Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The World's Biggest Haunted House

The entire Winchester Mystery HouseImage by dalvenjah via Flickr
The largest 'haunted house' in the world sits squarely in the heart of Santa Clara County.  The "Winchester Mystery House'" is located at 525 Winchester Blvd. in San Jose, California, right next door to 'Century 21 Theater'(1st of the Century theaters) and one block west of 'Santana Row' Shopping Center.
Having grown up just ten-blocks away, this California Historical Landmark has always been a local treat for me, whether just driving by or taking the tour over the years.  I used to get discounts, because three of my seven siblings worked there as tour guides!
Rumor has it the place is haunted...and, IT IS! (in my opinion) Why else would they call it a "mystery house"!  To understand why its 160 rooms stretch seven stories high, have 47 fireplaces, and took over 38-years to build--you have to take a peek into American history!  
Sarah Pardee and William Wirt Winchester were married in New Haven, Connecticut during the Civil War in 1862..  Prior to that, William invented the famous Winchester repeating rifle, and amassed a fortune.
The couple's only daughter Annie, died shortly after birth, thus tearing them apart emotionally. In 1881, William died of tuberculosis, leaving Sarah with a second heart-ache...and a 20-million dollar inheritance!
Upon consulting a psycic, Sarah was convinced her family was cursed by all the deaths incurred by the rifles, and decided to move toward the western sunset. Arriving in the Santa Clara Valley in 1884, she bought a six-room house on 162-acres--for which it was foretold she needed to build upon constantly...or else...die!
She did just that...BUILD, in radical fashion!  Sarah eventually employed 22 carpenters working  24 hours a day, often 7-days a week.  Along with three elevators, there were numerous stairways built, some of which led to dead end walls....along with upside down stair posts, trap doors, un-explained passages, bathroom doors made of glass, closets that emptied into open air and a fall to the garden, countless chimneys, and only two mirrors existing in the entire mansion.  Sarah believed that ghosts feared their own reflections, and they also liked to appear and re-appear in her many chimmneys.
What was weird to most, made control-freak type sense to Sarah, who constantly wanted to maintain a strangle-hold on ghosts, spirits and other evil intruders who continually haunted her fortune--which, again, came from making that deadly rifle!
Sarah was also obsessed with the number 13, having most windows built with 13 panes of glass, 13 panels on each wall, and parkay floors with squares 13 feet wide and 13 feet long.  Meanwhile, the constant hammering and delivering of new materials to the mansion finally eased up in 1906.
That's when the infamous San Francisco earthquake rocked and damaged the mystery house as well, partially trapping Sarah in one of the rooms. As imagined, she started building again, and didn't stop for 16 more years! The construction finally came to an end with Sarah Winchester's death in 1922, and the estate was inherited by a niece, Francis Marriott--who soon realized Sarah's fortune had dwindled to nearly nothing.
It was rumored there was a hidden safe filled with a fortune in gold and priceless jewels, however the safe's that were eventually discovered contained nothing but fish lines, old socks and newspaper clippings.
In 38 years Sarah spent 5.5-million dollars building the Winchester Mystery House. That converts to about 75-million in today's dollars!
It became a California Historical Landmark in 1930, as Robert L. Ripley was one of the first to showcase it as a popular tourist attraction in his daily column, "Ripley's Believe it or Not!"  Today it remains just that, a tourist attraction!
Over the years there have been thousands of stories about voices moaning, walls knocking, cold spots in certain rooms, floors shaking and mysterious whistles and howls nearing closing time when the tours end. 
My younger brother Rob once told me one of the employees was accidently locked in the compound over night, and when morning came...he was found white-faced, trembling and incoherant following a night of haunting fear and emotional trauma.
Can you believe that?  I can, in my own, fun kind of way...especially around Halloween! Come on!  Where's YOUR spirit???
Should you find the desire to find out for yourself, both mansion and estate tours run daily from 9am to 7pm.(unless it's really dark by then) It costs more than when I was a kid though.(sorry) $33.00 for adults and $30.00 for children and seniors. It may seem frightenly expensive, but it's well worth least once in your lifetime!
Thanks,  and keep the light on!
Sincerely scared, PeteCam4

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Sunday, March 21, 2010


San Jose Flea Market entranceImage via Wikipedia

Spring time is here, every ones out enjoying the weather after all the rain we had. San Jose Flea Market is one of my favorite place to go in San Jose when the weather is nice, I have been going to the San Jose Flea Market since I was five year old. Just about Forty five years later, I still get excited about going to San Jose Flea Market. When I was five, I like going just for the corn dogs, cotton candy and the carousel ride.
When I became a teen, I like going with my girl friends, so we could shop and meet boys. Now I strictly go to see what treasures I can find and oh!
the corn dogs of course their still delicious.

If you haven’t been in awhile or you never been, you must go and explore more than 8 miles of colorful alleys of shopping , enjoy the 25 restaurants and the dozen of snack carts. San Jose Flea Market has the largest Farmers Market in California. San Jose Flea Market has something for all ages. For the youngsters there is the old fashion carousel, three new play grounds. If your to old for the carousel or play ground there is a cool arcade.

