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Below are some of the early reviews of Weird Washington, along with links to the online editions of the various newspapers
How weird is Washington state? A new book lets you be the judge
How weird is Washington?
A new book called "Weird Washington: Your Travel Guide to Washington's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets" (Sterling, $19.95) features oddities in our state ranging from notorious people to tales of hangings and haunted places, unusual roadside attractions, mythical flora and fauna and other esoterica.
The 25th in a series called "Weird U.S.," the Washington book was compiled by Jeff Davis and Al Eufrasio.
For any Washington native, there's plenty of familiar ground here. The book surveys our wackos, including famed serial killers Ted Bundy and Gary Ridgway. It features beloved Seattle sites such as the Fremont Troll and the Hat 'n' Boots, and recounts local legends such as Sasquatch. But it treads less well-known territory, too. For example, did you know Washington's most prolific serial killer likely belongs to an earlier time and a different county? Billy Gohl, an agent for a sailor's union hall in Aberdeen, was suspected of killing 124 people -- mostly immigrant sailors from whom he stole. Those numbers can't be proved, but if they're correct, the book says they make Gohl -- aptly nicknamed Billy Ghoul -- America's busiest serial killer. EVER.
Then there's "Gravity Hill" outside Prosser, where, the authors say, if you put your car in neutral and take your foot off the brake, you actually will travel uphill about 800 feet -- a phenomenon they measured via GPS. (The authors have promised not to disclose the precise location and most locals won't share the specifics. Hint: The road is marked with the word "start.")
Also in the obscure department: A supposed tree-dwelling octopus that lives in the forests of the Olympic Peninsula. Rural legend or amazing species? The book lets you be the judge.
So, just what makes Washington so weird?
"We are vastly different people from the rest of the country," said Davis. "We're kind of out there -- we're honest about what we think."
He theorized that the difficult journey traveling more than 1,700 miles overland to the Oregon territory (which then included what is now Washington), with all of its attendant hardships, made folks here tough and independent.
Philip Lipson, co-director of the Seattle Museum of Mysteries, which is featured in the book, has his own thoughts.
"It seems like a lot of very interesting events have happened in the state of Washington," he said. "Maybe it's because there are a lot of remote areas where people can hide out. I think there's an independent spirit in Washington and that may attract more mysteries."
Of course, the book revisits two famed UFO sightings that helped coin the terms "flying saucers" and "men in black," both before Roswell, N.M.
In 1947, a pilot flying over the Cascades saw nine metallic flying objects traveling at an estimated 1,200 miles per hour. He said they moved in the same way a saucer would if someone skipped it across water. A reporter misquoted him, but the term "flying saucers" stuck.
Also in 1947, off the coast of Maury Island, three men and a boy in a boat reported seeing six huge doughnut-shaped objects hovering in the sky and dropping 20 tons of hot metal before flying off. The next day, one of the men was visited by a "man in black" who knew all about the encounter and told him to keep his mouth shut. The witnesses later said their sighting was a hoax, then recanted again, claiming the original story was true. People still wonder.
In fact, Davis, an author and Army reservist who is the historian for his division, said he wonders too.
"When you get into some of these details, which are historically documented," he said, "it does make you pause for thought."
Eufrasio, who traces his interest in the weird to a childhood love of horror movies and murder mysteries, also won't dismiss some mysteries that have been at least partially debunked.
"Sasquatch is still up in the air," said the animator and video game artist who lives in Auburn. "There just seems to be a lot of compelling evidence -- not direct evidence; it's more word of mouth. The stories have been around at least since Native American times, before white settlers came into the area. Everyone's got their opinion about whether it's real."
The book carries a disclaimer that it's intended as entertainment, and that many of the stories can't be confirmed. Besides, finding the definitive verdict on such tales isn't always the goal, said Eufrasio.
"A lot of the time, the point isn't so much how do you know this is true as it is what kind of interesting stories are being told about this -- whether they're folk legends or something else," he said.
