Lake Natron: A Deadly Body of Water Where Lesser Flamingos Thrive

Lesser flamingos at Lake Natron, Tanzania (Image: Christoph Strässler. Lesser flamingos at Lake Natron, Tanzania)

Tanzania’s Lake Natron is like hell on earth. Its waters are incredibly salty, with a pH similar to that of ammonia. Taking a swim would be nothing short of insanity, and the animals that do venture close enough to the lake to die along its shores can become almost calcified. Factor in the lake’s nightmarish red colour �“ a product of the cyanobacteria that flourishes there �“ and you have a location that looks like something out of a ghastly dream.

Photographer Nick Brandt, who documented the lake in his haunting series titled The Calcified, told Smithsonian Magazine: “It was amazing. I saw entire flocks of dead birds all washed ashore together, lemming-like.” He added: “You�™d literally get, say, a hundred finches washed ashore in a 50-yard stretch.”

Lake Natron, Tanzania (Image: NASA)

But there’s more to Lake Natron, which lies in Tanzania’s northern Arusha Region, than meets the eye. Every year it serves as the breeding ground of about 75 percent of the world’s lesser flamingos. The cyanobacteria, called spirulina, makes up a major part of the flamingos’ diet, and also gives them their distinctive pink colour.

What’s more, since the water birds are practically immune to the unusually caustic waters, they’re able to wade through shallows and leave potential predators behind. According to the Mother Nature Network, somewhere in the region of 2.5 million lesser flamingos converge on Lake Natron every year.

Ol Doinyo Lengai from Lake Natron (Image: Clem23. Ol Doinyo Lengai from Lake Natron)

Unfortunately, mankind might now be infringing on this incredible spectacle. Even though the species is considered �œnear threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, plans have been made to build industrial plants that will harvest the salt lake’s unique natural resources.

While those plans have been defeated, it’s unclear for how long. As MNN reported in October 2016: “Despite this victory, the flamingos remain in a precarious position as the forces of climate change and human encroachment loom.”

Lesser flamingos in Tanzania (Image: Charles J Sharp. Lesser flamingos in Tanzania)

“About 32 percent of Tanzania’s land is protected (the average for developing countries is just 13 percent), but Lake Natron’s only designation is that of a “Wetland of International Importance” �” a title that holds no enforceable policy power.”

Read Next: Skeleton Lake: The Terrifying Fate of India�™s Ancient Pilgrims

The Historic Ghost Town of Cairo, Illinois

Abandoned buildings in Cairo, Illinois (Image: Photolitherland. Abandoned buildings in Cairo, Illinois)

Cairo, Illinois was once a bustling city. Situated near the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, the settlement symbolised hope and safety for countless people. But today, many of its historic buildings are boarded up. According to Roadtrippers, this near ghost town has been an unfortunate victim of circumstance.

Abandoned buildings in downtown Cairo, Illinois, a ghost town of its former self.

(Images: hickory hardscrabble; MuZemike)

Cairo’s rapid decline is partially due to the reduction in riverboat traffic over the decades. When its prime location at the confluence of the rivers was no longer as important, the city itself was no longer as viable. But there’s a darker side to Cairo’s history, too, that’s bound up in racial tension and violence.

(Images: MuZemike; hickory hardscrabble)

At the end of the 19th century, the settlement became something of an destination for those fleeing the slavery of the south. But when they arrived, former slaves found the reality of the northern city wasn’t entirely what they’d imagined. Lynchings were common, and racial violence, protests and other conflicts increased in frequency.

(Image: Drowsy; MuZemike)

At its peak in 1920 Cairo, Illinois was home to more than 15,000 people. Today, less than 3,000 live in the town. Work is now underway to not only save and restore the abandoned buildings that make up much of Cairo’s historic downtown, but also to revitalise the city more broadly.

