A Pessimist’s View of Ancient Legends – WIF Myths and Legends

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Ancient Places

of Legend

That May

Never Existed

History books tell us of ancient places with amazing architecture, and world wonders long past. Archaeological discovery has learned much about the world before us. The idea of many of these locations has inspired imaginations for many years. However, the truth is that history gets distorted over time both through constant re-telling and sometimes through historical records that were actually just fanciful stories written after the fact. Many of the most famous locations may not have existed at all. Many of those that did, were much different than most people usually imagine.

The Holy Bible is a source of stories that Believers will never dismiss as fiction.

10. The Legend of El Dorado Didn’t Start Out About a City

The City of El Dorado, also known as the City of Gold, was popularized in myth. Fairly recently, it was retold in a very shiny and colorful Disney movie. The myth claims that there was a city of gold, told of by the South American natives. Many explorers went searching for it in the hopes of finding amazing riches. However, the original legend was actually about a person, not a city. It morphed into a city that needed to be searched for, because many of the natives were happy to lead the explorers on a wild chase.

The original legend told of an ancient leader who was so rich, that every morning he would be doused in gold dust. Then every evening, he would bathe in sacred waters, washing the dust off again. This was an example of his absolutely ridiculous wealth. However, while the legend is based on this, it isn’t actually true either. Archaeologists have discovered that the original story began because of the Musica people who would perform a similar ritual when anointing a new king. But they certainly weren’t wasting that kind of gold every day. It was for very special occasions.

9. The City of Troy May Not Be At All Like People Think

The City of Troy has captured people’s imaginations ever since The Iliad and The Odyssey. More recently, there have been very visually stunning movies that have helped rekindle modern interest in the ancient city. Many people assume the city and the famous siege that took place may have been similar to how it was described in Homer’s work, or in the movies. But the issue of Troy is extremely complicated.

To begin with, much of Homer’s original work that would complete the two famous stories is missing, and may never be found. This makes it difficult to understand how much of his work was fact, and how much was fiction. Also, for some time historians weren’t sure the city of Troy existed at all. Now they have found an archaeological site that they believe may contain the city, but that has only made the problem even more complicated. The site has several layers built on top of each other, which means that even if Troy was once there, figuring out which layer was the Troy described in Homer’s epic would be incredibly difficult.

Archaeologists also have good reason to believe at this point that the siege described in Homer’s work actually took place over the course of many years. There also may have actually been more than one siege, of more than one Troy, over the course of history — all on the same spot. For this reason, trying to get a historically accurate picture of Troy may be next to impossible.

8. The Lost City of Atlantis Was Probably a Myth, Or Just a Regular Destroyed Island

The Lost City of Atlantis has been popularized in myth for millennia. The idea of a lost city of prosperous people, who perhaps had interesting knowledge or technology is a fascinating idea. Some myths even go so far as to suggest that the people of Atlantis somehow continued to survive underneath the ocean. Wilder myths even suggest they are responsible for the Bermuda triangle — bringing down anything that gets too close to the truth of their hidden existence.

However, in all likelihood if Atlantis did exist, it was just an ordinary island struck by natural disaster. The first references to such a place were in an allegory by Plato about the suddenness that something could disappear, and about the hubris of not being prepared for danger. Many people are convinced this is the truth, and that there was no Atlantis. But, people often write about what they know. There is evidence that a prosperous island fairly near Plato was swallowed up almost instantly by a volcano, so he could have been making a reference to that event. Either way, there was nothing particularly special about the city Plato was referencing.

7. The Fabled Hanging Gardens of Babylon Were Probably Not That Advanced

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are one of the wonders of the ancient world. They also probably never existed at all. Many people have an idea from artwork of a huge city of mostly sandstone, with beautiful terraced gardens throughout, despite being in the middle of the desert. It certainly captures the imagination, but the first references to such a place were not written until hundreds of years after the city of Babylon was gone, greatly calling into doubt their existence.

The site of Babylon was only recently found, and wasn’t exactly where archaeologists expected, either. It turns out it was closer to a neighboring city known as Nineveh. The people of Nineveh had taken over the Babylonian culture through war. But they liked to assimilate the enemies’ names into their own cities, making archaeological identification difficult at first.

Archaeologists have not yet been able to prove the existence of any kind of hanging gardens or super advanced irrigation system. But even if they had, it wouldn’t have been that impressive to begin with. It turns out that the actual site of Babylon is not particularly arid, and would be quite useable for growing vegetation.

6. The Bermuda Triangle Is A Modern Myth, Not An Ancient Danger For Mariners

The Bermuda Triangle is a place that will cause many people to short circuit the logic part of their brain. They’ll start talking about the silliest paranoid conspiracy theories imaginable. Nearly everyone knows a mysterious story or two about the area. While most people would agree it is a natural phenomenon, the average person is convinced that something is going on there.

However, the truth is that there is no such thing as the Bermuda Triangle in the first place. What we mean by this is that there is no map in the world that has ever considered that particular region to be anything special to avoid or not. The entire idea of the triangle was made up by folklore.

Statistics show that there are no more accidents or disappearances of boats and planes in the triangle than anywhere else in the ocean. In other words, you could draw a triangle anywhere in the ocean and you would be just as likely to find a similar set of mysterious disappearances. This is because weather can cause ships and boats to go under, and the ocean is incredibly vast. Any part of the ocean can be dangerous. But there’s no evidence that particular area is any more dangerous than any other.

5. The Garden Of Eden Was Probably Philosophical, Not Physical

The Garden of Eden is a subject that has caused some controversy for many years. Certain Christians are convinced that the Garden of Eden was once a physical location somewhere on the globe, and have done a lot of research to suggest various possible locations. Most of them are somewhere in the Middle East, fairly near the locations mentioned in the early days of the bible.

Interestingly though, the Jewish faith never believed in the Garden of Eden as a physical place to begin with, but as a state of being. When men were first created, in their view, they were in a state of perfect harmony. The sin of man broke that harmony and they were no longer in the Garden of Eden, but harshly viewing the world as it actually was — alone, in the desert to fend for themselves. Many Christian scholars have increasingly taken up a similar viewpoint over the years.

4. The Tower of Babel was Probably Just an Unfinished Building

The legend in the bible says that after the great flood, many people who spoke the same language came together and arrogantly forgot about God. They planned to build a tower to reach the heavens. Partway through their building, God struck them with confusion. Now, they had many languages, and they scattered across the globe. Some people dismiss the entire thing as just a story, and some people have looked for archaeological evidence. The truth is a little more complicated.

There is no evidence to support the biblical story itself. However, there is evidence of a great Ziggurat that could fit the description of the tower that existed in the Babylonian Empire while the Hebrews were their slaves. The Ziggurat was unfinished during that time. Despite being quite grand, multiple attempts had been made to finish it. Some historians believe that the Jewish writers of the time, looking for allegories to teach important lessons, were inspired by the unfinished Ziggurat nearby.

