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!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Devil's Fingers For Freaky Friday...!

Once more, a story that sort of ties in with the month of Halloween.

This fungus seems to be aptly named, if you ask me. I swear it looks like a gloved hand coming out of the ground, complete with the sleeve of a shirt! Scary stuff!

Devil’s Fingers Mushroom

Photo credit: Fendy/Blogger 

Clathrus archeri, better known as devil’s fingers or octopus stinkhorn, is a truly creepy mushroom. In its mature form, it has four to eight fingers as red as a fire engine with black spheres that resemble suction cups on an octopus’s tentacles. These black spheres are gleba, which emit a rancid smell reminiscent of rotting meat. This attracts flies, which disperse the plant’s spores. The smell explains the “stinkhorn” part of its name.

Like all stinkhorns, devil’s fingers start life in a white, partially buried, egg-like bulb. When it bursts from the bulb, the fingers are white and look like a corpse’s hand and sleeve rising from the grave. Eventually, the fingers stand erect, rising to 10 centimeters (4 in) in height and spreading out to 20 centimeters (8 in) in width. Although it is not toxic, its smell makes it inedible.

They don't have to tell me not to eat it, 'cause I have no intention of doing so!

Coffee out on the patio this morning, if you don't mind!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

How Deep Is Your Well...?

Well, chances are these folks in England have you beat, especially for a hand dug well!

When you read a story like this, it gives you an idea just what folks can do if they don't give up. Of course, it helps to have a lot of friends to help as well!

Woodingdean Well

 In 1858, in the town of Woodingdean, England, plans were drawn up for a new building to be constructed and added to a nearby industrial school for troubled juveniles. A source of water was required, but it was decided that pumping water in from elsewhere was not cost-effective. The construction of Woodingdean Well began, supplemented with adult laborers from a nearby workhouse to further lower the costs. All digging was done by hand, with buckets of earth hand-winched up to the surface.

The initial plan was for a 122-meter (400 ft) brick-lined well. After two years of digging, the well had reached 134 meters (438 ft) below the surface (and slightly below sea level), and still no water had been found. At this point, horizontal shafts were dug in four directions, also without success. The men in charge of the project refused to admit defeat, and ordered a new vertical shaft started at the end of one of the horizontal ones.

This shaft was dug for another two years with men working 24 hours a day to dig and lay bricks. The only light was from candles, and conditions were such that many men worked naked in the cramped shaft. Finally, on March 16, 1862, a bricklayer noticed that the ground at the bottom was beginning to slowly rise upwards. He and the other workers spent a tense 45 minutes climbing up and out of the well before water rushed upward, finally signaling success. After four years of stubborn digging, Woodingdean Well had reached 392 meters (1,285 ft) deep, making it the deepest hand-dug well in the world.

Four years of digging with the only light being that from candles...that makes a hard job even harder. I'd say these diggers had no quit in them. What a job!

Coffee out on the patio this morning, OK?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

John Browning For Western Wednesday...!

The Wild West might have been much wilder if it weren't for the inventions of one Mr. John Browning.

Thanks to his many firearm improvements and patents, weapons became easier to use for both the novice and experienced. Truly he was the "father of the modern firearm!"

Jan 21, 1855:
Gun designer John Browning is born

John Moses Browning, sometimes referred to as the "father of modern firearms," is born in Ogden, Utah. Many of the guns manufactured by companies whose names evoke the history of the American West-Winchester, Colt, Remington, and Savage-were actually based on John Browning's designs.

The son of a talented gunsmith, John Browning began experimenting with his own gun designs as a young man. When he was 24 years old, he received his first patent, for a rifle that Winchester manufactured as its Single Shot Model 1885. Impressed by the young man's inventiveness, Winchester asked Browning if he could design a lever-action-repeating shotgun. Browning could and did, but his efforts convinced him that a pump-action mechanism would work better, and he patented his first pump model shotgun in 1888.

Fundamentally, all of Browning's manually-operated repeating rifle and shotgun designs were aimed at improving one thing: the speed and reliability with which gun users could fire multiple rounds-whether shooting at game birds or other people. Lever and pump actions allowed the operator to fire a round, operate the lever or pump to quickly eject the spent shell, insert a new cartridge, and then fire again in seconds.

