The NULL Solution = Episode 138

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The NULL Solution = Episode 138

…Our military is to blame, got the bright idea to attach bombs to a remote-control plane…

The sound of tablas, tamburs, ghichaks, and rubabs echo throughout the Crippen family room. Not one soul can belly-dance a lick, though Mindy and Marscie join in regardless of skill level. Before long, everyone is in the spirit.

The decibel level is just loud enough to drown out the sound of a passing drone, not that patrol drones are unheard of here, just not in the evening.

During her heyday, Fatima Afridi had avoided death threats on her harrowing overland trip to Istanbul. She endured Florida Panhandle culture shock in her efforts to blend in. She has successfully in raised 2 beautiful and smart daughters, all the while supporting her Aldona.

Her sweet loving and important husband has made it to 75, when he had cheated death 30 years earlier… Back then he swam to safety amid a hail of gunfire and rode The New Orient  Express to Paris.

Today he dances.

The dancing stops when a ground shaking thud staggers the party, rocking the knick-knacks and trophies off their perches. Many a strange noise can be heard around these parts these days, but none like this.

“You take the four-wheeler Fitch, I’ll bring the Hummer,” Roy leaps to action.

They arrive to find a smoldering crater where the Fitch house used to be.

 Gus McKinney has finished his book collection, moving on to streaming 1 of the 120 old-time movies he brought along for the trip when Roy interrupts him with news from Texas Earth.

“I was just watching Murder on the Orient Express, a classic 1974 British mystery film. Spoiler alert: everyone on the train is guilty.”

“How ironic is that? Afridi took that train to meet his wife in ’29 or ’30,” reflects Roy with depressed undertones.

“Yeah, I can’t wait to see the old bugger… less than a month now you know.”

It is time for cold hard facts. “Fatima is dead.”

As if prolonged space travel doesn’t make you pale enough. The loss of a family friend leaves Gus speechless.

“The bastards must have found out where he was living, bombed his house… the rest of the family was at our house celebrating his birthday.”

“Did you catch ‘em?”

“It was a damned drone, snuck in under the no-fly defenses!”

“The inventor of the remote control should be losing sleep right about now.”

“I have a feeling that Nikola Tesla died with a clear conscience. Our military is to blame, got the bright idea to attach bombs to a remote-control plane.”

“How is Fletcher taking it?”

“His life is a pile of smoldering rubble. He will be staying in your room until you get back, that’s if he ever leaves GLF. He’s working on that global defense stuff, which by the way is hush-hush. I had to quash an amateur stargazer pic of that alien ship the other day. The planet would be up for grabs if that leaks out, for all the chicken littles to see.”

“We’ve been watching it in our rearview mirror. That ain’t no ordinary spacecraft.”

“Damn straight! You better have Stanley step on the gas,” even though they are already maxed out.

The NULL Solution =

Episode 138

page 136

The NULL Solution = Episode 133

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The NULL Solution = Episode 133

…The dark side of humanity is on full display…

“Roy is on his way home, Mindy.” Francine is trying to calm a fellow wife of an astronaut, who has mounting reasons to worry, considering that security cameras are showing tiny flashes of light out in the distance. “Fatima Fitch said Fletcher came home an hour ago.”

“I wish Gus were here.”

Roy’s flying days have long since come and gone, but she still lives and dies with every mission, by Gus, Deke, Rick Stanley or any other who sacrifice their home life in the name of exploration.

Insecurity is all around.

When there are wolves outside the door, a person requires more than reassuring words. Sometimes the tables are turned.

A dozen or so, it is too dark to tell exactly, men have shot their way past the gates of the ranch residential compound. It is not clear what they are after, but it cannot be good.

Scenes like this are being played out all around the world, whenever the dark of night can conceal identities. Mob mentality has taken root. Looting is an excuse for the opportunist.

This is turning into the wild, wild West. Where is Marshall Matt Dillon when you need him?

In his heyday, Roy Crippen was a real-life hero. Like when the teenage McKinney boys were taken hostage by terrorists, who stashed them on a Gulf of the Americas oil rig and threatened to kill them if their demands were not met. Did young{er} Roy wait for the Coast Guard? Of course not! He flew his own jetcopter in, threw the scene into chaos and rescued them himself. He took matters into his own hands.

And so he does today, when most septuagenarians have double-bolted all the doors and covered the windows with plywood, Roy reprises his role of rescuer. He leads his presidential motorcade through the battered compound gates, opening fire with his own weapon to thwart the scattering looters. The Secret Service can only join the fray.

Despite shoot-to-kill warnings from Chasin Hedley himself, the bad apples care not. The dark side of humanity is on full display, when ill-gotten gains will do no good, when the planet is supposedly about to be laid waste by invading aliens.

King Ranch was supposed to be a “normal” haven for his 1st family, as well as the first family of space. Until the world can set aside the mass hysteria, even the fences guarding the White House are not nearly tall enough.

When the Texan invaders are vanquished, the vanquisher himself can rest easy… until NASA breaks in to tell him…

…“Olympus Mons is starting to erupt.” —

The NULL Solution =

Episode 133

page 131

Grim Archaeology – WIF Almanac

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Grim Archaeological


With archaeology, we are able to take a peek into the past. Ancient texts, though revealing, often times are subjective, written by conquerors and victors, skewing the facts to make themselves appear in a more positive light. But ancient relics, buried deep in the ground by time or people, tell a more complete story of what happened hundreds, if not thousands of years ago.

 With the help of archaeology, scientists and historians can slowly piece together the story of humanity and the planet itself. And as these things often are, long forgotten secrets can sometimes be scary, if not downright gruesome. Here are 10 such grim archaeological discoveries.

10. The First Recorded Boomerang Victim – Australia

Even though we tend to think of boomerangs as toys to be thrown around, they are in fact deadly weapons with which the Aboriginals have been hunting and killing for thousands of years. In 2014, in Australia’s Toorale National Park, on the banks of the Darling River, a skeleton belonging to an Aboriginal was discovered by a local man. Knowing it to belong to one of his ancestors, William Bates, an Aboriginal himself, named him Kaakutja – “older brother” in the Baakantji language. Taking a closer look, Mr. Bates noticed a gash over Kaakutja’s right eye, extending all the way to his jaw. It first appeared as if the skull was struck by an iron blade, with the skeleton belonging to one of the many victims of frontier violence from the time of British colonization of Australia.

However, on closer inspection by Michael Westaway, a paleoanthropologist at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, it was discovered that this was not the case. In fact, Kaakutja lived some 500 years before the British ever set foot on the continent, and that the man was in his 20s or 30s when he died. Moreover, several other signs of trauma were discovered all over the skeleton, marks which were made by a wooden object, rather than a metal sword. Scientists were puzzled at first since no one had ever seen trauma such as this in Australia’s entire archaeological history. While several of the other wounds came from a Lil-lil, a wooden club made to look and perform like an ordinary axe, the gash on his face was clearly from a battle boomerang. When found, Kaakutja was lying on his right side in a tightly curled up position and with his mouth wide open. These all indicate a gruesome and violent death sometime between 1260 and 1280 AD.

9. The First Victims of War – Kenya

War was always believed to have appeared onto the world stage alongside agriculture and animal husbandry, when mankind renounced its hunter-gatherer lifestyle and opted for a more sedentary way of life. This is also the time when wealth and belongings beyond one’s immediate needs came into existence, and also when it became profitable for a person to own another. These, of course, don’t rule out the occasional individual murders among various families. They refer to actual wars between groups of hunter-gatherers without a strict social hierarchy system, which were believed to be virtually nonexistent. This notion, however, may have been turned on its head when a group of 27 skeletons were found on the edge of Lake Turkana, Kenya, in 2012.