3. Ponce De Leon was Probably Never Actually Searching for a Fountain Of Youth

We already know there was no actual fountain of youth. The idea of a magical fountain that could restore the vitality to anyone who bathed in it is quite ridiculous. However, while no one today really believes the story, some assume that the people of a few hundred years ago would have been stupid enough to believe it.

The legends claim that Ponce De Leon wasted years of his time in Florida searching for this mythical fountain. A fountain, it turned out, that was a trick allegedly played on him by the natives. However, there is no evidence in his writings he was searching for any such thing. The only source for his alleged search was a fanciful account written by a suspect source, trying to gain political favor with his views. It is more than likely the entire legend was a complete fabrication from beginning to end.

2. Jericho Was Probably Just Built on a Fault Line

Many people have heard the story of the fabled Wall of Jericho. Jericho was an ancient city in biblical days, held under siege. God was to help bring down the city, but needed the help of His chosen. The army was to blow their trumpets and march around the city continuously, and He would bring the city walls down for them. After several days, the walls came down, and the people of God were victorious.

Now, while the city of Jericho was real, many historians believe this story was far stranger than many people first realized. The city was actually in an area that would have been prone to earthquake activity. With armies using up nearby waters during a siege, it could increase the risk. Some historians would say that the army got lucky. Or, that someone knew the earthquake activity in the area and hoped to use it to their advantage. Believers would suggest that perhaps God chose that moment to activate an earthquake along that particular fault-line. No one will ever know.

1. Roswell is Really Just Home to an Old, Unused Air Force Base

We know the military presence at Roswell was hardly anything ancient. But with the belief many people have in ancient aliens, and their connection to Area 51 and the US government, it brings the entire thing full circle. Now, we aren’t saying that the town of Roswell, New Mexico doesn’t exist. But we are saying that there is a lot of confusion over what exactly Roswell is. Most people know that it’s the town where there was an alleged crash of a UFO. The Air Force would later claim it was just a weather balloon. Over time, most secret government projects have been associated with Area 51. Somehow the two places — Roswell and Area 51 — have often become conflated in the popular mindset.

While there was an Air Force Base located at Roswell, it has not been functioning for many years now. And it was never used for highly secret projects. In fact, Walker Air Force Base was a fairly generic and unimportant military post. When budget cuts came near the end of Vietnam, it was one of the first bases to close up shop. There’s a museum celebrating the legacy of the base, but what is left now serves commercial purposes. And no, there are no aliens there.


A Pessimist’s View of Ancient Legends

WIF Myth and Legend

Teach the Children Well – WIF Edu-tainment

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Things We

Teach Kids

(That Are Wrong)

Childhood is a time of wondrous belief. Children are taught that those who behave well will be rewarded with a visit from a “right jolly old elf” on Christmas Eve. A miraculous bunny visits on Easter, leaving baskets of goodies and hidden eggs, though the relationship between rabbits and eggs remains mysterious. Why a fairy would want the lost teeth of children, exchanging cash for them in the dead of night, is another mystery left largely unexplained, though children dutifully place no longer needed teeth beneath their pillows in expectation of financial reward.

Eventually such beliefs are outgrown, but many of the concepts taught to children are retained into adulthood, erroneously passed on by succeeding generations. Most are harmless, though nonetheless false. Some remain as fables, such as George Washington’s demonstration of honesty after using his new hatchet to remove his father’s prized cherry tree. Others represent simple lack of knowledge, shared with children in schools and at home. Here are 10 examples of things taught to children which remain widely believed, though provably wrong.

10. Camels store water in their humps

Everyone knows camels travel long distances over arid deserts, going days and even weeks without water. Both Bactrian (two humps) and Dromedary (one hump) camels possess the ability to last longer than any other transport animal without resorting to water. Their humps serve as water storage tanks, gradually decreasing in size as the fluid is absorbed by the animal. Camels refill their humps with water when they arrive at a stream or desert oasis, readying to embark on another long trek through wastelands. Or so children were long taught. In truth, a camel’s hump does not store water at all. Camel humps store fat.

The fat allows the animal to remain nourished during long periods between eating, an attribute for which camels are less well-known. As the fat is burned by the animal’s metabolism, the humps sag, replenished when the camel again has access to food. Camels drink massive amounts of water, up to 20 gallons at a time, which is stored in their bloodstream, not in their humps. In truth, a camel’s hump holds little water, and none as storage for long desert journeys.

9. Swallowed chewing gum stays in the stomach for years

Warning children against swallowing chewing gum often contained the veiled threat that said gum remains in the stomach for years, forming a large ball as additional pieces join it. The warning found its way to children largely through teachers who objected to their chewing gum in class. Imagery of digestive tracts clogged with wads of Juicy Fruit or Big Red served to deter such miscreant behavior, or at least it was so hoped. If a child spit out his or her gum, an obvious admission of misbehavior, an opportunity for assertion of authority presented itself. Swallowing the gum denied such opportunity, thus the creation of the myth of giant gumballs in the stomach.

Although some were taught that gum remained in the stomach for up to seven years, it was and is completely false. Gum remains in the stomach no longer than any other food ingested, which depending on individual metabolisms is 30 minutes to two hours. For most healthy people, the stomach is emptied within that time period, which is one reason people often snack between meals. Chewing gum is not intended to be swallowed, but the idea that it remains in the stomach indefinitely, growing into a larger mass, is totally false.

8. China’s Great Wall is the only man-made object visible from space

Teachers describing Ancient Chinese civilization often point out the Great Wall of China as the only man-made object on Earth visible from outer space. NASA disagrees. The wall is not visible from “low Earth orbit,” such as that maintained by the International Space Station, and all manned space missions in history other than those sent to the moon during the Apollo program in the 1960s and 1970s. The Great Wall can be “seen” by cameras and telescopes, but the unaided human eye cannot detect it from space, except under extraordinary viewing conditions, such as backlighting on Earth.

Other man-made structures are visible from space, including of course cities, especially at night when they are lighted. The Spanish greenhouse complex at Almeria, which produces the bulk of the fruits and vegetables sold in Spain and throughout western Europe, is visible. With clear viewing conditions, man-made canals and reservoirs are viewed by astronauts and cosmonauts. They also see the Kennecott Copper Mine, the largest excavation by man to be found anywhere in the world.

7. Most body heat escapes through the head, so wear a hat in winter

This one isn’t limited to children. Until recently, even the US Army instructed its recruits nearly half of their body heat escaped through the head, making the wearing of hats essential in controlling hypothermia. During the 1950s experiments regarding heat loss in humans led to the conclusion that most body heat escaped through the head, though subsequent research indicated the earlier experiments were flawed. The subjects were warmly covered except for their heads, meaning that more heat did escape from the exposed portion of the body.

