Not Chuck Norris’ Texas Rangers – WIF Into History

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Exciting Adventures

(and Sometimes Dark)

of the Texas Rangers

Older than Texas’s status as one of the United States of America, the humble beginning of the Texas Rangers was when Stephen F. Austin formed a militia of 10 men in 1823 because he didn’t think Mexican militias were sufficient protection from Native American raids. Today there are 166 rangers and 68 support members. They’re such a beloved organization that there are state statutes barring them from being disbanded. Whole television shows and movies, such as 2019’s The Highwaymen, have been devoted to singing their praises.

It has been an incredibly active unit, and still is. In 2018 alone the Rangers launched 2,726 investigations that resulted in 504 convictions and 758 confessions. Let’s have a look at some of the most significant incidents from that long and storied record.

10. Mexican-American War Heroes

The Texas Rangers rode into the national spotlight in 1847, during the Mexican-American War. In late February, Zachary Taylor led an army of roughly 5,000 near Monterrey, Mexico. Counts vary on how many troops were in the Mexican army under Santa Anna, but at a minimum the Americans were outnumbered three to one. They also were in unfamiliar territory, and as Mexican army closed in, the American army was situated on the plains of Agua Nueva, which would have been exactly where a larger army full of cavalry like Santa Anna’s would have wanted them.

Fortunately for the Americans, Rangers under Henry McCullough were acting as scouts. On February 21 they reported the close proximity and overwhelming force of the Mexican army to Taylor, who promptly withdrew to the hills of Buena Vista. The high ground massively improved the effectiveness of Taylor’s artillery, and allowed the Americans to win a surprise — if costly — victory, which was vital to winning him the presidency in 1849 (although he’d die just over a year into his term). Taylor singled out the scouting by McCullough in his report and made the Rangers so acclaimed that Winfield Scott, who’d be the commanding general of all Union armies at the beginning of the American Civil War, specifically requested that they be transferred to his army.

9. Little Robe Creek

The dozen or so tribes of the Comanche Empire that spanned through Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma to Kansas have been chronicled before, but this will be the first time we mention their most notable clash with the Texas Rangers. In 1858, 100 Texas Rangers crossed the Red River into enemy territory in reprisal for horse raids. They had with them a roughly equal number of Native American allies from the Brazos Reservation. The fact their target community had roughly 600 natives in it meant that John S. Ford turned to deception for his attack, and thus had the native allies approach first without making their intent clear. That drew the Comanche’s attention while the Rangers moved in for an undetected attack.

Little Robe Creek was less a battle than a massacre, as when they charged the Rangers were running into villagers instead of warriors. Ford would report that he killed about 72 Comanches, including Chief Iron Jacket (so named because he wore old Conquistador armor), while only two Rangers were killed in the attack. It would turn out none of the horses that the tribe had were among the contraband mounts, so it was very likely an attack on an innocent community. Nevertheless, the attack was considered a sign in the United States that the Comanche were vulnerable to encroachment, and the Empire’s days were numbered.

8. Round Rock Robbery

About 20 years after their attack on the Comanche, the Rangers performed one of their most high profile pieces of law enforcement, especially for the early period. In 1878, the Rangers received a telegram from a gang informant that they were going to Round Rock to rob the bank. The event took on particular regional stakes because the gang was led by Sam Bass, a train robber of such a high profile that an estimated 200 books were written about his life and crimes. Even with a gang of only four, including the informant, Bass’s gang was considered especially formidable.

Two Rangers were immediately dispatched to Round Rock, but Bass’s gang got there first. They were unable to get word to local law enforcement, so it was only by nasty luck that Deputy Sheriff Grimes happened to be near the Round Rock bank, saw that Bass was carrying one more firearm that town ordinances permitted, and was shot immediately while trying to confiscate it. A prolonged shootout broke out, and it wasn’t until the Rangers arrived that Bass’s gang was driven out of town, with Bass being mortally wounded. Thus did the legendary law enforcers end another legend.

7. Battle of Tres Jacales

On June 29, 1893, Company D under Frank Jones of the Rangers was dispatched to Tres Jacales, an island community near San Elizario. In a mounted chase, they pursued suspected livestock smugglers into a settlement of four adobe buildings. Jones, whose wedding was only a few days before, approached the outlaws to demand their surrender. Instead, he was shot dead.

Rather than the Rangers coming to the rescue, this time they were bolstered by an  armed citizen force that raised their numbers to roughly 100 soldiers. The subsequent fighting was described by Ranger Corporal Kirchener as “his narrowest escape.” Although the Rangers triumphed in the end, it set the tone for many years along the border.

6. Porvenir Massacre

According to Ranger Captain J. M. Fox, on January 28, 1918, a force of Rangers, regular US Cavalry, and civilian ranchers rode into the farming community of Porvenir and were ambushed by some murderers that had taken part in a raid of a nearby ranch in December 1917. They were able to overcome the attackers and kill 15 of them. They then didn’t feel the need to report the incident for a few weeks.

In October 2019, the other side of the story came out on PBS. According to Harry Warren, the schoolmaster for the 140 person town and the son-in-law of one of the people killed on that day, the deaths were murders, to an extent that none of the victims had even been armed. Other accounts, such as those by the Flores family, collaborated his written account and pointed out how the way the Rangers described some of the people they’d shot was completely inaccurate. By this account it seems the only real reason that the killings took place was that the victims were of Mexican descent.

5. The Borger Raid

As impossible as this may be to imagine now, the 1920 prohibition of alcohol in America under the 14th Amendment and the subsequent Volstead Act were especially amenable to the state government of Texas. Counties in Texas had been banning hard alcohol since the 1870s, and by 1908, more than 60% of all Texas counties had banned it completely. Still, Prohibition is notorious for the raucous corruption it caused, which the Rangers naturally had to put down. In April 1927, the oil boom town of Borger in particular drew the organization’s eye, and Frank Hamer, the officer who later put an end to Bonnie and Clyde, was dispatched with seven officers to clean up the town.

The results were so extreme they were comical. For example, more than 200 slot machines were destroyed in raids. The mayor, the city commissioners, and almost the entire police force, including the chief, were compelled to resign. But most of all, in one day, supposedly 1,200 prostitutes were driven from the town, which sounds like so many that it must have massively disrupted the local economy. Borger remained so committed to vice that it wasn’t until February 1929 that the Rangers left the town.

4. Amy McNeil

Wealthy banker Don McNeil’s daughter Amy was walking to school on January 11, 1985 when a group of four men and one woman swooped in and kidnapped her. They issued a $100,000 ransom demand and told McNeil where to go for a subsequent phone call, the location also intended to be the rendezvous point where they would exchange the prisoner for the money. McNeil reported the kidnapping and received an escort of Rangers. McNeil’s limousine stalled on the way, but luckily, the kidnappers happened to drive by and Amy McNeil was spotted in the vehicle. This began a chase that lasted nearly 48 hours, went through three counties, and about 600 miles. According to the Chicago Tribune, it also involved the perpetrators firing shotguns out the car windows while fleeing.

Finally, at 4:30 a.m. on January 13, the chase came to an end. In a standoff, Ranger John Dendy rushed the kidnappers and successfully retrieved the abducted 13-year-old. Two of the kidnappers were wounded in the process, but Amy McNeil was uninjured — a satisfying capper to one of the most dramatic high speed pursuits in law enforcement history.

3. Headbutting the FBI

The 1993 Waco Standoff that resulted in the destruction of the Branch Davidian Church under David Koresh was one of the most controversial, emotionally charged events of the 1990s. There have been theatrically distributed documentaries such as the 1997 film Waco: Rules of Engagement devoted to how the situation was handled. But as far as the Texas Rangers were concerned, even while it was in progress, they were open about their belief that the incident was a farcical failure on the FBI’s part.

On April 7, 1993 — 39 days into the siege that would ultimately last 51 — the Baltimore Sun reported that the FBI’s use of armored vehicles meant that they crushed rooms containing evidence that the Rangers would need for making a case against the church in the investigation of the murders of four ATF agents. Additionally, FBI negotiators also gave away to the cult pieces of evidence that law enforcement would need for their later case and which the cult set about destroying. When the situation ended in flames 12 days later, presumably the Rangers were unsurprised.

2. Ralph McLaren Standoff

Before the decade was out, the Rangers were involved in another high profile standoff with another deeply unstable man. In 1980, Ralph McLaren began issuing property liens in Dallas that added up to $1.8 billion in fraudulent claims. By the ’90s, he had begun to claim that by legal technicality Texas had never formally joined the US and declared himself the Republic’s leader. He gathered together four people that were also willing to be citizens of the Republic at the Davis Mountains Resort. The situation became really serious when the Republic took Joe and Margart Ann Rowe hostage in response to one in their ranks being jailed.

The hostage situation dragged out for over a week and involved 300 officers and Rangers. The hostages were freed in exchange for the release of the jailed comrade. In one of the cannier moves that ended the standoff much less violently than Waco, Ranger Captain Barry Caver signed a cease-fire document for the Republic of Texas, therefore recognizing the group as an independent nation. McLaren ended up being sentenced to 99 years in prison while his second in command got a 50-year sentence.

1. Suspect Provided Equipment

Despite their high profile and success rate, the Texas Rangers have a history of funding problems. It was especially bad in the 19th Century, and in the 1920s at one point the Ranger management admitted they couldn’t even get enough funding to cover their medical bills. It’s seemed to continue into the 21st Century, so the Rangers have apparently had to turn to some unorthodox methods of procuring resources.

Most significantly, in November 2018, the Rangers busted a driver in Donley County hauling nearly three tons of marijuana and THC. Chapter 59 of Texas Code meant that the Rangers could sell off the vehicle at auction. However, short on funds and with a large area to patrol, by May 2019 the Rangers had converted the vehicle into a mobile command center. It had, after all, been converted with enough technology that it was valued at $270,000. Thus did the Rangers oversee one of the most cost-effective times that criminals gave back to the community.


Not Chuck Norris’ Texas Rangers

WIF Into History

Not Your Cleveland Indians – WIF Into History

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Misconceptions About

Native Tribes of

North America

Whether or not you think it’s disrespectful to have Native American terms attached to sports teams or not, television, specifically Westerns may have unintentionally provided us with more than a few misconceptions.

Never mind that the cowboys, gunfighters and saloon girls were mostly figments of fertile imaginations.

North Americans tend to generalize when considering the native tribes that once populated the continent. An idea that they all lived in small villages, in tents of animal skins or small wooden lean-to’s predominates. It is an image presented by Hollywood, television, and the western novels of Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey. The image is inaccurate in most cases. The Native American tribes were of several nations, diverse cultures, and their impact on modern life remains immeasurable.

They changed the way the world ate, and still eats. They were the first society to cultivate corn, potatoes, and the southwestern Native Americans and those of Mexico gave the world chocolate. Though some lived in primitive conditions, others developed large and complex societies, with class systems and forms of government which rivaled those of contemporaneous Europe. Here are 10 misconceptions about the native tribes of North America, and some insights into tribal life when the Europeans first came to the New World.

10. They were primitive tribes of hunter-gatherers

The ancient city of Cahokia alone belies the idea that North American natives were primitive tribes, living in tents of animal skins, or simple wooden huts. Archaeological studies prove Cahokia was a thriving city covering more than six square miles of Illinois land across the Mississippi River from present-day St. Louis. More than 100,000 people lived there four centuries before the coming of Christopher Columbus. Houses were placed in a manner similar to modern American cities, with open public spaces and parks, in a grid marked by wide streets. Evidence of water distribution systems exists in the ruins of the ancient city, which was abandoned around the beginning of the 13th century, for reasons as yet unknown.

