Facts About Pirates – WIF Into History

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Facts About

the Real Pirates

of the Caribbean

captain-jack-sparrow

Piracy is as old as the sea itself … or at least since there’s been some loot to be plundered. But the pirate legacy has since been high-jacked by Hollywood and romantic fiction. And pirates have been told as being faintly noble, selfless, independent, and with a great degree of charm. But the real pirate story is much darker. Pirate life was nasty, brutal, and – especially – short. And for a brief moment in time, each of these lives terrorized the oceans and demanded the attention of the navy. Mercy and honesty were rarely in any pirate’s vocabulary. Today we’ll be taking a look at what made the real pirates the most feared “predators” on the high seas.

10. Blackbeard’s Reign of Terror

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Blackbeard’s real name was probably Edward Teach. Some documents, however, refer to him as Edward Thatch or even Edward Drummond, and he is believed to have been either from Bristol, New York, California, Philadelphia, or even as far away as Denmark. Not much is known about his origins, it would seem. But regardless, he became among the most notorious pirates to have ever terrorized the Caribbean and the American East Coast. From a very young age he went to sea and served on an English ship during the War of the Spanish Succession by privateering along the Spanish Main. With the end of the war in 1714 he, like many others, turned to piracy.

Initially serving under another pirate who later retired, Blackbeard became captain in 1717, and commandeered a French merchant vessel which he renamed Queen Anne’s Revenge. He fitted it with 40 cannons, made it his flag ship, and together with three other smaller vessels (sloops) under his command, Teach plagued the West Indies and the Atlantic coast. In May 1718 he blockaded the Charleston harbor in South Carolina for four days, plundering several ships trying to get in or out, and held the local magistrate and his son for ransom. He then headed north, where he ran two of his vessels aground, the Queen Anne’s Revenge included, marooning most of his crew, in order to get a larger share of the loot. Having the governor of North Carolina in his pocket, he was secured a pardon under the royal Act of Grace and retired himself.

His best weapon of all was fear. He made himself appear ferocious, like a psychopath addicted to violence. He always had at least six loaded pistols, a cutlass, and a musket with him, and wore a big feathered tricorn on his head. He sported a huge black beard in which he would tie hemp and light it during battle. Together with lit cannon fuses tied under his tricorn, those who saw him fighting said that he “looked like the devil” with his fearsome appearance and the smoke cloud around his head.

Regardless of his retirement, he was soon back at sea. The governor of Virginia then put a bounty on his head and on November 21, 1718 a small group of men ambushed him and nineteen others within an inlet on Ocracoke Island, in North Carolina. Following a fierce battle the following day, Blackbeard was dead. He was reportedly shot five times and stabbed more than twenty times before being finally decapitated. His head was hung from a pike in Bath, the town he was supposed to retire in. Blackbeard’s reign of terror lasted a little over 2 years, even though he was among the most feared pirates of the 18th century.

9. The Privateers and Buccaneers

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At first glance, the words pirate, privateer, and buccaneer seem to mean the same thing. And while this is true to a certain extent, there certainly are some differences. For instance, privateering made use of private ships for attacking foreign vessels under the approval of a country’s government. In a sense, piracy in the Caribbean started off as privateering under the British government. As early as the 16thcentury, many private English ships carried letters of marque, entitling them to attack, loot, sink or capture ships belonging to all enemy nations – especially Spain. They would then give part of the spoils to the government, while the rest they would keep for themselves. However, while the state stood only to gain from these private contracts, the privateers, if captured by the enemy, would be tried as pirates and swiftly executed.

The most famous privateer was Francis Drake. In 1567 he made one of the first English slaving voyages, bringing African people to the New World, and was the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe. In 1577, under secret orders from Queen Elizabeth herself, Drake went around South America, plundering Spanish ports on the undefended Pacific coast. And thanks to his cunning he even managed to take over and plunder the Cacafuego (“fires**tter”), officially Nuestra Señora de la Concepción, a huge Spanish galleon, filled to the brim with Inca treasure. On his return to England, he was knighted by the Queen. However, he would be one of the few privateers who would actually do what he was intended to. Bolstered by Drake’s accomplishments, many others would try to find the same fame and riches; a standard that would never be achieved again. In time, these would-be privateers would descend to the level of blood-thirsty opportunists, operating under false flags, killing witnesses and betraying their own nations and crewmates.

Buccaneers, on the other hand, were mostly felons, many of them facing capital charges. They were former sailors who’d jumped ship, or servants who ran away from their contracts working the sugar plantations on the many Caribbean islands. The word derives from the native “buccan,” which refers to a wooden framework used for smoking or slow-roasting meat over a fire. The first buccaneers used these buccans to prepare meat and sell it to sailors. But later, they turned to piracy, operating from the jungles. Whenever there was a ship close by, a handful of buccaneers would jump into a small rowing vessel and board the unaware ship. In the beginning, the island of Hispaniola (present day Haiti and Dominican Republic) was a major buccaneering base. They were later chased off the island by the Spanish and became pirates, operating from the island of Tortuga and Port Royal in Jamaica. They, too, would later be hired in the service of the crown.

8. Pirate Weapons

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The above mentioned buccaneers made good use of the Buccaneer Musket. It was a large and heavy gun, measuring almost 6 feet in length. They used it initially for hunting boar on the islands, but also to shoot the helmsman off an enemy deck some 300 yards away. The buccaneers were really good shots, and became the masters of small arms; the first who gave them any real attention. Firing these guns continuously as they were rowing towards their target, they would disable the ship and prepare it for their boarding. The flintlock pistol was another weapon of choice, desired for its light weight and small size. It was ideal for boarding enemy ships, and pirates usually carried more than one since it was good for only one shoot before needing reloading. That’s why Blackbeard carried six with him at all times.

