Tuesday, June 18, 2013

It's My Money and I Need It Now!

Coal Severance Tax Funds Used for Rupp Arena Renovations

$2.5 million of coal severance tax money has been taken out of the state-approved budget for renovations to Lexington's Rupp Arena.  The problem with that is that coal severance tax money is supposed to go back into the counties in the state that produce coal.  A huge chunk of that money has been set aside to fund Rupp's makeover.  

This decision is not sitting well with coal producing counties.  The coal severance tax is a levy the state collects on the coal as it's mined.  Much of that money is already kept by the state, and the rest is supposed to be divided up proportionally amongst counties that produce coal.  These funds are then used to assist local government, boost tourism, and help diversify local economies beyond mining.  

Rupp Arena's $2.5 million renovations are among 30 other projects dipping into the severance tax money.  The amount that remained was then split among coal producing counties.  During the past 11 months the state of Kentucky has collected $213 million in coal severance taxes.  This number is a 23% drop from last year.  This, combined with rising unemployment rates are sending a 1-2 punch throughout Eastern Kentucky.  Budgets are being drastically slashed, and as a result vital programs such as those benefiting senior citizens, are in danger of being cut out all together.  

What Rupp will look like after renovations...because there are so many horses just running wild in downtown Lexington

Letcher County Judge Executive Jim Ward, also chairman of the Kentucky Coal County Coalition, said our county's budget was cut by $1.3 million as a result.  Last year Letcher County received around $1.3 million in coal severance tax funds. That's roughly half of the amount being used in Lexington, where no coal is mined.

The Kentucky Department for Local Government oversees coal severance tax spending and said it was left with no choice but to take the $2.5 million, as well as funding for the other 30 projects, from the coal money.  When he originally proposed the budget last year, Governor Steve Beshear allotted $3.5 million from state bonds to fund the Rupp project.  We dug deep, and the only explanation we could come up with for the switch was that "Leading lawmakers met behind closed doors, dropped the amount to $2.5 million, and switched the bonds out for coal severance tax money."

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, backed the funding in a statement a prepared statement.  He said the money had to come from the coal severance tax, because there was no where else to get it from....how about just not taking it?  He went on to make even less sense, stating that "Though Rupp is not in the coalfields, it plays an important role in the state because of the tradition of UK basketball."

The mountains that produce coal

Ward said the lack of funding is hampering local governments ability to better the lives of it's citizens.  Papers had been filed for work on water and sewer projects using multi-county coal severance money, and now there won't be enough money for that.  So what Greg Stumbo and Fayette County politicians are saying is that it's more important for renovations to be done to an already nationally known arena than it is for it's basketball fans to have properly filtered water and sewage systems.  Makes a lot of sense, huh?  

Friday Stumbo, feeling the heat, announced plans to see that the $2.5 million is replaced.  In the next few weeks they hope to raise enough money in bonds to fund the renovations....sounds like a good plan.  Stumbo said House Democrats wanted to use bonds for the renovation funding originally, but Republicans refused to allow additional debt in the budget. State Representatives Leslie Combs and Fitz Steele introduced a bill during last winter's legislation that would have returned All the severance tax money to coal producing counties.  It died on the floor. 

Generations ago, mining companies from the north came down to the mountains and bought up all the mineral rights they could obtain, in as shady a manner as needed.  The same thing is still happening, but on a more local level.  Taking vital funding away in this manner is why these mountains remain at least 10 years behind the rest of the world.  While Lexington and urban areas hours away are getting fat, some of our miner's are wishing they had access to clean running water.  Who cares if they wash the coal dust off, as long as they show up to work.  Maybe we should all load up on tour buses and organize a sit-in at Rupp, to use their restroom facilities....they should be really nice!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Skunk Ape Sighting: Hoax

Experience has taught us that when we come along videos claiming to be "100% real, actual footage" proving the existence of any paranormal phenomena, especially cryptids, we're most likely in store for some blurry footage of something that can't be identified.  Although footage shot recently claims to have captured Florida's elusive Skunk Ape, a southern cousin of Bigfoot, the Lost Creek cyptozoology department didn't find anything other than a couple Roger Patterson wannabe's.

Mike Falconer uploaded the footage, shown below, to YouTube after recording it on March 2nd at Myakka River State Park in Sarasota County.  The description describes seeing the creature while driving with his son and stopping to capture the footage with his iphone. A local news station picked up the story, and it made it's way around the internet. 

