Man, it feels good to be writing about folklore again after that whole Video Game Expose thing. Still getting lots of email, but no more mailbags on it. Just back to food and mythology now.
And without further ado, let’s get to your questions for me.
I am writing in regards to a hill in the eastern part of North Carolina (my home state) which locals refer to as gravity hill. I have searched for this hill many times but have never found it. The legend states that if you park your car at the bottom of said hill and turn off your engine, your car will be magically “pushed” to the top of the hill. I have heard everything from optical illusions to magnetic fields to disprove this. I was wondering, is this an urban legend? Is there a “Gravity Hill” in every state of the union?
Well Rob, from what I was able to find, Gravity Hill is in Mayodan, North Carolina. And I found this description of it in “Roadside America:“
In the town of Mayodan, North Carolina, there is also a hill that you can roll up if you put your car in neutral. I always thought this was a fun thing to do when I was a child. I have tried to get my husband to believe this tale, but he won’t buy it. There is even a little story that goes with this. A friend told me when we were children that if you put flour on your car, and go to this spot, after you have rolled up, to get out of your car and look at where the flour is. She told me that you could see little hand prints in the flour as if the car had been pushed up the hill.
The Ghost children thing makes me roll my eyes as that’s no feasible in any way, but in fact “Gravity Hills/Wells” are not uncommon as there are places all over the United states that have these places where thanks to optical illusions and odd angles, things will appear to roll up instead of down. There’s even one at Paul Bunyan Land in Brainerd, Minnesota. However that’s a tiny one and you don’t use your car, instead you put a rock on an incline and watch it roll up.
So how does this occur? Obviously it’s not due to a lack of gravity or reverse gravity or antigravity or any crazy theories like that.
As I said above, many of these “Gravity Hills” are optical illusions. A good example of proof of this comes from the Gravity Hill in Owings Mills, Maryland where the Enigma Project hired a professional Surveyor to investigate. His name was Mike Gilbert and when all was said and done it turned our the “rise” the cars were going up was actually a “fall”. The human eye was playing a trick on itself, but the measurements shows the hill was a decline, not an incline.
This is true of all Gravity Hills. Thanks to how the land around it is positioned, the way the trees are aligned and other simple natural tricks, an optical illusion occurs and everything appears wonky. That’s all it comes down to.
There’s also some great websites for various Gravity Hills around the country. Here’s just a few. Notice most of them claim to be the only place in the world/country/state/what have you. This harkens back to the old classic roadside attractions of the first half of the 20th Century where people would erect bizarre attractions to entice travel weary parents and hyperactive children to stop and look at some kitsch for about 5-10 dollars and break the monotony of 55 mph trips.
New Parts, PA (Hilarious site too!)
Roadside America which gives you a nice look at some across the country. It’s also one of my favorite websites for planning random and bizarre road trips.
An article by the New York Times
With about 30 seconds of Internet research, you should be able to find one near where you live. They’re uncommon, but there always seems to be one within a day’s journey from people. I have noticed there are a lot of them in the NJ/PA area, although I have no idea why.
I should point out as these are optical illusions, there’s a chance they may work for some people and not for others. I’m pretty sure Blind people will be unable to witness the witness the phenomenon for example. :-P
So I hope that helps Rob. I can’t really help you in finding your specific one in regards to street and exact spot this occurs. However Gravity Hills and Mystery Spots do exist, but they can be scientifically explained as merely a trick of the eyes. Thanks for writing in!
Our next email comes from Peat Petruski who writes,
First time emailer, semi-longtime reader. At least as far as Inside Pulse material goes. I just wanted to say, quickly, that you’re one of the few writers on IP that I read regularly anymore. I’m a good little internet elitest fan, so I read you, Gloomchen, Eric S, and Hyatte. But, you’re the only one who’s consistent, so that goes pretty heavily in your favor (on top of being damn well spoken and read). I don’t know what got me to read Nyogtha in the first place, but I’m very glad I started.
I had a folklore/mythology question, that, if it’s real, I suppose would be good article material. I’m a huge Sandman fan, which is full of mythology references and symbolism. And I knew a lot of them. But, when reading an in-depth look at the series, I found out that Neil Gaiman didn’t make up one of the stories that I always assumed was originally his.
I’m going to go out on a limb and assume you’re familiar yourself with Sandman. If not, let me know and I’ll clear up what I’m talking about.
