October 30, 2019

Exploring The Haunted Historic Harris House on Halloween Eve Eve

Photo: Online Archive of America, Public Domain

"To a person accustomed to and appreciating the advantages of the city, but who prefers a life in the country for consideration of health, pleasure or profit, the ideal location for a home is found in a pleasant country neighborhood within a few minutes ride of the city." 
- Glendale Improvement Association, 1904

Built in 1902—when architecture was transitioning from Victorian elements leftover from the 19th century and into Craftsman styles—the Victorian Transitional-style Harris House is now a grand old home on an unusually big 9029-square-foot lot. 

From East Wilson Avenue (formerly West Third Street, when the city’s east-west streets were numbered instead of named), you can admire the horizontal wood siding behind the old-growth trees, the steeply-pitched gabled roofs with bands of overlapping sawtooth shingles hovering over a brick foundation.

It's a rare example of its kind in Glendale, where the style wasn't as popular as it was in other areas (like, reportedly, Pomona).

It was erected four years before the City of Glendale was incorporated, when Glendale was merely a subdivision tract of the former Rancho San Rafael—and more or less part of Los Angeles.

Along with the Goode House, a Queen Anne-Eastlake Victorian from 1892 located down the road, the 3,446 square-foot Harris Residence was one of the first homes to be built in Glendale.

And in 2014, it was added to the Glendale Register of Historic Resources—mostly for its architecture.

But there's some fascinating human history that occurred under those 12-foot ceilings of this single-family residence, which was once used as a boarding house for women in the 1940s.

And if you believe in such things, it appears as though the energy of some of those humans still hasn't left the Harris House.

Maybe it's because widows had a habit of inhabiting the house—starting with Harriet Harris, the original owner after whom the house has been named. It was her home until 1917.

There are some gaps in the information about all of the prior owners, though it's known that between 1921 and 1942, it was Anna M. McCrea and her daughter Catherine who lived in the house.

In 1981, Eileen Mary Davitian (Manus)—not a widow—bought the house and, in 2013, sold it with her husband John to the current owner.

I didn't know anything about the prior or current residents of the Harris House when I entered into its
"hall of doors" from the front...

...or when I admired the carved goat finial for the newel post of the staircase leading up to the second floor (who I immediately named "Black Phillip").

I didn't know who Aunt Laura was, or how she'd painted the recently restored self-portrait that hangs in the back of the entryway.

I'd gotten into the Historic Harris House—now also a horror film location—by buying a ticket to a seance and paranormal hunt hosted by Bizarre Los Angeles.

But I had no intention on meeting any ghosts while sitting within the circle in the dining room, at a centuries-old circular antique table with huge dog feet.

Some say they felt more than one presence in the front parlor, including blasts of cold air.

Some say they even saw figures lurking around the rear parlor, their faces reflected in mirrors and glass cases.

Maybe I was too busy looking at the house itself...

...and the current owner's unusual decor of taxidermied animals and cat portraiture.

I didn;t encounter any new ghosts there. But I always kind of feel like I've got a presence with me, somebody from beyond whispering in my ear.

Sometimes I feel the flat of someone's hand pressing up against the middle of my back while I'm ying on my side in bed. Our medium said to me, "That's how they try to get in."

So, I think I've just got no vacancy. I'm fully booked—and already haunted enough.

Related Posts:
That Which Haunts Me
These Terrors of the Night
These Creatures of the Night

October 29, 2019

Open House: A Backyard Imagineer's Disney-Themed Garden Railroad

Southern California is full of model railroaders. I don't know if it's the good weather year-round or the excess time on their hands, but people just love miniature trains out here.

You can blame Walt Disney for part of that—not only because of his own backyard railway but also the crucial role that trains play in the Disneyland experience.

And now, that's inspired architect David Sheegog—who grew up walking distance from the park and worked there on its canoe attraction during summers while in college—to create his own backyard garden railroad, the Castle Peak and Thunder Railroad (CPTRR).

It features the same trains as at Disneyland, also stopping at their own Main Street Station (this one fabricated of laser cut acrylic). Only two of them can run on the main line at any given time—be it the reproductions of the real Disneyland locomotives and rolling stock like the E.P. Ripley, Fred Gurley, Ernest S. Marsh, Ward Kimball, or C.K. Holliday.

This has been Sheegog's hobby for the past two decades—having started construction in 1999 and hosted his first open house in 2000.

Every year, Disneyphiles scramble for reservations to see the railroad in action at Sheegog's home in Anaheim Hills...

...where tiny trains pass by a tiny Haunted Mansion and its tiny ghosts... well as some newly added ghosts from the Disney movie Coco. 

The Sleeping Beauty Castle (made of plywood, PVC, wood turnings and cast resin veneer) has been there pretty much since Sheegog drafted his original plans for it (just like any good architect would)...

...but Rapunzel’s tower from Tangled was added later, after the movie came out in 2010.

Like Disneyland itself, CPTRR is meant to be a work-in-progress, constantly evolving and changing with  the times. For now, there's still an homage to Pixar's Up (2009) next to Big Thunder Mountain (which was painted with paint left over from the painting of Disneyland’s Big Thunder Mountain).

But maybe one day it'll have to make way for something new. After all, the focus tends to be on what can actually be found at Disneyland.

The narrow-gauge Casey Jr. Circus Train, featuring the locomotive character from Dumbo, was one of the original Disneyland attractions (in Fantasyland) when the park first opened in 1955. The CPTRR version—with handmade caboose, cage cars, and calliope—runs continuously on an elevated track that separates it from the rest of the rolling stock.

Sheegog says he'd already had figurines of the seven dwarves from the toy collection his kids had grown out of—but when he added them to the railroad scenes, he realized they needed a place to live. Hence, the storybook cottage made of wood and plaster, with a thatched roof.