Pirates also made use of the Blunderbuss. It was loaded with a handful of pistol balls and when it was fired it created absolute devastation over a broad area of decks. It had a massive recoil and had to be fired from the hip. Otherwise, it would break the shoulder. Grenades were also used extensively by pirates. Basically a spherical-cast hollow iron ball about 5 inches in diameter, loaded with 5 ounces of gunpowder, the grenade had a wooden fuse sealed with wax. Once lit, it took about 6 seconds to explode. Pirates and buccaneers would throw these onboard an enemy vessel just before boarding it, creating utter chaos and devastation. However, all of these firearms were one-shot weapons, so the backbone of any boarding action was the cutlass. Used for both thrusting and slashing, the cutlass was short so it wouldn’t become a hindrance on a crowded deck. Pirates sometimes used both cutlasses and boarding axes, among other swords or knives, as melee weapons.

7. Hooks for Hands and Wooden Legs

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When thinking about a pirate, it’s almost impossible not to imagine him without either an eye-patch, a hook for a hand, or a wooden stump. And knowing the nature of their business, the weapons they were using (and which were used against them, as well), it’s no surprise so many of them had these, let’s say, “prosthetics.” But the real reason for why so many had missing limbs has more to do with infection than the many wounds they were subjected to. For instance, musket balls had the nasty habit of taking a piece of fabric with them when passing through its victim. And while doctors may have been able to take out the ball, the piece of cloth most likely stayed behind. This in turn caused the wound to fester, and many were subject to gangrene.

With no anesthetics or antiseptics, they were aware that if the limb was not amputated it would “mortify,” as they called it, and they would die in severe pain. So, the only effective method available was to chop off the limb. The way they went about it was to strap the injured to a table, have a few men hold him down, give him a good shot of rum, and then put a strap of leather in his mouth to stop him from screaming so much. Then the “doctor” would tie up his leg or arm, in order to stop the bleeding as much as possible. Next he’d take a sharp knife and start cutting the skin and muscle above the wound. When he reached the bone, the doctor would take a saw and cut that, too. The whole procedure would take between 30 to 60 seconds, depending on the doctor’s skill. Finally he’d tie off the arteries, put a dressing on, and off the limping pirate went. But not even this ensured the patient’s survival, and many still died after the procedure.

6. Captain Charles Vane – Years Active: 1716-1720

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As we said before, pirate life was brutally violent and extremely short. A good example was Charles Vane, a notorious pirate, contemporary and friend to the infamous Blackbeard. His pirating days began in 1716 and in 1718 he became a captain himself. He was renowned for his violence and ill temper, being hated even by his own crewmen. He is one of the few pirates who didn’t accept the King’s pardon, and in a mere four years after his “career” began, he would be hanged. After a mutiny aboard his ship, he was left behind on a small sloop together with a few loyal comrades. In a hurricane, he would miraculously survive, being washed ashore on a small fishing island. However, the man who found him there recognized him and brought him to justice.

Before his death however, in April 1718, Vane and his men came upon a sloop somewhere in the Bahamas and attacked it. They violently beat the crew, stole everything onboard, and chose one man, Nathaniel Catling, to be hanged. He remained suspended until everyone believed him dead, and the pirates brought him down. He somehow survived, but seeing this, one of the pirates hacked him across the collarbone with his cutlass. Vane and the other pirates then set the ship on fire and left. However Nathaniel Catling not only survived a hanging and a slash to the neck, but also escaped to describe the events in an official deposition. In a similar incident, Vane had someone tied to the bowsprit, while they were burning his eyes with matches and holding a pistol in his mouth. Vane was forcing him to tell what valuables were hidden onboard.

5. Edward Low – Years Active: 1721 – 1724

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Edward Low got his notoriety of being a psychopath first, and a pirate second. He made his fleet in Nova Scotia, where he managed to capture 13 fishing vessels, and then he moved south to the more lucrative Caribbean. As his pirating career went on, his infamy grew. A few surviving victims recalled his brutal nature where he often chained, mutilated, burned, and even forced some of his captives to eat the heart of their captain. In one particular incident, Governor John Hart described as Low was attacking a ship from Portugal bound for Brazil. As they were being boarded, the captain of the Portuguese vessel dropped a bag of gold into the ocean to keep the pirates from taking it. Seeing this, “Low cut off the said Master’s lips and broiled them before his face, and afterwards murdered the whole crew being thirty-two persons.”

Due to his increasingly violent nature, both against his victims and his own men, in 1724 the crew mutinied and left him marooned on an island. What eventually happened to him is a matter of speculation. Some believe he was found by the French who, after discovering who he was, had him hanged in Martinique. Others believe he managed to escape and lived out the rest of his days somewhere in Brazil.

4. Henry Morgan, King of the Buccaneers – Years Active: 1655-1682

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Henry Morgan is one of the successful few who managed to live to the ripe old age of 53, and die of tuberculosis, and not by hanging or decapitation. And he did so by staying somewhere in the gray area and not going full on “black,” as many other privateers or buccaneers did back then. Throughout his life he acquired a reputation as a remarkable leader and a fearsome conqueror. He sacked the city of Puerto Principe in Cuba, Puerto Bello in Panama, the towns of Maracaibo and Gibraltar in present-day Venezuela, as well as the city of Panama (which he completely burned to the ground). For his many victories for the English crown against the Spanish, Morgan was honored by the King and promoted to deputy governor of Jamaica.

Nevertheless, a pirate is still a pirate even if he’s made governor. The sacking of all of those Spanish settlements weren’t done solely for the glory of England. The booty Morgan collected from all of them made him a very rich and highly influential man. In the city of Maracaibo, he and his buccaneers tortured many citizens in order to find the hidden valuables. In Porto Bello he burned the private parts of his women prisoners and even roasted a woman alive on a stove, in order to get the information he so desperately desired. In Gibraltar they tortured a man by placing four stakes into the ground and tied him by his thumbs and big toes. They then pulled and pushed at the cords with all their strength. If this wasn’t enough, the pirates then placed a 200 pound stone on his belly and lit some palm leaves, burning his entire face.