(Images: MuZemike 1, 2)

Read Next: Aesthetic Decay in Val-Jalbert Ghost Town, Quebec

The Ruined Beauty of Mogadishu Lighthouse

The haunting ruins of Mogadishu Lighthouse in Somalia. (Image: Boris Kester/Around the World in 80 Clicks. Ruined Mogadishu Lighthouse)

Few places in the world have endured such a chaotic existence over the decades as Somalia’s troubled capital, Mogadishu. It was described by National Geographic writer Robert Draper as �œ…ground zero for the failed state of Somalia, a place where pirates and terrorists rule.” Yet when he and his photographer, Pascal Maitre, visited the city, they discovered that some residents had found a special, quiet �“ if not exactly safe – place to lie low for even just a short while. That place was in the ruins of the lighthouse, a building that still stands resolute in spite of all that has befallen it; despite the holes in the walls and the floor, and the overwhelming smell of rot and filth.

Inside the crumbling Mogadishu Lighthouse. (Image: Boris Kester/Around the World in 80 Clicks)

Around the World in 80 Clicks visited the Mogadishu Lighthouse in 2014, reporting that the forlorn sentinel still had a caretaker, technically. Residing in one of the tower’s remaining rooms, he escorted the travellers to the top of the once-beautiful structure. There, he told them of its Italian design and construction (though other sources indicate that the structure may be pre-colonial) around a century ago.

Mogadishu Lighthouse (Image: Boris Kester/Around the World in 80 Clicks)

From the top, the view was that of a war-torn city and a sprawling, sandy beach that gave way to the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean. They reflect on how, before the destruction, the lighthouse stood in one of the most beautiful parts of the city, and traces of that beauty still remain.

(Image: Boris Kester/Around the World in 80 Clicks)

This lost elegance only serves to make the fate of the Mogadishu Lighthouse all the more heart-rending, a sad end for a building that once stood for safety and security. For some, of course, it still does.

Related: 10 Abandoned Lighthouses with Strange & Tragic Histories

Aesthetic Decay in Val-Jalbert Ghost Town, Quebec

Collapsing structures at Val-Jalbert ghost town in Quebec, Canada (Images: Sandra Cohen-Rose and Colin Rose. Quebec’s Val-Jalbert ghost town)

With over 70 abandoned buildings still extant, Val-Jalbert ghost town could be Canada’s answer to Bodie, California. The ruined village was once at the heart of a thriving pulp industry. But time has taken its toll and the historic settlement in Quebec, which was established at the turn of the 20th century, looks almost aesthetic in its decay.

An abandoned house in Quebec's Val-Jalbert ghost town

Originally named Saint-Georges-de-Ouiatchouan, after the nearby river, Val-Jalbert was founded in 1901 by Damase Jalbert along with the Ouiatchouan Pulp Company. The associated pulp mill sought to exploit the rising demand for newsprint from the US and Great Britain, and was ideally positioned near two waterfalls that powered its machinery.

Derelict homes in Val-Jalbert long consumed by trees

The thriving settlement was renamed Val-Jalbert in 1913, having been bought out by American investors in 1904 after the death of its founder. Grand plans followed for an enlarged company town, where residential areas were laid out separately from the core business functions further down the hill.

But an outbreak of Spanish Flu around the end of the First World War ravaged Val-Jalbert’s small population, and a reduced demand for pulp (its plants made only pulp, not paper) saw production suspended indefinitely in 1927. Some unemployed workers hung on for a couple more years. But by 1929 the village, which relied on a single industry, was abandoned.

The deserted Val-Jalbert quickly became a ghost town. By 1949, it had passed into the hands of the Quebec government, and by the 1960s, it had become a tourist attraction. Three decades later the ghost town was designated a heritage site by the Quebec Ministry of Culture and Communications.

The rise and decline of Val-Jalbert spanned less than 30 years. But today the ghost town is a popular visitor attraction in Quebec, and one of the most impressive abandoned settlements in the whole of Canada. Of particular note are dozens of historic structures, long dilapidated, slowly collapsing into the earth.

