Darkening Doors: Macabre Pittsfield Walking Tours

The October offerings in the Berkshires have gained a formidable addition with Macabre Pittsfield Walking Tours, created and lead by writer and historian (and friend of the blog) Joe Durwin.

Because I couldn’t write it better myself, here’s the Durwinian description of the experience: “Embark on a journey through a downtown Pittsfield far removed from what we know today. A place of desecrated graves and skeletons in church basements, of rumsellers shacks, opium dens, and murders most foul…”

Indeed, the tour in its October 18 form (no two tours are the same) began on the Pittsfield Common, which was once a cemetery with a serious grave-robbing problem, and crept its way through the heart of the city.

Stops along the route included the site of the former courthouse, alleys that once led to houses of ill-repute, and the spot where the old rail-station delivered some of Pittsfield’s most colorful visitors — all brought back to life through impeccably researched stories of both fact and folklore. For one, medical students were apparently ruthless in the 1800s, particularly when it came to cadavers.

An added bonus of the tour is multiple stops also showcase the Berkshire Lightscapes project, which aims to illuminate downtown buildings and spaces in downtown Pittsfield through animated LED light systems. It’s a nice touch, especially when the topic turns to UFO sightings and alien encounters.

Word on the street is some kid-friendly tours are in the works for next season… though I’m also personally hopeful that these tours will continue in the warmer months. There’s nothing quite like scaring groups of tourists by the dozen.

Crystal Visions ~ The Art of Mindy Lam at Berkshire Botanical Garden

As galleries slowly reopen, my list of hopeful weekend engagements continues to grow. It’s one I was worried would start late due to my ongoing injury recovery, but I was able to begin the return to culture this weekend with a show after my own heart: Flights of Fancy: The Botanical and Bejeweled Universe of Mindy Lam.

On display in The Anna and Frederick Henry Leonhardt Galleries at the Berkshire Botanical Garden in West Stockbridge, Mass., the exhibit is an intersection of several different things I already love: modern art, vintage pieces, fantastic elements, haute-couture jewelry… all hosted in the rooms of a slightly ominous garden house constructed in the 1700s.

Lam works with crystals and semi-precious stones, repurposed, vintage costume jewelry, and metal wire — including weaving metal lace out of gold, copper, and steel. Her art is inspired by and reflective of nature, and has been displayed within the clapboard walls of the Leonhardt on moss beds, willow branches, and squares of unbleached linen.

Separated into three rooms, the exhibit includes a selection from Lam’s Homme Couture brooch collection; a “man-made ornamental garden” of twigs and brambles adorned with pins, necklaces, and earrings; and a curated menagerie of pieces created for once-in-a-lifetime events, featuring Lam’s signature metal lace gown: “a wearable sculpture originating with a single, delicate thread of wire,” as described on the BBG website.

The real piece de resistance for me, however, is a cool-metal crown in a mirrored bell jar that appears to be telling an entire tale in-the-round.

Lam is also a decidedly philanthropic artist, working with charities large and small including the American Heart Association, American Theatre Wing, and St. Jude’s Research Hospital. She has extended sales on her website to support BBG’s education and horticulture programs throughout Flights of Fancy’s run, until June 6, 2021.

All photos (c) jcs 2021 ~ view the full set here

Index reveals the spookiest towns in the UK

A guest-post by Online Mortgage Advisor UK

’Tis the season to be spooky! At least that’s what we would’ve said last October. 2020 has proven to be a scary year in general. Nonetheless, with Halloween approaching, the experts at OnlineMortgageAdvisor.co.uk were curious to find out which are the spookiest towns in the UK.

To find out OnlineMortgageAdvisor.co.uk took into consideration seven factors: the number of cemeteries, paranormal sightings, abandoned homes, spooky roads, safety at night, level of crime and annual sunshine. In order to get the most accurate data, the numbers for each spooky criteriawere divided by the total population for each location.

Where are the spookiest places in the UK? 👻

The top five scariest places in the UK are Newport (1070 spooky points), Birmingham (1040), Leicester (980), Nottingham (940) and Liverpool (930). 

Spooky Fact: According to data from  SellHouseFast.uk, Leicester is also the city where your home is most likely to be invaded by spiders! Yikes! 

If you are looking for an adrenaline rush, the best town to visit is Newport, gathering an overall spooky score of 1070! The city was given the highest score for the number of cemeteries, paranormal sightings, spooky roads and safety at night, based on its population count. The highest scores were given to the places within the top 10% of that sample size. 

Based on that methodology, the cities/towns ranking the highest (300) for Cemeteries were: London, Newport, Birmingham, Stoke-on-Trent and Nottingham. 

Spooky Fact: Newport has the second-highest population/cemeteries ratio (51,141), just below London (51,218 people per cemetery). 

Is it a bird, is it a ghost, or is it my nan? The places with the most paranormal sightings REVEALED!

So, what are the scariest cities when it comes to ghost sightings, you may ask? OnlineMortgageAdvisor.co.uk can reveal that the town/cities which ranked highest (300 points) for paranormal sightings are: Newport, Birmingham, Preston, Bradford.

The places with the second-highest scores for paranormal sightings (270 points) are Leicester, Leeds, Liverpool, Coventry and Swansea!

If you would prefer the dead to stay dead, then the best cities to move to are Edinburgh (60 points), Cambridge (60) and York (30).

