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

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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

Computer Virus Most Wanted (Not) – WIF Spotlight

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Infamous

Computer Viruses

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Much like humans, computers can contract nasty viruses that completely wreak havoc on their systems. It’s believed that there are over 100,000 computer viruses, though some experts contend that there are over a million. The good news is that many of the viruses are not in circulation and are merely a part of collections. However, there are some that have been released, and in some cases, they caused massive devastation. These are 10 of the most notorious.

 10. The Morris Worm

Robert Morris, Jr. is the son of a famous American cryptographer and pioneering computer scientist, Robert Morris, Sr. In 1988, he was a graduate student in Computer Science at Cornell, when he wrote an experimental program called a worm. The worm was 99 lines of code and it had the ability to self-replicate and self-propagate.

On November 2, 1988, Morris loaded his program onto the internet using a computer at MIT. However, Morris made a mistake in his coding and the worm spread quickly. Since the internet wasn’t as widespread then as it is now, the Morris Worm managed to infect 10 percent of all computers on the internet (which was about 6,000).

The program ran a bunch of invisible tasks and this caused computers around the United States to crash or become catatonic. When Morris realized what was happening, he contacted a friend at Harvard and they came up with a solution. They tried to send out an anonymous message on how to fix it, but it was too late and the message got lost in the traffic caused by the worm.

Computer programmers around the country worked for days to figure out how to debug the computers. In total, it cost anywhere from $200 to more than $53,000 to fix an infected computer. After investigating, all evidence in the coding of the worm pointed to Morris. He was convicted of violating the Fraud and Abuse Act and handed a sentence of three years of probation, 400 hours of community service, and fined $10,050.

9. The Omega Time Bomb

Omega Engineering is a Stamford, Connecticut based company that designs and manufactures high tech instrumentation. On the morning of July 31, 1996, an employee in the Computer Numeric Control department started up the file server that controlled all the manufacturing machines. However, the server didn’t boot up and instead a message popped up that said that the file server was being fixed.

However, quite the opposite happened. Instead of fixing the files, it deleted them. Even worse, the virus destroyed any way of finding the programs again. Computer Security Journal said that the lines of code were scattered like a handful of sand thrown onto a beach. Omega was sure they had backups on tape and on local computers, but when they went to retrieve them, they could not be found.

When the employees realized what had happened, the first person they called was Tim Lloyd, a former employee who oversaw the computer network. He had been with the company for 10 years, but lost his job three weeks before the server crash because of problems with his attitude. Over the course of a year, Lloyd’s personality had changed and he became an angry man who lashed out at co-workers. His attitude also led to him purposely bottlenecking projects, which slowed production. He was given several warnings before he was fired on June 10, 1996.

When Omega realized how much information they had lost, they called the police who, in turn, called in the Secret Service. When they investigated, they found that the virus was just six lines of code that worked like a time bomb. When someone logged on July 31, 1996, it would delete all of Omega’s computer files. The most obvious suspect was Lloyd and the Secret Service looked at his home computer and found the same six lines of code. They determined that Lloyd was planning on quitting and he made the time bomb virus at home. He then installed it at work after everyone had left for the night. However, before he got a chance to quit, he was fired.

Lloyd was arrested and sentenced to three and a half years in prison, and ordered to pay $2 million in restitution. At the time, it was the worst act of work-related computer sabotage. It cost Omega over $10 million in lost business and $2 million in reprogramming cost. They also had to lay off 80 people. It took years for Omega to overcome the virus attack, but they are still in business today.

8. Melissa

The Melissa virus started to spread on March 26, 1999, via email. The subject line of the email was “Important message from [Sender’s Name]” and the body of the email was, “Here is that document you asked for…don’t show anyone else ;-).” Finally, there was a Microsoft Word document labeled “list.doc.” When people would open the document, it would send out the same “Important Message” email to the first 50 addresses in the person’s Outlook address book.

The virus spread to hundreds of thousands of computers in the first several days. In some cases, it caused servers to shut down. Even Microsoft and Intel were infected. Microsoft chose to shut down their outgoing internet email service to stop the spread. In total, it’s estimated that the Melissa virus caused around $400 million in damage.

