Grim Archaeology – WIF Almanac

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Grim Archaeological

Discoveries

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

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

10. The First Recorded Boomerang Victim – Australia

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

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

9. The First Victims of War – Kenya

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

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

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

8. The Pit of Death – France

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

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

7. Mass Graves from the Great Rebellion – England

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

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

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

6. Incan Child Sacrifice to the Gods – Argentina

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

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

5. The Shackled Skeletons – Greece

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

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

4. A Man Rose from the Grave – Ireland

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

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

3. A Debt Collection Gone Terribly Wrong – Romania

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

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

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

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

2. Exploratory Voyage Turned Desperate Fight for Survival – Canada

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

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

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

1. Demons and Sickles – Poland

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

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


Grim Archaeology

WIF Almanac

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 253

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 253

…“Holy crap Deker, we must be dead!”…

Near-death experiences: Artwork of Death by Peter Sheehan.

After Stellar Explorer settles into its perch, Celeste wrestles with the techniques she learned from Cerella; the “thawing” of human beings, not the more familiar suspended-sleep-state NASA employed for astronauts on the way to Mars. These are not-so-ordinary lives at stake. Cerella soothes her from the rear, coaching her through the procedure.

Rich oxygen-laden and argon infused Eridanian air replaces Deke & Gus’ Earthly mixture. That they quickly adapt to the hyper- atmospheric combination is important, their parents having had years to do so.

And though she had been present at the out-of-body rescue 30 months ago, it is nothing like sharing the same physical space with her sons; so silent, so innocent, so unaware. She gently, carefully removes the metabolic retardation shroud from around the unconscious men. With the aid of a scanner, which she herself had developed in the interim, a physical human-tailored check created and now performed to detect any temporary or permanent damage to their befuddled molecules.

The hijacked SOL astronauts pass this loving scrutiny like troopers, proving that the timing and placement of the molecular stabilizer had been fortuitous and effective.

In the reverse order of their suspension, the last to succumb is the first to resuscitate. When Deke begins to stir, Celeste hastens her familial onlookers to join her.

Because he was virtually frozen in the moment, Deke’s last conscious impression was Related imageof his speaking to what seemed to be his mother. One can imagine the boggling ramifications of now seeing his father and a strange young girl as well, adding to the aberration; the difference being that this time the images are very clear and not translucent.

Déjà vu all over again prompts him to repeat his attempt to revive his co-pilot, “Gus, come on Gus, wake up dude!”

“Wake up Gus!”

“What do you want?” Like the morning of their test flight, he is in a fog.

Deke merely points to the three unlikely people standing before them.

“Holy crap Deker, we must be dead!”


THE RETURN TRIP

Near Death Experience by Caz Cat

Episode 253


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Contents TRT

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

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 185

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 185

…The mourners want to stop crying, but who will be the first? They wish they had more answers when God alone knows what happened on Mars…

Presidential candidate Crippen wraps up the grim occasion.

“But because we don’t know what exactly happened to them, is of little matter now. Today we are here to honor them and to make a promise, the promise of continuing dream of the McKinneys …and all of us at NASA…SOL-logo the dream of colonization, not just of Mars, but the stars beyond it! But we are going to go there, AT THE SPEED-OF-LIGHT!!!.”

The reference to the SOL Project is intentional.

Roy does not miss the opportunity to draw Charlotte Walker onto the funeral altar, a move that does not go unnoticed by the attending press.

“All of us, in our own way, knew Sampson and Celeste McKinney. Do not fail them or Image result for red white and blue wreaththeir memory.”

Roy Crippen, Braden King, Deke McKinney and Gus lay a giant RW&B wreath on the flag-draped caskets. The clergy representatives, each of their faith, give their blessing. The honor guards carry the sarcophagi to the waiting horse drawn cortege.

The crowd disperses slowly, bound together by a trance of unbelief. They want to stop crying, but who will be the first? They wish they had more answers when God alone knows what happened on Mars. They do not want to have to memorialize speculative assumptions, but just when is the right time to say when?

Apart from a mourning nation and most of the “civilized” world, two significant figures remain stoic. Whether or not they are expected to be resigned and vulnerable, the McKinney boys, with eyes to the heavens and beyond, hold firm. They are sending a message for the world to heed: ‘We remaining McKinneys dedicate the rest of our lives to the memory of our parents and the future of America’s space program.’


