Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Let's Cage Those Kids...!

Back in the days we often refer to as the "good ol' days" they had some pretty strange ideas.

Now we all agree that children need some fresh air from time to time, but this little invention might not have been the best way to accomplish that issue. See what you think.

The Shocking Baby Cage From 1937
By S. Grant on Thursday, July 24, 2014

They say that everything old is new again, but if there’s one thing destined to remain in the past it’s the 1937 baby cage. This disturbing contraption was designed to hang outside a window—even many stories up—so babies could crawl inside it and get fresh air. More astonishing than it being invented is the fact that it actually caught on and was used by a number of London mothers looking for a convenient way to get their little ones outdoors.

In 1930s London, lawns were scarce, cities were crowded, and apparently taking babies for walks was a hassle. Enter: the baby cage. With this wire enclosure, parents didn’t need to leave the house to give their children a healthy dose of sunshine and fresh air. The only problem was that the cage was suspended precariously off the side of a building.

The cage was originally patented in 1922 by American Emma Read, yet for whatever reason, it didn’t attract much appeal in the United States. But in 1937, the Chelsea Baby Club distributed the device to its London members as a way for the mothers to easily get their babies outdoors, even if they didn’t have a backyard or garden. Instead of immediately shunning the thing as an infant death trap, many parents slapped the cage on their apartment windows and left their children’s fate in the care of a handful of bolts and screws. Not to be outdone by the Chelsea Baby Club, London’s East Poplar borough council offered to attach the cages outside its tenement windows as well.

Although the patent had designs for versions with roofs, the most commonly used cages were completely open to the elements and susceptible to bird droppings and whatever projectiles neighborhood kids wanted to throw. There was, however, plenty of room for toddlers to sleep and play with toys, and they did indeed get some fresh air.

In the patent, Read describes the purpose of the cage by stating, “It is well known that a great many difficulties rise in raising and properly housing babies and small children in crowded cities, that is to say from the health viewpoint. With these facts in view it is the purpose of the present invention to provide an article of manufacture for babies and young children to be suspended upon the exterior of a building adjacent an open window, wherein the baby or young child may be placed.”

The baby cage eventually fell out of fashion—probably around the 1940s, when even the most lackadaisical mothers knew a little fence wire wouldn’t protect their child from the Blitz. Unsurprisingly, the cage never made a comeback.

I don't think this idea would be allowed in today's world, what with all of the "watch dog" agencies keeping tabs on nearly everything we do. This is probably not one of the safest ways to get some fresh air for junior, but it is an interesting idea. Pretty creative actually!

Coffee out on the patio this morning!

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Lighthouse Tale For Monday Mystery...!

Probably fewer buildings in the world lend themselves to mysterious stories than the lighthouses.

While appearing peaceful and quiet on the outside during calm weather, many tales of hauntings and strange happenings during or after storms is not uncommon. This is one such tale, straight from the pages of Listverse!

The Eilean Mor Lighthouse Mystery

In 1900, the only living souls on the Scottish island of Eilean Mor were three lighthouse keepers, alone in the vast ocean.

The day after Christmas, a supply ship arrived at the island. To the crew’s surprise, the lighthouse keepers were not waiting for them on the island’s small dock. After blowing the ship’s horn and sending up a flare, there was still no activity on the island. A replacement lighthouse keeper named Joseph Moore was eventually sent to investigate.

As he climbed the narrow, rocky stairs leading up to the lighthouse, Moore recalled being struck with a sense of nameless dread. As he neared the door, he saw that it was unlocked. Stepping carefully inside, he also noticed that two of the three waterproof jackets usually kept in the hall were missing. Reaching the kitchen, he found the remains of a meal and a chair lying on the floor. The clock in the kitchen had stopped working. The lighthouse keepers were nowhere to be seen.

A further investigation revealed the disturbing final entries in the lighthouse log. The entry for December 12 was written by a keeper named Thomas Marshall. In it, Marshall claimed the island had been struck by severe winds, worse than anything he had experienced in his career. Even though the lighthouse was solid enough to outlast any storm, Marshall wrote that the Principal Keeper, James Ducat, was very quiet. The third keeper, William McArthur, was an experienced sailor and a famously tough tavern brawler. The log entry ended by noting that he had been crying.

