Chance Fluke Luck Quirk Random – Historical Coincidences

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Bizarre

Historical

Coincidences

Given how many humans have existed in the world and how many events and incidents, both big and small, happen every day, history is littered with examples of strange coincidences. But the ones we will be looking at today are so unusual that they strain credulity and, should they have come from the pages of a book, they would have been deemed contrived or unbelievable.

10. Poe’s Tale of Cannibalism

At one point, the ship wrecks during a storm and only four men survive and are washed ashore. With no food whatsoever, after a few days they resort to the most drastic solution – cannibalism. They draw straws and the unlucky one is a young man named Richard Parker who is killed and eaten.

At first, this would seem like a straightforward, albeit grisly story. But then we move forward 46 years and something strange happens. In 1884, a yacht called the Mignonette left England headed for Sydney, Australia. Carrying four men, it also shipwrecked and left the seafarers stranded with no food. As a last resort, they also cannibalized one of their own – a 17-year-old named Richard Parker. The only main difference was that the survivors saw no need to draw straws as the real-life Parker had fallen ill after drinking seawater and was considered a goner.

Eerie coincidences aside, the case that followed after the remaining men were rescued and arrested for murder represented a landmark ruling in English law. It stated that necessity does not excuse murder, meaning you cannot kill someone else to save your own life.

9. Where the War Began and Ended

On July 21, 1861, the First Battle of Bull Run marked the first major engagement in the American Civil War. Of course, the war was horrible for many people, but it was a particularly strange inconvenience for one wholesale grocer named Wilmer McLean. He lived on a plantation near Manassas, Virginia, and the Bull Run River passed right through his land. In fact, most of the battle took place on his property and the Confederate leader, General P.G.T. Beauregard even commandeered McLean’s house to use as his headquarters.

Obviously, McLean and his family couldn’t live in the middle of a war so they relocated. A few years later, they were residing in a house near a village called Appomattox Court House. As it happens, that is where the last battle of the Civil War took place. Afterwards, Confederate General Robert E. Lee officially surrendered to Union leader Ulysses S. Grant. And he did it in the parlor of Wilmer McLean’s new home.

The McLeans later moved back to their previous estate and simply abandoned the house in Appomattox County. They also defaulted on the loans they took out to buy it so “Surrender House”, as it came to be known, was confiscated and sold at auction. Today, it operates as a museum and it is a designated National Historical Monument.

As for Wilmer McLean, he liked to say that the Civil War “began in his front yard and ended in his front parlor.”

8. The Curse of Tecumseh

Ever since 1840, American presidents have died according to a pattern which is remarkable enough that people have ascribed it to a curse. Every president who is elected in a year ending in 0 (something which happens every two decades) is fated to die in office.

First was William Henry Harrison. Elected in 1840, he died of pneumonia a month after being sworn in. Then, in 1860 came Abraham Lincoln, and we all know how that ended. In 1880, James Garfield was elected president and he was also assassinated by a man named Charles Guiteau.

William McKinley might have escaped this alleged curse if he stuck at just one term. Alas, in 1900 he was elected president to his second term, and a year later, he was shot and killed by an anarchist. Next up was Warren G. Harding, who suffered a stroke three years after being elected in 1920. Afterwards came Franklin Roosevelt who passed away of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1945. While he did die in office, he didn’t actually die during the term which allegedly sealed his fate. And last, but not least, there was JFK, who won the 1960 election and whose assassination is all too well-known.

As you can see, seven presidents followed this extraordinary pattern. Many see it for what it probably is – a series of incredible coincidences, but others claim it is a curse placed originally on William Henry Harrison by Tecumseh, leader of the Shawnee people, for the former’s role in Tecumseh’s Rebellion.

Ronald Reagan would have been next in line. He was elected in 1980 and, although someone did try to kill him, he survived his injuries and died of old age decades after he left office. Even if the curse was real, it appears that he broke it.

7. The Church Explosion

At 7:25 p.m., March 1, 1950, the West Side Baptist Church in Beatrice, Nebraska, exploded due to a natural gas leak ignited by the fire from the furnace. It was a Wednesday and every Wednesday at 7:20 p.m. sharp, the church choir gathered there to practice. People were expecting the worst as they approached the smoking rubble, but it soon became apparent that nobody had been injured in the blast. Even though the choir director was very strict about tardiness, on this particular night, none of the 15 choir members arrived on time.

It wasn’t one single thing that caused the delays, either, but rather a series of minor occurrences that detained each person enough to evade the deadly blast. The reverend and his family, for example, were late because his wife had to iron a dress at the last moment. Two sisters both had car trouble. Two high school girls wanted to finish listening to a radio program, while another student was struggling with her geometry homework. The pianist fell asleep after dinner. A man was late because he wanted to finish writing a letter he kept putting off, while one woman was simply feeling lazy because it was cold outside and her home was warm and cozy.

And so went all the other excuses. Unsurprisingly, given the nature of the circumstances, some people considered it divine intervention.

6. Right Place, Right Time

Joseph Figlock became a hero of Detroit due to a bizarre series of events that happened over the course of a year. One morning in 1937, Figlock was at his job as a street sweeper when he was struck by something that landed on his head and shoulders. That “something” was a baby girl who fell out a four-story window. Because Figlock broke her fall, the infant survived her drop that, otherwise, would have almost surely been fatal.

A year later, the street sweeper was back at his job when he was, again, hit by a falling object. And you guessed it – it was another baby. This time, it was 2-year-old David Thomas who also fell out of his window on the fourth floor. This baby did sustain some injuries but, once more, had escaped certain doom thanks to Joseph Figlock being in the right place, at the right time.

5. Miss Unsinkable

Violet Jessop was born in Argentina to Irish immigrants in 1887. When she turned 21, she found work as a ship stewardess and, in 1911, secured a position aboard the RMS Olympic, the first of the Olympic-class ocean liners built by the White Star Line at the start of the century.

At the time, these were the largest, most luxurious ships in the world. Jessop was probably thrilled with her new job but, pretty soon, she might have reconsidered her fortunes. In September 1911, Jessop was onboard the Olympic when it collided with a warship called the HMS Hawke. The collision wasn’t too bad and the ocean liner managed to make it to port without any fatalities.

This incident didn’t deter Jessop from continuing her career as a stewardess. Although she was content aboard the Olympic, her friends persuaded her that it would make for a much more exciting experience to work aboard the White Star Line’s new ocean liner. After all, this vessel was proclaimed to be “unsinkable” and its name was the Titanic.

You already know how this went down – just four days into its maiden voyage, the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank. Jessop survived the ordeal as she was lowered down into lifeboat 16 which was later picked up by the RMS Carpathia. She later recalled that, as the boat was being lowered, an officer put a baby in her lap. Later, aboard the Carpathia, a woman leaped at her, snatched the baby and ran. Jessop always assumed that was the mother, but she never saw either one of them again.

