire to compete with bigger networks by new station owner and General Manager G.I. Lovecash has prompted changes that have shaken up the whole staff at WMRB TV.

General Manager G.I. Lovecash dismisses Beancounter's concerns with a wave of his hand.

We traveled west from downtown Cumberland, through a natural cut in the mountains, around a horseshoe curve, over bridges, and through a tunnel. Along the way, servers started bringing out your main entree (which you pre-order when you purchase the tickets). We rode past scenic ridges, valleys, and small towns, ascending 1,300 feet in elevation to Frostburg.

Chef Georgiou Georgioupolis is upset that Lovecash is cancelling his show.

As we munched our bread, we learned that the network that once prided itself on wholesome family-oriented programming with shows featuring beloved local personalities such as the "Grecian Gourmet with Chef Georgiou Georgioupolis" was replacing those shows with the likes of Goria de Vamp, "the Gothic Goddess" who has been surrounded by controversy her entire career because of the raunchy, gory movies she shows and her outlandish, graphic and over the top stunts she performs in between segments, all in the name of ratings.

Gloria de Vamp, the Gothic Goddess goes over the top about everything!

The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad is a heritage railroad based in Cumberland, operating on former Western Maryland Railway track to Frostburg and back using diesel locomotives.

There are no bad seats in this theater!

Then, as we sipped our wine, we discovered that station accountant and mail room clerk Ira Beancounter has been noticing some peculiarities in financial reports, strange invoices coming to the station, and missing petty cash and that Beancounter enlisted the help of company Security Officer Anthony "Ant" Tenna to investigate the station and the people in it, and to report any unusual occurrences.

Meanwhile, as we're savoring our entrees, we learn that Georgioupolis' new, very very sharp cutlery has gone missing and that Lovecash is accusing Beancounter of stealing.

So when Lovecash shows up dead -- rather hilariously, bloodily so with a long, drawn out dramatic and delightfully over-extended death scene right after desert was served -- who was the murderer?

Dying General Manager Lovecash pauses to have his picture taken during his death scene.

For a long time, we wanted to enjoy a murder mystery dinner on the rails, so when we had a free November weekend, we purchased our tickets for the event. We'd enjoyed Romance on the Rails dinners before, in fact, twice! So we knew it'd be a fun daytrip!

Still dying 10 minutes later, Lovecash and Tenna pause to have their photo taken! :)

The shows change periodically, and gives us a reason to come back for more! There are also a variety of other excursions, including more family friendly ones.

Getting there: 13 Canal St, Cumberland, MD 21502

Hours: Please check the website below for excursions and departure times.


Looking for other scenic railroad adventures? 

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Beancounter denies everything!

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Biking in White Haven and Wicomico County

We were staying at the Whitehaven Hotel, a bed and breakfast inn in the sleepy village of Whitehaven, on the banks of the Wicomico River.

The land is flat in and around Whitehaven, the roads surrounded by farm fields and marsh flats.

In such a rural place, there're few vehicles and the drivers all courteous, making the biking riding pleasant.

Although we didn't have time for the Ferry to Ferry Bike Ride, I'm including the mapped out ride here because it comes well recommended by other bicyclists we encountered during our stay at Whitehaven Hotel.

We took the Whitehaven Ferry over the river, with the idea that we'd ride the roads through the mud flats, but while chatting with Dennis, the ferryman, we learned that because of the recent storms (remnants of a hurricane had dumped inches of rain on the county the day before) and high tide rolling in, we could be cut off -- the ferry will shut down when the river gets too high.

So we rode the ferry back over -- it's all free, and we enjoyed a lovely chat with Dennis along the way -- and headed out on the one road leading out of Whitehaven.

We passed by old family graveyards...

...and abandoned old houses, now slowly falling down...

...and farms and barns...

and historic old worktrucks, aging in a shed.

The area is a lovely place to ride and I will be returning to continue our exploration of the area.

Getting there:

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Saturday, February 22, 2020

Ghost Hunting in York PA

York Ghost Tours offer 12-hour ghost hunts across three locations: the speakeasy, an abandoned morgue, and a row-house on Princess Street. Or, you can opt to form a small group of your own and go on a 24-hour ghost hunt at the Princess Street location. We've already decided we'll be returning to Princess Street for the 24-hour investigation.

Because we went on a cold winter night in December, it turns out that our little group -- my friend, my spouse, and I -- were the only ones on this public ghost hunt, so we got to call the shots for what we wanted to do, when we wanted to do it, and where we wanted to go.

(The downside to having the places to ourselves was that we were sparsely equipped with cameras, dowsing rods, and an EMF reader.)

We decided to split all of our time between the Haunted Speakeasy and the house on Princess Street.

The Haunted Speakeasy

The basement of what is now an apartment building reportedly housed a speakeasy almost 100 years ago. The local mob's headquarters, the joint also was a burlesque and cat house.