3. Montbars the Exterminator – Years Active: 1668 – 1670s

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A French buccaneer, Daniel Montbars got the appellative “Montbars the Exterminator” from the Spanish, against which he was renowned for acting violent to the extreme. Born to a wealthy family, he was well educated and raised as a gentleman. He developed a deep hatred for the Spaniards after learning of their savage treatment of the indigenous people in the New World, and would become a fierce enemy of the Spanish Empire throughout his career. In 1667 he left France for the West Indies together with his uncle, where they served in the Royal French Navy. Their vessel was later sunk by the Spanish and his uncle perished.

Montbars then moved to Tortuga and joined the buccaneers, where he became a captain. He distinguished himself during an attack against a Spanish galleon where, “Montbars led the way to the decks of the enemy, where he carried injury and death; and when submission terminated the contest, his only pleasure seemed to be to contemplate, not the treasures of the vessel, but the number of dead and dying Spaniards, against whom he had vowed a deep and eternal hatred, which he maintained the whole of his life.” He attacked and set ablaze many Spanish strongholds and settlements across the Caribbean, giving no quarter to his enemies. One of his most famous torture methods was to cut open the abdomen of his prisoners, nail his large intestine to a post, and then force the poor man to dance away from it, all the while “beating his backside with a burning log.”

2. Francois L’Olonnais – Years Active: 1660-1668

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While on the subject of psychotic Frenchmen, let’s take a look at Montbars’ predecessor, Francois L’Olonnais, another Spanish-hating buccaneer. His real name, however, was Jean-David Neu, but he also went by “Flail of the Spaniards.” He was born in France around 1635, where he was sold to a master who took him to the Caribbean. In 1660 he joined the buccaneers stationed in Saint-Domingue and his reign of terror began. In 1663 he survived a shipwreck where all of his crewmates died, and when the Spanish came to investigate, he covered himself with his crewmates’ corpses and smeared himself with their blood to appear dead. He then dressed himself as a Spaniard, released some slaves and escaped on some small canoes. On his way to Tortuga he and his small crew destroyed an entire Spanish ship and left only one man alive to tell the story.

From Tortuga, L’Olonnais launched an attack on Maracaibo and Gibraltar, hunted down the people trying to escape through the jungles, then raped, tortured and murdered everyone. In another raid on the town of Puerto Cabellos, he “ripped open one of the prisoners with his cutlass, tore the living heart out of his body, gnawed at it, and then hurled it in the face of one of the others, saying, ‘Show me another way, or I will do the same to you.’” He wanted to find a safe route to San Pedro, another Spanish port-city close by. In 1668 his small fleet was finally captured and destroyed by the Spanish. He managed to escape the onslaught by running into the jungle. There, however, he was captured by natives who ripped him to pieces while still alive and then burned him. Some rumors go as far as saying that he was eaten by cannibals.

1. Olivier Levasseur – Years Active: 1716-1724

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Okay, let’s move out of the Caribbean for this last one. Olivier Levasseur, aka La Buse(The Buzzard) was a French privateer in service to the French crown during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714). After the war he was ordered to return home, but instead joined a pirate company in 1716. The Buzzard decided to try his luck in the Indian Ocean, on the Western coast of Africa. He and some other famous pirates like Edward England or John Taylor raided and plundered ships and ports in the region, going as far as razing to the ground the slaver port of Ouidah, in present-day Benin. From 1720 they began operating from the island of Sainte-Marie, just off Madagascar.

Taylor and Levasseur later marooned England on the island of Mauritius on the account of him being too humane with his prisoners. The Buzzard’s favorite torturing method was the “woolding.” In order to extract information he’d take a length of rope, which went around the head of his prisoners, and with a stick he would tighten it little by little. If the captive didn’t divulge his secrets, or if he had none, the rope would be twisted so much his eyes would pop out of their sockets. Levasseur called it, “the rosary of pain.”

In any case, the two pirates managed to accomplish one of piracy’s greatest exploits. Without even firing a single cannon, they captured the Portuguese great galleonNossa Senhora do Cabo (Our Lady of the Cape). This ship was carrying the treasures of the Patriarch of the East Indies, and the Viceroy of Portugal, who were both onboard, on their way home to Lisbon. Since the galleon went through a severe storm, the crew had dumped all of its 72 cannons overboard, preventing the ship from capsizing. The booty was huge, consisting of many bars of silver and gold, countless chests full of golden coins, jewels, pearls and other valuables, as well as many religious artifacts. And among them was also the Flaming Cross of Goa made of pure gold, inlaid with diamonds, rubies and emeralds. It was so heavy, it required three men to move it to Levasseur’s ship. This treasure-trove made all the pirates rich beyond their wildest dreams.

 In 1724 he sent an emissary to discuss an amnesty on his behalf. But since the French government wanted a sizable chunk of his loot (estimated at over £1 billion), he instead settled down in secret somewhere on the Seychelles archipelago. Eventually he was captured and hanged in 1730. While he was at the gallows, he threw a necklace into the crowd while yelling, “Find my treasure, the one who may understand it!” The necklace contained a cryptogram of 17 lines. The hidden message proved too hard to figure out, and to this day his immense treasure is still hidden away somewhere.

Facts About Pirates

– WIF Into History

Little Known Unsolved Mysteries – WIF Style

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WIF Style-001

Baffling

Unsolved Mysteries

You May Not

Have Heard About

The mysterious death of a journalist who was investigating a government conspiracy. Two people with the same name who were murdered just days apart in the same city. An elderly man who was possibly killed due to witchcraft. These are just some of the unsolved mysteries you’ll find in this list. So please, read on, and as Robert Stack used to say: “Perhaps you may be able to help solve a mystery.”

10. The Loomis, Fargo, and Company Semi-Truck Heist

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Around 7:30 on the night of March 24, 1999, a transport truck carrying a trailer full of cash from Loomis, Fargo, and Company, left a depot in Sacramento, heading towards a depot in San Francisco. It was an easy route and the truck only made two stops along the way; one at an intersection before the driver hit the highway, and a second at a weigh station on the interstate.

