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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Freaks and Curiosities at the Berkshire Museum

As part of its Circus-Themed Festival of Trees extravaganza this year, the Berkshire Museum is including an exhibit with some of the more "freakish" curiosities from their collection brought up from storage. I'm not posting a pic of the conjoined shark fetuses, because you should go see the exhibit. There is also a creepily delightful exhibition of Barnum & Bailey memorabilia, including a suit of Tom Thumb's, in addition to dozens of festive, eye-catching and innovative circus-themed decorated trees from artists and organizations all around the Berkshires.














Saturday, November 12, 2011

Top 5 Pittsfield Crime Stories

Following the recent arrest at Rite Aid of a man sexually accosting a sunglass display, I have compiled & re-posted copies of my personal choices of TOP 5 absurd Pittsfield Crime Stories from the past couple of years...

#5 IS THAT A GUN IN YOUR POCKET, OR ARE YOU JUST HAPPY TO GET YOUR CHECK?
"Reynolds cut through the courthouse parking lot and several Wendell Avenue lots before collapsing at a service station at the corner of East Housatonic and South streets, ... leaving a clear blood trail from the alley to the service station."

July 15, 2010
Charges for man who shot self
Conor Berry
Berkshire Eagle Staff

PITTSFIELD - A Pittsfield man who accidentally shot himself outside the Berkshire County Courthouse complex last month is now facing felony firearms charges, according to Pittsfield police.
Ricky Lee Reynolds, 26, of Cherry Street, is scheduled to appear Wednesday in Central Berkshire District Court, where he will be charged with carrying a gun without a license, discharging a gun within 500 feet of a building, improper storage of a gun, and possession of ammunition without a firearms identification card.
Police said Reynolds accidentally shot himself in the leg in an alley behind Patrick's Pub on the afternoon of June 24. The alley borders the parking lot of Berkshire Probate and Family Court and is only about 30 yards from the front entrance to District Court.
Reynolds cut through the courthouse parking lot and several Wendell Avenue lots before collapsing at a service station at the corner of East Housatonic and South streets, where he had attempted to flag down passing motorists for help. Police said Reynolds lost a lot of blood from the single gunshot wound to his left leg, leaving a clear blood trail from the alley to the service station.
Police recovered the gun - a loaded .22-caliber revolver with a black barrel and white handle - inside a shed at the service station. Police said Reynolds threw the weapon through a large crack in the shed's door.
Investigators initially were looking into the possibility that Reynolds, who's had past skirmishes with the law, may have been targeted by a rival. But witness testimony corroborated Reynolds' account that the wound was accidental and self inflicted, police said. Officer John P. Bassi, an investigator with the Pittsfield Police Department's crime scene services unit, said in a report that investigators were unable to perform a gunshot residue test on Reynolds, who underwent emergency surgery at Berkshire Medical Center.
Bassi said the residue test must be performed within three hours of a gun being fired, and it would have been too late for police to conduct the test by the time Reynolds was released from surgery.
Police said a female employee of Patrick's Pub was with Reynolds at the time of the June 24 shooting. Margaret Catalano, who works at the wellknown Bank Row pub and restaurant, told police she had briefly dated Reynolds, who also worked at Patrick's Pub.
According to police, Reynolds was on his way to pick up his paycheck when the gun discharged. It wasn't immediately clear if Reynolds is still employed by Patrick's.
Catalano, in a June 25 statement to Detective Dale M. Eason, told police that after she heard a loud pop, she turned around and saw a gun lying on the ground and Reynolds "bleeding very badly" from his left leg. Catalano said she initially contemplated calling 911. Instead, though, she asked Reynolds what he wanted her to do, and his reply was, "Just go to work," according to police reports now on file in istrict Court.
Catalano told police she was unaware Reynolds was carrying a gun.
"Ricky is a really nice person, and I am very surprised that he would even have a gun," she said.
The day after the shooting, Catalano told her boss, Dave Powell, an owner of Patrick's Pub, about what she had witnessed. Police said Powell urged Catalano to speak with investigators immediately and drove her to the police station to make a statement.

#4 IF THE VAN'S A-ROCKIN', DON'T COME KNOCKIN'
"Millard provided officers with various explanations for being naked before eventually admitting that he had been masturbating inside the van..."