Then World War II started and Jessop served as a nurse for the British Red Cross. She worked aboard the Britannic, which was the third and last of the Olympic-class ocean liners and had been repurposed into a hospital ship. In 1916, the vessel suffered damage from a mine explosion and sank in the Aegean Sea. For the third time in five years, Violet Jessop had survived a shipwreck, retroactively earning her the nickname “Miss Unsinkable.”

4. The Opposing Graves

Just outside the Belgian town of Mons sits the St. Symphorien Military Cemetery which serves as the final resting place for over 500 soldiers who died in the First World War.

Many of these men perished in the Battle of Mons which took place on August 23, 1914, and is considered to be the first major action of the British army in the war. One of these men, however, died a little earlier. John Parr was a private who was born in London and lied about his age so he could enlist. He served as a reconnaissance cyclist and scouted the area ahead of his battalion. However, he was gunned down by enemy fire and died on August 21, at only 17 years of age. He is generally considered to be the first British serviceman killed in action during the First World War.

His grave is at St. Symphorien and opposite of it, just a few yards away, is the grave of Private George Ellison. He died years later on November 11, 1918. This date is significant because it is, in fact, the day that Germany and the Allies signed an armistice, bringing an end to the war. George Ellison was killed just 90 minutes before peace was declared, thus giving him the unfortunate distinction of being the last British soldier killed in the war.

These two graves face each other, although this was done completely unintentionally as nobody was aware of their “first” and “last” positions when they were buried.

3. Death at Hoover Dam

The Hoover Dam was one of the greatest, most ambitious engineering projects of its day, but it came with a heavy price as a lot of people died during construction.

Exactly how many is a matter of debate. Officially, the death toll was 96, but historians argue that the real number would be much higher because the official version didn’t take into account workers who died off-site of construction-related injuries or illnesses. An inquiry by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation increased the number to 213 deaths between 1921 and 1935.

The first fatality was a surveyor named John Gregory Tierney who drowned in the Colorado River on December 20, 1921, after he got caught in a flash flood. Technically, another worker named Harold Connelly died first, but his demise was completely unconnected with the project as he drowned in the river when he went swimming.

Here is the truly tragic part – the last fatality registered during construction of the Hoover Dam occurred on December 20, 1935, exactly 14 years to the day after Tierney drowned, when a 25-year-old electrician’s helper plummeted 320 feet from one of the intake towers. That man was Patrick Tierney, the surveyor’s son.

2. The King and His Double

Some say that we all have a doppelganger somewhere in the world, a person who isn’t related to us in any way but they look just like us. King Umberto I of Italy found his doppelganger in 1900 when he went to eat at a little restaurant in Monza. He discovered that the proprietor looked almost exactly like him but, more than that, they had been born on the same day.

At this point, you would think this was more a case of twins separated at birth, but the coincidences did not stop there. Both men had married women named Margherita and had sons named Vittorio. Moreover, the restaurant owner had opened his establishment the day of King Umberto’s coronation.

Shocked to his core by these revelations, the king invited his doppelganger or long-lost twin to an event taking place the next day. Sadly, neither one made it. The next morning, the restaurateur was killed under unexplained conditions. Just hours later, when King Umberto found out about his demise, he was assassinated by an anarchist named Gaetano Bresci.

1. The Writer and the Comet

The life of American writer Mark Twain has been inexorably linked to the passing of Halley’s Comet from beginning to end.

This famous comet visits us every 75 to 76 years. It will next be visible in 2061, but a noteworthy appearance happened in November 1835. Just two weeks after its perihelion (meaning the point of its orbit which is closest to the Sun), Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born in Florida, Missouri. He would go on to adopt the pen name Mark Twain and become America’s most celebrated author.

Throughout his life, Twain took a keen interest in science and he was well-aware of his connection to Halley’s Comet. In the early 20th century, the writer was getting on in years and knew that the end was near. However, he also knew that the comet was due to pass by Earth again soon, and he was convinced that he would not die before that happened. As he put it: “Now there are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.”

He could not have been more right. Mark Twain died on April 21, 1910, just one day after Halley’s Comet reached its perihelion.


Chance Fluke Luck Quirk Random

Historical Coincidences

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 101

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 101

…”I don’t know what I love, been chasing after the brass ring so long, I have lost track of my North Star.”

Roy points to the early night sky and Polaris, the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor…

north-star

“I have been avoiding my fiancée, some boring media banquet he wanted me to go to. Sometimes he treats me like a station commodity, not a future wife.”

“It sounds like you don’t see things his way.” Roy dares to test her loyalty.

“We are speaking different languages these days” True feelings bubble to the surface. “I think I have become his pet project, but that’s why I have a talent agent wedding-invite-001and I have no need of two.”

“Have you set a wedding date,” he forces the issue?

“A date, we’ve had 4 June dates and counting; not in the same year and I have managed to tiptoe into July every time,” like it is a Girl Scout badge. “Aren’t you going to ask me if I love him? I don’t know what I love, been chasing after the brass ring so long, I have lost track of my North Star.”

Roy points to the early night sky and Polaris, the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor.

Francine nods and goes on,“He has done a lot for me, but we are losing touch, both kinds.”

“Sometimes that happens,” like Roy has ever been serious about a girl since his high school physics teacher.

interuptus

Deke and Gus choose this moment to settle a dispute, “Didn’t you choose Mom & Dad to go to Mars because they were the best astronauts for the job? Bobby says that his Dad told him that it was for advertising.publicity-stunt

“That would be a publicity stunt, Gus and no that is false. A husband/wife team was first put on the table years ago,” Roy directs his recollection at Bobby.

“My father said they flat-out screwed up,” another 15 year old’s blather.

Francine steps in, “I think your father should get his facts straight! Who is he to say something like that?”

talk-bubble-001Roy leans over to whisper in her ear. “His father is the chairman of the Senate Space Appropriation Committee.”

“Then he needs to get his facts straight, nobody screwed up here.”

“What Miss Bouchette means is that the Senator from Oklahoma needs to reconsider his position, pending the results of our internal investigation.” He puts his arm around Bobby’s scrawny neck. “The entire world is rallying in support of Gus’ Mom & Dad.”

“THE 1st people on Mars and we are damned proud of them!!!” punctuates Deke, who has been encouraged never to swear… but there are exceptions.

Endless Space Video Game

Adolescent squabbles are best settled over high-tech video consoles. Bobby apologizes to the adults and off they go to the house.

“Thank you for defending Sampson & Celeste with such vigor.”

“I hope to have the privilege of meeting them soon,” she is sincere.

“I’ll hold you to that.”


THE RETURN TRIP

my-project-23-001

Episode 101


page 96

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 97

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 97

While Gus is wondering what gift Francine has brought, the slightly elder brother is more interested in the bada-bing…

chocolate_birthday-cake__five__abstract_pastel_painting_by_carol_engles

Chocolate Birthday Cake abstract pastel painting by Carol Engles

“You have a Texas-sized thirst Miss Francine!” the bartender comments.

“Thank you and I will be back later,” she draws a deep breath and heads toward the mountain of gifts.

Like fire ants in a rainstorm, the McKinney boys are getting closer to the nest. Gus has spotted the pile of presents and Francine to boot, “Hey Deke, look who’s here!”

