WTF? And Other Head-Scratchers. Seen something STRANGE? Drop us a line or send us a pic at editor@valleyadvocate.com.

What’s that big glowing building on I-91?
Dec14

What’s that big glowing building on I-91?

Like many local drivers, I take Interstate 91 up and down the Valley several nights a week. So I have had plenty of opportunity to wonder: what in the intergalactic hell is going on near exit 24? Drive south for a mile and a half past the Whately Diner, look to the right, and the sight you see is otherworldly: a roughly 45,000 square foot facility with semi-transparent walls that emit a flood of bright, violet light. The building...

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Does Cosby really buy 10,000 lobsters for UMass every Halloween?
Oct26

Does Cosby really buy 10,000 lobsters for UMass every Halloween?

After my colleague Hunter Styles dispelled the myth that the characters in the Scooby Doo TV series were based on the academic personalities of the Valley’s Five Colleges, my attention should have immediately turned to another legend passed on to me when I was a wee freshman at UMass Amherst: that alumnus Bill Cosby foots the bill for the annual Halloween lobster feast in the student dining halls. But it didn’t. It wasn’t until I said...

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The Uncanny Valley: Do Ghosts Haunt Spoleto?
Oct07

The Uncanny Valley: Do Ghosts Haunt Spoleto?

by Hunter Styles Staff writer Amanda Drane has worked in the local food industry for 10 years, and she’s shared with us some truly great stories of her time in the kitchen, including a couple about the haunted room at Spoleto, an Italian restaurant in Northampton. One night, about three years ago, at shift’s end, a deathly pale busboy slowly ascended the steps from the small dining room in the basement, where the eatery seats a few...

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The Uncanny Valley: Why do some fast food fries cost more than burgers?
Sep08

The Uncanny Valley: Why do some fast food fries cost more than burgers?

Why is it that a cheeseburger costs $1.22 at Burger King, while a small order of fries costs $1.70? Isn’t beef supposed to be more expensive than potatoes? Thanks for writing in, anonymous reader, with your puzzling — and discomforting — question. To figure out why you can get a burger with cheese, a bun, ketchup, mustard, and pickles for less than a bag of fried spuds, I turned to UMass Amherst professor emeritus Richard Rogers, who...

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The Uncanny Valley: Why are there ads on Springfield buses asking, ‘Do you know who murdered me’?
Jul28

The Uncanny Valley: Why are there ads on Springfield buses asking, ‘Do you know who murdered me’?

Buses are big and so are the advertisements they often host — that’s no surprise. What is jolting, however, is when the typical music or beverage ad is replaced with a giant placard offering a $50,000 reward for information regarding an unsolved murder from 2013. According to the Hampden County District Attorney’s office, there are more than 60 unsolved Hampden County murders dating back to 2000. Some victims on this list will likely...

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The Uncanny Valley: WTF, Whose happy place is this?
Jul14

The Uncanny Valley: WTF, Whose happy place is this?

My curiosity is piqued by a recent Facebook post by fellow Advocate writer Yana Tallon-Hicks in which she documented a creepy, abandoned house complete with a puzzling sign that read, “This is my happy place.” So, I head past the rolling greens of the Amherst Golf Club and down the narrow paved road that leads to South Pleasant Street in search of said bizzaro sign. The outline of a large house peeks through an overgrown grove of...

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The Uncanny Valley: WTF, Are roadside signs offering to buy homes in ‘any condition’ a scam?
Jun30

The Uncanny Valley: WTF, Are roadside signs offering to buy homes in ‘any condition’ a scam?

You’ve probably seen the signs — “Fast $$ for Houses,” “We Buy Ugly Homes” — tacked onto telephone poles or scrawled onto yard signs by the side of a main road. The advertising doesn’t inspire confidence. The hand-scrawled, occasionally misspelled signs scream scam. Who would call one of these up? Well, me. A yellow yard sign on the West Springfield I-91 south off-ramp says in black Sharpee “I Buy Houses Any Condition.” I called...

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WTF: Why does it say ‘Quota’ at the corner of Route 5 and Hampden Street in Holyoke?
Jun10

WTF: Why does it say ‘Quota’ at the corner of Route 5 and Hampden Street in Holyoke?

For more than a decade, the island at the corner of Hampton Street and Route 5 in Holyoke has borne the word “Quota” — spelled out in flowers in the warm weather and black plastic edging in the cold. On my ride home from work down Route 5 south, I often wondered about, my own personal Jamestown mystery. Is it a statement akin to Shepard Fairey’s Andre the Giant “Obey” art? A call to everyone to pull their own weight? A cryptic nod to...

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The Uncanny Valley: Jumpin’ Black Flash, A Cape Cod boogeyman
May27

The Uncanny Valley: Jumpin’ Black Flash, A Cape Cod boogeyman

Spring-Heeled Jack, in addition to being the best-named apparition since the Mad Gasser of Mattoon, was a frequent haunter of Victorian London and, eventually, other parts of Great Britain. He was known and feared for his habits of sudden attack via tearing with metal claws and breathing blue fire, and the black-caped scoundrel often left the scene of a crime via inhuman leaps. There’s an odd echo of Spring-Heeled Jack in the pantheon...

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The Uncanny Valley: Animal, Vegetable, Mineral
May27

The Uncanny Valley: Animal, Vegetable, Mineral

Behind the scenes at the Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke in the 1990s, Stephen Petegorsky made a delightful discovery: “hundreds of taxidermed animal specimens — most of them really ratty — stuffed in a storage closet.” He borrowed some stuffed animals for photo shoots, and used front screen projections to set the tattered taxidermed birds and mammals against evocative background scenes. Titles like “Fish,” “Bat,” and “Baby Crocodile”...

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Freaky whales in the sky, I guess
May20

Freaky whales in the sky, I guess

Reporter Amanda Drane recently turned me on to this weird phenomenon that’s been recorded around the world. Out of nowhere, in the day or night, in the city or in the woods people have recorded the incredibly loud sound I can only describe as a giant sky whale or a mammoth train grinding to a halt while blowing a fog horn and banging on a gong. You’ve got to hear this for yourself. What do you think this is? Ever hear it...

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The Uncanny Valley: UFO sightings
May12

The Uncanny Valley: UFO sightings

On the evening of March 17, a driver in South Hadley reported seeing a strange triangular craft in the sky with lights on each of its three visible points. After following the craft for a couple of miles, the driver pulled into the Village Commons parking lot and exited the vehicle for a better look. Something was flying slowly and “unlike a common aircraft.” It made no noise. After a moment the triangle “made a complete 180 and...

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The Uncanny Valley: WTF? And Other Head-Scratchers, Road to Nowhere
Apr28

The Uncanny Valley: WTF? And Other Head-Scratchers, Road to Nowhere

“Curiouser and curiouser!” exclaimed Alice as she took her first steps into Wonderland. If she were making a trek through the Valley instead, we think she would say the same thing. Our little corner of the globe is chock full of odd people, secret places, and mysterious markers of stories hidden just beneath the surface of everyday life. Plus, a bunch of stuff that just makes us go, WTF? Seriously. Did you know there’s a toilet paper...

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