In the 21st century, researchers discovered the estimates from previous studies were erroneous. More heat escapes from limbs than the head. According to a report in the British Medical Journal, published in 2008, about 7 to 10% of heat loss occurs through the head when it is exposed, rather than the nearly 50% previously believed. Of course, in frigid temperatures, all areas of skin should be covered to protect against frostbite, including the head and face.

6. Raindrops are shaped like tear drops

How and why this myth came into existence is a mystery, but raindrops aren’t generally shaped like teardrops at all. According to NASA, raindrops, as they fall to Earth, are shaped similarly to the top half of a hamburger bun, the bottom flattened by air resistance. They also change shape as they fall, affected by wind, their own mass, impact with other drops, and other factors. The image of teardrop shaped raindrops is reinforced by televised weather reports, and in the artwork drawn by young children, but it is false.

Nor do raindrops depart from clouds in a manner similar to water dripping from a leaking faucet. While lodged in a cloud the drops are globular, held in shape by their own surface tension. They retain the round shape as they begin their journey to the ground, before the other factors cited cause them to flatten on the bottom. The same surface tension which kept them round retains the circular shape of the top until it reaches its destination. Larger drops can even develop a parachute-like shape, but the top remains circular, rather than streamlining into a teardrop shape.

5. Columbus proved the Earth was round

This is one of the earliest distortions of history presented to children in school and entertainment. Christopher Columbus did not set out to prove the world was round, nor did he encounter resistance to his argument from men of science and religion. Nearly all educated people knew the world was round before Columbus set sail in 1492. There were books so describing the Earth at the time, one of which accompanied Columbus on his voyage. Not to mention that, for some today, Columbus proved nothing of the kind, and the Earth is, in fact, flat.

Flat Earthers generally believe the planet is flat, with the North Pole at the center and the outer edges bordered by the ice mass known as Antarctica. Others believe the Earth is flat because the Bible says it is flat, often referring to the “ends of the Earth” (28 times in the King James version). It’s probably safe to say there are more believers in a flat Earth today than there were in the time of Columbus. Even the highly influential churchmen of his day accepted the idea the Earth was spherical. The myth he had to overcome their opposition based on the belief of a flat Earth arose in the 19th century, with the works of Washington Irving and others.

4. Chameleons change color to hide from predators

Chameleons have long been fascinating to children and adults, based on their ability to change color. Children were taught the little lizard changed colors to adapt to their surroundings, in effect camouflaging themselves from predators. They do indeed change color, but not for the reason of hiding from their natural enemies. They change their color to attract the attention of other chameleons, and to regulate their body temperatures, becoming darker when they desire to retain more heat, and brighter to repel high temperatures.

Chameleons change their colors multiple times over the course of a day. If something makes them sense danger they generally darken themselves, while excitement will cause them to brighten. Only male chameleons change color, often to attract females. Their skin contains nanocrystals which they can expand and contract. Changing their shape affects the manner in which they reflect light, creating the change of color, rather than changing the pigmentation of their skin through the release of oils or inks as previously believed.

3. Albert Einstein failed math and was a generally poor student in school

Poorly performing students often hear the assertion that Albert Einstein failed math in elementary school, uttered by students and parents as a means of motivating them. The assertion is supported by websites, biographies, videos, and scores of other sources. It is false. When Ripley’s repeated the myth in its Believe it or Not column, Einstein responded by noting he had mastered integral calculus by the age of 15. He taught himself algebra, beginning at the age of 12. He never failed at math, and why children are taught otherwise is a mystery.

That is, until one considers he applied to enter the Swiss Federal Polytechnical School at Zurich at the age of 17, a year and a half early. He passed the math and science portions of the entrance examination, but failed the sections on history and social sciences. Einstein studied at a trade school for another year before retaking the entrance exam, which he passed. Gradually the failure to pass the entrance examination on the first try morphed into the myth that one of the greatest minds in history failed at basic mathematics in school.

2. Human blood is blue before it is oxygenated

The color of the blood vessels visible through human skin led to the belief, often reinforced by teaching it to children, that blood in veins is blue, while that in arteries is red. The fact that people always bleed red when cut is explained by claiming the exposure of blood to the air immediately oxygenates it — thus the color. The argument is supported by the appearance of veins, which look blue through the skin, an effect of the eyes rather than the blood the veins contain. Human blood is always red.

It is true that blood within arteries, which is oxygenated and on its way to nourish cells throughout the body, is brighter red than that returning to the heart in the veins. The veins appear blue because the light which penetrates the skin to make them visible is on different wave lengths, and the blue light is more successful in penetrating the skin and thus being apparent to the eye. It is an optical illusion, which led to children being incorrectly taught their blood was often blue.

1. It will go on your permanent record

Used as an admonishment to control the behavior of children, it will go on your permanent record applied to a wide range of activities. Failing to turn in homework on time could end up on the permanent record. Skipping classes was a permanent record offense. Failing a fourth grade English quiz could well appear on one’s permanent record, as could disruptive behavior in class. The permanent record loomed over childhood, a foreboding presence, though where it was maintained, and by whom, remained somewhat vague. Nonetheless, the permanent record threatened to bar one from a successful life, despite entries dating from first grade, and even earlier.

There was no permanent record, a fact learned as life evolved, at least for most of the activities which led to the dire warning. Unfortunately, there is one now. Social media and the internet save for posterity whatever is entered there, even after they’ve been deleted by whomever posted the items in the first place. What’s posted is easily found during background checks for employment, for school admissions, and for character checks. A minor indiscretion on social media can indeed become part of the permanent record, maintained in the cloud for all to see.


Teach the Children Well

WIF Edu-tainment

Niggling, Nagging, Lasting Mythoi – WIF Myths & Legends

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Universal Myths

That Persist

We all have the inner yearning that calls for answers on our basic questions. Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going, and what is our purpose? In most cases, myths are obviously metaphoric and completely inconceivable. Others can be found in various societies that are completely remote from one another, where the similarities in the accounts are so distinct that they suggest a common historical basis. The following myths all led to controversial hypotheses and theories, adding mystery and wonder to our united consciousness.

10. Time

In the 17th century, Archbishop Ussher claimed the world began in 4004 BC and that it would exist for 6,000 years until the final battle with the Antichrist – leading to the 1,000-year rule of the saints and then, finally, the end. Nostradamus used this chronology and claimed the year 1999 would be the beginning of the end times.

In mythic tradition, time is more irregular, intricate, and recurring. The Mayans thought the time had a seasonal or cyclic rhythm, and the Celts believed it ran at different rates in different realms. This mythic understanding of time is backed up by modern cosmology. The English astronomer Fred Hoyle, however, claims the idea of time as an ever-rolling stream is “a grotesque and absurd illusion,” stating that everything was, will be, and has always been. According to him, the sense of past, present, and future is all an illusion.