She was the only person who could steal the spotlight from Uncle Roy.

“Holy cow Gus, did you invite her?” Deke looks for some glass reflection to finger-comb his hair . “You have guts Gus!. Boy, she is prettier in person than she is on TV.” bada-bing-001While Gus is wondering what gift she has bada-bingbrought, the slightly elder brother is more interested in the bada-bing.

Francine places her gift carefully to one side of the growing pile, trying to act naturally in spite of her nerves, anxiety caused at the sight of Uncle Roy.

Said Crippen is in the midst of a reenactment, perhaps the tackling form he used on Gherkin Dogman or whatever his name was. “Notice how square my shoulders are to the target, head up, all the time driving my legs.” He sounds like a football coach speaking to Pony League footballers, when in fact he was using the demonstration as a diversionary tool… after all Francine was here, what now?

He takes his Camelhair sport coat back from the woman who was holding it for him, thanking her over-politely to convey the fact that they were not indeed here together, should Francine even notice; who, having seen the exchange peripherally and pretending not to.

Related image

This pointless posturing went on for 15 minutes as each waited for the other to crack. It is an unfortunate distance for them to be separated by, after all it’s not like they are ex’s of the other.

That they are not alone or free to interact in a more private setting isn’t helping. Not knowing what the other is thinking does factor in the standoff. Separately and together, she and he play it oh-so-kool, willing to allow randomness to take its course.

Image result for winkRelated imageImage result for winkRelated imageRelated image


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 97


page 92

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 75

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 75

CHAPTER FIVE

Change-up

“Queen Francine” – the egotistical, self-serving, superficial diva, has been bent on clawing to the top of the competitive field of broadcast journalism…

queen-of-hearts-carved-artwork

The Queen of Hearts Red Artwork carved from Mangowood

 Personality (noun)  per’son’al’i’ty

  1. somebody’s set of characteristics
  2. characteristics making someone appealing
  3. somebody regarded as epitomizing traits
  4. famous person
  5. unusual person
  6. quality of being person
  7. personal comment
  8. distinguishing characteristics 

ediitors-noteDefinition provided by Dictionary.com,

 

It would seem that the Francine Bouchette, before Roy Crippen met her, has these
traits…

  1. best friend is a mirror
  2. has a phantom fiancee
  3. co-anchors avoid if they can
  4. treats interns like indentured servants
  5. gives scriptwriters fits

… is not one and the same. Roy Crippen has yet to meet that woman, though he wonders about her obsession with “exclusives”.

Indeed, there is no reconciling the definition with the facts, though there is plenty Francine in the first. The dedicated, concerned, sacrificial person, currently operating in the name of humanitarian justice, now working with NASA, is dichotomous when placed side-by-side with the egotistical, self-serving, superficial diva, bent on clawing to the top of the competitive field of broadcast journalism.

Francine Bouchette is truly a personality in every sense of the word. But as she prepares to continue the fresh quest to aid in the rescue of Sampson & Celeste McKinney, mercilessly stranded on Mars, the least desirable aspects of Queen Francine have been tabled; at least for now {and longer if the rest of Houston gets a vote}.

***Contrast this with the following glimpse of what is going on inside, the otherwise occupied, Roy Crippen’s analytical mind:

‘She is quite a lady. With her knack for getting to the heart of a story, I am surprised thinkershe’s not working for network news. She is ten times better than that Elle Fanning on Sixty Minutes. Boy, she tried do a piece on the Colony and by the time she was through asking dumb nonsensical questions or sticking her nose where it didn’t belong, I had had enough. The damnedest thing is that her misrepresentation of the project almost did as much damage as the accident that destroyed it… I wonder why she never married? She is as gutsy as they come, pretty as a picture and probably financially secure, what could be her downside?’

***The following is what Francine is thinking, during her time of frank introspection:

‘I’m not the person that I was yesterday, this whole experience with Roy has made me think, what kind of person is he looking to share the rest of his life with?… All the years I’ve wasted, mistreating everyone from United States Senators down to kids that may be looking up at her as role model…What has changed all of a sudden? Is it just because I am falling for some good looking science guy, probably goes to Star Trek Conventions and is what, 12 maybe 15 years older than me? What would people think? And how many people must I trample to get where I want?’

Enough of these long winded thoughts; it is time to focus on the successful launch of the new/improved deep-space New Mayflower!


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 75


page 70

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 68

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 68

…Suddenly, like a husband forgetting to tell his wife that his boss and wife are coming to dinner at 6:00 {it’s 5:30}, Roy Crippen’s ears go flush with an influx of warm blood...

Clarity by Natalie Rye

****What if this whole nightmare was a deliberate and calculated plot that is still playing out? Just how far will jealous enemies, like the unified Korea or Talibanistan, go to prevent such an ambitious venture as Space Colony 1 from achieving success.****

SOCIAL MEDIA NIGHTMARE

And then there is the matter of the informant who breached security to leak this embarrassing story to Houston and the World. Were it not for Francine Bouchette’s conscience and cooperation, it would have turned into a social media nightmare, with rumors turning into lies turning into panic.

And just how many details of the New Mayflower’s coming launch are out there, to be used for nefarious intent?

Suddenly, like a husband forgetting to tell his wife that his boss and wife are coming to ah-ha-momentdinner at 6:00 {it’s 5:30}, Roy Crippen’s ears go flush with an influx of warm blood. Reporter Bouchette had mentioned that the informant had an accent peculiar to the Himalaya region. Most everything the informer told her was accurate, as if an insider were involved.

THE SPATIAL DEBRIS MONITOR! That supposed Nepalese technician replaced his friend Phil Jansky, who died from a sudden brain hemorrhage. Some guy named Shah Gherkin is all he can recall from the heat of the mission run-out.

He takes a quick look at the countdown clock; t-minus 3:00.00 with still time to act on a hunch.

“I need to speak with Francine Bouchette from KHST Houston,” he demands of the Braden King.

Francine was in the midst of preparing for the Ten O’clock, but responds tout de suite, upon hearing who was calling her. Coincidentally she had been trying to contact him, ever since her afternoon exclusive but was unable to get through.

columncolumn2“I am so glad you called Mr. Crippen; I’ve been trying………”

“I am sorry for interrupting, but I would like to meet you at the Galveston Launch Facility in 15 minutes. This is concerning our, I mean your informant.”

“Can I possibly get there in 15 minutes?” she ponders how she can go 50 miles in that short time.

“I’ll have an F-77A scrambled for you at Hobby Airport; you’ll be cleared at the gate.”

KHST is located on Houston’s far southwest side. “I have a better idea, I can get to you quicker if I drive, and you clear I-45 for me, meet me at the GLF gate.”

He relents to her plan, while she only has time to grab her purse and streak to the parking lot, “I won’t be able to do the 10 o’clock,” is the only explanation she gives to the producer on the way out of the newsroom.

