MOTHMAN, MOUNDS AND MEMPHIS
by Andrew Collins
So soon after exploring the earliest known temple structures in the world in SE Turkey, Sue and I were on our travels again, this time to the United States of America. I had been invited to give a workshop on psychic questing at the ARE, the Association of Research and Enlightenment, set up in Virginia Beach, VA, to promote and preserve the life and health readings of the psychic and healer Edgar Cayce (1877-1945). During his life he had provided inspired information on the retrieval of buried treasure thought to have been hidden in the Bahaman island of North Bimini. This led to a life-long connection between Cayce's psychic work and the island, which the readings revealed was a surviving portion of Plato’s lost island empire of Atlantis, devastated by earthquakes and floods around 11,500 years ago.
It was my job to explain psychic questing’s triumphs and achievements to date, before providing the assembled audience with a step by step account of how to start questing themselves. To this end, Sue and I arrived in Virginia Beach on Wednesday, 6 July 2004, and sought rest before the weekend-long seminar, which would also feature a talk by psychologist Henry Reed. As we came in to nearby Norfolk from New York, an almighty electric storm struck the area, raising my concern slightly as we descended towards the airport. Forked lightning struck the water out to sea, and after we landed safely the storm became a massive downpour with strong winds and hale which lasted for some two hours, preventing us from leaving the airport with our good friends Greg and Lora Little. They had come up from Memphis for the event, and afterwards the two of them would be our guides as we moved on first to Point Pleasant, West Virginia, scene of the mothman sightings in 1966-7 and, secondly, the state of Ohio where we would visit just a small selection of the many Indian mounds and earthworks constructed over 2,000 years ago. Once all this was done, we would move on to Memphis, and stay with Greg and Lora for a couple of weeks before returning back to England.
The results were very interesting indeed. I saw an open air temple fronted by a series of pillared archways set in an arc. It overlooked a tropical bay located in what appeared to be a hot and humid region of the globe. Beyond it was the open sea, and I gained the impression that this was meant to be the Caribbean as it might have been imagined prior to the destruction of Cayce's Atlantis. Whether such a place really existed or not seemed not to matter, for it was simply a means of achieving a mental link with this particular frequency of the past. Sue saw an initiation chamber in which crystals were being dangled as drapes, reflecting light in a manner which she felt induced altered states of consciousness in candidates. Once again, there was a feeling that this was connected somehow to Cayce’s own concept of Atlantis, which differs greatly from that of Plato, the famous Athenian philosopher who wrote on Atlantis around 350 BC.
The image I saw of the open-air temple overlooking the hot, humid tropical bay remained with me as we climbed to the building’s third floor, where you enter the tranquil silence of the meditation room. Here with Lora Little, the two of us focused again and I saw the temple once more, which appeared to be perched about two-thirds the way up a steep cliff face. Overhead , a blanket cover of storm clouds made the whole hot, humid environment seem dark indeed. I felt I should attempt to look behind me as I stared out to sea, and when this was achieved I saw before me a line of five male priests dressed in pale blue robes, their heads covered with long flowing scarves in the same colour. The central one reached out with his hand and gave me a large circular disc made of metal on which was inscribed an equal-armed cross enclosed in a circle. As I took it into my handt, a wealth of imagery filled my mind like some kind of download of information, much of it to do with how the constellation of the Northern Cross once formed the apex of the starry firmament, the reason why the cross design features so much in the art of Native American Indians. It also made sense of a conundrum that had been bugging me for some while.
Back in Egypt in April, I had experienced a curious vision in the Cairo hotel room during which I had followed a white wolf along a trail through a pine and snow covered mountainside to a log cabin in what I was later to realise were the Rocky Mountains of Montana, in the north-west of the country. Inside was a Native American Indian who was creating some kind of painting on the ground, which I felt represented a map of the starry firmament. It was used by him and members of his tribe as a navigational aid in order that they might journey to the stars during induced trance states. Somehow the white wolf was important to their beliefs, although beyond that I had no idea, especially as Sue and I were in Cairo for quite a different matter - the hundredth anniversary of Aleister Crowley writing his highly influential channeled work entitled ‘The Book of the Law’. Native American Indian traditions were the furthest thing from my mind, I promise you.
