Where to go

Stories That Did Not Make the Final Cut





This section contains portions of some stories that did not make it into the final edition of Weird Washington.  In some cases, the entire story was deleted, in other cases, only a paragraph or two were deleted from a story that was in the book.  I hope you like what did not make the final cut, but you may need to buy the book for it all to make sense.  HINT.

---Jeff Davis



This particular story has created a lot of discussion, and some confusion.  It made it all the way through the editing process, until the last minute.  I even mentioned something about it in my author's biography.  Somehow it was cut in the final edit, so here is my story on firewalking.


Fire Walking

The ritual of fire walking has been practiced for thousands of years.  Most people think only Hindu mystics practiced fire walking, but that is not true.  It is both a pagan as well as Christian phenomena.  In 1519, the Pope canonized a Catholic priest as St. Francis of Paola, after he picked up burning branches from a fire, and removed red hot metal from a burning kiln with his bare hands.  Some Washingtonians, both mystics and Christians practice fire walking today.

            In October 1997, Michael McDermott and a group of twenty three people participated in a fire walk near Redmond Washington.   McDermott and his friends built a huge wood fire, which they spread out into a bed of coals about 13 feet long.  Using a leaf blower, they blew the dust off the coals, which superheated.  The highest temperature in the bed of coals ranged from 1,602 to 1,813 degrees Fahrenheit.  Human skin chars around 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  All twenty three walked across the coals, at least once, and one person stood in the center of the hottest spot.  When he left the coals, he showed observers that the only damage to his feet were some red patches of skin and a dime sized blister on his inner sole. 




Scientists have investigated fire walking since the 1930s to see how it works.  They have suggested several explanations as to why people were not burned in the past.    The simplest explanation was that most professional firewalkers had thick calluses on the soles of their feet, which protected them.  Other scientists noted that wood coals do not conduct heat very well by direct contact.  Instead, heat escapes by convection in the air.  The scientists believed that when someone walked across wood coals, they were insulated from the heat of the fire.  A physicist named Leidenfrost suggested that if the firewalker has wet feet, the heat from the coals will cause the moisture to evaporate, which creates a cushion of air between the coals and the feet of the fire walker.  

            There had always been groups in the Pacific Northwest conducting fire walks as a spiritual ceremony.  After McDermott’s fire walk, there was an increase in people conducting fire walks across the Pacific Northwest.  In addition to groups seeing spiritual enlightenment, many of the high tech firms in the Puget Sound hired consultants to conduct fire walks for their corporate team-building retreats.  It is hard to imagine a CEO of a Fortune 100 company being spiritual enough to tap into some supernatural power to protect his tootsies from being burned.  Perhaps was true, because now, it is not easy finding motivational groups giving fire walks for hire.


When I was researching my article, I came up against a deadline to take pictures for Weird Washington.  I had always been curious about doing a fire walk myself, but like most people I would not willingly do it without good cause.  Well, I needed some pictures, and so I did a fire walk at my house.  In all I took about 5 steps across the coals.  






Because this was an experiment, I hoped that both mind over matter, and physics would work in my favor.  On the second step, my foot plunged through the coals into a rodent burrow underneath.  It sank down until my ankle was touching or nearly touching the coals.  I hesitated a fraction of a second, losing some of my concentration, but held myself under control.  It seemed like a minute, but probably only a quarter of a second passed as I considered jumping left or right, to get off the coals. 






Instead I decided that since I started, I should finish the walk, and I did.  In the end, I had a few white spots on my skin, where the coals had touched my upper foot, and a single blister the size of a dime, where a coal stuck to my damp foot.  I guess Professor Leidenfrost did not consider that possibility.





           I sent the photos and article to Mark Moran at his offices in New Jersey, and a few days later he emailed me with praise for "taking one for the team."  Then he said, "how about I send you a movie camera and you do another one?"



John Wayne’s Bathtub
At the Hotel de Haro

In 1886, John McMillin formed the Tacoma and Roche Harbor Lime Company, on San Juan Island.  McMillin built the Hotel de Haro in 1886, for his customers to stay while they watched the mining operations.  After the mine shut down, the hotel went through a succession of owners who restored it and added many facilities.  Past guests included Teddy Roosevelt and John Wayne. 

