Blog Posts by Eric Pfeiffer

  • ‘Haunted’ L.A. hospital being converted into senior living home

    Linda Vista Community Hospital will soon be converted into apartments. (Wikicommons)

    Would you want your grandma living in an abandoned hospital so well known for its creepy atmosphere and alleged hauntings that it has been used in various Hollywood productions by folks like Rob Zombie and the makers of the horror film "Se7en"?

    The L.A. Times says the 107-year-old Linda Vista Community Hospital may soon earn a new reputation once a proposed $40 million conversion is complete, transforming the abandoned building into a senior living home.

    "People tell me it's the most haunted place in L.A.," said Maurice Ramirez, executive vice president of Amcal Multi-Housing Inc., the affordable housing group heading the hospital's conversion. "Because it's been empty for maybe 25 years or so, it becomes the subject of a little urban folklore about ghosts and things."

    The hospital's caretaker Francis Kortekaas says he has experienced a few unusual moments over the years since Linda Vista closed shop in 1991, including when a sink seemed to turn itself on and off in front of his eyes, and when he felt a child's hand reach out for his own, even though he was alone at the time.

    "It felt like my daughter's hand," he told the paper.

    Kortekaas has made some unusual changes to the site, including adding a fake prison cell, to make it more accommodating to potential filmmakers. Over the years, the property has been used by several entertainment productions, including the musicians Duran Duran, and as a set for the TV shows "True Blood" and "ER."

    Kortekaas says filming takes place at the hospital for nearly 130 days a year.

    Perhaps most terrifying of all, the hospital has also been home to shooting locations for the critically panned films "Pearl Harbor" and the 2005 Adam Sandler remake of "The Longest Yard."

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  • Stay hungry: Wisconsin man picketing all-you-can-eat restaurant

    Bill Wisth is 6-foot-6 and weighs 350 pounds. His version of an all-you-can-eat buffet might be slightly different from yours or mine. And now Wisth is protesting a Theinsville, Wisconsin, restaurant that finally cut him off after eating 12 fish during its all-you-can-eat fish fry.

    "It's false advertising," Wisth said, who has been picketing the restaurant with a handwritten, cardboard sign that reads "Poor Business Practices!"

    Amazingly, UPI reports that Wisth even called the police on Chuck's Place after the restaurant cut him off. The restaurant then sent him on his way with an additional eight pieces of fish, meaning he got 20 pieces of fish total, but he's still not satisfied.

    "I think that people have to stand up for consumers," Wisth said.

    Another local video is also worth watching, if only for the hilarious and obvious contempt WTMJ4 on-air reporter Annie Scholz has for Wisth's "plight," repeatedly rolling her eyes during the report.

    Nonetheless, Wisth says he will protest Chuck's Place every Sunday until the restaurant delivers on its all-you-can-eat promise.

    Chuck's Place waitress Elizabeth Roeming said Wisth was cut off because the kitchen was literally running out of fish due to his unusually large consumption. She also claims Wisth has "caused disturbances" at the restaurant before and has an unpaid tab to boot.

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  • Easter Island statues have full bodies and contain ancient petroglyphs

    Explorers have long known there was more to the 887 statues on Easter Island—some 2,000 miles west of Chile—than just the statue heads made famous in photographs.

    When most people think of the renowned monolithic statues, they think of the heads only. But in October 2011, the Easter Island Statue Project began its Season V expedition, revealing remarkable photos showing that the bodies of the statues go far deeper underground than just about anyone had imagined.

    [Slideshow of the Easter Island excavation photos]

    The Thinkbox blog brought the excavation photos to attention today and has sparked some debate online as to whether the evidence of full-bodied statues on Easter Island is really "news." While technically full-bodied statues have been known to exist on Easter Island for hundreds of years, some of the new petroglyph writings on the recently excavated statues appear fairly unique.

    As the project's director Jo Anne Van Tilburg, Ph.D, writes:

    "While many statues have individual petroglyphs, these and only one other statue—of over 1,000 we have documented—have  multiple petroglyphs carved as a composition on their backs.  Underlying these carvings is a complex symbol found on less than 100 statues. It is referred to by previous researchers as the "ring and girdle" design, and sometimes said to represent the "sun and rainbow."

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  • Egg-throwing hostilities end in murder

    (AP/Virginia Mayo)

    What started as two neighbors throwing eggs at each other's apartments ended with the death of an innocent man stabbed in the back.

