Friday, October 31, 2014

Jamestown Cannibals For Freaky Friday...!!

Not many times do we stop and consider how tough times must have been for the folks at the Jamestown colony.

Recent studies have shown that times there were even harder than we could ever believe. No wonder that none of this was never taught or even mentioned in the history books. Brings a whole new perspective to the colony, doesn't it?

The Horrifying Cannibalism Of The Colony At Jamestown
By Nolan Moore on Wednesday, January 29, 2014

In the 17th century, a group of English settlers founded Jamestown, the oldest permanent English colony in the Americas. However, the Virginia settlement has a dark history that involves famine, disease, and most shocking of all, cannibalism. In 2012, archaeologists found the remains of a young, cannibalized girl so they asked forensic anthropologist Douglas Owsley to figure out who she was and what exactly happened to her.

If you’ve ever studied American history or watched a Disney movie, then you’ve probably heard of Jamestown. Located in Virginia, the colony was founded in 1607 by 104 settlers eager for fortune and adventure. However, life in Jamestown wasn’t all helpful wildlife, talking trees, and painting with the colors of the wind. In fact, it was pretty horrible, especially during the period known as the Starving Time.

The Jamestown settlers didn’t have the Weather Channel so when they showed up in the New World, they didn’t know they’d arrived just in time for one of the worst droughts in Virginia’s history. They also weren’t very good farmers, and in less than a year, 66 of the original colonists were dead, victims of sickness and starvation. New recruits from England occasionally showed up, but things kept getting worse. As the winter of 1609 rolled around, Jamestown’s relationship with the local Native American tribes had soured so the settlers couldn’t expect any free handouts. Even worse, a ship that was supposed to bring supplies had gotten lost at sea. Desperate, people started eating their livestock. Next, they went after the pets and pests. After folk finished the cats and rats, they boiled any leather they could find. People were actually eating their own shoes. But things got worse . . . much worse.

George Percy was the president of Jamestown in 1609, and in 1625, he wrote a letter detailing the horrors of the Starving Time. According to Percy, the colonists were resorting to vampirism. In his own words, “Some have Licked upp the Bloode which hathe fallen from their weake fellowes.” There are at least five accounts of the Jamestown settlers resorting to cannibalism, including one gory tale that sounds like it was ripped out of a Thomas Harris novel. In Percy’s letter, he wrote about how he executed a criminal who allegedly salted and ate his pregnant wife. However, historians have been very skeptical of these outrageous claims. Many researchers believed the stories were just fabrications meant to destroy the Virginia Company’s reputation. However, their opinions changed in 2012.

Archaeologists from Preservation Virginia were excavating a fort (James Fort to be precise) when they came across a pit full of animal bones. However, after digging a bit deeper, they made a pretty shocking discovery. Under the skeletons of dogs and horses, they found the remains of a human skull and a shinbone. After closer examination, they realized the bones were covered in cut marks. It looked like some unlucky immigrant had ended up on the menu. To solve the mystery of the 400-year-old cannibal, archaeologists called Douglas Owsley, a Smithsonian forensic anthropologist who’s traveled the world examining skeletons. (He’s so good that the FBI even asked him to help out on the Jeffrey Dahmer case.) Even though only 66 percent of the skull remained, Owsley reconstructed the victim’s head and face using 3-D models. He determined the deliciously departed was a 14-year-old English girl who investigators nicknamed “Jane.” But who was Jane exactly, and who killed her?

After an isotope analysis, Owsley deduced that Jane was probably one of Jamestown’s elites, perhaps the child of a wealthy gentleman. How did he come to that conclusion? Jane’s bones revealed a diet high in protein, indicating she had access to food that most colonists didn’t. But what about the person who made a meal out of her? Well, Owsley believes Jane was eaten by at least two cannibals. The first suspect sliced up Jane’s face. Owsley found four chop marks on the forehead, and four on the back of the skull, one of which cracked her skull. The cannibal probably used a cleaver, and he was definitely planning on eating her brain. Other marks around the jaw show that he was also going after the tongue and cheeks. However, it seems whoever operated on Jane’s face might’ve been a tad nervous about eating human flesh. Owsley described his work as tentative and hesitant. Contrast that to the guy who was working on the leg. His quick cuts indicated he had a little more butchering experience . . . hopefully just skinning deer.