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THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 68


page 63

Niggling, Nagging, Lasting Mythoi – WIF Myths & Legends

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Universal Myths

That Persist

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

10. Time

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

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

9. Astrology

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

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

8. Curses

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

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

7. Supernatural Beings

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

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

6. Dying Gods

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

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

5. The Flood Stories

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

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

4. Megalithic Myths

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

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

3. Omens

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

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

2. Creation

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

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

1. Afterlife

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

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


Niggling, Nagging, Lasting Mythoi

WIF Myths & Legends

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 59

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 59

…The wave of rage in the McKinney boys subsides, washing back into the Sea of Frustration…

frustration

Sea of Frustration by Carl Russell

The McKinney siblings are beside themselves when a frenzied Braden King storms into the room. He had hoped to break the bad news in his own way, not by a flat footed surprise from a television station.mckinneys-of-space-001

15 or 16 year old boys are not famously effusive with their outward expressions, but they both run to their surrogate parent (King). He douses the televiewer, now rampant with Space Colony speculating speculators; the fact that their Mom & Dad out there on Mars, for the love of God.

Gus grabs the controller/headset from Braden and out of sheer frustration fires it toward the video screen. The irregularly shaped wireless object glances off the target, breaking into pieces, coming out on the short end of the impact.

Not satisfied, the younger McKinney makes a run at a vase for another crack at it, but his efforts are thwarted by Deke, who tackles with a good form tackle from around his thighs, “Mom and Dad are not dead Gus, so cool your jets!”

The wave of rage subsides, washing back into the Sea of Frustration. In the calm waters of the moment, each of the three seeks comfort in their own way: If no man is an island, then why is grief so singular a burden.At the sight of emergent strength and character in young Deke, King lets the scene play out.

How proud Sampson would be, to know that his oldest boy is asserting himself with levelheaded self-control. A tear breaks loose from the outside corner of the guardian’s eye, the thought of father & son separated by fate and space.


THE RETURN TRIP

frustration2

by Michelle L. Boettcher (Frustration, although quite painful at times, is a very positive and essential part of growing up)

Episode 59


page 56

U Gotta Have This – WIF Consumer Corner

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Marketing Campaigns

That Went

Horribly Wrong

Marketing is definitely not a science. They can teach it in school, people can claim to be experts in it, but sometimes even the most successful businesses and brands drop the ball in absolutely stunning ways. A good campaign is a rare thing, and it inspires consumers to go out and consume your products. Most campaigns are perhaps effective but forgettable at the same time. And then a select few are bungled so badly that they’ll be talked about for years to come and used as examples of what you should never, ever do. Like these:

10. Aqua Teen Hunger Force Bomb Scare

It’s a good rule of thumb that if your advertising campaign immediately invokes a police response because people think you placed improvised explosive devices around the city you’ve done something wrong. This was the case in 2007 with a guerrilla marketing campaign for the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie in Boston. Turner Broadcasting took responsibility for a series of LED light displays that were placed on buildings depicting the Mooninites characters. For whatever reason, when people saw these with their hastily wired and powered frames, complete with some electrical tape and exposed wiring, they determined it must have been a terror attack in the making.

Word is that it took the intervention of a staffer at the Boston mayor’s office before law enforcement officials even realized what was going on. Because everyone who had fallen under the impression that these were explosives was too old to know what Aqua Teen Hunger Force was, only this young staffer was able to point out that this was a cartoon character everyone was getting so worked up about. The whole debacle was labelled a bomb hoax even though no one was implying there were any bombs anywhere and while it did garner some attention, it was probably not what the producers of the show were hoping for.

9. Miracle Mattress’s 9/11 Nightmare

Every year in September we remember the events of 9/11, and often businesses will do something to commemorate the somber occasion. In 2016, Miracle Mattress in Texas decided that their best method of memorializing the events of September 11th would be to have a twin tower mattress sale, complete with a commercial in which two employees fall backwards into twin towers of mattresses, knocking them over. It was arguably one of the most tone-deaf advertising campaigns in the history of advertising. If there’s one rule that most companies will go by, it’s not to make comedy out of tragic loss of human life, especially for the sake of making a few dollars off of a mattress.

The backlash was fairly severe. The owner of the company issued a statement apologizing for what happened, claiming that the commercial had been done by one single location without his approval. The woman featured in the commercial made a tearful apology video but the damage was clearly done at that point.

8. The McAfrika Mistake

A fresh, tasty pita topped with seasoned beef, cheese, and tomatoes sure does sound tasty, and that’s what McDonald’s thought in the year 2002 when they released it in Norway as the McAfrika. That proved to be a very bad move.

While Norway no doubt had consumers eager to eat the tasty snack, the fact that a terrible famine gripped Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi and many other African nations at that very same moment made it a case of utterly abysmal timing.

Despite widespread criticism for being insensitive, McDonald’s did not stop selling the burger and kept it on sale for as long as they’d intended. Their concession was to allow charities to collect for African famine aid at McDonald’s locations at the same time. Proving that McDonald’s was really adamant about digging their heels in, they even re-released the McAfrika six years later to support the Olympics and got the same negative feedback a second time.

7. Toyota Stalker

A good sign that your marketing campaign has gone off the rails is when a court allows a person to proceed with a $10 million lawsuit against your company for cyberstalking. That’s exactly what happened to Toyota with their guerilla “stalking” campaign.

It started when Amber Duick got a random email from a guy named Sebastian Bowler. Amber lived in LA and it seemed that Sebastian was from the UK. He emailed letting her know he was coming to visit. Amber had no idea who he was and just ignored it as spam. The next day he emailed her again, dropping her home address in the email, saying that he was coming to lay low. He was also bringing his pitbull, who had a problem with vomiting.

Sebastian continued sending daily emails to Amber, each one from a location slightly closer to her home. The emails detailed how he was trying to avoid the police as he road-tripped across America (in a Toyota Matrix, of course) to her home. Once she even got an email from a motel where Sebastian had apparently stayed, giving her a bill for a room the man had trashed. As it turns out, it was all a “prank” orchestrated by Toyota.

Toyota claimed Duick had agreed to be a part of an “experience” while she claimed she had no idea this was going to happen to her and suffered serious emotional distress. How did it end? Settled out of court.

6. Spotify’s Murder Doll

You can make a solid argument that this Spotify commercial is actually a really good commercial, but it still got banned in the UK. The commercial features the Camila Cabello song “Havana” and a creepy little doll that apparently murders people whenever the song comes on. It’s filmed in much the same style as a horror movie, with quick flashes of the scary doll and people screaming as it stalks them through a house.

The problem with the ad was that it was deemed to be too scary, which you could argue is a compliment, but it still makes it a fail at the same time. The Advertising Standards Authority ruled that while they understood it was a parody of the horror genre, it was still likely to cause undue stress to children who saw it, and so the ad had to be removed.

5. Pepsi’s Harrier Jet

Humor is a tricky thing, and what one person finds funny another person will find offensive. What one person thinks is a joke another may take very seriously. Pepsi learned this the hard way back in 1996.