Anyway, in one of the Sandman collections, there’s a story about “the first emperor of the United States”. Basically, to prove Dreams can save people from despair, the Sandman makes a man believe he’s the true ruler of America. He goes on to become an American myth, like Paul Bunyan. What do you call that….a folktale, I suppose.
So, this came as complete surprise to me, this story is apparently based on a true story. In an interview, Gaiman said Emperor Norton was real, as was the meeting with Mark Twain, and another character called the King of Pain. I’d never heard of these characters (Well, aside from Twain, obviously) and I was interested to see if there was anymore to them. Is it anything you’d ever come across?
As a non-Nyogtha question, I’d just like to know, how does one go about becoming a folklore expert like yourself? It’s an absolutely fascinating career choice, and I’m sure it has it’s ups and downs like any job. But, it’s a hell of a lot better than most careers. It might be too late for me, since I’m already most of the way to a BA in English, but I’d still like to know how to got to where you are in such a way.
Well, that’s all. Please excuse my sloppy writing, as it’s nearly four in the morning (goddamn daylight saving’s time) and I hope you can shed some light on the Emperor Norton/King of Pain story, if not get a good article for your Daily Pulse out of it.
I was tempted to save this one for when Neil stops by this fall to do an issue of Nyogtha with me, but that’s still half a year away so we might as well do it now, eh?
But yes, when Neil does historical fiction as in Sandman and more recently his book, American Gods, he tends to use actual characters from history and give them a fictional twist. Both the King of Pain and the Emperor of America were real actual living breathing people, and our Emperor actually had a profound affect on San Francisco that still can be felt to the present day.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. For people that don’t know who I am talking about, I think it’s time to give you a forgotten history lesson and introduce you all to the first and only Emperor the United States of America ever had, a man by the name of Joshua Norton.
Joshua Norton was born on Valentines Day (Feb 14th) in London England. His parents left the United Kingdom for South Africa in 1820, and in 1849, Joshua Norton arrived in San Francisco with forty thousand US dollars, a staggering sum a century ago.
And in less than 15 years, he was bankrupt and penniless due to some very poor real estate investments. Joshua Norton than disappeared and in 1859 reappeared as sort of comical looking figure, complete with a naval uniform and beaver hat. Joshua entered the offices of the San Francisco newspaper known as The Bulletin and had them print the following:
At the preemptory request of a large majority of the citizens of these United States, I, Joshua Norton, formerly of Algoa Bay, Cape of Good Hope, and now for the past nine years and ten months of San Francisco, California, declare and proclaim myself Emperor of these United States, and in virtue of the authority thereby in me vested do hereby order and direct the representatives of the different States of the Union to assemble in Musical Hall of this city, on the 1st day of February next, then and there to make such alterations in the existing laws of the Union as may ameliorate the evils under which the country is laboring, and thereby cause confidence to exist, both at home and abroad, in our stability and integrity.
Emperor of the United States
September 17th, 1859
And with that simple proclamation, America had its first emperor: Norton I.
Now you’d be surprised. Not many people took this seriously. But Norton had a profound effect on the city of San Francisco, and eventually the entire country and in some ways the world itself. Yes, this “insane” Hobo quickly became a local celebrity. Norton even created his own currency nicknamed “Norton’s Notes,” which today are worth a lot of money to collectors. Here’s some examples.
The comedy is that Norton’s money was considered more reliable and valuable than “real” American paper currency at the time.
Now, anyone that proclaims themselves ruler of the entire country when there is already an established system of Government is going to be considered off their rocker. And Norton was no exception. He made some very bizarre proclamations. He declared using the word “Frisco” to be a misdemeanor and tainting the good name of the city of San Francisco. He fired Congress and Abe Lincoln. He even abolished the Republican and Democratic parties harkening back to George Washington’s own belief that Political Parties are evil and said,
“Being desirous of allaying the dissension’s of party strife now existing within our realm, [I] do hereby dissolve and abolish the Democratic and Republican parties, and also do hereby degree the disfranchisement and imprisonment, for not more than ten, nor less than five years, to all persons leading to any violation of this our imperial decree” -San Francisco Herald, August 4th, 1869.
And yet at the same time, Norton I issued some very interesting edicts that we still feel to this day. It was Norton I who actually came up with the idea of the “League of Nations”, the precursor to the United Nations which we have today. What does that tell you when US President Widrow Wilson takes an idea for a would be crackpot eccentric?