Although he died in 1979, John Wayne is still recognizable as the iconic American he-man actor.  In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked The Duke number thirteen of the greatest male stars of all time.  This was twenty years after his death.  It is ironic, when he was not making movies, John Wayne and his family spent a lot of time on boats of all kinds and sizes. 

In 1962, John Wayne purchased a Canadian Navy minesweeper, which served in World War II.  He refitted the 136 foot long vessel as a luxury yacht, he renamed the Wild Goose.  One of John Wayne’s favorite cruising areas was the Puget Sound.  One of the things that John Wayne probably desired most when he traveled was a little privacy and comfort.  He found both at the Hotel de Haro.  One thing that Wayne came for is still there, a cast iron bathtub large enough for him to unfold his six foot four in frame into.  Believe it or not, it is in the Ladies Room.

According to the hotel staff, whenever the Wild Goose docked at Roche Harbor, Wayne would hurry down the dock, and walk directly into the hotel, and up the stairs to the second floor.  At that time, there was a door separating the ladies commode from the bathtub, in the rear of the room.  If the ladies bathroom was empty, he would enter, lock the connecting door, and soak for hours.  He would refuse to open the door until he was finished.  

One of the front desk people told me that some people come to the hotel every year or two to soak in the tub.  I have to admit that when I stayed at the Hotel de Haro, I took a chance, locked the Ladies Room door, and soaked for over an hour.  It was quite interesting using the same tub as John Wayne.  I was a bit too short to reach the far end of the tub though.  I also found that I did not have John Wayne’s ability to calm the outrage of a woman trying to answer the call of nature, when by a man wearing a bathrobe and ten gallon hat opens the door to the Ladies Room.

Not So Ghostly Thrills at Thornewood Castle

Below is an excerpt from the story about Thornewood Castle, near Tacoma, Washington.  It was the showplace of wealthy banker, Chester Thorne, and later was the setting of the mini series Rose Red, based on Steven King's book.  


            Although not ghostly, Deanne and some of her guests do experience a fairly spooky event from time to time.  She remembered on night when they had a couple stay at Thornewood Castle on their honeymoon.  The couple were so busy during their wedding ceremony that they did not eat dinner.  Late that night, the husband called a local restaurant for pizza delivery.  Deanna was in the Great Hall, when she heard a knock at the door.  She opened the door, and in the half darkness, saw the outline of a man, wearing a baseball cap.  He leaned into the light and looked around a little bit in curiosity.  He said, “did anybody here order a pizza?”  She saw that he had dark hair and thick glasses. 

            For a fraction of a second she thought it was Steven King, and that Rose Red was coming true.  Then she came back to reality, and called the groom to get his pizza.  After that she stopped answering the door at night.  Several times since then, other guests have ordered a pizza, and had a similar experience; much to their delight.


More Enigmas about the Maury Island Incident

            Most skeptics believe that the Maury Island Incident was a hoax, and that the chief instigator was Fred Crisman.  On the other hand, Crisman has become a legend among conspiracy theorists.  He spent several years in the Army Air Corp during World War II, or the Korean War.  He is alleged to have had connections with the Office of Strategic Services, which became the CIA during the Cold War.  He must have been  up to something, because in 1968, Crisman was subpoenaed to testify in New Orleans, about the John F. Kennedy assassination.  The prosecutor believed that Crisman was one of the three men in the rail yard behind Dealey Plaza.  Crisman testified that he was in Rainier, Washington teaching high school that day. 

            In his later life, Crisman became involved in politics.  He worked for KAYE radio in 1968, as a Shock-Jock style host.   In 1967, Crisman began lecturing about UFOs and the Maury Island Incident, swearing again that the whole thing was true.  At some point, Crisman also revealed that during the war, he was shot by some kind of beam weapon while in a cave in Burma.  Crisman died in 1975, probably as a complication of kidney disease


Hail Mary...

In 1531, she appeared in the hill country of Guadalupe, Mexico. 1858 found her in a grotto in Lourdes, France. In 1917, atop an oak sapling in Fatima, Portugal. Over the centuries she's appeared in various locations and forms all over the world—including in 2005 as a discoloration on the side of a Chicago underpass!