By the late 1880s, Browning had perfected the manual repeating weapon; to make guns that fired any faster, he would somehow have to eliminate the need for slow human beings to actually work the mechanisms. But what force could replace that of the operator moving a lever or pump? Browning discovered the answer during a local shooting competition when he noticed that reeds between a man firing and his target were violently blown aside by gases escaping from the gun muzzle. He decided to try using the force of that escaping gas to automatically work the repeating mechanism.

Browning began experimenting with his idea in 1889. Three years later, he received a patent for the first crude fully automatic weapon that captured the gases at the muzzle and used them to power a mechanism that automatically reloaded the next bullet. In subsequent years, Browning refined his automatic weapon design. When U.S. soldiers went to Europe during WWI, many of them carried Browning Automatic Rifles, as well as Browning's deadly machine guns.

During a career spanning more than five decades, Browning's guns went from being the classic weapons of the American West to deadly tools of world war carnage. Amazingly, since Browning's death in 1926, there have been no further fundamental changes in the modern firearm industry.

It's amazing to see that not many changes to his designs have been made over the years. I reckon it's like they say...if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

Coffee out on the patio this morning. Temps in the high 60's, so it's pleasant

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?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Body Snatching Judge...!

Now this is another tale that is in keeping with the closeness of Halloween. I know you love it!

The bad thing is that these stories can be researched as they are true! That should rattle your cage just a bit, ya know?

Grandison Harris

Grandison Harris was a slave who belonged to the Medical College of Georgia. Bought in 1852, he was officially the school’s porter and janitor. Unofficially, he was their body snatcher. Like others who shared his grisly profession, he was also known as a “resurrection man,” and his slave status afforded him something of an odd benefit when it came to this second job. As a slave, he couldn’t be prosecuted by the law. Harris spent more than 50 years unearthing freshly buried bodies and supplying the students of the medical college with corpses to dissect and learn from. His forward-thinking employers gave him all the tools that he needed to be a successful body snatcher—they even taught him how to read and write, so he could keep an eye on newspaper obituaries himself.

Harris had uncanny flower arrangement skills, which came in handy when he needed to reassemble funeral flowers after removing a body. But many times, that wasn’t even an issue. One of his favorite stomping grounds was Cedar Grove Cemetery, where the most impoverished people were buried in coffins that were easily shattered by an axe. After the Civil War, Harris found himself a free—and learned—man. He took a position as a judge in a small Georgia town, but the students he had formerly supplied with dead bodies weren’t about to let him forget where he came from, no matter how powerful he was by day.

Harris continued his grave-robbing activities and brokered deals to supply the college with slightly more legitimate bodies, purchased from prisons and hospitals. He also spent his later years teaching the finer points of grave robbing to his son, who ultimately replaced him at the college. In 1908, Harris gave a lecture at the college, teaching others just how he managed to be such a successful resurrection man. He died in 1911 and was buried in the same Cedar Grove Cemetery where he’d spent so many lamplit nights. Perhaps as a precautionary measure, there’s no grave marker, only a monument. No one knows exactly where his body was actually buried.

Seems to me that the "judge" did the smart thing in not having a headstone on his grave. I would imagine that a little graveyard justice might have befallen him otherwise!

Coffee in the kitchen again this morning. I don't trust the weather guys!

Monday, October 13, 2014

An Old Political Murder For Monday Mystery...!

This whole story is a little bizarre, to say the least. In fact, one would almost say it is hard to believe!

There weren't many enemies with such conflicting views as the two countries in the story, yet the fact remains that this was one guest that you would not expect to find under the same roof as the Pope. Guess times were a lot different, for sure!

The Muslim Prince Who Lived In The Vatican
By Larry Jimenez on Sunday, October 12, 2014

In the 15th century, Prince Djem (the brother of Ottoman Sultan Bajazet) became a guest of Pope Innocent VIII in the Vatican. Djem was actually a pawn in the political game between Sultan Bajazet and the Pope. But nonetheless, this Muslim prince lived in luxury at the very seat of Christendom. The incongruous situation of the Pope playing host to an infidel further eroded respect for the papacy.

After the death of Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II, conqueror of Constantinople, on May 3, 1481, a succession struggle immediately flared up between his two sons Bajazet and Djem. Bajazet was proclaimed sultan, and his half-brother responded by raising an army to challenge him. In a decisive battle, Djem lost and had to flee. He sought the protection of the Knights of St. John, who saw in Djem a valuable bargaining chip in the struggle against the Ottomans. The Knights therefore welcomed him to their base in Rhodes and told Sultan Bajazet that they would keep him out of his skin in return for an annual subsidy of 45,000 ducats. Realizing that Djem was a goose that laid golden eggs who might be coveted by other European powers, the Knights sent him to France for better safekeeping. Once there, the Regent, Anne of Bourbon, put the Muslim prince up for auction among competitors eager for the lucrative hostage.

