Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hobo Camps: Riding the Railroads with Hobos

Along the Arizona and other railroad tracks across the country are various spots called, hobo camps. These camps are shared by traveling operatives or homeless drifters known as hobos. Usually destitute, they are simply workers that meander from place to place doing odd jobs. Hobos are nothing like tramps, who travel and usually work if they have to, or bums who never work at all. They are penniless vagabonds who set up camps or make-shift homes in whatever place they happen to get a job. As soon as the work is finished, they pick up their personal belongings, and hop a train to their next destination.

Where did the name “hobo” come from? There are several theories on the name such as the term hoe-boy meaning “farmhand”, or it could be from various greetings, “Ho, boy” or “Ho, beau”, meaning “homeward bound”. The origin of the name is just as mysterious as when hobos were first seen riding the railroads. It was either the mid or late 19th Century and could have been soldiers leaping onto the freight trains home after the American Civil War, or people heading west to a new life.

There were so many folks jumping the trains that in 1906 they estimated that 500,000 hobos were riding from place to place and living out of hobo camps. By 1911 the numbers increased to an astounding 700,000 hobos, tramps and bums. By the 1930’s and during the Great Depression, the hobo population was at its all time highest. There were no jobs to be had in most towns and cities so many decided to take their chances elsewhere and hopped the freight trains looking for work.

This was not an easy life and was extremely risky. Many of these nomadic penniless hobos were usually harassed by the railroad employees, security, and the train’s crew. Not only did they put up with the railroad people but had to fight the dangerous elements. Jumping on a moving train is not only crazy but treacherous as well. One false move and you could lose a limb, get caught between the cars, or ultimately lose your life. Sometimes the weather is dreadful and one could freeze to death, especially those hiding in the ice cars. Others may rob or kill you while you sleep for the minuscule amount of money you might be hiding. Being a hobo was and is not an easy life.

Today they estimate that there are around 20,000 people living as hobos across the country. Even though the trains nowadays are much faster than those of the 1930’s, many are boarded at rail yards. Hobos not only have their own lingo, but also abide by the “Hobo Ethical Code”. These 16 rules were set up by Tourist Union #63 during its 1889 National Hobo Convention in St. Louis, Missouri and voted upon as a valid set of laws to reign the Nation-wide Hobo Body.

When Sharon (Autumnforest) and I were at the abandoned trailer park near Mobile, we noticed deserted campsite nearby. Hanging in the trees was a tarp or blanket with a small table underneath. The ground below looked disturbed as if someone might have been lying on it recently. There was a rusty barrow with two plastic patio chairs nearby, perhaps used for cooking and keeping a fire. There was lots of junk just tossed about in and around the area. We were not sure how long this camp was vacant, but with the extreme Arizona weather, they probably didn’t stay long. Was this a hobo camp? The abandoned trailer park was near the highway and across from that was a railroad track. We were not sure who occupied this camp but were glad there were not there at that time.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Wanted: The Plastic Imposter

Be on the lookout for a plastic ventriloquist doll that goes by the name of Dale. He is telling people that he is a blogger and asking for hugs. “Do not” fall victim to this very clever entertainer and his smooth talk. He has been known to creep onto his human’s laptop while she is sleeping and bad-mouthing her on various post to her blog. He is not a true blogger and needs a human to help him with his crimes.

Now that the human and her friend are doing a hug-a-blogger blog and book, he wants to be featured. He is hugging any human that comes to visit and continues to feature himself on the blog in order to make his point, “I am a blogger”.

He is described as barely 2 feet, red plastic hair, prominent nose, blue eyes, and a smart ass grin with a deformed bottom lip. He was last seen wearing a black, grey, and white button down plaid shirt, tan pants, and black socks. He is usually sitting on his human’s steamer trunk near her front door but is known to slip out during the night to post something to the blog or watch his human’s horror flicks while she sleeps.