    The San Antonio Express reports that 32-year-old Juan Antonio Rivera has entered a guilty plea to murder after he allegedly stabbed Michael Washington, 31, in the back with a kitchen knife.

    Sadly, Washington wasn't even part of the original egging incident. Sometime after the neighbors had egged each others' apartments, Washington was escorting one of the participants home when he was attacked.

    By entering the plea, Rivera reached an agreement in which he will reportedly not receive a sentence of greater than 33 years in prison. The paper reports that defense attorney Wayne Hampton said he would have argued that Rivera feared for his life when one of his neighbors threatened to have him killed over the egging incident.

    In most areas, egging is technically a criminal offense. Seattle P.I. reports that people who throw eggs directly at another person can be charged with assault, though most cases of egging a car or piece of property would technically be vandalism.

    However, people have previously been hurt from direct egging assaults. Local affiliate WABC reported in 2005 that a 13-year-old boy was blinded in one eye after being hit in the eye while out trick-or-treating on Halloween. A nurse in Dublin was also blinded in one eye after being hit in the face by an 18-year-old boy who was out egging with friends back in 2009.

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  • Teachers dance behind students in prank video set to Whitney Houston song

    Students at Abby Kelley Foster Charter School were recently asked to film video testimonials for the Worcester, Massachusetts, school. However, unbeknown to the students, their teachers were actually planning an elaborate prank. While the students offer heartfelt speeches, the teachers are secretly dancing behind them with wild abandonment.

    A soundtrack featuring Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody," was later added to the video, created by Mike Penney. [Purchase the song on Amazon or iTunes.]

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  • Solar-powered boat completes record voyage around the world

    The MS Turanor PlanetSolar arrives in Monaco after completing its voyage. (Bruno Bebert/AP)

    It took 584 days and 37,286 miles, but a solar-powered boat entered the record books after completing a voyage around the world.

    Ben Schiller writes in co.exist that the biggest obstacle facing the MS Turanor PlanetSolar and its crew was not navigating on a sustainable energy source but rather the centuries-old threat of pirates.

    "It was one month with soldiers onboard, and a lot of stress," 39-year-old captain Raphaël Domjan told Schiller. "We were at 5 knots with the solar energy, and we were between Yemen and Somalia. In Yemen, with the soldiers and guns we had, we could have gone to jail. And in Somalia, we could be hostages, and eat rice for one year."

    Along with a desire to promote global conservation efforts, Domian says he was inspired to take the unique voyage after reading the works of famed author Jules Verne, who wrote "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."

    [View a slideshow of the MS Turanor PlanetSolar]

    The ship was at an even greater risk than most vessels passing through the region because it was traveling at 5 knots, rather than the usual 15 to 20 knots. And while the PlanetSolar is 115 feet long and 75 feet wide, it's still a smaller ride than most boats passing through the area.

    Domian says they could have made the voyage in shorter time but made several planned stops along the way to promote the solar energy technology being used to power the boat.

    "We know that climate change is a challenge for our civilization, but there are also opportunities, and we have to be optimistic," he said.

    And along with promoting environmental awareness, Domian says there was another added benefit of traveling without a gas-powered motor: No noise.

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  • In this 2009 photo, Knight stands in front of Herbie (AP/Steven Senne, File)

    Frank Knight was a professional logger but earned his true legacy spending decades protecting New England's tallest elm tree. But as all things must, the 217-year-old tree nicknamed "Herbie" eventually succumbed to Dutch elm disease. And over the weekend, 103-year-old Knight died as well.

    But as a final tribute to this unique relationship between man and nature, Knight will be buried in a special casket carved from the 110-foot-tall tree that first sprouted in 1793.

    "To have them together like that is a wonderful thing. I feel like Frank took good care of Herbie. Now Herbie will take good care of Frank," Deb Hopkins, a close friend of Knight's, told the Associated Press.

    Back in 1956, Knight became the unofficial "tree warden" in Yarmouth, located about 10 miles north of Portland, Maine. At the time, Dutch elm disease was wreaking havoc on the local elm tree population. Even after Herbie became infected, Knight had local workers selectively prune the tree's diseased limbs. Over the years, the tree reportedly survived 14 cases of Dutch elm disease thanks to Knight and the workers.