The Algonquian tribes of North America built large towns, with multi-storied dwellings in many cases, surrounded by fields of crops and orchards. Game and fish provided a significant portion of their diet, and roving bands from within their own tribe and others often competed for food, and raided the villages of other peoples. The majority of North American natives spent their lives near the place of their birth, unless war or natural disasters forced them to move to more promising areas. There were tribes of nomadic peoples, such as the Apache in the southwestern states and the Plains Indians, but the majority of native tribes occupied lands for centuries, and defended them against their enemies.

9. They had no concept of land ownership

The often cited idea that American Indians had no concept of land ownership and property rights is completely devoid of fact. They did. Native Americans claimed ownership of vast tracts of land, on which they lived, hunted, and farmed. They claimed territorial rights based on conquest, purchase, exchange, and inheritance. They bought and sold land, to each other and to arriving European settlers. Often, in dealing with the latter, they sold property rights to lands which were claimed by other tribes, essentially swindling the Europeans. The mythical sale of Manhattan Island to the Dutch for $24 worth of trinkets was one such instance. The natives (Canarsees) that sold the island to Peter Minuit, for sixty Dutch guilders (about $1,000), conveyed land which was not theirs to begin with. The Weckquaesgeeks tribe controlled the island.

Later, the Cherokee sold the rights to live in the Transylvania region of then-Virginia, now Kentucky, in the Sycamore Shoals treaty. The Cherokee sold lands which were not strictly theirs, it being shared by mutual agreement as hunting grounds with the Shawnee and Wyandot. The Cherokee nation splintered following the treaty, with numerous bands of warriors attacking the ensuing white settlements in the Blue Grass region. Similar events with the Shawnee and allied tribes, such as the Mingo and Miami, occurred in the regions which became Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. American history is replete with incidents in which native American tribes sold or traded lands in agreements which tribal elements refused to accept, and started wars with the settlers who occupied the lands.

8. The European and later American settlers broke every treaty made with them

The idea of the white settlers scamming the Native Americans, treating with them under false pretenses and violating every treaty made with them out of greed gained precedence in the 1950s and 1960s. The acceptance of the concept coincided with the civil rights movement in the United States. Both sides broke treaties, just as both sides committed atrocities on the other. For example, in 1757 the British garrison at Fort William Henry in New York surrendered to a French and Indian force under Louis-Joseph de Montcalm. Montcalm promised the British and American troops, and several of their families, safe passage. His Indian allies ignored the agreement, and massacred men, women, and children.

Pontiac’s Rebellion, Tecumseh’s Confederation and the Northwest Indian War, and the Black Hawk War, all began with native violations of treaties negotiated and agreed to by tribal elders. Conversely, the Great Sioux War and other conflicts with the western tribes began following encroachments of American settlers on Indian lands in violation of treaties. The history of negotiations and treaties with the American Indian tribes contains incidents of false dealings, misrepresentations, and out and out falsehoods by Indians and whites, going back to the earliest days of colonization of the Americas by the Europeans.

7. They lived in humble dwellings of earth, wood, and animal skins

Well, some tribes did live in such abodes. The tepees, wooden huts, and igloos of Hollywood and history were real. Not all Native Americans lived in crude structures, however, and some resided in dwellings of considerable sophistication. When General John Sullivan commanded the punitive expedition against the Onondaga, Seneca, and Cayuga in 1779, his troops were surprised at the native villages they encountered. They observed well-built homes of stone and wood, many with multiple stories and windows  with real glass. More the forty such villages and large towns were destroyed by the troops during the campaign, breaking the back of the longstanding Iroquois Confederacy.

Elsewhere, American Indians built elaborate homes with an eye towards their architecture. Tribes of the American southwest built roomed homes of mud and adobe. The Navajo constructed permanent homes known as hogans, with wooden frameworks forming a dome, covered with mud and stone. In the southern plains, houses covered with grass protected the inhabitants from the elements. Long before the arrival of the Europeans to the Pacific northwest, Native Americans used cedar planks lashed to wooden frames to erect houses and to serve as drying sheds for the fish they harvested from the region’s streams and the water of the Pacific.

6. They were a largely egalitarian society

Class status among the vast majority of American Indian tribes followed family lines, with some tribes based on matrilineal societies and others patrilineal. For nearly all, status was conferred based on the degree of relationship with tribal leaders. Among the Cherokee, for example, women owned the property belonging to the family. Women brought their husbands into the family, often into the family home. The descent of tribal chiefs in matrilineal clans, and thus control over tribal affairs, was through the mother. Men marrying into the family in matrilineal tribes had no standing within the clan, not even as fathers raising their children. The mother’s brothers, or sons, assumed the role of raising their nieces’ or sisters’ children.

Among the northern plains tribes, particularly the Lakota and Dakota, the longstanding myth of women serving as humble squaws, subservient to their husbands, is false. Lakota women and girls were trained in the arts of hunting and war, and frequently fought enemies in defense of the home, though they seldom joined raiding parties. Their standing within the community depended on their abilities to serve the tribe, as did that of the men. In matrilineal tribes the male leader, known as the chief, remained in practice subservient to his mother, by tradition and by unwritten law.

5. The Southwestern tribes roamed the deserts and mountains

Some did, particularly after the horse was introduced to the continent when the Spaniards arrived. The Apache and Comanche in particular adapted to the horse for both hunting and raiding enemies. Centuries before that event, the Ancestral Pueblo peoples resided in the area now known as the Four Corners, where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona meet. Eight centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ they cultivated corn, in the form of maize, to supplement their diet of game. They built irrigation systems to support their crops which included waters routed from the Rio Grande, Colorado, and Little Colorado Rivers. Their irrigation systems allowed the planting of beans and squash to supplement their crops of corn.

The Apache and Navajo roamed the region, hunting the area to exhaustion over the centuries, and leaving to pursue the game. The Ancestral Pueblos endured several extended droughts, followed by flooding which destroyed much of their farmlands and irrigation systems. By the time the Spanish arrived, most of them were gone from the region, having fled the area and the Apache and Navajo raiders. The Spaniards encountered their relatively few descendants, still living in the multi-story dwelling complexes which the Europeans called pueblos, or villages. Most were located along the rivers which had once fed the complex system of canals and dams watering their crops.

4. The New World was sparsely settled at the time of Columbus

When the first Europeans arrived at what they soon called the New World, they encountered spaces like nothing ever seen before. Vast virgin forests stretched to nearly the water’s edge in some areas. Others found open plains and what they believed, and reported, as small populations of natives. In Meso-america the Spaniards and Portuguese encountered the cities of the Mayan, Incan, and Aztec civilizations. In North America the early European arrivals reported the Indians living in relatively small villages and towns. With no idea of the size and diversity of the North American continent, rulers and scholars in Europe believed the New World sparsely populated by uncivilized peoples, as wild as the game which teemed in the woods.

In truth, between 60 and 70 million natives lived on the North American continent, from the Arctic Circle to its southernmost extremity. Numerous cultures emerged on the continent before the European arrival, including the mound builders, the Confederation of the Iroquois, the Hopi and Pueblo, and the Inuit in the north. The various Indian nations and clans were connected by a complex system of trails through the eastern woods and on the plains, cut by migrating buffalo. Elaborate diplomatic relationships developed, with alliances and agreements over the use of hunting grounds, water rights, and tribal property. Trade between tribes, such as furs and game for crops and weapons, was in place. The Europeans understood none of it, nor the extent of the population in North America which exceeded that of the continent from whence they came.

3. The North American natives did not engage in warfare with each other

Beginning in the 1960s and continuing through the present day, a myth over inter-tribal warfare among the American tribes gained acceptance. The myth essentially blames the Europeans for introducing warfare to North America. Its proponents claim the native tribes did not make war on each other, other than in demonstrations of courage by touching an enemy with a coup stick. The claim is utter nonsense, archaeological evidence and the various tribes’ own folklore describe centuries of warfare between tribes across the entire continent. Cannibalism among the North American tribes was ritualized, eating the flesh of enemy warriors killed in battle, or tortured as prisoners, was recorded contemporaneously by witnesses.

The western plains saw numerous wars between the various tribes competing for the resources offered by the land. The nomadic tribes followed the buffalo, their chief source of meat, furs, and tools manufactured from the bones. In the eastern woodlands, European explorers found many of the tribes living in villages and towns protected by palisades, and extensive alarm systems in place to warn of an impending encroachment. The completely peaceful, idyllic existence described by some required neither. Warfare between tribes did not end with a united attempt to wipe out the arriving Europeans, instead many tribes allied themselves with the new arrivals, happy to have their superior weapons available for use against ancient enemies.

2. Their religions were based on a Great Spirit

Hollywood created the myth of all Indians worshiping a “Great Spirit,” though they had other gods and spiritual entities as well. The North American Indians had as many religious systems as tribes, and differing ways of worshiping. Some, such as the Pueblo, worshiped the crops as they grew in the fields. Some tribes believed spirits controlled the weather and developed rituals to appease them. Nearly all worshiped the sun in some form or another, as well as the moon and other celestial bodies. Omens, revealed through trances achieved by various means, bore great spiritual significance, and affected the direction of personal and tribal affairs.

The Iroquois did believe in a Great Spirit, the creator of all things, including the spirit which flowed through all things. The Mohawk, like many eastern tribes, believed in all existence imbued with spirit. Nearly all the North American Indians held similar beliefs, creating religions based on animism – the idea that all things possess life in some form, and hence are animated. The belief extended to rocks, water, the weather, animals, birds, trees, and even sounds. The spirits in control could be either evil or good, with existence a continuous struggle between the extremes. Many eastern tribes believed the smoke from tobacco carried messages to the spirits, and smoking was a major part of religious ceremonies.

1. They grew only simple crops to supplement their diets of meat and fish

Native American tribes are connected to maize, a type of corn which they grew so extensively it came to be known as Indian corn. They also grew beans of several types, gourds to serve as utensils, pumpkins for food, and other forms of squash. Along the eastern seaboard Indians husbanded tobacco crops from Florida to the Connecticut Valley. Through time, myths emerged about the Indians which led to the belief they sustained themselves with game and fish, supplemented by just a few berries and nuts harvested from the forests. Not so. Many Indian villages had extensive farms, with the crops grown communally.

As with all farmers, crops grown depended on the local climate and soil conditions. The Spanish in the south were astonished to see Indians eating freely of tomatoes, at the time believed in Europe to be poisonous. In the southwest, progressive farming techniques such as terracing and crop rotation were applied by Indian farmers. Indian crops included potatoes and sweet potatoes, several types of peppers, peanuts, avocados, sunflowers, and wild rice. Most Indian villages had communal storehouses to store crops for the winter months. Orchards cultivated by Indians provided cherries, apples, and crab-apples. They also resorted freely to native plants for greens, including dandelion and chicory.


Not Your Cleveland Indians

WIF Into History

TJeff and the Philly Gang – Independence Day

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United States of America

Independence Day

If you you liked “Hamilton”, you will be thrilled with “TJeff & the Gang”

The Declaration of Independence is the usual name of a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies,then at war with Great Britain, regarded themselves as thirteen newly independent sovereign states, and no longer a part of the British Empire. Instead they formed a new nation—the United States of America. John Adams was a leader in pushing for independence, which was unanimously approved on July 2. A committee of five had already drafted the formal declaration, to be ready when Congress voted on independence. The term “Declaration of Independence” is not used in the document itself.

Adams persuaded the committee to select Thomas Jefferson to compose the original draft of the document, which Congress would edit to produce the final version. The Declaration was ultimately a formal explanation of why Congress had voted on July 2 to declare independence from Great Britain, more than a year after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War. The national birthday, Independence Day, is celebrated on July 4, although Adams wanted July 2.

