Archive for May, 2012

Our Weird World: Prypiat

This week, I give you the spooky tale of Prypyat, Ukraine.

The Cold War is of special interest to me, because it left its mark on the world with no apologies and little acknowledgment, except for the odd “before and after” comparisons. The disaster at Chernobyl wasn’t a product of war or conflict; it was quite the opposite, really. Chernobyl was a nuclear power station, nothing at all unusual in the world. We still have them today, and though natural disasters like the earthquake that rocked Japan in the past years do have an effect, for the most part, nuclear power stations are certainly spooky, but overall not much we worry about now.

There’s a lot of background involved with the workings of nuclear power plants, and I freely admit that I don’t understand much of it. Long story short, basically, on April 26, 1986,a test was being run on the workings of the plant, and there was an explosion. Two immediate deaths (from the explosion) followed, joined later by workers affected by the radiation, several of them firefighters. The fire was extingquished.

The power station at Chernobyl is still there, near the city of Prypiat. Prypiat was where the employees of the plant lived, and by all accounts, it was a pretty classy place with a lot of stuff to do in your spare time. There was even an amusement park, but it never fully opened, except right before the evacuations began. May 1 was to be the opening day.

And suddenly, not many hours after the problems began at the plant, people began falling ill. The city wasn’t safe from the massive dose of radiation that flew straight at Prypiat.

And the apocolypse came for Prypiat.

According to the Wikiepedia entry, it took only two days to evacuate the entire city. Here’s the notice received by the people.

“For the attention of the residents of Pripyat! The City Council informs you that due to the accident at Chernobyl Power Station in the city of Pripyat the radioactive conditions in the vicinity are deteriorating. The Communist Party, its officials and the armed forces are taking necessary steps to combat this. Nevertheless, with the view to keep people as safe and healthy as possible, the children being top priority, we need to temporarily evacuate the citizens in the nearest towns of Kiev Oblast. For these reasons, starting from April 27, 1986 2 p.m. each apartment block will be able to have a bus at its disposal, supervised by the police and the city officials. It is highly advisable to take your documents, some vital personal belongings and a certain amount of food, just in case, with you. The senior executives of public and industrial facilities of the city has decided on the list of employees needed to stay in Pripyat to maintain these facilities in a good working order. All the houses will be guarded by the police during the evacuation period. Comrades, leaving your residences temporarily please make sure you have turned off the lights, electrical equipment and water off and shut the windows. Please keep calm and orderly in the process of this short-term evacuation.”

The short-term was not to be. Prypiat never again became what it was meant to be.

Of course, people still go there. Some have been known to live there, on official business. There are even tours now. That’s actually the basis for the plot of Chernobyl Diaries. But there are parts you still probably shouldn’t go, unless you have some way of measuring the levels of radiation. It’s mostly safe, but you can never be too sure, especially of the Ferris wheel. It was pretty effected, and in 2008, was said to be one of the worst affected place in the park. The city itself has appeared on the History Channel’s Life After People, as a depiction of what happens when people leave and a city is left to be reclaimed by the earth.

So what now? What did it affect that we’re just now seeing, 26 years later, or that we will never see? What foundations of the world were rocked? It could have cracked the walls of the universe, and we won’t know for a thousand years.

Even though Chernobyl was an attempt at a peaceful use of the atom, and even though the disaster that no one planned and no one wanted to happen, it did. Eventually, time and decay will swallow plant and the city into the earth and they disppear, leaving no shadows upon the land. But the stories will be told maybe forever. Maybe they will change until the spectre of raw atomic power becomes a much greater monster in the mind of man that it need be.

And until then, we’ll gaze at the pictures and maybe visit ourselves and those of us who can will listen to the frequencies hear what the sender has to say.

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Piedmont Strangeness: The Devil’s Tramping Ground

From the Piedmont area comes a strange little tale of the downright unusual.

I remember this old tale from when my dad told me it when I was a kid. Down near Siler City North Carolina, out in the county, there lies an odd circle of ground in the woods, where nothing ever grows. Anything left there at night disappears. And the devil himself circles it at night, plotting ways to pick mankind to destruction.

Ladies and gentlemen, for your consideration, I present The Devil’s Tramping Ground.

This rather unremarkable looking spot made an appearance in the book Weird Carolinas, as one of two places where people see connections with the supernatural. According to the entry on NorthCarolinaGhosts.com, the details of the old telling are that the place bothers dogs and men alike, leaving the animal fearful and the humans insane (usually after staying a night there.) The soil is a killer of plants. If you stay there at night, do expect to wind up in a state of wild mental instability, because you’ll probably be meeting up with the fallen one himself.

Of course it’s a mystery that no one can figure out.

Well, really, scientists today pretty much know that there’s simply a lot of salt in the ground there, and the high concentration did keep things from growing there for a long while. But, apparently, over the years, all the deer (I guess) and various other factors mean that there’s less salt now than there was 100 years ago, so the famous barren spot is a little smaller. There are also frequent visitors. Thrill-seekers, looking for the paranormal, and kids, looking for a good time (like a party, again according to NorthCarolinaGhosts.com) I’m good with this explanation, as far as the barrenness is concerned. But some other explanations caught my eye.

Naturally, UFO’s have been blamed, since the site is a nice circle. Then there are the “Indian burial ground” legends, and the stories of Druids, and the one about Chief Croatan, who might be buried. Or the battle that left the Croatan the losers and fleeing quickly to the coast.

Now there’s an interesting connection.

My first official post here was about Roanoke Island, and the mysterious inscription “Croatan” that appeared on the tree. When I began research for this week, I never expected this link between the two to appear. It is literally something I’d never heard of before, and it really grabs my attention.

Why does the area make dogs so afraid? This isn’t unheard of; I even featured an e-mail from a reader who experience the same thing at the old Beaufort cemetery. What if Croatan was a name that acted as a code?

What if there’s something there in Siler City that isn’t clear? I’m not talking about the devil literally walking around it at night. The inaudible frequencies that can cause dread in human beings have the potential to drive one insane with the stress of several hours. Perhaps paranoia and bad nerves became, over the years, insanity, at least in the story.

What could Croatan have meant to the people who carved it? Did they mean the island? The tribe that was said to have run east after losing a battle in a very mysterious place, where dogs cry and men scream in the night, what did they mean?

Maybe the Devil’s Tramping Ground is simply another hole in the world, and as the wind blows over it, the music begins, and not everyone can hear it.

So what might be on the other side?