In 1996, Pepsi ran a campaign where customers could collect Pepsi Points and exchange them for swag like t-shirts or hats. The more Pepsi Points you collected, the better swag you could get. And in their commercial they tossed in a joke about how if you collected seven million Pepsi Points they would hook you up with a Harrier jet. John Leonard thought that sounded like a great deal. The fine print on the contest said that you could buy Pepsi Points for just $0.10 a piece without any purchase required of Pepsi products. That meant a Harrier jet was only going to set you back $700,000.

While Pepsi obviously meant this as a joke, assuming no one would ever actually collect seven million Pepsi Points, Leonard figured this was a sound investment because the Harrier jet normally came with a price tag of about $23 million at the time. So the 21-year-old found five investors to front him $700,000 and he sent it off to Pepsi to await his jet. Obviously this didn’t work out and a lawsuit came of it, which Pepsi ended up winning after a judge decided that no reasonable person could have believed Pepsi was going to hand over a multimillion-dollar machine of war in exchange for buying soft drinks. Still, they learned their lesson and when they ran the campaign later on they changed it from seven million points to 700 million points.

4. IKEA’s Pee Coupon

Everyone likes a coupon, and it’s hard to think of new ways to innovate getting those to customers. Leave it to IKEA to be ahead of the pack. In 2018, the Swedish company rolled out an ad featuring a picture of a crib. The text read “peeing on this ad could change your life.” So right away they clearly did something a little odd here.

The idea behind this was that if you were pregnant, you could get 50% off the crib. How could you prove you were pregnant? The ad doubles as a home pregnancy test, so that if a woman did in fact urinate on it and it proved she was pregnant, then the coupon for the crib would appear. On the one hand, it is very innovative, and on the other hand you have to urinate on it and then bring it to a store and give it to someone. While the ad campaign actually was praised for being so creative, the fact remains that it was literally asking you to bring a urine-soaked advertisement from your home to a store to give to some hapless cashier who would then have to perhaps file it away somewhere.

3. Vitamin Water Gets Offensive

Snapple really pioneered the idea of having cute little phrases inside their bottle caps. Unfortunately, not every company is able to replicate that same idea. Vitamin Water in Canada tried a similar marketing gimmick by printing messages inside of their bottles. In Canada there are two official languages and that means messages would have to be printed in English and in French. This worked out poorly when a customer popped open one of their bottles and found the message “you retard” inside.

The Edmonton woman who opened that particular bottle has a sister with cerebral palsy, which made the insulting message all the worse. She assumed it was some kind of prank, but it turned out to just be a very poorly managed linguistic contest. Coca-Cola, which owns Vitamin Water, had been printing one English word and one French word inside the bottles caps. In French the word “retard” translates as “late.” But when an English-speaking person is getting that message, paired with the English word “you,” there’s no particularly satisfying explanation for why it happens.

2. LifeLock’s Social Security Bungle

Few things are more embarrassing than smugly proclaiming you can do something better than anyone else and immediately learning how wrong you are. The CEO of LifeLock learned this in the hardest and worst way ever.

In 2006, in an effort to show off just how great their personal identity theft security system was, the CEO of LifeLock published his social security number in advertisements. The idea was to show off how utterly secure their system could make you. It should come as a surprise to absolutely no one that since then his identity has been stolen at least 13 different times. Adding insult to injury, the company was also slapped with a $12 million lawsuit for false advertising since all that identity theft proved their system did not do what they said it could do.

1. Heineken Gets Called Out for Racism

In 2018 Chance the Rapper took to Twitter to call out a commercial from Heineken that he felt was being explicitly racist. The commercial, which uses the slogan “sometimes lighter is better,” featured a bartender sliding a bottle of Heineken to a woman who looks like she really needs a drink. So far, so good. The problem was when you combine the “sometimes lighter is better” slogan with the visuals in the commercial.

The bartender was light-skinned, the woman who receives the beer is light-skinned, and everyone else is not. The beer slides down the bar past no less than three visibly dark-skinned people before it gets to the woman who drinks it. Now maybe it was only Heineken’s intention to be discussing the shade of the beer, but their casting choices made race become a prominent issue.


U Gotta Have This

WIF Consumer Corner

Did You Hear About the…? – WIF Urban Legend

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Strange – World

As a species, human beings share a love of stories. Some are based on real events. Others are pure fiction, and in some cases the line between the two can be blurred or uncertain.

Urban legends tend to fall into the latter category, but they can be found in some form in every culture and society.

These are 10 examples of some of the stranger urban legends to be found.

10. Killer Electric Fans

South Korea is amongst the most scientifically advanced nations on the planet. Despite this it’s also home to a peculiar modern day urban legend that has little or no scientific support.

Some South Koreans believe that leaving an electric fan switched on overnight can be fatal. It’s not entirely inconceivable that an electric fan might on very rare occasions malfunction and catch fire, but this isn’t what believers are worried about. The fear is that anybody who goes to sleep in a closed room with an electric fan running might never wake up.

While this particular urban legend is almost entirely unique to South Korea, and while there’s very little evidence to back it up, it’s none the less prevalent enough that even major fan manufacturers issue warnings not to leave fans pointed at people overnight.

It seems that the roots of this particular urban legend can be traced back to 1927, when an article was published warning that electric fans circulating stale air could lead to nausea or even suffocation.

9. The Zambezi River God

In 1955 an Italian construction firm began work on the Kariba Dam on Zimbabwe’s Zambezi River. It would produce huge amounts of hydroelectric power, but at the cost of forcing thousands of locals from their homes and their land.

Some warned that the Zambezi River God would be angered into unleashing floods and dire retribution. This serpent-like creature known as Nyaminyami is said to inhabit Lake Kariba and act as protector of the Tongan people.

The Kariba Dam engineers weren’t concerned. The giant structure’s defenses were designed to withstand anything up to a once-in-a-thousand-year flood.

Despite their confidence, in 1957 the dam was hit by that thousand-year storm. Damage was extensive and several Italian construction workers were killed. Construction was delayed by several months until work could begin again.

In defiance of all their calculations a second even larger flood followed just one year later. Several more workers were killed, their bodies falling into the dam’s still-setting cement from where they could not be recovered.

Construction of the dam was finally completed, but not before 82 construction workers had lost their lives. Some believe the completed dam has cut the Zambezi River God off from his wife, and that even to this day he is working to destroy it.

If so then he seems to be making progress. Engineers warn that the Kariba Dam is now in dire need of extensive repairs and at risk of collapsing entirely, with catastrophic consequences.

8. Spring-Heeled Jack

With a population in excess of two million people, 1830s London was the most populous city in the world. It was a global hub of science, invention, and innovation, and in 1829 it introduced the first professional police force anywhere in the world.

Despite all this London was a city in the grip of fear. A mysterious figure was attacking young women across the city, and the police seemed powerless to apprehend him.

It wasn’t even clear if the menace was human. Eyewitnesses reported him as having a demonic appearance, the ability to spit flames, and even leap huge distances in one bound. He came to be known as Spring-heeled Jack.

Mass hysteria presumably played a part, but fear of Spring-heeled Jack was very real. The newspapers, who knew a juicy story when they saw it, were only too happy to run articles on this shadowy character.