9. Astrology

The night sky is a portrait painted by myths. We all know our “star signs” – which consists of 12 constellations of the zodiac. Few know that the 12 symbols, or signs, that we love to plan our futures on are only part of the 88 identified constellations.

The oldest astronomy/astrology (in those days it was the same thing) records to survive are those of the Chaldeans, who nightly observed the sky looking for omens and clues to their fate, more than 2,000 years before the Romans. Modern dismissals of the role these constellations play on our futures have not ended the mythic identification with the celestial bodies and probably never will.

8. Curses

What we know from the myths and legends today are that curses are either cast on humanity by the gods or by lesser, human priests and witch-doctors, or by one wronged person onto another. Either way, intentional harm or death is intended. The most famous curse is found in the Bible when the serpent is cursed for tempting Eve, followed by the cursing of Adam and Eve, leading to the doctrines of the fall of man.

In most Eastern beliefs, however, the curse is our inability to see through illusion. Today it is said that a curse only works if the victim believes in it. The Hamitic hypothesis claims that Ham (along with his son Canaan), son of Noah, was cursed after exposing his drunken father to his brothers. According to the hypothesis they were “marked” by the shade of their skin, becoming the forefathers of the black race – the curse accounts for all the suffering the black race has endured through the ages.

7. Supernatural Beings

The belief in supernatural beings is ancient. Where demons want to cause us injury, angels offer protection, direction, and religious insight. The names of the great archangels are known to Muslims and Christians alike. People have seen shining winged human beings everywhere in the world. At Fatima, Portugal in 1917, shepherd children met a beautiful young woman who claimed to be from Heaven. Subsequent visions led to a crowd of 70,000, witnessing the sun descend to earth. Today the event is commonly known as the “Miracle of the Sun.”

At this event and others that were similar, mass healings followed. Scientists have ascribed the events to mass hysteria, but another more controversial theory claims that these events (as well as the ones in ancient times) were all actually close encounters with aliens, or UFOs. Whatever the environment or circumstances, the visitation of winged messengers persists.

6. Dying Gods

Examples of gods who die and then return to life are most frequently derived from Ancient Near East religions, and practices inspired by them include Biblical and Greco-Roman myths and Christianity by extension. The archetype’s characteristics are that their birth is announced by a star, as children they teach their teachers, they predict their death, and after their death they return.

The Middle Eastern dying gods are normally searched for and resurrected or restored by their wives or sister. It has been hypothesized that religion fills a void, and that we created it to help us feel more secure and safe in a world that seemingly delivers more questions than answers.

5. The Flood Stories

Renditions of the myth of a worldwide flood, or deluge, are found the world over. Typically they agree that the entire world was inundated, that the event (though foreseen) was sudden, and that the few survivors built arks, rafts or other vessels having been warned by God (or the gods). The best known account is the biblical story of Noah.

The corresponding themes are global – arks and rafts are mostly built on high ground, and sin caused the flood. Just as odd is the wide agreement about the details (such as the size of the raindrops and hailstones, as well as the heat of the deluge). From Deucalion and Pyrrha in Greek mythology to Pralaya in Hinduism and Belgermir in Northern mythology, today it is widely believed that the global Flood was not a mythic but an actual historic event.

4. Megalithic Myths

There are normally two varieties of megalithic myths: first the myths of the builders/designers’ mysterious and supernatural powers, and second about the mystical or magical properties of the stones. Great Britain and Egypt are hosts to the most famous ones but they can be found the world over.

Having been associated with healing, fertility, giants, and the devil, the renewed interest came about when science stepped in. It became clear these stones worked as giant calendars, with individual stones marking seasons or the movement of the sun and the moon. The most interesting speculation about them came from a man called Paul Devereux, he claimed that UFOs are terrestrial emanations connected with faults in the megalithic system and that they access our brains directly as they are electromagnetic.

3. Omens

Beliefs in omens, events, or objects that forewarn us about good or evil that may be coming our way have existed since time immemorial. The Druids sought omens in the flight of birds and in Ireland each sound, position, or movement of domesticated ravens has a different connotation. Omens are also drawn by different cultures from the direction of flames, the howling of dogs, shapes of tree-roots, the state of entrails, and even from the way sandals fall when they are tossed.

At the heart of these myths is the view that everything interconnects. Jung reasoned that the collective unconscious knows all things – implying that the view may not be that absurd.

2. Creation

There are three basic questions when it comes to how the Earth, cosmos, and all life were created. How did something come from nothing? How was it created and how did the natural order of all minerals, plants, animals, and human kingdoms come to be? Theories range from the modern “Big Bang” to the older and even ancient approaches.

In most myths, the elements are favored – claiming that air, wind, fire, and sometimes vibrations caused all things to be. Another very common theme is the “World Tree” creation legends that can be found from Africa to Tonga. These are normally rooted in Paradise and all life springs from it, or it can be linked with dimensions and various created worlds. The most subtle myths imply that there is no beginning and no end, that everything is in balance, and that all is as it should be.

1. Afterlife

In all quarters of the world, the individual soul/spirit is believed to survive death. This belief goes back to as early as 80,000 BC, as Neanderthal burials would suggest that they, too, prepared for the afterlife. From the Christian beliefs of Heaven and Hell, to the Tibetan Book of the Dead that advises the newly-dead how to avoid rebirth, the belief remains despite lack of proof.

Many interesting theories exist apart from the religious views on what happens to the soul after a person dies. Edmund Fournier d’Albe was one of the first researchers that came up with an afterlife hypothesis, claiming that one’s soul leaves the body after death and lives off ultraviolet rays from the sun in another realm of the Earth’s atmosphere. Others say that the soul will find itself in a dream world or simply that only the mind will live on, becoming part of the collective consciousness.


Niggling, Nagging, Lasting Mythoi

WIF Myths & Legends

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #333

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #333

… pure fictional genius…

from-the-desk-of-001

Nearly all of the main Tallahassee characters were real people. I used their actual names and because of the volatile nature of the events, especially in the 1950’s, I may have the legal department pulling out their hair. If I had fictionalized their names, I could never have kept them all straight. Who they were and what was their relation to A.O. Campbell needed to be as is. Perhaps it is due to my simple mind, but George Lewis, Charles latobsd3-001Wilson, Franklin McLoud, the Dr.’s nurses, the Dr.’s attorneys, the Prosecutors, Starke Prison and Audrie Franich, all appearing in chapter 1 & subsequently, are real.

Now, some of the machinations surrounding his trial and subsequent imprisonment, well that is a combination of speculation and fictionalization on my part. None of this tinkering affects the end result.