Dating back to between 9,500 and 10,500 years ago, these 27 bodies of men, women, and children, all showed signs of blunt force trauma and projectile wounds. One of the women had both her knees broken, was lying on her side, and with her wrists in front as if they were once bound together. This large number of skeletons found together rule out the notion of any small-scale feud between prehistoric families, suggesting that these people belonged to a sizable hunter-gatherer group, some of which may have escaped death in this particular conflict.

These gruesome findings have lead archaeologists to believe that these people were members of a somewhat large, semi-nomadic tribe of hunter-gatherers who settled the banks of Lake Turkana. This was not so uncommon since lakes acted as both a stable water source, as well as ensuring a constant influx of wild game suitable for hunting. “Violence is a pretty ubiquitous part of the human behavioral repertoire,” said Robert Foley, anthropologist and archaeologist at the University of Cambridge. “Having said that, so too is altruism, cooperation, and caring.”

8. The Pit of Death – France

Close to the border with Germany, in a French village known as Bergheim, a circular pit dating to around 6,000 years ago was discovered back in 2012. It contained the remains of eight people, and seven severed left arms, among other hand fragments. Circular pits like this one were common all throughout Central and Western Europe during Neolithic times, but none contained such grisly examples of human savagery. These cylindrical pits may have been used as storage silos or as graves for high-ranking individuals, though scholars aren’t entirely sure and still debate the issue. It is also a possibility that slaves or relatives were killed in order to accompany the buried noble into the afterlife. But this seems to not have been the case here.

This particular 6.5 foot deep pit became the final resting place for two men, one woman and four children, which may have been the victims of a raid, or some sort of violent encounter. Their bodies were already piled over several left arms, hand fragments and severed fingers, which appeared to have been hacked off with axes. Their origin or purpose is unknown, but some speculate that these were some sort of trophies. One of the severed limbs belonged to a child no older than 16, while one of the bodies was of an infant. The deepest skeleton belonged to a middle-aged man who also had his left arm cut off, as well as several other wounds which most likely proved fatal. One later addition to the pile, a woman, was added some almost 700 years later, but she showed no signs of a violent death or trauma.

7. Mass Graves from the Great Rebellion – England

Wanting to build a café next to its library back in 2013, Durham University began construction with some preliminary excavations. But soon after work began, it came to an abrupt halt when they came across something believed to be forever lost. Two mass graves were uncovered, holding the bodies of over 1,700 Scottish soldiers who had been taken as prisoners of war after the Battle of Dunbar in 1650 by Oliver Cromwell in his Civil Wars for the British Crown. The battle, which took less than an hour, was fought between Cromwell’s parliamentarian army and the untrained Scottish Covenanters, who supported Charles II’s claims to the Scottish throne.

Over an area of less than 11 square feet, up to 28 bodies were uncovered, belonging to boys of ages between 13 and 25. The lack of any healed signs of trauma on the skeletons indicate that these soldiers didn’t have much experience in waging war, and most of them probably died of starvation, dysentery or exhaustion. In the aftermath of the battle only about 100 Englishmen perished while some 3,000 Scotsmen were killed and another 6,000 were taken prisoner. Those who were too sick or wounded, some 1,000 soldiers in total, were set free, while the others were taken on a 100-mile-long march from Dunbar to Durham. Another 1,000 boys died along the way. Others escaped, while some were executed for trying to do so. The remaining 3,000 were imprisoned in the then-disused Durham cathedral and castle.

During their time in captivity, some 1,700 died and were then tipped into these two pits, which were located at the far end of the castle’s grounds. Other mass graves may also exist, but they’re most likelyunder the University. DNA analysis has revealed that most of the soldiers were from Scotland, while a few were Dutchmen, also part of the Scottish army at the time.

6. Incan Child Sacrifice to the Gods – Argentina

Back in 1985, a group of mountaineers, while on a hike high up in the Andes near Cerro Aconcagua, at an altitude of about 17,400 feet, came across a partially unearthed mummy. As it turns out, the remains belonged to a 6 or 7-year old Incan boy who lived some 500 years ago. Moreover, later research revealed that the boy was sacrificed as part of a ritual known as capacocha. The ritual involved children of great physical beauty who would act as messengers to the gods in times of important events. Events like a volcanic eruption, the death of an Emperor, an epidemic, a great military victory, or defeat. These children were gathered from all across the Incan Empire, drugged and then left to die of exposure to the elements, high in the mountains. Whether these children were taken by force, or offered willingly by their parents, is unknown and still debated today.

Whatever the case may be, the Aconcagua boy, as he came to be known, proved to be even more important to scientists than previously believed. His DNA analysis placed him as a direct descendant of the people who crossed into the Americas over the Bering Land Bridge more than 18,000 years ago. This initial group of peoples was called C1b. However, the boy didn’t belong to any previously identified, genetically distinct subgroups of peoples from C1b, and was dubbed as C1bi. His subgroup most likely emerged in the Andes some 14,000 years ago, proving that people moved south relatively fast over North America, once they crossed into the New World. To date, only four other individuals have been identified as belonging to this group. Three are currently living in Peru and Bolivia, while another lived during the ancient Wari Empire, which flourished from 600 to 1000 AD.

5. The Shackled Skeletons – Greece

Back in the 7th century BC, the ancient city state of Athens was shaken to its very core after an aristocrat and Olympic Games victor, Cylon, attempted to occupy the Acropolis and establish a dictatorial government. Fortunately, his coup d’état failed, forcing some of Cylon’s followers to take refuge in the Temple of Athena; a place considered sacred and a safe haven for all those inside. In order to break the stalemate, Megacles, archon of Athens, promised them safe passage under truce. The insurgents then came out, but holding on to a rope tied to the altar. Once outside, the rope was cut and Megacles quickly shouted that the goddess had forsaken the rebels and ordered his men to attack. In the aftermath of his treachery, Megacles was convicted for wrongfully killing Cylon’s supporters and was then exiled from the city, along the entire Alcmaeonid family of which he was part.

Now archeologists think they might have discovered some of the bodies of these slaughtered rebels, four miles away from Athens, in the port city of Phalaeron. The 80 skeletons, 36 of which had their hands bound in iron shackles, were discovered by accident while working on the new National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera. Some vases found among the bodies have pinpointed the massacre between 650 to 625 BC, in accordance with Cylon’s Coup of 635 BC. However, Athens was experiencing a tumultuous period at the time with several riots, crop failures and struggles for power. These make it difficult to certainly identify these men as Cylon’s rebels. Nevertheless, their position at the moment of death indicates that they were buried with respect. Even though their deaths were violent, and many had their hands shackled above their heads, they weren’t thrown inside without consideration, as one might expect to find slaves or common criminals from that period.

4. A Man Rose from the Grave – Ireland

A fierce storm hit northwest Ireland, close to the Atlantic coast in May, 2015. The storm uprooted a two-century-old beech tree, which held a gruesome secret tangled in its roots. A thousand year-old skeleton was literally raised from the grave when the tree collapsed on one side, exposing its bones for the world to see. As it turns out, the skeleton belonged to a 17 to 20 year-old Gaelic man who lived in Ireland sometime between 1030 and 1200 AD. More disturbing is the fact that the body presented signs of trauma on his ribs and hands, which may have been inflicted by a knife or blade of some sort.