After ratifying the text on July 4, Congress issued the Declaration of Independence in several forms. It was initially published as the printed Dunlap broadside that was widely distributed and read to the public. The source copy used for this printing has been lost, and may have been a copy in Thomas Jefferson’s hand. Jefferson’s original draft, complete with changes made by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, and Jefferson’s notes of changes made by Congress, are preserved at the Library of Congress. The best known version of the Declaration, a signed copy that is popularly regarded as the official document, is displayed at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. This engrossed copy was ordered by Congress on July 19, and signed primarily on August 2.

The sources and interpretation of the Declaration have been the subject of much scholarly inquiry. The Declaration justified the independence of the United States by listing colonial grievances against King George III, and by asserting certain natural and legal rights, including a right of revolution. Having served its original purpose in announcing independence, references to the text of the Declaration were few for the next four score years. Abraham Lincoln made it the centerpiece of his rhetoric (as in the Gettysburg Address of 1863), and his policies. Since then, it has become a well-known statement on human rights, particularly its second sentence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This has been called “one of the best-known sentences in the English language”, containing “the most potent and consequential words in American history”. The passage came to represent a moral standard to which the United States should strive. This view was notably promoted by Abraham Lincoln, who considered the Declaration to be the foundation of his political philosophy, and argued that the Declaration is a statement of principles through which the United States Constitution should be interpreted.

It provided inspiration to numerous national declarations of independence throughout the world. Historian David Armitage, after examining the influence of the American “Declaration” on over 100 other declarations of independence, says:

The American Revolution was the first outbreak of the contagion of sovereignty that has swept the world in the centuries since 1776. Its influence spread first to the Low Countries and then to the Caribbean, Spanish America, the Balkans, West Africa, and Central Europe in the decades up to 1848…. Declarations of independence were among the primary symptoms of this contagion of sovereignty.

Thirteen Colonies
United States
Coat of arms or logo
Type
Type
History
Established May 10, 1775
Disbanded March 1, 1781
Preceded by First Continental Congress
Succeeded by 1st Confederation Congress
Seats Variable; ~60
Meeting place
1775–1777: Pennsylvania State House,Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1775–1781: Variable
Footnotes
Though there were about 50 members of the Congress at a given time, it was the states that had votes, so there were effectively only 13 seats.


TJeff and the Philly Gang

– Let Freedom Ring

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.

closure-001

Episode #333

Now You See Them, Then You Don’t – WIF Mystery

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Unsolved Mass

Disappearing Acts

Missing persons cases can be difficult to crack. However, most people go missing one at at time. In the 10 cases below, multiple people disappeared at the same time. While there are some clues about how these people went missing, none of these cases have ever been fully unraveled.

Now you see them, then you don’t.

10. The Village at Lake Anjikuni

This one comes in at the bottom of our list because there is some doubt about whether there ever was a village at Lake Anjikuni, in Canada’s northern Nunavut region. As the story, which was first published in the Danville Bee in 1930, goes, fur trapper Joe Labelle returned to a remote Inuit village of about 25 people he had visited previously, only to discover that everyone was missing. The tents and villagers’ belongings were still there, but there was no sign of the inhabitants. According to this news account, Labelle reported, “The whole thing looked as if it had been left that way by people who expected to come back. But they hadn’t come back.” He also noticed signs that ancestral graves had been disturbed. While there were dog skeletons in the village, he could find no sign of human corpses.

However, there are some reasons to doubt this story, which entered the popular imagination when it appeared in Frank Edward’s 1959 book, Stranger than Science. When the Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigated the case in 1931, they determined “there is no evidence … to support such a story,” noting that a village of that size wouldn’t have feasibly existed in such a remote location and that local officers, trappers, and missionaries had reported nothing out of the ordinary.

9. The Sodder Children

When George and Jennie Sodder went to bed on Christmas Eve 1945, 9 of their 10 children were at home (the 10th was serving in the military). By the following morning, the Sodder house was burned to the ground. George, Jennie, and four of the children made it out. However, the other five children, who ranged in age from 5 to 14, were never seen again. Initially, everyone, including the surviving members of the Sodder family, assumed the children must have perished in the fire, despite their father’s desperate attempts to rescue them. Because it was Christmas Day, the fire marshal postponed a thorough inspection of the site, which was basically a basement full of ashes at that point. A few days later, George Sodder bulldozed several feet of dirt over the remains of his home, planting flowers there in memory of the family’s lost children.

As time went on, more details emerged that cast doubt on whether the five missing Sodder children had actually died in the fire. The family remembered some odd events around that time, meaningless in isolation, but suspicious in concert. Jennie had been awakened earlier in the night by a noise that sounded like something hitting the roof and the family had received what they thought was an odd prank phone call just after midnight the night of the fire. Additionally, a ladder had been moved from its storage area near the house to more than 75 feet away, hindering George’s attempts to reach his children’s upstairs bedrooms to rescue them. In another strange twist, the bones of the missing children were never recovered, despite the fact that the fire did not appear to have burned long enough or hot enough to destroy human bone.

The Sodders never stopped looking for their missing children, offering a reward for information, erecting a billboard near their house and hiring private detectives to follow up on reports of sightings, including a photo—of a young man bearing a striking resemblance to one of the missing children– which was mailed to the Sodders. Some suggested that the children could have been kidnapped in retaliation for negative remarks George Sodder, an Italian immigrant, had made about Mussolini or that the mafia could have been involved. Despite the many theories that emerged, no conclusive evidence of what ultimately happened to the five Sodder children has ever been found.

8. The Yemenite Children Affair

Following Israel’s founding in 1948, the state struggled to quickly absorb a rush of new immigrants. More than 50,000 Yemenite and other “Mazrahi” Jewish immigrants from the Middle East and Africa moved to the new state in its early years, and were often settled in chaotic transit camps, temporary tent cities were new immigrants were housed due a housing shortage.

In these camps, babies and toddlers were often taken from their parents to be cared for in hospitals or nurseries, which ostensibly offered better living conditions. Unfortunately, some of these babies—estimates range from 650 to more than 4,000—were never returned to their parents. Some parents were told that their babies had died, though most were not shown a body or a grave and many grieving parents weren’t given death certificates. Recent advances in DNA testing have proved that at least some of these supposedly deceased Yemenite babies never died at all, but rather, were placed for adoption with childless Ashkenazi (Jews of European descent) families. In 2016, one Israeli cabinet official who was part of a panel investigating the disappearances gave credence to activists’ claims that the children were systematically stolen and placed for adoption when he admitted that hundreds of children were taken from their families, saying, “They took the children, and gave them away. I don’t know where.”

7. Flight 19

Flight 19 didn’t consist of a single plane, but rather a group of five planes–US Navy TPM Avenger bombers—which took off from Fort Lauderdale Naval Air Station for a training mission between the Bahamas and Florida on the afternoon of December 5, 1945. The planes, and the 14 experienced airmen on them, never returned to shore.

The pilots of the group of planes, which would become known as the “Lost Patrol,” could be heard conversing with one another, and sounded disoriented by the fact that at least some of the pilots believed their compasses were malfunctioning and the worsening weather, which made assessing their position difficult. The lead pilot made the decision to fly east, believing they were in the Gulf of Mexico, a course the planes apparently stuck to until one pilot’s last transmission: “All planes close up tight … will have to ditch unless landfall. When the first plane drops to 10 gallons we all go down together.”

Two flying boats were dispatched to look for the missing patrol. One of those boats also disappeared from radar and, along with its 13-man crew, never returned. A passing merchant spotted a fireball in the sky, and saw evidence of an oil slick in the water, suggesting it likely fell victim to an explosion. Despite an extensive search by the Navy, bodies and debris from the missing patrol and the missing rescue mission were never located. A team of Navy investigators ultimately attributed the loss of Flight 19 to “causes or reasons unknown.”

6. The Mary Celeste

On November 7, 1872, the Mary Celeste, a 282-ton brigantine, set sail from New York City, bound for Genoa, Italy. It carried cargo of 1,700 barrels of industrial alcohol, seven crewmen, Captain Benjamin Briggs, his wife, and his 2-year-old daughter. When the ship was next spotted, almost a month later, 400 miles east of the Azores, the ship’s cargo and provisions were largely intact (though the lifeboat was missing), but there was no one aboard. The Mary Celeste was in reasonably good shape, other than some water in the bottom of the ship, and the crew of the ship that discovered it, the Dei Gratia, were able to sail it on to Gibraltar.

So what happened to the 10 people on board? There is no definitive answer to that question. Some suspected foul play, laying the blame on the crew of the Dei Gratia, who had applied to receive the salvage value of the ship. However, after a salvage inquiry was conducted, there was no evidence that this had occurred (there also wasn’t a whole lot of evidence that this had not occurred). Other theories, including mutiny, an explosion caused by the Mary Celeste’s boozy cargo, or an irrational decision by the captain also appeared unlikely. Anne MacGregor, who created a documentary film dedicated to unraveling the mystery, believes the evidence suggests that a faulty chronometer, along with a failing water pump aboard the ship, prompted Captain Briggs to believe the ship was in danger of sinking, and to give the order to abandon ship when the islands of the Azores were in sight. Since the lifeboat never arrived at the Azores, nor was it ever recovered, the definitive fate of the 10 souls aboard the Mary Celeste remains a mystery.

5. The Dyatlov Pass Incident

In late January 1959, a group of nine students of the Ural Polytechnic Institute and a ski instructor, set off for a skiing expedition to Mount Otorten in the northern Urals. Only one of them, Yuri Yudin, who had to turn back early due to health problems, ever returned from the trip.

When the other nine didn’t make contact as planned, a search party set out to locate them, and uncovered a grisly mystery. The first thing the rescuers located was the students’ tent, which had been sliced open from the inside. Most of the group’s belongings were still inside the tent, which appeared to have been abandoned in a hurry. Investigators found footprints showing that the group had fled the tent barefoot, in socks, or wearing a single shoe. The bodies of two of the students, dressed only in their underclothes were found near the remains of a campfire. Three more bodies were found between the fire and the tent. All five were determined to have died from hypothermia. A couple months later, the four remaining bodies were found at the bottom of a ravine, and showed signs of crush injuries and the tongue of one had been ripped out. Tests on their bodies showed trace amounts of radiation.

The Soviet military looked into the incident, somewhat vaguely determining that the group had died from a “natural force they were unable to overcome,” and classifying the materials related to the investigation.  In early 2019, Russian prosecutors announced they were reexamining the case, though they were only considering theories associated with natural phenomena. Said the spokesman for Russia’s Prosecutor General, “Crime is out of the question. There is not a single proof, even an indirect one, to favor this (criminal) version. It was either an avalanche, a snow slab or a hurricane.”

4. Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

On March 8, 2014, a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members took off from Kuala Lampur, Malaysia bound for Beijing. It never arrived. A months-long international search yielded only a few pieces of the plane, found thousands of miles from where the flight veered off course, but the bulk to the plane’s fuselage, along with the (presumed) remains of those aboard has yet to be located. The disappearance, and the lack of clarity about why or how the plane went missing shocked the world. As Miguel Marin, chief of operational safety at the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Air Navigation Bureau put it, “It was inconceivable that in this day and age we would lose an airplane that big without a trace.”

There are a few clues about the plane’s disappearance. The plane turned sharply off its planned flight path, a maneuver experts suggest would have had to be carried out manually (versus via autopilot) and the aircraft’s responder stopped transmitting (possibly due to a malfunction, but more likely because it was turned off). While the pilot’s home simulator did show some flight paths similar to that undertaken by the flight shortly before it disappeared from radar, an investigation of the captain’s private life failed to turn up any signs of the sort of disturbance that would provide a motive for suicide (and the more than 200 innocent deaths that would accompany it) and the Malaysian government has dismissed this theory, and suggested a “mass hypoxia event” rendered all aboard unconscious, while the plane flew on autopilot until it ran out of fuel and crashed. More definitive evidence about what happened on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 may yet turn up, as the plane’s Flight Data Recorder and Cockpit Voice Recorder have, as of mid-2019, not been located.