However, Owsley doesn’t think this was the work of some murderous tag team. The cuts on Jane’s head were very close together, very exact. If she’d been alive while she was being carved up for dinner, the marks would be a little more erratic, not so precise. She would have probably struggled. The people who ate Jane weren’t Jacobean Hannibals. They were starving settlers on the verge of death, so insane with hunger they decided to break humanity’s greatest taboo. Think about that the next time you watch Pocahontas.

This is probably more information than any of us wanted to know. Still, there is never such a thing as too much knowledge, is there?

Coffee out on the really cool patio this Halloween morning! Happy Haunting, y'all!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Visit With Kit Carson...

I don't think many of us ever think of Kit Carson as an explorer, but his reputation was actually based on his experience as one.

This little bit of history of Kit comes from the folks at Listverse. Nice to have a source for some extra knowledge of our early heroes.

Kit Carson

Kit Carson was the prototypical frontiersman of his day, despite the fact that he looked and acted nothing like you would expect. He was clean-shaven and well groomed, had an unassuming manner, but showed implacable courage when the need arose. He was known for being a man of his word and maintained friendly relationships with various Native American tribes, even taking native wives on two separate occasions.

Most of his fame was attained after 1842, when John C. Fremont hired him as a guide. Fremont was a politician who would go on to become the first presidential candidate for the newly formed Republican party. Before this, he led several expeditions into the American West and used Carson as guide for all of them. Afterward, Fremont would speak highly of Carson in his reports, which is what gained him the image of an American folk hero who would go on to appear in numerous Western novels.

While on such a journey, the Mexican-American War broke out and Fremont decided to join the Bear Flag Revolt. His group lent assistance to the American settlers in the area, and Carson was the one who led them into battle. After a victory, Fremont asked Carson to return to Washington to deliver the news of their success. He only made it as far as New Mexico before being recruited again, this time by General Stephen Kearny, who required his services as a guide in order to defeat the Mexican forces.

Pretty clean cut looking guy for the profession he was in, don't you think?

Coffee out on the patio before the storm gets here later. Sound good?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Pike's Peak For Western Wednesday...!

Here's a story about one of America's tallest landmarks...Pikes Peak.

Just imagine seeing this mountain from a distance for the first time. Better yet, imagine seeing it from up close! Even Pike got fooled by that one.

Nov 15, 1806:
Zebulon Pike spots an imposing mountain

Approaching the Colorado foothills of the Rocky Mountains during his second exploratory expedition, Lieutenant Zebulon Pike spots a distant mountain peak that looks "like a small blue cloud." The mountain was later named Pike's Peak in his honor.

Pike's explorations of the newly acquired Louisiana Territory of the United States began before the nation's first western explorers, Lewis and Clark, had returned from their own expedition up the Missouri River. Pike was more of a professional military man than either Lewis or Clark, and he was a smart man who had taught himself Spanish, French, mathematics, and elementary science. When the governor of Louisiana Territory requested a military expedition to explore the headwaters of the Mississippi, General James Wilkinson picked Pike to lead it.

Although Pike's first western expedition was only moderately successful, Wilkinson picked him to lead a second mission in July 1806 to explore the headwaters of the Red and Arkansas Rivers. This route took Pike across present-day Kansas and into the high plains region that would later become the state of Colorado. When Pike first saw the peak that would later bear his name, he grossly underestimated its height and its distance, never having seen mountains the size of the Rockies. He told his men they should be able to walk to the peak, climb it, and return before dinner. Pike and his men struggled through snow and sub-zero temperatures before finally taking shelter in a cave for the night, without even having reached the base of the towering mountain. Pike later pronounced the peak impossible to scale.

The remainder of Pike's expedition was equally trying. After attempting for several months to locate the Red River, Pike and his men became hopelessly lost. A troop of Spanish soldiers saved the mission when they arrested Pike and his men. The soldiers escorted them to Santa Fe, thus providing Pike with an invaluable tour of that strategically important region, courtesy of the Spanish military.

After returning to the United States, Pike wrote a poorly organized account of his expedition that won him some fame, but little money. Still, in recognition of his bravery and leadership during the western expeditions, the army appointed him a brigadier general during the War of 1812. He was killed in an explosion during the April 1813 assault on Toronto.

Seems like a lot of the early explorers made the mistake of misjudging distance and size back in the early days. That often led to some tragic results, as history tells it. This ol' country is a lot bigger than many of those guys could ever imagine!

Coffee out on the patio again today. In the 60's, so that's not bad!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Rough Start For Lady Liberty...!