There’s an artistic quality to these decaying buildings, which – although little more than rotting shacks when viewed in isolation – collectively tell the story of past lives, lost industry, and short-lived economic fortune.

Quebec's Val-Jalbert settlement is now a heritage site open to tourists.

Not all structures in Val-Jalbert lie in ruins, however. A handful of buildings, including the old schoolhouse, are surprisingly well preserved, and command a haunting time-capsule quality that is no less photogenic than their collapsing counterparts.

Preserved houses in Val-Jalbert ghost town

(Images: Sandra Cohen-Rose and Colin Rose)

Read Next: Lost Industry: 9 Abandoned Company Towns of North America

Angel of Death Victorious: The Legend of Cleveland’s Haserot’s Angel

Haserot's Angel in Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio(Image: Tim Evanson. Haserot’s Angel in Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio)

The official name for the haunting monument that stands over the tomb of Francis Haserot in Cleveland‘s Lakeview Cemetery is The Angel of Death Victorious. More colloquially, however, it’s known as The Weeping Angel due to the black stains that streak eerily down its face, making it look as though the statue itself is crying.

The Angel of Death Victorious(Image: Tony. The Angel of Death Victorious)

Seated on the tomb, what’s also known as Haserot’s Angel holds an inverted torch, snuffing out the flame in an image that represents the inevitable triumph of death over the living. Not surprisingly, Roadtrippers reported that the symbolic statue was the source of many tales of ghostly goings-on. Others have even claimed to see the angel move or cry, strange reports that have all the hallmarks of an urban legend.

Herman N. Matzen's Weeping Angel(Image: Tony. Herman N. Matzen’s Weeping Angel)

Needless to say, the real explanation for The Angel of Death Victorious’s appearance is much more worldly. The statue is cast from bronze, and its surface has been slowly discoloured over the years by moisture that collects on its surface and then drips to the ground, as a result of gravity rather than any paranormal activity.

The Weeping Angel statue guards the family tomb of Francis Haserot(Image: Tim Evanson. The statue guards the family tomb of Francis Haserot)

The Weeping Angel was crafted by Danish-born sculptor Herman N. Matzen, whose striking work can be seen all over the city. Born in 1861, he settled with his family in Detroit, Michigan. After studying in Europe Matzen returned to the United States, spending his adult life in Cleveland, Ohio.

Signed by Herman N. Matzen, 1923(Image: Tim Evanson. Signed by Herman N. Matzen, 1923)

The sculptor, who died in 1938, is buried in the same cemetery that’s watched over by his enigmatic Weeping Angel, a statue with a powerful ethereal beauty steeped in local legend, irrespective of the rational explanation behind its eerie reputation.

Matzen's statue is the source of many local legends(Image: Tim Evanson. Matzen’s statue is the source of many local legends)

Read Next: Discover More Enigmatic Statues Around the World

The post Angel of Death Victorious: The Legend of Cleveland’s Haserot’s Angel appeared first on Urban Ghosts Media.

Angel of Death Victorious: The Legend of Cleveland’s Haserot’s Angel

Haserot's Angel in Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio (Image: Tim Evanson. Haserot’s Angel in Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio)

The official name for the haunting monument that stands over the tomb of Francis Haserot in Cleveland‘s Lakeview Cemetery is The Angel of Death Victorious. More colloquially, however, it’s known as The Weeping Angel due to the black stains that streak eerily down its face, making it look as though the statue itself is crying.

The Angel of Death Victorious (Image: Tony. The Angel of Death Victorious)

Seated on the tomb, what’s also known as Haserot’s Angel holds an inverted torch, snuffing out the flame in an image that represents the inevitable triumph of death over the living. Not surprisingly, Roadtrippers reported that the symbolic statue was the source of many tales of ghostly goings-on. Others have even claimed to see the angel move or cry, strange reports that have all the hallmarks of an urban legend.