If you see this little booger, please report him immediately to the Blogger Police. We must stop his shenanigans.

*NOTE: I’m not scared of Dale most of the time. When we are in a dark room and I don’t know where the little beast is, scares me the most. I am waiting for the day that he comes up behind me and says, “Hi Julie, whacha doing?” After that, there will be a loud scream followed by smoke from me running so fast, my shape in the door because I ran through it, followed by a stream of wet from me pissing my pants.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Mobile: Arizona's Little Desert Town

Sitting about 35 miles southwest of Phoenix, Arizona, is the minuscule town of Mobile. With fewer than 100 residences living there, it is also home to several solid-waste landfills and UFO sightings. Just north of Mobile is a private airport where many student pilots receive their training. This desolate town was where the first black community was located in Arizona.

Founded in the 1930’s, Mobile was once rumored to have been named for some of its early African-Americans settlers that lived there and came from Mobile, Alabama. That story was put to rest when records proved the town was named by the railroad companies in the 1920’s. In the 1930’s two railroad cars were used as schools and segregated by color. One was for the white children and the other was for the black children. Many of the African-American pioneers living in Mobile had established a place they called, “Negro Flats” tanks to do all their baptisms. This tank was basically a cattle watering hole in the desert where the other cowboys would stand around and poke fun at their beliefs during the many baptisms.

The town experienced its highest population count around 400 souls in the 1950’s. Mobile was deficient in places of employment, running water and learning accommodations that only offered up till 8th grade education. Many of the residence departed from Mobile leaving it a virtual abandoned town. Now days, this tiny desert town has less than 100 people calling it home. In 2007, it was annexed as part of Goodyear, Arizona with a huge development planned. But with the troubled economy, that plan was put on hold.

Now when you drive out there you see scattered houses, an abandoned trailer park, and the mounds of landfills throughout the place. Sharon (Autumnforest) and I drove to the small town cemetery. You notice the scattering of headstones standing amongst the dirt of the desert. The sign on the post was made by our very own Autumnforest. Nearby the cemetery is a burnt-out house that perhaps a family used to occupy. Off in the distance is the Estrella Mountains were many UFO sightings have been reported. (Check out my post of the UFO Sightings at Estrella Mountains. )

Mobile may not be much to look at these days, but like all the other small Arizona towns, it is rich in history.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Ghosts of Tombstone's Boarding Houses

Tombstone is famous for many things, mainly the Bird Cage Theatre and O.K. Corral. It is the lesser known places around town that have their own ghostly tales and are just as interesting. So dust off your boots and hang up your hat and listen to the stories of the ghosts of Tombstone’s boarding houses.

The Aztec House:
During its heyday, Tombstone was riddled with notorious gunslingers, businessmen, and miners. This male driven town had many soiled doves to entertain them that were working in the brothels and saloons around town. One of the more upscale, high class boarding houses was the Aztec House where anyone with money would plunk down plenty of gold coins to spend the night there. Mostly men stayed in the rooms and would usually entertain whores there.

Stories about ghostly activities inside and in front of the Aztec House have been reported by many eyewitnesses. A strong male presence has let itself be known that he doesn’t like any females that stay at the house making them feel so uncomfortable that they will usually end up leaving. A woman watching the house for the owner had her dog with her when strange things started to occur. She heard noises and saw lots of movement, dark shadows, and the doors in the kitchen opening by unseen forces. Needless to say, they did not spend the entire night at the house.

The outside of this present day antique shop has been visited by a mysterious apparition of a woman in white. She has been seen numerous times in front of the shop, perhaps driven there by the authentic items of her era on sale inside. There are many theories on why she is there and one is that she was an 1880’s brothel madam who was hung at the courthouse. Maybe this occurred outside the Aztec House and she is on the hunt for her executioners. Another story about the lady in white is that her child died of Yellow Fever and she killed herself on the steps of the Aztec House. She has been seen wandering the streets of Tombstone and always making a stop at the Aztec House.