As well, in September 1872, Norton 1 issued a proclamation for the eventual creation of a bridge between the cities of San Francisco and Oakland.
WHEREAS, we issued our decree ordering the citizens of San Francisco and Oakland to appropriate funds for the survey of a suspension bridge from Oakland Point via Goat Island; also for a tunnel; and to ascertain which is the best project; and whereas the said citizens have hitherto neglected to notice our said decree; and whereas we are determined our authority shall be fully respected; now, therefore, we do hereby command the arrest by the army of both the Boards of City Fathers if they persist in neglecting our decrees.
Given under our royal hand and seal at San Francisco, this 17th day of September, 1872.
The Oakland-San Fransciso bridge construction began in 1933.
Norton I was truly loved by the people of San Francisco. He was allowed to eat anywhere in the city for free, and his two dogs, Bummer and Lasarus were allowed seating and sustience as well. The city of San Francisco itself paid for his clothing and the local Freemasons paid for his rent. Norton may have been a pauper, but he was loved by his city in a way no President ever has been.
In 1867, a rookie policeman arrested Norton beliving him insane and tried to put him in an aslyum. The city of San Francisco nearly rioted. The newspapers wrote scathing editorials about the police force and Norton I was let go and the police chief at the time, Patrick Crowley, issued a formal public apology to the Emperor of the United States of America. Norton pardoned the offending office and from then on, all Police Officers would salute Norton I when they encountered him until the day of his death.
It was even believed that Norton broke up the Anti-Chinese immigrant riots that occurred in the city by coming between the white rioters and the Chinese. He positioned himself between both sides, knelt down and began reciting the Lord’s Prayer. And with that, both sides ended the fighting and walked away peacefully and ashamed of their actions.
On the evening on January 8th, 1880, Joshua Norton collapsed on his way to a lecture at the Academy of Sciences. A citizen saw his fall and quickly alerted a nearby policeman who arranged for a fast carriage to take him to the closest hospital. Norton died of Apoplexy in the carriage. A successor to the Emperor was never named.
The Emperor of the United States of America died in abject poverty. His only possessions were his letters from Queen Victoria, a sabre, his collection of walking sticks, and a fistfull of his homemade currency. The original funeral proceedings were to have just a simple redwood coffin, the typical coffin of the time for those that could not afford one. But a San Francisco businessmen’s association known as the Pacific Club started a funeral fund and purchased him a fancy and dignified Rosewood casket.
Here now is a reprinting of the column from the San Francsico Chronicle, written three days after Norton I’s death.
Le Roi Est Mort
January 11, 1880
Imperial Norton is dead and turned to clay.
His funeral took place yesterday afternoon from the undertaking establishment at No. 16 O’Farrell street. All the afternoon the remains lay in state in the rear room of the Morgue. Thousands flocked thither for a last look at the man whose peculiarities of mind, garb and person had rendered him familiar to all.
The man of imaginary majesty, Emperor of the United States, Protector of Mexico and prospective consort of the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland and Empress of India, narrowly escaped burial in a plain redwood box. Some people, noting the odd manner of life of the old man, have unkindly surmised that his hallucination was simulated, and that he had adopted his strange life as a cover of a miserly hoard of unaccountably-acquired wealth. When his effects were searched it was found, as his best friends knew, that he had no means.
On his person was found five or six dollars in small change, which was all his store. He has no personal effects of any value, and but for the kindly remembrance of people of means who knew Norton and had business relations with him many years ago when he was a citizen of substance and standing, he would have had a pauper’s funeral at the city’s expense. A subscription paper to procure a funeral fund was drawn up and taken to the Pacific Club where the sponsors soon had all the money they deemeded necessary. The subscription list still lies on the table of the clubroom.
After the autopsy Friday the body was prepared for burial. It was clothed in black robe with a white shirt and black tie, and placed in a neat rosewood casket, trimmed handsomely but without elaboration. The general interest felt in the deceased was soon manifest. Early in the afternoon of Friday people who remembered the singular old man kindly, many of them gratefully and affectionately, bbegan to call and ask to be allowed a last glance at the familiar face. Among them were several ladies whose dress betokened prosperity. Some of them brought bouquets to be placed on the coffin. One, the daughter of a former well-known citizen and officer of the city government, in addition to her bouquet brought a delicate boutonniere, consisting of a tuberose and sprig of maiden’s hair, and pinned it to the lapel of the burial robe.