3. The Flannan Isles Lighthouse Keepers

On December 26, 1900, a small ship made its way to a remote Scottish island. It carried a replacement lighthouse keeper, who would rotate in for a stint among the island’s three lighthouse keepers, and its only human inhabitants. However, when the ship arrived, no one emerged to greet it, even after the horn was sounded and a flare was fired. When the replacement lighthouse keeper rowed ashore and climbed to the lighthouse, he quickly discovered something was wrong. The lighthouse fireplace looked like it hadn’t been lit for a week and, while everything was in place, the three lighthouse keepers were nowhere to be found (although, oddly, one of them had left his protective oilskin coat in the lighthouse).

The official explanation suggests that the men were swept out to sea by a large wave as they attempted to secure some gear on a cliff during a storm. While it was against protocol for all three men to leave the lighthouse at once, one theory suggests that the third lighthouse keeper ventured out to help or warn his colleagues about an impending large wave (perhaps leaving his coat behind in haste) and was also swept away.

2. The Students of Iguala

One night in September 2014, a group of about 100 university students from a rural teachers college in Mexico headed out in the city of Iguala to commandeer several buses to carry their group to a march in Mexico City a few days later. According to reports, stealing buses was something of a local tradition, and neither the bus companies nor the authorities were particularly alarmed when this happened.

After an altercation at a local bus depot, the students headed out on five buses, trailed by police, some of whom started firing on the buses. Forty-three students on two of the buses were eventually taken into police custody; they were never seen again. Only one of the students’ bodies has been identified. The official account (disputed by international investigators and friends and families of the missing students) is that the students were kidnapped by local police officers, who turned them over to a drug gang, which then killed them and burned their bodies. International investigators were brought in 2015, but when they failed to support the government’s version of events, the hostility and stonewalling they encountered led them to abandon the inquiry, though a federal court ordered another investigation conducted in late 2018. As of mid-2019, there was no conclusive evidence on the fate of the missing students.

1. The Lost Colony

In 1587, a group of 115 English settlers founded the Roanoke Colony on an island off the coast of North Carolina. Later that year, John White, the colony’s governor, sailed back to England to secure additional supplies for the fledgling settlement. However, just as White arrived in England, a naval war broke out between England and Spain, and every ship was ordered to participate in the war effort. By the time White made it back to Roanoke, it was three years later, and there was no sign of the settlers.

The only clues were the word “Croatoan” carved into a fencepost, and the letters CRO carved into a tree. “Croatoan” was the name used for what is now called Hatteras Island, as well as the name of the Native American tribe that populated the area. Reportedly, White had agreed with the colonists prior to heading back to England that if the group needed to leave Roanoke under duress, they would carve a Maltese cross symbol into a tree; no such sign was found at the site. Despite several contemporaneous and modern investigations, the fate of the colonists remains a mystery. The most likely theory is that the colonists moved locations (perhaps splitting into multiple groups), possibly assimilating with local Native American tribes. Other theories suggest the colonists were killed by Native Americans, killed by Spanish settlers, or tried to sail back to England and were lost at sea. While research is still ongoing, and some hope that DNA analysis will at last unlock the mystery of the colonists’ fate, the “Lost Colony” has managed to remain lost to the world for more than 400 years.


Now You See Them, Then You Don’t

WIF Mystery

History Channel Side-Hustle – “Ancient Aliens”

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Way-out Theories

on “Ancient Aliens”

The TV show Ancient Aliens has now run for 14 seasons, and has gone over nearly every half-baked theory, pseudo-scientific rambling, dumb hypothesis or just plain crazy alternate scientific idea or “fact” that you could possibly tie into myth, legend, or aliens in some way or another. It has inspired countless memes about its crazy-haired host, but it has also spread an entire alternate set of untruths that questions a lot of legitimate science.

It is important sometimes to look at the height of such a show’s absurdity, to remind ourselves it is really nothing more than entertainment value at the end of the day, and doesn’t belong on something that calls itself the “History” channel. In today’s article, we will go over 10 of the craziest things talked about on Ancient Aliens

10. Nazi Germany Experimented With Advanced Alien Technology 

In “Nazi’s And The Third Reich,” which is one of the earlier episodes in the epic that is the Ancient Aliens series, they discuss the connection between Hitler, his Nazi regime, and ancient aliens, as well as possible more recent alien visitors. One of the more intriguing things they discuss is a little known event that many in most parts of the world, even those who are into aliens, may not be aware of. Apparently somewhere around the middle of the Nazi regime, the Nazis had a Roswell-like incident with an unidentified spacecraft that crash landed.

After this, the Nazis, according to Ancient Aliens, kickstarted their rocket program and even started working on anti-gravitational technology. They speculate that much of the technology the Germans were working on was passed on to the United States when the USA used Operation Paperclip to poach Nazi scientists before they could end up in jail. They also discuss Hitler’s search for biblical and other relics, and how those relics may actually be real, at least in part, and may actually be alien tech and not just biblical magic. In fact, Hitler believed that his superior technology would win him the war, and the Ancient Aliens people are convinced that this superior technology was at least partially based on alien technology.

9. Human-Animal Hybrid Mythological Creatures Were Alien Experiments 

In “Aliens And Monsters,” the crew explores the connection between the various mythological creatures that have captured our imaginations over the years, and alien beings. Particularly, they talk about creatures like the Chimera, the Kraken, the Cerberus, the Hydra and even the Loch Ness Monster. They suggest that these beings did indeed exist, and that all the various mythological stories must have been talking about something real.

However, they suggest that these beings were not natural occurrences, but the results of advanced alien experimentation. They believe that many of the hybrid beings you see in old tales were the early experiments aliens were doing in regard to gene splicing human and animal DNA together. On top of that, they suggest that the ancient Hindu legend of the Garuda, an enormous flying creature that shook the earth when it landed, may have actually been a tale describing an alien spacecraft. Interestingly, in many of the early tales of the Garuda it is depicted as an entirely animal being, but in later lore it is often referred to as a hybrid that is part human. If the slightly later legends were the more accurate ones, the Garuda could also fit within the potential pantheon of creatures created by aliens doing gene splicing with human and animal DNA.

8. Aliens May Actually Be Future Human Time Travelers Visiting The Past 

In “ The Time Travelers,” the Ancient Aliens hosts decide that they need to mix things up, and suggest that maybe many of their own previous theories were too crazy… or maybe not crazy enough. The gang suggests that perhaps many of the UFOs we think we have seen, or alleged alien visitors we think we have encountered, are actually from the future, and aren’t aliens at all. Instead, the aliens are suggested to be visitors from the future that may even just be really advanced humans, who look extremely different from us (their ancient ancestors).

They bring up ancient Hopi legends about ant people who came up from the ground to help jumpstart human knowledge, and suggest these legends could translate to something similar to the name of the alleged Annunaki (aliens UFO theorists allege helped create early man). As far as this theory is concerned, ancient aliens who visited us may have been aliens from the future, but they could also have been humans from the far future, coming to influence man for the better. When it comes to more recent visitors, it is possible they are just coming to check out their past, and see how things are going. The episode also goes over all main theories about how one could travel through time, and mentions various mythological stories that could be interpreted as time travel tales.

7. Bigfoot May Have Been Connected To Past Alien Visitors 

In “Aliens And Bigfoot,” the folks at Ancient Aliens cover all of the possible crazy bases regarding what Bigfoot could possibly be. Of course, the one thing they don’t speculate that Bigfoot might have been is non-existent, because they are convinced he is real. The gang points out that Bigfoot legends of various sorts have existed across pretty much all cultures, and suggest that perhaps Bigfoot-type creatures have managed to stay hidden for the most part by hiding deep in caves. They claim that these creatures, when spotted, often have a sulfur smell that could come from an underground cavern. As for what Bigfoot is, the folks at Ancient Aliens have a few different theories.

They first point out that in some early folklore, there are hairy, primitive beings who live in the woods, and that in some stories, these are speculated to possibly just be humans who eschew society and don’t really shave much. However, they are also convinced there is more to the legend than just hairy humans, and suggest that remaining creatures could either be some type of aliens or perhaps the remains of an alien experiment. The Ancient Aliens people point to an ancient myth where the “gods,” which the show hosts suggest were aliens, created a hairy, man-like being called the “Enkidu” to be their slave and do manual labor for them. They speculate it is possible the Bigfoot-type creatures are remaining Enkidus that escaped any purges when the alien visitors left for their own planets so long ago.

6. The Ark Of The Covenant Could Be Tech From Ancient Aliens 

In “Aliens And The Lost Ark” the crew discusses their interesting ideas about the biblical artifact known as the Ark of the Covenant. Now, for those of you who aren’t too familiar with it, the Ark of the Covenant was a wooden and gold ornamental box carried by the Jews in the bible during their wanderings in the desert. (And let’s be honest: you’ve seen Raiders of the Lost Ark. You know what the Ark of the Covenant is.)

It was credited with helping them stay alive and communicating with God, and as it could only be used or approached or uncovered by specially ordained high priests, many people have come to great speculation about what it may or may not have been.

Now, it could have just been a biblical legend,  or perhaps a small piece of basic technology — that was lost to us at least until modern times — that helped them with a few small applications, but the Ancient Aliens people believe something crazy may have been going on. Many take the idea it could “speak to God” quite literally, in that they believe it was used to communicate with Alien beings who acted as gods to early man. The gang also speculate that it could have been used to create the miracle of the manna in the desert, may have been some kind of electrical capacitor, and even suggest that it may be hiding in a small, unassuming church in Ethiopia, where it is guarded by priests who die shortly after taking the assignment, because of the alleged power of the device.

5. Ancient Sources Allegedly Talked About The Large Hadron Collider 

large-hadron-collider

In “The God Particle” the gang discusses the discovery by CERN in 2012 of the elusive Higgs Boson. Now, the folks behind the Large Hadron Collider don’t actually want it to be called the “God Particle” but the show insists on it for the episode’s entire runtime. The Ancient Aliens gang first speculate on what damage the LHC might have done to Earth when it was used, and what other damage it might do if it were to be given more power (such as creating its own miniature black holes). After that, they first talk about the connection between physics and divinity, and then get into the weeds.

They claim that the Large Hadron Collider and its function and purpose were predicted by ancient sources. They claim that the Veda (which are the ancient Hindu scriptures) have not aged in thousands of years — which is provably untrue — and even suggest that it predicted the Large Hadron Collider. They then go on to the Mayans, whom they claim also predicted the Large Hadron Collider in their primitive artworks. As if all of this wasn’t crazy enough, they go back to the Indian theories near the end, and suggest that the Hindu god Shiva was actually an ancient alien. As for all those mythological stories about the universe ending in Hindu mythology, those can be attributed to the Large Hadron Collider being used to tear particles apart on a subatomic level.

4. Underwater Monsters May Come From Another Dimension Through Wormholes 

In “Creatures Of The Deep,” the gang go over the deep, mysterious depths of our oceans, and speculate on just what might be lurking beneath. With most of our ocean’s creatures unidentified, and millions of creatures (estimated) yet to be discovered, they wonder if many of the craziest creatures from mythology like the Kraken and the Kappa may actually be based in truth, and just be hiding deep beneath the sea.