December 3, 2009
Man cleared of indency charge
Conor Berry
Berkshire Eagle Staff PITTSFIELD -- What you do in the privacy of your own van is your own business. That was essentially the message sent by a judge who tossed out an obscenity charge against a man found naked inside a van at Bousquet Ski Area in September.
Attorney Elizabeth J. "Betsy" Quigley filed a motion in November to dismiss a charge of open and gross lewdness brought against Raymond S. Millard Jr., a 63-year-old Pittsfield man who disrobed inside a van whose windows were covered with black garbage bags.
The van was parked next to a pool where children were swimming, according to Pittsfield Police, who noted that the vehicle was rocking back and forth.
"He had no visibility of anybody outside," said Quigley, adding that Millard went to Bousquet to sleep after an argument with his girlfriend.
Millard placed the bags on the windows for privacy and to block out the sun, Quigley said.
The Sept. 2 incident occurred near the ski facility's "activity pool" -- a shallow pool favored by children -- where a Connecticut woman claimed she saw the van shaking back and forth, police said. The woman called 911, with officers arriving moments later.
According to a report by Pittsfield Police Officer David Potash, a fully naked man (Millard) was visible through a section of window that wasn't fully covered by a garbage bag. Once officers identified themselves, Millard asked them to wait while he quickly got dressed.
Millard provided officers with various explanations for being naked before eventually admitting that he had been masturbating inside the van, police said.
But that's not a crime, said Quigley, who argued in her motion to dismiss that police lacked probable cause to cite Millard for open and gross lewdness. Simply put, Millard's actions should not have triggered the criminal charge, she said.
For the government to prove open and gross lewdness, prosecutors had to show that Millard intended to publicly expose himself to one or more people in an effort "to produce alarm and shock." And that threshold was not crossed, according to Quigley.
"There was no exposure," she said. "Nobody saw anything. There was no evidence of any criminal activity whatsoever."
Central Berkshire District Court Judge Fredric D. Rutberg ultimately agreed with Quigley by dismissing the charge on Nov. 30.
Millard could not be reached for comment. The phone number he provided to police has been disconnected. Police were initially unsure if they could even charge Millard with a crime. But after consulting with the district attorney's office, a criminal summons was issued and Millard was arraigned on Sept. 15.

#3 WHO BRINGS A BB GUN TO A SCOOTER DEAL??
"As Belanger was test-driving the scooter, Cardona pulled out " what looked like a handgun..."


July 19, 2010
Thieves take scooter
Dick Lindsay

PITTSFIELD - Two city men and a Springfield resident were arrested over the weekend following a pair of thefts - one of them an armed robbery.
Douglas Belanger of Pittsfield and Gabriel Cardona from Springfield allegedly stole a two- wheeled scooter from two city residents while brandishing a BB gun on First Street on Saturday. Later that night, William Gary of Pittsfield allegedly attacked a male friend and took his money. Gary was also accused of choking his girlfriend, following an argument the couple had shortly after the alleged theft.
All three men were being held in the Pittsfield police lock- up, pending arraignments this morning in Central Berkshire District Court, police said Sunday.
Belanger, 22, of Tyler Street, and Cardona, 20, had approached a father and son - whom police didn't identify - about buying their scooter, which had a "For Sale" sign on it. Both parties agreed to meet around noon at the First Street Common to discuss a possible transaction. As Belanger was test-driving the scooter, Cardona pulled out " what looked like a handgun," pointed it at the victims and the two men fled the scene with the scooter, according to police.
The father called police and within 45 minutes, officers found Belanger and Cardona 200 feet away from the crime scene and arrested them.
" We had very good descriptions of the men to work with," said Pittsfield police Sgt. Matthew Hill.
Hill said the scooter and weapon, which was a BB gun, were recovered.
Cardona faces charges of armed robbery and assault with a dangerous weapon. Belanger is accused of armed robbery and disorderly conduct.
Saturday's second alleged theft was a falling out between two drinking buddies, police said. A city man riding his bike on North Street around 10 p.m. spotted William Gary, 44, near the Family Dollar Store and told him he had money to buy beer. The two went to Gary's apartment at 646 North St. where an argument ensued between Gary and his girlfriend.
The male friend, whom police didn't identify, decided to leave at that point, and that's when Gary punched the friend in the face and stole $100 in cash, police said.
The victim escaped and asked a passerby on North Street to call police. The man was taken to Berkshire Medical Center where he was treated for a broken nose and released.
Gary was arrested after he was found attacking his girlfriend, more than an hour after the robbery, police said.
Police investigating a car crash at the intersection of North Street and Maplewood at 11:15 p. m., were notified about the attack just outside Gary's apartment building.
"An eyewitness stated to police that [Gary] choked the female who fell to the ground," Hill said. Hill said once Gary was in custody, police determined he also was the one who allegedly attacked his male friend and stole the $100.
Gary faces charges of unarmed robbery and assault and battery from the first incident along with assault and battery and disturbing the peace for allegedly attacking his girlfriend.