Here, Pope Innocent VIII stepped in and acquired Djem by offering a cardinalship to Pierre d’Aubusson, the Grandmaster of the Knights of St. John. On March 13, 1489, Prince Djem entered Rome accompanied by the Prior of Auvergne. A white horse, a present from the Pope, awaited the Muslim at the city gate. Cardinals sent their households to greet him. Ordinary citizens looked in awe and wonderment at the turbanned Oriental, the brother of Christendom’s sworn enemy, his face covered by a veil. The ambassador of the Sultan of Egypt prostrated himself before Djem and kissed his feet. In one of the strangest events in history, the self-proclaimed leader of the Muslim world was given his own lodgings at the Vatican, the very headquarters of Christianity.

The Pope sent Djem many presents, and the prince spent his time in sport, music, and banquets. He was a man of culture and enjoyed reading. But most of the time, Djem sank into deep depression as he pondered his bleak situation and simply let the hours pass brooding or sleeping. He was always worried that his brother might send an assassin to poison him.

Indeed, many had volunteered to do just that, for a handsome fee, of course. In 1490, a dispossessed baron was caught poisoning the well that supplied the Vatican with water. This attempt on the life of Djem and the Pope was disclosed by the baron as a plot involving many more people. When Bajazet sent his promised subsidy in November, the ambassador who brought it was rubbed down with a towel as a precaution against poison before being admitted into Djem’s presence. When he offered Djem a letter from his brother, the prince ordered him to lick it first.

To many Christians, there must be a day of reckoning for the scandal of an infidel living with the Pope. Innocent VIII finally died in 1492, and Djem was then transferred into the hands of his depraved successor Rodrigo Borgia, known as Pope Alexander VI. Borgia handed him over to the French King Charles VIII who thought Djem might become useful in his campaign against the sultan. The Pope’s son Cesare accompanied Djem to the French camp. One day, Cesare suddenly disappeared, and Djem was afterward taken ill and died under mysterious circumstances. No one really knows what happened. Was he poisoned by Cesare? Only one thing is certain. A short time before, Alexander had received a letter from the sultan promising him 300,000 ducats and a permanent peace in exchange for Djem’s dead body.

So who do you think did away with Djem? I reckon many folks have asked the same question over the years, but history has yet to give a definitive answer. One more for the unsolved bin, I reckon.

Coffee in the kitchen this morning. Looks a lot like more rain.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Soggy Sunday Cartoons...!

Once again the Hermit is here to offer up a ration of silliness and grins. We all could use some once in a while, right?

Today's offering may be one you haven't seen for a while. Then again...maybe you have! Anyway, here we go.

This is another case of the music being one of the most outstanding features of the 'toon.

I reckon we all have days like that, right?

Well, I reckon that's enough for this morning. I can onlt take so much pink in my day, ya know?

Coffee out on the patio today, OK with you?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

A Silly Invasion Idea...!

Ever wonder just how some news folks wind up in the middle of war and fighting and protest?

Well, according to this article I found over at KnowledgeNuts, in some cases they actually have funded some of them! That's a pretty scary thing in my book. I mean, I knew that some of the "Newsies" were a little off, but never in such a scale as this.

When CBS News Tried To Invade Haiti
By Alex Hanton on Friday, October 10, 2014

In 1966, CBS News agreed to fund a group of Cuban and Haitian exiles who wanted to overthrow the government of Haiti. In return, CBS would receive exclusive rights to cover the invasion. CBS filmed mercenaries training with weapons bought by the network and actually rebuked a cameraman when they discovered he had warned US authorities of the planned invasion.

During the 1960s, the Cuban Revolution transformed the Caribbean from a minor political backwater into a key Cold War battleground. American media companies rushed to cover upheaval in the region, which was suddenly big business. When British troops invaded the tiny island of Anguilla to put down an even tinier uprising there, they were greeted, not by armed locals, but by a convoy of at least five American news crews. In the dark, the startled British nearly opened fire at the approaching cars but were reassured when the occupants greeted them with a casual: “Hey guys, you’re a bit earlier than we expected you.”

