Time Twisting Tales – WIF Perspective

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Historical Facts

That Will Alter

Your Perception

of Time

The United States remains a young country in relation to the rest of the world, its oldest shrines and historical places but recent stepping stones in the march of time. St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest continuously occupied city on the North American continent, was founded by the Spanish in 1565. That same year a Swiss physician documented an improvement over the writing sticks used since the times of the Roman Empire. Rather than using a lead stick to leave marks on papyrus, Conrad Gesner described the use of graphite encased in wood, making the humble pencil at least as old, and most likely older, than the European settlement of what became the United States. Such overlaps of history abound and many are eye-opening, to say the least.

Most people today would assume that the Japanese company Nintendo is a relatively new business entity, one of the many which were born of the video-gaming age which developed at the end of the twentieth century. In truth, Nintendo was created in Japan in 1889 as a playing card company, the year after the murders attributed to the London serial killer known as Jack the RipperNintendo is thus older than the Panama Canal, through which so many of its consoles and games are shipped to the United States and Europe. The company was born the same year as the Wall Street Journal, which today reports on its business operations, and is older by months than the statehood of both Dakotas, Montana, and Washington. It is also older, by several weeks, than the first coin-operated musical playback machine, known colloquially today as the juke box. Here are some examples of the overlap of historical events which may surprise you.

10. Oxford University in England was created before the emergence of the Aztec Empire in modern Mexico

The Aztec civilization in Mesoamerica, so often referred to as ancient, was about three centuries old when it was encountered by the Spanish explorers and conquistadores. In the early 16th century the Spanish made short work of the thriving civilization, driven by the twin desires of obtaining their gold and silver riches and by converting the natives to Christianity and servitude. By the 1530s the Aztec Empire was all but destroyed, its cities and temples converted by conquest to ruins, and the Spanish Empire was emerging as the world’s most powerful. Growing Spanish wealth and power was viewed with alarm by its European rivals, which rapidly began to find the means to rival the Spanish position in the New World. England, an island nation, became a both military and religious enemy of Catholic Spain.

English scholars were among the world’s leaders of knowledge, many of them having completed their education at Oxford, which had been conducting classes of what was then considered to be higher learning for nearly five centuries by the time Cortes and his followers arrived in Mexico. Oxford first conducted classes in 1096, only thirty years following the Battle of Hastings, one of the seminal events of the history of Britain. Born as a rival, Cambridge University existed before the Spanish conquest of Mexico as well, yet neither English school is as old as Italy’s University of Bologna. By comparison, the oldest university in the United States, Harvard, was started in 1636, well over five centuries after the first classes were conducted at Oxford, but less than a century and a half after the conquest of the Aztec Empire in Mexico.

9. Tiffany & Company is older than the nation of Italy

Italy is, in most American minds, indelibly linked with the ancient world through the ruins of the Roman Empire. Italy is viewed as a romantic destination, for centuries a land of beauty and history thrust like a discarded boot into the blue Mediterranean. While the image is justified, most Americans are astonished to learn that Italy, as a nation, is younger than the United States. In fact, Italy is younger than one of America’s own symbols of luxury and romance, the iconic jeweler Tiffany & Company, long symbolic of style, taste, and little blue boxes famous for their ability to grab the attention of one’s beloved. Less well known is that Tiffany’s was founded not in New York but in Connecticut, and not as a jeweler, but rather as a stationer in 1837. The company moved to New York the following year, and did not become firmly associated with high end jewelry for another fifteen years.

Italy, on the other hand, was a collection of rival principalities, duchies, patron states, Papal States, and other entities, as it had been since before the Napoleonic Wars and the subsequent Congress of Vienna at the time Tiffany’s first opened its doors. Italian history is far too complicated to be described in one or two paragraphs, but the basis of today’s Italian Republic did not emerge until decades (in 1861) after the New York jeweler established its reputation as the world’s final word in the profession. As of 2019, Tiffany’s operates stores in Venice, Florence, Verona, Milan, Bologna, and Rome, all of which were cities in which Italian was spoken, but which were under separate governments, at the time the company was born in the United States.

8. The Titanic sank the same month that Boston’s Fenway Park opened for business

On April 20, 1912, Boston’s mayor, John F. Fitzgerald (known as Honey Fitz around town) arrived at the brand-spanking new Fenway Park to throw out the first pitch inaugurating the park and the 1912 baseball season. Honey Fitz undoubtedly joined in the conversation which dominated the day, not the prospects for the Red Sox’s success that year, but the shocking loss of another brand new feat of construction just days before when RMS Titanic sank. The Boston club prevailed that day over the team from New York known as the Highlanders, though the newspapers paid little heed, concentrating instead on the still evolving lists of the dead and missing from the tragedy at sea.

The Titanic was soon relegated to history. Overshadowed by losses of other liners during the First World War, it was a resurgence of interest after Dr. Robert Ballard’s expedition found the wreck in 1985 that restored its myth in the public imagination. Fenway Park soon developed a mythology of its own, the home of a baseball team forever doomed by the Curse of Babe Ruth until it managed to exorcise its demons in 2004. And Honey Fitz’s name returned to fame decades later, when it was used for the presidential yacht favored by his grandson, President of the United States John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Kennedy was an experienced sailor and the former commander of a US Naval PT boat – PT 109 – lost to the Japanese during World War II. In 2002, Dr. Ballard found the wreckage of that lost vessel as well.