Though ripped in half when the tree fell, the initial east-west position of the body would indicate that the man received a proper Christian burial. At 5.8 feet, the boy probably belonged to a relatively wealthy family, able to afford a more nutritious diet for his above average height at the time. Now, there is no way of knowing if he died in battle or during a personal dispute, but archaeologists are fairly certain that he was of true Irish descent since thy believe the burial took place before the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169.

3. A Debt Collection Gone Terribly Wrong – Romania

Throughout much of their medieval history, the three Eastern European principalities of Wallachia, Moldavia, and Transylvania of present-day Romania were either under complete control, or vassals to their neighboring empires such as the Ottoman Turks or Austrians. And always, rulership of these principalities under foreign government influence came at a price. In 1593, Prince Michael bought his place on the throne of Wallachia from the Turks. Two years later he would start a rebellion against the Ottomans, the outcome of which would ensure him the title as one of Romania’s most famous historical heroes and the byname of Michael the Brave.

But while he was waging a military campaign across the banks of the Danube River to the south, conquering fortresses and consolidating his borders, three Turkish janissaries, either military commanders or elite Ottoman infantry, were being brutally murdered in the Wallachian capital city of Bucharest. These three are believed to have been the men who provided Prince Michael with the necessary money to secure his place as ruler of Wallachia, and now were looking to collect on that debt. What happened to them next was in a story of savagery worthy of Vlad the Impaler’s countrymen.

While under renovations in 2010 and 2011, Bucharest’s University Square finally unveiled its gruesome secret. The area also contained a cemetery with 688 bodies dating back to between the 16th and 19thcenturies, but the three mangled skeletons were found some distance away, thrown in a pit and covered with all sorts of animal remains, bricks and pottery shards. This debris, however, helped archaeologists date the unmarked grave to around the end of the 16th century, the same time when the previously mentioned events were taking place.

But the most gruesome part about this discovery was the multiple physical signs of trauma these men endured just before their deaths. One man suffered a fractured collarbone, ribs, wrist, kneecap, hips, spine, and skull. Another suffered a total 18 wounds, while the third also had a musket ball in his neck, an arrowhead in one of his ribs, along with a viciously cracked skull. Many of their wounds were around the face area, and most blows came from the front, with both swords and projectile weapons. Two of the men were even partially beheaded. Archaeologists can’t, of course, be absolutely sure if these skeletons belonged to those three moneylenders or not. But they are, however, certain that the men were Turkish. Otherwise, the locals would have given them a Christian burial.

2. Exploratory Voyage Turned Desperate Fight for Survival – Canada

As part of the ongoing European expeditions to find a western shortcut to Asia, John Franklin, an English Royal Navy officer and explorer, embarked on his fourth and final exploratory voyage of the Arctic, trying to find a way around the Canadian Archipelago and onto the Pacific Ocean. On the morning of May 19, 1845, two ships, the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, with a total crew of 24 officers and 110 men, set sail from Greenhithe, England, never to be seen again. The first two years of the expedition went on without a hitch and made it all the way to King William Island in northern Canada. But as the 1846 winter began to set it, the water froze and the ships got entrenched in the ice. As an experienced Arctic explorer, Franklin was aware of this possibility and provisioned his ships accordingly. But the following summer came and went, and the ice didn’t melt, keeping the ships stranded.

Franklin and two dozen other men died during this period, forcing the remaining explorers to abandon their ships and attempt a 1,000-mile-long trek through the frozen Canadian wilderness to the nearest Hudson Bay trading post. But as the men would soon realize, their journey would have a bitter ending, none of them making it even a fifth of the way there. Between 1847 and 1859, Lady Franklin, with the aid of the British Admiralty, personally funded over 30 expeditions in search of her husband and his crew, but to no avail. Search missions continued well into the 19th and early 20th centuries, gradually finding evidence that would piece together the gruesome events that happened.

Over the years, scientists found more and more skeletal remains belonging to the crew, with clear signs of cut marks on many of the bones. These are indicative of acts of cannibalism, showing a glimpse at the extremely dire situation those men were in. Some bones had signs of breakage, revealing that even the marrow was extracted, in an attempt to get the last bits of calories and nutrition possible. Both wrecked ships have been discovered in recent years, once and for all solving the mystery of the Arctic’s most tragic expedition.

1. Demons and Sickles – Poland

Our mythology has no shortage of monsters, demons, or evil spirits lurking in the shadows and out to get those still living. Medieval Europe is no exception, and this can clearly be seen in a 17th century cemetery in northwestern Poland. Since 2008, archaeologists have been digging up the 400-year-old cemetery near the village of Drawsko, exposing more than 250 skeletons. And to their surprise, five of them were buried with iron sickles across their necks or hips. Two women in their 30s, a man in his early 40s, and a teenage girl were all sporting an iron sickle tightly across their necks. Another, older woman, probably in her 50s or 60s, had a sickle across her pelvis. These discoveries initially led some to believe it to be a case of “vampires rising from the grave” and the sickles were there to prevent that from happening. However, other scientists have concluded that this was not precisely the case, though “demons” were still involved.

Poland in the 1600s was going through a tumultuous period, riddled with wars, famine, pestilence and poverty. Death was commonplace throughout the country, and even though devoutly Christian, the population often times turned to pagan beliefs, witchcraft and superstitions in an attempt to make sense of the horrific events taking place all around them. Those who died swiftly of a disease, without receiving the proper rituals for entering the afterlife, or those who suffered a violent death, were viewed at “great risk of demonization.” But unlike true “vampire” burials, these people received a proper Christian funeral, were not mutilated, and were mingled with the other deceased members of the community, with their heads pointing westward. Radiocarbon dating has also shown them to be of local origin, since dead foreigners were often seen as potential vampires. These sickles, then, acted as possible wards against evil spirits for both the living and the dead.

Grim Archaeology

WIF Almanac

Women of Dubious Repute – WIF Digest

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Terrible Female

Role Models

With the march of progress still going strong (despite some people feeling that certain recent events represent major setbacks), all these future female leaders and other achievers will do well to have some good role models to aspire to. This list is not about that.

 Here, we’re looking at women that got into the limelight by being scourges to society, or at least being drains on it. Women who advanced bad causes that left dead bodies in their wake, treated their underlings terribly, stole vast sums of money, and in short were everything misogynists would say are the natural result of placing women in positions of authority. Despite that, they managed to either acquire large public followings or power and influence in other ways. Sometimes there’s no accounting for the public’s taste.

10. Rita Crundwell

This entrepreneur seemed for years to have it made. She was breeding horses that were so highly valued that she made three quarters of a million dollars from a single sale. She was famous and connected enough that in 2008, NFL legend Terry Bradshaw gave her a personally autographed t-shirt. Certainly being the comptroller of the Illinois city of Dixon seemed pretty small potatoes compared to that. It suddenly made much more sense when, in 2015, she was convicted of embezzling $54 million from municipal funds. This was unusual not so much because it was a woman embezzling, but because of the sheer scope of it, as women usually embezzle smaller amounts that men do.

Despite being sent to prison, Crundwell’s horse breeding company continued to be one of the ten most successful in the country. Her royalties in prison amounted to roughly $14,000 a year in assets the government was unable to seize. Indeed, she was even able to continue to sell her merchandise from the old days for as much as $205 a pop. Sometimes even felony conviction can’t even temporarily stop the right business person.