To uncover the weirdness, Davis and Eufrasio combed through online archives, regional libraries and books. They also took submissions and tips from locals and visited many places cited in the book, conducting first-person interviews.
Davis, a ghost hunter who has written ghost guides and books, visited numerous haunted places featured in "Weird Washington."
"I have never seen an apparition, although it's the most famous thing in the lore about ghosts -- seeing the spirit of so and so. It really is quite rare. But I have had enough bizarre things happen to me. ... Sometimes all the scientific theories to explain them don't work and it's easier to say it's paranormal," he said.
His eeriest experience unearthing "Weird Washington" was visiting a cemetery of baby graves outside the Tri-Cities.
"I made sure that I visited during the daytime. It's an area I purposely didn't identify too well. It was kind of forlorn. And it did have this weird aura," he said.
The authors are now working on "Weird Oregon," which will debut next year.
WHEEL OF WEIRDNESS ANSWERS
1. Stonehenge. No, not the one in England. The concrete replica in Maryhill, above the Columbia River. It was built by Sam Hill in 1930 as a memorial to those killed in World War I.
2. Cadborosaurus. Our very own Nessie. Mythical ocean beast said to have the head of a horse and a body more than 20 feet long. Allegedly spotted off the Northwest Coast in 1934 and 1953.
3. Sasquatch. Aka Bigfoot. Sure, some Californians admitted to having a fake suit and footprints as part of a Sasquatch hoax, but that doesn't explain the numerous sightings and tales of the large apelike creature elsewhere over the years.
4. D.B. Cooper. Famed hijacker who took control of a flight from Portland to Seattle and demanded $200,000 plus four parachutes. He let the passengers go but took off from Sea-Tac with the flight crew and jumped off the plane in southern Washington. Who or where he is remain a mystery.
5. World's largest frying pan. This steel giant is 14.6 feet tall and helped Long Beach locals fry up the world's largest razor clam fritter in 1941.
6. Billy Gohl. A sailor's union representative in Aberdeen in the early 1900s, Gohl is thought to have murdered as many as 124 people. He was convicted of killing two.
7. Bobo. Raised like a human by the Lowman family of Anacortes, Bobo was sold in 1953 to the Woodland Park Zoo, where he charmed children until his death in 1968, when he was stuffed. He's still at the Museum of History and Industry.
8. Kalakala. This "fast flying bird" sailed between Bremerton and Seattle before she became a fish cannery in Alaska for 30 years. Now moored in Tacoma, a foundation hopes to restore the Art Deco ferry to her former glory. Ghost hunters believe she's haunted by spirits, including that of a woman who shot herself in the ladies' lounge in 1940.
9. Christopher Boyce. Spy who sold secrets to the Soviets as the Falcon, of "The Falcon and the Snowman" fame. Arrested at a burger joint in Port Angeles in 1981
P-I Big Blog
Anyone know what happened to Blue Dog?
He was a panhandling pooch in Pioneer Square back in the 1990s. Cup in mouth, he'd ask for change in a cap and vest next to his transient owner. According to Weird Washington, a new book that chronicles our state's curiosities, Blue Dog was quite a hit.
He was pretty popular," said co-author Al Eufrasio. Along with Jeff Davis, Eufrasio helped collect bits of local lore and legend and assemble it into chapters with titles like "Bizarre Beasts," "Ancient Mysteries," "Roadside Oddities" and "Unexplained Phenomena."
Did you know the term "flying saucer" was coined after a sighting in Washington state? Now you do.
When it comes to local heroes and villains, the anthology mentions many of Seattle's usual suspects -- the Fremont Troll, the Green River Killer, Goddess Kring, the ghost of Princess Angeline, J.P. Patches, Bigfoot, and, of course, the endlessly intriguing D.B. Cooper.
There's no one way to define what's "weird" in Washington, said Eufrasio, a native of New Jersey who now lives in Auburn. But the stories say a lot about the psyches of the people who live here.