Further entries recorded that the storm continued to rage for a few days. Secure in their lighthouse, the three men had nonetheless begun praying. The last entry stated: “Storm ended, sea calm. God is over all.”

Though the lighthouse was visible from the nearby island of Lewis, no storms were reported in the Eilean Mor area during the days noted in the log entry.

Strange that no record of any storms near the lighthouse could be found. Stranger still is the fact that no trace has ever been found of any of the three keepers. Strange things going on, I'd say!

Coffee out on the patio this morning. Kinda cool, but not cold enough to stay inside.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday Funnies From Long Ago...!

Well, it's time for another infusion of the old classic cartoons of the past. I still think that some of the older ones are the best!

Ol' Elmer has changed quite a bit over the years, hasn't he?

I told ya Elmer had changed over the years!

Now let's go really way back, OK?

I reckon we are lucky we don't have any of that censor stuff around today, right? RIGHT...?

Coffee out on the patio this morning once again. Weather looks pretty nice right now.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Now This Is A Crazy Cat...!

I like to think that I have some pretty unique cats, on account of them being smart enough to choose me as their care taker. Then I saw this article...!

This guy is very pretty, in a strange kind of way. Makes me wish I had one, but I already have 5. Still I find this one to be attractive and strange. It should fit right in at the Hermit's, don't you think?

Venus the Two-Faced Cat a Mystery
Famous feline may have different DNA on each side of her body.

Venus the two-faced cat is currently the most famous feline on the planet.

The three-year-old tortoiseshell has her own Facebook page and a YouTube video that's been viewed over a million times, and appeared on the Today Show last week.

One look at this cat and you can understand why: One half is solid black with a green eye—the other half has typical orange tabby stripes and a blue eye.

How does a cat end up looking like that? Leslie Lyons, a professor at the University of California, Davis, who studies the genetics of domestic cats said she's never seen a cat exactly like Venus.

"She is extremely, extremely rare," Lyons said. "But you can explain it and you can understand it."

Is Venus a Chimera?

Many reports about Venus refer to the cat as a "chimera." In mythology, a chimera is a mishmash monster made up of parts of different animals. A feline chimera is a cat whose cells contain two types of DNA, caused when two embryos fuse together.

Among cats, "chimeras are really not all that rare," Lyons said. In fact, most male tortoiseshell cats are chimeras. The distinctively mottled orange and black coat is a sign that the cat has an extra X chromosome.

But female cats, said Lyons, already have two X chromosomes so they can sport that coat without the extra X. That means Venus is not necessarily a chimera.

To find out would require genetic testing, said Lyons. With samples of skin from each side of the cat, "we can do a DNA fingerprint—just like on CSI—and the DNA from one side of the body should be different than the other."

If Venus isn't actually a chimera, then what would explain her amazing face?

"Absolute luck," Lyons said. One theory: perhaps the black coloration was randomly activated in all the cells on one side of her face, while the orange coloration was activated on the other, and the two patches met at the midline of her body as she developed.

Cat fanciers who are transfixed by Venus's split face may be missing the real story: her single blue eye. Cat eyes are typically green or yellow, not blue.

A blue-eyed cat is typically a Siamese or else a cat with "a lot of white on them," she explained.

Venus appears to have only a white patch on her chest, which to Lyons is not enough to explain the blue eye.

"She is a bit of a mystery."

Excuse me? A bit of a mystery? I'd say that is a BIG understatement! But then, what do I know?

Coffee out on the patio this morning. We'll have coffee before it gets too warm out.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Show-Stopping Magic On Freaky Friday...!

This article is all about a magician that must have been good, as he impressed even Houdini!

We tend to forget that even in the old days some people reached rock star status. I'd say that being booked 10 years in advance is better than most rock stars of today !

The Dead Magician’s Final Trick
By Debra Kelly on Thursday, October 16, 2014

In the early 1900s, London was taken by storm by a magician billed as “The Great Lafayette.” Booked 10 years in advance, getting to see him in person was a massive thrill—except for those who attended a fateful show on May 9, 1911. A fire broke out in the theater and ultimately killed several people, including the magician. His body was recovered and prepared for burial alongside his beloved dog, until workmen clearing through the rubble of the fire found him . . . again. The second body was really Lafayette, while the first was that of one of his many doubles used during the show.

