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Monday, July 23, 2007

The Search for Midgettown....the Real Munchkinland

After hearing rumors about the legends and fantasies surrounding a certain village near Cincinnati, I couldn’t help but get in my car and drive in search for it. You must understand how bored a person can become sitting in a hotel room in a city where you don’t know a soul. Especially if you are at all like me and you mistake loneliness for boredom.

However, the type of village this was rumored to be, was above and beyond the regular “something to do when you are bored” protocol, no, this was more into the type of thing that you wonder how other people could remain entertained and not bored since they probably never have, nor few ever will undertake the same search that I undertook. (If you have, then I commend you.)

What was so special about this hidden community was the fact that it is supposed to be composed of nothing but midgets. Yes, I am sure you are no doubt taken by surprise, by the utter joy and frolicsome pictures that this conjures for you. Others of you, undergo a sort of nightmare when I call up that portrait to your midgie-phobic mind. You have an unhealthy fear of little people and it should be treated. And still others of you, recline back and sigh to yourself, with the idyllic serenity of what such a community would entail…a sort of Shire-like Utopia…of perpetual children and it makes you feel all snug inside. Doubtless of what your feelings are about a full scale midget town are, I will relate the rumors that I have heard about this quirky stronghold for the vertically challenged.

The tale goes back years and years ago, (as all good stories go) where a circus owner, probably from Cincinnati, had tons and tons of midgets. The ringleader, this Buck-eye Barnum decided to make a town for them on the outskirts of Cincinnati. He constructed little houses and corrals and chow halls and all the like, so that his dwarfs could live all together in harmony and in one accord. You must realize that those of little stature were seriously persecuted throughout history. Well, if not persecuted and hated, at least ridiculed and feared. So, a town where they could thrive and no one could be an outsider no matter how short he was, was a marvelous idea. Segregation was the rule of the thumb throughout much of history until only a few decades ago. But the plan backfired. Instead of making the midgets more peaceful and harmonious, they become more defensive and more hostile. The mockery that they felt only fed their desire to keep us tall people out. For many years, people have reported incidents of those who ventured to wander through Midgettown. It becomes awfully quiet. No one is around. The little houses all shut their doors. The sidewalks empty. It becomes a dwarf-ghost town. But interesting evidences occur…swings still remain moving. Doors and windows are covered up. The whole place remains swept clean. And the most bizarre thing is that feeling of being watched…and if you happen to venture there at night…the bright gleaming of eyes watching you from the forest. Also, reports have been made about the movements of things out in the woods. Movement flashes here and there, like a blur you may be able to see something or someone. And then there are those who admit to having rocks thrown at them and still others that they are chased out of there.

So you see, being in Cincinnati with nothing to do in the evening, I had to go and find this place. I was a bit skeptical. I really doubted that the place existed. I googled, “midgettown” on the internet to find the location, but where stories abounded no one gave an exact location. How can so many people claim to see different things when no one takes the time to record the address? I was doubtful. But I decided that the search for it should be the fun of it. I wrote down as many description as I could find on the internet concerning its exact location, and then headed out really believing that such a place doesn’t really exist…………….And Oh, how wrong I was.

I drove and drove, up and down hills, along and across county roads. The Ohio countryside displayed its own beauty in a surprising largeness. But no where could I find that little town with its little inhabitants. There were no yellow brick roads leading me into this Munchkinland. I even stopped at a vineyard
and asked if they knew where the "Handlebar Ranch" was. I hadn't the courage to place the indiscreet, "midget" adjective in my inquiry. The vineyard waiter just shook his head in ignorance. I was making it all much too difficult for I would squeeze my car into the most narrow,the oldest trace of driveways or trails, sometimes coming upon old shacks that were every bit as spooky as an army full of belligerent midgets.

The search was exhausting me and it was just as I had foreseen. Nothing. I was about to give up when I thought to take one more stab at this puzzling mystery. I tried one last road that looped around one of the internet-given landmarks. The woods grew thick on either side. And there to my utter Hobbit-longing eyes appeared what was unmistakenly their village. On either sides of the road stretched these white buildings with doors that only came up to my chin. The roofs were nearly level with my eyes or forehead. On the left side, the white buildings were very long and sort of out in the open. They had staccato roofs and all over the walls there were strange drawings and paintings adorning the place in an eerie mural of color and imagination. The style of all the buildings were strictly that old German style that Gingerbread houses are imitated after. And if these weren't enough to convince me, I was at the right spot, there was a big sign that read "Handlebar Ranch". One of the indications given by my resources.