7. The guillotine was still in use when Jimmy Carter was President of the United States

The beheading machine known as the guillotine, long the official means of state executions in France, is often erroneously described as being the invention of Dr. Joseph Guillotin, who was himself sent to meet his maker via its descending blade. Neither is true. Guillotin neither invented the machine nor died on it. As a physician who opposed capital punishment, he nonetheless reluctantly endorsed its use in executions as being the most humane means available at the time, leading to his name being attached to the machine. Its efficiency is undoubted, as demonstrated during the French Revolution when thousands died upon it, often hundreds in a single day. Have the victim lie down, drop the blade, dispose of the headless corpse by rolling it to the side. Over the period of its use for executions, debate over whether the severed head retained consciousness for a time raged, though it was never fully resolved.

The use of the guillotine may be forever linked to the French Revolution, but it completed its purpose far more recently. The death penalty in France was abolished in 1981. In 1977 the machine saw its final use, beheading child killer Hamida Djandoubi in Marseille on September 10. At the time, Han Solo and his compatriots were dispatching Stormtroopers using blasters on movie screens around the world. There is only one documented instance of a guillotine being used in North America, on the island of Sainte Pierre in 1889, though as recently as 1996 it was proposed to augment the electric chair as the means of state sponsored executions in the American state of Georgia. The choice of which device to use was to be left to the condemned, but the matter was never taken up for a vote.

6. The bicycle evolved years after the steam engine revolutionized locomotion

The bicycle is seemingly, at least at its most basic, a simple design for self-propelled travel. In fact, in its earliest forms it was an elongated board with wheels at each end, astride of which the user moved by walking, with each thrust of alternating legs sending person and carriage forward. Braking was by using the feet, sort of like the Flintstones stopping their car. It was decades before the bicycle propelled by pedals and chain evolved. The actual date and inventor is disputed, but the system resembling the modern safety bicycle, with pedals and chain for driving the rear wheel, first appeared with regularity around 1860 in France. Safety brakes and pneumatic tires followed. By the 1890s, bicycling was considered a new sport among the genteel in Europe and America.

Locomotion driven by a steam engine, mechanically far more complex than bicycle propulsion, predated the latter by many years. The use of steam to move road vehicles was under development as early as 1800, and its use on marine vehicles was relatively common by the 1820s. The steam locomotive wasn’t far behind in development and deployment. Steam locomotion developed long before the use of bicycles as transportation was common. In truth, the far more efficient steam turbine was well into development before the safety brake made bicycling relatively safe. Despite the late start, bicycles are, by far, the most common means of conveyance available in the world today, with well over 1 billion having been manufactured, and with more added to the total daily in virtually all of the world’s nations.

5. The first man to achieve powered flight lived to see it accomplished at speeds faster than sound

In December, 1903, Orville Wright, a bicycle mechanic by trade, became the first human being to fly in a powered, heavier than air craft. The flight itself was over a distance of 120 feet, and Orville achieved a speed of about 35 miles per hour (though due to prevailing headwinds, his speed over the ground was only about 7 miles per hour). Over several more flights during the course of the day, Orville and his brother Wilbur finally achieved a distance of over 800 feet, though their speed remained relatively modest. Their experiments that day ended when the aircraft was wrecked by contrary and unpredictable winds with which they had contended all day.

Just less than 44 years later Orville Wright was understandably amazed at the progress made by aviation, which included the airplane being the supreme weapon of war, a miracle of mass transit, a device which was making the world smaller in many ways. In October, 1947, American Chuck Yeager used an airplane which was as much a missile as it was the former and became the first man to travel faster than the speed of sound. Orville had last flown as a pilot in 1918, but his entire life was active in aviation, and he was awestruck that the sound “barrier” had been broken in his lifetime. As a comparison, America first landed on the moon during the summer of 1969. Despite the predictions offered at the time regarding humanity’s future in space, since the Apollo missions no one has ventured further from the earth, and there is little promise one will in the foreseeable future.

4. The last American pensioner from the Civil War died in the 21st century

The American Civil War seems to have occurred in a distant world barely recognizable today, long before cities were linked by highways and when communications were slow and unreliable. In truth, many of the features of modern life were present, albeit in somewhat primitive forms. The telegraph, railroads, scheduled shipping connections, and other links to the present day could be found without much search. Still, the war took place more than a century and a half ago, and any links to it by the end of the 20th century were through books, or museums, or films, or preserved battlefields. Faded sepia toned photographs were thought to be as close as anyone could come to America’s greatest crisis by the time George W. Bush became President of the United States.

It is an indication of how young the United States as a nation is that the last pensioner from the American Civil War died during President Bush’s tenure in the Oval Office. It was 1956 when the last surviving veteran of the Civil War died, but the US government (and several states) continued to pay pensions to the widows of Civil War veterans, including those who married veterans years after the war ended. In the latter half of the 19th century, many young women married widowers whose wives had died, their being a shortage of marriageable young men in America in the aftermath of the war. In 2008, the last eligible widow of a Civil War veteran died. Pensions payable to surviving children and their spouses continued until at least 2017, meaning the United States was continuing to bear costs related to the Civil War over 150 years after Lee surrendered at Appomattox.

3. The Indianapolis 500 is older than the 50 star American flag (and the 48 star flag, too)

The annual motor racing event held over the Memorial Day Weekend known as the Indianapolis 500 was first run in 1911, over a racing surface paved with bricks. Ironically, most of the power used for moving and placing the bricks which were the original racing surface came from mules, with more than 300 employed to complete the project. Numerous events took place at the track in the years before the inaugural 500 mile event, including balloon races, motorcycle races, and automobile races of shorter duration. When the first 500 mile race was run in 1911, fans and participants saluted the American flag before the competition was run. Only 46 stars graced the blue field at the time.