9. Jenny McCarthy

It’s since been overshadowed by her actions in 2007, but this Playboy model and television host was once popular enough that she hosted her own sketch comedy show. It was because of this that she brought a lot of clout with her when, in 2007, she went on television and told an audience of millions that Andrew Wakefield had found that there were ingredients in vaccines that gave her son autism. All of Wakefield’s findings had long been discredited, but still McCarthy persisted with her beliefs enough to write multiple books on the subject and make the Anti-Vaccine Movement a household phrase.

It’s difficult to determine how many of the deaths caused by the anti-vaccination movement can be attributed to her in a moral sense, if not a legal one. The New Yorker, for one, attributed deaths to her campaign. However true that may be, there’s no denying that she did much to spread very harmful ideas to millions of people.

8. Claudia Ochoa Felix

In this woman’s case it remains murky how much, if any, criminal activity she was directly involved in. This situation is due not only to some of her life choices, but how she’s chosen to present herself online. She was reportedly the significant other for a Mexican drug lord named José Gamboa and following his arrest in 2013, it was claimed that she took over his gang (it wouldn’t be the first time a woman did this under the circumstances: Sandra Beltran did so as well until she was convicted in 2007). Although she has denied involvement in criminal activity, she made Twitter and Instagram accounts for herself, which included numerous photos of Felix or someone who looks suspiciously like her with men who were armed with AK-47s. There were also numerous photos that are very likely of her with such weapons partially painted gold or pink. By far the most dubious one was a photo of her child covered in bank notes, one which she took down.

In Claudia Felix’s defense, she held a press conference to state that she had no affiliation with any drug dealers, and that many of the photos on her profile (which she claimed was highjacked) were not of her. She did not identify who the imitator was or speculate why she was being imitated, but she claimed she was being harassed over her social media posts. Whatever the case, setting up accounts which projected the glamour of the criminal lifestyle to over one hundred thousand followers gained her the nickname the “Kim Kardashian of Crime.” Goes to show that despite regret or innocent intentions, actions like these can have consequences far beyond what was intended.

7. Jodi Arias

While Claudia Felix was not convicted of any crimes, Jodi Arias was after something of a circus of a trial. In 2008, her boyfriend Travis Alexander was shot and beheaded, his body being discovered and reported to the police five days later. Eventually evidence would come out that Arias flirted with some of the attendants at his memorial service. Later, charges were pressed against her. Her initial testimony was that masked intruders killed him, but she then changed it to say it had been in self-defense.

During the three year trial, highlights included Arias portraying Alexander as a sex pervert. Through a friend she maintained a Twitter account, which she used to attack the prosecution and the deceased to tens of thousands of followers. And yet despite all of this, or perhaps because of it, she had enoughmale admirers that she reportedly received marriage proposals on a daily basis. Hey, no one said that only other females would fall under the sway of these bad influences.

6. Lisa Frank

If you associate the idea of something being feminine with rainbows, unicorns, fields of flowers, etc., then few people did more to shape that perspective in modern times than Lisa Frank. From her humble beginnings in New York during the 1970s she built a merchandise empire called Lisa Frank Inc. that in the late ’90s was generating $60 million in revenue per year from its headquarters in Tucson, Arizona.

 However, despite the superficial pleasantness of the company, it was a notoriously badly operated business where treatment of employees was awful. In Tucson it was known as the “Rainbow Gulag.” The management was abusive, often withheld severance payments, and stiffed contractors. Sometimes as many as one third of the employees turned over in the course of a one year period. Much of this was the fault of Frank’s husband James Green, but she was the one who turned over control of the company to him and let him continue his horrible behavior almost unabated. No matter how much an artist wants to focus on comfortable fantasy worlds, they can cause a lot of harm if they neglect the real world.

5. Park Geun-Hye

This 65-year-old former president was not the first South Korean president to resign in disgrace, but the events surrounding her departure were unusually dramatic. Elected in 2013, in 2016 thirteen charges of corruption were levelled against her. So severe were they that it was put forward that the electronics giant Samsung alone was going to give her a $37 million bribe.

Despite a unanimous ruling of guilt by South Korea’s Constitutional Court, the president refused to relinquish power. What followed was one of the most determined nonviolent protests in modern history. With the president’s approval rating at about five percent, hundreds of thousands of average citizens marched and assembled in the city of Seoul for a demonstration that began in November 2016 and lasted until the disgraced president finally gave in and stepped down on March 10, 2017. On March 30, 2017, the previously legally immune ex-president was belatedly arrested to stand trial again. Rarely do democratically elected officials so stubbornly resist the clearly expressed will of the people.

4. Jasmin Rivera: Female Robin Hood

On December 28, 2011, this 30-year-old homeless Boston resident robbed a Citizens Bank near the Boston Opera House, then took a cab to return to a homeless shelter. When she cavalierly told her cab driver what she’d done, he initially didn’t believe her until she saw the police outside the bank. She ended up paying him about double his fare to be dropped off early, whereupon the very honest driver went to tell the police. When the police found her, Rivera had not attempted to stash the money or spent it on a relative extravagance. She was handing the money out to whichever children happened by at Ramsey Park.

Despite doing something that might seem at first like one of the most generous things someone can do with stolen money, after Rivera’s arrest it was quickly determined that she was not mentally well. No doubt that was exacerbated by the fact she’d been homeless for twelve years. Her theft did so little good for anyone that even the cab driver she’d generously tipped ended up losing the fare because it was seized into evidence.

3. Carry Nation

Undoubtedly the most famous of the campaigners for alcohol prohibition, if only for her extreme methods which combined motives that seem unbearably priggish with rebelliousness. In 1900, at age 54 and after ten years as a peaceful member of the temperance movement, this retired teacher felt compelled to literally attack the Carey Hotel bar with a hatchet and, adjusting for inflation, she caused tens of thousands of dollars in damages. After she was released from prison, she continued to wreak havoc on places where alcohol was sold.

Although it’s not an age we associate with that sort of radicalism that would endorse this, Carry Nation soon developed a following. In a move that seems far ahead of its time, she sold souvenir hatchets to her fans. Although she eventually went back to more peaceful activism for more socially beneficial causes such as the Suffrage Movement, it was her work with a hatchet that definitely reached and inspired the most people. Considering the effects of the Prohibition era during the 1920s had on public health, corruption, and mob violence, it also did untold harm far beyond those wrecked saloons.

2. Anti-Suffragists

While activists who fought for the right for women to vote, such as Susan B. Anthony, are practically hallowed in American history for their work, on the other side of that particular coin were a surprising number of women that were opposed to it. They included Josephine Dodge and Kate Wiggin, which understandably are not household names. The anti-suffragists overwhelmingly were women with wealth and connections through marriage or birth who, naturally, didn’t want much social upheaval under the circumstances.

Despite being dedicated to the principle that women should be denied basic rights of representation, it was not necessarily a malicious movement. Many of the women involved were community organizers who worked at hospitals and shelters. Others worked in organizations devoted to providing women free medical education. One prominent talking point was that women should stay out of politics not because they weren’t capable of it, but because politics would be a corrupting influence. While of course the movement ultimately was unsuccessful, its influence was felt long after, as National Public Radio tells us that many women were disinclined to exercise their right to vote for decades.

1. Leni Riefenstahl

It’s unfortunate that Leni Riefenstahl is probably the only female film director from the first half of the 20th Century that anyone with a passing interest in the subject could name. Her 1935 propaganda film on the Nazi Party Congress, Triumph of the Will, was a massively persuasive film at the time (though Roger Ebert, for one, called in “paralyzingly dull.”) Beyond that, her work influenced countless high-profile films such as Star Wars. Amazingly, from the 1970s on, some feminists, such as author Susan Sontag, were paying tribute to her.