"They're open to to different ideas," he said, "in the context of being offbeat and accepting things that are a bit off-kilter."
Posted By Monica Guzman May 5, 2008
May 10, 2008
we're WEIRD ... but in a good way
That's how museum hostess Leah Huntington of Goldendale took it when she learned a bit of her community's folklore is listed in a new book outlining the state's odder places and people.
"How exciting," said Hunting-ton, a hostess at the Presby Mus-eum in Goldendale.
A Goldendale legend about a
It features off-beat landmarks, UFO reports and quirky charac-ters, ranging from Zillah's Teapot Dome gas station to Maryhill Museum's Stonehenge to Yakima's connection to the Bigfoot legend.
All, in a word, "weird."
Still, the authors treaded lightly with that term as they compiled the book.
"Weird is a very, sort of, subjective title," said co-author Al Eufrasio, an Auburn, Wash., video game artist and animator. "It's not meant as an insult."
No offense taken, said Jane Oreleman, an Ellensburg artist whose house made the list.
"We don't care," Oreleman said.
Over the years, Oreleman and her husband, Dick Elliott, the artist who created the reflector art atop the Yakima SunDome, have turned their home into a roadside attraction with fences made from glass power line insulators, posts painted as No. 2 pencils and mannequins of all sorts.
They call their house Dick and Jane's Spot, and it has been featured on travel shows and other books and magazines about off-the-beaten-path points of interest.
While some of the book's entries describe things from a distance, the authors interviewed Oreleman and Elliott and included in the book a portrait of them standing next to Big Red, "a wooden post in saucy seductress garb, complete with reflective cleavage." It's one of the longer entries in the whole volume.
Still, Oreleman considers her home "beautiful" and points out her flower garden and stone-lined paths. She also notes they both have won awards for "normal" art, including Elliott's 2007 Governor's Arts and Heritage Award.
"People respond to any-thing that's different from the norm as weird and strange," she said. "If you come and visit our place, you'll see it's beautiful and not strange."
"Weird Washington" is one of 33 volumes in a series called "Weird U.S." It started with a couple of New Jersey friends who enjoyed visiting their state's nontraditional sites so much, they published a newsletter called "Weird New Jersey." It grew into a full-fledged magazine, then a book in 2003 by the same title. The History Channel even had a show called "Weird U.S."
New York's Sterling Publishing Co. eventually commissioned the Washing-ton volume from Eufrasio and fellow Washington resident Jeff Davis, who has a master's degree in archaeology and lists firewalking among his hobbies.
"They definitely live their writings," said Lilly Jan, a hired publicist.
To compile the Washing-ton version, the authors scoured history books and newspaper archives, as well as their own memories, to create a database of hundreds of places. Then they picked their favorites to research and visit.
There were plenty of leftovers.
"We had enough there for two books, maybe three," said Eufrasio, 36.
Among the local items on the cutting room floor -- an anatomically correct bull sitting on a bench in downtown Ellensburg. In fact, Eufrasio penned an entire entry about "roadside bovines" that didn't make it.
The weird-hunting duo currently is working on "Weird Oregon," but they hope to try a second volume for the Evergreen State. The publisher declined to release sales figures, but the book is the No. 2 seller in the state on Amazon.com, Jan said.
For the second one, they want help from friends in weird places. The last page of every "Weird" book asks for tips to be mailed or e-mailed to the editors for consideration.
"All the books in the series, they're meant to be a community effort," Eufrasio said.
Weirdness, they believe, should be shared.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
He started by self-publishing spooky stories that he thought might be true, a series of books he calls “Ghosts, Critters and Sacred Places of Washington and Oregon.”
From that, Vancouver’s Jeff Davis developed a reputation as a regional researcher of the strange. On a whim, he pitched a couple of his pieces to a New Jersey publishing duo, Sterling Publishing and Weird U.S. Inc., working on a book called “Weird Hauntings.”