# 2. "FALLING DOWN", PITTSFIELD STYLE.
"He was just having a bad day."


Berkshire Eagle, April 24, 2009
Man goes on Walmart smashing spree

Benning W. De La Mater, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Friday, April 24 PITTSFIELD — A summa cum laude college graduate wielding a baseball bat smashed the screens of 17 television sets inside Walmart before employees were able to calm him down. After the incident, which several employees called "terrifying," the man expressed anti-government sentiments and complained about being unemployed.
According to police, Nicholas Adornetto, 26, of East Street, walked into the Hubbard Avenue Walmart shortly after 1 p.m. and headed for the sporting goods area. There, he picked up an aluminum baseball bat and made his way to the electronics department, where he began taking rips at three rows of flat-screen TVs — Vizios, Sonys and Sumsungs.
$13,000 in damage
He connected on 17 swings. Estimated damage: $13,000.
Adornetto was heard saying, "I'm not going to hurt anyone. I'm mad at the government. I'm sick of it all. I want to go to jail."
Pittsfield Police Detective Sgt. Marc E. Strout said several employees were able to "talk him down" and take the bat away.
Police were called. Adornetto was arrested and charged with 17 counts of willful and malicious destruction of property. He was being held on $3,000 cash bond at the Pittsfield Police Department overnight and is scheduled to be arraigned in Central Berkshire District Court this morning.
Employees at the store declined to speak with a reporter.
Ashley Hardie, a Walmart spokeswoman based in Bentonville, Ark., said she hasn't heard of an incident like this taking place at the large discount store, which operates nearly 4,000 locations across the United States.
Incident still under investigation
"We appreciate the quick response of the police department," she said.
Hardie declined to speak further on the issue, as it still remains under investigation.
Meanwhile, questions remain concerning Adornetto's motive. The 2001 Pittsfield High graduate received a history degree from Skidmore College in Saratoga, N.Y., in December 2004.
He was accepted into the international honor society Phi Alpha Theta and graduated summa cum laude — the highest college honors reserved for the top 1 percent of students.
His father, Gerald Adornetto, died a suspicious death in January 2005. His body was found inside a van parked on Circular Avenue.
The 45-year-old owner of Gerald Adornetto & Son Plumbing Co. suffered stab wounds, but an autopsy determined that it was a heart attack due to cocaine ingestion that led to his death. District Attorney David Capeless dropped charges against 23-year-old Anthony Carnute, who admitted to selling drugs to Adornetto and stabbing him during an altercation.
When Strout arrested Adornetto on Thursday at Walmart, he said the man was "peaceful, calm and cooperative.
"He was just having a bad day."

#1 The Turkey-Baster Incident
Jennifer declined "to go forward with charges of assault with intent to rape" because she did not believe "Stephanie was going to sexually assault her with the syringe."

March 12, 2009
Insemination fight ends in wife's arrest
Conor Berry, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Thursday, March 12 PITTSFIELD — A woman who allegedly intended to artificially inseminate her wife with her brother's semen has been charged with domestic assault and battery. Pittsfield police responded to a call shortly before 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in the city's Morningside neighborhood, where the assault allegedly occurred.
Stephanie K. Lighten, 26, was released on personal recognizance after denying the allegations in Central Berkshire District Court Wednesday morning.
Jennifer A. Lighten, 33, told police that Stephanie Lighten, her wife, was "all liquored up" when she returned to their Lincoln Street apartment, where the defendant then allegedly tried to use a syringe to inseminate her, according to a police report.
Jennifer told investigating officers that Stephanie "has been talking about trying to impregnate (her) for some time," police said.
According to a report by Pittsfield Police Officer Kipp D. Steinman: "Jennifer said that Stephanie had a 'turkey baster and her brother's semen in a sealed container.' Jennifer said she told Stephanie that she didn't want to get pregnant." The device was actually a large syringe with a catheter tip, police said, and it was still in its original package when officers confiscated the item.
That's allegedly when Stephanie threw Jennifer on the couch, grabbed at her clothes and threatened to impregnate her, police said.
Jennifer broke free, ran into the bathroom and locked the door. Stephanie "then broke the bathroom door down," police said, hurting her wrist in the process.
When Stephanie went to retrieve an ice pack from the freezer, Jennifer bolted from the apartment and attempted to get away in the couple's sport utility vehicle, police said.
As Jennifer pulled away from the scene, Stephanie "jumped on the side of their vehicle, swung the door open and made (Jennifer) stop," Steinman said.
According to Officer John Bassi, a witness at the scene claimed Stephanie "was hanging on the SUV door handle, trying to get into the car." Amber Hunt told Bassi that Stephanie nearly caused an accident when the vehicle narrowly missed hitting a tree in the front yard of Hunt's Spring Street home.
Police arrested Stephanie Lighten near the intersection of Spring and Curtis streets in Morningside.
Police also confiscated the container of semen and some aluminum foil, which was originally used to hold the semen. Nicholas Lighten, Stephanie Lighten's brother, was the donor, according to police.
Detective Thomas H. Harrington said Jennifer Lighten declined "to go forward with charges of assault with intent to rape" because she did not believe "Stephanie was going to sexually assault her with the syringe." However, Harrington informed the alleged victim that attempted rape charges could be filed if she changes her mind.
Stephanie Lighten was represented by attorney Thomas J. Donahue Jr. at Wednesday's arraignment.
Judge Rita S. Koenigs ordered Lighten to "refrain from abuse" and to return to court for an April 29 pretrial hearing.