Ever wonder just how the Statue of Liberty made it to her present place of welcome? Come to find out, her trip was not an easy one at all!

A little bit of research (and this article from Listverse) shows that it took a lot of luck and hard work to finally bring Lady Liberty home!

Statue Of Liberty Stuffed In Storage

Millions of immigrants came from around the world to pass under Lady Liberty’s torch and find new lives in a nation that promised a better future. She has stood in the harbor attracting thousands of new visitors every year and representing the idealism of her country and its people.

You may know that the Statue of Liberty was a gift from France. This is both true and completely false. The artist, Auguste Bartholdi, originally approached Egyptian leaders during the World’s Fair with hopes of designing a massive statue to sit at the entrance of the Suez Canal. He was ultimately denied and searched for an alternative, turning to America with the hook of celebrating the young country’s independence.

It took 15 years and extensive fundraising to complete the statue, which was fully constructed in a Paris neighborhood with no significant funding from either government. In the end, Joseph Pulitzer saved the day by promising to print the names of every single contributor in his magazine. The plan worked. The gift was packed and shipped on the French ship Isere in 300 pieces in 241 crates across the Atlantic Ocean.

The cargo was nearly lost in rough seas. Once she reached the harbor, America’s icon was placed in storage for over a year. There it stayed, and there it would have remained indefinitely until it was de-mothballed and made the centerpiece of a publicity stunt, in which every person who donated to the cause of putting Liberty on her island got their name printed in New York World newspaper. Who could resist?

So bribery, luck, and good old-fashioned commercialism established America’s symbol in her current home.
Nice to finally know that the very symbol of our country had as rocky a start as we did a a new nation. However she finally made it home, regardless of the means. Let's hope she stays there for a very, very long time!

Coffee out on the patio this nice, cool morning.OK?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Japanese Ghost For Monday Mysteries...!

We don't often have too many mysteries from Japan that we study, so I figured this would be a great chance to expound on one.

This one is strange because of the main characters involved and the fact that they refuse to live in government provided housing (read mansions) because of the ghost! Sure they give other reasons, but after reading this article from Listverse I'm not so sure.

The Haunting Of The Kotei

Tales of ghosts stalking the White House in Washington DC are de rigueur, but reports out of Japan indicate that their Prime Minister’s home, the Kotei, might also be populated by spirits. The Kotei was built in 1929 in the architectural style of Frank Lloyd Wright, and former Prime Ministers and their first ladies have frequently complained of spectral happenings. The current Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, has resisted moving into the headquarters, instead living in his own private residence. Although he has gone on record as saying that the mansion is too large for his needs, Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun quoted him telling others, “I don’t feel like living here because there are ghosts.”

The mansion certainly has a bloody history; on May 15, 1932, Navy officers ambushed Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi, shooting him to death. The insurgents’ plot was originally even more sinister: at the time Inukai was murdered, he was hosting film star Charlie Chaplin at his estate. Luckily, Chaplin was attending a sumo match with the Prime Minister’s son when the soldiers arrived. Four years later, another military coup occurred at the Kotei, when a contingent of roughly 280 soldiers forced the gates open and engaged in a gun battle with four police officers and the new Prime Minsiter, Keisuke Okada. The police were killed, but their bravery gave Okada enough time to escape. Instead, his brother-in-law, Denzo Matsuo (who bore a striking resemblance to Okada), was gunned down.

Years later, the front entrance of the mansion is still pocked with bullet holes, but the violent legacy of the Kotei runs even deeper . . . several people have reported seeing spectral soldiers in the garden, and Abe himself acknowledged that former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori had seen a ghost at the residence.

Hey...I don't blame them. If I knew that ghost lived in a place I was supposed to move to, I would think twice myself. Especially if those were caused by a bloody and violent death, know what I mean?

Coffee out on the patio this morning. Cool and pleasant out so far!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Gotta Love The Sunday 'Toons...!

Every Sunday I think of doing something different, but then think better of it. What would we do without the 'toons?


I wonder just what it is that makes us enjoy the cartoons so much? Going back to our childhood, I reckon!
We haven't seen any Speedy Gonzales in a while now, so here's a little taste!

Ya know...some of these are almost funny! Guess you just have to be in the right mood!

One more? Sure...why not!

OK, that should do it for this morning. Guess we have to start doing grown-up stuff now. BUMMER!

Coffee out on the patio this morning. Then we can act like grown-ups!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Dollhouse Murder Scenes...!