Neither New Mexico nor Arizona were then states in the Union. They would be added the following year, leading to the creation of the 48 star flag, which flew over US territory throughout the Second World War. Later that summer of 1912 future actress, comedienne, and producer Lucille Ball was born. Another birthday that year was of John S. McCain Jr, who would rise to the rank of Admiral in the United States Navy. The son of another admiral, who commanded American aviation in the Pacific during the Second World War, he held major commands in the submarine actions against the Japanese which were so crucial in the victory against Japan. He was the father of yet another naval officer, John S. McCain III, a senator and candidate for President of the United States, who hailed from Arizona.

2. Woolly mammoths were still roaming the earth when the pyramids were built at Giza

The ruins at Giza were already ancient when they were discovered – or rather re-discovered – by ancient Roman invaders. Historians debate the impact of the pyramids on those Romans who actually saw them, as well as that on Roman society as a whole, but there is no dispute that the overall influence was substantial. The Romans had no way of dating the structures, nor of understanding their historical or archaeological influence. Nor could they grasp their religious significance. For many Romans, the ancient Egyptians became a culture which was at once legendary, mythological, and of necessity mysterious. Similar sensations were later encountered by those who discovered evidence (or in some cases the continuing existence) of ancient cultures in North America, Mesoamerica, and in the Polynesian Islands of the South Pacific.

One thing the Romans could not possibly have known was that at the time the oldest of the pyramids was built, woolly mammoths still roamed some places on earth. The great mammals, which were the antecedents of the Asian elephants, coexisted with humans for several thousand years, the last fading from earth approximately four millennia ago, at Wrangel Island, in the Arctic. The date of their final demise is several centuries after the construction of the pyramids, and though the Egyptians did not encounter them as they went about their work, the fact that they co-existed on the planet is a matter of archaeological record. Whether efforts to use DNA to reanimate, as it were, the specie will be successful is debatable, but efforts are ongoing to do just that.

1. Americans were on the moon before women in Switzerland were allowed to vote

Americans first landed on the moon in July 1969, completing a challenge thrust upon the nation by President John Kennedy in 1961 in response to Soviet progress in space. The first Americans on the moon, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, walked about their lunar base. So did Pete Conrad and Alan Bean, who followed on Apollo 12. Not until Apollo 15, in the summer of 1971, did the American astronauts do a singularly American thing. They brought a car with them, and cruised about the lunar surface in what NASA named the Lunar Roving Vehicle. Thus astronauts from the United States not only trod upon the lunar surface, they left behind tire tracks, using a vehicle which the astronauts and the public dubbed “moon buggies.”

Just a few short months before Americans drove on the moon, (during which excursions the astronauts routinely ignored speed limits imposed upon them by the sticks in the mud at NASA back on earth) Switzerland, land of chocolate and secret bank accounts, finally gave women the right to vote. An election held in October of that year (on Halloween) was the first time Swiss women were allowed to cast a ballot in federal elections. After the Americans left behind the lunar rovers used on the last three Apollo missions, several of the prototypes were given to museums for public display. After the Swiss election of October 1971, women continued to expand their voting rights and their political power in Switzerland. Americans have yet to return to the moon since Apollo 17 in late 1972. Swiss women have returned to the polls every year since 1971.


Time Twisting Tales –

WIF Perspective

Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 72

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Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 72

… Eddie’s dream Part 2…

His dream of grandeur is interrupted by murkily black figure presenting him with a pointed proposition, “You can have all of this Eddie, the fame, the adoration of your cousins, you’ll never have to pay for another beer the rest of your life,” his arms extend out for yards revealing a collage of enticing scenes, all for the gratification of a deficient human being.

“What do you ask in return for all these things?” There must be a price to pay, right?

“You will be transported back in time, before the end of the war,” one of Pentateuch’s beloved achievements (Adolf Hitler), “where you will live out a hero’s existence. All of the present day will not happen, no taxi driving around rude people, and no need of bragging or telling tales, no nagging feelings of inferiority.”

Then the other shoe drops.

“But I do require one thing… the mortal soul that you have been given.”

“My soul,” Eddie shivers in the presence of one so powerful.

“Yes, your soul, handed over for my keeping. I NEED TO KNOW NOW, Eddie Dombroski, are you with me or against me!?”

Before he is able to answer that weighty pronouncement, Eddie is violently shaken by his Mrs. Dombroski (Edie), who was wondering why her husband is wandering around the house sleepwalking.

In an instant, he remembers what he had been dreaming and it is disconcerting. He feels like he has been snatched from the jaws of a hungry predator, just short of becoming a meal.

“I must have been hungry,” he replies, knowing that he won’t be sharing this apparition any time, with any one soon.

***REMEMBER THIS WAS A DREAM SEQUENCE***

On the way back to the U of C, the CCPI band of characters…

  1.  lead vocalist Constance Caraway
  2. drummer Fanny Renwick
  3. featuring Martin Kamen on sax
  4. Willard Libby on radiocarbon base
  5. & Eddie Dombroski as the  wacky dee-jay

… make an unscheduled stop on their tour. Perhaps a stop at Argonne will give Libby a jump start.

O contraire. It turns out to be the trigger mechanism for his stillness, causing the incapacitated man to shrink even further into reclusion. Some memories must be too traumatic to overcome.

Just how much of the ordeal does he recall, or when/where is the moment of his last mental connection to the real world? He definitely has a story to tell, merely lacking the mechanism to deliver it. He has no words to put together either oral or written, to expose that 2 ton elephant in the room.


Constance Caraway P.I.

Forever Mastadon


page 68 (end Ch. 6)

Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 71

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Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 71

…Eddie D. has a dream PART 1…

That next night, while Eddie D. was back at home having finished his Elgin undertaking, with that and the rest of their doings continuing to be shielded from Pentateuch, asleep in his bed, he is given a dream.