This lady appeared in deep mourning and betrayed the deepest feeling of any who gathered about the bier. She stated that she had known the deceased from her childhood and when he was prosperous had received many and great kindnesses at his hands. When she was a little girl he used daily to present her with flowers, which at that time were very costly.
Early yesterday morning the stream of visitors to the bier began. By 7 o’clock quite a number had dropped in, some of them laborers who had got off the car on their way to the shops, to take a last look at the remains of one whom none remembered save with kindly feelings; others were business men who stopped on their way downtown for a similar pupose. Soon the number began to increase and there was a steady stream of people pressing through the office to the little back room where the remains lay in state taking a last glance at the features and filing out at the side exit to make room for the constantly-increasing throng of visitors. By noon there were hundreds of people gathered on the sidewalk waiting their turn. Policemen were called in to regulate the entrance.
The visitors included all classes from capitalists to the pauper, the clergyman to the pickpocket, well-dressed ladies and those whose garb and bearing hinted of the social outcast, however, the garb of the laboring man predominated.
The coffin lid was partially removed, exposing the features in view. They were placid and composed as in life, bearing no sign of suffering in the supreme moment. It was remarked by some of the visitors that the outline of features and habitual trimming of the beard, which were observed in dressing for the grave, presented a remarkable likeness to the last Emperor of the French, whereupon the reporter of a morning contemporary pricked up his ears and made note of it, and went off to enlarge upon the details of the resemblance with much display of learning, concludeing with the statement that the dead man claimed to be an illegitimate son of Louis Napoleon, and going on to show that probably the name on the coffin plate was wrong, which, of course, is highly absurd.
The coffin plate, following the best information obtainable, states that Norton was 65 years old. Louis Napoleon, who was born at the palace of the Tuilleries April 20, 1808, if still living would be his senior by only six years. Norton never claimed to be his son.
The floral tributes, wreaths and bouquets were so numerous as to completely cover the coffin lid, the only exception being the silver plate, which bore this inscription neatly engraved:
Joshua A. Norton
Died January 8, 1880
Aged About 65
Joshua Norton was buried on Jan 10th, 1880. His funeral procession was two miles long and between 10-30 THOUSAND people attended. He was buried at the Masonic Cemetary and the city of San Francsico paid for the entire thing. The next day, there was a total solar eclipse.
In 1934, the city of San Francisco paid to have Norton’s remains and headstone moved to a new site in Woodlawn Cemetary. In January 1980, the city held a 100 year celebration/memorial for Norton I.
On December 14th 2004, the Cities of San Fransciso and Oakland passed a resolution to rename the bridge between the two cities originally concived of by the late Emperor after him.
And that my friends, is the true story of the first and only Emperor of the United States of America.
This week I’m going to be sharing my absolutely favorite Chinese Recipe. This was originally created by the father of Iron Chef Chinese Chen Kenichi. Simple, delicious, and something anyone can make. The original recipe called for Prawns, but I’ve switched it to Shrimp as they are easier to find in the average supermarket.
Shrimp in Chili Sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, Chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 fresh red chili, chopped
1 pound ripe tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste1 bay leaf
1 thyme sprig
6 tablespoons dry white wine
1 pound cooked jumbo shrimp, peeled (again, a slight change to make it easier for you to make this)
salt and ground pepper to taste
hand torn basil leaves, as garnish
1. Heat the oil in a pan, then add the shallots, garlic and chili. Stir-fry until the garlic starts to brown.
2. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, bay leaf, thyme, wine, and seasoning. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook gently for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened. Discard the herbs.
3. Stir the Shrimp into the sauce and heat thoroughlly for a few minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your preference. Scatter the basil leaves on top and serve at once.
In Games, Alex Williams reviews Donky Konga: Jungle Beat, while Geli Warner leaves us, but with a bang as she interviews the developers of the two player survival horror game Obscure. You all need this game BTW.
In Movies, Kubryk reviews Sahara, which I really enjoyed. Especially the soundtrack. But then I really like historical fiction. Oh, and Matt Coats reveals himself to be a digusting freakish furrie. Flame him.
Finally, in TV, I’ll just pimp Sarah Quigley although I have no idea what the hell she is talking about as I don’t watch TV.
Check the IP Fan Forums for the Inside Pulse Iron Chef Competition. It’ll be started by the time this goes up, so take part and have fun. I’ll see you same bat-time, same bat-channel!