On our return to England, I did some research and found that the Black Foot tribe who inhabited the Rocky Mountains of Montana preserved legends concerning a beauty maiden who was abducted by the Sky People. They took the Milky Way to the Upper Heaven where she was kept against her will, ever glancing back towards the earth and yearning to return to those she loved. Finally, she was rescued by spirits in the form of wolves, and was united once more with her family. It was for this reason that the Black Foot saw the Milky Way as the Wolf Trail, presumably because the wolf was seen to accompany those souls who made this same journey on the point of death. I found also that the Wolf Trail became a subject of depiction among the Black Foot, who depicted it on their battle shield.
Shortly before our journey to Virginia Beach, I asked Greg whether he knew about this tradition among the Black Foot, and he responded by sending me a jpeg of the shield, which I had not seen before. This would come in handy, I thought, since I intended conducting a meditation at the ARE based on my vision concerning what I now took to be the religious beliefs of the Black Foot. Opening the file containing the jpeg, I was somewhat confused to find that the shield design bore no stars, just a cross within a long white band sandwiched between two circles containing equal-armed crosses.
The Black Foot shield
As I intended exploring this design during the upcoming workshop, I felt I had better understand its abstract symbolism, and now - on being handed the circular talisman from the figures in pale blue robes and headdresses in the ‘Atlantean’ temple - I unexpectedly felt I had an answer.
The central cross and white bar at the center of the Black Foot shield signified the Northern Cross, which is positioned close to the Pole Star, the pivot of the heavens, exactly on a point where the Milky Way breaks into two, like the branches of a tree. Subsequent research showed that the relationship between the North Star, the Northern Cross and the Milky Way was a fundamental aspect not only of North American astronomy, but also that of the Maya of Central America - something pointed out to me by Lora, who recommended that I read a fascinating book entitled MAYA COSMOS by David Freidel, Kinda Schele and Joy Parker (1995). The other elements of the Black Foot shield, principally the circle enclosing the four-fold divisions, almost certainly reflected the four-fold division of the skies determined by the equinoxes and solstices, with the earth acting as the perceived point of cosmic axis.
Not bad, considering all this seemed to come as a result of me lying down on Edgar Cayce’s famous couch. By the way, only later did I realize that the ARE’s emblem shows a dove, symbol of the Holy Spirit and the flood of Noah, on an equal-armed solar cross set within a circle.
Click here to view Quicktime filmclips of Andrew and Sue Collins at the ARE Headquarters, Virginia Beach, VA, in July 2004, including initial impressions gained on Edgar Cyace's couch and shots of the meditation room (all clips courtesy of Greg Little).
Afterwards, the four of us - Greg and Lora, Sue and I - drove immediately to Point Pleasant, West Virginia, which we reached the following morning. Here on 15 November 1966 a handful of local residents caught sight for the first time of something which would eventually be dubbed ‘mothman’, a strange creature several feet tall with the body of a human, bat-like wings on its back and glowing red almond-shaped eyes.
He felt that it might involve the nearby nuclear power plant, but failed to convince anyone of his concerns. Then, around teatime on the 15 December 1967, on an extremely cold day, faulty traffic lights caused a massive build up of vehicles on the Silver Bridge that sat astride the mighty Ohio river which borders Point Pleasant. What resulted was a terrifying sequence of events whereby the suspension bridge’s supporting wires snapped, causing whole sections of the steel structure to plunge into the icy waters below, taking with it countless cars.
On its release in 2002, it revitalized an interest not only in the work of John Keel, who features in the movie as an ageing paranormal researcher, but also in mothman itself. Suddenly, teenagers were reading Keel, checking out mothman websites and speaking about the TNT area, where many of the sightings took place over the 13 months it seemed to remain in the area.
What was mothman? The answers are manifold. However, there seems no question that those who saw it were telling the truth, and that something on a very profound level was going on in and around Point Pleasant prior to the collapse of the Silver Bridge. It is almost like there was a psychic build up, a tension, that existed in the town, expressed in some bizarre fashion by a strange creature which either existed to express this precognitive force, or took advantage of the opening created by such intense human emotions. Yet in the end it is no different to sightings of bigfoot, mystery big cats, or the Loch Ness monster, for although the creature appeared totally physical to those who saw it, afterwards it disappeared like camphor, back to whatever parallel realm it came from.
Apparently, after appearing in the TNT area, it then peered into the car in which he and his buddies were driving as they frantically attempted to get out of there. She also mentioned a little known fact, and this is that mothman was seen underneath the Silver Bridge just two days prior to its collapse. Moreover, the following day ‘men in black’, government officials most probably, were seen inspecting the bridge, an eerie prospect that poses more questions than it answers. Summing up, the woman said that many people saw mothman, but most of them refused to say anything for fear of ridicule. However, she did confirm that, even though there is now so much interest in the subject, the creature has not been seen in Point Pleasant since the bridge collapsed.