He has a vision of himself sitting up in bed and being lead away by a comely waif. They go to an unknown place, like nothing Chicago has to offer, lofty and commanding. Below he can see himself, at some ceremony being presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Howard McGrath, the Attorney General of the United States. It seems weird, to this dreamer, that he is receiving an award for civilian service, when he is in fact a member in good standing of the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars). But in this alternate reality, he is rewarded for his heroic work in capturing foreign nationals who were threatening the nation s during the end days of WWII; Communists, Nazis, Fascists, sympathizers, spies.

“We the members of the Cabinet of the United States of America hereby award Edward Eddie's Cousins-001Francis Dombroski the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of these United States.”

All of Eddie’s many repeated stories whither in the specter of this fresh personal notoriety. Not only that and but all of his cousins were there cheering him adoringly, how cool is that?

The headlines will read:

“Chicago’s Eddie Dombroski to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Roosevelt”

He doesn’t realize that the Medal of Freedom is fairly common, as compared to the Medal of Merit or certainly the Medal of Honor, but none of those matters as Eddie is honored as a hero.

As good as that makes him feel, Eddie D. is sensing that same bone chilling cold that occupies a part of his recent memory, at North LaSalle Street and the phantom 39th Floor. ‘But I am a hero, my neighborhood is holding a block party in my honor, Mayor Kelly has declared November 12th Eddie Dombroski Day with the Key to the City and all,’ he whispers longingly.


Constance Caraway P.I.

Forever Mastadon


page 67

Sinister Ministers – Haunted Places of Worship

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Haunted

Places of Worship

Around the World

Temples, churches, mosques, shrines, synagogues, and so on are meant to protect us from evil, or at least serve as temporary refuges. Even the demonic gargoyles and grotesques on Gothic Christian cathedrals, as well as their cross-cultural counterparts, are only supposed to remind us of the forces of darkness—never to invite them inside.

And that may be why so many places of worship appear to attract ghosts, as lost, tortured souls in search of belated salvation. But some of them are allegedly haunted by worse, particularly, though not always, once they’re abandoned…

10. Ari Sephardi Synagogue, Israel

The Ari Sephardi Synagogue of Safed, the most elevated (and coldest) city in Israel, was already pretty ancient when Yitzchak Luria moved to the area in 1570. The old Jewish mystic, founder of modern Kabbalah, is said to have met with the long-dead Prophet Elijah there to discuss the mysteries of the Torah. And to this day, the tiny, cave-like room where they stood is considered a sacred spot.

But the building has also been haunted by apparently more malevolent entities. On a visit to Safed in 1921, the young Baba Sali, Rabbi Israel Abuhatzeira of Morocco, was told that demons had infested the temple. Anyone who went in, he was warned, never came out alive. In fact, things got so bad that the beadle (a kind of usher) had locked up the synagogue for good.

At first he refused to allow even the Baba Sali to get through the door, insisting the building was full of immovable corpses and that entry meant certain death. Eventually, however, the gatekeeper acquiesced—albeit begrudgingly and only to avoid obstructing his visitor’s “holy mission.” Besides, the Baba Sali assured him, the temple would be clear within minutes.

With his aide clinging to his side, the Moroccan stepped through the door and into the main synagogue, finding it filled with a strange blazing light despite the sun setting outside. Undeterred, the Baba Sali made his way to the Ark and read aloud from the Torah scroll, followed by some chants of prayer, until he felt that the danger had passed. He then invited the beadle to come through, dismissing the old man’s sheepish apologies for earlier refusing him entry. Since that time, the synagogue has been open to the public.

Still, the Ari Sephardi’s close proximity to the Safed Old Jewish Cemetery, which has graves dating back to the first century AD, as well as the devastating earthquakes that twice leveled this synagogue to the ground, all continue to uphold its formidably spooky reputation.

9. The Amherst Synagogue, USA

At the other end of the synagogue spectrum, on the surface at least, is the Amherst Synagogue in Williamsville, New York. Built in the 1980s, it remains a modern building even by American standards, with a red brick facade, large windows, and picnic tables outside; but nowadays it sits largely forgotten.

According to local rumor, the bodies of several kidnapped children were buried here, having been lured to their deaths by a mysterious man—a theory attested to by the people who claim to have seen their ghosts. One group of friends, for example, all swear they saw “a ghost child come from the ground.” Another visitor claimed they usually emerge at midnight.

The synagogue is also alleged to have been built on Native American land, hence the (admittedly dubious) photo of a phantom Indian in ceremonial garb at the site. Ghost hunters claim to have witnessed other entities too, including “a heavy set woman, something not human, and a priest or Spaniard … [with]long brown hair and a cross.” Some even say they’ve been chased away by someone or something with an axe. Suffice it to say that many visitors to the site consider it the most haunted they’ve ever been to.

Yet despite three men apparently having lost their lives during the synagogue’s construction, there’s very little information about it.

8. Oiwa-inari Tamiya Shrine, Japan

The suburbs of Tokyo are supposedly home to many vengeful ghosts, or onryo—spirits believed to be capable of causing physical harm. They’re so entrenched in the city’s mentality, in fact, that property developers sometimes forgo profits to avoid disrupting their haunts.

Perhaps the best known—thanks to numerous stage, film, book, and TV dramatizations—is the restless spirit of Oiwa, a woman killed by her cheating husband in 1636. Her ashes are meant to be buried outside the Buddhist Myogyo-ji Temple in Sugamo, where she is said to appear as a horrifically twisted, or “molten,” face in a lantern—her husband’s choice of poison having also destroyed her beauty.

According to legend, Oiwa’s onryo immediately set about destroying her husband’s remarriage from beyond the grave, forcing him to poison his new wife and family. And when she killed him off as well, her remaining relatives built a Shinto shrine to placate her ghost.