In 1966, CBS News became aware of a spy-turned–arms dealer named Mitchell WerBell III, who claimed to be involved with a group of Miami-based Haitian exiles intent on overthrowing the brutal regime of Jean Claude “Papa Doc” Duvalier. The Haitians had also enlisted the help of Rolando Masferrer, a powerful Cuban exile who had commanded a feared anti-Castro private army during the Cuban Revolution and who had been a key player in the joint CIA/Mafia attempts to assassinate the Cuban leader. Masferrer, who had strong connections to various anti-Castro paramilitaries, hoped to install a friendly Haitian government and then use the country as a base to invade Cuba.

Naturally, CBS News bosses were delighted—a coup in Haiti would be big news, an invasion of Cuba even bigger. When they learned that the plotters were in desperate need of funds, the network saw its chance, offering to subsidize the plot in exchange for the rights to film the invasion force. CBS invested as much as $200,000 in the project, with much of it going toward buying rifles, a boat, and uniforms for the Haitian troops. In return, the network was allowed to film the weapons being smuggled from WerBell’s Georgia estate to a yacht club in Florida. Later, they got exclusive footage of a group of mercenaries training with the weapons—an exercise which had to be cut short when one soldier’s rifle exploded in his face, causing severe injuries. There were also in-depth interviews with the leaders of the invasion force, including a surreal conversation with Rolando Masferrer, who insisted on wearing a pair of women’s pantyhose on his head to disguise his identity. At one point, CBS producer Jay McMullen asked Masferrer whether his arms cache could be exported without government knowledge—conveniently ignoring the fact that the arms had been purchased with CBS funds.

As it turned out, the plan never went anywhere. CBS eventually became impatient with repeated delays and decided to drop the report after becoming suspicious that the plotters had staged the whole thing to extract money from the network. (There’s nothing worse than paying for a war and then not getting one.) Meanwhile, most of the actual reporters CBS sent to cover the invasion, apparently not particularly eager to risk jail time for the sake of a story, immediately became informants for one government agency or another. (A CBS vice president rebuked a cameraman when he was revealed as a government informant). The invasion force fell apart and most of the leaders were arrested and prosecuted by the US authorities (the case against WerBell was mysteriously dropped, possibly after CIA intervention.)

A House subcommittee investigated the involvement of CBS, but generously agreed to close the hearings to the public to protect the network’s credibility. No CBS employees were prosecuted. But the network didn’t get off scot-free—the mercenary whose rifle had exploded sued, claiming that since CBS had funded the invasion, they were his employers and owed him compensation for a workplace injury. The case was settled out of court for a cool $15,000

I know that we will all sleep better knowing that none of the struggles around the globe were actually funded by any of the giant news organizations, right? Kinda the same feeling you get when you hear the words...I'm from the government and I'm here to help!

Coffee out on the patio this morning. Anyone have some cool weather to share?

Friday, October 10, 2014

With Halloween just around the corner I thought that for freaky Friday this time we would do something really scary.

This is no made up story for telling around the campfire, but a true tale...which makes it even more freaky if you ask me. After all, truth is stranger than fiction, right?

Octavia Smith Hatcher

In the late 1800s, the city of Pikeville, Kentucky was shaken with an unknown disease, and the most tragic case of all was that of Octavia Smith Hatcher. After her infant son Jacob passed away in January 1891, Octavia went into a bedridden depression where she gradually became very ill and slipped into a coma. On May 2 of the same year, she was pronounced dead of unknown causes while still in her bed.

Embalming was not yet a practice, and Octavia was buried very quickly in the local cemetery due to the sweltering heat. Barely a week after her burial, many of the townspeople had been stricken with the same debilitating illness and fallen into a comatose state. The difference? After a time, the townspeople began to wake up. Octavia’s husband began to fear the worst and worried that he had prematurely buried his wife while she was still breathing. He procured an exhumation of her grave only to find that his worst fears were in fact true. The lining on the inside of the coffin had been scratched and torn to pieces. Octavia’s nails were bloodied and broken, and her face was contorted with horrific fear. She had died in the ground after being buried alive.

Octavia was reburied and her husband erected a lifelike monument over her grave site. The monument still stands today. It was later speculated that the mysterious illness had been caused by a Tsetse fly, an African insect that can cause a disease known as sleeping sickness.