For her part, Riefenstahl was very unwilling to apologize or even admit complicity when she was acquitted after the end of World War Two. She denied that her documentary influenced anyone since Germany was allegedly pro-Nazi anyway, and denied being a member of the Nazi party. When propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels’s private journal was used to debunk that second claim in an interview, she threw a fit. Some people just can’t get away from the truth of their influence.

Do Not Emulate

– Women of Dubious Repute

Real Laws – WIF NonSense

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Real Laws That

Make Absolutely

No Sense

Laws aren’t made to be popular; they are made to enforce behavior and allow humans to live together in functional societies. However, across the world, there are some laws that just don’t make sense. Some aren’t enforceable, some are anachronistic, and some defy facts and/or logic. Below are 10 examples of regulations that will make you ask, “Seriously–how is this a law?”

10. Women in Saudi Arabia are not legally allowed to drive

Saudi Arabia is not known for its tolerant climate toward women’s rights—women in the kingdom, which is governed by Sharia (Islamic law), with a strict Wahabbism interpretation, face numerous restrictions on their day-to-day lives. These religious restrictions, which have the power of law, include a requirement for women to dress conservatively and cover their hair, the need for a male guardian when venturing out in public, and a restriction that requires women to get the permission of a male relative to open a bank account or obtain a passport.

While women in Saudi Arabia have gained some limited rights in recent years, including the right to vote and run for office, they still face numerous limitations on their freedoms, including the world’s only ban on female drivers. While the ban is technically an unwritten religious edict, it is codified as law because Saudi Arabia only recognizes local driver’s licenses, which are not issued to women, and has arrested women who attempt to defy the ban. The kingdom’s ruling family and religious authorities have repeatedly justified the ban, with deputy crown prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud saying the Saudi community “is not convinced about women driving” and one conservative cleric contending, without offering evidence, that driving posed a threat to women’s ovaries and would result in children born with health problems (again, this argument is refuted by evidence from every other country on earth). The nonsensical ban has certainly impacted the Saudi economy, with limited mobility hurting female workforce participation, and exacerbated income inequality, as women from wealthy families are able toemploy drivers to get around, but poor women cannot.

Interestingly, while Saudi women (and non-Saudi women in Saudi Arabia) cannot drive cars, they are able to fly planes within the kingdom. The first female Saudi pilot was licensed in 2014.

9. In Utah, drinks can’t be seen by patrons until they are served

If James Bond really wants to be certain his martini is “shaken, not stirred,” he better not drop by any restaurants in Utah. Since 2009, Utah law requires restaurants to prepare mixed drinks behind a 7-foot partition (often made of opaque glass) out of the view of restaurant patrons. This so-called “Zion Curtain,” a nod to the state’s large teetotaling Mormon community, was meant to shield children from the glamour and corrupting influence of seeing a drink being mixed. This, despite any evidence that seeing drinks mixed by professionals would be a potential gateway to underage drinking for Utah youths. About the only good thing you can say about the law is that it is actually better than the alcohol restrictions it replaced. Prior to 2009, Utah law required customers to become members of “social clubs” (i.e. restaurants) or bars before you could consume a drop of alcohol on the premises. Basically, getting wine with dinner involved the same procedure as joining a country club, sometimes even requiring sponsorship.

The “Zion Curtain” law has been unpopular in the state, with a survey showing 70% of Utah residents oppose the law. A revised version of the law, effective July 1, 2017, will allow restaurants to forgo the “Zion Curtain,” but only if they create an adults-only buffer zone around the bar. Again, the law is better than what it replaced, but still tied to the–largely unproven–conclusion that the sight of an alcoholic drink being mixed poses an unacceptable threat to Utah’s youth (but somehow watching adults consume the drinks post-mixing doesn’t).

8. In Mississippi, it’s illegal to have a second illegitimate child

There are archaic “love laws” that remain on the books all over the United States that make everything from living together before marriage, gay sex, and adultery criminal acts. These laws are rarely, if ever, enforced, so their continued existence is perplexing.

Mississippi has one particularly strange law of this type, which states:

“If any person, who shall have previously become the natural parent of an illegitimate child within or without this state by coition within or without this state, shall again become the natural parent of an illegitimate child born within this state, he or she shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail for not less than thirty (30) days nor more than ninety (90) days or by a fine of not more than Two Hundred Fifty Dollars ($ 250.00), or both.”

This law has a dark history. It was designed largely to target African-Americans and originallyclassified parenting a second illegitimate child a felony and included a provision that allowed violators to escape punishment if they agreed to sterilization (fortunately, that version never became law). There was one quirky loophole written into the law: all multiple births would be counted as the first illegitimate child, so if you had twins (or triplets, etc.) out of wedlock, you had found the only way to legally have multiple illegitimate children in Mississippi.

While it may seem harmless to keep these outdated and unused laws on the books, the fact remains that as long as a law is there, someone could decide to enforce it (in the case of laws against adultery, a vindictive spouse seems to be the primary complainant seeking the law’s enforcement against their partner or partner’s paramours). Before gay marriage was legalized across the United States, there was some concern that the law against a second out-of-wedlock birth, borne of racist intentions, could find another discriminatory outlet. The law could theoretically be used to target gay parents, whose marriages were not recognized in Mississippi (and whose children were all, therefore, technically born out wedlock). Another reason for Mississippi to ditch this law: it doesn’t seem to be discouraging Mississippians from having kids outside of marriage. Census Bureau research showed that Mississippi’s percentage of out-of-wedlock births was the second-highest among US states, with more than 48% of births occurring outside of marriage.

7. It’s legal to be naked in public in Vermont, but can be illegal to take your clothes off in public

one man, who strolled through Burlington, Vermont one day in the summer of 2016, wearing only sneakers and a bandana (on his head), apparently knows, it’s not illegal to be naked in public in Vermont, unless you are in a public park. However, while nudity is fine, disrobing in public is generally considered to be a violation of Vermont’s law against lewd and lascivious conduct. A Vermont Supreme Court case (around a flasher) did find that exposing one’s naked body could be a violation of the law and the Court further referenced the need for lewd and lascivious conduct to be obscene or sexual in nature.

Because it’s hard to draw the line between innocently taking off one’s clothes in public and being a flasher, would-be nudists in Vermont are advised to drop trou before they head out in public. When asked about public nudity, Burlington’s police chief described the behavior of a man who was walking through busy intersections in the buff as “inappropriate,” but “not necessarily illegal,” noting that as long as naked folks weren’t stripping down in public, harassing people, or touching themselves, there was not much city police officers could do according to state law.

6. In the US, it is illegal to burn money

Got money to burn? Well if you’re in the US, you can’t, at least not legally (several other countries also outlaw the destruction of currency).  Title 18, Section 333 of the United States Code says that:

“Whoever mutilates, cuts, disfigures, perforates, unites or cements together, or does any other thing to any bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt issued by any national banking association, Federal Reserve Bank, or Federal Reserve System, with intent to render such item(s) unfit to be reissued, shall be fined not more than $100 or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.”

Interestingly, it’s fine to destroy coins, as long as it’s not done “fraudulently,” so collectors of souvenir pressed pennies can sleep soundly at night.

Actually, everyone can pretty much sleep soundly at night. Despite the existence of this law, destroying bills is not a crime that’s often prosecuted, even when it’s done publically. MSNBC’s Larry Kudlow burned a bill on the air to protest inflationary policies without facing any legal consequences. And some think that if burning of currency were prosecuted, the law would likely be ruled unconstitutional as a limit on protected speech, though others point out that since the government pays to print money (about 5 cents per bill), its interest in preserving the cash supply isn’t merely symbolic. In the US, this law is mainly used against counterfeiters, so while burning money is technically illegal (even when it’s YOUR money), the odds that you’ll end up doing time for setting fire to a stack of Benjamins remain low.