Some folks have hobbies that might seem strange to us. I've known a few people like that.

However, just because those hobbies may seem strange to us, doesn't mean they aren't useful to someone. Here is a case in point, straight from the folks over at KnowdgeNuts.

The Woman Who Built Dollhouse Murder Scenes
By Nolan Moore on Monday, September 29, 2014

Frances Glessner Lee wasn’t your run-of-the-mill heiress. Sure, she lived in a Chicago mansion, her parents were millionaires, and she enjoyed planning extravagant dinner parties. But Glessner Lee was fascinated by a rather lowbrow, “unladylike” topic—murder. Born in 1878, Glessner Lee was obsessed with medical books and murder mysteries and hoped to go to Harvard and become a physician. Sadly, her dad crushed her dreams, insisting college was no place for a woman.

However, everything changed in 1936. Her parents were dead, and she’d divorced her husband in 1914. Suddenly, she was filthy rich and could do anything she wanted. Still fascinated by forensic science, Glessner Lee established the Department of Legal Medicine at Harvard, a special school that trained future medical examiners. She also created the George Burgess Magrath Library of Legal Medicine, named after the family friend and pathology professor who sparked her interest in criminology.

But Glessner Lee wasn’t content with just shilling out money. She wanted to get in on the action, and that’s when she had a rather brilliant idea. In addition to homicide investigation, Glessner Lee also enjoyed building miniature models. What if she were to combine her two passions? Inspired, Glessner Lee set to work on one of the most unique teaching tools in forensic pathology. Over the next several years, this Chicago socialite built 20 incredibly detailed dollhouses, each one complete with a dead body.

Dubbed “The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death,” these dollhouses depicted actual crime scenes for detectives to investigate. Glessner Lee was worried that careless cops were destroying crime scenes, and really, it was a legitimate fear. In the early 20th century, there were quite a few detectives who didn’t know (or didn’t care) that it was a bad idea to walk all over a crime scene or handle evidence with their bare hands. By building intricate models based on actual cases, Glessner Lee hoped to train detectives how to properly read clues and observe evidence.

Each house cost between $3,000 and $4,500, and Glessner Lee analyzed crime reports and visited actual murder scenes to make sure her models were accurate. She had an amazing eye for detail, and her dollhouses were more than just teaching tools. They were art. You could actually lock the doors. There were little rolled-up cigarettes on the tabletops. She used wood from a 200-year-old barn to build her barn house murder scene, and she even took a blowtorch to one of her models to make it look like there’d been a fire.

But most important were the dolls. Each one was crafted by hand and wore clothes specially tailored by Glessner Lee herself. Most impressively, she paid special attention to the victims. If the bodies had been lying around a few days, they needed to look gross and swollen, and she painted the figures in such a way that they had that perfect corpse complexion. She then arranged them in grisly poses, perhaps drowned in a bathtub or sprawled out on the floor, covered in blood.

The dollhouses were then sent to Harvard where investigators practiced looking for clues. They searched for misplaced fibers or weapons hidden under furniture. They were taught to scan the room in a clockwise spiral so they wouldn’t miss anything. The real genius behind the “Nutshell Studies” was that sometimes, detectives had to consult with doctors or other scientists to learn what had happened. And from time to time, the dollhouses depicted a suicide or even a natural death.

What’s even cooler is that twice a year, Glessner Lee taught all these male doctors, detectives, and students herself. Even though she’d never attended a university or served with the police, she was considered an expert when it came to analyzing crimes. In fact, she was so good that she was made an honorary captain of the New Hampshire State Police. And after her seminars, she’d throw a banquet for all the detectives where they could eat dinner and swap murder stories.

Sadly, Frances Glessner Lee passed away in 1962, but her dollhouses live on. Today, they’re on display at the Maryland Medical Examiner’s Office, and believe it or not, students are still studying them. And while you’ll probably never see one of her dollhouses in person, there’s a good chance this Sherlockian socialite has affected your life, especially if you’re a fan of TV crime dramas. As it turns out, Frances Glessner Lee was the inspiration for everybody’s favorite fictional female detective, Jessica Fletcher from “Murder, She Wrote.”

Now here's a case of a hobby turned teaching aid. It is a good thing when something you like to do can be put to a worthy cause. It must have been a true joy for her to know that her creations were a tremendous help in developing the role of forensic science.

Coffee out on the patio this morning. It's still cool, but pleasant!