Now if you want something even more creepy than this little tale, look up on Google (or another search engine ) the articles on modern pre-mature burial or buried alive. You would be surprised at the number of them, I think! Just something to ponder tonight when you go to bed.

Coffee out on the patio again. I hope it doesn't rain on us this early.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Candy Company Town...!

Nearly everyone knows what company towns were, I'm sure. There were many across America in the early days, but here's a story about one in particular I thought you might enjoy.

Hershey, Pennsylvania: A chocolate king’s industrial utopia

In 1900, Milton Hershey sold the successful caramel candy business he’d founded in order to become a pioneer in the mass-production of milk chocolate. He built a factory complex near his birthplace in rural Pennsylvania, in part because the area’s dairy farms offered access to an ample supply of milk. Due to the remote location of the factory, Hershey also constructed a town for his employees, intending it as an industrial utopia that reflected his progressive beliefs. With streets named Chocolate and Cocoa avenues, the new town featured a wide variety of affordable, modern homes that workers could rent or own, a trolley system, public schools, social clubs, an amusement park and zoo. In 1909, Hershey, who was childless and had a limited formal education, established a local boarding school for orphaned boys. During the Great Depression, he launched a building campaign that kept hundreds of people employed and resulted in the addition of a large hotel, sports arena and other public structures to his model town.

Despite Hershey’s altruism and his chocolate-scented community’s many amenities, life in “the sweetest place on Earth” wasn’t entirely sweet. Efforts were made by Hershey and his executives to police employees’ behavior when they were off the clock, and company managers were accused by some workers of showing favoritism when it came to wages and hiring practices. In 1937, Hershey chocolate factory workers organized the company’s first labor union and went on strike. Although the strike was short-lived, it marred the community’s idyllic image. However, after the chocolate king died in 1945, Hershey survived, unlike other company towns, and chocolate is still made there today.

I guess that when it comes right down to it, folks just don't like to have companies (or governments) trying to control their personal lives. Not a good idea, for the most part! At least they still make chocolate in Hershey...!

Coffee out on the patio this morning. Hot chocolate anyone?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Steamboat On Western Wednesday...!

Now keep in mind this wasn't just any ol' steamboat, but the first double-decked steamboat! Pretty cool for it's time.

Despite it's size, it was able to traverse many of the more shallow rivers and allowing better access than ever before.

Oct 7, 1816:
First double-decked steamboat, the Washington, arrives in New Orleans

On this day in 1816, a steamboat with a design that will soon prove ideal for western rivers arrives at the docks in New Orleans. The Washington was the work of a shipbuilder named Henry M. Shreve, who had launched the steamboat earlier that year on the Monongahela River just above Pittsburgh. Shreve's cleverly designed Washington had all the features that would soon come to characterize the classic Mississippi riverboat: a two-story deck, a stern-mounted paddle wheel powered by a high-pressure steam engine, a shallow, flat-bottomed hull, and a pilothouse framed by two tall chimneys.

Perfectly designed for the often-shallow western rivers like the Mississippi and Missouri, the Washington proved itself on its inaugural voyage the following spring. Steaming upriver against the current with full cargo, the Washington reached Louisville in only 25 days, demonstrating that the powerful new generation of steamboats could master the often-treacherous currents of the mighty western rivers. Soon the Washington began to offer regular passenger and cargo service between New Orleans and Louisville, steaming upstream at the then dizzying speed of 16mph and downstream at as much as 25mph.

With the brilliant success of the Washington, other similarly designed steamboats followed. At the peak of the era of the paddle wheelers in 1850, 740 steamboats regularly moved up and down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, carrying three million passengers annually. Had it not been for the ready availability of this rapid transportation technology, settlement of the western United States would undoubtedly have been far slower. Many emigrants setting out for the far western part of the U.S. often cut the first stage of their long journeys short by booking passage on a steamboat to the overland trailheads at Independence, Saint Joseph, and Council Bluffs. Gold seekers heading for Montana after 1867 could even take steamboats all the way up the Missouri to Fort Benton, just below the Great Falls, cutting months off the time required for an overland journey.

By the late 19th century, though, the golden age of the western steamboat was over, a victim of cheap rail transport and diesel-powered towboats and barges. But in its era, the steamboat was as important as any explorer or trailblazer in opening the American West to widespread settlement.

It may not seem like a speedy form of transportation, but it shaved months off traveling overland for many folks. Quite a marvel for it's time, for sure!

Coffee out on the patio this morning, OK?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Some Dictionary History For Tuesday...!