5. Under US military law, unsuccessful suicide attempts are illegal

You would think someone who was on the verge of taking his own life would have suffered enough, right? But the US military disagrees, making it a crime for soldiers to attempt to kill themselves, one that can result in disciplinary action, including prison time and a bad-conduct discharge. Under Article 134 in the Manual for Court Martial, prosecution is allowed for self injury that causes “prejudice to good order and discipline” or has a “tendency to bring the service into disrepute”, a provision that has been used to prosecute unsuccessful suicide attempts, even when there was evidence of mental health issues on the part of the offending soldier.

Suicide isn’t treated as a crime for soldiers who succeed. As one military lawyer, defending a client who was court-martialed after a failed suicide attempt, explained this cruel paradox, “If he had succeeded… he would have been treated like his service was honorable, his family would have received a condolence letter from the President, and his death would have been considered in the line of duty. Because he failed, he was prosecuted.”

Certainly, the US military does have a compelling interest in dissuading its troops from suicide. Suicide rates amongst US service members are more than two times the average for the general population. However, there isn’t any evidence that criminalizing suicide attempts reduces their frequency. Data from Canada and New Zealand, which decriminalized suicide in 1972 and 1961 respectively, suggest that removing laws punishing suicide attempts did not impact the suicide rates within those nations.

Common sense suggests that adding criminal charges to the plate of an already suicidal individual only compounds the problems facing that person. The World Health Organization suggests that criminalizing suicidal acts adds to the stigma related to suicide, which can undermine suicide prevention efforts. In other words, laws against suicide attempts, like those within the US military, don’t stop suicides, but they may deter depressed people from accessing help that might prevent suicides.

4. In several US states, atheists are barred from public office

Atheists, those who do not believe in a higher power, have long faced discrimination, and in many places across the globe, that discrimination is codified as law. In 13 Muslim countries, people who reject the state religion of Islam or espouse atheism face the death penalty. In the United States, the situation for atheists isn’t nearly so dire, but for a country whose Constitution includes several references to freedom of religion, the US has a surprising number of legal restrictions on atheists.

In seven US states, state constitutions bar atheists from public office. Maryland’s Constitutiongoes a step further, saying atheists also can’t serve as jurors or witnesses. While these restrictions have been rendered unenforceable by a Supreme Court decision (in a case brought by a Maryland notary who refused to take an oath that required belief in God), that hasn’t stopped some from trying to use them to deny office to atheist elected officials. Given that keeping these bans on the books serves no purpose, some atheist groups have been arguing for their removal. Proponents of removing the atheist bans, like Todd Steifer, chairman of the Openly Secular Coalition, say that if illegal discrimination against any other minority group was enshrined in the state constitution, “You’d have politicians falling all over themselves to try to get it repealed. Even if it was still unenforceable, it would still be disgraceful and be removed. So why are we different?”

3. In some US states, you must disclose if your house is haunted when trying to sell it

While the existence of ghosts is up for debate, with polls showing that almost half the people in the US and the UK believe in ghosts, there is no conclusive scientific evidence that supports their existence. In fact, some scientists have argued that the existence of ghosts is refuted by the failure of the Large Hadron Collider to detect any energy that would comprise such spirit beings. However, even though there’s no irrefutable proof that ghosts exist, some US states still require you to disclose whether your property is haunted when you try to sell it.

The extent of required ghost-related disclosures depends on the state where your house is located. In Virginia, you aren’t legally required to disclose any act or occurrence (including hauntings), unless it had, “effect on the physical structure of the real property, its physical environment, or the improvements located hereon.” So if the haunting extends to blood appearing on the walls, for example, you do need to make it known to buyers. In New York State, the Supreme Court found that once a homeowner publically represents their home as haunted, the home is legally considered haunted, a material condition that must be disclosed to potential buyers. But if you’ve kept Casper’s existence to yourself, you’re in the clear to sell without providing info to buyers. In Massachusetts, there is no requirement to disclose that a home, “has been the site of alleged parapsychological or supernatural phenomenon.” However, if the buyer asks if the place is haunted, it is a crime to lie. For an unproven phenomenon, ghosts seem to get a surprising number of mentions in US real estate law.

2. In Switzerland, it is illegal to keep just one of a social animal

In 2008, Switzerland passed legislation protecting the “social rights” of certain animals. Since passage of this law, it is illegal to keep a single member of a social animal species, a designation which includes goldfish, parrots, and guinea pigs, since a solitary social animal will be lonely.

While this law has great intentions behind it, it does create a bit of a quandary for some pet owners seeking to abide by the law. What if you start with two guinea pigs, but one dies? Do you now have to continue buying replacement companion guinea pigs until the end of time? One enterprising Swiss company addresses just this problem, offering a “rent-a-guinea-pig”service. The rental service provides companion guinea pigs for an otherwise solitary guinea pig’s remaining time, which can be returned after the death of the other guinea pig. No word on how the law will deal with guinea pigs who happen to be antisocial jerks, and are the rare members of their species that don’t want to chill with a buddy. However, the law doesn’t have strong enforcement provisions, especially since the Swiss voted down an attempt to appoint lawyers to act on behalf of pets, so folks who keep a solitary goldfish are unlikely to face penalties (other than pangs of conscience) for violating the law.

1. In China, it is illegal for Buddhist monks to reincarnate without state permission

China’s citizens are subject to a sweeping array of laws, including legal restrictions on thenumber of children they can have and their mobility to relocate within the country. But with regard to Tibetan Buddhist monks, the Chinese government is seeking to extend its control even beyond this life. China’s State Religious Affairs Bureau Order No. 5 requires Tibetan religious leaders (known as living Buddhas or tulkus) who are planning to be reborn to apply to several government entities for approval before doing so. China has called the law, “an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation,” a statement that merely underlines the inherent futility of attempting to regulate what its citizens can do after death.

The real purpose of the law seems to be to allow Chinese authorities to control the selection of the eventual successor to the Dalai Lama, and to quell any movement in support of Tibetan independence by religious figures in the region. The Dalai Lama has previously said that if Tibet remains under Chinese control, he will be reincarnated elsewhere, suggesting there could be dueling Dalai Lamas in the future—one selected by Chinese authorities through their reincarnation recognition procedures, and another illegally-reincarnated Dalai Lama outside of Chinese territory.

Real Laws

–  WIF NonSense

Top Trials of the 20th Century


5  Top Trials

of the

20th Century

Every so often there are trials that become so famous they grab the attention of millions of people from around the world. These are five of those cases from the last century and the early part of this one, where the drama was so immense that the world became enraptured.

 5. The Trial of Leon Czolgosz

The first “Trial of the Century” of the 20th century only lasted eight hours, but it was a huge sensation because of who was killed.

On September 6, 1901, President William McKinleywas standing in a receiving line greeting people at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. Suddenly, 28-year-old anarchist Leon Czolgosz shot him twice at point blank range, and McKinley died eight days later. Czolgosz came from a poor immigrant family and shot McKinley because he thought that McKinley only helped the rich.

Czolgosz refused to talk to his two lawyers, two former State Supreme Court Judges, making it hard to come up with a defense. The trial started nine days after McKinley died on September 23, 1901 and Czolgosz didn’t testify in his own defense.