In the comments section Falconer adds that when you hear them talking about two of them, there are deer apparently visible, in addition to the skunk ape. We didn't see any deer, and sure didn't see any Skunk Ape.  

Here's some of the problems we have with this 'evidence.'  Some people were obviously seeing something, or all the other cars wouldn't have pulled off the road, and the one lady wouldn't have gotten her camera out.  There could have been a couple deer they saw, and this cameraman couldn't quite focus in on.  If I was standing on the side of the road witnessing what could possibly be a critter unknown to the world of science, I would be a little excited.  These onlookers don't looked too thrilled.  Some of them are actually walking off, while the creature is still supposed to be in sight.  We're not buying it.  

Clearest shot of Falconer's Skunk Ape

When Falconer watched his video and realized you couldn't make anything out of it, the notion obviously crossed his mind to try and convince people something else was there.  That would account for the cuts in the video before he and his son 'pursue' the skunk ape.  Then he stops shooting video, to go to shooting still pics? Cmon now.  Even then we still don't get a clear picture, just a few far off blurs that could be anything. It would have been nice if after allegedly photographing the skunk ape, if the father and son could have provided some reference shots, so the creature's size could have been determined. 

Since the infamous Patterson film, the first alleged recorded footage of Bigfoot, was shot in 1967, hoaxers the world over with nothing better to do with their time have been building their own visions of the Fiji Mermaid to try and earn money and notoriety, or both.   With everyone and their grandma capable of shooting and uploading video to YouTube by just pressing a couple buttons, we're drowning in hoaxes, from adults with sheets over themselves giggling claiming to be ghosts, to CGI effects produced by a 1 year old on their laptop.  At least the CGi has entertainment value.  There's nothing we hate more than wasting 3 minutes of our lives on claims of paranormal evidence that isn't evidence at all. These guys didn't even have someone in a gorilla suit...

It should be noted that Myakka was also the location for what are probably the most circulated photos of the alleged skunk ape.  They were sent to the Sarasota County Sheriff's Department anonymously by a woman who had taken them in 2001.  Many dismissed the pics as of being an orangutan while others say they are the most important evidence to date.

2001 Myakka Skunk Ape

The Skunk Ape is commonly reported being sighted in the Everglades of Florida. They reportedly stand 7 to 8 feet tall and give off a smell that has been described as methane mixed with rotten eggs, hence it's name.  Theorists believe it comes from the same species as bigfoot. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Robert Johnson and the Crossroads

We're always talking about following the butterflies on Lost Creek.  That reference to the butterfly effect has sent us on another angle, sort of along the same lines.  Like with the butterfly effect, every choice we make builds on ones we have made before, and then get built upon by the ones we make afterward, and compile to form our lives.  Are all the choices we make gonna be the right one? My mamaw always told me there wasn’t but one perfect human, and he died on a cross.  So no, won’t get them all right.  But the Lost Creek folks believe that the secret is even if you come to a crossroad, take a wrong turn and veer off that straight and narrow path,  you gotta keep that junction in the road in sight As soon as u choose to take a wrong turn, you're faced with three or four more choices that then determine where your butterflies take you.  Two wrongs don’t make a right, and will get you lost on this metaphorical road map of life.  After much research and philosophying, the Lost Creek folks have came to the conclusion that when we find ourselves at these crossroads, as hard, or easy sometimes, as it may seem, keeping sight of that junction and doing our best to stay on that road is the key to success.  

Choices are made at crossroads.  Whether you're driving your old truck and come to an actual 4-way stop, or are faced with a decision that has to be made from multiple options.  The things we do every day, are choices.  We don't think of them that way because we've done them for so long, but we still choose to do them.  Sometimes in life we find ourselves at one of these crossroads.  Here's the story of a classic crossroads encounter, sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

Robert Johnson

Robert Johnson was born in 1911 in Southern Mississippi. His parents tried to teach him that secular music was The Devil's Music, and when he was caught playing a harmonica his family cast him out.  He wanted desperately to play the guitar, and tried effortlessly, but he sucked.  Here's where the story starts to vary, but it's commonly agreed upon that someone told him to go to a certain crossroad at midnight and the Devil would make him a deal.  By this point Robert had married and had a child, but both his wife and baby had died, and some whispered it was because of the music he tried to play.