While there are justified doubts as to the truth of this story—with some claiming it was all just made up by the kabuki playwright Tsuruya Namboku IV—theatre and media companies are known to pay their respects at the Oiwa-inari shrine before embarking on any adaptation of her story, apparently to avoid fatal “accidents” during production.

7. Avebury, UK

It’s unclear whether the Avebury stone circle in Wiltshire was erected as a place of worship, but it has become one for Neopagans and Druids. Older and larger (by total area) than Stonehenge to the south, Avebury has long been steeped in magic and mystery. And, unsurprisingly perhaps, it has also seen its fair share of hauntings.

In the 1960s, for example, a passing driver claimed to see ghosts in period dress dancing among the stones. Dwarf-like creatures have also been seen here, as well as other phantom “fairy folk.” Some of the stones themselves may even be haunted; for instance, the 40-tonne “diamond stone” to the northwest of the site is said to uproot itself at midnight and cross the A4361 road, while the “devil’s chair” stone to the southeast allegedly spews black smoke.

Poltergeists are also said to be common, particularly in the cottages around Avebury that were built using sarsen stones from the site. Meanwhile, St. James’ Church, which lies entirely within the confines of the stone circle and dates back to the 11th century, is reputedly haunted by a little Victorian boy who hops up and down on a tomb by the door.

6. Doryo-do Temple Ruins, Japan

Officially, the ruined Shinto Doryo-do temple in Hachioji, Tokyo, was named for the kami(spirit) Doryo, but its ambiguous name can also mean “End of the Road Temple.”

It was built alongside a major highway during the Edo period and enjoyed regular foot traffic until the opening of the Yokohama Railway in 1908, when it fell into relative obscurity. But it gained some notoriety in 1963 when its elderly caretaker was brutally murdered—stabbed through the heart and slashed across the throat—during a robbery of the temple’s funds. Two years later, visitors began to report sightings of her ghost among the surrounding trees, as well as the sound of her weeping.

Then in 1973, a university professor lured his pregnant undergraduate mistress to the temple and strangled her to death. Since he threw himself, his wife, and two children from a cliff just months later, her body went undiscovered for some time. Allegedly, it was only when locals heard a young woman crying out “Here! I’m here!” in the woods near Doryo-do that her buried remains were found.

The temple was finally closed in 1983 and torn down in 1990. But to this day the Otsukayama site where Doryo-do once stood (and only its foundation remains) is considered “the most haunted graveyard park in Tokyo,” and possibly the whole of Japan, attracting ghost hunters and paranormal investigators from around the world to uncover the ruins’ secrets.

5. St. Botolph’s Church, UK

Named for the East Anglian patron saint of wayfarers, a man reputed to have cleared demons from swamps, St. Botolph’s Church in Lincolnshire, England, shouldn’t by rights be haunted. But for decades this abandoned 13th-century building, protected by English Heritage and the Churches Conservation Trust, has apparently been a hotspot for ghosts, ghost hunters, and alleged “Satanists.”

In the 1970s and ’80s, when Christian worship here ceased, it was even nicknamed the “Demon Church” by locals. According to the rector of nearby Louth in 2004, the isolated site had been repeatedly desecrated by devil-worshipers starting fires, sacrificing animals, and painting black satanic symbols on the masonry.

Many visitors to the site feel a sudden chill upon entering the graveyard, even on sunny days, along with a sense of doom. Some have also reported phantom footsteps and the sound of thunder, ghostly hooded monks, and the grip of icy cold hands on their own. Eerily, some of the sunken graves apparently show skeletons within.

Local investigators, the Bassetlaw Ghost Research Group, spent a night at the church in the summer of 2003. Among other things, they claim to have seen “small babies among the gravestones and grass.” They also claim to have recorded hundreds of cylindrical “rods” up to a foot in length shooting across the sky.

The site continues to attract paranormal investigators and explorers. Just last year a drone operator ran into some technical interference over the church and stuck the video on YouTube.

4. Fengdu Ghost City, China

Fengdu Ghost City sits on the bank of the Yangtze River in Chongqing, China, and comprises numerous shrines, temples, and monasteries, as well as plenty of statues of ghosts. Visitors to the site, which combines Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist elements, are invited to rehearse their own passage to the afterlife, crossing over the “Bridge of Helplessness” in their journey to the underworld—or Diyu, upon which the entire complex is modeled.

On the surface, Fengdu Ghost City is something of a quirky, if religious, theme park, showcasing the various hells and punishments that await the less pious among us. But at night, it is said to swarm with the souls of the dead who are making the journey for real.

3. Le Grand Cimetière, Haiti

Death is so firmly a part of the Haitian Vodou tradition that cemeteries become places of worship.

At le Grand Cimetière (Grand Cemetery) of Port-au-Prince, for example, services and ceremonies are held among the graves in makeshift marquee churches. People also make offerings and animal sacrifices to the loa (deity spirits) at altars scattered throughout the grounds. Some worshipers even come to bathe naked with the bones of the dead.

The tombs themselves, as well as the trees, are often covered in symbols, slogans, dolls, and other artifacts of the religion—usually in reverence of Baron Samedi, the loa of the dead and ruler of the underworld.

Naturally, le Grand Cimetière is also thought to be haunted—although ghosts wandering through the graveyard may be the least of visitors’ problems. Simply leaving a gift for the loa—a couple of Cuban cigars, for instance—can be fraught with paranormal danger. Specifically, after making their offering, if one doesn’t “close the door” to the underworld by knocking three times on the loa’s altar crucifix, the spirit could accompany them home. And given that some are associated with violence, it may be prudent to go along with the custom.