She's the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus, according to Christian faith, and as well traveled as she is, it shouldn't surprise many people that she's even appeared here in Washington!

...Full of Anti Corrosive Coating?

On April 5th, 1997, locals (including at least one police officer) from the Sunnyside area in Eastern Washington noticed something odd about a metal road sign near the intersection of State Route 241 and Yakima Valley Highway. While the front was your standard green directional sign—in this case pointing south to Interstate 82—the back seemed to have an oily sheen tapered in the traditional silhouette of the Virgin Mary, with flowing robes and headdress. The predominantly Hispanic-Catholic community interpreted this as a divine reference to the Lady of Guadalupe, the 1531 Marian apparition in Mexico.

Word of the perceived miracle quickly spread, and the faithful soon gathered around the sign in ever-growing numbers. Some estimates place the number of people at about 1500 by the following night. In short order, the directional sign became a devotional shrine where flowers were laid, candles lit, hymns sung, and prayers recited. As a result, police had to divert traffic from that section of the Yakima Valley Highway. Media coverage across the region was quick to follow, luring in even more of the faithful and curious from other areas. Perhaps to ease the density of the crowd, the Virgin Mary reportedly appeared in a similar fashion on some 20 other nearby signs.

Two days later, about 100 miles northeast in Moses Lake, she was spotted on the back of a road sign at the corner of Highway 17 and Pioneer Way.   Afterwards, state highway workers removed the sign. Complaints immediately poured into the Department of Transportation, and it was announced the following day that the sign would be returned as soon as a safer viewing area could be arranged.

Altogether, Mary's tour of Washington road signs lasted about three weeks, or at least that's how long it took for public fascination to peak and subside. Despite the believers' certainty that the images were indeed heaven-sent, state Department of Transportation officials offered a more earthly explanation: according to them, the shapes were simply a common effect from an anti-corrosive chemical used on metal signs. A difference in density on one spot of the coating, they said, could produce a shiny, rainbow-colored effect similar to the surface of a compact disc.

Blessed Art Thou Among Branches?

In Spokane, it was reported that the Virgin Mary had appeared on a tree near the intersection of West 9th Avenue and South Ash Street. According to one account, the image of the Virgin was preceded by a strong ice storm that broke off a good-sized limb from the tree. The image of Mary then appeared where the limb had been severed. 


Gene Porter: The Man Behind The Man

At a nondescript building near the junction of I-405 and SR 520 in Bellevue, a transplanted southerner has achieved a unique and lasting fame. He and the fiery concoction within his saucepan are legendary forces to be reckoned with. Every weekday at lunchtime, scores of locals make a pilgrimage, filling the parking lot to capacity and forming a notoriously long line. Consensus says that meeting the man, Gene Porter, and The Man, his pepper sauce, are well worth it.

Welcome to Dixie's BBQ, owned and operated by the Porter family. A community staple, the eatery has been praised locally and nationally, as evidenced by numerous articles, reviews, and awards displayed in the building. Other endorsements come in the form of celebrity autographs covering a wall opposite the cash register. A multitude of politicians, athletes, journalists, and show biz folks have dropped by over the years. Among these elite are individuals as diverse as former Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia, Bill Cosby, former NBA player "Slick" Watts, and Dave Niehaus.

Dixie Porter, the business' namesake, diligently works the kitchen. The brisket, pork, ribs, and various side dishes are all cooked to her own recipes. Her daughter L.J. usually works the register. Regulars know not to dawdle when ordering food; L.J. doesn't tolerate indecision, and her famous dressings-down are topped only by her Gospel singing! It's her soulful voice that you'll often hear on the stereo.

Queue the laughter!

Then there's Gene: Dixie's husband and the restaurants primary agent of levity (and pain). The former mechanic appears randomly from out back, where he handles the barbecuing. If the wily gleam in his eye gives you the feeling that he's up to no good, you're not far off! Gene engages waiting customers in hilariously pointed conversation. "Where you from?" he might ask. Out-of-towners are directed to one of several wall maps, handed a pushpin, and ordered to "mark yo town." The pins indicate that the Dixie's experience has spread globally!

