By his own admission, Al Eufrasio is no Weird Al.
It’s just he has this great sense for mystery, intrigue and strangeness.
“I wasn’t overly obsessed, but I was adventurous. I would go exploring ditches and things,” said Eufrasio, who grew up in his native New Jersey before moving to Auburn 13 years ago. “I would like to find clues and discover the story behind things.”
In doing so, the video game artist and animator also found he had a way with words. He wrote about what he found in his travels and began to put accounts together in a recently released book, “Weird Washington: Your Travel Guide to Washington’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets” (Sterling Publishing Co., $19.95).
Eufrasio, 36, and his friend, Jeff Davis, collaborated on the project, the latest volume born out of the series called “Weird U.S.” It began when a couple of New Jersey friends, Mark Sceurman and Mark Moran, published a newsletter called “Weird New Jersey,” describing the state’s nontraditional sites. It eventually grew into an innovative biannual magazine and then a book by the same title.
Intrigued by Weird N.J.’s quirky content, Eufrasio contacted Sceurman and Moran, and forged a cross-country connection. All along, Eufrasio contributed illustrations and other material to the authors’ literary projects. The book series took flight, and Sceurman and Moran kept Eufrasio in mind when it came to getting around to Weird Washington.
New York’s Sterling Publishing Co. eventually commissioned the Washington volume from Eufrasio and Davis, a fellow Washington resident.
Eufrasio was honored and up for the task. The research was extensive. He found his adopted home, the Evergreen State, to be filled with many eccentric and colorful stories, both real and imagined. The book couldn’t carry all the interesting tales and vivid descriptions.
“I enjoyed meeting the different people who welcomed me into their homes or people themselves who are profiled,” Eufrasio said of his project that involved the help of many cooperative groups and organizations. “I just kind of emphasized the eclectic amount of character in Washington. There are so many various interests with what people are about.
“I found that I sort of appreciate off-kiltered people more than I thought I would. I kind of felt I belonged,” he said with a laugh.
The book is great armchair reading, an entertaining collage of exotic, extreme and bizarre stories, facts and tidbits from throughout the state. It is a remarkable and valuable book for tourists, aficionados of the unusual and those interested in the wonders of Washington.
The book is filled with local lore and legend, with such chapters like “Bizarre Beasts” – featuring Thunderbird, Big Foot and the Monsters of Lake Washington, among others – “Ancient Mysteries,” “Roadside Oddities” and “Unexplained Phenomena.”
The “Local Legends” chapter describes the Indian Princess at Pike Place Market and the Eeriness in Ellensburg. “Fabled People, Places” tackles Tacoma’s Tire-Gobbling Mystery Hole, the Land of Giants, the Soap People of Crescent Lake and D.B. Cooper.
Ted Bundy, the Green River Killer and the honorable J.P. Patches are chronicled in “Local Heroes, Villains.”
There also are sections devoted to haunted places and roads either less traveled or simply odd. Auburn makes the book with its coffee-pot-shaped espresso stand, Perky’s.
The “Cemetery Safari” chapter revisits the graves of Bruce and Brandon Lee, and legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix. “Washington’s Lost & Found” chapter rediscovered the Kalakala, Soap Lake and the Wellington Train Wreck.
As far as Eufrasio is concerned, there is no way to define “weird” in Washington. But the stories leave the reader wondering.
“After further reflection, maybe it is (weird) or maybe it isn’t. Weird is a very subjective title,” said Eufrasio, who also is an avid film buff and photographer. “We don’t necessarily believe every story, but we appreciate it from the folklore point of view.”
In his research, Eufrasio and Davis uncovered enough information to produce a Washington sequel. With help from weird friends, in might happen.
Sales have been good. Weird Washington was the No. 2 seller in the state on Amazon.com.
For now, Eufrasio and Davis are working on “Weird Oregon.”
Eufrasio enjoys the research. With the understanding of his wife, Tammy, he continues to pore over the massive amounts of information worth sharing.
“After all, it’s a big, weird world out there,” he wrote. “Let’s make sure our little corner of it is thoroughly celebrated.”