2. Jamali Kamali Mosque and Tomb, India

Another allegedly haunted ruin, this one in Delhi, dates back to the early 16th-century and the rise of the Mughal Empire. Now part of the Mehrauli Archaeological Park near the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Qutub Minar, the Jamali Kamali Mosque and Tomb is among the better known sites on this list. But it tends to be eerily quiet. Even the one security guard on duty can seem like a specter at times.

This is the final resting place of the Sufi saint “Jamali,” aka Shaikh Fazlullah or Jalal Khan, and another man (or possibly woman) known only as “Kamali.” Although the official description outside the entrance to the site describes the pair as brothers, some believe they were actually gay lovers—or at least two men bound in the traditionally loving Sufi master-and-disciple relationship. Either way, it’s thought that Kamali died first and Jamali, who enjoyed considerable influence at the time, commissioned the elaborate tomb.

While access to the burial chamber is reportedly limited, visitors to the abandoned mosque have noted all kinds of paranormal activity—from strange white lights and apparitions to the sounds of animals growling. A few become convinced of a presence in the building with them—someone or something watching them from behind a pillar, for instance—while others hear ominous laughter. At least one person claims to have been slapped by an invisible force while exploring the historical site.

Whether these experiences can be attributed to ghosts, or indeed jinns—the Quranic trans-dimensional entities with a fondness for derelict spaces—was a question one visitor posed to the security guard. His response, given the vandalism at the site, was that humans are more problematic.

1. Mehandipur Balaji Temple, India

The problem of humans is far more in evidence at the Mehandipur Balaji Temple in northwest India, where even just queuing outside can turn into a fight for survival against a crowd heaving and stampeding to get in. To be fair, though, most are seeking help with ghosts or demons of their own. Not only is Rajasthan’s so-called “witch temple” said to be haunted but actual exorcisms are routinely carried out here.

The building itself is imposing but old, with towering columns, grimy brickwork, blocked up windows, and crumbling balconies. Pilgrims travel for miles through lifeless desert to get there, only to find themselves in a “dusty haze,” as author Edward Hower puts it, surrounded by “scrawny children,” “ghostlike women,” “scab-eared” dogs, and crows circling overhead “like ashes rising from a smoldering fire.” Inside the temple, the air is filled with pungent smoke and the agonized cries of the “possessed,” while visitors are encouraged to offer strange black balls into fires.

Some families keep their supposedly demon-inhabited loved ones here for weeks on end, putting them up in dharamsala (religious rest houses) and contributing years’ worth of their savings to heal them. This often entails having a priest chain up and mercilessly beat their relative until they purge out the offending preta (hungry ghost). Many families then invest in a kind of gravestone outside, a marker to keep exorcised spirits from following them home. Visitors are also warned not to look back as they leave, or to consume anything at all—even water—because of how densely haunted the area is thought to be.

Understandably, while most psychiatrists tend to think of these “possessed” individuals as merely neurotic, even the most skeptical of visitors are bound to find this strange Hindu temple unsettling.


Sinister Ministers –

Haunted Places of Worship

Computer Generated Imagery… Not!

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Practical Effects

You Thought Were

Computer Generated

One of the most important aspects of the film-making is keeping the audience immersed in the world it’s being shown. Whether the characters are in a fantasy world or jumping out of a moving car, the audiences’ willingness to go along with the story is, in large part, due to the viewer’s willingness to suspend disbelief. The goal of a filmmaker is to keep the audience so entranced that it’s only afterward that they begin to question or wonder how some of the amazing feats were accomplished.

And because of the advancements in CGI, many audience members simply write off the incredible as ordinary. Many believe that the stunts are simply CGI when, in fact, some of the most powerful scenes in recent memory have been real, practical, extremely dangerous stunts.

10. The Dark Knight

Christopher Nolan is something of a realist. One of the best directors of his generation, he has resisted the switch to digital and has continued to shoot on film; it’s not surprising, then, that he’d do everything in his power to make CGI as limited as possible in his blockbuster works. A daring filmmaker who continues to tell stories in a unique narrative style and voice, Nolan was at the helm of the revitalization of the Batman franchise. In one of the most iconic scenes from The Dark Knight, Batman attempts to save Harvey Dent from the Joker, who is determined to blow up a police escort. In the well-known tunnel sequence, the Batmobile rams into a garbage truck. The scene left many scratching their heads, marveling about the realism of CGI. The truth is that it was real. Every bit.

Nolan and his team constructed a one-third scale model of the Batmobile, as well as the truck and that particularly part of Chicago’s lower Wacker Drive. Nolan’s stunt team placed both models on a guide and smashed them into each other to create the scene. The same strategy was used for the semi-trailer truck that flips on its head. All in all, the plan was executed brilliantly and viewer is left marveling at the world they created.

9. The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan was at it again in the final installment of his Batman trilogy. According to Nolan, one of his proudest moments was executing the opening scene, where Bane escapes from the CIA plane, mid-flight. It’s an exhilarating sequence, that – again – did not use CGI. The scene was filmed in Scotland, over the Cairngorm Mountains of the Scottish Highlands. It’s the highest mountain range in the UK and is described as incredibly cold, with incessant winds and an unforgiving climate. The CIA plane used in the film was a Lockheed C-130 Hercules, commissioned by the US military. It was a perfect fit for the stunt with a stall speed as low as 111 miles per hour. Nolan and his camera crew were able to follow the plane in a helicopter, recording the exterior action. The particulars are so difficult to describe in detail that when Nolan was asked about the stunt, he said “It was sort of an incredible coming together of lots and lots of planning by a lot of members of the team who worked for months rehearsing all these parachute jumps.”