Para-Tourism in the Berkshires

These Mysterious Hills: A New Kind of Tourism is Coming on iBerkshires.com
http://www.pittsfield.com/story/39763/These-Mysterious-Hillshttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif-A-New-Kind-of-Tourism-is-Coming.html

And in the North Adams Transcript:

Lecture: Berkshires could capitalize on ‘paratourism’
By Jennifer Huberdeau
Posted: 10/31/2011 08:47:45 AM EDT


Monday October 31, 2011

North Adams Transcript

NORTH ADAMS -- Apparitions in windows, phantom footsteps on the stairs and a host of mysterious happenings could translate into bigger tourism dollars for local cultural venues with a haunted history, according to Joe Durwin, local folklorist and columnist.

"We’ve reached a new era with the haunted history of the Berkshires -- I call it the ‘paratourism’ chapter," he said Saturday during a talk at the Houghton Mansion on Church Street. "I feel like we have all these new haunted places popping up. Ventfort Hall in Lenox was just featured on ‘Ghost Hunters,’ making it now the fifth or sixth place in the Berkshires to make it onto national television."

He added, "Paratourism seems to be a growing demographic in travel, with people staying in haunted inns and visiting haunted mansions and things. It seems to be a non-seasonal type of tourism, which something we could use more of around here Š It’s big tourism in places like Salem and Savannah, Ga."

But while paratourism could bring ghost seekers to the Berkshires, it could "muddy the waters" for folklorists like Durwin, the author of the local column, "These Mysterious Hills."

"There are many pros and cons," he said to a group of about 60 ‘paratourists’ who flocked to the Houghton Mansion from as far away as Boston, with the hopes of capturing one of its famous specters on their digital cameras
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and voice recorders.

The Houghton Mansion, home to the city’s first mayor, A.C. Houghton, is home to the Lafyette-Greylock Masonic Temple. The spirits of Houghton, his daughter, Mary, and the family’s chauffeur, John Widders, are supposed to roam the house -- the result of a tragic car accident that killed Mary and a family friend. Widders, who was driving the car, shot himself. Houghton died 11 days later from internal injuries.

The house has been featured on numerous national television shows, including "Ghost Adventures," and has hosted numerous ghost-hunt events with members of The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS), who make up the cast of the SyFy Network’s popular "Ghost Hunters" television series.

However, Durwin wasn’t on site to relate the tragic Houghton tale, instead he wove tales about other haunts in the Berkshires and related how several legends are suspect.

"In the 1800s, the Shakers in Stockbridge reported a lot of paranormal activity," he said. "Interestingly enough, the accounts are well documented in letters of visitors and travelogues, but not their own historical records."

One famous account coming from Stockbridge has a female member falling into a melancholy. The pastor of the group then convinces the membership that the devil is among them. The story continues that the men meet in the iconic round stone barn, where they are armed with the "Sword of Righteousness" and go out to do battle with the devil. The group surrounds the devil, trapping it on their holy mount, where it disappears with a horrible shriek and the stench of sulfur.

"Interestingly enough, I’ve found identical versions of this tale associated with the Shaker Villages in Tyringham and New Lebanon, N.Y.," Durwin said. "I’ve talked to Shaker researchers about this and they can’t locate it in the history of any of the communities. I have a feeling it was a story they told at their revivals, when they were recruiting new members."

He also told stories about the Pittsfield ghost train and floating ghostly silhouettes at Clapp Park in Pittsfield, and about the Passetto House in Lee, which made headlines around the county in 1981, when its owners called in Ed and Lorraine Warren, famous ghost-hunter demonologists from Connecticut, who investigated the Amityville Horror house in Long Island.

"There were reports of steel bookcases that were bent in half and the wife said she had scratches on her body from an imp," Durwin said. "The Warrens declared the house to have a demon and called in a renegade Catholic priest to do an exorcism. The family eventually moved back in and even appeared on the ‘Geraldo’ show."