Herman N. Matzen's Weeping Angel (Image: Tony. Herman N. Matzen’s Weeping Angel)

Needless to say, the real explanation for The Angel of Death Victorious’s appearance is much more worldly. The statue is cast from bronze, and its surface has been slowly discoloured over the years by moisture that collects on its surface and then drips to the ground, as a result of gravity rather than any paranormal activity.

The Weeping Angel statue guards the family tomb of Francis Haserot (Image: Tim Evanson. The statue guards the family tomb of Francis Haserot)

The Weeping Angel was crafted by Danish-born sculptor Herman N. Matzen, whose striking work can be seen all over the city. Born in 1861, he settled with his family in Detroit, Michigan. After studying in Europe Matzen returned to the United States, spending his adult life in Cleveland, Ohio.

Signed by Herman N. Matzen, 1923 (Image: Tim Evanson. Signed by Herman N. Matzen, 1923)

The sculptor, who died in 1938, is buried in the same cemetery that’s watched over by his enigmatic Weeping Angel, a statue with a powerful ethereal beauty steeped in local legend, irrespective of the rational explanation behind its eerie reputation.

Matzen's statue is the source of many local legends (Image: Tim Evanson. Matzen’s statue is the source of many local legends)

Read Next: Discover More Enigmatic Statues Around the World

The Overgrown Ruins of Japan’s Koga Family Land

There’s something undeniably sad about an abandoned amusement park. It’s easy to imagine that they were once the stuff of a family’s dream vacation, filled with the sound of laughter and excitement, perhaps even the odd argument, as families tried to decide what to do first. The above video reveals the ruins of Koga Family Land in Japan.

Abandoned Kansai reports that the park in Shiga Prefecture has stood eerily silent for more than 20 years. Though its remains were mostly demolished in 2008, Koga Family Land was among the most well-documented of Japan’s abandoned amusement parks, for the rather bizarre reason that it sat on a golf course.

Koga Family Land by Abandoned Kansai(Image: Abandoned Kansai via YouTube)

While there were no real security guards, Abandoned Kansai did encounter many keen golfers as they sought to document the ruins, though the park’s remains were by that time virtually non-existent.

It’s unclear exactly when Koga Family Land closed down (details are sketchy), but according to the blog several abandoned buildings remained even after most of the rides and other attractions had been demolished. A shuttered souvenir shop and a restaurant still stand, solitary reminders of long-forgotten cheer.

Read Next: Nagoro: Japan’s Strange Village of Dolls

The post The Overgrown Ruins of Japan’s Koga Family Land appeared first on Urban Ghosts Media.

The Overgrown Ruins of Japan’s Koga Family Land

There’s something undeniably sad about an abandoned amusement park. It’s easy to imagine that they were once the stuff of a family’s dream vacation, filled with the sound of laughter and excitement, perhaps even the odd argument, as families tried to decide what to do first. The above video reveals the ruins of Koga Family Land in Japan.

Abandoned Kansai reports that the park in Shiga Prefecture has stood eerily silent for more than 20 years. Though its remains were mostly demolished in 2008, Koga Family Land was among the most well-documented of Japan’s abandoned amusement parks, for the rather bizarre reason that it sat on a golf course.

Koga Family Land by Abandoned Kansai (Image: Abandoned Kansai via YouTube)

While there were no real security guards, Abandoned Kansai did encounter many keen golfers as they sought to document the ruins, though the park’s remains were by that time virtually non-existent.

It’s unclear exactly when Koga Family Land closed down (details are sketchy), but according to the blog several abandoned buildings remained even after most of the rides and other attractions had been demolished. A shuttered souvenir shop and a restaurant still stand, solitary reminders of long-forgotten cheer.