So Robert threw his guitar across his back and headed for the crossroad.  The most celebrated location believed to be the crossroad Johnson went to that night is in Clarksdale, Mississippi at the intersection of HWY 61 and HWY 49.  Others believe it is at the Junction of Old Highway 8 and Dockery Road.  Wherever Robert went, he was waiting anxiously when the midnight hour struck and he was tapped on the shoulder.  Some versions of the story say he never turned around, afraid perhaps to actually look at the devil, but only handed him his guitar.  Other versions tell that the devil came in the form of a large black man who walked up and took the guitar.  Either way, the devil tuned the guitar, played a couple songs on it, then handed it back to Johnson, thus giving him mastery over the instrument.

When the rumors of Johnson's deal with the devil began to spread, Johnson did nothing to dispel them.  In fact, he encouraged them, writing songs that alluded to such a deal having been made.  Some fans thought he had "the evil eye," but he actually had a small cataract.  During performances Johnson would often turn his back to the audience.  There is speculation that this was in order to keep other musicians from learning his secrets, but added to his mystery.  

As much mystery and controversy surround Robert Johnson's death as does his life.  Robert was 27 years-old and riding high on his music.  His career had taken off.  Robert was known to have a way with women, which may have led to his downfall.  There are as many different stories about his death as there are about his pact with the devil.  He had played at a party, and fell ill and died a few hours later.  Some immediately jumped to the conclusion that the devil had come to collect his debt. In reality Robert had been poisoned, probably by a bartender who was jealous of Robert's flirting with his wife, or by a girlfriend, jealous that Robert was talking with other women.

Adding to the legend is the tale that Robert died on his hand and knees, howling like a dog.  His songs had included lyrics about hell hounds chasing after him, and rumors quickly flew that his howling confirmed all the myth and legend, and the devil had came to collect his soul.  The mystery doesn't stop there, though.  There is much speculation about where Johnson's remains came to rest.  There are three different cemeteries that claim to be home to Johnson's grave; Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church near Morgan City; Payne Chapel near Quito, Mississippi; and the Little Zion M.B. Church north of Greenwood. 

Here's one of Robert Johnson's classics - Crossroad

The tale of Robert Johnson at the Crossroads is a classic Faustian story.  Faust was the lead character in an old German legend.  A scholar who has became bored with life, Faust makes a deal with the devil in exchange for all worldly knowledge.  In later variations, a love interest, Gretchen, falls victim a loophole in Faust's deal, but pleads with God and Faust is accepted into Heaven.  In earlier versions, Faust was so corrupted he did not believe his sins could be forgiven, and the Devil carried him down to Hell.  In the years since the legend crept through Germany, authors, screenwriters, songwriters, and creators of all sorts have used the Faust legend as the basis for their work.

Since the days of Robert Johnson stories of Musicians selling their souls to the Devil have continued to pop up here and there.  Recently paranoid forums and YouTube conspiracy channels lit up with clips of Beyonce's Super Bowl performance that they insist proves that Sasha Fierce, the alter ego she has said takes over on stage, isn't an alter ego but a demon she calls forth during this ritual, depending on which conspiracist you're listening to, either for the Illuminati, a race of hybrid aliens, or The Evil Entertainment Industry.  But who am I to judge? You watch this guy break it down....and see what you see.  I recommend finding the whole thing on YouTube and watching it first, but here's the controversial bit.....scrutinized by the narrator:

IF (little word, big meaning) Beyonce and Jay-Z cut some kind of deal with the dark powers that be for their fame and fortune, I'm left wondering why my brother isn't a redneck Eminem.  Let me explain.  While I once had the opportunity to sign a contract to sell my soul to the devil, I passed on the chance but my brother didn't let it go by.  I was house sitting for some friends and had a couple people over.  We were enjoying a fire in the backyard and truth be known were all somewhat intoxicated on something to some extent.  Someone told my brother about the contract and he wanted to see it.

I dug it out of my backpack.  On a recent trip to the head shop I'd came across this in the poster section.  I'd looked it up online, and while of course it wasn't the original, it was a copy of a handwritten contract that some famous guy from maybe France had drawn up a couple/three centuries ago.  I would look it up again now and tell you, but....getting to that part.

