In culture after culture, people believe that the soul lives on after death, that rituals can change the physical world and divine the truth, and that illness and misfortune are caused and alleviated by spirits, ghosts, saints ... and gods.

STEVEN PINKER, How the Mind Works

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Location - Roche Percee

A mile south of the village of Roche Percee, off Highway 30, lies the massive landmark of sandstone known as pierced rock, or Roche Percee. The wind whistling through the many holes caused early natives to revere it and fear it. it also served as a benchmark - and one suspects as a calling card or bulletin board.

Hunters and early travelers out of Red River (Winnipeg) or Montana used it as a guide post and even General Custer and his famed 7th Cavalry stopped here once to inscribe their names for the future generations to read in eerie awe.

The rock itself was originally twice it's present size, but the erosive forces of wind, frost and rain have reduced it. the most important damage was done during a 1922 thunderstorm when lightning shattered the crown and knocked off the upper half. The mass of rubble thrown down contained many of the early Indian paintings.

Well we decided to take a road trip to check out this great Saskatchewan landmark and we were not disappointed. Tucked away in a rugged little valley the rocks poke out of the trees in the distance. My initial impression was that the stone formation have really shrunk from how they looked in the 1910 picture, which I posted above, but are still an impressive sight.

Climbing up we took a closer look at the scores of names and dates carved into the soft sandstone formations. The dates ranged from this year to all the way back to the 1800's. It sad to see all the really old carvings are being covered by the new but for the most part the writing is respectful without any lewdness. It is my understanding the majority of the native carvings were destroyed when the arch was hit by lightning.

Back behind the major rock formation is a number of other portions of rock in a wooded area. Some of the formations have small tunnels winding threw them as well as a larger cave-like tunnel. Past visitors have given the rocks a mystical reverence and walking amongst them I can understand why. Some have even said the rocks are haunted. This whole area is know for being haunted by beings know as "Rugeroos." Old Indian spirits that change into animals. They are vicious and will harm you if you don't leave when you see them. They don't speak but will growl.

Investigating the site we did not feel any menacing presence or something that did not want us there. But we did have two strange experiences. The first was by my wife when I had returned to the car to fetch something. She was taking pictures when a shadow fell across her as if somebody was standing on the stone above her. She assumed I had returned and climbed up there but on standing up to look around nobody was around. The second encounter was when we were getting ready to leave. My wife went one way taking the dog with her and I went another way and lost sign of them. Just then I heard the heavy panting of an animal in my left ear and right away assumed my dog had decided to follow me. I turned around but nothing was there. Then it occurred to me the panting was right in my ear and my dog would have to riding on my shoulders to duplicate the noise.

All in all it was interesting trip and we plan to return soon for another visit.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Interesting Site - The Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo

In 1599, local priests of Palermo, Sicily, mummified one of their recently deceased brothers, a holy monk named Silvestro of Gubbio, and interred him inside the catacombs so that they could continue to pray for him following his death. This was the beginning of what was to become a most macabre museum.

Subsequently, the catacombs became filled with dead friars. But this was to set a trend whereby the local people wanted their own relatives mummified. Such was the desire for this unorthodox practice, that wills were written to include a choice of attire; some expressing a wish to have a change of clothing after a given period.

It wasn't long before there were hundreds of mummies contained in the catacombs. Today, eight thousand mummified corpses line the walls like a 3D catalogue of death.

The catacombs are vast and the corpses are displayed in a variety of ways. Some are in closed coffins, some of which have had a side panel removed in which to view the body. But most are coffinless and are displayed on full view to the public. The relatives would pay donations for the upkeep of the catacombs, and whilst payments were received their loved ones corpse was given its own position, where many were posed in a lifelike fashion. However, once donations stopped, the corpse would be relegated to eternity on a shelf!

Although most are so old that little remains but a dressed skeleton. Some still have skin and hair, and in a few cases they still have their eyes!

Time and gravity has taken its toll, distorting a lot of the corpses, creating a gruesome image where the mummies appear to be screaming in an eternal agony.

Perhaps the saddest sight is that of the babies and children. A few of which hardly seem to have altered since death; their beauty and innocence suspended in time, creating an image not unlike a long forgotten doll, abandoned in a musty attic.

