The Kingdom of Boomeria

The Kingdom of Boomeria is a magical place of just one hectare hidden in the forest in Bonny Doon, California. Students who graduate from San Lorenzo Valley High School go out into the world and tell tales of their adventures in the Kingdom of Boomeria and find that no one believes them. After all, how many people can claim their science education included fighting medieval battles, building a pipe organ, and digging an underground labyrinth?

Preston Q. Boomer has been teaching physics and chemistry at San Lorenzo Valley High near Santa Cruz for over 50 years. He has a passion for science and believes that hands-on experience helps students understand scientific concepts. He also believes science (and life in general) should be fun. His nickname is "The Boom", which they say is not because of explosions in chemistry class, although there are stories of experiments that went awry, like the time he drew the cops to the school after a Tesla coil cut off police communications. Boomer taught the grandparents of his current students, but has no plans to retire. He is the crazy mad scientist that we all wish we had for a teacher.


According to The Boom, the idea of Boomeria was born the night he used water guns to defend his home from students who planned to egg his house. He began construction on the kingdom in the mid 1950s on his 2.5 acre yard nestled in the woods. There were no neighbors at the time. Boomer's two sons, Lawrence and Alex as well as many students over the years helped construct a wooden castle with a dungeon, battle turrets complete with water cannons, a pneumatic system to power the kingdom's pipe organ, and an underground labyrinth that connects the different parts of Boomeria. The property also holds a swimming pool (which The Boom calls the "Main Aqueous Ammunition Bunker") and a chapel built around the organ.


The tunnels beneath Boomeria were dug by students over a three-year period in the 1960s. Now they are known as the Great Tunnel, the Catacombs, and the Dungeon. While digging the tunnels, students found bones of an animal that resembles a dinosaur but still hasn't been identified. The reconstructed skeleton now hangs in the command center. Next to the castle stands a full-size working guillotine, which is used only for watermelons. No one is allowed on the guillotine platform except The Boom himself. The entire property is wired with horns, sirens, bells, and other means of warning and communication. The loudest is the Weapon Beulah, a Navy foghorn that can be heard miles away. When approaching the castle, you'll be greeted by The Boom shouting "Who goes there?" to which he expects a creative and intelligent reply.


The students periodically try to conquer the kingdom using the water cannons. These battles rage fiercely, but as the kingdom's motto states, "The King Always Wins".


The water to the cannons is controlled from the Main Engine Room. The Control Room holds the telegraph system used for communication and steam engines that power other parts of Boomeria. There is also a laboratory full of ancient chemicals and more recent experiments.


The Brotherhood of Natural Philosophers is the science club The Boom's students founded in the 1960s. New recruits are taken to a party in Boomeria where they are expected to give a short science presentation, then are taken on a tour of the kingdom before being formally installed. Participation is not mandatory, as that would hint at hazing, but no one wants to miss it! There are activities all year long for club members, both inside the kingdom and elsewhere.


Preston Boomer's great-grandmother gave an 1879 pipe organ to the Trinity Paris Church in San Jose many years ago. In 1953 the church replaced that organ, and The Boom took what was left of the old organ (the console and two sets of pipes) and made it a part of Boomeria. Over the years, Boomer and his students, under the supervision of organ builders Bill Reid, John West, and Bill Visscher, repaired and expanded the original organ. Now it has 2,500 pipes! You can hear a bit of organ music at The Boom's site. Image by Flickr user graymalkn.


There are several ways you can experience Boomeria for yourself. The best way is to be a student at San Lorenzo Valley High School. If that's not possible, you can attend the annual Boomeria Extravaganza, scheduled this year for July 10th. The event is a fundraiser for the Santa Cruz Baroque Festival and will cost you $50 per ticket, but that will entitle you to an afternoon of organ music, refreshments, and a tour of the inside of the organ, as well as a look at the rest of Boomeria. The public is invited to a Christmas carol singing each year -the event for 2010 is scheduled for December 18th. If you are between 7 and 13 years old, you can attend the Celtic Music Camp held each summer at Boomeria. Otherwise, you can contact The Boom ahead of time and ask nicely. After all, it's his kingdom.

A large tree fell during a storm and damaged part of the castle last fall, but students and family helped remove the debris and insurance will cover repairs. The Boom said he would use the experience in his classroom lessons. It's just another example of how this teacher uses every opportunity to teach the principles of physics.

This post was inspired by an item at the Presurfer.

Read about other personal constructions at mental_floss: The Coral Castle, Salvation Mountain, The Watts Towers, and 7 Lifelong Personal Projects.

© via Wikimedia Commons // CC-BY-SA-4.0
The People of Texel Island are Professional Beachcombers
© via Wikimedia Commons // CC-BY-SA-4.0
© via Wikimedia Commons // CC-BY-SA-4.0

If you’ve ever tossed a message in a bottle into the ocean from anywhere in Northern Europe, it’s likely it ended up on Texel Island. Located off the North Coast of the Netherlands, Texel is at the intersection of several major currents, and close to several shipping routes. For the last 400 years, Texel residents have survived, in part, by scavenging items that have been lost at sea.

According to documentarian Sam Walkerdine in a piece for The Mirror, the practice has faded as other economic opportunities have opened up, but many residents still scour the beaches for lost items. One professional beachcomber, Cor Ellen, claims to have found over 500 bottles with letters inside—and has even answered some of them.

Ellen is one of the subjects of Flotsam and Jetsam (2012), Walkerdine’s 13-minute documentary on the Texel Island beachcombers (you can watch it above). In the film, a handful of Texel Islanders show off their best finds, and share their stories and strange observations. Ellen, for example, brags about scavenging crates of food, fur coats, powdered milk (“I didn’t have to go to the milkman for one year”), and even umbrella handles from passing cargo ships. Another beachcomber reminisces about finding something more personal: the collected photos and memorabilia of an English couple who had broken up and tossed their memories into the sea.

One of the weirder observations comes from Piet Van Leerson, whose family has been beachcombing for at least five generations: he claims that only left shoes wash up on Texel’s shores. The right shoes, meanwhile, end up in England and Scotland. (The shapes cause them to go in different directions.)

Beachcombing is such a big part of life on Texel, they’ve even opened several museums to show off their weirdest, funniest, and most interesting finds.

If you do decide to try and get a bottle with a letter in it to Texel, the residents have a few suggestions for you: drop the bottle somewhere off the coast of England, weigh it down with pebbles so it doesn’t get caught by the wind, and of course, remember to include a return address.

YouTube / British Movietone / AP
A Film Tour of London in 1981
YouTube / British Movietone / AP
YouTube / British Movietone / AP

Earlier this month, the Associated Press began releasing loads of archival video on YouTube. A large part of that collection comes from British Movietone, which has uploaded thousands of videos of all kinds, including many newsreels.

I have scrolled through countless pages of such videos—most without sound and/or extremely esoteric—and I finally discovered a 1981 gem, This is London. It's a sort of video time capsule for London as it was in the late 1970s and early 1980s, comprising plenty of stock footage of all the sights, royals, and ceremonies you can imagine.

If you've been to London, this is a great glimpse of what it once looked like. If you've never been, why not check out London circa 1981?


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