In 1838 a man named Thomas Millbank, somewhat worse for wear in a London tavern, boasted that he was none other than the mysterious Spring-heeled Jack. He was promptly arrested for the attack on a victim named Jane Alsop. However, he soon had to be released. Jane Alsop remained adamant that her assailant had breathed flames. If Millbank had indeed been able to manifest this ability, he stubbornly refused to do so.

Whether there ever was a single real person behind the legend of Spring-heeled Jack is difficult to say for sure, but the legend lives on and occasional sightings continue to be reported even to this day.

7. The Black Bird of Chernobyl

The mere mention of Chernobyl is enough to conjure up feelings of unease. The name is inextricably linked to the worst nuclear accident the world has ever seen, and it’s seared into our collective consciousness as something dark and terrifying.

Most people know the story well enough. A nuclear reactor in the Soviet power plant melted down, and only good fortune and heroism prevented a far greater disaster that would have rendered much of Europe uninhabitable.

The supernatural aspect of the story is less well known. Thousands of people were evacuated after the meltdown, but many still speak of a horrifying apparition that appeared as a harbinger of disaster.

In the weeks leading up to the catastrophe they claim to have seen a terrifying humanoid creature with huge wings, and eyes that glowed like hot coal. This airborne apparition came to be known as the Black Bird of Chernobyl.

Whether this was an urban legend created after the disaster or whether it has some basis in reality is impossible to say for certain.

6. The Deadly Drop Bear

Australia is home to some of the deadliest animals in the world. If the snakes, spiders, jellyfish, and the lethal blue-ringed octopus weren’t enough, there’s also the drop bear.

The creature is said to be a relative of the koala, but considerably less appealing. Roughly the size of a leopard or a large dog, drop bears are ambush predators.

They live in the forests where they hide in the canopy waiting for unsuspecting prey to pass beneath. Dropping from the trees they use their powerful arms and venomous bite to subdue their prey, and sometimes even attack humans.

In reality the drop bear is an urban legend created to scare and amuse tourists, and occasionally play pranks on unsuspecting journalists. Curiously enough, however, during the last Ice Age Australia was home to a carnivorous marsupial that lived and hunted from the trees, similar to the mythical drop bear.

5. Bodies in Sydney Harbor Bridge

Sydney is one of the world’s most famous cities, and it seems to be Australia’s hot spot for urban legends. If they are all to be believed then there is a secret network of tunnels beneath the streets, a hidden lake populated by giant albino eels, escaped big cats on the loose, and even a prehistoric river monster.

Other urban legends are linked to Sydney’s architecture, such as Sydney Harbor Bridge.

The bridge opened in 1932 and became famous across the world. However, its construction came at a cost in human lives. The official figures state that sixteen people were killed in falls, construction accidents, and in one case from tetanus after suffering a crushed thumb.

Local legend has it that this is not the full tally of fatal accidents. Several workers are rumored to have fallen into the structure as it was being built. Since these dead bodies would be bad for publicity, not to mention difficult and expensive to retrieve, their grisly demise may have been covered up.

4. The Wendigo

In November 2019, Gino Meekis was hunting grouse in the forests of northwest Ontario. Whilst there he heard a wailing noise unlike anything he’d encountered in more than twelve years of hunting.

Gino was sufficiently unnerved to pull out his phone and take a recording, and that subsequently sparked an online debate as to what exactly was responsible for the eerie noise.

One suggestion was a grizzly bear, but that species had never been sighted in the region. Others speculated it may have been a wendigo.

Bumping into a grizzly in the forests is dangerous, but it would be vastly favorable to an encounter with this terrifying supernatural beast.

The Wendigo of legend is said to be fifteen feet tall with a stinking, rotting, emaciated body. Its lips are tattered and bloody, and it’s haunted by a constant hunger for human flesh. The beast is constantly hunting for victims, but no matter how much it eats it can never satisfy the craving.

This monstrous creature has made its way into modern medical parlance. The thankfully rare psychological condition of Wendigo Syndrome is characterized by a desire to consume human flesh.

3. The Rock Star’s Parakeets

There are plenty of urban legends surrounding animals or beasts whose existence is questionable at best.

This one is slightly different as it concerns tens of thousands of parakeets that have made their home in London’s parks.

The parakeets definitely exist, but they equally definitely aren’t indigenous to Britain, and nobody is entirely sure where they came from.

One popular suggestion is that Jimi Hendrix is responsible. He’s said to have released two of the birds, Adam and Eve, into the skies of London whilst stoned in 1968. The multitude of parrots now resident in England are said to be descendants of this first pair.

The idea has even been investigated by researchers at Queen Mary University. Unfortunately, whilst it’s possible that Hendrix may have added to the parakeet population, they concluded the birds are too widespread to all be descended from a single pair.

2. Aka Manto

The yokai are a group of supernatural beings and monsters that populate Japanese folklore. Varied in their appearance and temperament, some are benevolent, others are cruel, and one has an unusual predilection for women’s bathrooms.

Descriptions of Aka Manto’s appearance varies, but he is always depicted as wearing a mask and a red cape. The supernatural being is said to periodically appear in public or school toilets offering the occupier a choice between red and blue toilet paper.

Neither of these is a good option. Choosing the blue paper results in being strangled to death, but opting for the red paper is no better and leads to death by laceration.

Aka Manto is also wise to anyone who might try to trick their way past him by requesting different colored toilet paper to the ones he offered. Their fate is to be dragged off to the underworld and never seen again.

Fortunately, all is not lost. Politely declining Aka Manto’s offer of toilet paper will cause him to leave in search of another potential victim.

The legend of Aka Manto can be traced back to at least the 1930s, and he’s said to be still haunting public toilets to this day.

1. NASA’s Billion Dollar Pen

In 1957 the Soviet Union launched the first ever satellite into space. It didn’t do anything other than whizz around the planet emitting regular beeps, but it was sufficient to spark a hugely expensive space race with the United States of America.

America would claim victory by landing men on the moon in 1969, but there were a huge number of challenges to overcome before that point could be reached.

Even something as simple as writing proved to be problematic in space. It turned out that regular pens just didn’t work in zero gravity.

The American response was to begin a lengthy research project and sink billions of dollars into a solution. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union took a cheaper but far more straightforward approach and used pencils instead.

Many people are aware of this story, but it’s not actually true. It’s an example of a particularly successful urban myth, one that’s now so firmly embedded in our collective psyche it’s unlikely to ever go away.

The reality is that the American space program, just like the Soviet one, initially switched to using pencils. When a pen was developed that could be used in space, it was designed independently of the U.S. Government or military by an inventor named Paul C. Fisher.

NASA approved them for use in space and purchased a grand total of 400 of them at the modest price of $2.95 each. The Soviet space agency bought some too.


Did You Hear About the…?