Some of us may still use the dictionary from time to time, but that number is probably shrinking from day to day.

When you stop and think about it, the making of the dictionary is no easy task. I can only imagine the research that would be involved in such an undertaking. The following article from KnowledgeNuts offers a small glimpse into just what a strange and tedious job this must have been.

The Killer Lunatic Who Helped Write Your Dictionary
By Debra Kelly on Thursday, October 2, 2014

Compiling the dictionary is no easy task—especially when it’s the Oxford English Dictionary. It wasn’t just definitions that were needed, but sentences as well. A massive project ultimately passed down to editor James Murray, the project was ultimately assembled by an impressive display of 19th-century crowdsourcing. One of the most prolific contributors with tens of thousands of submissions was a man named Dr. William C. Minor. Murray struck up a friendship with the man, and eventually found he was less of a professional, practicing doctor and more of a patient at Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, where he’d been living for decades.

The Oxford English Dictionary is notable in that it’s not just a handy book that’ll tell you the meanings of words, it’ll also tell you how to use them. Compiling it meant that its editor, James Murray, didn’t need to just define words, but he needed sentences that showed their proper use. (Murray actually inherited the project from others, and it took an awesome 70 years to complete.)

Proving that you don’t need the Internet to launch a successful crowdsourcing campaign, Murray took out some newspaper ads and asked for contributions to his dictionary. They started coming in by the truckload, with one name popping up continuously throughout 20 years of Murray’s involvement with the project: Dr. William C. Minor, Broadmoor, Crowthorne, Berkshire. Over the course of two decades, Minor contributed tens of thousands of quotations to the Oxford English Dictionary.

Murray struck up a friendship with this regular contributor, originally assuming that the man was, as his title suggested, a doctor at the manor house he’d given an address for. A chance meeting with a visitor in the late 1880s made him a little suspicious that it wasn’t the case at all, when he was thanked for his kindness toward “poor Dr. Minor.” It was only then that he did some research and found that he had been conversing with a patient, not a doctor.

Or, more accurately described, a lunatic.

To those who knew him as a young man, William Minor was quiet and sensitive—not one you’d expect to see on the battlefield. Yet Minor joined the Union Army as a surgeon after leaving Yale’s medical school, and was a firsthand witness to the horrors of 1864′s Battle of the Wilderness. Dealing with battlefield casualties is bad enough, but there was also a massive fire that swept through the field. Afterward, the doctor with the delicate disposition was ordered to brand a “D” on the face of an Irish deserter. It’s that event that was long thought to have been the one that pushed him over the edge, and certainly led to not only his irrational, paranoid fear of the Irish, but also caused his delusions that eventually led to murder.

He moved to England after the war. Walking home one night, he heard someone behind him. Convinced that it was the Irishman stalking him for revenge, he shot and killed George Merritt, whose only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was ultimately found not guilty for reason of insanity and committed to Broadmoor until he was deemed safe for release back into the populace.

(Oddly, one of his constant contacts outside the asylum was Merritt’s widow, who not only accepted his apology but frequently visited him with gifts—usually books, a passion of his even while he was confined at Broadmoor.)

It was ultimately James Murray who championed Minor’s cause, and the doctor was released in 1910—on order from Winston Churchill. He spent 28 years locked away at Broadmoor, and still made significant, staggering contributions to one of the English language’s premier reference books. After his release, he moved back to the United States and died in 1921, at his home in Connecticut.

I reckon it just goes to show that even though you may be a lunatic, you might still be of some service. In other words, crazy doesn't always mean stupid!

Coffee out on the patio this morning. We can watch the hummingbirds.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Bones For Monday Mystery...!

Probably very few things are as spooky or disturbing as finding some human bones.

That being the case, just imagine finding thousands of human remains all together in a hidden room. Now that would be more than a little spooky to me! Straight from the pages of Listverse, here is a story of just such a find!

The Rothwell Bone Crypt

 Built during the 13th century, Holy Trinity Church is a medieval landmark in the town of Rothwell, England. However, beneath the church is a charnel chapel containing one of the creepiest sights ever found inside a place of worship: an entire room stacked with human bones.

Known as the “Bone Crypt,” the room is filled with the unidentified skeletal remains of approximately 1,500 individuals. At one point, the room was sealed up, but legend has it that in 1700, a gravedigger working inside the church accidentally fell through the floor. The discovery of the hidden room allegedly drove him insane. The bones were eventually separated and organized onto shelves, and the Bone Crypt has since become a popular tourist attraction in the area.

