Tales of Pohjola

Walking around Helsinki, dodging the rain and sleet, I happened upon this really cool building. The Pohjola Insurance Company building is decorated with forest animals and monsters from the tales of the Kalevala. The Kalevala is studied in schools and well known by boys and girls across Finland. Finland1_Kullervo is an orphan boy in search of a real family. In his journey he finds his real family, who he thought were slaughtered, but accidentally sleeps with his sister. When he finds out her identity he kills himself on his own sword. Not quite a happy ending.Finland1_-2

Pohjola is the mythical land of Finnish literature. Kalevela, the Land of the North is eternally winter and ruled by an evil witch. Finland1_-3

In another tale, Louhi, The Mistress of Pohjola, sends a bear to wreak havoc on Kalevala’s cattle. The hero, Väinämöinen kills the bear and they hold a feast. The bear is treated as a welcome guest, and the feast is in his honor.  Väinämöinen sings of the birth of the bear, friend and brother to man, born upon the shoulders of Otava, the Big Dipper. Helsinki1_-6Pohjola is where many believe that the roots of the world tree are. This could account for all of the trees and squirrels across the building’s front. More broadly the word refers to any northerly direction. Given its mythological namesake, it’s no surprise that the Pohjola Insurance company agreed to decorate their building with statues of monsters, fools and animals.Helsinki1_-7Helsinki1_-33

Chicago – That Toddlin’ Town

Foyer TouristChicago, Chicago, that toddlin’ town… The city of Chicago has some really unique architectural history. The Cultural Center located near the Loop and Millennium Park. when it was completed in 1897 it served as the city’s central library.

Tourist DomeThe center of the Grand Army of The Republic Memorial hall is a massive Tiffany dome. This massive installation is the world’s largest Tiffany dome and went through a major restoration in 2007.

Library OwlChicago’s Harold Washington Library replaced the Central Library (now the Cultural Center) in 1987. The roof is adorned with 7 Acroteria or archiectural ornaments. On the corners and center can be found large sculptures of Owls, the symbol of the goddess of knowledge, Minerva. This Great Horned Owl sits over the center of the State Street entrance on Printer’s Row.

Peacock JewelersAnother bird hanging around the loop is the majestic peacock. The Jeweler’s CD Peacock store at State St. and Monroe. The House of Peacock was the first retail jewelry store in Chicago and catered to such big names as Mary Todd Lincoln, Marshall Fields and Mick Jagger. Hotel Sconce

Carson Pirie 2One of the coolest facades in Chicago has to be the Carson, Pirie, Scott and Company Building. Built after the great Chicago fire, the Sullivan Center as it is known today, was built as a major retail center. Today, the building hosts a Target on the bottom floors, but the ornamentation is still intact. The ornate floral details are bronze cast iron and were meant to appeal to the female clientele.

Carson Pirie

FaceMetropolitan Capital Bank on the Magnificent Mile features details from the Prairie School of the Arts and Crafts movement, Frank Lloyd Wright once had a studio at Chicago’s Tree Studios artist’s enclave.

Whacker DriveAt one time, the Jeweler’s Building at 35 Whacker Drive was considered the tallest building in the US outside of New York City. Movie fans may recognize the building from Batman Begins and Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

Water WorksThe Chicago Water Tower was one of the few buildings to survive the great fire. It’s tower was built to house a massive pump that would pump water directly form Lake Michigan. Built from Joliet limestone, it stands 154′ tall, Oscar Wilde said it looked like “a castellated monstrosity with pepper boxes stuck all over it.

Gargoyles TribuneThe Chicago Tribune Building completed in 1925 is adorned with gargoyles and grotesques designed by American sculptor Rene Paul Chambellan.

Eastern State Penitentiary

     Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary is a former prison that stressed the reformation of it’s inmates over punishment. Prisoners were completely separated from each other and never knew who was in the cell next to them. They lived in complete isolation every day, never seeing another living soul, eating, sleeping, showering and exercising alone. In reality, the guards developed cruel and hideous tortures, to show their dominance over the prison population.

     In 1966, the prison was designated a National Historic Landmark. By then end of it’s life as a prison it had abandoned the solitary concept and prisoners lived as a community until it was abandoned in 1971. One can only imagine what kind of terrors are imbedded in it’s aging walls.

     The old prison has found new life as a movie set. The decaying building has been featured in Terry Gilliam’s TWELVE MONKEYS and in 2008, TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN.

     The possibility of actual ghosts still haunting the prison has led to paranormal investigators conducting numerous explorations of the site. GHOST ADVENTURES, GHOST HUNTERS, MTv’s FEAR and Great Britain’s MOST HAUNTED LIVE have all produced episodes at Eastern State.

The building is in a state of preserved decay. Areas that are less safe for the average tourist are off limits.

     Among the hauntings witnessed are a shadow figure that quickly scoots away when approached and mysterious ghostly faces in Cellblock 4.

In addition to being a historical site, the building is also home to more than a dozen art installations. My favorite one was called GHOST CATS. Amongst the grounds and cells are sculptures of 39 cats, representing the colony of cats that had inhabited the prison since it was abandoned in 1971. Artist, Linda Brenner created the cats out of a clay that will slowly dissolve over time to represent the inevitable decaying of all living things.

     Eastern State had it’s share of celebrity guests during it’s prime. “Slick Willie” Sutton, a bank robber known for over 50 robbieries. One of the unusual inmates was #C-2559, a dog named Pep. The story goes that Pennsylvania Governor Gifford Pinchot was sentenced to Eastern State for murdering his wife’s cherished cat.

Perhaps the most famous or infamous of Eastern State’s residents was Al Capone. He served his first prison term of 8 months, for possession of a concealed weapon, at Eastern State. His cell was quite comfortable compared to the others, he was allowed to decorate it himself with rugs, art and antiques.

Capone was also Eastern State’s most famous paranormal victim. He claimed that he was haunted by the ghost of James Clark, the brother-in-law of Capone’s rival, murdered in the St. Valentine’s Day massacre. Fellow inmates reported hearing Capone screams nightly, begging “Jimmy” to go away and leave him alone.

     Is Eastern State Penitentiary haunted ? I can honestly say that after visiting, you certainly get a feeling of the oppressive isolation and despair felt by the inmates. EVP’s have captured disembodied voices and more than one person has seen ghostly figures in the Guard Tower. At least for a few days a year, Eastern State is definitely haunted and a scary experience is guaranteed.

“Terror Behind The Walls” happens every Halloween. In 2012, the prison will be the host to 6 different haunted experiences. You can check it out at http://www.easternstate.org/halloween/preview

Boston: City of Angels and Demons

I grew up in and around Boston. I went to Emerson College in Boston and worked for various theatre companies around Boston.

One thing I love to do when I go home for a visit is to walk around the city. I always find something new and unique to photograph.

For a city as old as Boston, it can be magical in broad daylight.

High above Boylston Street, this Angelic face watches the masses of people below.
A winged Lion stands guard over the old Armory.

The Masks of Comedy and Tragedy adorn the Emerson Majestic Theatre. It’s hard to believe that this was once a run down movie house showing martial arts flicks. Now it’s been restored to it’s original glory.
These Gargoyles stare out from their perches high above Wall St.
I imagine that they come to life at night when the city is still and all of us humans have gone to bed.