The driver and two guards in the cab of the truck didn’t notice anything unusual along the way. After they pulled into the depot in San Francisco, they opened the trailer and were shocked to find a hole in the roof. Their immediate thought was, even though they didn’t notice it, the hole was created by some natural phenomenon, like a lightning strike, because the door’s alarm hadn’t been triggered. When the Loomis employees went to look for damage they saw that $2.3 million, which weighed 250 pounds, was missing from the truck.

 How the brazen heist went down, according to the actual police investigation, is that when the truck left the depot in Sacramento, there was someone (or some ones) waiting on the roof or above the garage door. They jumped on the roof of the detached trailer. Since the roof was only thin aluminum, the suspect(s) cut a hole and dropped in. The suspect(s) then unloaded the money and escaped without being detected by the Loomis guards and driver.

There was one eyewitness to the crime and they said that they saw one man climbing down from the side of the transport trailer and running away.

No suspects have ever been named in the action movie style robbery and the case has gone cold.

9. The Circleville Writer

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Circleville, Ohio, is only a short drive from Columbus and is home to about 13,000 people. The Pickaway County town is best known for being home to a popular Pumpkin Festival that’s held every year in October. Circleville seems like an innocuous little town, but it’s also home to a bizarre series of crimes that started in 1976 when residents of the town began receiving disturbing letters in the mail. In all, thousands of these letters were sent out to many residents living in Pickaway County.

 All of the letters were written in block lettering and were disturbing in nature. They often contained unsettling personal details about the recipients’ lives. In some cases, the letters accused the recipients of immoral acts or sinister crimes. The unknown writer would often sign off with some type of threat and, at times, the threats were directed at the children of the recipient.

The first known letter was sent to school bus driver Mary Gillispie in early 1976. The unknown author said that he knew Mary was having an affair with the superintendent of the schools and that she should end it. If she didn’t, there would be dire consequences. The writer said he was watching the house and knew that Mary had children. Thinking it was just a sick prank, she ignored the note. But then, a short time later she received two more letters, but again she kept them secret. It was only after her husband Ron received a similar letter that she confided in him that she had previously received the three letters. She said that she wasn’t having an affair and didn’t know who was sending the letters.

Unsure what to do, Ron and Mary decided to discuss the matter with Ron’s sister, her husband, Paul Freshour, and Paul’s sister. They discussed who could have possibly sent the letters and came up with one suspect. They wrote a few of their own letters, telling him to stop. It seemed to work, because for a while the letters stopped.

On the night of August 19, 1977, at about 11:30 p.m., Ron Gillispie got a mysterious phone call that seemed to confirm the identity of the writer. Ron grabbed his handgun and drove off in the family’s pickup truck to confront the writer. Sadly, a short distance away from his house, Ron’s truck was found after it had driven off the road and collided with a tree. Ron was killed in the accident.

The investigation of the scene revealed some unusual details; notably that Ron’s gun had been fired once. Also, his blood alcohol level was found to be one-and-a-half times the legal limit. Due to his blood alcohol level, his death was ruled a drunk driving accident. But this didn’t sit well with people who knew Ron, because it wasn’t like him to drink excessively. The police also interviewed the man the Gillispies thought was sending the letters and ruled him out as a suspect. So who was Ron going to meet on the night that he died?

As the 1980s rolled around, more letters with the unique block letters continued to be mailed out. These new letters were sent to different residents, politicians, and community leaders in and around Circleville. The letters were always malicious and threatening. While the anonymous letter writer was threatening many other people in the county, the letter writer had not given up his vendetta against Mary Gillispie. After her husband’s death, Mary admitted that she was in a relationship with the school superintendent, but claimed that they only started seeing each other after the letters had started.

In 1983, Mary was still a school bus driver and instead of only sending her letters, the writer had taken to leaving large signs along her bus route. One of the signs was a threat towards her daughter so she got off her bus and tore the sign down. When she did, she noticed that there was a string attached to the sign that led to a box sitting on a post. Inside the box was a small pistol. She realized that it was actually a booby trap; the gun was supposed to fire when she tore the sign down.

The police retrieved the gun and found that the serial number had been filed off. They were able to recover the number and traced the gun back to none other than Paul Freshour, Mary’s former brother-in-law. Freshour, who was married to Ron Gillespie’s sister, was brought in for questioning. He said that he did own a small pistol, but it had been lost, or someone had stolen it.

The police asked Freshour to do a handwriting analysis test and he agreed. He was given a sample of the writer’s unique block lettering and told to emulate it. After performing the test, a forensic handwriting professional said that Freshour’s writing matched the block lettering of the malicious Circleville letters. This was troubling because handwriting analysis was not a reliable form of evidence because they can be inaccurate. Yet, using the handwriting analysis and the gun as evidence, Freshour was charged with the attempted murder of Mary Gillispie.

At his trial in 1984, the prosecutor presented the evidence and Freshour’s boss testified that the day the booby trap was set up, Freshour was not at work. Freshour apparently had an alibi for the morning in question, but he never explained that because he never took the stand in his own defense. After deliberating for a few hours, the jury found him guilty and he received the maximum sentence of seven-to-25 years in prison.

When Freshour was imprisoned, the letters, with similar block letters, were still being sent out at an alarming rate. Due to complaints from residents, Freshour was placed in solitary confinement, and all his mail was closely monitored. Yet, people continued to receive the threatening letters. All of them had a postmark of Columbus and Freshour was in prison in Lima, Ohio.

After seven years in prison, Freshour applied for parole. Although he was a well-behaved inmate, his parole application was denied because of how many letters were still being mailed out. After being denied parole, Freshour himself received a taunting letter that said, “Now when are you going to believe you aren’t going to get out of there? I told you 2 years ago. When we set ’em up, they stay set up. Don’t you listen at all?” Freshour spent 10 years in prison and always denied that he had anything to do with the letters.

As the decade came to an end, the letters didn’t stop. Whoever was writing and mailing the disturbing letters carried on their bizarre campaign of terror into the 1990s, albeit with less frequency. In 1993, Unsolved Mysteries did a story about the strange events in Circleville and they too received a note from the writer that said: “Forget Circleville, Ohio… If you come to Ohio, you el sickos will pay.” It was signed, “The Circleville Writer.” As the years went by, the letters stopped as mysteriously as they had started.