Intriguingly, no one knows the origin of these bones. One prevalent theory is that the remains belong to victims of a plague. Another claims that they were soldiers who were killed during the nearby Battle of Naseby in 1645. It’s also possible that many of the individuals were originally buried in the church graveyard but had to be moved to a new location. Sometime during the 16th century, the adjacent Jesus Hospital was built over a burial ground, so the remains might have been dug up and stored in the chapel.

Scientists hope to use carbon dating to eventually determine the possible identities of these deceased individuals. Until then, the Bone Crypt remains one of England’s most bizarre unsolved mysteries. Now I don't know about you, but I am glad I wasn't the one that found this place. I really wonder what kind of tourist would pay good money just to go and visit this site, although I sure that some folks just have a much different view of what a good tourist attraction might be. As far as me thank you!

Coffee out on the patio this morning. How about some donut holes?

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sunday Morning 'Toons Again...!

Seems like we just did this last week, don't it? Know what? We'll probably do it again next week as well!

A little different than those we normally have, isn't it?

Another one we haven't seen before!

One more should be good to get us off and running, I reckon.

OK, time to start the day. I know we all have things to do!

Coffee out on the patio this morning. How about some fried country ham with toast?

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Let's Get Biblical This Saturday...!

Now this isn't as hard as it sounds, but I'll bet that no one expected a lesson about biblical expressions today.

Chickenmom (Phyllis) received this article from her friend Terry in Florida. Phyllis thought I would like it and might share it, so I'm doing just that! It's actually way too good NOT to share, know what I mean? So, thanks to Terry and Phyllis...we have a great piece of trivia to add to our ever expanding library!

Ya know, I've heard this phrase all my life, although not too often, but had no idea what it really meant! Well, as they I know! Thank you ladies! BTW, if you would like to visit the site this came from, you can find it right here.

Better have our coffee out on the patio while the cool weather is here.

Friday, October 3, 2014

A Fish Story For Freaky Friday...!

Now I bet that all of you are wondering what kind of freaky fish story can qualify for today. Well, here it is...and I think you'll find it is kinda freaky!

I reckon that most of us just take it for granted that fish have to have water to live in, right? It seems that isn't always the case. Another case where Mother Nature has thrown us all a curve.

Killifish Overcome Their Watery Limitations

No matter how many abilities fish have, there’s still one universal rule: They’re stuck in the water. The mangrove killifish has found a way around even this immutable requirement, though. It can live inside of rotting trees and branches on land for months—it’s called “logpacking.” This is a fish that lives in trees. When pools dry up or the water recedes, mangrove killifish will jam into old trees, hollow coconuts, discarded coffee cans, or just under the leaf litter. As long as it’s kept moist, the killifish can survive like this for 66 days.

While other fish, like the lungfish, can survive without water for longer, they have to go into a dormant state, a kind of fish hibernation. Killifish maintain a normal metabolic state, so that as soon as the water hits, they jump up and take off. The secret is that their skin acts like an extra set of lungs to take in air and maintain salt levels. They are some of the most amphibious of all the amphibious fish . . . and they’re hermaphrodites. So while they’re living in a log waiting for the tide to come back, they can self-fertilize to pass the time.

Sounds to me like Mother Nature has kinda outdone herself this time. Of course, I say that every time I find an article like this one!

Coffee out on the patio today. It's supposed to cool off a bit, but we'll see!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Hanging Around For How Long...?

Did you ever notice that some plans by the people in charge don't work out as they thought they would?

I found this little article over at KnowledgeNuts that shows just what I'm talking about!

The Corpse That Hung By An English Road For 36 Years
By Debra Kelly on Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Thieves and highwaymen were rampant in 18th-century England, and when they were caught they often faced the hangman’s noose. That was the case with Spence Broughton, sentenced to hang for robbing a mail carriage. That wasn’t the end of him, though, and his body was put on display for the next 36 years. His body was finally removed and buried at the request of landlords sick of tourists coming to look at him.

In February 1791, Spence Broughton and John Oxley had a not-so-bright idea that Broughton wouldn’t see through to the end of the story . . . but his corpse would.

The small-time, London-based criminals decided to rob the Rotherham mail coach in the northern city of Sheffield. Months later, in October of that year, Oxley was arrested for another crime and not only admitted that he’d also been responsible for the Rotherham job but pointed the finger at his accomplice as well.