The publishers liked his work and his writing style, and when they began expanding their “Weird” series to different states, they asked Davis to do his first commercial project: a tabletop tome entitled “Weird Washington,” available in major bookstores around the Northwest.
The recently released 256-page book, co-authored by Al Eufrasio, identifies locales and events that help make this state uniquely odd. Davis, 45, spent nine months on the project and drove about 5,000 miles in search of the stories. He juggled the project with his duties as a historian for the U.S. Army. Davis already has plunged into his next project, “Weird Oregon.”
He talked to The Columbian recently about his new book. These
excerpts from the interview have been edited for clarity and context:
The ladies’ restroom in the Hotel De Haro in Roche Harbor on the
San Juan Islands has a huge Victorian bathtub. Wayne used to moor his
ship on the pier and come into the hotel to take baths. He apparently
had a cramped tub on the boat. So he had an arrangement with the hotel
owners that he would lock himself into the bathroom and take baths.
It took a while to fill up. I was told that there is a family from
Texas that comes every year or every other year, and they all take baths
in that tub. I guess it’s a mecca for fans.
I talked with a reporter (at the Journal of the San Juan Islands) who
checked on this and contacted (Roosevelt) historians, and he firmly
doesn’t believe it happened. Yet I still wonder.
I have not seen an apparition, but I have had strange stuff appear on
audio recordings. I’ve taken thousands of photos, from which I did get
three or four anomalies that I have taken to reporters and
photographers, and I’m still waiting for an explanation.
The hottest recorded firewalk in the Guinness Book of World Records,
over 1,800 degrees, took place in Washington. I did an article on that,
but I couldn’t find any people doing firewalks for pictures. My
editors kept asking, ‘Where are the photos?’ So I built a huge fire
on my property, raked out about a 12-foot-long bed and did it myself,
with a friend taking pictures and my family as witnesses.
I must have built it on top of a gopher hole, because on my first step, I sank down to about my ankle. It’s not a natural act (to walk on fire). Whether you have faith in physics, or you believe it’s a matter of mind control, I was mentally prepared for the bottom of my feet hurting. In that fraction of a second, though, I thought this isn’t right. I just kept walking at a slow but normal pace.
It was a personal journey for me, which I guess was just as good as
getting it published.
Gravity Hill, near Prosser. There’s an area up there, in a government checkerboard of roads, where your car will roll uphill.
Somebody painted a starting line on the road. You park your car there, put it in neutral, and it worked. You always hear about these sorts of things in urban legends. A lot of those are optical illusions.
I really tried to eye that. I’d like to go back there with surveyor’s equipment.
5 more unique places to visit around Washingtonn
By BRETT OPPEGAARD
As a footnote, I spent a week in 1995 traversing the state with photographer Tom Boyd, an experience we turned into the book “Washington’s Outer Limits.” Similar to “Weird Washington,” our goal was to find interesting aspects of this area not covered in ordinary tour guides. This out-of-print work overlaps with “Weird Washington,” but it also follows its own distinct path.
So in addition to the many interesting places you can discover through “Weird Washington,” here are five suggestions culled from the “Outer Limits” collection to help inspire further exploration of our quirky state:
MARK KLAAS, Editor
Photo by Gary Kissel, Reporter
By his own admission, Al Eufrasio is no Weird Al.
It’s just he has this great sense for mystery, intrigue and strangeness.
“I wasn’t overly obsessed, but I was adventurous. I would go exploring ditches and things,” said Eufrasio, who grew up in his native New Jersey before moving to Auburn 13 years ago. “I would like to find clues and discover the story behind things.”
In doing so, the video game artist and animator also found he had a way with words. He wrote about what he found in his travels and began to put accounts together in a recently released book, “Weird Washington: Your Travel Guide to Washington’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets” (Sterling Publishing Co., $19.95).