San Jose Boarding House:
This boarding house was a favorite of Doc Holliday’s. He would lay his hat there while in Tombstone and during visits with his lady love, Big Nose Kate. Many wonder if Doc’s spirit is still hanging around because of the paranormal experiences that some have claimed happened to them especially in the room Doc liked to stay in. Some of the activity is of doors opening and shutting by themselves and the toilet keeps flushing for no apparent reason. One guest had several pictures taken of him and his lady friend while in that room. In all the pictures, she had a strange haze over her face and his face was clear. They moved positions and the haze was still over her face. There was no explanation for the unusual occurrence. An owner tells of a frightening experience that she had while in the house. One night she had trouble breathing as if she was being choked. She yelled the Father’s name loudly and right afterwards felt much better.

Barrows Boarding House (now known as Tombstone Boarding House):
This adobe house was built in 1880 by Tombstone’s first bank manager and has a white picket fence outside. In the early 1930’s it was remodeled and enlarged giving more rooms to the boarding house. Its owners have many remarkable ghost stories to tell about their own personal experiences and what their guests lived through as well.

One story centers about Billy Clanton and the White Room. It is rumored that after the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, that the critically injured Billy was taken to the Barrows house and put in the White Room. Suffering in great pain and given medicine to calm him down, Billy eventually died when his heart stopped pumping. This is just one rumor because other stories have been told that Billy died right away from his wounds. Whatever the truth may be, many claimed to have seen Billy’s ghost in that room. Some people ask for the White Room and hope that Billy’s spirit will make an appearance to them. Other apparitions have been seen as well. A young blond-haired man and woman have been observed in the room with her begging the gentleman to not go near the window. The eyewitness felt several angry presences outside the room as if it was some sort of lynch mob.

The White Room isn’t the only place in the boarding house to have reported ghostly activity. The Green Room seems to be where people have experienced vivid dreams. Two women staying in that room weeks apart had the exact same intensive dream. Both reported seeing a young woman in Victorian clothing and a man in a hat walking through their room, out the door, and into a garden with climbing roses on a trellis.

In the Gold Room, producers of the movie, Ghosts of Tombstone, stayed in that room and reported hearing footsteps as if someone was walking around the room all night. They never saw anyone and couldn’t explain the strange phenomenon.

In the main house guests have reported seeing two ghosts, a mother and daughter, polishing the furniture. Apparently in afterlife they still care how the place looks.

Tombstone is a magnet for many ghost sightings even in its lesser known places. Stay a night and see who will visit you when the sun sets in this vast desert town.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Buddhist Temple Execution

There have been many bizarre murders in and around the City of Phoenix, but the killing of six Buddhist monks was extremely shocking. Even though the killings were horrible, it was the manner to which they were murdered that was the most appalling. On Saturday, August 10, 1991, during the scorching summer, nine people, which included six Buddhist monks, a nun and two acolytes, were found shot to death at the Wat Promkunaram Buddhist temple in the far west area of Phoenix. A temple member found the bodies lying side by side in what appeared to be an execution-style killing. The homicides were label the largest mass slaying in Maricopa County’s history.

Among the fatalities was a 71 year old num, Foy Sripanpiaserf, who was the grandmother of the youngest murder victim, Matthew Miller. Miller was 16 years old, a novice monk, and a high school student. Some of the other victims included a high priest and a 21 year old acolyte. Authorities said that there were no signs of struggle or resistance. Only two small rooms appeared to have been disheveled with the temple area and main rooms looking as if they were untouched, leaving no motive for the murders.

This is what the investigators found upon arrival of the crime scene: The bodies of all nine victims were found in the living room near a couch and still dressed in their saffron robes. The carpet underneath the bodies and their clothing was saturated in blood. They were arranged in a circular pattern and lying face down. They were all shot in the back of the head at close range, some at least three times. Their fingers were laced together behind their necks and from the way the bodies fell, it looked like they were praying and gave no resistance.