To this day, some people are unsure if Freshour was the Circleville Writer or if he was an innocent man who spent 10 years in prison. Paul Freshour died June 28, 2012, proclaiming his innocence to the end.

8. Christene Skubish

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On June 29, 1990, a couple was driving along Highway 50 in the Sierra Nevada foothills. On the side of the road, they saw the naked body of a woman. They didn’t stop, instead driving on. As soon as they could, they contacted the police. The couple led the police to the spot where they saw the woman, but she was nowhere to be found. Instead, the police found evidence that a car had been driven off the side of the road. That’s when they saw a car 40 feet below the embankment that had collided with the tree.

When they got down to the car, they found 24-year-old Christene Skubish and her three-year-old son Nick. They had gone missing five days before, and sadly, Christene had died on impact. After she had hit the tree, it collapsed on her and pinned her. Amazingly, Nick was alive in the passenger seat. He was naked, and he was suffering from hypothermia and dehydration.

If Christene died on impact five days prior, she couldn’t have been the naked woman that the couple saw. While it could have been Nick, the couple was positive that they saw the body of a woman with her bent legs together and an arm over her head, and not a young boy. Also, it would have been difficult for the boy to climb up the 40 foot embankment after five days with no food and water, and then climb back down and get back into the passenger seat.

Without any other explanation, some people believe that it was the spirit of Christene trying to save her son.

7. The Midwest College Students

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Around 1:00 a.m. on October 30, 2002, 21-year Erika Marie Dalquist was waiting with her friends for a taxi after a night of drinking in Brainerd, Minnesota. She saw a man she knew, and left with him. That was the last time anyone saw her.

24 hours later, 127 miles away in Minneapolis, after a night of partying to celebrate Halloween, 21-year-old student Christopher Jenkins seemingly vanished into thin air. The next weekend, on November 6, another student disappeared. This time it was Michael Noll, who disappeared from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, after celebrating his 22nd birthday. Finally, on November 9, 11 days after Erika Dalquist disappeared, 20-year-old Josh Guimond went missing from Collegeville, Minnesota. Like the three others before him, Guimond disappeared after a night of drinking.

For months, the whereabouts of the four young people was unknown and four anxious families awaited news. Come the new year, some light would be shed on the disappearances. In some of the cases, it only deepened the mystery.

First, in January 2003, 27-year-old William Myears was charged with the murder of Erika Dalquist. He admitted he was drinking with Erika, they got into a fight, he killed her, and buried her in a shallow grave on his grandparents’ farm. Then in February 2003, Christopher Jenkins’ body was found sticking out of thin frozen ice in the Mississippi River. A month later, Noll’s body was found in a lake. No trace of Josh Guimond has ever been found.

Police are not sure what happened to the three young men who died and disappeared from college towns in the Midwest after a night of drinking within 10 days of each other. One obvious answer is that they all had tragic accidents because they drank too much. However, the chances of three men, similar in age, that looked alike, had similar builds, all dying and disappearing from the same area over the span of two weekends are pretty low.

The police have not said if the deaths and disappearances are connected. In the case of Michael Noll, police have not ruled out foul play. Christopher Jenkins’ death is considered a homicide, and police are still looking for clues as to what happened to Josh Guimond.

6. The Mysterious Death of Dan Casolaro

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In August 1991, 44-year-old freelance writer Daniel Casolaro told family and friends that he was going to meet a source in Martinsburg, West Virginia. On August 10, he was found dead in his hotel room in Martinsburg. His wrists had been slashed a dozen times, leaving a gory scene for the maid to find. Police declared the death a suicide.

Casolaro’s family immediately disagreed with the ruling. They did admit that Casolaro was having some anxiety over his story’s progress and over his mortgage payments, but they do not believe he would have slashed his wrists in such a gruesome manner, simply because he was terrified of blood. Also, Casolaro’s brother said that Casolaro was getting death threats in the months leading up to his death. Casolaro told his brother that if he were to die in an accident, he should not to believe it. Finally, all Casolaro’s notes on the mysterious story he was working on, called “The Octopus,” went missing at the time of his death. They’ve never been found.

“The Octopus” was a sprawling conspiracy story that reached the upper echelons of American politics and it all revolved around a lawsuit called the Inslaw Case.

Inslaw was a small Washington-based tech company that designed a computer program called Prosecutor’s Management Information System (Promis) for the Justice Department in the mid-1970s. Promis was designed to track criminal cases across the world and the Justice Department vowed to buy the updated version when it was released, but never followed through with the purchase. This led to Inslaw suing the United States government, charging them with software piracy. By the time Casolaro started working on the story, the case had been in the court system for 10 years.

Casolaro’s story was about what the U.S. government was doing with Promis and much of the information he had gathered from the story came from a man named Michael Riconosciuto. Riconosciuto said that the U.S. Government hired him to modify some code in Promis that would allow the U.S. government to spy on anyone they sold the program to. Also, Riconoscuito claimed that in 1980, Reagan’s campaign team paid Iran $40 million to delay the release of the hostages at the U.S. Embassy during the Iran Hostage Crisis.

The delay would reflect poorly on Jimmy Carter, who was seeking re-election. But it would help Ronald Reagan, who had taken a strong stance against Iran. Evidence that Riconosciuto pointed to was that the hostages were released just 20 minutes after Reagan made his inaugural address on January 20, 1981.

Of course, nothing in “The Octopus” has ever been fully substantiated and Casolaro’s death is still considered a suicide.



5. The Witchcraft Murder

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Charles Walton lived all 74 years of his life in Lower Quinton, in the Stratford-on-Avon district of Warwickshire, England. That life would come to an end on Valentine’s Day, 1945, in a strange and unusual murder that is still unsolved over 70 years later.