The virus was traced back to David L. Smith, a network programmer who lived in Trenton, New Jersey. Smith had hacked an America Online account and launched the virus from his apartment. He was arrested less than a week after the virus was released. He said that he named the virus Melissa after a topless dancer in Florida. He was sentenced to 20 months in federal prison.

When he was asked why he did it, Smith basically said that he did it to see if he could do it. Fair enough, we guess.

7. LoveBug aka ILOVEYOU

On May 4, 2000, people in the Philippines started getting emails with the subject line “ILOVEYOU.” The body of the email read, “Kindly check the attached LOVELETTER coming from me.” Finally, there was an attachment with a file name like “LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.TXT.” Many people who got the email couldn’t resist the thought of someone sending them a love letter out of the blue, so millions tried to open what they thought was a text file. And as you probably have guessed, it was, of course,a virus.

By today’s standards, the virus was pretty tame. It would make duplicate copies of media files and documents. It would also email the virus’ creator the user names and passwords of infected computers, which would allow him to log onto the internet for free. However, the real problem was that it could email a copy of itself to every email address in the infected computers’ Microsoft Outlook address book. At the time, not many people saw the importance of having things like an up-to-date antivirus program. As a result, according to the BBC, the LoveBug (as it was sometimes called) spread to 45 million computers in the first couple of days.

When programmers looked at the code, they found an email address embedded in it and the worm was traced back to 24-year-old Onel de Guzman, who was a student at the AMA Computer College in the Philippines. De Guzman had recently dropped out because his undergraduate thesis, which was to commercialize a Trojan horse that stole passwords, was rejected.

After the virus was released, De Guzman went into hiding. When he reemerged several days later, he was arrested along with one of his friends, Reomel Ramones. However, there were no laws regarding malware in the Philippines so neither man was ever charged or prosecuted. De Guzman says that the virus was “probably” his creation and admitted that he may have “accidentally” let it out of captivity.

The LoveBug became the first virus to successfully spread using social engineering, but it certainly wouldn’t be the last.

6. Agent.btz

In the fall of 2008, the U.S. Military’s computer network was hit by a variation of a SillyFDC worm. At the time, the SillyFDC worm was a fairly benign worm; before the attack, a SillyFDC worm was listed as “Risk Level 1: Very Low.” One reason the worm wasn’t super effective is that it wasn’t transferred through something like email. Instead, it was transferred via storage devices, like thumb drives.

However, a new variation of the worm, called Agent.btz, infected a military laptop at a base in the Middle East when someone inserted an infected flash drive. The laptop was connected to the U.S. Central Command and the virus was uploaded to the network. From there, the virus spread undetected through both classified and unclassified systems. Once the virus was in place, data could be secretly transferred to different foreign servers.

In a process called “Operation Buckshot Yankee,” it took the military 14 months to finally clear out the virus and it led to the formation of a new unit called the United States Cyber Command.

The leading theory is that the virus was an espionage attack by a foreign country, most likely Russia.

5. Flashback

Apple has long promoted that Macs are much safer than PCs because, Apple says, they are less likely to get viruses or malware. There are two big reasons for this. The first is that Microsoft Windows is used by a vast majority of computers. Even in 2016, Macs only account for 7.4 percent of home computer sales. This makes Windows a much bigger target. Secondly, it is much harder to make changes to Mac’s operating system, macOS (formerly OS X). There are areas of macOS that are walled off and you need administrative privilege to change it, meaning its operating system has a limited amount of points of intrusion.

However, that doesn’t mean Macs are invincible from viruses. The most notorious of them was discovered in September 2011. How it worked was that it was disguised as an Adobe Flash installerand it got around Mac’s security because there was an unpatched vulnerability in Java. The result was that 650,000 Macs, which was about 1.5 percent of all Macs at the time, were infected.

The Trojan horse virus did two things. The first is that it created a backdoor in the system so data, like passwords, could be stolen. It also took control of the computers, making them a botnet, which is when one central computer controls a collection of zombie computers.

By February 2012, Mac released a security tool to remove the virus and Oracle, who makes Java, fixed the vulnerability.