Read Next: Nagoro: Japan�™s Strange Village of Dolls

Major Thomas Weir, Wizard of West Bow: Edinburgh’s Most Terrifying Witch

The house of Major Thomas Weir in West Bow, Edinburgh.(Image: James Skene. Major Thomas Weir’s house in West Bow, Edinburgh)

Walk down the storied streets of Edinburgh and the city’s history becomes almost tangible. Peeling back the layers of one of Europe’s most vibrant cities reveals a past that is often dark. One of the most bizarre stories in the history of Scotland’s capital might be the confessions, trial and execution of Major Thomas Weir.

Weir was a devout Presbyterian, a former soldier, and a highly respected pillar of the community. But in 1670, while attending a service, he suddenly stood up and confessed to witchcraft. His confession came out of nowhere, and absolutely no-one suspected Weir and his sister, Grizel, of leading anything but the most pious of lives.

So unexpected and out of character was Weir’s confession that, when the other members of the congregation couldn’t convince him that he wasn’t a witch, they sought the opinion of doctors, who declared him mentally unstable. In spite of the doctors’ findings, Weir insisted that he was a witch and should be punished accordingly.

Major Thomas Weir's flaming coach passing along West Bow at midnight, possessed by the Devil himself.(Image: Alexander A. Ritchie. Illustration of Weir’s flaming coach)

When Weir confessed, he implicated his sister, who even confirmed his claims. And those claims were extremely unsettling. Weir confessed that the black staff he carried had been given to him by the devil, and that he was carrying on an incestuous relationship with his sister. What’s more, he said that the whole thing had begun with their mother, who was also a witch.

A mark on Grizel’s forehead was supposedly put there by the Devil himself, who had allegedly granted her the ability to spin yarn (yarn that would break when anyone else tried to use it) at an ungodly speed. She claimed that the pair had regular meetings with a “dark stranger”, who took them to meetings in Dalkeith in a fiery coach drawn by six flaming horses.

Grizel and the Major also claimed to be able to speak to the dead. No matter how many people tried to convince them otherwise, both insisted it was true. Weir and his sister were finally tried for witchcraft. Both were found guilty based on their confessions. Grizel was hanged while her brother was strangled then burned. According to witnesses, their executions took an unsettling amount of time.

The Magic Circle by John William Waterhouse.(Image: John William Waterhouse. The Magic Circle, Tate Britain)

But that wasn’t the end of the story. For decades after the children of Edinburgh were warned to avoid the home that once belonged to the Weirs. It was said that the fiery coach occasionally visited the house, which continued to be haunted by the ghosts of their victims. Strange shapes could be seen in the windows, candles would flicker to life when no-one was there, and passers-by would swear they heard someone playing music in the abandoned home.

What became of the house, you may be wondering? For a long time, it was believed that the home was destroyed along with a series of buildings in 1878 as part of a large-scale demolition project. But in 2014 Cardiff University historian Dr Jan Bondeson revealed that the house may not have been destroyed after all.

Researchers concluded that the sinister residence had likely been incorporated into a rather unlikely structure – a Quaker meeting house – that now stands on Upper Bow, above Victoria Terrace, in Edinburgh’s medieval Old Town. What’s more, they found that the remains of what was once the Weir home were now, oddly enough, part of the meeting house’s toilet.

The Quaker Meeting House in Edinburgh, Scotland.(Image: Kim Traynor. Quaker Meeting House in Edinburgh’s Old Town)

Anthony Buxton, manager of the Quaker Meeting House, told the Edinburgh Evening News: “This was the first time I had been told Major Weir’s home was actually here. I have to say, from my reading of its history I thought it had been demolished by people who did not want anything to do with it. That said, one of my staff some years ago said he had seen Weir walk through the wall. If Dr Bondeson is right, his house is in our toilet – which seems quite appropriate.”

Read Next: Dogtown: Witchcraft & Motivational Rocks in a Massachusetts Ghost Town

The post Major Thomas Weir, Wizard of West Bow: Edinburgh’s Most Terrifying Witch appeared first on Urban Ghosts Media.