Walton was well liked in the community and worked on local farms all the way up until that fateful day. Despite being liked, odd rumors about him circulated around the small town. For example, he could tame wild dogs with his voice and birds ate from his hand. There was also speculation that he was even involved in witchcraft and/or black magic.

On the day he was murdered, Walton was working in an area called Meon Hill, a place steeped in strange stories of bizarre happenings. There are many tales of the Devil visiting the area, and there have been sightings of phantom hounds who people believe belong to the Celtic king of the underworld, Arawn. According to Celtic beliefs, Arawn would roam on a white horse with a pack of white hounds with red ears looking for souls to take to the underworld.

On the day Walton was murdered, his body was found by locals. It was gruesome, to say the least. There was a trouncing hook through his throat and a pitchfork driven through his body and into the ground, pinning him. On his back, an inverted cross had been carved into his skin.

The police thought that witchcraft may have been involved. Someone may have believed Walton was an actual wish and killed him to break, what they thought, was a curse.

There is one final strange thing to note. When the police were searching Walton’s home, they found a book published in 1929 called Folklore, Old Customs and Superstitions in Shakespeare Land. In the book, there is a passage about a man named Charles Walton, who died after seeing a ghost, 60 years before Walton’s murder. While farfetched, there are some people who believe that Walton was involved with witchcraft and that the Walton who died in 1885 was the same one who was murdered in 1945.

There has never been a suspect named in the Witchcraft Murder and the killing of the 74-year-old man will probably remain unsolved.

4. The Murder of Betsy Aardsma

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At about 4:00 p.m. on November 28, 1969, Betsy Aardsma, 22, went to the library at Penn State University to do some research for a paper she was writing. She was dressed up, which has led to speculation that she was going to meet someone.

Sometime between 4:45 and 5:00 p.m., Betsy walked down a narrow row in the library stacks. They were so narrow that the only way two people would be able to pass one another would be if they both turned to their sides. Also, the book cases extended all the way to the end of the wall, so the only way back out of the row would be to turn around and walk back out the way you came.

When Betsy walked down the aisle, someone snuck up behind her. Using his or her right hand, he or she plunged a single edged hunting knife once into Betsy’s heart. There were no screams or defense wounds. Doctors said that it would have taken considerable force to get through the breastbone in one stab. After stabbing Betsy, the assailant pulled the knife out and took it with him or her. Betsy fell to the ground and died within five minutes.

The crime baffled the police and terrified the campus. There have been several suspects in the 45 years since the crime, but no one has ever been convicted of the brutal murder of the innocent young college student.

3. The Two Mary Morrises

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On October 12, 2000, 48-year-old Mary Henderson Morris left her Houston home to go to work. Her husband began to worry when he couldn’t reach her all day, and called 9-1-1 when he found out that she never got to work. Sadly, her burnt out car was found later that night with her charred remains inside. Her remains were so badly destroyed that she had to be identified using her teeth. There was no apparent motive and Henderson Morris’ family didn’t think she had any enemies.

Then, four days later, in a remote area, Mary Morris of Houston was found murdered in her car. This time it was Mary McGuiness Morris, a 39-year-old nurse. She had been shot once in the head and the killer tried to make it look like a suicide. However, it was clear that McGuiness Morris put up a serious fight before she was killed. Like Henderson Morris, there was no apparent motive, but McGuiness Morris did have people who might have wanted to harm her. Her marriage was in trouble and she was having problems with a disgruntled co-worker who had threatened her.

On the day that McGuiness Morris was killed, she was doing some errands and called her friend from her car. She said that a man who “gave her the creeps” was following her in another car. Less than 15 minutes later, McGuiness Morris called 9-1-1. However, the police have never released the details of the call.

There remain a lot of questions regarding the murders of the two Mary Morrises, who didn’t know each other. The only similarities they shared were they were both white, professional women who lived in Houston and had the same name. Were the murders connected? Was Henderson Morris killed in a case of mistaken identity when Mary McGuiness Morris was the real target? Or are they unconnected and it just happened that two women with the same name were murdered in the same city within four days of each other?

Unless someone comes forward, these questions may never be answered.

2. The Annecy Shooting
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In September 2012, 50-year-old Saad al-Hilli and his wife, 47-year-old Iqbal al-Hilli, his 74-year-old mother-in- law, and his two daughters that were 4 and 7, were on vacation from their home in Britain. First, they had visited Geneva, Switzerland. On September 5, they were in France, near Annecy Lake in the French Alps.

Around 3:45 p.m. on that day, Saad and his eldest daughter were standing outside of their car in an isolated area, when a gunman approached them. They got back in the car and were trying to escape by doing a U-turn. In the process of trying to escape, they might have struck 45-year-old cyclist Sylvain Mollier, who appeared to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The gunmen started firing and all the adults, including Mollier, were shot and killed. Amazingly, the two girls survived.

After the murders, many theories emerged as to what the motive was. One thing that was unclear was why the al-Hilli family would go on vacation in September, just as school was starting for the girls. This hinted that their trip was something much more than a leisurely family getaway.

 As police began to investigate, they learned that that Saad al-Hilli had come from Iraq as a child. There were some theories that his father had a bank accountwith connections to Saddam Hussein. This could have been the reason for the trip to Geneva, because Saad could have been checking on those Swiss bank accounts. There is also a theory that al-Hilli, who worked for a satellite technology company, was meeting with Mollier, who worked in the nuclear industry, and they were planning on exchanging information. Others have questioned if Mollier was actually the target and the al-Hillis were collateral damage.

Another strange twist in the case, that may be completely coincidental, was that Iqbal al-Hilli had been in the United States between 1999 and 2000. While there, she had been married to a dentist. Oddly enough, Iqbal’s former husband died of a heart attack on the same day as the al-Hillis were murdered in France. This has only led to more speculation of some type of conspiracy.

With so many different theories and no real evidence pointing them in a definitive direction, police think it will take a “stroke of luck” to solve the case.