Eufrasio, 36, and his friend, Jeff Davis, collaborated on the project, the latest volume born out of the series called “Weird U.S.” It began when a couple of New Jersey friends, Mark Sceurman and Mark Moran, published a newsletter called “Weird New Jersey,” describing the state’s nontraditional sites. It eventually grew into an innovative biannual magazine and then a book by the same title.
Intrigued by Weird N.J.’s quirky content, Eufrasio contacted Sceurman and Moran, and forged a cross-country connection. All along, Eufrasio contributed illustrations and other material to the authors’ literary projects. The book series took flight, and Sceurman and Moran kept Eufrasio in mind when it came to getting around to Weird Washington.
New York’s Sterling Publishing Co. eventually commissioned the Washington volume from Eufrasio and Davis, a fellow Washington resident.
Eufrasio was honored and up for the task. The research was extensive. He found his adopted home, the Evergreen State, to be filled with many eccentric and colorful stories, both real and imagined. The book couldn’t carry all the interesting tales and vivid descriptions.
“I enjoyed meeting the different people who welcomed me into their homes or people themselves who are profiled,” Eufrasio said of his project that involved the help of many cooperative groups and organizations. “I just kind of emphasized the eclectic amount of character in Washington. There are so many various interests with what people are about.
“I found that I sort of appreciate off-kiltered people more than I thought I would. I kind of felt I belonged,” he said with a laugh.
The book is great armchair reading, an entertaining collage of exotic, extreme and bizarre stories, facts and tidbits from throughout the state. It is a remarkable and valuable book for tourists, aficionados of the unusual and those interested in the wonders of Washington.
The book is filled with local lore and legend, with such chapters like “Bizarre Beasts” – featuring Thunderbird, Big Foot and the Monsters of Lake Washington, among others – “Ancient Mysteries,” “Roadside Oddities” and “Unexplained Phenomena.”
The “Local Legends” chapter describes the Indian Princess at Pike Place Market and the Eeriness in Ellensburg. “Fabled People, Places” tackles Tacoma’s Tire-Gobbling Mystery Hole, the Land of Giants, the Soap People of Crescent Lake and D.B. Cooper.
Ted Bundy, the Green River Killer and the honorable J.P. Patches are chronicled in “Local Heroes, Villains.”
There also are sections devoted to haunted places and roads either less traveled or simply odd. Auburn makes the book with its coffee-pot-shaped espresso stand, Perky’s.
The “Cemetery Safari” chapter revisits the graves of Bruce and Brandon Lee, and legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix. “Washington’s Lost & Found” chapter rediscovered the Kalakala, Soap Lake and the Wellington Train Wreck.
As far as Eufrasio is concerned, there is no way to define “weird” in Washington. But the stories leave the reader wondering.
“After further reflection, maybe it is (weird) or maybe it isn’t. Weird is a very subjective title,” said Eufrasio, who also is an avid film buff and photographer. “We don’t necessarily believe every story, but we appreciate it from the folklore point of view.”
In his research, Eufrasio and Davis uncovered enough information to produce a Washington sequel. With help from weird friends, in might happen.
Sales have been good. Weird Washington was the No. 2 seller in the state on Amazon.com.
For now, Eufrasio and Davis are working on “Weird Oregon.”
Eufrasio enjoys the research. With the understanding of his wife, Tammy, he continues to pore over the massive amounts of information worth sharing.
“After all, it’s a big, weird world out there,” he wrote. “Let’s make sure our little corner of it is thoroughly celebrated.”
Auburn Reporter Editor Mark Klaas can be reached at email@example.com or 253-833-0218, ext. 5050.
DATE: 18 June 2009
FROM: Al Eufrasio
SUBJECT: Gravity Hill
Jeff's Gravity Hill entry seems to have struck a chord...
There is also a lively discussion on this page, of whether or not this kind of phenomena works. And a few people who do not seem to have a sense of humor. -Jeff