He was found guilty and sentenced to death. He was executed on October 29, 1901, via the electric chair.

4. The Scopes Monkey Trial

In March 1924, Tennessee passed a law that made it illegal to teach the theory of evolution in schools. Obviously, not everyone supported this law, so John Scopes, a high school teacher in Dayton, and a local businessman named George Rappalyea conspired for Scopes to get charged for breaking the law so they could challenge the ruling.

The court case attracted two of the country’s top lawyers, William Jennings Bryan, a three-time Democratic presidential candidate – who, incidentally, lost the 1900 election to William McKinley – volunteered to help the prosecution, while Clarence Darrow volunteered to help the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in defending Scopes.

The trial started on July 10, 1925, and attracted the attention of the country because it essentially represented what should be taught in schools – fundamental Christianity or science. The case didn’t start off great for the defense, because the judge opened each day with a prayer. Also, the defense wasn’t allowed to argue that the law was unconstitutional.

Near the end of the trial, Darrow changed tactics. He called Bryan, who was helping the DA, as a witness to defend Christian fundamentalism. During his examination, Darrow embarrassed Bryan by making him say contradictory and ignorant statements over his literal interpretation of the Bible.

In his closing statement, Darrow asked the jury to return a verdict of guilty so that it could be appealed. The jury spent eight minutes deliberating and returned a verdict of guilty. Scopes was fined $100, which was the minimum punishment. In 1927, the ruling was overturned on a technicality, but the law wouldn’t be repealed until 1967. The play (and later Oscar-nominated movie) Inherit the Wind tells the story of the infamous trial.

3. The Trial Charles Manson

In August 1969, the United States was shocked by the brutal murders of seven people in their upscale homes in Los Angeles. The most famous victim was actress Sharon Tate, who was the wife of film director Roman Polanski. She was eight-and-a-half months pregnant.

What made the crimes even more shocking was the people who were responsible for the crimes. It was a cult-like group of hippies that consisted of pretty young women, led by a strange little man named Charles Manson.

Due to the barbarity of the crimes and the weirdness of the culprits, the trial was a media circus. The members of the family that weren’t arrested showed solidarity by doing whatever Manson did, like carve Xs into their foreheads and shave their heads. At the courthouse, they would chant, sing, and treat the trial of the mass murderer like a picnic.

 In January 1971 Manson and several of his family members were found guilty and sentenced to death. The death penalty was abolished in 1972 and Manson’s sentence was commuted to life in prison.

2. The Trial of O.J. Simpson

Just after midnight on June 13, 1994, O.J. Simpson’s ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman were found brutally murdered in front of Nicole’s condominium.

A short time later, a warrant was issued for O.J. and he agreed to turn himself in, but then went on the infamous, slow car chase with his longtime friend, Al Cowlings. Eventually, Simpson was arrested and charged with two counts of first degree murder.

Just some of the evidence the District Attorney’s office had against O.J. was that he had a fresh cut on his finger and his blood was at the crime scene. Second, there was a blood covered glove found on O.J.’s property. The blood belonged to O.J., Nicole, and Goldman. Third, there was a sock found in his bedroom that had his blood and Nicole’s blood on it. There was also a bloody shoe print found at the scene from a size 12 Bruno Mali, a pretty rare shoe, and O.J. wore size 12 shoes. Finally, the police had been called several times to the home of Nicole and O.J. because O.J. was an abusive husband.

Of course, the evidence was only a small aspect of what became the definitive Trial of the 20thCentury. The defense’s strategy was to show that the Los Angeles Police Department had a history of systematic racism and had planted the evidence to set up one of the most famous African-Americans in the world.

The trial essentially came down to the credibility of the LAPD. The DA pretty much had a slam dunk case, but all the defense had to do was create reasonable doubt by making it sound like it was possible that the LAPD could have set O.J. up because he was African-American.

On October 3, 1995, the jury was back with a verdict. 150 million Americans tuned in, which was about 57 percent of the population. The verdict was, of course, not guilty.

O.J. would later go on to lose a civil trial against Goldman’s family in 1997. Then in 2008, O.J. was convicted of robbery and kidnapping and he was sentenced to 9 to 33 years in prison.

1. The Trial of Michael Jackson

In the early 2000s, Michael Jackson was already the world’s most famous weirdo. Besides his odd appearance and strange personal life, since a civil suit in 1993, there had been rumors that Jackson was having inappropriate relationships with children. But things got worse for the King of Pop in February 2003, when a documentary called Living with Michael Jackson was released, and in it, Jackson talks about sleeping with children in his bed.

The documentary led to a police investigation and on November 18, 2003, the day after Jackson released his greatest hits album, his home, Neverland Ranch, was searched. The next day, a warrant was issued and Jackson turned himself in on November 20.

Jackson’s trial started on January 31, 2005, and the District Attorney didn’t have much in the way of physical evidence. Instead the case mostly rested on the accusations of one boy, a 13-year-old cancer patient. The DA said that the accusations fit a pattern, even though Jackson had never been convicted of sexual assault, or any crime for that matter.

The trial lasted six months and it was a spectacle. Jackson’s odd appearance and outrageous wardrobes were interesting enough to attract millions of viewers every day.

On June 13, nearly six months after the trial started, the jury unanimously acquitted Jackson of all charges. He ended up dying four years later on June 25, 2009.

Top Trials

of the 20th Century

Pirates of the Seven Seas – Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Truth

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Pirates Facts

Pirates have fascinated the masses for hundreds of years. Romanticized in fiction, the image of a pirate has crystallized into a bearded, peg-legged man, with a funny hat and possibly a parrot on his shoulder. The pirate was almost relegated to a quaint decades-old obsession until Disney revived the swashbucklers by rebooting a Disneyland ride into a multi-billion dollar movie franchise. The films star Johnny Depp, pretending to be Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards, or as Roger Ebert once wrote, “channeling a drunken drag queen, with his eyeliner and the way he minces ashore and slurs his dialogue ever so insouciantly.”

 So with that in mind, we will charge and plunder our way through 10 surprising pirate myths, facts, and misconceptions.

10. Pirates Were Part of the Normal Economy

In the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise, the pirates were literal immortal ghosts that had no need for the world of mankind. There is a myth that pirates were outcasts and pariahs but like any criminal now or in the past they needed to sell their booty. While pirates did get some gold and diamonds, that was far from their only plunder. Most of what pirates stole and looted was anything that ships had, like water, food, soap, timber, salted fish, and supplies for the New World colonies. The most coveted of all prizes was medicine.

With all these goods pirates needed a place to sell them, and there were plenty of ports, pirate and otherwise that encouraged pirate trade. Often pirates were sanctioned by their home countries, like the English Privateer, and their “letter of marque” gave them the legal right to capture ships from enemy nations. With this they could legally sell their booty to their homeports. Privateering, which was similar to today’s version of military contractors, “spurred the growth of Atlantic cities from Charleston to Dunkirk.” Non-nation criminal pirates had no shortage of middlemen and smugglers who would take their tons of stolen salted fish off their hands and integrate it into the local economy.

9. Wore Jewelry to Improve Their Eyesight

Those brave souls who step off the sturdy earth onto a rickety boat to righteously sail the rough seas have always been a superstitious bunch. Bananas famously are taboo on the open sea and are thought to bring doom upon all those on the boat. Real sailors will quickly throw a banana overboard ASAP. Sailors are just as superstitious with their good luck talismans.