1. The Southern Pacific Ax Man

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In January 1911, in Rayne, Louisiana, a mother and her three children were found murdered in their beds. Two weeks later, just a few towns over, a family of five was killed as they slept. Next, a family in San Antonio fell victim to the murderer. The killer ventured back into Louisiana and continued to break into the homes of families to kill everyone in the house. Between January 1911 and April 1912, there were six families killed; 49 men, women, and children in all.

Besides just wiping out entire families, there were a few other things that tied the murders together. Notably, all the families were of mixed race people. Secondly, while the murders happened over a range of 400 miles, they all happened along the Southern Pacific Railroad. Third, all the murders were committed with an ax.

 One clue as to the motive was a note that was left at one of the murders that said, “When he maketh inquisition for blood, he remembereth them: He forgetteth not the cry of the humble—human five.” Besides “human five,” the note was taken from Psalms 9:12. The human five referred to how many people he had killed in that house. This led police to believe that the murderer was a member of the African American community who was killing people he thought had “tainted” blood. The only suspects were members of a congregation called “Sacrifice Church,” which had voodoo connections, but no one was ever charged.

The only person who may have witnessed the murder was a woman in San Antonio.

On August 6, 1912, a woman awoke when she was hit in the arm with an ax. She screamed and the attacker, who was a lone man, ran off into the night. His identity, and if he was the Southern Pacific Ax Man, remains a mystery.


Little Known Unsolved Mysteries

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– WIF Style

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 10

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 10

…Fredrick C. Cabell was Human Resources to the civilian employees for the entire Colony project. “He is as mild-mannered as they come and you are treating this like a crime scene?”…

 

“You two are not the bearer of good news I gather?” he speaks to the coroner and the lawman.

“I was called here by the Sheriff, who was called by someone here at the Lovell Space Center, who found an unconscious employee, who called the doctor,” Coroner Franco points to his left.

“Me,” admits the MedLab’s Mission Physician, Miles Scheffeldink, the third man in. “No one knew where you were.”

“Don’t beat around the bush, Miles……who is it?”

The Coroner unzips the body bag to show the dead man’s face.

“Fred Cabell? Damn!” Fredrick C. Cabell was Human Resources to the civilian employees for the entire Colony project. “He is as mild-mannered as they come and you are treating this like a crime scene?”

“That is why deputy Judge called me over, to determine whether he died of natural causes……..or not.” It must be the nature of the beast, because this doctor of the dead is about business and business only, hardened by the general morbidity of his profession.

“I don’t have anything to add here, except that this man is irreplaceable to us. He was like a father to everyone at Lovell, knew our children, and was there when we first stepped on these grounds. If I couldn’t remember something, I’d go to Fred.”

“Even if we could have resuscitated him, and we could not, his brain would have been of no use to him or Image result for cerebral hemorrhageanyone; he died of massive cerebral hemorrhages, several, rapid,” Dr. Sheffeldink of LSC laments.

“Fred had his yearly physical the same day I did—two weeks ago. He did tell me you did a Digital Image of his head and now this?”

“He was 85 years old Mr. Crippen, a brain scan is standard for a man his age,” LSC’s {Lovell Space Center} mission physician explained. “We checking for signs of concussion or Alzheimer’s, you know how nosy doctors are.”

lie_about_age“85, as in four score and five? That rascal has been scamming us all along, said that he wouldn’t reach mandatory retirement of 80 for another 5 years. 75 years old my ass! But of course, he controlled all the records!”

“85 or not, he was fit as an electronic fiddle; blood pressure, serum cholesterol, brain wave, stress factor aptitude, not so much as an irregular heartbeat . I wish I were as healthy,” the attending doctor admits. “What was he doing when he died, you may ask? He was having a cup of coffee in his living quarters here, getting ready to start his day at 4 o’clock AM. That is when I determined T.O.D.”

“TOD?” Crip wonders aloud.

“Time of death,” stated as a matter of fact. “He was entering some notes into his database handheld when the seizure stopped him cold.”

Can I see that thing? Maybe there are some signs of him starting to fail.” asks the Mission Director.

“Do not have it. The security man, who found him, said he had taken care of it.”

“Why was security in Fred’s quarters? How did he know there was something wrong with Fred?” Things aren’t adding up. “As far as I know, no one has ever been inside his room; he was that reclusive in his off-time.”

“Yes indeed, reclusive and disorganized, judging by the mess.” Dr. Sheffeldink was embarrassed about walking into the privacy of a man’s personal space. “The question is, what was he imputing and what caused the hemorrhages.”

“I am going to need some answers Mr. Coroner. Mr. Sheriff, I would like to keep this in house, no public pronouncement,” orders given by a visibly shaken administrator. “Good day gentlemen.”

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The mortician is off to do the autopsy, the sheriff to keep this part of the Panhandle safe and the security guard is nowhere to be found.

To Dr. Sheffeldink he orders, “We’ll be treating Fred’s death as ‘natural causes’. And to be honest Doctor, I am knee-deep in getting 50 more people to Mars; no time to deal with an official investigation.

“Please notify his relatives, if he has some, his wife-ex-wife whomever. It will be on a Image result for damage controlneed-to-know basis only.” Fredrick Cabell knew everything about everybody. But nobody knew anything about him.

Roy was hoping for tranquility around Colony Control, as the most important moments of manned spaceflight are taking place. But that is being replaced by early onset damaged control.


THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 10


 

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #329

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #329

…Sodomy versus abortion…” Carolyn’s open palms represent the scales of justice; one lowers the other raises and back again. “Which is the greater offense?…

jail-cell-001

“The door is locked,” she states.

“Here, I can open it…”

  The four of them enter, getting a wide eyeful of Winthrop Joyce, in a compromising position with a man in a prison-striped jumpsuit, pulled down for all to see. There is a lag in time between the unexpected opening of the medical room door and the shocked expressions of the two men therein.

Harry Morrison is in the lead, he turns in haste, pushing the other three away. But the damage is already done.

“I’m sorry you had to see that, folks.”

Carolyn Ford seizes the moment, “Aren’t there laws prohibiting sodomy?”