Robert Ford-001Carolyn Hanes and Capt. Robert Ford do have a big role in the book. Bob Ford did indeed pilot the Pacific Clipper at the outbreak of WWII and had to fly it back to New York counterclockwise. Carolyn Hanes is pure fiction. You may think she is my alter ego. That is left for you to imagine.

Ferrell's Grocery-001   In chapter 2, the Ferrell family is foundational to the story line. Most all of them are true, in the fact that they did exist. I may have exaggerated their role, but they do and did contribute to Leon County past.

Laura Bell/Olla is a key to the complicated bloodlines of the Campbell family. She is the mother of Maggie Lou, though Maggie’s erotic conception may be subject to my imagination. Maggie Lou does go on to marry the doctor in 1916.Campbell Home-001

The Campbell family, headed by Willy and Amanda, is the all-in-all. Alfrey (A.O.) Campbell had four brothers and sisters. Hosea is the most infamous, but was he such a rascal, I do not know?

More than likely, the Campbell’s were slaves at some point, but the evil Jefferson Smythwick did not exist and his Fort Sumter South plantation occupies made-up ground. You must admit though that the escape by Alfrey et al was an exciting treat. Take that mean old slave owners!

Anti-slavery-001 Chapters 3 and 4 contain the fictional Southeast Anti-slavery Society, headed by the great Herbert Love. I call him great because he is the person, who I posit, providing for the Dr.’s education. In fact, I have since learned that A.O.’s extended family may have sacrificed holdings to finance his education.Sec. of Ag-001

Love never made Secretary of Agriculture in a McKinley administration, but he would have had the qualifications. He was engaged in farming of some sort, though he takes on a lion’s share philanthropy for my purposes.

San Luis Lake-001 Siegfried and Frieda Endlichoffer, the German couple across the lake from John Ferrell, are based on a personal acquaintance. They are a sweet augmentation to the Tallahassee landscape and what better neighbors could anyone have?

Of course the Spanish American War was real. It represents the USA’s first foray into imperial policy, which has led to our global role as policeman to the world.mckinley-at-pan-american-exposition

The Horizons of chapters 5 and 6 are the recounting of what was going on the last time we entered a new century. 1900 had as many amazing changes as we have in the Catfish AL-001year 2000. President McKinley was indeed assassinated in 1901 and that was preceded by the Galveston hurricane, the Great Plague and followed by the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.

Harv Pearson is a huge player in LATOBSD. He marries Judith Eastman in chapter 7, who is fictional and they start the Pearson-Eastman Journal, a make believe publication that gives this book the legs to reach out to the entire flat world… pure fictional genius.

Continued

… one Episode to go…

Pearson-Eastman Journal-001


 

Alpha Omega M.D.

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Episode #333

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #299

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #299

…“She was quite a dish, I hear. A bronze skinned beauty with fetching brown eyes that could consume a mere mortal man,” she says with a writer’s flair…

Beautiful Caribbean by Colin Garland

Beautiful Caribbean by Colin Garland

I know you and I never really talked about it… but we were lovers.”

There, she said it out loud.

Ford has had to deal with the notion before this moment; yet another slightly askew aspect to the last half of his life. “I figured as much, watching you two interacting on the Clipper and such.”

Lyn takes a step back. “No wonder that subject never came up. And to think I was terrified of what you would think, if you knew about us.” It wasn’t that Lyn never liked men. She and Sara just kind of happened. “Then why did you? … You asked me to the reception?! … Oh I get it divide and conquer! Get those girls apart and you would win my heart, was it?”

on-my-mind“Well, sort of. I really did need an escort you know and you do clean up real good,” even though he had his hands full at the time. “I was quite taken with you Lyn, I must say, but the heart thing was not foremost on my mind. And my 2nd officer, Rod, he wouldn’t stop talking about that Sara woman. Yes, we had been away from base for a while, but we were both unattached. No harm in trying.  It seemed like a natural fit for the evening and we didn’t have any expectations. Hell, we were staring 12,000 miles of  in the face… half the world away from New York and no charts to guide us.”

“I was just giving you a hard time Bob, you guys were perfect gentlemen.” More than that, she recalls she had a great time and liked the feeling of being on a man’s arm for a change. “You know, this is a great-great story, one that should be told. It would be a shame to let it slip into the cracks of history.” The gears in Lyn’s brain were grinding away. Constance Caraway could use some time off, The Hawaiian Spy-001surely having to do with that Ace Bannion guy, so, “Would you be open to collaborating with me…”

“Isn’t that what your book The Hawaiian Spy was about?”

“I meant collaborating on a book about you … and the flight of the Pacific Clipper. A story like that almost tells itself. And I can get it right from the horses’ mouth. I’m regret missing the last half of your odyssey.”

Ford inserts a pregnant pause in the previously running conversation. There is more to the story than she wants to know. He waits for the right time to let slip a gem, “But then you would find out about that girl in Port ‘O Spain.”

Lyn counters by subtly raising her eyebrows. She maintains a matter-of-fact facade. “She was quite a dish, I hear. A bronze skinned beauty with fetching brown eyes that could consume a mere mortal man,” she says with a writer’s flair.

Image result for writing with flair   How cool was that?

Now he is confused. He thought he coming of as ‘I was only kidding’, but there was that one night when they were refueling. It could have been that homemade rum, or consuming relief that they had made it across the Atlantic Ocean without tasting its salty water, but he didn’t remember why he awoke in this woman’s bed.

What he did not know, is that Lyn was merely guessing. He says nothing.


Alpha Omega M.D.

writers-flair-001

Writing with…

Episode #299


page 281

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #287

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #287

…Sara Fenwick wonders if there is any romance between that clever private eye and the dashing flyer…

sketches by Doug Widley

sketches by Doug Widley

Now, she has been replaced by Ace Bannion, for God’s sake. What a corny name! Even makes the name Fanny sound good. The only problem is that Ace lives on and Fanny is finished, at least in the pages of The Hawaiian Spy.

“Lyn?”

“Yes, hon.”

“You have been with Ford (Ace) so much lately, we never have time to talk, you know, the way we used to. And you are hardly ever at home. I’m starting to feel like a fifth wheel.”

Constance Caraway

Constance Caraway

Lyn has to measure her words carefully. Sara was returned to Earth not completely intact, missing this and that, with one exception. Her phenomenal sensitivity, the kind that knows when people need encouragement, has been somehow magnified, turning into hypersensitivity. Gone are the days when you could joke with Sara, say just about anything to her and move on. She was sweet that way.

But not anymore.

  Little things become huge, mostly because she does not understand the things she used to. And now she thinks she understands something about Lyn and Bob Ford. They have been working on that flying disk story ever since New Mexico. Whatever happens in their quest to uncover strange truths makes its way to Lyn’s typewriter. She wonders if there is any romance between the clever private eye and the dashing flyer. She has stopped reading for fear of just that.

