Dan Rafter

Dan Rafter is a freelance writer living in St. Charles, Illinois.

Old amusement parks don’t die, they just … become condos

Mat Lindstedt was a typical 12-year-old growing up in San Jose during the 1970s. He spent his summers braving the runaway mine ride, paddling the Indian war canoes, and riding the lazy burros at Frontier Village amusement park. Riding an endangered species. Photo: iStockphoto But Lindstedt’s summers changed in 1980, when the owners of Frontier Village decided the park’s 33 acres would fetch them far more dollars in the San Jose real-estate market than it ever would as a kiddie kingdom. The park never stood a chance, and closed its gates for good. “It was heart-wrenching,” Lindstedt says today. “The …

A handful of imaginary species are protected by real laws

Dave Shealy has spent chunks of his life trudging through the muck of the Everglades’ Big Cypress Swamp in search of a monster — a hairy, 450-pound one that can stand seven feet tall and reeks of rotten eggs. Most people think Shealy’s either crazy or a shameless publicity hound, but he couldn’t care less. As the proud founder of the world’s only skunk-ape research center, the inveterate tracker says he plans to study this elusive animal until the day he dies — even if he never does get to see one up close. He’s even called for the state …

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