An updated classic from 9/14.
I've lived all over the eastern half of the US and have many roots in
the midwest, I've lived within a five mile radius of where I'm living
now most of my life. Also in that five mile radius is George Washington's home, Mt. Vernon. So "my neighborhood's" history is well documented and recounted. Which is why it surprised me when, one weekend a couple of years ago in totally unrelated incidents, I learned two new things about my five-mile radius that I never knew before.
first was actually meant to be a secret and it was well-kept for over 60 years. My favorite
tree resides at Fort Hunt, a local park I've visited all my life. At the
park there are prison cells and a watch tower, but the stories I always
heard was that the park's role in anything exciting was fairly benign.
It provided some defense during the Spanish American War and some
training for other wars but not much else in terms of wartime
Turns out, though, during WWII, the fort was code named PO Box 1142
and its mission was to extract secrets from German POWs, mostly
scientists. They got all kinds of groundbreaking secrets out of them
involving things like rocket science and microwave technology. And they
didn't beat it out of them. They cajoled it out of them.
The other thing I learned was about something called the Mount Vernon Monster.
In the late 1970s, local residents heard strange noises coming out of
the woods in the region of George Washington's home. Some say it was
kids playing recordings over loudspeakers. But some people witnessed a
bigfoot-like creature and many others had encounters with the creature
nearby, but not visible. They swear that there's no way it could be a
hoax from the way things happened...the way the sound moved through the
Now, I didn't live here in the late 70s, so I
can see why I wouldn't have heard of it. But Bigfoot is, like, my
favorite "mythical" creature. And to think one might have lived here?
Exciting. Right now, in the very same area, people are saying there's a
cougar on the loose. A cougar! We don't have cougars here! Maybe Bigfoot never left. Maybe he's a
I don't consider myself much of a
historian, so I'm not surprised I don't know everything there is to know
about my little suburb. But it did surprise me to learn two BIG things
in a single weekend—perhaps the biggest things ever to happen here
(outside of George Washington himself.)
interesting all the layers of stories and lore that form like the strata of
sediment over time. Everyone focuses on our founding father's role in
the immediate area, but there were layers of history stretching hundreds
and millions of years before him. Indigenous people were all up and
down this part of the river before the Brits even arrived. Dinosaurs, no
doubt, drank from our waters. We're just about an hour or so as the
crow flies from the some of the world's oldest mountains and, right here
in the same state, is a river known to be older than those mountains
and considered by some to be the second oldest river in the world. (In a
bit of irony, it's called the New River and it runs backwards, just
like the Nile, the world's oldest river, does.)
sit with nature long enough, you can feel mysteries yet untold. And not
just because of backwards running rivers, ancient mountains and
Sasquatch sightings. You'd feel it in the middle of the desert or along
the Panama Canal, in the center of New York City or in the depths of
Asia. There's magic and mystery and history everywhere there's earth.
You don't have to dig to know it's there, because it's part of the
Many years back I had a very disquieting "paranormal"
experience in that park where the POWs were held. Now I understand more
about why that happened. Whether you have the data in the form of
recorded history and artifacts or not, the body always knows. We just
have to learn to use what we have and trust it.