4. Sasser and Netsky-AC

The Sasser virus was first detected on April 30, 2004. It was different from other viruses at the time because with other viruses, users needed to do a task to infect their computer, like open a file. Instead, the Sasser virus passed through the Local Security Authority Subsystem Service (LSASS). It would scan random computers until it found a vulnerable system and then it would copy itself as an executable file to the computer. When the computer was booted, the virus would install itself.

Microsoft knew about the vulnerability and issued a patch for it on April 13, 17 days before the virus was first detected. However, not every computer had updated the patch and this left them exposed. In the two days after the virus was detected, a cleanup tool was downloaded 1.5 million times.

One thing that really set Sasser apart from other viruses is that in the days after the virus was released, an email started circulating with a file that was supposed to fix it. Instead, it was another virus called Netsky-AC.

The viruses didn’t cause any permanent damage. However, it did cause computers to crash and reboot more often. In total, hundreds of thousands of computers were infected.

After the viruses were released, Microsoft offered a $250,000 reward for information on the author or authors. Two people turned in 18-year-old computer student Sven Jaschan, who was responsible for writing both Sasser and Netsky-AC. He was arrested and faced up to five years in jail; instead, he got a 21-month suspended sentence.

3. SQL Slammer

The fastest spreading computer worm in history, the SQL Slammer virus is also known as w2.SQLSlammer.worm, Sapphire, w32.SQLexp.worm, and Helkern. The worm started to spread at 12:30 EST on January 25, 2003. The virus would scan the entire internet for random IP addresses looking for vulnerable Microsoft SQL 2000 servers. The number of computers infected doubled every 8.5 seconds and within 10 minutes, 75,000 hosts, which was about 90 percent of vulnerable hosts, were infected.

The virus didn’t really effect home computers. Instead, it caused network outages, slowed down internet service, and denied some hosts access to the internet. This effected airline flights, interfered with electronics, and caused ATM failures. It is estimated that the virus cost $1 billion in lost revenue.

A major investigation was launched, but the author has never been identified.

2. Storm Worm

On January 19, 2007, computers in the United States and Europe started getting emails with the subject line “230 dead as storm batters Europe,” and then there was an attachment called video.exe. Of course, the attachment wasn’t a video; it was a Trojan horse virus. After infecting the computer, it created a backdoor which the author could use later to get data, and it added the computer to the botnet. The botnet was then used to post spam.

One of the reasons that the virus was initially successful was because, at the time when it was sent,bad storms were raging in Europe. Later, the subject was changed to over two dozen different headlines including “A killer at 11, he’s free at 21 and…”, “Chinese missile shot down USA aircraft”, and “President of Russia Putin dead”, just to name a few.

According to IBM, by February 2008 the worm had taken control of enough computers to perform spam attacks that were making the creators $2 million per day. As for who the creators were, it’s believed that the virus originated in Russia, but beyond that not much is known.

1. Code Red

The first version of the Code Red worm was discovered on July 12, 2001, by several employees at eEye Digital Security. They spent all night analyzing the worm and while working on it, they drank Mountain Dew Code Red. So, they called the virus Code Red, and the name stuck.

The first variation of Code Red didn’t spread fast and didn’t do much damage. Some websites were defaced and they said “Welcome to China http://www.worm.com ! Hacked by Chinese!” However, on the 20th of July, the virus stopped trying to infect other servers and a launched denial-of-service attack on the White House’s web page. Fortunately, the White House was able to stop the attack by changing IP addresses.

Code Red version 2, on the other hand, was much more problematic. At the time, it was the fastest moving computer virus. It was discovered at 5:00 p.m. EST on July 19, 2001, and within 14 hours, over 359,000 computers were infected. In total, it’s believed that the worm infected 1 million of 5.9 million web servers. This caused internet traffic to slow but didn’t do any damage to the servers themselves.

Code Red version 2 was also one of the most costly viruses. In July and August, the virus led to $2.6 billion in damages. The virus is believed to have originated at a university in China. However, it has never been confirmed.


Computer Virus Most Wanted (Not)

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– WIF Spotlight

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

WIF Mysteries-001

– 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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