They point out that not long ago, astronauts found plankton living in space on the outside of the space station, and this led the Ancient Astronaut Theorists to speculate that perhaps all kinds of strange ocean life could be living within our own oceans; perhaps even crazier things than our strangest legends speculate. Many of the strangest creatures in our oceans could even be alien creatures hiding out in the deep, and they believe some could even have come straight to our ocean from other worlds using wormholes, instead of even needing to bother with a spaceship at all. This would certainly make it hard to track them coming here, and would be a very hard theory to disprove. While some creatures like Nessie have been pretty handily disproved, as the area where she is expected to be is not very large and can be proven with sonar to not have a bunch of secret exits, creatures that are potentially lurking beneath the deep are a mystery that will always fascinate the human consciousness.

3. The Space Station Moon Theory (It May Not Actually Be Natural At All)

In “Space Station Moon,” the gang goes over all their craziest theories about what the moon really is… and boy, is it a doozy. Apparently, the moon is actually not at all a natural construct, and their “experts” are happy to explain to you why, as well as provide their novel idea on why the moon is almost completely hollow. At least they aren’t moon landing deniers, but they claim the astronauts were shaken upon returning, that they reported aliens through their medical radios, and that aliens even warned us to stay away from the moon.

So this brings up the real question: why were the aliens allegedly so worried about us landing on the moon? Well, the Ancient Astronaut Theorists claim that NASA is withholding the truth from the public to prevent a mass freakout, because the moon is actually an artificially made space station whose purpose is at least partially to monitor the human race. They even suggest that our military (even though they claim we didn’t go back to the moon), or possibly aliens have secret bases on the dark side of the moon. While the Space Station Moon theory is not novel to the Ancient Aliens series, they consider every possible crazy angle of it, and one of the hosts even suggests that the moon was built by time traveling Freemasons.

2. King Tut’s Curse Was Some Kind Of Technological Protection Used By Ancient Aliens

In “The Pharaoh’s Curse” the gang talk about the opening of King Tut’s Tomb in 1922. Now, the opening of the tomb sparked a fire in the imaginations of people around the entire globe. In fact, people got so into it that they were closely following Ancient Egyptian lore, and some rumor mongers claimed that the tomb had a great curse on it, and that it followed those who opened it and struck them down one by one. Seven people died, and the Ancient Aliens people are quick to point out that all of these people were involved in the opening of the tomb. However, they do fail to point out that the person who actually opened the tomb itself was never struck down, which kind of invalidates the whole curse.

Regardless, even though the curse can be traced back to the most dubious of sources, which comprise a mix of pseudo-scientist musings and old myths, the Ancient Aliens people spend most of an episode on it. They suggest the curse might be alien technology, meant to keep us from discovering the secrets of King Tut’s tomb, which may have even included the Ark of the Covenant. Of course, if it had been in the tomb we would have discovered it, so they have a handy explanation for that. According to the Ancient Astronaut Theorists on the show, the Knights Templar took it to America before we could open the tomb, and hid it on Oak Island (nicely tying Ancient Aliens and The Curse of Oak Island, which are both owned by the same production company, together). We would like to add that not only has the Curse of the Pharaoh been fully debunked over the years, but there is absolutely no evidence to even suggest the Knights Templar ever went to America, or were in possession of the alleged Ark of the Covenant.

1. The Earth Has Black Holes And This Is The Reason For The Bermuda Triangle 

In “The Earth’s Black Holes” the gang go over their belief that perhaps Earth could have its own miniature black holes that most of us know nothing about. They point to mythological stories about various points in Earth being holy, or being a place you could communicate with the gods, and suggest these were black holes. They also suggest that when Moses went up to Mount Sinai, he disappeared into a black hole and this explained his temporary disappearance. As to where he went, they suggest he traveled potentially to a completely different world, or perhaps another dimension.

Now, they also take a flight through the Bermuda Triangle in this episode to play up drama, and mistake turbulence for something strange happening before the pilot himself has to humiliate them by correcting them. They are already embarrassing themselves though, as the Bermuda Triangle has been debunked incredibly hard in recent years, and it has been proven there are no more disappearances or ship accidents there than anywhere else in the ocean.

After their romp through the Bermuda Triangle nets them nothing horrifying, they start talking about people who disappear, and some who show up months later not remembering what happened. They suggest these people disappeared through a “black hole” somewhere on earth, and then showed up later, possibly going through some kind of time distortion as well and not understanding how much time had passed. However, the biggest problem with this entire episode is that most of what they are talking about would be better described by perhaps a stargate or a wormhole. While we don’t completely understand black holes, what we do know suggests that even if they could take you to another universe, you could be completely crushed before you could get there.


History Channel Side-Hustle

“Ancient Aliens”

Stuff in “America’s Attic” -WIF Museums

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Mysteries Locked

in the

Smithsonian Institute

The Smithsonian Institution is often called America’s attic, and within its vast collections can be found items ranging from mundane to utterly unique. Over 150 million items are contained within the Institution’s collections, scattered throughout its many museums, affiliated museums, temporarily displayed at other locations on loan, or carefully stored. It should be no surprise that, considering the size of the collections, an accurate inventory has been elusive at times. In 2010 an independent study revealed discrepancies in the Smithsonian’s inventories that indicated approximately 10% of items claimed by the Smithsonian were unaccounted for; that is, they were missing. Across the 19 museums operated directly by the Smithsonian, the number could be much higher.

The Smithsonian fields queries from collectors, salvagers, and archaeologist both professional and amateur, evaluating items and documents for their authenticity and historical significance. In doing so it runs into the occasional, shall we say, quack. These queries and of course the spread of unconfirmed reports across the internet have led to the belief of items in the institution’s care which are wholly unfounded. Others seem to be true. Since only a tiny percentage of the Smithsonian’s collections are actually on display, there is an opportunity to assign to them the holding of objects which cannot be confirmed visually by a visit to one of their facilities. Denials of possession from the Institution’s docents are treated with a conspiratorial wink. Here are 10 items believed to be in the possession of the Smithsonian, and whether or not such possession is true.

10. John Dillinger’s sex organ

Where and when the story of John Dillinger’s improbably large penis being housed in the Smithsonian Institution began is elusive. It has been debunked by writers and fact checkers, denied by the Institution itself, and still the story won’t go away. The Smithsonian has for years maintained a form letter denying its possession of Dillinger’s member, which it sends in response to queries regarding its existence and asking for confirmation of its size. During the 1960s the story was spread further to explain that the organ was actually on display at the Institution, with hundreds claiming to have personally examined it as it lay pickled in a jar of formaldehyde. Embellishments to the story had the organ displayed, in its jar, in the office of J. Edgar Hoover before it found its way into the nation’s attic.

The story of Dillinger’s penis being, shall we say, larger than life began shortly after photos of the dead criminal awaiting his autopsy were seen by the public. A large bulge in the sheet covering his lifeless body was the culprit. Dillinger had more than his share of admirers in the Depression years, including those who admired his many known trysts with attractive women. How the item in question moved from his autopsy room to a place in the Smithsonian, and why it did, are both questions with an array of answers, none of which can be confirmed. But nobody has been able to prove that the item doesn’t exist in the Smithsonian’s collections either, though the museum has long maintained that it has no record of possessing the curious article.

9. George Washington’s missing bed

Within the inventory of the collection held by the National Museum of American History is George Washington’s bed, which he slept in while at home on his Mount Vernon Plantation. During an inventory review in the early 21st century the inspectors reported that parts of the bed in question, surely significant as it was likely the bed in which the Father of His Country breathed his last, were missing, and had been for many years. The Smithsonian responded that the bed had in fact never been delivered to the Institution, and although it was not in their material position, they knew where it was. It was on display in Washington’s bedroom, at Mount Vernon, where visitors could view it when touring the estate.

Technically the bed is in the possession of the Smithsonian, though there is dispute over whether the Institution ever had physical custody of the bed. The bed and another item in the Smithsonian’s collections – George Washington’s uniform – can be used to answer another often debated feature regarding the Virginian. Washington’s height has been reported as being as tall as 6-foot-6 by some historians, with others stating he was just over 6-feet tall. Washington indicated the latter when ordering suits from London tailors. Measurements of the uniform, and the longer than average length of the mattress of the Mount Vernon bed, indicate his height was 6-foot-2; not a giant, but considerably taller than the average height for his day.

8. A steam engine lost in the Titanic disaster may be owned by the Smithsonian

Hiram Maxim was a British inventor (though he was born in America) who held a multitude of patents, including one for the invention of a better mousetrap. He is most famous for the advances he made in automatic weapons. Among his interests was the invention of a heavier than air flying machine, powered by a steam engine. When the aircraft experiments ended in failure, Maxim donated the engine, which was of his own design, to the Smithsonian Institution. The engine was shipped to the United States in the hold of the new White Star Lines steamer, RMS Titanic. Although the ship’s manifest did not specifically list a shipment made by Maxim, unidentified crates and cartons arriving at the docks just prior to departure could have included the engine.

Officially the Smithsonian has not confirmed ownership of the engine. Nor has it denied it. Numerous items from the wreck of Titanic have been displayed by the Smithsonian; however, the Institution insists that the items were recovered from the surface following the sinking, or were washed ashore. The Smithsonian has steadfastly refused to accept or display items retrieved from the actual site of the wreckage of Titanic, citing the principle of sanctuary. The Smithsonian does hold a patent model of a steam pump donated by Maxim in 1874. The possession of the Maxim pump and the letters covering the donation lost on the Titanic have been confused into the belief that a steam engine retrieved from Titanic’s wreck is in the Smithsonian’s collections.

7. John F. Kennedy’s brain has been rumored to be held in the Smithsonian’s collections

During the autopsy on the body of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, his brain, or rather what was left of it, was placed in a steel box and put in the custody of the Secret Service. It was taken to the White House, where it remained until 1965, when it was transferred to the National Archives for safekeeping. During an inventory of medical evidence from the Kennedy assassination, conducted in 1966, the National Archives could not locate the late President’s brain. Besides giving fuel to the conspiracy theorists who speculated on the reasons for the brain’s disappearance, it revealed a mystery which has yet to be solved more than 50 years later (what happened to the portion of skull and brain matter retrieved by Jackie Kennedy from the trunk of the limousine remains unknown as well).

Rumors regarding the reason Kennedy’s brain vanished into seemingly thin air abound, with some speculating that it was ordered by Robert Kennedy to prevent the press from learning the truth regarding the number of physical ailments suffered by his brother, from the drugs used to treat them. Others believe the brain was hidden from public sight, as it were, to prevent the revelation that JFK had been hit from the front during the fatal shooting. Was the President’s brain transferred to the Smithsonian for safekeeping? If so the fact has never been confirmed by either the Kennedy family, the National Archives, or the Smithsonian Institution. It’s possible that the box was simply lost, though how likely such an event could be is subject to debate as well.

6. Ghosts might be found in the Smithsonian in several of its buildings

For those who believe in the supernatural and the haunting of ghosts, the Smithsonian Institution is a natural place to expect the visitations of the dead. In the past, reports by employees and visitors of spectral visitors have been common. As early as 1900, the Washington Post reported on ghostly visitors, former officials of the institution returned in the night to keep watch over the work they had supervised in lives long since ended. The Post reported that several Smithsonian watchmen had encountered the spirits of former – and deceased – secretaries who vanished when approached and spoken to. They were described as being attired as they had been when they were at their jobs in life.

It wasn’t only human ghosts reported by the Post. Numerous residents in the vicinity of the Castle, as well as those going about their business in the city’s evening hours, told of hearing the disembodied screams of birds and other animals emanating from the building. The newspaper recounted their claims of the sounds coming from exotic birds and animals which had been sacrificed to fill the Institution’s taxidermy collections. The residents were reported as being near desperation in their attempts to silence the unearthly wail of one bird in particular. Over the decades, ghosts have been reported in other buildings housing the Smithsonian collections, including in the Museum of Natural History. Ghost sightings became so common that in the 1940s Secretary Alexander Wetmore dictated that all employees had to vacate the premises by midnight.