After spending too much money on souvenirs, we paid our respects to the location on the Ohio river where the Silver Bridge was once to be seen. The site is some 200 metres north of the metal railway bridge which also straddles the Ohio river, and is marked only by buoys, which show the positions of the structure’s concrete foundations and act as hazard warnings to passing boats and barges. I looked for and found tiny reminders of the terrible tragedy - a bolt here, an angled frame there, and even a fragment of the tension wire.
Click here to view Quicktime filmclips of Andrew Collins at Point Pleasant, WV, including scenes of the mothman statue in Main Street, the café used in the 2002 movie 'The Mothman Prophecies', clips of the Silver Bridge and the memorial plaque to those who died in the disaster of December 1967 (all clips courtesy of Greg Little).
Monday, 12 July. It was then on to Ohio, which we reached by the early evening. Our first experience of a Native American site was the gigantic circular earthwork at Newark, known as the Great Circle or the Fairgrounds, following its communal usage in the nineteenth century. Today it consists of a raised circular bank around 366 metres (1200 feet) in diameter and three metres (10 feet) in height, with an internal ditch of an equal depth filled with undergrowth. In the center of the earthworks is what is known as the Eagle Mound, which is in fact an 'effigy' earthwork bearing the rather abstract appearance of a bird. Its head and body are aligned to the circle’s only opening (known as a fosse in Britain), which is in the NE as viewed from the central mound. This has led archaeo-astronomers to propose that the monument is aligned to the midsummer sunrise. According to recent dating at the site, it was constructed certainly by 300 BC by a peoples known as the Hopewell culture (after a site where they were first identified). They would seem to have been ancestors of the later Mississippian mound builders, known as the Woodland Indians, who succeeded them c. AD 500-700 and were still present when the first Europeans arrived in the region during the mid sixteenth century.
My first impressions of the Great Circle were how similar it was to Avebury, one of the most well-known megalithic complexes in England. Its henge was almost exactly the same size, although here in Newark there were no stones, simply a scattering of purposely-grown trees on an otherwise plain grass field. To me the presence of the ‘Eagle’ Mond hinted that it was meant to represent not just a clan totem, but also some sort of psychopomp, a spirit which in ancient mythologies was said to accompany the departed into the next world. This mythical realm, I suspected, was seen to be in the direction of the midsummer sunrise, which would have been witnessed through the break in the Great Circle's earthen bank. The bird would have taken the soul ‘under its wing’, so to speak, or indeed the soul might have been considered to have taken the form of a bird for this transmigrational journey. Yet if this theory was correct, then it is possible that the bird effigy does not necessarily represent an eagle at all, but more correctly a carrion or scavenger bird of some sort.
In the ancient world the principal totemic form associated with the cult of the dead was the vulture, because of its ability to strip clean human carcasses in less than an hour. Through this process of so-called 'excarnation', which took place in set aside charnel areas, the bird became associated with the transmigration of the soul, which was thought to be accompanied into the afterlife by the vulture. Other birds, such as crows, ravens, kites and bustards later took on similar roles (even though they were not really scavenger birds), and thus there is every reason to question the identity of the Eagle Mound at the centre of Newark's Great Circle.
Whatever the identity of the effigy mound (which is in fact four elliptical mounds joined as one), I imagined that in the twilight before the summer sunrise the circle’s single opening would align with whatever zodiacal constellation was to be seen on the line of the ecliptic, at which time celebrants might have conceived of the souls of the departed released skywards. I felt that the Milky Way featured in this alignment, since I knew already that the Black Foot tribe of the North West saw it as the Wolf Trail, the celestial road to the realm of the Upper World.
Greg listened to my musings, recording them on camcorder, before revealing that evidence of excarnation had been found at the circle. He added that the bones of no less than 18 individuals had been unearthed during excavations at the Eagle Mound. This therefore left it questionable as to whether the earthen bird effigy was indeed an eagle, even though the golden eagle was highly revered by later Native American tribes in Northern America.
Curiously, as was the case with many other octagonal and multi-sided structures built by the Hopewell (nearly all of which have now been destroyed), each of its sides are separated from each other by a gap, which if viewed from the center is hidden behind an elliptical blocking mound built in front of these entrances, the purpose of which remains unclear (although see below). The Observatory Circle has an elliptical mound located at its south-eastern extremity. This gazes out across the open circular space at the gap between the two monuments, which lies in the NE and opens up into a short earthen avenue that links it with the adjacent Octagon.