Broughton was arrested, tried, found guilty, and sentenced to hang. At the time, thieves and highwaymen were among the most likely of all criminals to be hanged, and with Broughton’s premeditation and the use of violence in his crime, the noose was a given.

His case had become weirdly, strangely famous. After he was dead, his body was transported back to the scene of his crime, Attercliffe Common. There, he was strung up in a gibbet, and left for 36 years.

On the day that he was put there, around 40,000 people were on hand to see it. Local pub owners said that it brought them a small fortune, and stringing up the dead body didn’t seem to really have the desired effect that the justice system was going for.

Leaving the corpses of criminals to rot away in public view from a gibbet wasn’t anything particularly out of the ordinary—there were at least 100 of them in London by 1800. It was meant to act as a warning to others, an attempt to keep people in line by showing them the gruesome end that waited for them if they crossed to the other side of the law.

But Broughton’s body became not just a local landmark, but a target for the public’s sympathy rather than fear or hate. Newspaper articles from the time describe him as going to the gallows resigned to his fate, not allowed to make restitution or do penance for his crimes. Far from being a deterrent to the future crimes of others, it cemented his place in the area’s folklore—and drew attention to the fact that the system wasn’t necessarily working as it was intended to.

Writers and reformers of the day pointed to the spectacle that went along with his hanging and the execution of others. An execution had become an event, with attendees able to buy souvenirs from figurines of the hanged criminals to copies of their last words or sketches of their bodies hanging from the gallows. What was supposed to be a somber reminder of the bloody, awful end that waited for those that didn’t obey the law had turned into a public spectacle—one that, in the case of Spence Broughton and others left on display in gibbets, lasted for decades.

Broughton’s corpse was eventually cut down, not because of some social revolution or public outrage, but because nearby landlords were sick and tired of gawkers coming to visit the town’s grisliest landmark. He was given a churchyard burial, and a nearby pub was (sort of) named in his honor, taking the name “The Noose and Gibbet.”

It was only six years after he was cut down that England had its last public execution. Theft was no longer a capital offense, and the gibbets were taken down, their last two criminals buried in 1832.

Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but 36 years seems a bit long to leave a corpse hanging just to make a point. Seems as though a lot of folks felt the same way!

Coffee out on the patio one again. Don't spooky things are hanging around!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Transcontinental Telegraph On Western Wednesday...!

I don't think we have any idea what a job the Western Union company had when it began this enterprise. Probably they didn't either!

There must have been so many obstacles along the way that were unforeseen, the company must have felt like throwing in the towel more than once.

Western Union completes the first transcontinental telegraph line

On this day in 1861, workers of the Western Union Telegraph Company link the eastern and western telegraph networks of the nation at Salt Lake City, Utah, completing a transcontinental line that for the first time allows instantaneous communication between Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. Stephen J. Field, chief justice of California, sent the first transcontinental telegram to President Abraham Lincoln, predicting that the new communication link would help ensure the loyalty of the western states to the Union during the Civil War.

The push to create a transcontinental telegraph line had begun only a little more than year before when Congress authorized a subsidy of $40,000 a year to any company building a telegraph line that would join the eastern and western networks. The Western Union Telegraph Company, as its name suggests, took up the challenge, and the company immediately began work on the critical link that would span the territory between the western edge of Missouri and Salt Lake City.

The obstacles to building the line over the sparsely populated and isolated western plains and mountains were huge. Wire and glass insulators had to be shipped by sea to San Francisco and carried eastward by horse-drawn wagons over the Sierra Nevada. Supplying the thousands of telegraph poles needed was an equally daunting challenge in the largely treeless Plains country, and these too had to be shipped from the western mountains. Indians also proved a problem. In the summer of 1861, a party of Sioux warriors cut part of the line that had been completed and took a long section of wire for making bracelets. Later, however, some of the Sioux wearing the telegraph-wire bracelets became sick, and a Sioux medicine man convinced them that the great spirit of the "talking wire" had avenged its desecration. Thereafter, the Sioux left the line alone, and the Western Union was able to connect the East and West Coasts of the nation much earlier than anyone had expected and a full eight years before the transcontinental railroad would be completed.

Just imagine, the first time ever that coast-to-coast communications could be carried out almost in real time! Certainly did a lot to hasten the start of the information age, don't you think?

Coffee out on the patio once again today, my friends.