Prohibition began in 1920, lasting until 1933. During that time, legal sale, transportation, and manufacturing of liquor was illegal, but, as with many well-intended laws, only drove those activities underground and into the criminal world. Mobsters became endemic, and gangsters provided the only access to alcohol.

More recently, the building has been converted into an apartment building. As you walk up to the building, you'll notice a parking spot dedicated to Jerry, who lived in the building for 38 years and was well known and well liked, and who died only a year or two ago. He used to spend a lot of his time working on projects in the basement, and now is believed to haunt the fenced off area of that is known as "Jerry's cage."

Other haunts include several working girls, a disgruntled unknown male and a little girl who rides a tricycle and rings her bike bell.

Previous groups have experienced an apparent intelligent ghost, disembodied voices and full body apparitions. To be honest, we didn't experience much there, and discouraged because we didn't come prepared with equipment, we called it quits by midnight.

Haunted house on Princess Street

The house on Princess Street doesn't give any clues that it's haunted. It's like the one on either side of it, and the ones across the street and three houses down.

These rowhomes were built in the 1890s. This particular home belonged to the same family, being passed down several generations. Over the more than 100 years it was occupied, its four floors, eight rooms, and 1800 square feet witnessed a typical family's blessings and tragedies: weddings, births, deaths, partings, and celebrations.

But still it's haunted.

The last resident was an elderly lady who likely suffered dementia after being hit by a motorcycle. When she returned home from the hospital, she reported hearing strange sounds and voices in her home -- how scary that must have been!

Now the house is empty, but it's floors and walls reflect a way of living from early in the 20th century -- it definitely could use an update.

Visitors often report a shadow man on the stairs, children laughing, doors moving, footsteps, voices, and bangs.

We experienced the most activity in a little room on the second floor in the back of the house. We spent several hours there, working with the dousing rods and EMF reader asking questions and seemingly getting responses.

Because of this, we hope to return this spring with a small group and investigate at the location for a full 24-hours.

Know before you go: York Ghost Tours offer 12-hour ghost hunts across three locations (the Speakeasy, an Abandoned Morgue, and a row-house on Princess Street. Or, you can opt to form a small group of your own and go on a 24-hour ghost hunt at the Princess Street location.

Getting there: The tour will notify you where to meet.

Hours: Check the website for the dates and times of the ghost hunts.


Can't get enough ghost hunts? Check out the following ghost hunts and paranormal investigations we've participated in!


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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Lynchburg's Link to the Harlem Renaissance: The Anne Spencer House

There is a house on Pierce Street in Lynchburg. A two-story modified Queen Anne style shingle residence, it's cute, but like most middle-class homes, not a home you'd look at more than once, if passing along the street.

What makes this house so cool, and worth your second and third glance, is that Anne Bethel Spencer, a poet of the Harlem Renaissance, lived there, for more than 70 years, from 1903 to 1975.

Spencer also was an American poet, teacher, civil rights activist, librarian, and gardener. While a librarian at the all-black Dunbar High School, a position she held for 20 years, she supplemented the original three books by bringing others from her own collection at home.

The home museum is open to the public. It remembers Spencer's legacy as an important poet, her impact on the community, and the love she shared with her husband. Together they created this haven from the injustices of living in the South during the Jim Crow era. 

Her home, too, was a haven for black celebrities and performers who traveled through the area, and she and Edward set aside their best room as a guest room to welcome these weary travelers to their home and community.

She treasured her garden, and Edward, her husband, created lovely trellises and "rooms" as a backdrop to her garden. He didn't stop there. He created a phone booth for her in the front hall, where she would often scribble phone numbers and names in pencil on the wall.

She may have been a poet but she lived her life vividly, and with color, and that's reflected in her home.

Peace is here and in every season
a quiet beauty.
The sky falling about me
evenly to the compass. . .
What is sorrow but tenderness now
in this earth-close frame of land and sky
falling constantly into horizons
of east and west, north and south;
what is pain but happiness here
amid these green and wordless patterns,--
indefinite texture of blade and leaf;
Beauty of an old, old tree.
    -- Exerpt from "For Jim, Easter Eve"

Edward designed and built the house in 1903 for Anne and their infant children, modifying it periodically as their family and their social lives expanded.

Spencer wrote her poetry, often “scribbling” on any available surface, including the walls of her home and loose scraps of paper, were written for herself rather than a public audience. She used her poetry to give voice to her thoughts, reactions, and, quite often, her indignation. 

She was an outspoken advocate for the rights of all beings: civil rights, women’s rights, rights of respect and dignity due to all people. Although Anne Spencer was interested and involved in many things during her lifetime, her name most likely would not have achieved the kind of international recognition it has today had she not been a noted poet during the Harlem Renaissance. 

Know before you go: The garden, which is open year round, is lovely at any season, but peak bloom is during March, April, May, and June.

Getting there: 1313 Pierce St, Lynchburg, VA 24501
Hours: Tours are by appointment only; check the website below for details.


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