Today both the Observatory Circle and the Octagon form part of a huge golf-course that, mercifully, has preserved them from suffering the same fate as many of their counterparts in other parts of Ohio and neighbouring Kentucky (including a great square north-east of Newark’s Great Circle). As long as you are prepared to dodge the golf balls, there are locations on the edge of each of these almighty landscape features where the viewer can observe sections of the earthworks.
We tackled the Octagon first, walking around its perimeter, observing the various blocking mounds which stood in front of the feature’s eight openings. Each one was topped by trees, and for me they seemed to imply that their purpose was to prevent spirits or energies, seen to move in straight lines, from leaving the structure during magical or religious ceremonies. In other words this enormous earthwork was a place of containment, even though celebrants were able to quite easily walk around any of the eight blocking mounds in order to leave the site.
Greg pointed out that archaeo-astronomers believe that the various angles made from one opening in the Octagon to another suggest alignments involving the 18.61 year lunar standstill cycle, implying to some that the site was sacred to the moon. I could certainly gain an impression of grand ceremonies taking place here at night. Yet with this came the feeling that these places were multi-functional, and need not only have been sacred to one celestial body alone. Afterwards, we approached the Observatory Circle from across the grounds of a local hospital.
Just beyond the Octagon is a small ring-like earthwork, now containing a putting green. It is around 12 metres (40 feet) in diameter, with a single opening, and is a remaining example of several similar such circles once connected with the Newark earthworks. As with many of the other features, the original function of these rings remains unknown.
Of final interest here was Greg's statement that the Observatory Circle and Octagon are known to have formed the northern extremity of an avenue or road, consisting of a parallel earthwork, which stretched south-westwards to an identical circle and octagon at Chillicothe, which is an incredible 90 kilometres (56 miles) away! Exactly what this represented, or was used for, is unclear, and indeed incredible mystery surrounds almost the entire mentality of the Hopewell culture.
Click here to view Qicktime filmclips of, in order, the groundplan of Newark's Great Circle, the earthwork itself, the Eagle Mound, the nearby Octagon, some blocking mounds, and the adjacent Obervational Circle (all clips courtesy of Greg Little).
In spite of the tranquil setting, on the edge of a wood leading down to the local river, there appeared to be nothing here suggesting any kind of profound ceremonial purpose, other than the obvious function of honouring the dead. The circular earthwork exudes an impression of containing spirit, or spirits, or perhaps the circular bank was in fact to prevent bad spirits from entering this sacred area.
It was only afterwards that Greg pointed out that Mound City had been constructed on the western side of the river, traditionally the direction of the dead in many cultures worldwide. Somewhere on the other side of the river is the former location of the octagon, which probably served an altogether different function to that of Mound City.
Wednesday, 14 July. The day began with a visit to the Seip Mound, another tiny vestige of the Hopewell culture, west of Chillicothe. It is an enormous oblong earthwork, the final accessible remnant of a gigantic earthen complex covering 121 acres, which included a circle joined by a huge polygon, and several large mounds.
Very little of this complex was visible from the summit of the remaining mound, and the only feelings left in my mind was that we simply do not understand the mindset of those people who built these earthworks so furiously and so prolifically over 2,000 years ago. The purpose of their construction seemed beyond me, and I was now happy that we visited Newark’s Great Circle first, otherwise we might never had comprehended what was going on in these people’s minds.
The serpent is a universal symbol signifying wisdom, knowledge, cosmic creation, as well as sexual and telluric energies, although why exactly the Woodland Indians created this masterpiece, the final remaining example of several which could once be seen in the region, remains a complete mystery. No one has ever been able to get into the minds of its makers to decide why they revered the potency of the snake, even though the reptile does feature in Native American customs, ceremonies and folklore. This is despite the fact that the NW axis of the serpent’s head, and thus the egg, suggests it is aligned to midsummer sunset. Only later was I to read that archaeo-astronomers have argued that Serpent Mound is a representation of Draco, one of the circumpolar constellations whose meridian transit through the night sky might have been important to the Woodland Indians here.
It seems unlikely to me that the mound builders of Ohio would not have been aware of the fact that the site of Serpent Mound exuded a powerful magnetic field. Indeed, it might have led them to build it there in the first place. Beyond this, however, such knowledge is insufficient to explain why the Woodland Indians chose to construct a serpent effigy in preference to any other creature, especially one with an egg in its jaws. On the other hand, judging from the newspaper cuttings on a wall in the little museum at Serpent Mound the area has produced its own cases of mysterious lights in recent years.