Normally, Lyn would have shot back, ‘What’s the matter, Sare, you jealous?’ Not this time. “Robert is as obsessed with this spaceman thing as I am, and I’m the one writing the book!”

Ace Bannion sketch2-001

sketch by Steve Rude

Image result for flying disc“I’ve known you long enough to know that you like to work alone. Suddenly, Bob, oh — I mean, Robert, is with you as much as humanly possible. I don’t understand how he keeps his business going.”

          “He’s hired a friend to make his cross country trips, that’s why we bought a small plane together.”

          “You what?” Sara is stunned. She shouldn’t be.

          “I told you that I have been flying more, did you think I meant flapping my arms real hard?” Lyn mocks a bird in flight, like it was chased by a bigger, hungry bird.

          “That’s not funny! You know how I forget things!” She feels like the half-person everybody thinks she is and is mourning it. “I wish things would go back the way they used to be. I wish I could feel whole again.”

          “Some-one or some-thing did something to you during those six years and I intend to find out exactly what it was and how to correct it.”


Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #287


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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #273

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #273

…”I’m in need of a co-pilot for a flight to New Mexico.”

“What?” That comes from so far in left field that Lyn is caught selling peanuts in the parking lot…

Old Telephone by Raymond Logan

Old Telephone by Raymond Logan

“I’m sorry, Lyn, I keep forgetting Sara is gone.”

The office phone rings, severing the air of “blue” reminiscence.

Typewriter-001“Mr. Rogers? There is a Robert Ford on the telephone. He claims to know Lyn.” The Harper Books receptionist relays the information.

  Rogers covers the mouthpiece with his free hand. “Do you know a Robert Ford?”

  “Robert Ford, I don’t,” one one-thousand, “oh, yes I do. If that is Captain Ford from Pan American Airways, let me speak to him.” Lyn hated the way things were left on Ceylon. “Captain Ford?”

“It is Citizen Ford, Miss Hanes, but you could call me Dirt and I wouldn’t mind.” He had called Lyn several times that first year, but had since given up on his quest for the lady’s heart. “I’m still flying, but its cargo, not passengers. My own plane, I’m proud to say.”

Planter S Peanut & the Nutmobile

Planter S Peanut & the Nutmobile

“Congratulations!” She resists asking him if he had lost any freight lately. There are times when Lyn needs to hold her tongue, despite the urge to the contrary.

“Thank you, but I’m in need of a co-pilot for a flight to New Mexico.”

What?” That comes from so far in left field that Lyn is caught selling peanuts in the parking lot.

“This whole deal may be a dead end, but I received a call from Terry Trippe this morning. He tells me that he got a call from an Air Force base out in New Mexico. They have an unidentified woman there, with what they think is amnesia. The one thing she keeps mentioning is the Clipper.”

“What are you saying?”

“I’m not saying anything quite yet; I just thought it would be worth going out there. I’ve got a load of celluloid for United Artists in Hollywood. How about me popping out to La Guardia, in say, two hours?”

Lyn doesn’t know what to think. She is awash in the newness of these developments, barely able to keep her mind from racing, getting her hopes up. Even false hope is better than the no hope she has lived with for six lonely years; six years of living someone else’s life (Constance and not very well as we found out) not her own.

 She would make one hell of a private eye and this is a great opportunity to ply that craft.

“Go,” urges Stanley Rogers. “I’ll take care of the old man… watch it, I know what you’re thinking Lyn?”

“Make it three hours and you’ll have your co-pilot. I bet you didn’t know that I have an expiring pilot’s license.”

“That doesn’t surprise me none and three hours it is… mark… that makes it 1624 Eastern Time.” Ford is nothing if not precise and probably the most unassuming hero you can find. “My plane is a white-over-gray DC-3 with Constance Caraway P. I. in yellow paint on both sides of the nose. I’ve become one of her biggest fans. I’m so glad she divorced that jerky congressman.”

“I’ll be sure to tell my editor that.”

Devoted readers are the best.


Alpha Omega M.D.

Blue Ridge Angel-001

Episode #273


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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #252

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #252

…We have gone through this before, sweetie. Do remember that seven letter word: F-I-C-T-I-O-N…

Constance Caraway Cover-001

Vertical-001     Constance Caraway wasn’t going to let a good hunch go bad. It isn’t a common thing to do in Georgia, but digging up a grave is what she is setting out to do. Exhume is the word morticians use, disinter is another. Dirty job is a more apt description. Constance had read something on the death certificate, several years after the incident, while researching another, unrelated case in Atlanta.

Porter Vito is a funerary agent who resurrects people from the dead

  “Folks ‘round here ain’t used to a woman being in the mortuary, with a body and all.” Take it from someone who knows.

 “How about two women?”

 “This is my associate, Fanny Renwick. She will assist me with the evidence.”

   “Evidence? There is a body inside that box. Not in very good shape, I might add.”

        Vertical-001  “The death certificate indicates that she was to be buried with artifacts from her Indian tribe, namely a necklace she was wearing when she was killed. The report said she had marks from that chain when the body was examined.” Constance is speaking as the lid of a dirty wooden box is pried up and away. She immediately spots the colorfully beaded necklace. “Remove that please. Be careful not to touch it with your bare hands.”

   “Little chance of that, Miss Caraway,” he gently lifts the head of the cadaver, plucking the beads with right thumb and index finger! There is a larger gold scarab dangling on the bottom. Fanny is there with a bag to transport it with, not particularly thrilled with this assignment.

   “I hope you found what you were looking for. Remember, I did this as a favor for that detective friend of yours. You can thank him for this.”

   “I scratch his back, he scratches mine,” relates Caraway.

    “I’ll say!” Fanny affirms.

arrow-upFICTION-001

“Just look at this,” Sara Fenwick points at the place in Carolyn Hanes’ manuscript. “How can our characters be flirting with a man?”

We have gone through this before, sweetie. Do remember that seven letter word?”

 “F-I-C-T-I-O-N. All right already!”


Alpha Omega M.D.

Storytelling by Natalia Moroz

Episode #252


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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #250

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #250

…And just think, Sara, Sherlock Holmes had his Doctor Watson, Constance Caraway has her Fanny Renwick!…

Meanwhile Caption-001“I think you are taking a huge gamble, Lyn. Even if you change the setting from Tallahassee to Timbuktu, someone around here will surely figure it out,” Sara Fenwick warns her partner, who has been researching the possibility of using the death of Laura Bell/Princess Olla as the subject of her next novel.