To get some sort of clues about who would commit such a heinous act of violence, they found some strange evidence in and around the crime scene. In the middle of the bodies was an ashtray filled with remains of a fire that appeared to be put out with a couple of extinguishers. The monks didn’t smoke so they figured that this act was just done out of shear sick pleasure. A pile of keys was found on a table, the word “bloods” was carved in a wall, shell casings from a 20-gauge shotgun, as well as more casings from other types of shot guns. They figured the keys were probably used to locate a safe and with more than one type of casing found at the crime scene, it would appear that more than one person enacted the killings.

Who would carry out this extremely violent crime on a group of monks in their temple while they were praying? On August 20th, during a standard traffic stop, the Luke Air Force Base officer noticed a rifle lying on the passenger side of a car driven by 17 year old Rolando Caratachea. Behind Caratachea’s car was another driven by 16 year old Jonathan Doody, who was of Thai descent, and was also pulled over for “suspicious activity.” The boys were stopped the next day but this time they were together in the same car. The officer inquired where the rifle was at and Caratachea said that it was in his car parked at Doody’s house. They found the rifle somewhat hidden and by law had to report it to the sheriff deputy. The boys were found to have no record so the rifle was returned back to them.

It would be a month later that the Office of Special Investigations heard about the incident and check police records and issued a warrant to take hold of the rifle. No assessment was done on the rifle right away. Instead it was put in evidence with about 80 other rifles that were also confiscated for testing. It wouldn’t be until October 24th when investigators got a break in the case. The weapon that was retrieved from Caratachea’s car, .22 caliber semiautomatic Marlin rifle, proved to be a match with the bullet casings found in the temple. Upon further examination of the place, they found a 20-gauge Stevens shotgun which match the casings, presenting the investigators both weapons. The search also turned up two knives, a camouflage hat, two facemasks, and gloves leading them to believe that the motive was robbery. Another theory for the murders was that it could have been some sick desire to play war that the boys decided to carry out.

In typical fashion, they made different statements about the killing, each saying that it was the other guy’s idea and they pulled the trigger, killing all nine victims. Doody acting all innocent said that it was a large gang he was with and was outside when all the shooting started. He didn’t know why they had all those weapons and thought there were at the temple as a “challenge” to beat the sensor alarm for the building. He went on to say that his family was in danger of being hurt by these men. A judge didn’t buy the stories and said that the boys would be tried as adults with the maximum penalty of death.

In 1993, Garcia decided to testify against Doody in exchange for a sentence of life in prison. Garcia pleaded guilty and explained the whole events of what happened on August 9, 1991. The intention was robbery because they heard rumors that the monks had a safe with lots of money, with guns, and cameras in their rooms. They figured that the monks would be an easy mark and wouldn’t put up a fight. They made a war game of it, wearing camouflage gear and carried assault rifles. They arrived at the temple around 10 and 10:30 pm, forcing them to kneel in a circle looking at each other, while they ransacked the place. Shortly afterwards, the nun came in and they had her to kneel down and be part of the group. For an hour they waited while the men vandalized the temple collecting over $2,500, cameras, and stereo equipment, but having no success discovering which key opened the safe. Garcia goes on to say that he wanted to go but it was Doody who didn’t want to leave anyone behind that can testify against them, and carved the word “Bloods” in the wall.

On July 12, 1993, Jonathan Doody was sentenced to 281 years in prison for his part in the murders. Garcia was sentenced to 271 which was the maximum punishment under the plea agreement. It was still unclear who actually pulled the trigger, but this senseless act of execution will still go down in Phoenix history as one of the largest mass murders to date. It makes you wonder if the spirits of these nine helpless people are still wandering around the Wat Promkunaram Buddhist Temple. I didn’t find any evidence of ghosts on the premises, but that doesn’t mean their spirits aren’t there.