Today, when we think of history’s great magicians, we rarely—strangely—add The Great Lafayette to the list. The German-born magician began as a set designer before setting out for America and changing his name from Sigmund Neuberger to the much more magical “The Great Lafayette.” He was so successful that he even garnered the attention of Harry Houdini, who presented him with the gift of a dog named Beauty.

The Great Lafayette didn’t associate with many people, but he was deeply devoted to his dog. A pit bull that lived up to her name, Beauty wore gold and diamond collars and was treated to five meals a day. Tragically, five meals a day isn’t good for anyone, and it led to her early death.

Beauty died in Edinburgh on May 1, 1911. The Great Lafayette was inconsolable, but like all great performers, he knew that the show must go on. He had Beauty embalmed and buried in Pierfield Cemetery, with the express wish that he would be buried beside her one day.

That day was sooner than he thought.

Much of his magic had to do with large-scale sleight-of-hand, where he would seem to appear, disappear, and reappear throughout the theater. And that meant the use of a number of different doubles, which, it turns out, can make things pretty confusing for those sorting through a wreckage.

The main act that he was to be performing on May 9, 1911, was called The Lion’s Bride. A beautiful girl was to walk up on the stage and enter a cage with a real lion. The lion would seem about ready to devour the girl, when its skin would be shed to reveal it was really The Great Lafayette. Ambitious magic was the reason he was so popular; in fact, throughout his career he would make today’s equivalent of around $2.75 million a year.

Unfortunately, the show also included a number of oil lamps set around the stage, and when one of them caught fire, many of the 3,000 people in attendance thought it was part of the act. The fire quickly spread across the whole stage and the band’s conductor, realizing that it wasn’t part of the act and 3,000 lives could depend on him, ordered his band to start playing the national anthem to signal the end of the show. The 3,000 audience members got to their feet and proceeded to the exits in a surprisingly orderly fashion.

All the stage doors were locked, though, and the last reports of The Great Lafayette were of the man trying to save the horse that he shared the stage with. The fire was put out, and nine people were missing—including the magician.

The magician was found in the rubble, and was taken to Glasgow for cremation. Preparations were made to bury him next to his beloved dog, but the magician’s lawyer was concerned. There were rings missing from the body, and no one seemed to be able to explain where they’d gone.

The answer was simple: They were still on his body. Three days later, the body of the real The Great Lafayette was found by workmen who were still sorting through the ruined theater. The body originally thought to be The Great Lafayette was that of one of his doubles, making his last magic trick a bit of sleight-of-hand from beyond the grave.

Ultimately, it was the real magician that was cremated and laid to rest as he wished—between the paws of his beloved dog.

Some of the twists and turns of unusual lives can only show the strangeness of the fates, I guess. Another good story for Freaky Friday!

Coffee out on the patio this morning. It's nice and cool!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

What A "Sweet" Con...!

As we see nearly every day, con men work out many new and ingenious ways to take advantage of folks. Many make a lot of money in the process.

This article from the people over at KnowledgeNuts shows just how inventive the cons can be, and how gullible the victims often are!

The Weird Case Of The Electric Sugar Fraud
By Debra Kelly on Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The late 1800s were a time of industrial innovation, so we can almost understand why investors would be eager to believe that one man had come up with a way to revolutionize sugar refining. They invested hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the whole thing went on for years before they finally realized it was all a massive hoax, and the owners of the company were simply swapping out refined sugar for raw, with no machinery or technology whatsoever.

Admittedly, hindsight is 20/20. But still, there was enough that was suspicious about the sales pitch of Henry Freund and his wife, Olive, that would make you think investors would have seen through the ruse well before they invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into a company that was built on a too-good-to-be-true sort of premise.