“A story like this begs to be told, Sara, besides that, it is time I take on a serious subject. And it is also a way to portray a female heroine in a positive light. I want, Constance Caraway – Private Eye, to be the first of a series of crime/mystery books.” Carolyn Hanes has chosen a career path based on the loyalty of her readership. Which is well and good, but she has tackled one sensitive storyline for Constance Caraway’s first-told case. “And just think, Sara, Sherlock Holmes had his Doctor Watson, Constance Caraway has her Fanny Renwick!”

“Yeah, sure, an eccentric photographer with a knack for identifying suspects from witness descriptions and stray hairs.”  Sara has not been wild about her being a rough model for one of Lyn’s main characters. At least in this case, Fanny is not a seamstress. And I was wondering whether the name “Fanny” has anything to do with my bottom.” She twists her torso to view her backside, not quite as firm and high as it once was.

“Oh, sweetie, you know that a good character is really a combination of more than one person. I only give Fanny the best of your ass—ets,” she barbs.

“You and your words! I wish my needles were that sharp!”

Cobblestone (olla)-001

Carolyn Hanes is the daughter of author, Emerson Hough, who wrote many stories about the American West. He was a bit of a crusader in his own right, largely responsible for saving the shrinking buffalo population in Yellowstone National Park. Before dying, while Lyn and Sara were in Europe on holiday, which haunts her to this day, he had planted the seeds of creativity deep inside his precious little girl.


Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #250


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Ponce, Fink, Bean, Ross, Henry & Pilgrims – WIF Folklore

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Tales From

American Folklore

That Are

Completely Misunderstood

American folklore is a vast treasury of stories and tales which have been passed down through time, often altered in the retelling. Some are based in fact, some were created as fiction and are now accepted as fact, and some are simply tall tales. In some cases, political or personal enemies slandered their contemporaries, and their falsehoods are now accepted as history. In others, the public perceptions created beliefs which are largely unchallenged today, despite their being wrong both then and now.

Some stories became accepted as true because of locations taking financial advantage of them, along the lines of “George Washington Slept Here” signs on old inns and homes, despite the lack of supporting provenance. Others lodge in the consciousness through repetition in film and literature. Here are 10 tales of American folklore which have come to be misunderstood as historical fact, and how they became that way.

10. Betsy Ross and the design of the American flag

Betsy Ross was a seamstress in Philadelphia who legend and folklore assigns the credit for the design and creation of the American flag, consisting of a constellation of stars in a blue field, and 13 alternating red and white stripes. Those who support the belief, which has been widely debunked, have recently used the premise that there exists no proof that she didn’t. They are correct. But there is perhaps less to prove that she did. There is substantial evidence to establish that Betsy sewed flags for the Continental Navy (actually for the Navy of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania). But the first documented record of her creating what became the Stars and Stripes did not appear until the 1870s, coincident with America’s centennial, when it was reported by her grandson.

That gentlemen, William Canby, presented a paper around the time of the Centennial claiming Betsy had created the American flag. His sources were entirely family oral tradition. Betsy was presented as an example of patriotism and ambition to young girls of the Gilded Age as a result. However, other than the claims of Canby, and the resultant years of the story being repeated ad nauseum, there is no evidence that Betsy Ross created the American flag, and no record of her ever presenting it to George Washington. There is a record of a team of Philadelphia flag-makers presenting him the Union Flag, which contained a Union Jack in the blue field and which Washington raised above his headquarters in Cambridge, but the same record does not mention Ross by name.

9. Ponce de Leon wasn’t seeking a Fountain of Youth

Juan Ponce de Leon is widely believed to have sought in vain for a mythical Fountain of Youth in Florida, which today has many establishments using the legend to attract tourists. But it is only a legend, one in which Native Americans told the Spaniard that the key to immortality and perpetual youth could be found in Bimini. De Leon first came to the Americas as part of the second expedition of Christopher Columbus and by the early 1500s he was Governor of the Spanish settlements in Puerto Rico, acquiring significant wealth through his Royal appointment. Diego Columbus, brother of Christopher, succeeded in deposing him as governor in 1511, and de Leon decided to explore lesser known areas of the Caribbean.

His legal battles with the Columbus brothers and their allies left him with several political enemies, and it was one of these who first linked de Leon with the Fountain of Youth. De Leon made several voyages to the coast of Florida, and charted it as far south as the Keys, finally attempting to establish a permanent settlement there in 1521, after the death of his patron, King Ferdinand. Wounded in battle with natives resenting the Spanish trespass, he traveled to Cuba, where he died. A biography by Gonzalo Fernandez printed in 1535 was the first to claim de Leon had been in search of the Fountain of Youth (as a cure for impotence); later biographers picked up the unverified tale, and the legend was born. Nothing contemporaneous with the life of the explorer mentions either the search or the mythical fountain.

8. The Pilgrims didn’t land at Plymouth Rock

There were many chroniclers of the voyage of the Mayflower and the landing of the Pilgrims both on Cape Cod and later at what became Plymouth Colony, and still later Massachusetts. None of them mentioned landing on a rock. Indeed, it would have been exceedingly strange for an accomplished seaman to choose a rocky outcropping as a place to land a wooden boat laden with passengers in rough weather. The New England coast in December is seldom placid, and the Pilgrims had already landed on other sites, were concerned about the weather, and were in search of a safer location.

Over a century after the landing Plymouth Rock entered the annals of the colony, when a church elder named Thomas Faunce claimed that his father had told him the rock now known as Plymouth Rock was where the colonists first stepped ashore. The story took hold in the settlers’ collective imaginations. By the time of the Revolution it was a symbol of freedom, and a misguided attempt to move it to a place of honor near a liberty pole resulted in its being broken in two. The bottom half of the rock remained in the ground, the top later suffered another accident and was broken in two again. In 1880 what remained of the top was reunited with the bottom (using cement) and 1620 was carved into its face.

7. George Washington didn’t throw a dollar across the Potomac

Many myths exist about George Washington and a few have at least a passing reflection of basis in truth. Throwing a dollar across the Potomac isn’t one of them. The Potomac at Mount Vernon is almost one mile across. The US did mint two silver dollars of differing design in the 1790s, today known as the Flowing Hair and Draped Bust dollars. In Washington’s day they were scarce, and Spanish dollars (the famed Piece of Eight) were still in wide circulation throughout the new nation. Washington didn’t throw one of those across the Potomac either. The story of the cross-river toss was born out of another story, which featured another river and another item thrown.

According to George Washington Parke Custis, Washington’s step-grandson, the river was the Rappahannock, the site the Washington family home near Alexandria, and the item was a rock about the size of a silver dollar. But Custis heard the story from family lore. Charles Wilson Peale also told a story of Washington’s ability to throw an iron bar a prodigious distance, a popular game among young men before the Revolutionary War to test themselves against one another. Washington was also reported to have thrown a rock to the height of Virginia’s Natural Bridge. So, while he never tossed a dollar across the Potomac, he evidently had a throwing arm of considerable strength.