5. The Smithsonian has a storage facility to protect meteorites from contamination

When the early Apollo missions went to the moon, the astronauts were quarantined upon their return to earth, to prevent possible contamination exposure from the lunar mission spreading to the general population. After Apollo 14 the quarantine period was eliminated. In the 21st century, the Smithsonian Institution operates a quarantine system which protects meteorites recovered from Antarctica from earthly microbes. The storage center consists of a clean room, with an atmosphere of nitrogen (an inert gas) which ensures that the specimens recovered from the Antarctic are not exposed to the risks present in the air which we all breathe to sustain life.

The clean room and other complex support facilities for the Smithsonian’s collections are located in the Museum Support Center (MSC) operated by the Institution at Suitland, Maryland. Inbound donations to collections are examined and prepared at the facility, which includes a facility to ensure that all biodegradable material is examined for and treated for pest contamination, in order to protect both new and existing collections. For example, a piece of wood from Noah’s Ark, long rumored to be in the Smithsonian’s possession, would be required to undergo examination and possible treatment to prevent it from infesting other items held by the museum (the Smithsonian officially denies holding a piece of Noah’s Ark). The MSC is not open to the public, and visitors and staff are subject to extensive security.

4. The Hope Diamond and its curse may be encountered at the Smithsonian

The presence of the legendary Hope Diamond within the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History is well known, and it is one of the most popular exhibits of the entire collection. The curse of the Hope Diamond might be encountered there as well. According to the curse, anyone possessing the diamond, no matter for how short a time, suffers from misfortunes great and small. The curse was in truth a fable embellished by Pierre Cartier as a sales pitch, adding to the stone’s notoriety. In 1911 Evalyn Walsh McLean bought the stone, and her own succession of unfortunate events added to the luster of the curse (her husband abandoned her, her son was killed in an auto accident and her daughter died of an overdose).

The Hope Diamond was donated to the Smithsonian by Harry Winston in 1958. It was delivered, believe it or not, by registered mail, and the mailman who made the delivery also suffered a run of bad luck, though he refused to accept that it was caused by the curse. Visitors to the Smithsonian are not afforded the opportunity to handle the diamond, merely to view it, and are thus evidently immune to the curse which according to some resides in the Institution within the stone. In the sixty-some years the stone has been in the museum’s possession it has certainly not brought ill fortune. Millions of visitors have gone to the museum to view the diamond, despite the protests of many when the museum accepted it, who feared that the curse would be extended to the nation.

3. You can learn a lot from a dummy

During the late 1980s a series of Public Service Announcements were produced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The PSAs appeared in print in magazines as well as in commercials for airing on television. Two talking crash test dummies were created as partners for the campaign, Vince and Larry. Vince was voiced by character actor and comedian Jack Burns, who had earlier appeared as Deputy Barney Fife’s replacement on The Andy Griffith Show. Larry, who was often a foil for Vince’s mistakes, was voiced by Lorenzo Music, later the original voice of Garfield. The two demonstrated the proper use of seat belts and the consequences of failing to wear them properly.

“You Could Learn a Lot from a Dummy” was their catchphrase, and became a part of the lexicon in the late 1980s. Eventually they were replaced by other dummies, and they were so popular that a line of action figures featuring crash test dummies was marketed by toymaker Tyco in the early 1990s. They even became the basis for a one hour television special. Crash test dummies are still used to demonstrate the proper use of seat belts and children’s car seats, but Vince and Larry were retired long ago. Larry’s head, the only part of him known to still exist, is within the collection of the Smithsonian Institution, though as of early 2019 not on public display. Photos of the head, somewhat battered, are visible on the Smithsonian’s website, where one may still learn a lot from a dummy.

2. The model of Lincoln’s patented device is a replica

Visitors to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History are able to see one exhibit which is truly unique. On display is a model depicting the invention of a system to raise riverboats over sandbars on the inland rivers, which were not yet improved with dams to allow continuous navigation. It was an invention of Abraham Lincoln’s, the only president in US history to be awarded a patent. Never put into production, the device nonetheless proved workable in theory, and on the Smithsonian website there are comments which describe the ease with which the design could be modernized, using materials unheard of in Lincoln’s day.

The model was commissioned by Lincoln — he did not make it with his own hands — and at any rate the model on display is not the original he submitted. That model resided at the Patent Office during Lincoln’s tenure in the White House, a place to which he frequently resorted as president, escaping the cares of his office. By 1978 it was deemed too fragile for display, and the currently displayed model was built to replace it, though the original remains in the possession of the Smithsonian. Lincoln is not often linked with American infrastructure, though he was a railroad lawyer, a supporter of the Transcontinental Railroad, and of the improvement of rivers and streams. A visit to the display may serve to remind that the 16th President was a multi-faceted man, far from the country lawyer as he is all too often portrayed.

1. Missiles guided by pigeons along for the ride might have worked

During the Second World War missiles were, for the most part, a point and shoot weapon, which were unguided once in flight. It took Yankee ingenuity, in the form of psychologist B.F. Skinner, to come up with the idea of using pigeons riding inside the missiles to guide them to their target. Relying on their pecking instinct and rewarding them with food, Skinner trained pigeons to peck at the images of enemy ships, planes, tanks, and other equipment. Pecks on the center of the screen maintained the weapon on course, pecks off-center led to signals which caused the missile’s fins to change alignment and alter the course of the weapon in flight. The pigeons rode in a capsule which was attached to the nose of the missile. Obviously, it was a one-way trip.

The pecking pigeons project was pursued for months before it became clear that the guidance technology of the weapons available at the time – the speed with which course could be altered – was too slow to keep up with the little peckers, and the project was abandoned. As evidence that such a project actually existed, the Smithsonian in its collection has a capsule in which a pigeon would have flown, attached to a missile as he guided it to its target by pecking away at the image he had been trained to recognize. The capsule can also be viewed on the Smithsonian’s website, along with a description of the project. Skinner later claimed that the project would have been successful, and was only abandoned because, “no one would take us seriously.”


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Bloody Curious

Facts About the

Expansive

British Empire

The British Empire was by far the biggest empire in human history, which doesn’t sound as impressive if we just leave it at that. Consider this; at its height, the tiny island famous for being damp and cold controlled around 24% of Earth’s total area, ruling over 23% of the world population. It was a hugely influential entity, too. Many of our modern technologies first originated there, and its effects can still be seen in many nooks of modern life.

For all of its merits, though, the British Empire was also one of the most controversial empires to have ever existed. While many other European nations had their own territorial empires around the world, the excesses of colonialism are inherently associated with the Brits. For good reason, too, as it was the biggest one of them all, and perfected many of the techniques later used by other colonial powers to keep their numerically-superior colonial subjects in control. Some of them have been extensively discussed in modern discourse – like its prominent role in the establishment of the slave trade – though many of them have been left out of history books.

Because of its size and global influence at its peak, there are still many surprising – and shocking – facts from across the once-mighty British Empire most of us don’t know about.

7. The First Evil Corporation

The British Empire existed as a monarchy throughout its existence, though the true credit for its rapid rise around the world could be squarely given to the East India Company. Think of it as a private firm with its own standing army and patronage from the monarch, as the EIC was instrumental in wrestling control of Britain’s colonies in South and Southeast Asia all on its own.

What most of us forget, though, is that the EIC also pioneered the blueprint for all ‘evil corporations’ to come after it. Its whole business model was set up around efficiently securing the natural resources from its colonies, with support from the central British state in exchange for a bulk of those resources and military backing. It was also the recipient of the world’s first corporate bailout in 1773, when the EIC ran into massive debt and caused banks across Europe to crash. It could be compared to the Wall Street Bailout of 2008, except the EIC was way bigger and more intertwined with global trade at that time than any of those banks ever would be.

6. 1857 Sepoy Revolt

There’s no doubt that the EIC was one of the most successful corporations in history, with control over some of the most resource-rich and populous parts of the world at its peak. What started out as a loose group of merchants just trying to set up trading outposts in the East turned into a state of its own, with little to no oversight from the British government in its early days. If you’re wondering why we don’t hear about it as much as other successful business ventures in history, it’s because of the 1857 revolt in British-controlled India.

While the EIC had a standing army of its own, it wasn’t enough to control a territory as diverse and politically-complicated as India. That’s where the sepoys came in. An anglicized word for sipahi – which translates to soldier – they were soldiers picked from local populations to help the EIC army maintain control of the territory. That plan worked quite well for a while, too, until they decided to coat the rifle cartridges with pig and cow meat.

While the reasons behind the rebellion were diverse and numerous (much like all rebellions), the cartridges turned out to be the final straw. You see, the cartridges had to be picked with the teeth before being reloaded into the rifles, which was offensive to Hindu and Muslim sepoys. It gave way to one of the most brutal rebellions in the history of the British Empire, as the rebels came shockingly close to wrestling control of the whole territory. It caused quite a bit of outrage in Britain, too, as stories of rebels murdering British civilians living in India made its way there.

The rebellion was eventually suppressed, though it fundamentally changed how Britain dealt with its colonies. It marked the end of the East India Company, and put the British Indian territory directly under the monarch. It would stay that way until India’s independence in 1947.

5. Influence On Nazi Ideology

When we talk about the Nazis in the modern context, there’s always an air of shock to it. How could an ideology so opposed to human rights and just generally being nice to others gain a foothold in one of the world’s largest democracies of the time? Many reasons are cited, including the Treaty of Versailles and the Great Depression. While they may have contributed to it to an extent, what we often forget is that Nazi ideology never had to come out of the woodwork in the first place. The most problematic parts of it were already out in the open and widely-practiced, especially in the British Empire.

Hitler was massively influenced by British subjugation and control of its overseas territories – especially India – as he wanted to replicate it for Germany. He even referred to Eastern Europe as ‘Germany’s India’, though as we all know, that didn’t exactly go according to plan. The British Empire also kind of had a racism problem, as is proven by Churchill’s (and other British politicians’ of the time) frequent remarks on the colonies.

Moreover, many parts of the Nazi ideology were already popular across sections of governments in Europe, largely due to other countries wanting to replicate Britain’s success in their own colonies. A huge part of that was written out of Western history after the Second World War, though Hitler’s admiration for the British Empire remains well-documented. Despite that, the British Empire’s influence over the Nazis and fascists in Europe is almost never discussed.

4. The Bengal Famine

We’re no strangers to the disastrous policies of the British Empire, so much so that apologizing for them is a sort of an in-joke among the Brits at this point. From its infamous ‘divide and rule’ doctrine to the botched partitions of various countries in the wake of its departure from them, we’d say that we could fill a book with it, if there weren’t already many books like that. The fallout of those policies is still clearly visible in almost all of its economically-disadvantaged former colonies, in the form of inflamed racial and ethnic tensions as well as their economic backwardness after decolonization.

The Bengal Famine of 1943, however, is rarely ever mentioned as a part of that fallout, despite being one of the most devastating and controversial events in British Empire’s history. The mere fact that it’s known as a famine instead of a disaster caused by artificial scarcity of resources should tell you something about why it’s so rarely talked about. By some estimates, around 3 million of Bengal’s population died as a direct result of it, and many more were left malnourished for years to come, as it took quite some time for the state of Bengal – and India in general – to recover from it.

While the official position of Britain has always been that it was caused by a natural drought, recent studies have found that it wasn’t that natural after all. It was actually caused by the redirection of the food resources to Britain’s war effort and halted rice imports due to the Japanese invasion of Burma, as well as not declaring it a famine-hit region at the right time (or at any time since then). One study done on soil moisture data from that time concluded that Bengal was under no threat of a drought, and that the factors leading to the famine were purely manmade. To this day, the Bengal famine remains one of the most severe and deadly famines in history.