Freund (sometimes spelled Friend) and his wife set up shop in New York City in 1883. When they came to town from a rather mysterious history (no one knew anything about his previous life, or even his age or nationality), they brought with them a miraculous machine that they said was going to revolutionize the sugar industry. At the time, it cost about $10 to refine one ton of raw sugar into the useable crystals that are in our kitchens. Freund said he had a machine that would do it for $.80 a ton, but he needed investors to construct a full-size sugar refinery.

Not surprisingly, the first sugar refinery he approached turned him down when he wouldn’t reveal anything about his miraculous technology or even show them the machine he claimed to use.

It wasn’t long before he found investors that would bite, though, which is pretty surprising considering that he stuck to his decision that absolutely no one could see how he was doing it.

Investors were shown a mysterious contraption, covered by a blanket. They were forbidden to look underneath and were asked to leave the room while it was running. While they were waiting outside, they heard all the zings and zaps and clanks that would go along with running machinery and the only part of the process that Freund had revealed—electricity. When they went back into the room, there sat refined sugar of a higher quality than most had ever seen; gone was the raw sugar he’d started with.

Bizarrely, it was enough to get investors and start a company. The Electric Sugar Refining Company started selling shares in 1883, at a cost of $100 each (that’s about $2,550 in today’s money). They were sold in America and England, and the money was supposedly being funneled into the construction of a machine that would do the refining on a massive scale.

All the while, Freund was still keeping everything about the process a secret, swearing that he would reveal it once the machine was built. Eventually, shares in his company reached a value of $625 each (around $15,000 today).

In 1888, Freund died from a combination of chronic poor health and chronic drinking. His wife and her parents stepped in to continue running the company, and when they began asking investors for more money, those investors finally started to get suspicious. She called on her legal aid to help keep investors out of the secret rooms where the refineries of the Electric Sugar Refining Company were supposedly built, but the investors had other ideas.

They broke into the rooms, and found tons and tons of raw sugar. The refined sugar that was supposedly being created in the factory was really being smuggling in, packaged as the machinery that was being built. The raw stuff was being stockpiled, and there was absolutely no “miracle refining method.”

The company went bankrupt, and charges were brought against Olive Freund and her parents. It also got out that they had tried the trick before, forming the Grape and Cane Sugar Refining Company in Chicago. Bizarrely, Olive and her mother got off with time served, while her stepfather was sentenced to almost 10 years hard labor in Sing Sing.

This story just goes to show how true the old saying "A fool and his money are soon parted" really is.

Coffee out on the patio this morning.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Shane Author For Western Wednesday...!

I figure that nearly everyone has seen the movie "Shane" at some point, right?

It is still considered one of the best of the westerns, both the book and the movie. Many films started following the formula of "Shane" after it's release and ultimate success.

Shane author Jack Schaefer is born

Jack Schaefer, the author of Shane, one of the most popular westerns of all time, is born in Cleveland, Ohio.

During the first half of his life, Schaefer was a successful journalist, but Shane was his first attempt at a novel. Published in 1949, when Schaefer was 42, this simple but powerful tale of a high-plains drifter who comes to the rescue of Wyoming homesteaders was a popular and critical success, as was the 1953-film adaptation starring Alan Ladd. Buoyed by this overwhelming reception, Schaefer became a full-time writer and wrote several other memorable novels, short-story collections, and historical books.

Shane, though, has remained Schaefer's most popular and influential work, in part due to the wider audience the film version captured for the story. Like the protagonist of Owen Wister's 1902 novel, The Virginian, Schaefer's Shane helped construct the popular image of the western cowboy as an all-natural nobleman on horseback. Shane was the American version of the valorous European knight, who roams a lawless kingdom righting wrongs and striking down the evil oppressors of the common people.

In Shane, Schaefer deliberately left the hero's past obscure, only hinting that he had once been a skilled gunman who wished to leave his violent past behind. Loosely based on the true story of the late-nineteenth-century Wyoming range wars between homesteaders and cattle barons, Schaefer set his novel in a high western valley. One of the most elegant representations of the powerful Western novel, Shane inspired legions of imitators and helped make the genre one of the most popular of the second half of the twentieth century.

Those were the days of the true good guys and bad guys type of westerns. Very few really good movies in that genre have been made since, although I did like "The Unforgiven" a lot!

Coffee out on the patio this morning, OK?