The action inside the plane was much more straightforward. It was accomplished by building a simulator, where Nolan could rotate, shake and twist the fuselage, making the actors almost weightless inside the device. Put together, Nolan was able to add another jaw-dropping scene to his filmography.

8. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

One of the most highly anticipated films in recent memory, Star Wars: The Force Awakens made sure to capitalize off the hype, introducing several real props, creatures, and locations. Probably the most notable prop was the droid BB-8. JJ Abrams and crew made sure they had a BB-8 for whatever sequence they were filming. They constructed a BB-8 that could show emotion when held be actors, a BB-8 that could be thrown around and stay upright, a BB-8 controlled by rod puppeteers, and even a fully functioning droid that could roll around like a possessed bowling ball.

Abrams and crew didn’t phone it in with CGI when they really probably could have, either. Don’t get us wrong; there’s obviously a ton of CGI in a movie featuring literal spaceship battles. But even small effects like Rey’s food materializing was real. A sequence that was on screen for seconds took more than 3 months to develop and execute. And while it may not seem worth it, the smallest things can take a viewer out of a world, and The Force Awakens did a great job of refusing to allow the audience to easily fall astray.

7. Apollo 13

One of the best films depicting NASA astronauts is Ron Howard’s Apollo 13. Starring Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, and Bill Paxton, the film depicts the aborted 1970 lunar mission, which became a mission of survival. Instead of using CGI, Howard wanted to create an atmosphere or experience that allowed viewers to truly appreciate the fear and unease that the astronauts experienced. Howard utilized NASA’s “Vomit Comet” KC-135 airplane, designed for one purpose: creating a zero-G environment on Earth.

In order to accomplish such a feat, the KC-135 does a series of parabolic arcs at very fast speeds; this results in a window of weightlessness for the passengers. According to reports, it took more than 600 arcs for Howard to get the take he liked. It’s now clear that he knew what he was doing: the movie was nominated for 9 Academy Awards and grossed more than $355 million worldwide.

6. Skyfall

Good filmmakers certainly know how to catch an audience’s attention. The opening scene from Skyfall is no different. Every kick and punch thrown in the scene is actually performed by Daniel Craig and his counterpart on top of a speeding train. The only thing keeping them from falling is a wire that’s as thin as one’s finger. Bond films are notorious for real stunts that push the boundaries.

In Spectre, the follow-up installment in the Bond franchise, filmmakers set a Guinness record for stunts in a single production. So next time you’re watching a Bond film, make sure you take a second to appreciate the risks that some of these men and women are taking for our entertainment.

5. Mad Max: Fury Road

This is one of the most unique examples on our list because of its utilization of both CGI and real stunts to make compelling scenes. In that iconic scene where Tom Hardy is dangling perilously close to the ground, that’s completely real. All that was keeping Hardy from being roadkill was a thin cable. The sequence in question was also filmed while Hardy’s son was on set, too. Director George Miller, when asked what would happen if the cable snapped, remarked, “He’d probably go under the wheels.” Good one, George. Miller is known for pushing the limits of ordinary film practices. He hired “Cirque du Soleil performers to rock around on Chinese acrobat poles while a camera rig weaved through them at up to 100 mph.”

If that wasn’t enough, the film’s production also saw the invention of a new way to flip a car: a “nitrogen-powered metallic blade” was designed to pop down on the car, forcing it to make those ridiculous flips in the movie. Not bad for the director of Happy Feet and Babe: Pig in the City. That’ll do, George. That’ll do.

4. Mission: Impossible (Pretty Much the Whole Film Franchise)

Tom Cruise is notorious for doing most of his own stunts in his films. Shooting the upcoming installment in the Mission: Impossible series, Cruise even broke his ankle trying to jump to an adjacent rooftop. This wasn’t the first time Cruise has put himself into harm’s way. In the original, he dangled from a ceiling; in the sequel he hung off the side of a cliff. In Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, he scaled the side of Burj Khalifa. And in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, he clung to a side of a flying plane.

Each of these stunts was performed by Cruise, without the use of stuntmen. Talk about courage (or lunacy… or maybe a little bit of both). In Rogue Nation, Cruise only had wires attached to his body as he gripped the side of a flying plane. We suppose that’s why they pay him the big bucks.

3. The Amazing Spider-Man

One of the unique bits of the Spider-Man reboot was director Marc Webb’s decision to make the web-slinging aspects of the film real. In past Spider-Man movies, the web-slinging was mostly all CGI and it became apparent in scenes that took many viewers out of the movie. Instead, The Amazing Spider-Man and its sequel relied mostly on stuntmen and Andrew Garfield himself, who was willing to participate in the action. Stunt coordinator Andy Armstrong described in an interview the difficult process of executing such a stunt. Through his research, he found that the difficulty in the execution was based, in part, on the past versions of Spider-Man depicting his downward swing as the same as his upward motion.

Armstrong and his team constructed “a track being pulled by a high-speed winch to help emulate Spidey’s web-swinging ways.” He’d go on to describe it as cracking a whip. A stuntman would “drop into the bottom of the pendulum, and as he reached the bottom of his arc, someone driving the winch would pull a dolly along to the next spot.” With a little digital effects to boot, The Amazing Spider-Man films created a whole new way of looking at one of our favorite superheroes.

2. The Matrix Reloaded

Don’t jump down our throats. We know The Matrix Reloaded relied on a heavy amount of CGI. However, it’d surprise most readers to know how many of the action sequences actually relied upon real stunts. One of the most memorable sequences in the entire trilogy, the Agents chasing Morpheus and Trinity on the highway, was no exception.