On the right hand side, even more eeriely, sat more square looking German style buildings that were half hidden by the forest that stretched its mystical arm out and enveloped half the scenery. You could see old worn stones winding up the hill into the woods to the other midget houses half glimpsed of in the branches and limbs that swallowed up that side. And of course, I should probably mention that there was not a sign of anybody.

When I pulled over to the side of the road, there was a truck that was in front of me on the same road that saw me stop. I sort of wondered what he thought. He continued to drive up the road when he got to the stop sign up ahead, and as I got out of my car, I heard him screech his wheels as he gunned his truck out of there. That, was not a very compeling sound, more like a bad omen.

By foot, I crossed the street, to the more inviting left side. There was a little moat, almost a big gutter, that I had crossed by way of a little bridge. And then I began peeking in all the little buildings that I could. All the doors were locked. The only things that moved were several cats that jumped here and there in alarm at my intrusion. I saw a an old-fashioned well, and what looked like an old corral, and a large long building that was accessible, but it was all dark inside so I wasn't daring to venture in. The only door that opened in the little buildings was the midget outhouse. I even climbed ontop of some roofs seeing if there was a hidden entrance somewhere. Exploring to me, is more than a hobby. It's almost an obsession. If I explore something...I can't ever seem to stop for that initial exploration only opens up other mysteries. So I keep going.

All the while, I'm wondering just how many midgets could I possibly take down, if an entire squadron should rain down from the trees or break out of their trap-doors. The whole thing is up to speculation for I've never had the fortune of wrestling a midget before. Perhaps, size after all doesn't really matter. They could be the fiestiest little people that two, maybe even, one could single-handedly slap me around. This I doubted though. I had the immediate strategic idea to just start grabbing their heads and kneeing them right in the face if they were to get violent. Or maybe I would convince them all to join me in my endeavor to be one of the world's greatest candy manufacturers.

But, no little guys here. Realistically, it all looked to be some sort of abandoned children's camp. I crossed over to the opposite, more creepier side. The daytime sky started to turn into that light haze of dusk. Nighttime was not too far behind. With boundless enthuisiasm, I jumped up those dwarven steps, further into the wooded mist. Several of these buildings had their roofs caved in. Entire walls were knocked out. This was not a midget habitat. But midget ruins. I started to walk up the trail further into the forest near a smaller midget shack when right behind a bush, in a split-second, appeared something that made my heart leap out with sheer adrenaline. In that split-second, what I saw was this moving blur as if walking towards me. It was not as big as a human. It would have came up to my chest. It was a light brown hue,...but before I could really react, I saw that this thing...was a deer. The strange thing about this doe is that it was not very afraid of me. It even continued to walk towards me and it didn't run away until I stepped toward it. And even after it retreated, it came back. Maybe the dwarves turn themselves into animals in the daytime. Or maybe these are those "bright gleaming of eyes" seen in the nighttime....and it all made perfect sense. I explored a little bit more, and saw a bigger, human size German-style house at the beginning of the trail that was also abandoned. Content with my adventure,I got into my car and drove off just as the rain began to pour down and the day grew darker beginning to descend into night.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also became interested in this legend recently and went to investigate, finding many of the same things which you had found. When I returned home, I decided to investigate further. What I discovered is that "Munchkinland" is an urban legend. Handlebar ranch was a place where people could go and pay to ride bicycles around in the surrounding woods. Thus the name handlebar ranch. The legend came into play when the German owner Anna Gay Ritter, an artist and creator of the ranch, placed a set of bells outside. Kids would come in the middle of the night and ring the bells, and Anna would come out onto her balcony to yell at them. From the road, Anna would have looked like a midget up on her balcony (she was only 5'2"). Thus the legend began and has grown and changed since then. The rumpke landfill eventually invaded her land and the ranch was shut down. Anna died in her house three years later. But maybe she is the one now haunting it ;) -Chris Baker

1:38 PM  
Anonymous the author said...

Wow! Thanks for the information. Even before I got out of the car, I was certain that it was some type of abandoned kids camp. All the colorful murals point to that. Although it did seem strange that so many buildings were that small, seeing that adult chaperones would have a hard time inside them. But thank you for the research. In a way this solves some of the mystery, though without completely robbing all the mystery out of it. And do you live in Cincinatti? You seem to be familiar with alot there.

9:20 PM  
Blogger Steve L said...

Brian, if you are around I'D like to talk to you about Handlebar. I'm researching it's history.

7:50 PM  

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