Weird Colorado: Your Travel Guide to Colorado’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets

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Weird Colorado: Your Travel Guide to Colorado’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets
Series Title:
Weird Colorado: Your Travel Guide to Colorado’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets
Wetzel, David N.
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Denver, CO
Center for Colorado and the West
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Auraria Library
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Auraria Library
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Weird Colorado: Your Travel Guide to Colorados Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/8/2015 12:35:09 PM] Home Weird Colorado: Your Travel Guide to Colorados Local Legends and Best Kept SecretsWeird Colorado: Your Travel Guide to Colorados Local Legends and Best Kept SecretsSubmitted by jainlayconley on 12-1-2010 12:13 PMAuthor: Charmaine Ortega Getz Publishing: New York, NY: Sterling Publishing, Co., 2010. 272 pages. 9 x 9. $19.95 hardcover. Reviewer: David N. Wetzel Do you know whats weird about the word weird? It goes against the rule i before e except after c . Do you know whats weird about Weird Colorado? It goes against the expectation that books like this are merely superficial exploitations of human interest in the bizarre. In fact, Weird Colorado rises above its title to showcase oddities, curiosities, and unusual aspects of Colorado that are as instructive as they are entertaining. The credit goes to its author, Charmaine Ortega Getz, whose love of Colorado and appreciation for its historical, geographic, and cultural character emerges in every subject on which she casts her wise and discerning eye. Weird Colorado is a franchise guidebook. That is, it belongs to an ongoing series of state-oriented books patterned after Weird New Jersey, conceived and written by Mark Sceurman and Mark Moran, who also produced Weird U.S. Like the other books, this one follows a set of template chapters, from local legends and fabled people and places to abandoned sites. Within this template, each states book is slightly modified to reflect different characteristics, such as natural wonders for Colorado. Weird Colorado contains about 150 stories ranging from the sublimethe Mount of the Holy Crossto the banalthe naming (and mis-naming) of the University of Colorados Alferd [ sic ] G. Packer Grill. But between these poles, Getz assembles a noteworthy selection of well-known and little-known stories that appeal to many interests, whether in history, paranormal phenomena, natural history, or folklore. She also crosses Colorados legendary minefields skillfully, largely because she has surveyed them so well and she has a deft sense of the trigger distinction between fact and near-fact. Mattie Silks, she knows, didnt fight a duel with Kate Fulton, but Getz is also aware of the mysterious drive-by shooting that day which gave birth to a blossoming legend. She follows the Espinosas 1863 killing spree through Colorado, but doesnt neglect to mention the contorted religious impulse that fed their hatred. She ascribes Horace Tabors last words to Baby Doe (Hang on to the Matchless) to legend, but she wonders why Baby Doe went back to Leadvilleand to the Matchless Mine. Getz excels in the art of capsule biography, including well-rounded pieces on familiar weird figures like the inventor Nikola Tesla, the healer Francis Schlatter, and the so-called petrified man, the Solid Muldoon. In fact, Getzs approach to nearly every subject is thoughtful and well-considered. She offers a fascinating interpretation of the Mount of the Holy Cross as a symbol of Manifest Destiny; turns what could have been a puff piece on the Leadville Ice Palace into a mini-history of the rise and fall of the Cloud City; and reports on the frustration of many Colorado history lovers over the failure of stewardship that led to the decline of EXPLORE BY MEDIABook Reviews Photographs Video Biographies New Publications Resource Guides County Newspaper HistoriesEXPLORE BY TOPICLand & Natural Resources Government & Law Agriculture Mining Commerce & Industry Transportation People & Places Communication Healthcare & Medicine Education & Libraries Cultural Communities Recreation & Entertainment Tourism ReligionEXPLORE BY CULTUREHispanic Native AmericanKatherine Lee Bates wrote the lyrics of America the Beautiful after an awe-inspiring trip to the top of Pikes Peak in 1893.