Walking the paths which surround Serpent Mound led us to the head and egg, where Sue and I paused to focus our minds for a few moments. My imagination showed a priest-magician, or shaman, conducting a ritual involving the use of snake’s fangs, which if the reptile was poisonous would have carried its deadly venom. Why exactly I should visualise this seemed unclear, although I got the feeling that the effigy mound represented some past event remembered by the Mississippian mound-builders. There was a connection here perhaps with the head’s NW alignment, leading me to want to check out the greater significance of this region of the sky around the time the structure was built. Beyond the egg, we focused again and symbolically I was handed the snake’s fangs, which led me to imagine a migration of peoples from somewhere close to a smoking mountain, a volcano, although whether this sight was meaningful or not remains to be seen.
Overall, Serpent Mound impressed me greatly, not just its feel, enhanced greatly by its location on the summit of an impressive hill, but also because of its apparent relationship to the ever-present deviations to the earth’s magnetic field caused by the crypto-eruption thereabouts. It led me to conclude that even though the present mound might only be 1,000 years old, it replaced something much older, plausibly even an earlier snake effigy. It is just such a shame that all the other serpent mounds have now been destroyed, otherwise they might have thrown better light on the subject.
Click here to view Quicktime clips of Andrew and Sue Collins at Ohio's Serpent Mound, including the undulating effects of passing clouds, initial impressions, plus scenes of the footbridge across to Graceland, Memphis, and a visit to a crystal grotto in a Memphis park (all clips courtesy of Greg Little).
We got a chance to visit one of the final remaining fragments of the Portsmouth complex - one of the two horseshoe-shaped mounds, situated today in a park next to a children’s playground. It faces south towards the Ohio river, although little else could be determined since it is wisely railed off from the public, who seem to take pleasure in discarding their rubbish thereabouts.
On the way out of Portsmouth, on the Kentucky side of the river, Greg and Lora pointed out a few places where other parts of the enormous complex have been preserved on private property, and then it was on to their home city of Memphis, Tennessee, the home of Elvis and the blues.
Trip to Nashville
Earlier, I had discovered that, as predicted, the Milky Way would have been seen in the NE prior to the midsummer sunrise during the first millennium BC. This meant that someone standing on the Eagle Mound at Newark's Great Circle would have seen the Milky Way climbing into the sky in line with the earthwork's sole opening, aligned on the solsticial sunrise. Since I knew already that the Black Foot tribe of the North-West saw the Milky Way as a road to the stars, I checked the library to find out whether this was a consistent belief among other North American tribes. In general, the answer was yes - they saw it as the path or road taken by the dead after they left this world. So far, so good, but what about the Eagle Mound? How did that fit into the picture?
Taking this back to Newark's Great Circle made me realise that the Eagle Mound resembled less a bird and more a bird's foot, implying that it could quite easily be a representation of the Bird Foot constellation, located at the centre of the circular earthworks which probably signified the extent of the Middle World. Directly above in the night sky would have been the Eagle Mound's stellar counterpart, composed of the central five stars of the Northern Cross (also known as the Cross Star). That the Eagle Mound remains aligned to the Great Circle' NE opening, where the Milky Way would have been observed in advance of the pre-dawn light of the summer solstice, seemed to support this supposition. Moreover, I read in Nashville's Heard Library that the Great Circle's Eagle Mound, as well as other bird effigy mounds of the Hopewell culture, have been tentatively identified both with the Bird Foot emblem, and the Northern Cross, which as Cygnus is universally associated with a bird of one form or another.
In addition to this, I now felt sure that the abstract cross design on the Blackfoot shield represented Cygnus's cross-like configuration of stars, which, remember, were known also as the Cross Star in Native American starlore. Quite obviously, this was seen to have been at the end of the so-called Wolf Trail.
In Kentucky you shoot first and ask questions later, which is exactly what happened next. However, the .22 caliber bullets shot by Billy Ray and the shotgun cartridges unloaded by Lucky caused the creature merely to flip backwards, stand on its feet again, and then scurry into the surrounding woods.