3. Still The Empire On Which The Sun Never Sets

As we said above, the phrase ‘the biggest empire ever’ doesn’t mean much on its own, as we have no intuitive way of quantifying how big that actually is, especially considering that history is full of massive empires – like the Roman and Mongolian empires. Consider this; at its peak, the British Empire was so huge that it was daytime in at least some of its territory, earning it its unofficial nickname ‘the empire on which the sun never sets’. That’s not to say that it was the only empire like that – as other big empires of the time, like Spain, could also qualify for that description at some point in their history – though Britain held that reputation for far longer than any of them.

While Britain is far from its glory days now, surprisingly, the sun still doesn’t set on it, as it still has many of its former colonies under its control. Apart from the British mainland, there are 14 British territories around the world, and we’re assuming all of them are okay with the arrangement as they’ve not yet asked for independence. Some of those territories are British outposts in uninhabited, remote areas – like its Antarctic base – though they still count as British territory for all intents and purposes.

2. Its Contribution To The Current Conflict In The Middle East

No matter which side of the story you listen to, you’d agree that the Middle East is in kind of a mess right now. With multiple factions – many of them extremist, armed groups – vying for control of vast tracts of countries like Syria and Iraq, there seems to be no end to the conflict. Well, not unless everyone mutually decides to call it quits and go back home. It’s made worse by underlying ethnic tensions between the various groups; tensions that have been unresolved and simmering under the surface for quite some time now. “Surely,” you’d probably wonder, “all of this couldn’t have happened overnight.” And you’d be right, because it didn’t.

In case you missed the title of the article, Britain had a huge role to play in what would inevitably, sooner or later, turn the Middle East into what it is today. It all started with the end of the First World War, when the Ottoman Empire’s territories were divided by Britain, with considerable help from France. Known as the Sykes-Picot agreement, the arrangement divided up the whole region according to spheres of influence and territorial ownership of the victors, with little to no regard for the actual ethnic demographics of the place.

To their credit, they didn’t know that they’d have to give up these territories at some point, as colonialism was still going strong around that time. Many terrorist groups in the Middle East still have the removal of the Sykes-Picot agreement as one of their primary aims, something we don’t even consider when we talk about the current state of the region.

1. The Disastrous Afghanistan Invasion

Afghanistan, for some weird reason, has been the focal point of many global conflicts in its history, right from the Soviet invasion in the ’80s to America’s ‘War on Terror’. Like Russia, many countries have discovered the hard way that Afghanistan isn’t the best place to invade, as it’s still a country largely ruled by independent warlords, with little oversight from the central government. The harsh and vast terrain doesn’t help the chances of invading armies, either.

What may be common knowledge now, though, wasn’t back in the middle of the 19th century, when the British Empire decided to make the same mistake as its later counterparts. Its invasion of Afghanistan in 1938 and eventual retreat in 1942 remains one of the empire’s biggest military defeats, despite its technological strength on the battleground.

It all began when the British army – made up of British and Indian soldiers – toppled the Afghan ruler, Dost Mohammed, and installed Shah Shujah Durrani in his place. While their original plan was to take the country and withdraw all of their forces, two of their brigades had to stay back to keep the peace, including their civilian family members. They eventually grew comfortable with their hold on the country, and decided to kick back and relax a bit in Kabul.

It was all going well till the local population started to revolt, as any occupied population would tend to. Because of the rapidly worsening situation, the British decided to take all of their troops (around 4,500 soldiers and 12,000 civilians) and withdraw back into India in 1842, with a promise of safe passage from the local army general. As you probably guessed, the Afghans did not honor that promise, and the British army was harassed and slowly decimated throughout their long journey back across the treacherous terrain. All in all, the entire British army was killed, except one British and a handful of Indian soldiers.


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 Must-See Places

in Poland

Poland. A land of record holding attractions. A heavily wooded country in places, beautifully urbanized in others, Poland is a gem of European intrigue with a complex history scathed by the tragedies of armed conflict. In this account, we showcase a visitor’s 10 must see sites in surprising Poland, including the world’s largest castle and a mysterious forest.

10. Malbork Castle

Did you know that “The King of Castles,” the largest castle on the planet (by land area) is in Poland? Poland’s Marlbork Castle is a medieval gem that should rank well in any world itinerary of castle tours. Built in the 13th Century, Marlbork Castle, known as the Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork, consists of a castle and associated fortress construction close to the Polish town of Malbork. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the magnificent building attracts visitors looking to tick “biggest castle” off the touring achievements list.

Marlbork Castle is near the River Nogat in northern Poland, built out of brick and typifying Gothic architecture. The construction reflects the Teutonic Order state located in Prussia, where militant German monks fought crusades against Prussian and Lithuanian pagan tribes from the south coast of the Baltic Sea. The crusaders also attacked the Kingdom of Poland, a Christian Kingdom. Thus, the castle is seen as a symbol of the violent religious conflict that embodies much of Europe’s grand but often troubled history.

9. Bialowieza National Park

The primeval forest of Bialowieza National Park is the refuge of the majority of the world’s few remaining European bison, Poland’s national animal. Also designated as a World Heritage Site, the huge relict tract preserves the last of the temperate forest that once grew lush and mysterious across much of the European continent. The first national park to ever be established on the European continent, Bialowieza was declared a protected area in 1932 and stands out for its exceptional diversity. Along with the huge bison, other species seen here include lynx, wild boar, wolves and red deer.

Despite the relatively cool climate of Poland and surrounding lands, 12,000 animal species call the park home. Also known as the Zubr, the European Bison that define this park are iconic giants as Europe’s largest land animal in existence. During the Second World War, pressures on the bison increased, being seen as a source of meat in challenging conditions. Their survival in the refuge stands out as a heroic work of conservation in European history, an accomplishment of the Bison Breeding Center located in the park, the place where all bison left in the world originate.

8. Tatra Mountains

Poland is a country with diverse and fascinating geography, spanning from high mountain Europe to the Baltic Sea. In the south of Poland lies the Tatra mountain range, which is the highest set of mountains in the Carpathian range.

Tatras National Park contains spectacular cave sites as well as mountains, offering the visitor a glimpse of Poland’s most spectacular geographical region. Lakes in these mountains are impressive, particularly Morskie Oko, a lake whose name means Eye of the Sea in English. Morskie Oko is the Tatra Mountains’ largest lake, ranking fourth in depth and located within the national park. The conifer trees, rock outcrops and high elevations contrast sharply with brilliant blue waters that seem tropical in nature until you see the snow beyond. A destination for world class sight-seeing, rock climbing, hiking and caving, as well as paragliding, mountain biking and wildlife viewing, the “Polish Alps” — as they are sometimes called — are a lesser known great attraction of Europe worth any visitor’s time. Strict environmental protection policies are in place to preserve the flora and fauna of the park.

7. Tri-City

Poland is not all about farmland, forest and castles. It is also a seaport nation, with an impressive section of Baltic Sea coastline to offer visitors. Gdansk and and two other coastal municipalities, Gdynia and Sopot are known as the Tri-City, a municipal area with spectacular coastal architecture that is most whimsical, combined with heavy industry and a population of around one million.

The National Maritime Museum in Gdansk showcases seafaring and fishing history of coastal Poland, while the city has some dark history as the place where the first bullets were fired in World War II during the German invasion of Poland. The Solidarity Social Movement also first broke through the Iron Curtain in Gdansk 40 years afterward. Sopot is a lighter destination, established as a sort of recreation zone for European ruling classes of old. Spas, beachfront resorts and summer homes define the often bustling coast of Sopot. Gdynia offers a different sample of Poland, with a more subdued style. Art Deco, socialist and communist architecture are all juxtaposed here, along with fascinating relics, such as the Polish World War II battleship ‘Blyskawica’, now a visitor’s attraction and military exhibit.

6. Wawel Royal Castle

Considered a cultural icon of Polish history as well as a masterpiece of European royal architecture, Wawel Castle is located in the center of one of Poland’s most famous cities, Krakow. The 11th century saw construction of a small castle by King Boleslaw I Chrobry.

King Casimir III the Great renovated until the Royal Castle was a grand Gothic structure, only for it to burn in 1499. Zygmunt I Stary created the current palace, Italian-inspired and representing Renaissance glory. The cultural and political center of Poland throughout the 16th Century, Wawel Royal Castle is a museum in modern times, consisting of five distinct sections open for visitation. These are the Crown Treasury and Armory, the State Rooms, the Royal Private Apartments, the Lost Wawel and the Exhibition of Oriental Art. These works and the stunning grounds of the castle give visitors a most memorable experience of Polish Royal history. A survivor of history, Wawel Royal Castle was vandalized by Swedish and Prussian forces, Austrian-occupied in the 19th century with intent to make it a mere barracks and then re-incorporated into Poland following World War I. Restoration was underway between the two world wars, continuing once World War II hostilities ceased. Much improvement has been made to the rooms and the castle exterior.

5. Zamosc

Dating back to the 1500s, Zamosc is a Renaissance town that offers a time capsule-like experience for visitors, giving an authentic glimpse of ancient Poland with strong Italian architectural influence. The sights of the town range from churches to a grand old university to historic dwellings that reflect the lengthy history of this unique master planned town. The community is located in close proximity to the Ukrainian border. Attractions are diverse and visually pleasing in the town that was built as a collaboration between the great Italian designer Bernardo Morando, and chancellor Jan Zamoysky, after whom the town is named. Zamosc was not only built with specific architectural ideas in mind.

The town was planned with care on a larger scale to be a multicultural hub of European social and commercial exchange, strategically placed along the trade route that connected western and northern Europe with the Black Sea coast. Interestingly, the construction in Zamosc reflects efforts to implement tolerance, as the town contains religious buildings that serve as locations for a variety of faiths to worship.

4. Wroclaw

Peaceful yet vibrant, full of life Wroclaw is a jewel of Polish cultural life. Visitors to the Western Polish city will marvel at the stunning and innovative Gothic architecture that is juxtaposed on unique geography. Wroclaw is spread across riverside lands and a remarkable 12 islands, built by the River Oder, which flows from the Sudeten Mountains to the Baltic Sea. Founded in the 900s, the city has changed hands an incredible number of times. Wroclaw has been under Polish, Silesian, Bohemian, Hungarian, Prussian and German as well as Austrian Habsburg Dynastic rule in its history.

The city survived Mongolian sieges and Nazi occupation, ultimately being returned to Poland after World War II. A remarkable 130 bridges span the city’s watercourse zones, connecting whimsical and grand architectural sites and urban park lands. Visitors can wander the human-scale streets and take in the towering Church of St. Elizabeth, the grand Wroclaw Town Hall, and the market square, Rynek.

3. Wieliczka Salt Mine

The southern Polish town of Wieliczka holds a secret attraction from Poland’s industrial legacy under the surface of the Earth. A source of salt since the Neolithic era, Wieliczka Salt Mine provided table salt from the 13th century up to 2007. Salt price drops and mine flooding led commercial mining to stop in 1996, but the mine is anything but closed. Designated an official Polish Historic Monument (Pomnik Historii), the former royal salt mine offers visitors a chance to explore shafts, passageways and remarkable mining equipment, including giant cogs and horse-operated treadmills.

The mine is also home to amazing underground architecture, including four chapels, each with immaculate detailing. Statues were created from rock salt by miners and stand to this day, while modern artists have added to the collection. To prove the salt mine has it all, there is even an underground lake. Together with nearby “sister” royal salt mine Bochnia Salt Mine and the Zupny Castle, Wieliczka Salt Mine is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

2. Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

The single darkest legacy among many from the Nazi government’s military occupation of Poland is the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum. With that name comes a diabolical past that historians have ensured will not be forgotten. Located in Oswiecim, the memorial and museum encompasses the two camps, named Auschwitz I and nearby Auschwitz II-Birkenau, with infrastructure connecting the two sites included in the memorial site. It is here that disturbing relics ranging from camp fences and watchtowers to bunkers and railway tracks used to transport prisoners can still be found.

