Babes in the Woods

This is an interesting concept, though sad. Traditionally, the title comes from an anonymous tale originally published in 1595. It was later absorbed into Mother Goose and in 1932, Disney created a movie by the same name. If you’ll notice, it’s also pretty similar to the tale of Hansel and Gretel, with two innocent children going into the woods and being preyed upon or left to die. Clearly, this is rooted in some sort of cultural fear, given that it appears in both English and German folktales. Interestingly, it even made its way to North America, entering common language to mean innocents (not necessarily children) entering into unknown, dangerous situations (not necessarily a forest).

We can see this when we look at several murders that had this name attributed to them. This includes one case in Pennsylvania in 1934 and another in Vancouver, BC, in 1953. The murder in Stanely Park was never solved.

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Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia took ten years to build, starting in the early 1820s, and was one of the most expensive buildings constructed during that time. Prisoners were admitted and abuse-investigations were conducted before the building was even finished. This was partially because in the beginning, regardless of their crime, prisoners were placed in isolation. They could not interact with other prisoners, nor were they given anything to read and many had break downs very quickly. Those who lashed out at circumstances faced physical abuse, such as whippings or being doused in cold water and restrained. Blanket solitary confinement was abolished in the 1870s.

By 1913, the facility had 1300 prisoners (well over its 250 maximum occupancy) and the overcrowding led to neglect of the facilities, leaving it in squalor. In 1971, the prison was shut down since building a new prison would cost less than restoring Eastern State Penitentiary. It has since been converted to a museum, with some rooms restored–such as the cell Al Capone was confined to during his stay.

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Centralia, Pennsylvania

Did you know that the fictional town of Silent Hill from the film adaptation of the popular video game series of the same name was inspired by a real place? Welcome to Centralia, Pennsylvania. Here, dangerous carbon monoxide gas spews from beneath the ground and land collapses, leaving eerie cracks in the ground.

The source of the smoke is a fire in the coal mine beneath the city, which was discovered in May 1962. It’s unclear how the fire started, but there are several popular theories. One is that a scheduled trash-burning in the local landfill spread to the mine in the absence of a fire-resistant clay wall, the construction of which had fallen severely behind schedule. Another is that someone had dumped hot ash in the landfill the day before the waste-burning. Some even speculate that its source is actually the inextinguishable Bast Colliery coal fire of 1932, which had spread to the landfill.

Regardless of its source, the fire is estimated to burn for another 150 to 950 years. As a result, the town was condemned by the State of Pennsylvania and residents were relocated as the government bought their homes. Today, only seven people live in Centralia, and have petitioned on multiple occasions for the repeal of the condemnation, claiming the air quality is the same as Lancaster and that the fire has moved away from the town. A popular conspiracy theory is that the government, when the last remaining residents have either moved or passed away, will begin mining the valuable coal beneath the borough.

Many relocated residents are expected to return in 2016 for the unearthing of a time capsule.

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