Although the Agent seen jumping from the hood of a vehicle was added later in post production, the chain reaction of car crashes and the actual implosion of the car was real. The Wachowskis managed to oversee the use of special rigs, cannons, and ramps to create the massively destructive sequence. The filmmakers choice to use real stunts and props is one of the major reasons The Matrix series has, for the most part, continued to stand the test of time.

1. Inception

Hey, we couldn’t end our list without another Christopher Nolan movie. The uncompromising auteur has managed to consistently create stunning visual sequences without relying on CGI. Probably the most memorable scene in Inception was Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page’s characters conversation at a coffee shop in Paris. Suddenly, an explosion sends debris, and broken glass into the air. All the while, DiCaprio and Page remain in the center of the storm.

The sequence was executed by production designer Chris Corbould, shooting a series of air cannons while director of photography Wally Pfister shot at 1,500 frames per second. It made for one of the most memorable parts of the movie, introducing the audience to the idea of Inception. Not to be outdone, later in the film there’s a fight scene featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a hotel room and hallway, in which the room continues to rotate, allowing the combatants to run up the walls and on the ceiling. As you’ve no doubt guessed by now, particularly if you watched the video up above, that was all done entirely with practical sets and stunts.


Computer Generated Imagery… Not! –

WIF Gadgets

The NULL Solution = Episode 165

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The NULL Solution = Episode 165

…And so it is, that an opportunity lost decides the fate of a fledgling civilization…

Not everybody is buying what Harmonia is selling. Župzïð, for one, is used to calling the shots. Anyone who constructs his own world and is labeled “the Last” is not easily swayed into blind cooperation. It is obvious that they came all this way for nothing. Earth did not vanquish his fleet and if this ⃝ did, what kind of omnipotent being would unilaterally destroy his 12 ships and crews?

This all could be a masterful trick, a ruse intended to minimize the impact of such a magnificently independent world as Collapsar Axis. The Great Expanse has yet to see such a creation.

“We are leaving,” emptyhanded and skeptical, Župzïð is not called “the Last” for no good reason.

“Where are we going Great Leader?”

“Where we are allowed to be our own – to chart our own way.”

And so it is, that an opportunity lost decides the fate of a fledgling civilization. The Ÿ€Ð and their conscripts are allowed to depart Mars; the shuttle is allowed to return to the mothership, which slowly turns to go.

Image result for poof gifConversely, before it can attain cruising speed, the massive mass disappears into the same vacuum as did their fleet of twelve previously. On the other side and in a strange arrangement of stars, Collapsar Axis is reunited with the answer they searched so hard for; the twelve ships once believed to be lost.

“Where are we Great Leader? None of these stars are familiar.”

Župzïð the Last got his wish, a place where they can decide for themselves. There are consequences with a caveat; misguided and lost on the universe they had known, in favor of an alternate dimension.

Suddenly the landscape of Harmonia morphs. The four satellite buildings surrounding it decreases by one. A troika triangle replaces the quadratic square of moments ago. It appears that choices matter in this new world order. Geometry is constant, no matter which dimension you reside.

The recent configuration change is witnessed by the other interested party’s’ leadership. It seems that individual factions are replaced with the visionary goals of all 3.


The NULL Solution =

Digital Art by Louis Dyer Art & Design

Episode 165


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The NULL Solution = Episode 31

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The NULL Solution = Episode 31

…”Lorgan it shall be,” which is how Roy labels it in the spacelog, Stardates 2030.09 and 2052.50…

Gus points at the video recording, “You can see the reflection of SEx!”

“That doesn’t make sense. Telemetry puts that thing at just under 500,000 kms away. The only reflection should be the Sun,” reasons Roy.

“Take a look at Tycho’s spacelog shot of Mars’ magnetosphere, there is Deimos in the background.”

“That thing is 5x bigger!”

“Higher.”

“10x?”

“90 km. What reflection do you see?”

Tycho.”

“Exactly!”

“Now that is freaky. We should be seeing the moonIt seems our “friend” defies physical conventions.”

To that end, a thoughtful Gus gives it a name, “My dad would call it, Lorgan.”

“Please use that in a sentence.”

“I’ve made it a noun. As a Scottish Gaelic verb it would be ‘leaves a mark’.”

Lorgan was also a bad-guy-slave-master in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, if my memory serves, but we’ll go with your heritage language version. And when did you take that up, by the way?”

“I have my Aunt Sassy McKinney to thank for that.  Me & Deke spent a summer learning it, as punishment for heading for the hills every time she came to visit.” He hearkens back to a much simpler time, when they were a nuclear family; together & grounded.

Lorgan it shall be,” which is how he labels it in the spacelog, Stardates 2030.09 and 2052.50For what is worth. Who knows where or when it will ever turn up again?”

“For what is worth, Lorgan is weightless. It doesn’t register on the density sensors. Is it real or our just a figment?”

“What we see with our eyes or with Cameras and Spacelogs cannot all be wrong.” Roy decides to bring another set of experienced eyes to the party. “I want Fletcher Fitch to take a gander. He knows more about satellites than anyone on this planet.”

The engineering wiz obliges.

“So do you think it’s a satellite?” asks Roy.

Gus may have given it a name, but falls short of defining it.

“I’ve got nothing.” Fitch has nothing.

Neither does Roy. “I don’t have a clue what Lorgan is or isn’t, but we are going to keep this under our helmets, okay? For now, let’s take a look around the solar system before we shut things down for the day.”

What a day it has been. Gus is back and safe. Roy himself is not confined to a hospital bed, while hearing yet another story about 2 of the missing McKinneys.

Tonight is Triple-fudge Delight ice cream night at the Crippen residence.

Life is good to them… so far.


The NULL Solution =

The Good Life by Jean Groberg

Episode 31


page 35