The ghastly relics include the actual crematoria used to dispose of murdered victims of the Third Reich, while an interesting asset includes the crude gallows used to hang SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer Rudolf Hoss, the first commandant of Auschwitz. Countless Jewish prisoners, as well as members of targeted ethnic groups, dissidents and others deemed targets of persecution by the Nazi regime were imprisoned at Auschwitz. A shocking 1.1 million people were killed here, including men, women and children. The museum and memorial was established in 1947, a relatively short time after the camp’s eventual liberation near the end of World War II.

1. Warsaw Uprising Museum

Warsaw, Poland’s capital, survived the Nazi invasion that sought to permanently take Poland as a new land asset of the Third Reich. Despite the damage, Warsaw is a city of both architectural and military historical interest. The Warsaw Uprising Museum is a Polish site of national pride that contains five display levels that document the Polish city’s efforts to overthrow German occupation force rule in 1944.

Opened 60 years after the liberation of Warsaw, the museum is within what was once a tram power station, constructed to commemorate the 1944 Warsaw Uprising by remembering the fighters for a free Poland. Exhibits include displays that portray the conflict of occupation era resistance, while a much newer section that opened in 2006 focuses on the history of Allied force supply air drops and includes a faithful replica of a B-24J bomber.


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Fire, Floods, Famine, Lava and Shakers – WIF Bad Things Go Happen

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Epic Natural Disasters

Throughout History

Natural disasters have existed as long as humanity, and in fact a lot longer. This means that pretty much every century in recorded history has been forced to endure one or more incredibly destructive attacks of nature’s strongest powers. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest natural disasters in history, and how they affected the people of that era.

10. Peshtigo Fire

Most people are familiar with the Great Chicago Fire, with its “Mrs. O’Leary’s cow tipped over a lantern” backstory and hundreds of dead. However, it’s far from the most destructive fire in American history. It’s not even the most destructive one that started on October 8, 1871. That dubious honor goes to the Peshtigo Fire of Wisconsin — the most destructive forest fire in America’s history, which caused around 1,200 deaths, burned an incredible 1.2 million acres and burned through 16 different towns, in 11 counties. At one point, it even “skipped over” Green Bay to burn sections of two counties on the other side. It even made the same amount of damage as the much more urban Chicago fire — roughly $169 million.

Where the Great Chicago Fire was a disaster, the Peshtigo fire was hell, plain and simple. The fire was likely started by careless railroad workers who caused a brush fire which the dry summer and unfortunate winds soon whipped up into a superfast wall of flame that some say moved almost like a tornado. The flames “convulsed” and moved in strange ways, eating up all the oxygen and bursting fleeing people ablaze. It looked like the end of the world, and for many, it was. There were heroics, and tragic losses, and desperate survival stories. One heroic man reportedly carried a woman all the way to safety, thinking it was his wife, and when he found it was a stranger he immediately went insane. A young girl spent all night in the river to escape the inferno, holding on to a cow’s horn to stay moored.

The worst damage was done to the fire’s namesake, the town of Peshtigo. 800 of the fire’s 1,200 victims were from there, and the entire place was “gone in an hour.”

9. Ch’ing-yang event

There have been many times when meteors and meteorites have graced our planet with their presence, but arguably the one with the biggest death toll is the Ch’ing-yang event in 1490. Seeing as this meteor shower event in China happened well over five centuries ago, actual details about the event are unfortunately somewhat fuzzy. Accounts of the era report that “stones falling like rain” killed up to 10,000 people on the Ch’ing-Yang area of the Shaanxi Province.

Modern experts have expressed doubt over that exact figure — after all, it is the only meteor shower case with such a giant death toll. However, pretty much everyone agrees that a “dramatic event” happened at the reported time and place, and it’s speculated that a breakup of an asteroid may indeed have resulted in a deadly rain of celestial hail.

8. Calcutta cyclone

The Ganges River delta area is no stranger to tropical storms, but the Calcutta cyclone of 1737, also known as the Hoogly River cyclone, ranks among the absolute worst. It struck on an early autumn morning just south of the city of Calcutta, tearing 200 miles inlands before finally calling it a day. The cyclone brought with it a 30 to 40-foot storm surge (a sudden rise of water level in Ganges), along with 15 inches of rain over just six hours.

The combination of these elemental attacks was catastrophic. Most of the city of Calcutta, built largely of mud huts and brick buildings, was utterly demolished. The city suffered 3,000 casualties, but the cyclone’s overall damage was over a hundred times worse; The disaster is estimated to have killed up to 350,000 people and destroyed around 20,000 boats, ships and canoes of all shapes and sizes.

7. Dadu River dam landslide

On June 1, 1976, a huge earthquake shook the Kangding-Luding area of southwest China, causing all the problems that a major 7.75 magnitude quake can cause. What happened next was worse. A landslide dam (debris from the landslide blocking the water flow of the river), and as is so often the case in impromptu dams, it unfortunately wasn’t built to last.

After building a nice reservoir behind it for 10 days, the landslide dam eventually breached. The water cascaded downstream as a catastrophic wall of death, flooding the areas it encountered to the tune of 100,000 deaths. Experts think that this was likely the most destructive event of this particular nature in history.

6. Coringa cyclones

Coringa was a large and prosperous Indian port city at the mouth of river Godavari. These days, it’s still there, but only as a mere small village. This is because the former busy city went through some of the worst cyclones in history.

In 1789, Coringa received a massive blow when a nasty cyclone tore through the area, leaving around 20,000 people dead. The shaken city was nevertheless able to resume its functions, but unbeknownst to its residents, their terrors had only begun. On November 25, 1839, another, much worse cyclone came, bringing a 40-foot storm surge and punishing winds with it. Once the roar of the storm died down, Coringa’s entire port was destroyed. The death count of the cyclone was an estimated 300,000 people, which along with the 20,000 boats that were also destroyed by the storm marked the end of Coringa’s glory days.

5. Krakatoa volcanic eruption of 1883

What the Krakatoa volcano’s eruption in August 1883 lacked in death toll (it killed “only” 36,000 people), it delivered in pure, deadly spectacle. The volcano, which was on a 3-by-5.5 mile island between Sumatra and Java, started giving signs of upcoming trouble months before the incident, starting with massive ash clouds, “thundering” noises and strange “natural fireworks” that lit the sky. Unaware of the impeding doom, the people living on nearby islands took to celebrating the show — only to be rudely interrupted when Krakatoa started a very different, deadly party.

On August 26, the first blast threw debris and a gas cloud a good 15 miles in the air. The next morning, the area was shaken by four explosions that equaled the strength of 200 megatons of TNT (the Hiroshima bomb was around 0,01% of that) and could be heard from 2,800 miles away. Super-heated steam, hot gases and volcanic matter scorched the surrounding 25 miles at speeds over 62 miles-per-hour.

The eruption claimed its first victims via thermal injuries from its mighty blasts, and the rest fell victim to the 120-foot tsunami that came when the volcano collapsed into an undersea caldera. Even after its initial terrors were over, Krakatoa wouldn’t stop wrecking humanity’s day. The eruption was so strong that it actually changed the climate and dropped temperatures all over the world.

4. Shaanxi earthquake

In 1556, the Shaanxi province of China had the extreme misfortune of hosting what is thought to be the deadliest earthquake in recorded history. The quake was around 8 on the Richter scale, meaning it was a “great” earthquake that is totally capable of leveling communities near the epicenter. The Shaanxi quake wasn’t content with just communities, either; Chinese annals report that it lasted mere seconds, but was so incredibly strong that it destroyed buildings, remodeled rivers, caused floods, ignited massive fires and even “leveled mountains.”

As you can probably expect, such a massive disaster was bad news for any and all humans who happened on its way. The Shaanxi earthquake had an estimated 830,000 casualties, and it actually cut the population of the area by a ridiculous 60 percent. Oddly, it also managed to affect the architectural trends of the area: Because many people had been killed by falling stone buildings, the rebuilding process saw the adaptation of wood, bamboo and other more earthquake-resistant materials.

3. Yellow River floods of China

Between 1887 and 1938, China’s famed Huang He (Yellow River) went through the top three most destructive floods in recorded history. The 3,395-mile river is extremely silted, which makes especially the North China Plain’s flatlands to be in constant risk of flooding: Since the 2nd century BCE, it has flooded an estimated 1,500 times, and no one can even begin to calculate the death and destruction these floods have brought in total.

We do, however, know unpleasantly well the havoc these three ultra-destructive floods brought on the ill-prepared China. In the flood that happened over September and October of 1887 (and the famine and diseases it brought to the survivors) the death toll is estimated somewhere between 900,000 and two million people. An even more destructive one in August 1931 covered 34,000 square miles of land in water, and “partially” flooded a further 8,000. Up to 4 million people were killed by the flood and its aftermath, and a devastating 80 million people were left homeless. This particular flood is often considered the most deadly natural disaster in recorded history.

The last of the three mega-floods came in June 1938, and it was actually completely man-made. Thanks to the military’s destruction of dikes near Kaifeng in an effort to stop the approaching Japanese forces in the Sino-Japanese war, up to 900,000 people died.

2. The great European famine

If even honest men can do terrible things when they’re desperate, and the best way to make a person desperate is to make them terribly hungry, imagine what would happen if you’d make a whole continent starve. Actually, you don’t need to, because that exact thing happened in 14th century Europe.

The Great European Famine happened when bad weather conditions caused crops to fail all over Europe from 1315 to the summer harvest of 1317. The results were nothing short of cataclysmic. The few years of hunger single-handedly stopped a centuries-long time of wealth and growth, and plunged the continent into a pandemonium of disease, death, crime, and even the indescribable horrors of infanticide and cannibalism. Millions of people died, and it took until 1922 for Europe to recover from the terror. In fact, the effects of the disaster can still be felt today: Reportedly, certain parts of France are still more sparsely populated than they were just before the Great Famine hit.

1. Plague of Justitian

Disclaimer: this one has a death toll that goes right through the roof, though technically it’s not a natural disaster in the “earth rises to devour us all” sense, but rather an outbreak of disease. A massive, massive outbreak of disease.

Imagine being an all-powerful emperor trying to cement your legacy, only to find that the main thing history books remember about you is that a bunch of rodents managed to kill countless thousands of people during your reign … and then giving the ensuing epidemic. Such was the fate of Byzantine’s emperor Justitian I, who became the namesake of the Plague of Justitian (or Justitian’s plague, because why bother giving it just one version of the guy’s name?) just because he happened to be in charge when it struck.

Justitian’s plague, which was basically a nasty cellar band version of the Black Plague before it went mainstream, had formed in China and/or India, and its tours eventually took it to Egypt and assorted trade routes. it got its big break in the year 542, when the rodents bearing the disease finally reached the mighty city of Constantinople. Reports indicate that the city was struck with pretty much all forms of plague at once: Apart from the Black Death classic bubonic plague, pneumonic and septicemic types were also present. As such, citizens started keeling over by the thousand. Tens of thousands of people died in an extremely short span of time, and matters weren’t helped by the fact that authorities were unable to dispose of the masses of dead, diseased bodies in a timely manner.

After the plague was done with Justitian’s Constantinople, it turned its attention to the Mediterranian and later Persia. Its active career lasted for an estimated half a century, though some indicate that the plague continued its Mediterranean tour for a good 225 years. Ultimately, it’s estimated that the Plague of Justitian killed up to 40% of Constantinople’s residents, and the entire Byzantine empire lost somewhere between 25 and 50 million people. Nice legacy, Justitian.


Fire, Floods, Famine, Lava and Shakers

WIF Bad Things Go Happen