Moments after the two now clearly frightened men re-entered the house, the creature, or another exactly like it, peered in through the window, prompting the guns to be unloaded in its direction. Going back outside they expected to find it dead on the ground, but there was no sign of it whatsoever. Turning around, the two men were terrified to see a claw reaching down from the edge of the roof (anyone remember the movie 'Signs', which I'm sure was based on the Kelly-Hopkinsville case). Once more, they shot at the creature, but this time all it did was float gently to ground level and scurry away into the night.
All hell broke loose after that as the family was placed under siege by the creatures, which terrified the lives out of the Suttons. They appeared at different windows, each time prompting more shots to be fired in their direction, but all to no avail. They simply would not go away. Sometimes they would walk around outside, their arms up in the air, but each time the men took a shot all the creature would do was flip over and run away. Apparently, the bullets would hit their mark, for a sound described as similar to a stone being thrown hard into a metal bucket, a ker-ping, would be heard to ring out through the night. Rightly or wrongly, the Sutton family came to the conclusion that there was up to 15 creatures out there, although never were they to cross the threshold of the house.
Finally, after three hours of sheer terror, with three children crying and screaming, the Sutton family, along with Billy Ray Taylor, made a break for it. They jumped in two cars and raced down to the town of Hopkinsville, where they alerted the police. At first the sheriff did not take them seriously, but the whole family seemed sober and had clearly been shaken by something, and so patrol vehicles were dispatched to the house in Kelly. Twenty officers combed the scene, but found nothing other than massive evidence of shots being fired in and around the building, and the fact that neighbours had seen strange lights earlier that night.
After exhausting all attempts to back up the claims of the Suttons, the police departed shaking their heads, leaving the family alone once more. Some 90 minutes later the creatures returned, peering in through windows and playing the same antics as before. More shots were fired, and the house was once again besieged through until the first light of dawn when the creatures vanished for good.
This is the incredible story I was first introduced to in pulp paperbacks by the likes of John Keel and Brad Steiger back in 1975, and from what I now know of the case the Suttons are considered to have been telling the truth about what happened that terrifying night in August 1955. Now we were in the sleepy town of Hopkinsville, so close to where these events had taken place (we did not go out to Kelly to see the site of the encounter, simply because of time and the fact that the Sutton residence was pulled down long ago). I asked in the museum if they knew anything about the story and they showed me reproduction newspapers in which the case was featured at the time it happened. Obviously, the family got a lot of stick, and eventually clammed up, and wouldn't say anything to anyone about what had occurred. Apparently, some of them still live in Kelly, although on this occasion we were not going to disturb them.
So what exactly did they encounter that night in 1955? As Greg has said in his own books, the creatures more resemble demons of the sort conjured by medieval magicians and sorcerers than UFO occupants. It was perhaps for this reason that the strange creatures came to be known as the Kelly-Hopkinsville 'goblins', an appellation which might well help us better understand the connection between UFO phenomena and folklore encounters with denizens of fairyland.
Green Fair 2005
Personally, I would like to see the Kelly Green Fair more like some sort of colloquial village fair, 'Wicker Man' style, during which an accurate representation of the Kelly goblin is paraded through the fields to the accompaniment of folk songs especially written for the occasion. Then in hundreds of years time the original purpose of the annual event will have been forgotten, and the locals won't even remember why they celebrate this strange rustic festival. It would then be up to folklorists to sift back through history to discover the truth behind the tales. That's my view, anyway. So get writing now!
I was not really looking forward to the Graceland visit, as I have never been a fan of Elvis's music, despite a tolerance for his over-the-top Las Vegas shows in the 1970s and a few half-decent records from this hazy period of his career. However, I did find the whole experience quite moving, as recordings played through earphones recount the manner of his life from the early days through to the tragic end on 16 August 1977 (they don't show you, or even mention, the upstairs rest room). The house is not as grotesque or surreal as I had expected, and there was nothing to suggest that Elvis Presley was anything other than a thoroughly decent kind of guy who died young: he loved his mother and did a lot for charity.
Topping up our new-found enthusiasm for traditional blues, Greg and Lora took us to Beale Street in down-town Memphis, where this kind of music is said to have had its roots, just as country is said to have been born in Nashville. Today beer is served on the street, and each evening bands play in every bar and on every street corner. Watching one of them do their thing seemed a fitting end to our three-week experience in the United States, which had greatly enriched our knowledge of the country's eclectic culture, both past and more recent. It was a time we shall never forget, and hopefully we can do it all again one day.
Copyright to all text and photos strictly Andrew Collins 2004. Permission to use any text or pictures from the Eden - Andrew Collins website must be sought in advance from the webmaster.
All Quicktime filmclips copyright, Greg Little.