In his younger twenties, a couple of his buddies drinking beer, and  he reads over this contract.  Something to the effect of if Thee Signest This Contract, blah blah blah, for 20 years you get everything you want, then at the end of those 20 years the Devil comes knocking to collect his due.  He looked up and asked me if I was going to sign it.  When I told him I wasn't he asked to borrow my pen.  I just shook my head, I know my brother well.  I urged him to go all out if he was going to do it, and sign it in blood.  Our friends agreed and tried to get him to, but my poor brother's always been squeamish about blood, and I was a little concerned he'd pass out when he agreed to sign it in ink, then let us prick his finger and put a dot/smear of blood on it. 

He didn't pass out and soon after everyone was back about their business.  I was always writing stuff, making random notes, and in those days was bad to not keep a notebook on me and would just write on whatever I could find.  That night, I made some important notes on the back of the contract my brother had signed with the Devil.  He wanted to take it when he left, but I wanted to rewrite the notes so I'd have them and promised to give it to him when I came home the next day. 

My friends returned from their trip and I threw all my stuff I had with me into the back of my car.  I made sure the contract was in there, knowing my brother would kill me if I lost it, besides wanting the notes off the back of it.  I drove the 45 minute trip home, unloaded my stuff, and dropped an armload of it when I realized the contract was gone.  I got my brother to help me look, knowing it was there when I left Pikeville.  We looked everywhere, it had just vanished.  I told him it might show back up in about 20 years. 

By my estimation, almost half of that 20 year period is up.  I sometimes wonder if he didn't really sell his soul that night, but his 20 good years just haven't kicked in yet, hahahaha.  Love ya Bub. 

Believe me, peer pressure did not factor into him signing that contract that night.  In those days, that was something he would seek out to do.  Hold up, not saying he was a practicing Satanist or anything like that, but it must have ran in the family to be drawn to outrageous and mysterious stuff.  But he still made a choice that night.  Maybe a big choice, but we may never know which of the little choices are the ones that have the biggest outcomes. 

WARNING: The Lost Creek staff does not recommend attempting to sell your own soul, for any price, at any time.  If you are approached with such an offer, please let us know though, so we can check it out. 

We promised to keep you updated on what we found in that place where you can literally feel that UberEnergy, so here's a few recent good ones:

See anything unusual? They're everywhere....

Cropped and zoomed

5 or 6, at least

Everywhere, good luck counting...

Our favorite to date, get dizzy just looking at them all!

We'd also like to make a correction here...Robert Johnson being the founding member of the 27 Club and all, we realized we left out singer Amy Winehouse from our list of noteworthy musicians who had died at the age of 27 in our Curses 2.0 blog.  We do not know whether she had a white lighter in her possession at the time or not...
Amy Winehouse 1983-2011

Monday, June 10, 2013

Richard Ramirez Dead at 53

Infamous 1980s serial killer Richard Ramirez had sat on Death Row in San Quentin for the last 24 years.  Deemed the "Night Stalker" by media during his criminal rampage, Ramirez was admitted to a local hospital last week, before dying early Friday.  The official cause of death has been ruled as kidney failure, but because of a lot of red tape from the prison system, further details will not be known for some time.  Ramirez was 53.

Ramirez was born in El Paso, Texas in 1960.  By the time he was in his early 20's the amateur thief and drifter had made his way to Southern California. He already had a criminal history and was a regular drug user.  The summer of 1984 saw the arrival of fear and panic in the greater Los Angeles area, reminiscent of the Manson family atrocities in the late 1960s.  Windows and doors were locked, handguns were kept by dressers in neighborhoods that had never seen such violence. 

It all started with breaking into homes to support himself, and his growing drug habit.  Ramirez, who had been nicknamed "Dedos", Spanish for 'fingers' as a result of his youthful thievery, made his entrance into homes through unlocked windows or doors, and usually killed any males inside, and then raping, before usually also killing, any females.  

Sometimes by oversight, or perhaps on purpose, Ramirez left a few victims with their life, although they would be physically and mentally scarred forever, like Bill Carns, one of the Night Stalker's last victims, whom he shot in the head several times and was left partially paralyzed.  If acts such as those committed by Ramirez can be thought of as anything similar to typical, this was a typical attack for Ramirez, as after he shot Carns and thought him dead, we won't get too graphic here, but he forced Carns' girlfriend to perform sexual acts on him after making her swear her allegiance to Satan.