WIF Urban Legends

Masquerade Merrymaking – WIF Into History

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Infamous Impostors

in History

For most of us, the idea of pretending to be someone else day in and day out sounds exhausting, if not impossible. Not for everyone, though. Some people slip into a new identity as easily as you slip into a new pair of shoes. In fact, history is full of impostors who donned new guises and successfully pretended to be someone else entirely for money, power, or, in some cases, just for fun.

8. Lord Gordon-Gordon

The real name of Lord Gordon-Gordon is lost to history, but we know that he was a 19th century British con man who was successful in impersonating a Scottish landowner. He swindled many people, most notable being one of the richest men in America, the notorious railroad magnate Jay Gould.

When the con man decided to adopt the guise of a Scottish aristocrat around 1868, he became Lord Glencairn in London. With the right look and the proper demeanor, he slowly gained the trust of others and persuaded them to grant him money loans or services on credit. When the fraud was exposed in 1870, Lord Glencairn disappeared from London and Lord Gordon-Gordon emerged in America.

There, he was even more successful as real Scottish lords were few and far between. He was aided by the fact that Gordon-Gordon was able to deposit tens of thousands of dollars in a bank. It was the money left over from his British swindles, but it instantly gave him credibility.

He settled in Minnesota and announced his intention to invest in railroads. This way, he made the acquaintance of Jay Gould and convinced him that he owned a lot of stock in the Erie Railroad. Keen to do business together, Gould gave him half a million dollars as a sign of good faith – some in money, the rest in stock. This was intended as a guarantee – Lord Gordon-Gordon was only supposed to hold onto the money, not spend it. However, when he began selling stock shares, Gould realized he had been swindled. The industrialist tried to settle matters in court, but the “lord” fled to Canada.

This almost caused an international incident as Gould’s associates crossed the border and tried to kidnap Gordon-Gordon to bring him to justice. They were caught and arrested and a U.S. militia wanted to invade Canada to secure their release.

The con man thought himself safe in Canada, but authorities eventually decided to extradite him. Not wanting to face prison, Lord Gordon-Gordon shot himself on August 1, 1874.

7. Wilhelm Voigt

On October 16, 1906, a German captain walked into an army barracks in Berlin and commandeered ten soldiers who accompanied him by train to the town of Köpenick east of the capital. There, the captain placed the mayor and the treasurer under arrest for embezzlement and confiscated over 4,000 marks from the local treasury as evidence. At first, this sounded like a typical corruption bust, but there was a catch – the “army captain” was just some guy dressed in uniform who changed in his civilian clothes and left with the money.

His name was Wilhelm Voigt. In his late 50s at that time, he had spent half his adult life in and out of prison for various crimes. In 1906, he assembled a full captain’s uniform by buying various used parts from different shops around Berlin. He looked, walked and talked like an officer and, for German soldiers, that was enough apparently. They followed his orders without question, even the sergeant who allowed his men to travel with Voigt.

The impostor was caught ten days after his impersonation and was sentenced to four years in prison. However, unlike most other con men, Voigt’s brazen actions amused the public, both in the German Empire and abroad. He became regarded more as a folk hero than a criminal and Kaiser Wilhelm II pardoned him after two years.

Voigt was keen to take advantage of his newfound popularity and began making appearances in theaters, restaurants, amusement parks, and wherever else he was welcomed. Decades later, the memorable affair even became the subject of a play called “The Captain of Köpenick.”

6. John Deydras

One day in 1318, a one-eared man walked into Beaumont Palace in Oxford and declared himself to be the true Edward II and, therefore, the rightful King of England.

This man’s name was John Deydras, sometimes recorded as John of Powderham, and all we know about his past is that he worked as a clerk and may have been the son of a tanner. According to his story, though, he was actually the son of Edward I, better known as Edward Longshanks. However, when he was an infant, a sow bit off his ear while he was playing in the castle courtyard. Fearing that she would be severely punished for her carelessness, his nanny substituted him with another boy from the village who ended up becoming Edward II of England.

Of course, Deydras had no proof for this wild story and modern historians opine that the man was likely mentally ill since making such an accusation was basically a death sentence back then. However, Edward II was said to have been amused by Deydras and, given that nobody took the story seriously, the king may have even wanted to spare the man and keep him as his court jester.

Unfortunately, Deydras really picked the wrong time for his little stunt. Edward was deeply unpopular at that time for his military failures against the Scots led by Robert the Bruce. Moreover, his wife, Queen Isabella, was “unspeakably annoyed” by Deydras and wanted him gone. Not surprisingly, though, she wasn’t nicknamed the She-Wolf of France for nothing.

As a result, Deydras was arrested and tortured. He confessed that the whole thing had been a lie, claiming that he had been put up to it by his cat who was actually a demon. Both man and feline were executed.

5. Cassie Chadwick

Elizabeth Bigley was a 19th century Canadian swindler who ran cons ever since she was a teenager. She started off with some minor forgery before moving to the United States where she pretended to be a clairvoyant in several different cities. She also married twice, each time under a different pseudonym, but neither marriage lasted long and, eventually, Bigley was sentenced to nine years in prison for forgery in 1889.

She was paroled in 1893 and went to Cleveland where she adopted the name Cassie Hoover. A few years later, she became Cassie Chadwick after marrying again, this time to a wealthy, respected doctor named Leroy Chadwick. This new relationship granted Cassie access to some of Ohio’s richest and most influential people and, with the unwitting help of one of her husband’s friends, Chadwick embarked on her most ambitious con.

In 1897, she took a trip to New York City. There, she met an aquaintance of Dr. Chadwick, a lawyer named James Dillon. Cassie asked him to accompany her on an errand and the man obliged. Together, they traveled to Fifth Avenue and stopped in front of one of the most lavish buildings in the entire city. It was the mansion of Andrew Carnegie, one of the richest men in the world. Chadwick went inside while Dillon waited in the carriage, puzzled over what business she could possibly have in there.

In reality, all Chadwick did was ask to speak with the head housekeeper under the pretense of checking the references of a maid she wanted to hire. She never met Carnegie, but that was irrelevant to the con – all that mattered was that she spent some time inside his house.

When she left, Dillon obviously asked about her business. Chadwick confessed that she was the illegitimate daughter of Andrew Carnegie and even showed the lawyer some promissory notes (forged, of course) worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, also mentioning that she stood to inherit millions more. She swore Dillon to secrecy, knowing full well that the attorney would tell everyone in Ohio.

Once her story was out, Chadwick found it easy to secure massive loans from every bank she walked into. She was counting on the fact that nobody would be so bold as to ask Carnegie about an illegitimate daughter and she was right…for a while. Chadwick kept her scam going for seven years. Then, in 1904, a banker demanded she pay back a loan worth almost $200,000. She was unable so the banker asked Carnegie who said he had no idea who Cassie Chadwick was. She was convicted of fraud and died in jail a few years later.

As far as Andrew Carnegie is concerned, we did an entire video about him on our sister channel, Biographics, so check the link in the description if you want to learn more about him.