San Jose Flea Market is now celebrating its 50th Anniversary on April 10-11. The San Jose Flea Market is a San Jose institution, it is located at 1520 Berryessa Road in San Jose California 95133. The Flea Market San Jose Flea Market, The Worlds Largest Flea Market. Go and enjoy.


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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

How to avoid paying for traffic tickets!

U.S. speed limit sign, MUTCD R2-1.Image via Wikipedia
Image by Indiana Stan via Flickr
How to avoid paying for traffic tickets!

First off, I've gotten five traffic tickets over the past 17-years, two for speeding and three for moving violations. I paid for only one of them, but I didn't just blow them off!  People who try that end up paying much more, and their lives take a drastic turn for the worse!
I beat paying for most of my tickets by getting them legally dismissed, but it wasn't easy.  My method takes a little extra effort and some luck.--with no guarantees.
Before I share it with you, the best way to avoid paying for tickets is not to get them at all!  That's accomplished by driving safely, obeying all laws, and observing the speed limit. However, should you manage to get one or two, as happens to the best of us, take care of them on time!

When I was a teenager, I missed the payment deadline by two days, and the judge slapped me with a failure to appear which doubled the fine.  Then he warned me that if it happened again, I'd be in for grave trouble...with a capital G!!  It never happened again.

I will now share my method, using the most recent ticket:   I was on a courier run for 'Streetwise Special Delivery', driving medical equipment from San Jose, California to a surgeon's residence in Redding, California....and my boss rented me a fast, six-cylinder Chevy Impala to cover the 670-mile trip.

I made the delivery by 10:15pm, and immediately headed back, stopping just once for coffee.  The drive was smooth, wide-open and a little speedy at times, as the rental car was more powerful than I was used to. I really had to watch the speedometer, which slipped past 80mph a few times.

By 2:30am I was southbound on Hwy 680, just crossing the Dublin 580 interchange in Pleasanton, when the red lights flashed  behind me. A CHP officer pulled me over at Stoneridge Avenue, and gave me a speeding ticket for going 81mph. When I checked the speedometer it read 74mph, but the cop maintained I had already slowed down a bit. This happened on June 8th, 2009.

Here is what I did to beat this.  When the citation arrived by mail, I called the court to request an extension. Most grant you 30 extra days.(some may offer more)  This bought me an extra 60-days. A week prior to that deadline, I called back and scheduled a walk-in appointment in order to schedule a court date to fight the ticket.

I then drove to Pleasanton, waited in line for 20-minutes, sat in court for another 30-minutes, and plead not guilty.  At the clerk's window I asked for the latest court date possible, and was happily appointed February 25th, 2010, almost nine-months after I first got the ticket!

This is the key to success! Extend, extend, extend--but don't miss the court date!  With any luck, so much time will have passed that the citing officer transfers out, or blows off court because it's his day off.  Maybe this is his sleep time, which often happens with graveyard citations. Also, CHP officers do not get paid to appear in court, unless its during their normal work shift. The same goes for city police and sheriff officers.

Plus, if he does show up, what can you lose?  You'll probably end up paying, but the judge may actually reduce the fine. If not, you'll just be granted another 60-days to pay.(or some other payment arrangement)

On February 25th of last month, I walked into a courtroom filled with people and CHP officers, but not mine!   CASE DISMISSED!  The same thing happened long ago with two other tickets that I had legitimate beefs with.  However, neither officer showed, and both tickets were dismissed as well. The other ticket happened down the street where I live, and the San Jose Police officer did appear,  however, the judge ruled he'd set-up an un-authorized speed trap, and threw my case out!

Am I just lucky or what?  Remember now, in each case I extended, extended, extended--to the limit of the law, and my patience seemed to pay off!  I must have saved more than $1000 in fines, and some pretty high insurance premiums over the years, simply because I  figured a way to, at least, improve the odds of beating a traffic ticket!

I won't get cocky though, after all I drive for a living.  It's my job to get things delivered safely!  NO MORE TICKETS FOR ME!

Walking out of court that day, I also managed to chat with CHP motorcycle traffic officer about some interesting traffic facts. He told me they receive no money from traffic fines, and the CHP have no set quotas for issuing tickets.  He also told me that 3 or 4 of every ten drivers display bad attitudes when getting stopped. It makes a big difference!  "The rest are cool, and save lots of money", he said.

He gave an example where he pulled a guy over going 92mph, however,  the driver was so pleasant that he only wrote him for doing 74mph. "Had that same guy cussed me out or gave me trouble, I could have arrested him for reckless driving...which is a huge fine and 3 points on his record",he said..

So remember, drive safely, avoid getting tickets, be nice to cops if you do, and fight them all in court by using my "extend" method.  You just may save yourself some hefty fines, high insurance premiums, and that dreaded 8-hour driving class!

Thanks, and be safe out on the road,

Sincerely,  PeteCam4
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