6. John Henry was not a steel driving man, but a composite of several men

John Henry, according to folklore, was a steel-driver drilling holes in rock to fill with explosives, part of the construction of railroads in the Appalachians. His legend is that he raced against a steam driven machine and won, only to collapse and die of exhaustion at his victory. Several locations in America claim to be the site of the race. The Coosa Mountain tunnel in Alabama is one such site. The Lewis Tunnel in Virginia is another. Yet another is the Greenbrier Tunnel near Talcott, West Virginia. Other sites which have been suggested as that of the legendary race between man and machine are Oak Mountain in Alabama, in Kentucky, and even in Jamaica.

John Henry first appeared in song, sung by the men swinging sledge hammers and handling the rods driven into rock. There were several different versions of the song depending on the area of the country but they all shared a central truth. The hard, physical labor of men with no other job prospects was gradually being eliminated by machines. Many of those workers were former slaves, or the sons of former slaves, and they sang of their woes as they worked, as had been done on the plantations of the south before the Civil War. John Henry was a legend they created out of other men they had known, the hardest worker no longer among them.

5. Manhattan was not sold to the Dutch by gullible Native Americans for $24 and change

A longstanding bit of American folklore which has acquired the authority of history is that Dutch settlers, led by the crafty Peter Minuit, purchased Manhattan Island from an Indian tribe for a collection of beads and other trinkets, worth about $24. The story at once displays the duplicity of the European settlers and the trusting nature of the Indians, who from that point on were doomed to continuous fleecing by the onrushing settlement of the whites. The truth of the matter is that the tribe with whom the Dutch negotiated, the Manahatta, didn’t own the land which they sold in the first place. Enterprising Dutch settlers had already established a fur trading and lumber camp on the tip of the island, and along streams to the north.

To protect the fledgling settlements from the depredations of roaming tribes, the Dutch approached the Manahatta, offering to purchase the lands they already occupied. The Indians didn’t live or hunt on the lands, and thus had no objection to taking Dutch goods in exchange for what was already a fait accompli. The actual value of the transaction, in today’s money, was several thousand dollars, which seems low until it is considered that the Indians sold the Dutch land for which they had no claim. Basically the Manahatta carried out the equivalent of selling their neighbor’s house and making off with the profits, leaving the Dutch to deal with an unhappy true owner.

4. The legend of Mike Fink may have been based on the adventures of several men

Mike Fink was a real person who in life and after his death took on the legends and tall tales told of other riverboat men, along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Born in Fort Pitt in 1770, he moved down the Ohio River sometime after the American Revolution and the Indian Wars in the Ohio Country ended. Although he is linked in legend to the Ohio River, there is evidence that he actually operated a freighting business along the Great Miami River of Ohio. There he carried products from the farms of Ohio to Cincinnati, and returned upriver carrying needed merchandise from the wharves of the growing city.

The river towns and frontier settlements were rough and ready places, and stories of Fink, who was well known for his size and prodigious strength, appeared up and down the Ohio, and carried along its many tributaries during his lifetime. Activities of other rivermen and travelers were related in taverns and inns, with his name attached to give them extra flavor. He undoubtedly related more than a few himself. Over time the less admirable facets of his nature made him appear as an undesirable character. When Disney featured him in a film with Davy Crockett during the Crockett craze of the 1950s, Fink was rendered little more than a buffoon. His name is still well-known along both sides of the Ohio, though few could say who he really was.

3. Paul Revere never finished his famous midnight ride to Concord

There were riders from Boston and Charlestown on the Massachusetts roads on the night of April 18 (and into 19), 1775, alerted by the famous signal from Old North Church of two lanterns, warning that the British were coming by sea. The signal was sent by Paul Revere, not to him, before he was carried across the Charles River to mount a horse locally known for its speed. From there, he is known in legend (thanks to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) for alarming “every Middlesex village and farm.” According to Longfellow it was “two by the village clock” when Revere arrived in Concord. But in truth he never made it to Concord at all. The British captured him outside of Lexington, confiscated his horse, and he walked back to the village.

The Sons of Liberty had a well-established chain of riders and church bells to spread the alarms, which had been exercised previously, and when Revere arrived in towns such as Somerset and Medford, the local militia companies sent out riders of their own. It was the sound of the bells spreading the alarm, as well as some gunshots meant to rouse the militia in Lexington, which encouraged the British patrol that captured Revere to confiscate his mount and return to the relative safety of the approaching British column, rather than confront the aroused village on their own. Revere was just one of many riders along the roads that night, several of whom alerted the village of Concord.

2. The Law West of the Pecos, Judge Roy Bean, was hardly a hanging judge

Judge Roy Bean ran a saloon in Val Verde County, near the Rio Grande River in Texas. He gained appointment as the local Justice of the Peace, and hung a sign on his business establishment which read “Law West of the Pecos.” He did have some acquaintance with the law, having been arrested himself for assault, petty theft, public drunkenness, and threatening to kill his wife. After his appointment as a Justice of the Peace was verified by Texas authorities, he used his new status to run a competitor in the saloon business out of town. He based his judicial decisions on a single law book, once letting a murderer free because he “could find no law against killing a Chinaman” in his reference.

Bean became part of the legend of the Old West, known as a hanging judge, in the sense that all who appeared before him as defendants were likely to be found guilty, and likely to receive the maximum punishment allowed. In truth he only ordered two convicted men to be hanged. He usually fined miscreants the amount of money they had on their person at the time of their appearance, which he kept for himself. As a Justice of the Peace he conducted weddings, announcing “May God have mercy on your souls” following the vows. He also granted divorces, though he had no legal authority to do so.

1. Isabella’s jewels didn’t fund the voyage of Columbus, Italian lenders did

Christopher Columbus attempted to obtain funding from several different sources, including the Kings of France and Portugal, before he approached Isabella and Ferdinand with his project. When he did, they at first turned him down. It took nearly two years of persuasion and negotiation for Columbus to obtain the support of the Catholic Monarchs, as they are known today. The longstanding and pervasive myth that Isabella pawned or sold her jewels to fund the voyage is false; the funding came from the royal treasury, which obtained them through loans from numerous sources, including Italian bankers from Genoa and Florence doing business in Seville.

The main source of the loans was the Bank of St. George, based in Genoa, with branches across Europe. The bank was operated by the powerful Genoese Centurione family, rivals of the Medici family. Security for the loans which funded Columbus was speculative, based on the expected riches he would bring back from his voyage. They were serviced, that is the interest on them was paid, through an increase in taxes in Western Spain. Christopher Columbus’s voyages to the New World were paid for in a surprisingly modern way, not by the Queen of Spain pawning her jewelry.


Ponce, Fink, Bean, Ross, Henry & Pilgrims –

WIF Folklore