4. Lambert Simnel

The death of King Edward IV of England in 1483 led to one of the most enduring mysteries in English history – the fate of his two sons, the so-called Princes in the Tower. When they were 12 and 9 years old, respectively, they were locked inside the Tower of London by their uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who took the throne for himself and became King Richard III. He was killed two years later at the Battle of Bosworth Field, putting an end not only to his reign, but also to the House of York and the Wars of the Roses. After him came Henry VII, first king from the House of Tudor.

As for the two princes, it is generally accepted that the two died in the tower, but there have been people who emerged claiming to be one or the other and, therefore, the rightful heirs to the throne.

One of these people was Lambert Simnel who, curiously, was hailed as not one, but two different heirs. As a boy, Simnel was under the care of a priest named Richard Simon who became convinced that his pupil came from royalty. At first, he proclaimed that the boy was Richard of Shrewsbury, the younger of the two princes who survived his incarceration in the tower. Later, he amended his claim, saying that Simnel was actually Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick, a different member of the House of York who had been imprisoned by King Henry VII as a young boy.

Unbeknownst to most people, Simon included, the real Edward Plantagenet was still alive inside the Tower of London and it would be over a decade until he was actually executed. However, Simon’s claim was convincing enough that Lambert Simnel was taken to Ireland where he was crowned King Edward VI and an army was raised to dethrone Henry. The two sides met in 1487 at the Battle of Stoke Field where Simnel’s supporters were decisively defeated.

Fortunately for Simnel, King Henry understood that the boy was simply a puppet used by people to rally Yorkist supporters. Therefore, he pardoned Simnel and allowed him to work in the royal kitchen. When he got older, he became a falconer before disappearing from the history record.

3. Fred Demara

Known as “the Great Impostor,” Fred Demara adopted numerous identities and spent most of his lifetime pretending to be someone else. Some of his alter egos included a psychologist, a biologist, a law student, a Trappist monk, a teacher, a dean of philosophy, a prison warden, and, most shocking of all, a naval surgeon who actually performed medical procedures during the Korean War.

It won’t surprise you to learn that we don’t know a lot of accurate information about the lifelong swindler as most of the details surrounding him were provided by Demara himself after he sold his story to Life magazine. He was born Ferdinand Waldo Demara in 1921 in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Allegedly, he had a very high IQ and a photographic memory which helped him take on identities that often required a higher education. His family started off rich, but lost it all during the Great Depression which convinced a teenage Demara to run away from home and embark on his life as a professional impostor.

It would seem that the two career paths that genuinely appealed to Demara were as a monk and a military man. He joined several monasteries and military branches throughout his life, but never lasted more than a few years in each before running away and starting over again.

When Demara joined a religious educational group known as the Brothers of Christian Instruction, he met a Canadian doctor named Joseph Cyr. He later adopted Cyr’s identity and secured a position as trauma surgeon aboard the Canadian destroyer HMCS Cayuga during the Korean War. Apparently, he was successful in performing sutures, minor surgery, and, on one occasion, even extracting a bullet from a chest wound.

After Demara became a minor celebrity in the late 1950s, he found it much harder to assume new identities. Instead, he tried living as Fred Demara and parlayed his newfound fame into a few TV appearances and even one movie role in the 1960 horror film The Hypnotic Eye.

2. George Psalmanazar

George Psalmanazar is the only known alias of a Frenchman who purported to be a native of Formosa who both dazzled and horrified 18th century London with tales from his homeland.

The man was born sometime around 1679 in southern France. Whilst traveling through Europe, he adopted the guise of an Irish pilgrim. However, people could often tell he was lying, so he decided he needed something more exotic. He then pretended to be a Japanese heathen, but later switched to something even more far-flung and claimed to be a native of the island of Formosa, known today as Taiwan. He even began practicing strange rituals and eating unusual food which was enough to convince most Europeans that he was from someplace far, far away. On his travels, he met a Scottish chaplain named Alexander Innes who “converted” him to Christianity, christened him George Psalmanazar and brought him to London.

The stranger’s story proved popular in England. He claimed to have been kidnapped from his native land by Jesuits who then imprisoned him for refusing to convert to Catholicism. This played well in a country where anti-Catholic sentiment was high, only enhanced by Psalmanazar’s conversion to Anglicanism.

In 1704, the Formosan wrote and published a book titled “An Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa, an Island Subject to the Emperor of Japan.” It was a hit, although most of the facts were either fabricated, exaggerated or taken from travel reports of other civilizations. It contained a fake language, a fake calendar, and fake religious ceremonies performed to worship the Sun and the Moon.

Most shocking were Psalmanazar’s claims of how common cannibalism and human sacrifice were in his society. According to him, the Formosan High Priest Gnotoy Bonzo commanded 18,000 boys under the age of 9 to be killed each year so that their hearts could be offered as sacrifices. The rest of their bodies were eaten. To ensure a steady supply of children, men were allowed to take on as many wives as they wanted.

Of course, the Formosan fascination only lasted a couple of years before people moved on to the next craze. This eventually prompted Psalmanazar to confess that the whole thing was a fraud, but he suffered no serious consequences for his deception. He even had admirers, most notably the playwright Samuel Johnson, who appreciated his success as an impostor.

1. The False Dmitris

The end of the 16th century brought a succession crisis in Russia known as the Time of Troubles. It started in 1598 after Fyodor I died without heirs. This prompted the appearance of several pretenders to the throne all known as False Dmitry because they all claimed to be the same person – Tsarevich Dmitry Ivanovich, the youngest son of Ivan the Terrible.

The real Dmitry died in 1591 when he was only 8 years old under controversial circumstances. He was killed by a stab wound – some say he was assassinated, others that the young prince accidentally stabbed himself during a seizure. A few years later, a third story arose purporting that the alleged assassins killed a different boy while the real Dmitry was hidden away, waiting for the opportune time to return. This version opened the door for people to come forward as the rightful heir to the throne.

The first False Dmitry appeared around 1603 in Poland-Lithuania. He was the most successful of the bunch. He gained the backing of the Polish lords and found plenty of Russian supporters as well. He raised an army and intended to challenge Tsar Boris Godunov, but there was no need for this. In 1605, Godunov died of an illness. His teenage son, Fyodor II, became the new tsar, but only lasted a couple of months before being assassinated and replaced with Dmitry.

False Dmitry reigned for almost a year, but he had his own enemies who plotted against him. One of them was Vasili Shuisky. He convinced the people of Moscow that Dmitry was planning to massacre them with the help of his Polish followers. They stormed the Kremlin and killed Dmitry and, according to legend, cremated his body and shot the ashes out of a cannon towards Poland.

Shuysky became Tsar Vasili IV. In 1607 came False Dmitry II who was accepted as the real Dmitry by Tsaritsa Marina, the wife of the first False Dmitry who, presumably, would have accepted anyone to gain back her power. He actually assembled a large army and had several military successes, but was killed in 1610 while drunk by one of his own followers.

Lastly came False Dmitry III. He gained the allegiance of the Cossacks, but was betrayed by a group who kidnapped him and took him to Moscow in 1612 where he was executed. The crisis, as well as the line of False Dmitris, ended a year later when Michael I became the new Tsar of Russia, thus beginning the 300-year reign of the House of Romanov.


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