Among the character tableaus (like from The Lion King, above)...

...there are plenty of "hidden Mickeys" to look for...

...and characters to try to identify from movies you haven't seen for years.

Children seem particularly good at that. But movies like Ratatouille, I would argue, aren't just for kids.

And neither are teensy cable cars, skyways, or amusement parks where you “enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy.”

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Tiny Villages at the LA County Fairgrounds (Updated for 2018)
My Turn to Ring the Bell
This 40 Year-Old Princess Has Found Her Kingdom
The Ghost Train of Griffith Park

October 27, 2019

Photo Essay: Indian Summer at Bellagio Conservatory

Explorers who landed on North American shores—and mistook the continent for the East Indies—observed what they called an "Indian Summer," when the weather should've been cool but instead was warm enough for a second harvest.

It's technically unseasonably warm, except it kind of happens that way every year, across the continent.

Designer Ed Libby chose this theme—and the misattribution of its origin—as the focus of the autumn installation in the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Garden, on display now.

While other casino resorts on the Las Vegas Strip may be focused on recreating the opulence of ancient Greece, Rome, or Venice; or approximating stereotypical Paris or New York City; or meeting the ever-changing expectations of "luxury"; the Bellagio actually employs an executive director of horticulture that works with a designer to create immersive, botanical experiences for each season.

For the current display, that includes Indian chandeliers and kalire—the auspicious symbol commonly found at Indian weddings, particularly surrounding the bride—hanging from the oxidized copper of the ceiling framework and beams, with its green patina (a.k.a. verdigris).

In this display, there are no Indian brides—only fairies.

And a Maharaja riding an Asian elephant carrying a covered pavilion—called a "hathi howdah," where passengers ranking among kings or princes would be seated (even though in reality, it's terrible for the elephant's back and the practice is now discouraged).

Maybe the historical fantasy depiction is OK here, since the 14-foot elephants have been constructed of painted foam and not flesh and bone.

Their foam ankles wear bells...

...and their backs are covered by blankets that are made of 20,000 roses and embellished with tassels made of three varieties of flowers (tuberose, marigolds, and carnations).

Libby's team of 125 staffers tries to closely follow the Tournament of Roses guidelines for using natural materials—and therefore incorporates as many different botanical species as possible. As a result, these creatures look reminiscent of floats from the Rose Parade.

For instance, the 10-foot-tall Bengal tiger—the national animal of India—is covered in 290 lbs. of seeds, from black caraway to yellow lentils (as well as red and yellow cargo rice).

And the foxes lounging and playing on a magic carpet—underneath a 28-foot "talking" tree—are covered in red lentils, split chick peas, and muth.

For this display, though, roses are particularly significant.

Roses adorn the arched entryway (based on the design of a mandap, which is sort of the Indian version of the Jewish chuppah) as well as many of the installations that surround it.

In Hinduism, the rose symbolizes purity, love, spirituality, and beauty—so much so that the Hindu gods Vishnu and Brahma are said to both favor it among all the flowers.

And although roses typically bloom in June, they're used here to represent that second summer—that Indian summer—that occurs later in the year (and sometimes all winter long, 'round these parts).

The current display opened September 14 and will run through November 30, 2119.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: The Float-tastic Floral Creations of The Rose Parade, 2019
Photo Essay: A Closer Look at the 2018 Rose Parade Floats
Photo Essay: The Floats of the Rose Parade, 2015

October 26, 2019

Photo Essay: Tim Burton's Lost Vegas at The Neon Museum

If there was one thing I was definitely going to do this Halloween season... was to get myself back to Vegas, back to The Neon Museum, to see the Tim Burton show.

Tim Burton grew up in Burbank—and his experience in Southern California (and, by its adjacency, Vegas) shaped much of his adult work.

I share his fascination with the "peculiar and beautiful" past of Las Vegas—which he dubs "Lost Vegas" in his new, temporary exhibit at the neon museum.

He, too, has been haunted by hotel implosions and sign boneyards.

His artistic overlay, which made its debut this month, is therefore subtle.

Looking for his touches feels like embarking on a treasure hunt.

Some are obvious—though, as they're fabricated out of neon, they blend in.

Others are more subtle, invoking past Burton inspirations which might've come out of either his early family trips to Vegas or his later solo excursions where he could peacefully isolate himself amidst the chaos.

The new pieces are tucked into corners, in between salvaged signs not yet relit, and characters are peeking out from behind ropes you're not supposed to cross.

It's madness—though, if you haven't gone specifically to see it and have never before visited the museum, you might not even notice it.

Of course, it's difficult to ignore the members of the Martian Army from his film Mars Attacks, which takes place and was filmed in Vegas.

But Vegas—and Nevada as a whole—is so inextricably linked to extraterrestrials and Area 51, maybe the Martians blend in, too.

The most obvious contribution of the "Lost Vegas" exhibit to the museum is an inflated dome...

...featuring a set of digital dioramas around its diameter, many set in Sin City...

...including Burton's non-cinematic characters like Mummy Boy (at the old Sahara), Oyster Boy, and Robot Boy (who of course falls in love with a slot machine).

I'd braved the crowds to visit the Tim Burton retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City during its 2009-10 run, but "Lost Vegas" is entirely different.

Not only is it a show of new works—but those works are site-specific to Vegas. And reportedly, it won't travel elsewhere.

I, therefore, was happy to travel to it.

Because old neon is tasty. And I'm constantly looking for a reason to go back and take a bite.

*all photos taken on a Samsung Galaxy J3 Prime cellphone, as no proper cameras are allowed.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Neon Boneyard, Vegas
Photo Essay: Neon Boneyard At Night (Updated for 2019)
Where the Dead Neon of Vegas Gets Resurrected