    But in January 2010, the 110-foot-tall tree, whose canopy could reportedly be seen for miles, finally collapsed. "His time has come," Knight told The Associated Press at the time. "And mine is about due, too."

    "Frank cared for Herbie for 52 years, and now Herbie will care for Frank forever," his son, Dick Knight, told the Boston Herald.

    Over the years, Knight worked to protect other local trees as well, though his works will forever be tied to the relationship he had with Herbie. After the tree fell, its wood was used to make several items, including an electric guitar. Knight did not know that some of Herbie's wood was being set aside for his coffin, designed by local custom furniture maker Chris Becksvoort.

    Over the years, Knight and Herbie became something of a legend, with people traveling from around the world to take their picture with the famous tree.

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  • George Lucas proposes building affordable housing on property

    Star Wars creator George Lucas is proposing a low-income housing development (AP/Evan Agostini)It's been a while since "Star Wars" creator George Lucas did something bold to endear himself to longtime fans. But an unexpected announcement from the legendary filmmaker and producer may win him accolades with the public, if not his wealthy neighbors.

    Lucas has spent nearly 25 years planning and lobbying to build a state-of-the-art movie studio on his Grady Ranch property in Marin County, near San Francisco.

    But his neighbors have opposed the development for just as long, saying the noise from construction would disrupt their tranquil community.

    And now it seems Lucas has finally given up on his studio development dreams. But he's proposed a seemingly brilliant form of revenge for his politically correct neighbors: If he can't have his studio, Lucas wants to install affordable housing instead:

    "The level of bitterness and anger express by the homeowners in Lucas Valley has convinced us that, even if we were to spend more time and acquire the necessary approvals, we would not be able to maintain a constructive relationship with our neighbors," Lucas' Skywalker Properties wrote in a letter announcing plans for the housing project.

    "We hope we will be able to find a developer who will be interested in low-income housing since it is scarce in Marin. If everyone feels that housing is less impactful on the land then we are hoping that people who need it the most will benefit."

    As the website Affordable Housing Finance notes, the median cost of a sing-family home in Marin County is $672,620, compared with the California statewide median cost of $291,080.

    The San Francisco Chronicle notes that a housing development on Grady Ranch may not be feasible because of the property's remote location. But that may not really be the point for the determined filmmaker.

    And Lucas is already getting support from the Marin Community Foundation, who is teaming with his company, Lucasfilm, to look into the proposal.

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  • Six generations of family gather, aged 111 years to 7 weeks

    More than 110 years separate Mollie Wood from her great, great granddaughter Braylin Marie Higgins. And in between the 111-year-old Wood and 7-week-old Higgins are four more living generations of women from the same West Virginia family.

    Local CBS affiliate WCAV 19 was on hand to document the six generations of women gathering for Wood's birthday.

    "We're ornery," said 39-year-old Marlo Shifflett, when asked to explain the longevity among the women in her family. "I think that's a lot of it. We're too ornery to stop!"

    The family says Wood remained "sharp" through age 109, and her 88-year-old daughter Louise Minter continues to clean houses more than 30 years after retiring from a job with General Electric.

    "It gives me a little extra money," she said. "I don't have to watch a dollar so careful."

    And her own 70-year-old daughter Bette Goodson teaches a yoga and Pilates class three nights a week.

    "It's an important part of my life," Goodson said.

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  • Lexus found submerged in family’s swimming pool; drunk-driving suspected

    Local police take photos of the submerged Lexus. (Beatriz Diaz/ABC 7)

    A 40-year-old California man is accused of driving his Lexus through a cinder block wall and into a family's backyard swimming pool. The man, Modesto Cabral, was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence on Sunday after the 5:25 a.m. one-vehicle crash.

    Pieces of the wall were seen stuck in the car's windshield. An orange swimming noodle was floating near the driver's side door.

    The La Puente, Calif., family described the bizarre scene to reporters. "We woke up to an awful noise and looked outside, and a car was in the pool," Janelle Diaz, the family's 16-year-old daughter, told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. "We had always joked around about it—that someone was going to end up in the pool—because they've hit our wall before."

    The driver apparently drove his silver 2006 Lexus GS430 straight through a "T" intersection—and through the concrete wall. He climbed out of the car through the right front window after the car became submerged.

    Authorities used a crane to lift the Lexus out of the pool, according to KABC-TV.

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