Eventually, and with much gusto, he'll exclaim his signature catchphrase: "Yeah, baby!" It's evolved into a slogan of sorts. It appears on Dixie's BBQ bumper stickers and signage. It was even included as a running gag in a locally-developed computer game.

Fire in the (pie) hole!

But Gene has an ulterior motive: he's sizing people up, anticipating the moment when, as they're eating, he can approach them with his infamous saucepan. Then he'll ask the only question that really matters at Dixie's:

"You met The Man?"

The food is damned tasty, but for many customers, "meeting The Man" is the bottom line. For regulars, it's a communion of stamina; for the uninitiated, a baptism by fire! The homemade pepper sauce is a secret blend that produces an extremely potent time-release heat. It reduces patrons to a sweaty, molten-mouthed state of despair within minutes. As they usually agree, it hurts so good!

A standard helping of The Man is one teaspoon; the overconfident sometimes ask for more and pay dearly for their cockiness. Truth be told, even a little on the end of a toothpick could make Satan yearn for the cooling fires of Hell! Gene stands back and watches the proceedings with a rascally grin, delighting in the customers' slow-boil reactions. "Get yo'self some peanuts", he might advise, pointing to a container of his suggested antidote on a counter.

The fun atmosphere fostered by the Porters, especially Gene, contributes significantly to the restaurant's success. A sister restaurant, Porter's BBQ of Tacoma, is run by Gene and Dixie's son, Alton. They also operate food stands at Safeco Field and Seahawks and Husky Stadiums in Seattle.

But to meet both Gene and The Man in their proper element, is it best to visit the original Dixie's BBQ at 11522 Northup Way in Bellevue?

Yeah, baby!

Are we talking Apples or Oranges here?

            I live in Washington, and I like apples.  I like apples a lot!  The average American eats about twenty pounds of apples each year.  I would eat more than that (the average European eats forty six,) if apples were not so darned expensive. 

Over half of the all the apples grown in the United States come from Washington.  Most are from orchards in Eastern Washington, in places like Yakima, and Wenatchee.  Though there are orchards in Western Washington.  In 2006, Washington produced ninety two million (forty pound) boxes of apples, roughly ten to twelve billion apples.  Like most Americans, I did not do all that well in my high school economics.  However, I do remember the theory behind the law of supply and demand.  If demand stays steady, the more supplies you have on hand, the lower the price of whatever you want to buy.  When you factor in the cost of gas and transport, imported items like oranges should cost more. 

California produces most of America’s eating oranges, as opposed to those used for making juice.  Last year, California produced slightly more oranges than Washington grew apples.  So given the laws of supply and demand, and the cost of transport, how come when I go to my grocery store, apples cost more than oranges?  I remember one year I drove to Yakima, and stopped at an apple orchard.  The apples cost more there than at a store.  Do the laws of supply and demand stop working in Washington?   I went to the experts for information.

The Washington Apple Commission was created in 1937, and they get twenty five cents per box of apples, to promote the use of apples across the world.  Last year they got around two million dollars to do just that.  They suggested that I ask my local store about this, because the growers were not making a huge profit on the apples. 

I spoke with two different store managers.  Both told me that they charged a percentage mark up on the apples that they bought, and that oranges simply cost less.  One of my grocers had never thought about the matter, but admitted that it did not make sense.  He could not always get apples from Eastern Washington.  Some local farmers came in with their own second grade apples, which he always bought.  Sometimes he bought apples from outside Washington.  I remember buying apples that came from Central America once.  This suggests there is a shortage of apples in Washington.  So where do Washington’s apples go?

I cannot help but think about the Washington Apple Commission.  They have a huge budget, and an open ended mandate, to sell apples.  Who do they answer to?  Who watches the people who watch the apple pickers!?!  Recently they lobbied to have Washington apples exported to places like Japan and France.  Is some Frenchman eating an apple that I should have?  Is that where all of Washington’s apples are going, or is it even more sinister? 

Over the past decade, as apple prices have grown locally, there have been a number of UFO sightings in Eastern Washington.  Is there a correlation between this?  UFOs have been blamed for cattle mutilations, causing crop circles that strip the grain from wheat fields, what if they are also harvesting fruit for an after dinner snack, with the help of the Washington Apple Commission? 




E-mail Al


E-mail Jeff