“…yes…” Lower case y, little e, small s.Image result for lower case upper case

“Don’t you think States Attorney Hopkins should know about what is going on in Leon County?”

NO!” Upper case N, big O.

          In the vacuous silence of the cold concrete and steel hallway, Morrison is allowed to let the heat of the moment bring his blood to a boil. There isn’t much he can verbalize to explain away what they had just seen.

Lyn breaks the silence, in her own inimitable and anticipated way. “We are all adults here.” In between latobsd3-001words, you can hear the leaky faucet in the lavatory in the room release one more drip.

Sodomy versus abortion…” Her open palms represent the scales of justice; one lowers the other raises and back again. “Which is the greater offense?

“No difference,” admits Morrison. Cousin Curt nods.

“We haven’t seen Dr. A.O. Campbell yet. Where is he?”

“He’s in the Negro cell block downstairs, but I see where you’re going and you can back up a mite. A girl died after being treatment by him.”

“Come – come now. I read the deposition of one, Dr. Sapp and it seems he has been given a pass on the eventual fate of Audrie Franich. You have taken his word and thrown away the key concerning Alpha Campbell.”

“If I let Campbell walk, I don’t whose head will roll.”

“Whose head will roll in a serial sodomy case against Sheriff Joyce? Just him, I doubt it. Wow, merely visualizing the newspaper headlines! Can you imagine… his wife… your wife… would-be Governor Hopkins… disgraced public officials?”

          “Fine, Miss Hanes, I get your drift.”

          “It’s Hanes-Ford and my reach goes far beyond the front page headlines of the Tallahassee Democrat.”

          “Go down and get Campbell, Deputy Curt. Make sure he has all his possessions.”

          “We don’t have his release papers,” states Curt, covering his own tracks with procedural detail.

          “I’ll take care of that.” He walks Curt to the service elevator while whispering, “Did you know what Joyce was doing?”

          “No, but he told me not to ask him why he made weekly visits… at the same time… in the same room. I know my place.”

          “I am leaving, now! Don’t screw up and by the way, you didn’t see anything, did you?”

          “Nope!”


Alpha Omega M.D.

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Released by Susan Swain

Episode #329


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Mind Boggling Crime Riddles

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Crime Riddles That

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #328

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #328

…we are proud of our enforcement of the laws of Florida, in fact, we have been assembling a case against a Negro doctor who we’ve been watching all summer…

latobsd3-001

There is a black sedan bearing Leon County tags pulling through the service entrance to the Leon County Jail at half past the hour. When 5:00 approaches, another car, this time with Florida official license plates, enters the fortified gate. The guards allow passage for both, without question.

It is by way of the front gate that Carolyn and Bob Ford enter the jail, carrying a note signed by Cousin Curt, Head Jailer of Leon County. Curt has already welcomed the Assistant States Attorney, who will join them on a tour of the facility. carolyn-hanes-001

“It a pleasure to meet to you Miss Hanes. You are one of Tallahassee’s true treasures.”

“You are too kind, Attorney Morrison. I have been keeping an eye on my hometown for some time. California is so different and a world away from the Old South. Laws seem to be so liberal in comparison, you know, like abortion.”

“Yes Miss Hanes, we are proud of our enforcement of the laws of Florida. In fact, we have been assembling a case against a Negro doctor who we’ve been watching all summer. He is at this jail right now.”

Is that Alpha O. Campbell?” Lyn asks, not so innocently.

          “Why, yes. How did you know about him?”

          “I had a good friend who was a witness, way back in ‘31, when his mother-in-law was killed.”Vertical-001

          Morrison raises his eyebrows.

          “He is such a dear man, helping folks who don’t have much money. Y’all need more doctors like him, instead of taking him out of the community. I plan to do an article on his life.”  She is layering on a thick blanket of underpin to aid her plan. “Say, is not your boss going to run for Governor?”

Vertical-001 “I thought you wanted to observe our successes in the incarceration of criminals.”

          “Well yes, but wouldn’t that automatically make you States Attorney for the State of Florida?”

          “When or if Wilbert Hopkins is elected Governor, then I would run the Attorney’s office.”

          The seeds of ambition are scattered on the ground, for the seeing.the-sting-001

          “Oh, the tour, let’s continue. Is this the infirmary, Curt?” She winks at him with her far eye.

          The look on his face is screaming, ‘You are getting red hot!’

          “The door is locked,” she states.

          “Here, I can open it…”


Alpha Omega M.D.

Continued

Episode #328


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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #327

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #327

…Racism aside, homophobia is a very tangible hatred. Keeping this sordid mess off the front page of The Tallahassee Democrat will supersede prosecuting a country doctor…

Image result for homophobia artwork

Joe Slater’s car slows down well before the jail’s large city block. “Here we are, you’ll have to walk the rest of the way. Folks aroImage result for well knownund here know my car, so I’m putting up the top and laying low. Come and get me if you run into trouble and don’t let that snake keep hold of you,” he warns. “Do you have another witness to Joyce’s escapades, like his wife?”

“His wife will find out soon enough, but I have someone else in mind.” Merely exposing prisoner sexual abuse would not spring the doctor. “Assistant State’s Attorney Morrison will be there. He thinks that I am conducting an interview for a piece on model prisons.”

“Whoa, Harry Morrison… he is putting the case against Campbell together – never liked Doc Campbell much. I heard him call A.O. a little monkey one time.”

“That’s quite disgusting, but what he is going to see will make him think twice about using Winthrop Joyce for corroboration.” Racism aside, homophobia is a very tangible hatred. Keeping this sordid mess off the front page of The Tallahassee Democrat will supersede prosecuting a country doctor for doing the biding of connected parents. “Thank you so much, Joe. I cannot tell you what a huge favor you are doing for me. I know one doctor who will be eternally indebted as well.”last-chance

“I hardily suggest that he cease and desist from doing abortions. This happens to be “a onetime chance” to get off the hook. I will not do this again.”

“Understood,” as clear as the church bell chiming four times, time to put the plan into action.


Alpha Omega M.D.

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Episode #327


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