Major Thomas Weir, Wizard of West Bow: Edinburgh’s Most Terrifying Witch

The house of Major Thomas Weir in West Bow, Edinburgh. (Image: James Skene. Major Thomas Weir’s house in West Bow, Edinburgh)

Walk down the storied streets of Edinburgh and the city’s history becomes almost tangible. Peeling back the layers of one of Europe’s most vibrant cities reveals a past that is often dark. One of the most bizarre stories in the history of Scotland’s capital might be the confessions, trial and execution of Major Thomas Weir.

Weir was a devout Presbyterian, a former soldier, and a highly respected pillar of the community. But in 1670, while attending a service, he suddenly stood up and confessed to witchcraft. His confession came out of nowhere, and absolutely no-one suspected Weir and his sister, Grizel, of leading anything but the most pious of lives.

So unexpected and out of character was Weir’s confession that, when the other members of the congregation couldn’t convince him that he wasn’t a witch, they sought the opinion of doctors, who declared him mentally unstable. In spite of the doctors’ findings, Weir insisted that he was a witch and should be punished accordingly.

Major Thomas Weir's flaming coach passing along West Bow at midnight, possessed by the Devil himself. (Image: Alexander A. Ritchie. Illustration of Weir’s flaming coach)

When Weir confessed, he implicated his sister, who even confirmed his claims. And those claims were extremely unsettling. Weir confessed that the black staff he carried had been given to him by the devil, and that he was carrying on an incestuous relationship with his sister. What’s more, he said that the whole thing had begun with their mother, who was also a witch.

A mark on Grizel’s forehead was supposedly put there by the Devil himself, who had allegedly granted her the ability to spin yarn (yarn that would break when anyone else tried to use it) at an ungodly speed. She claimed that the pair had regular meetings with a “dark stranger”, who took them to meetings in Dalkeith in a fiery coach drawn by six flaming horses.

Grizel and the Major also claimed to be able to speak to the dead. No matter how many people tried to convince them otherwise, both insisted it was true. Weir and his sister were finally tried for witchcraft. Both were found guilty based on their confessions. Grizel was hanged while her brother was strangled then burned. According to witnesses, their executions took an unsettling amount of time.

The Magic Circle by John William Waterhouse. (Image: John William Waterhouse. The Magic Circle, Tate Britain)

But that wasn’t the end of the story. For decades after the children of Edinburgh were warned to avoid the home that once belonged to the Weirs. It was said that the fiery coach occasionally visited the house, which continued to be haunted by the ghosts of their victims. Strange shapes could be seen in the windows, candles would flicker to life when no-one was there, and passers-by would swear they heard someone playing music in the abandoned home.

What became of the house, you may be wondering? For a long time, it was believed that the home was destroyed along with a series of buildings in 1878 as part of a large-scale demolition project. But in 2014 Cardiff University historian Dr Jan Bondeson revealed that the house may not have been destroyed after all.

Researchers concluded that the sinister residence had likely been incorporated into a rather unlikely structure – a Quaker meeting house – that now stands on Upper Bow, above Victoria Terrace, in Edinburgh’s medieval Old Town. What’s more, they found that the remains of what was once the Weir home were now, oddly enough, part of the meeting house’s toilet.

The Quaker Meeting House in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Image: Kim Traynor. Quaker Meeting House in Edinburgh’s Old Town)

Anthony Buxton, manager of the Quaker Meeting House, told the Edinburgh Evening News: “This was the first time I had been told Major Weir�™s home was actually here. I have to say, from my reading of its history I thought it had been demolished by people who did not want anything to do with it. That said, one of my staff some years ago said he had seen Weir walk through the wall. If Dr Bondeson is right, his house is in our toilet �“ which seems quite appropriate.”

Read Next: Dogtown: Witchcraft & Motivational Rocks in a Massachusetts Ghost Town