The most famed of the children is Rosalia Lombardo. Nicknamed the Sleeping Beauty, she almost appears at sleep in her open coffin, and looks as perfect as any sleeping child. She died of pneumonia in 1920 aged 2, and was embalmed by a secret method invented by Dr Solafia of Palermo. It is now known that the method consisted of using formalin to kill bacteria, alcohol to dry the body, glycerin to stop the body from becoming over dry, salicylic acid to kill fungi, and zinc salts to give the body rigidity. Rosalia's family are said to have visited her body often. (above taken from " ". )

Historic mental institution demolished

A building that was once on the leading edge of psychiatric research and patient care in Saskatchewan has met its date with a demolition crew.

The facility, known for years as the Weyburn Mental Hospital, was completely closed in 2004. Despite attempts to preserve the structure for alternate uses, none was found, leading to the demolition that began in earnest several weeks ago.

This week, the contractor at the site allowed media and a few especially curious community members to go behind the safety fences for a last look around.

Many of the buildings in the complex have already been gutted, leaving a skeleton of steel beams, a convoluted maze of pipes and the roof to be torn down.

Dotted around the site are mounds of ripped-out steel, concrete and other left-overs, including old wheelchairs and appliances.

Millions of bricks

The hospital was an imposing fixture in Weyburn, with some 500,000 square feet of space sprawled across a large plot of land on Queen Street. An estimated 4.5 million bricks went into its construction, with it's oldest section dating back 90 years.

In its heyday, it had room for 2,000 patients.

Among those allowed inside the fences were Anne and Joe Robillard, who separately found jobs at the hospital in 1952. Joe was a painter. Anne, a nurse.

By 1953, they had fallen in love. They married and continued working at the hospital for three decades, accumulating a lifetime of memories. As they scanned the growing piles of rubble, they recalled how one room often hosted dances for patients and staff.

The ballroom wall lay in a heap next to the courtyard where the couple first met.

"It used to be a good place," Anne remembered. "I just hate to see it go."

"It is kind of a crime," Joe added, noting how the building had fallen into disrepair. "You know, it's been let go."

Debra Button, the mayor of Weyburn, said the city is losing an important structure.

"It's all wide open, and it stands so naked and so, so vulnerable," Button observed. "This majestic, huge building that... seemed that it was such a strong fortress. And it's so open and vulnerable. I'm struggling."

Button said the city, which now owns the property, has not decided what will be put on the site once the building is gone, though front entrance is being preserved.

Memorial planned for site

Repairing the building, Button said, was beyond the city's financial ability. She said it would have cost an estimated $1 million to $1.5 million just to restore heat.

Even razing the site is estimated to cost $5 million, a bill the provincial government has promised to pick up.

Alton Tangedal, a Regina-based architect, has been asked to design a fitting memorial for the site.

"It's really an opportunity for people to remember, reflect on, you know, how much better we've done in dealing with people that are dealing with mental issues," Tangedal said, referring to a time when people were routinely institutionalized at the Weyburn Hospital.

Another element of the hospital that cannot be saved is a mural depicting an aspect of the Regina Riot of 1935.

It was created in 1955 by a patient at the hospital, James Eadie, whose therapy included painting.

Preserving his work would have cost an estimated $250,000.

Instead, archivists have taken several high-resolution photos of it.

In a nod to the building's goliath structure, the province's Culture Ministry has asked that 400,000 bricks be preserved. Some are destined for another historic site in the province, the old Claybank Brick Factory, where they'll be incorporated into a display.

The demolition is expected to take all summer and wrap up in the fall.

(above taken from " ". )

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Location - Kerrobert Court House

Constructed in 1920, the Court House is a focal point in the community. Designed by the Provincial Architect Maurice W. Sharon and built by Wilson and Wilson of Regina at a cost of $145,750.00; this imposing brick and Tyndall stone building was the seat of the Kerrobert Judicial District. The building with its beautiful historic park surroundings are now the home of the Town of Kerrobert Municipal offices as well as legal, accounting and other professional services in the town.

There are rumors that the Court House is haunted. People have heard whispering voices, in otherwise empty rooms, and footsteps ascending the main stairway and walking through the Court Room in the early hours of the morning. Some say the ghost has something to do with an old skull which was locked in the basement Evidence Room – it dates back to a 1931 murder trial which was defended by John G. Diefenbaker, a future Prime Minister of Canada (1957 – 1963).