Home, not so sweet, home… Here is where you’ll find the most abandoned houses!

From dust on the furniture, to spider webs and poltergeists in the basement, there is something very eerie about abandoned houses. With that in mind, OnlineMortgageAdvisor.co.uk sought to investigate the places with the most and least number of abandoned homes/population. 

The research can reveal that the places with the highest abandoned homes/population ratio, hence garnering the most points (200), are Bristol, Cambridge, Nottingham, Reading and Cardiff.

At the other end of the scale, we have the towns/cities with the fewest abandoned homes/population (gathering only 20 points): Newry, Bradford, Armagh, Aberdeen and Newcastle upon Tyne.

THESE roads will make your skin crawl 🕷

Have you ever found yourself walking alone on an unfamiliar road, only to look up at a sign telling you the road’s name is Dead Lane? OnlineMortgageAdvisor.co.uk can reveal the places with the spookiest roads. These are:

Manchester (Elm Street, Hallows Avenue, Dark Lane), Gloucester (Cemetery Road, Black Dog Way, Spider Lane), Birmingham (Hallow Close, Hanging Lane, Dark Lane), Southampton (Elm Street, Cemetery Road, Warlock Close),Nottingham (Ghost House Lane, Dead Lane), Northampton(Black Cat Drive, Elm Street), London (All Hallows Road, Cemetery Lane/Road), Newport (Warlock Close, Cemetery Lane/Road).

Scared of the Dark? Don’t go to THESE cities!

OnlineMortgageAdvisor.co.uk also looked at the annual hours of sunshine to determine which place is the darkest of them all. The cities/towns with the most sunshine had the highest amount of points deducted on the tables, whilst the darkest cities had the lowest amount of points deducted. 

The darkest places in the UK are Glasgow (1203.1 hours of annual sunshine), Manchester (1212.4 hours), Armagh(1245.5 hours), Belfast (1246.9 hours) and Newry (1255.8 hours). 

At the other end of the spectrum, the cities with the most annual sunshine are Peterborough (1596 hours), Oxford(1577.9 hours), Cardiff (1549.4 hours) London (1540.4 hours) and Reading (1522.9 hours). 

Methodology: 1. Found the top 40 UK cities by population. 2. Used findagrave.com to find the total number of cemeteries for each UK city.3. Used Paranormaldatabase.com to find the number of paranormal sightings.4. Abandoned homes were found via the following data sources: statswales.gov.wales and gov.uk. Only long-term vacant dwellings were considered (at least 6 months).5. Crime level data was sourced from Numbeo.com. The Crime Index is an estimation of the overall level of crime in a given city or a country. We consider crime levels lower than 20 as very low crime levels.6. The Safety Index is sourced from Numbeo.com. It shows how safe it is to walk alone at night. If the city has a high safety index, it is considered very safe.7. Spooky Road Names – Compiled list of scary names: Devil, elm street, ghost, hallow, dead, hell, blood, hanging, dark, headless, witch, cemetery, black cat/dog, broomstick, spider, warlock. Searched https://www.streetlist.co.uk/and https://www.proviser.com/ to find which cities had streets with the names.8. Annual Sunshine shows the average number of hours of sunshine for the nearest climate station to each city. It was sourced from https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/research/climate/maps-and-data/uk-climate-averages. The nearest climate station was used for each city.9. To account for size differences between cities, the respective city population was divided by the corresponding measure.10. The factors used have varying units of measurement. To resolve this, each measure was standardised by calculating the value based on the percentile rank within the sample cities.

Spooky Factors:

Index Score

Cemeteries

3

Paranormal recordings

3

Spooky road names

2

Safety walking alone at night

2

Abandoned homes

2

Level of crime

1

Annual sunshine (hours)

https://pixabay.com/service/license/

Call for Blogtoberfest Entries!

I always welcome guest posts at The Jump, but I take the collection thereof more seriously from October 1 to All Hallows Eve. The results have been varied and awesome, ranging in topic from witches to zombies to Neil Diamond.

Over the years, Blogtoberfest Guest Post submissions evolved into a full-on contest, with winners, prizes, and the bestowing of appropriate amounts of online glory.

Winners will be decided by readers via an online poll at the end of the month. There’s no length requirement or limit, and posts need not be spooky. October is also the month of harvest, baseball, and Breast Cancer Awareness. It may be that you or your organization has an annual event this month that deserves a little publicity. Whatever the topic – if it says October to you is fair game!

Prizes will be announced soon, and posts are accepted throughout the month, so get writing and send your entries to writerjax -at- gmail.com!

The Read My Writin’ Round-up

I’ve been able to write a lot about where I live, recently – in the Berkshires of Massachusetts – so this shameless round-up of my own work is pulled together with a Berkshire County theme.

First, the latest; I wrote a ‘Parents-Eye Review’ for Berkshire Family Focus, upon the opening of the new Berkshire Carousel. Juli was my intern on this project.

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Next, on to the world of corporate spa retreats…an actual thing, apparently, and growing in popularity. I used two world-class resorts in the Berkshires to illustrate the trend of spa retreats as part of workplace health and wellness packages.

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Finally, a look at the entire region from the point-of-view of the visitor’s bureau and the owner/managers of some attractions in the area, including outdoor recreation spots as well as theater venues (two of the biggies in these parts).

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