From the summer of 1984 through the next year, the area in and around Los Angeles heard stories of home invasions in which the home owners were usually killed.  Descriptions made by survivors led police to put out a composite sketch of the suspect.  During this time, Ramirez continued his spree with no concern about the media attention he was drawing.  An equal-opportunity murderer, Ramirez killed both men and women, from ages 9 to over 60, and crossed cultural boundaries as well.  He appeared to be an opportunistic impulse killer rather than the typical, profile-fitting serial killer.  His calling card, so to speak, were the satanic symbols often left at the crime scene; pentagrams painted with the blood of the victims, on the victims. 

Scared that the picture of him on the news would get him captured, Ramirez attempted to steal a Ford Mustang from the owner's driveway.  The owner, a teenager, spotted him and went outside with his dad to confront the man.  Neighbors gathered, and there were reports that Ramirez was beaten by the mob.  When officers arrived, they found chaos, everyone trying to explain what had happened at once.  They noticed at least one impromptu mob member wielding a long steel pipe.  The mob-members had already identified Ramirez from the police sketch.  Ramirez begged the officers ,"Dejame en paz! Dejame en paz!" or 'Leave me in peace.' in Spanish.  

Following his arrest was a media-circus trial also similar to that of Charles Manson's.  Ramirez groupies, identifying with the dark, rebellious young man, showed up to court as groupies, dressed clad in black as Ramirez often dressed.  Several of the groupies were young, impressionable women, who found something not only mysterious, but also handsome and lust-worthy in the defendant.  Ramirez took to wearing sunglasses in the courtroom, and refused when asked to remove them.  

The trial was much like a horror show, in which jurors were shown gruesome crime scene photos and heard, described in detail, how one victim's eyes were gouged out and another nearly beheaded.  The trial costed LA County $1.8 million, which was not surpassed until the O.J, Simpson trial.  Ramirez would often draw pentagrams on his palms for photographers to see, and would shout "Hail Satan," during the proceedings.  He was convicted for 13 murders, 5 attempted murders, 11 counts of sexual assault, and 14 counts of burglary.  upon hearing this, he formed the symbol of horns using 2 fingers and mouthed the word "Evil."

Days later the death sentence was handed down.  Ramirez relpied, "Big Deal.  Death always went with the territory,"  before adding, "I'll see you in Disneyland."  While appearing before the judge to be officially sentenced, Ramirez said, "You do not understand me. I do not expect you to. You are not capable of it. I am beyond your experience. I am beyond good and evil. Legions of the night, night breed, repeat not the errors of night prowler and show no mercy. I will be avenged. Lucifer dwells within us all."

The story of the Night Stalker doesn't end there, however.  One woman, Doreen Lioy, sat through the trial faithfully, wrote him letters, and even visited him in prison.  It was there in 1996 that the two were married.  In an interview, she described Ramirez as "funny, charming, and kind" and added , "I think he's a really great person. He's my best friend; he's my buddy."  Friends and family have described Debbie as detached from reality and as living in a fantasy world.

Ramirez and Doreen

Ramirez was taken from San Quentin and admitted to Marin General Hospital north of San Francisco.  The Department of Corrections reported his death early Friday, of natural causes.  It has since been reported that the actual cause of death was liver failure, nothing else has yet been released.  One witness reported seeing Ramirez the day before he died, and described his skin as having a green color to it, "He looked like a highlighter."  

While it wasn't in a gas chamber or while strapped to a bed an a lethal cocktail injected into him, perhaps the death of Ramirez will bring closure to the victims he left, and the families of those he didn't. Not once did he show any remorse for his actions, or deny his guilt. With all the outbursts during his trial, and his self-proclaimed adherence to Satanism, surely he was tested to ensure he was competent to stand trial, but the mental health of the Night Stalker can't help but be questioned.  Yes, his crimes were horrendous, some unspeakable, but surely he knew the difference in right and wrong, since he claimed allegiance with the King of Wrong, Satan himself.  Of all the outrageous claims Ramirez made, we're certain that one of them came to fruition, "I have no fear of dying, Satan's waiting on me in Hell."  I'm sure he was waiting...

For those of you with the stomach and twisted mind that wants to see the crime scene photos, click here.  Warning - not for the kiddos!!!

updated mugshot - 2007