Famously bad luck on land, black cats are a seen as signs of good luck at sea with sailors having a black cat on board. There are even those who have their wives have a black cat at home to get a double dose of good fortune. Pirates were no exception to superstitions of the seas. According to the Journal of the American Optometric Association, pirates heavily pierced their ears in hopes that it would improve their eyesight.

8. Pirate Ships Were Democratic

Pirates in the movies are often portrayed as mafias with a head criminal ruling their ship with an iron fist. In real life, pirate ships had surprisingly democratic micro-societies. During the golden age of piracy, over 100 years before democracy took hold in America, sailors on legitimate sailing ships were little more than slaves. The captain controlled everything and in the British Navy, it was even worse. Sailors lived under terrible conditions; conditions so bad that the only way to get new crew members was to pressgang or kidnap innocent people from whatever harbor the ship entered.

This kind of life paled in comparison to pirate ships, where democracy thrived. Not only did pirates share the wealth of their plunder but they voted on everything. They held elections on where to sail, where to strike, what to do with prisoners, and even whether or not to impeach and replace their captain.

7. Pirate Health Insurance

Sailing hundreds of years ago was tough. Piracy, which involved violent resistance and sparse prey, was even tougher. If they weren’t dealing with malnutrition or scurvy pirates had to deal with the normal hazards of the seven seas like storms and new tropical diseases. As outlaws, they also didn’t have a military organization or state to fall back on. Since the pirates were in it together they also banded together forming collectives with health care. If there was an injury on board a ship or while seizing a vessel pirates could depend on each other for monetary support.

In the Caribbean, a pirate group operated that called themselves The Brethren orBrethren of the Coast (they appeared in the Pirates of the Caribbean series). One of the most famous pirate captains of this group was Henry Morgan. Morgan offered the following compensation for injury: a right arm was worth 600 pieces of eight, a left arm 500, a right leg 500, a left leg 400, and an eye 100 pieces of eight. In 1600 one piece of eight was about a modern £50 note, so the pay out for a right arm was 600 pieces of eight, the equivalent of £30,000. Even crazed scourge of the sea Blackbeard cared enough for his crew to seize three French surgeons to provide medical care.

6. Pirates Raided Only Ships… Or Not

Merriam-Webster says the definition of a pirate is someone who engages in piracy, or an act of robbery on the high seas. Water thefts, according to the dictionary. But the true mavericks they were, pirates didn’t limit themselves to just looting and pillaging on the high seas. No, when they had the means pirates would attack targets on land, too.

There have been a number of invasions by pirates. One pirate warlord, Edward Mansvelt, controlled a 1,000-men strong pirate army that landed and attacked the Spanish in what became known as the Sack of Campeche in 1663 (now a city in Mexico). Pirate Lord Henry Morgan led another Pirate army 50 miles inland to attack Puerto Principe (now Camagüey in central Cuba). If the prize was high enough pirates had no problem leaving their ships to pillage the land lubbers.

5. Pirates Are Not Forever

The pirates in Pirates of the Caribbean were doomed to an immortal purgatory sailing the seven seas forever, but real pirates had a less permanent legacy. Piracy was often seen as a way to increase their standing in mainstream society. Spend a few years in a high-risk occupation and then take your plunder and improve you and your family’s position in life.

That was certainly the case with Woodes Rogers (he’s the dapper gent on the right in the above painting). He sailed around the world, paid for from all the ships he plundered along the way. He even had enough time to rescue Alexander Selkirk, the Scottish sailor that Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe is based on. After he came back home he hung up his pirate standard and became the Governor of the Bahamas. His past didn’t stop him from trying to stamp out local pirates. Not all pirates became politicians, but many parlayed their ill-gotten gains into an easy life back in normal society.

4. Pirate Tropes

Our word for pirate didn’t have a standardized spelling until well into the 18th century. In historical archives ocean raiders, or what we call pirates, were spelled as “pirrot,” “pyrate,” or “pyrat,” which is probably where parrots became an associated pirate trope. Other fictional tropes were that pirates buried treasure, a fiction created by Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1883 novel Treasure Island.

The 1950s Disney movie of the same name also created what we now know as pirate talk. For the film, Robert Newton, the pirate star of Treasure Island used an exaggerated version of his southwestern England hometown West Country dialect. Pirates also didn’t have peg legs, and the skull and crossbones flag was just one of many pirate flags used in pirate history.

3. Cannonballs are Spheres of Death

In the age of sail, the preferred means of attack was the cannon. Modern pirate movies have their share of implausible Michael Bay explosions. They also show how each cannon hit causes thousands of serrated pieces of wood to fly into the fleshy, exposed skin of sailors and pirates alike. Yet compared to their fictional Hollywood movie stars, the pirates of old had one less thing to worry about.

As proven by Mythbusters the wooden shrapnel didn’t have enough velocity to penetrate the exposed skin, or for their test, dead pigs. They did discover, however, the gunpowder explosion of a cannon gave the metal cannonballs enough force to rip through the bodies of at least four people, as demonstrated by the unfortunate pigs that took their place.

2. Pirates Aren’t a Relatively Recent, Caribbean Thing

For as long as there has been wealth there have been people that will take that wealth. Robbery and banditry have to be one of the oldest jobs in history, although not the oldest job. That would be ladies of the night. In the same vein of thought, as long as there have been ships there have been people who are willing to take whatever is on that ship. Starting 1200 BC the Egyptians feared a mysterious group of people only known as the “Sea Peoples” that swept over the known world like black death, destroying everything they touched.

Later, in 75 BC, Julius Caesar was kidnapped by pirates while traveling to Rhodes. Upon hearing their ransom demand, Caesar got insulted and told them to double the asking price for his life. The pirates got their money but after he was released Caesar returned with a fleet of ships and captured and crucified every one of his pirate captors. In the Mediterranean, during the 15th and 16th centuries, there were two groups of pirates that were mirror images of each. The Barbary corsairs were Muslims who raided Christian commerce while the Knights of Saint John were Christian pirates who raided Islamic ships, “mirror image[s] of maritime predation, two businesslike fleets of plunderers set against each other.” The official hymn of the United States Marine Corps even has a line, “to the shores of Tripoli” that’s about the Battle of Dernain 1805, where US Marines attacked a pirate stronghold during the First Barbary War. While the west is more familiar with the Pirates of the New World, Pirates are found throughout history and all over the world.

1. Pirates Still Exist

Pirate movies inevitably always focus on pirates with swords and sailing ships, but pirates still exist today. We don’t just mean the infamous Somali pirates that plagued the Horn of Africa a decade ago (although there was recently an attack after five years of no incidents). Pirates on the other side of the Atlantic have stepped up their attacks in places like Nigeria. Even outside of Africa there is piracy; or rather, piracy never went away. In the early 19th century famous Pirate Queen Madame Ching, or Ching Shih, ruled the waves with hundreds of ships, crewed by thousands of pirates. Not far from Madame Ching’s haunt is one of the busiest shipping straits in the world, the Strait of Malacca. Through this 550 mile-long sea lane, thousands of ships travel and are easy targets for modern day pirates.

Dozens of attacks and hijacking take place every year, although coordinated patrols by Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore are trying to put a stop to it. Hitting a little closer to home is piracy on Falcon Lake, which straddles the American and Mexican border. The lake is a result of Falcon Dam on the Rio Grande which was built in the ’50s. After the Mexican side descended into the anarchy of the drug wars small boats full of pirates would prey on fishermen and pleasure boats, as well use the boats to smuggle drugs into the US. Piracy is not something that was stamped out hundreds of years ago. It still exists, to this day, even in America’s backyard.

Pirates of the Seven Seas

– Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Truth