Weird Colorado: Your Travel Guide to Colorados Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/8/2015 12:35:09 PM] Riverside Cemetery. In short, Weird Colorado teaches us much about Colorados past. We learn not only about Snippy and other animal mutilations, and paranormal doings in the San Luis Valley, but the internal conflicts attending the Condon report, the official government-sponsored University of Colorado study of UFOs in the 1960s. We follow prehistoric animal tracks, learn of petroglyphs and solstice chambers, and discover aspects of nature illuminated by Getzs good humor and evocative use of language. At the Florissant Fossil Beds, she writes, Paleontologists are still uncovering the solid shadows of thousands of extinct plant, animal, and insect species (47). And, as for Snippys skeleton, its "now awaiting future adventures in a storage unit" (101). The books only drawback is, well, its title. While its unfair to fault Weird Colorado and the entire Weird series of booksfor what they purport to be, the word does express an attitude about the curious, strange, or unusual that can be equated with a sort of callow sensationalism. Its unfortunate, then, that Los Hermanos Penitentes, who have fought hard to avoid sensational stereotyping, appear in this book, even though Getz treats the subject with respect and dignity, and one wonders what Pikes Peak, Mesa Verde, the Big Thompson flood, and Buffalo Bills grave, to name a few, have to do with the concept of weirdness. In fact, the arrangement and ordering of stories here seems somewhat haphazard. How does Mike the Headless Chicken play a role in the chapter Local Heroes and Villains, along with Alfred Packer and the Espinosas? And how does the Caribou sound recording studio find a place with the Reynolds gang and Oscar Wildes visit to Colorado in Fabled People and Places? Better planning and classification of stories in the beginning would have led to a more unified whole. In addition, a better initial survey of popular stories, like hitting the top sites on a European tour, would have given Weird Colorado a more representative feel. More people have probably heard of the legend of Silverheels than the Angel of Shavano; the case of John Gilbert Graham and bombing of United 629 has a better weirdness quotient than the murder of Elaura Jaquette in Mackey Auditorium; and Anton Woode, Colorados youngest convict, who took part in a dramatic jailbreak, is mentioned but left unnamed in a look at the Canon City Penitentiary Museum. Nevertheless, when Getz hits the mark, which is often, the story selection is perfect. Shes at her best covering Colorados weird architecture, from Canos castle in Antonito and Bishops castle near Rye to the Sleeper House on Mount Vernon and the work of Boulder architect Charles Haertling. Her Roadside Attractions are not to be missed, including the Colorado Gator Farm in the San Luis Valley, the Swetsville Zoo in Timnath, and the over-the-top Wonder Tower in Genoa. Plus, Getz is innovative. One surprising entry is the missing Merci train car, one of forty-eight filled with handmade treasures that France sent to the U.S. after World War II. Only a commemorative plaque, held by the Colorado Railroad Museum, is thought to remain from the missing car (but many items lie scattered about, including a set of drawings in the Colorado Historical Societys collection by French artists at Buchenwald). She also drops a welcome bomblet into Colorado archaeology by including the mysterious writing in Crack Cave, which some believe to be of Celtic origin. And who would have thought Fairplay had a legendary melodrama to rival the Horace TaborBaby Doe storyonly this ones about Shorty the burro and Bum the dog? Weird Colorado lives up to its expectations as a book about the curious, odd, and bizarre; but, as Getzs


Weird Colorado: Your Travel Guide to Colorados Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/8/2015 12:35:09 PM] Auraria Library 303-556-4587 1100 Lawrence Street Denver, Colorado 80204 In the News Partners & Donations About Us Contact Us riff on the theme of Pikes Peak shows, she goes beyond that standard of entertainment to make a genuine contribution to our appreciation of Colorados distinctive natural and cultural landscape. Reviewer Info: David N. Wetzel, former chief editor and publications director for the Colorado Historical Society, has written on Colorado architecture, Plains Indian warrior art, and reflections of childhood in early Colorado. He is currently working on a book about the messianic healer Francis Schlatter. Add new comment