THE RETURN TRIPEpisode 185


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Contents TRT

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

theft

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

circleville

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. Christene Skubish

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

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

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

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

7. The Midwest College Students

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. The Mysterious Death of Dan Casolaro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



5. The Witchcraft Murder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. The Murder of Betsy Aardsma

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

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

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

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

3. The Two Mary Morrises

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. The Southern Pacific Ax Man

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

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

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

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

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


Little Known Unsolved Mysteries

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– WIF Style

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 23

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 23

Two key Mission personnel are dead, in one day at that

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“Planetary conditions are stable, touchdown grid confirmed.” Roy Crippen has settled in at Galveston Launch Facility to oversee the crowning moment of 20 years of work. Once Tycho comes back home to roost, after its

The New Mayflower

The New Mayflower

18 hour maiden excursion on Mars, his stay on the Texas coast will shift gears;

Mars City Mock-up

Mars City Mock-up

to sending off the 21st Century version of the floating boat filled with Brits, the New Mayflower, the first of three people-movers that will add a decidedly human touch to a previously hominid-less planet. Mars City will be filled to the brim with 21st Century ground breakers.

But that is tomorrow and today is today and other portentous profoundness. The Lovell Space Center’s attention is equally split between Mars and Galveston, with Roy Crippen as the connecting driving force for both. He contemplates those that he supervises, a sea of techs and specialists, tops in their field worldwide, 100 people comprising man’s future as good space citizens.

There is one console, Spatial Debris Traffic for the Colony and Satellite tracking, which has an unfamiliar body seated there. For as long as Roy can remember, Phil Jansky has filled that seat.

Spatial Debris

“Where is Philip Jansky?” Something has slipped past him. He asks roving security, “Is he taking a break………now!?!”

“Jansky is dead, sir; we found him in his quarters when he didn’t confirm his 04:00 wakeup call.”

Roy’s mind starts somersaulting through any number of questions he could ask. He settles on, “Why am I the last to know?”

The security chief is embarrassed, if for no other reason than not knowing who dropped the ball. “The Coroner said he’d get back in touch with both autopsies.”

Two key Mission personnel are dead, in one day at that.

“I should hire a full-time mortician, set him up with an office,  he spends so much time here lately.” The mission head is losing control of personnel matters and his patience is flagging. “Who is Phil’s replacement?”pickle-b

The guard checks his roster, “Gurkhas Shah-Dhangotma, from Kathmandu.”

“Never heard of him.  Who hired him with Fred Cabell gone? My God we have a Nepalese debris tracker. Aren’t they still Sherpa guides? This is space for crying out loud, not the Himalayas!

“Mr. Gherkin better be qualified. I do not like this, not at all!” he punctuates his rant sharply, while walking off a disquieting combination of anger and grief… even though “Gurkhas” in not a pickle.


THE RETURN TRIP

Mortician

Episode 23


 

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode # 249

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode # 249

…If’n a Negro had done that to a white, someone would’a been hanged by now,..

Hanging from a Tree in Fog- by Lee-Avison

Hanging from a Tree in Fog by Lee Avison

“Masta Docta! Come quick!” screams the Campbell houseman as he runs through the back door of the Virginia Street home. “Da Princess is out back and she’s hurt real bad.”

This alarming news was the first they had heard of Olla’s whereabouts for more than a day and it wasn’t good news. Laura Bell would die in her own bed, getting to A.O.’s care too late to do anything for her. She had lost too much blood. James Ferrell was there when she died, as was Cyril Odz, in vain attempt to garner a positive identification of her attackers. There was only time for the grandgirls to give her a final hug, as she drifted away to the care of her Lord in the year 1931.

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That was four years ago and the hurt and outrage has not faded. “This ain’t right, Sheriff. You ain’t Justice2-001Justice2-001gonna let those pups get away with it, are you?” Maggie had lost her mother too soon.

“We’ve been hopin’ one of them would slip up and tell someone about what they did. You would think they would have blabbed about it by now.”

If’n a Negro had done that to a white, someone would’a been hanged by now, even if they din’t do it. Any one of us’ll do jus fine.”

“That’s right, Maggie and ain’t it coincidence that young Wilson was sent out of the country right after? He was helpin’ his daddy one day, goin’ to a fancy Europe school the next. Can’t you drag his woman-beatin’-ass back to ax some questions?” A.O. has no place in his life for violence.

“If we could show a motive or probable cause, the answer is yes. Until then we have to wait for him to come back to Leon County.” Attorney Ferrell is frustrated for sure, but the whole mess has taken the heat off the doctor in some other matters, namely performing an occasional abortion for white families, who want to keep their affairs private.

In recent years, it seems he is being treated with kid gloves, allowing him to operate freely in both the black and white worlds, just as easy as the other. What he doesn’t know is that one is real and the other is smoke & mirrors. The trick is recognizing the smoke for what it genuinely is.

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Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode # 249


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