Stalking

The definition of stalking as a crime is as follows: a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear. However, nearly every jurisdiction has their own definition of stalking and most of them do not have standardized penalties for stalking and it is often a crime not seriously investigated.

Stalking is a serious problem, more than 10 million people are stalked every year in the US. And most stalkings last more than five years. More than 70% of stalking victims require therapy for mental distress created by stalkers. It is basically a form of psychological warfare and in my opinion should be treated as such.

Penalties against stalkers also vary greatly. If a case can even be made against a stalker, the penalties are very light, it is not uncommon for stalkers to be sentenced to probation and community service if they do not commit a violent crime in the course of stalking their victim. And if a violent crime is committed in association with stalking, the stalker is still usually only given a few years in prison as long as the violent crime isn’t murder.

Stalking victims commonly develop anxiety, insomnia, and sometimes PTSS (PTSD) and there is a risk of a victim developing agoraphobia (fear of leaving their house). On average, a stalking victim has a face to face encounter with their stalker once a week, usually in a public place. And it is sadly rare for the victim of a stalker to be able to get a restraining order against their stalker and if they do manage, enforcement is difficult because most encounters are in public and “accidental encounter” can be claimed. Furthermore, a victim with a restraining order can be in violation of the restraining order if they run into their stalker at say a coffee shop and neither the stalker or victim leaves, if the victim violates the restraining order it can be negated.

Actions of a stalker include some of the following (this is not a comprehensive list by far):

  • Sending unwanted gifts
  • Showing up where the victim is
  • Following a victim
  • Posting private information gleaned by the stalker (via going through the victim’s trash, scrounged from the internet, captured via malware installed on the victim’s computer, photographs taken by the stalker, etc)

This causes the victim to feel fear, no part of their life is private. Their daily routines are interrupted and have to be changed because the stalker knows these routines, insomnia, anxiety, victims often have to miss multiple days at work due to their stalker, victims will move to escape a stalker only to have the stalker move too, and minor property damage is commonly committed by stalkers.

Only 55% of female stalking victims and 45% of male victims are stalked by an ex-partner. However, when an ex-partner is the stalker, only 30% were abusive during the relationship (physically, emotionally, and/or sexually). Over 50% of stalkings committed by an ex-partner end in violence (murder, sexual assault, physical assault) compared to just 35% of stalkers who are not ex-partners end in violence.

While most crimes in the US are on the decline, stalking is not one of them. Stats show that between 2006 and 2016 crimes of stalking increased by 27%. And those are just the crimes we know about. Stalking is often an unreported crime because victims know that law enforcement intervention without a violent encounter is nearly impossible.

The general public has the misconception that stalkers are mentally ill and that stalking almost always ends in violent encounters. Most stalkers are just average people. Many criminologists believe stalking is on the rise because it does maximum damage with This little chance of the perpetrator being punished for it.

And people like Kathleen Hale (who has now been signed to write a book about her time as a stalker) make it worse. Kathleen Hale is a young adult novelist who was signed by HarperTeen. As per usual, HarperTeen sent advanced read copies of her book to several people, including a well known and respected book blogger. The blogger hated Hale’s book. HarperTeen warned Hale that she would be getting a negative review and to not retaliate, but Hale decided to stalk the blogger for it.

Hale even found the woman’s home address and left packages for her at her home. She got the woman’s cell phone number and began calling her to get a recorded interview regarding why the blogger hated Hale (note I said Hale, not the book, as Hale considered it personal that this blogger didn’t like her book) Hale’s victim quit blogging about books and became a recluse, refusing to talk about her ordeal. Hale on the other hand, was given a contract to write a book titled Kathleen Hale is a Crazy Stalker.

I am of the opinion, that HarperTeen should have punished Kathleen Hale. They could have stopped publication of her book, demanded the return of the advance, and voided her contract. Her victim had to give up her job, but Kathleen Hale profited from her stalking, which seems unfair to say the very least, especially since Hale obviously caused her victim a great deal of emotional distress (enough that she quit her job).

On a side note, the thing that stalkers want is the exact same thing terrorists want, to cause their victim to change their lives because of fear.

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How Family Tree DNA Caught The Golden State Killer

In 2018, the world became acquainted with Family Tree DNA. It actually wasn’t new technology in 2018. It’s been around for a while. It’s just been very quietly used right up until it caught a prolific rapist and serial killer James D’Angelo aka The Golden State Killer.

The system is actually very controversial with privacy advocates arguing there is nothing more private than a person’s DNA. Here’s what happened in that case. It is complicated, just FYI. So I’ll try to make it less complicated to understand.

Between 1974 and 1986, police had a prolific rapist on their hands known as the East Side Rapist. They had a less prolific serial killer, The Original Night Stalker (yep, before Richard Ramirez earned the moniker, someone else had it). There was also a prolific burglar in southern California that may have been connected to either the East Side Rapist or the Original Night Stalker. Police weren’t sure.

There were literally hundreds of suspects in the three cases and the cases crossed multiple jurisdictions, which made it even messier. In 2001, DNA from cold cases were logged into the California crime DNA database. And the East Side Rapist case was genetically linked to the Original Night Stalker and some of the burglary cases. A task force was formed and the cases reopened and the killer renamed to The Golden State Killer.

He had bled at a couple of the burglaries. He had left seminal fluid at several of the rapes and the murder scenes. In 2005, serial killer BTK (real name Dennis Rader) plead guilty because he could not explain away the familial DNA match BTK had to Rader’s children. He’d basically been caught red handed. A motion to suppress the familial DNA evidence was ruled against in the pre-trial motions. After BTK basically sent the police a business card with his name and address on it, and police obtained DNA samples from both of Rader’s children to compare to DNA left by BTK. Rader was obviously the father of Rader’s children and Rader couldn’t build a defense around it.

In 2007, a handful of states, including Colorado, decided that law enforcement could use public DNA databases to search for suspects in cold cases that involved violent crime with a warrant. The argument goes like this, “the perpetrator of the crime, voluntarily leaves DNA at the crime scene, if it is a large enough sample to be tested, then it should be allowable for that sample to be checked against open DNA databases, because the databases are made up of people who volunteered their DNA reports” (you send your DNA to 23&Me or any of the other companies that do it, and they send you a report about your heritage, you can then submit that DNA report to companies like GEDMatch and search for genetic relatives to get a more complete look at your genealogy.

Between 2007 and 2018 there were a handful of cold cases solved using these public DNA databases. But nothing that earned the public DNA databases notoriety or lots of headlines in the news.

In 2016, law enforcement in California went to GEDMatch with the DNA profile of the Golden State Killer. There were no familial matches. However, at the time, 23&Me, Ancestry.com, and several others were growing in popularity as people searched for the genetic lineage. As a result databases such as GEDMatch were also growing in popularity. In 2017, the DNA of the Golden State Killer was submitted again to GEDMatch. At the time, law enforcement was conducting the search of GEDMatch with a warrant, meaning even if GEDMatch hadn’t wanted to cooperate, they would have been compelled to do it anyway.

In 2017, a familial match for the Golden State Killer was found. A genetic genealogist was able to compare that volunteered report to the report of the Golden State Killer and discovered they were 2nd cousins (if I remember correctly). Police began to investigate James D’Angelo who had once worked in law enforcement as a viable suspect in the Golden State Killer case.

Police actually followed D’Angelo around and watched him throw away a piece of trash (possibly a disposable cup) that they removed from the trash and compared his DNA to that of the Golden State Killer and it was a perfect match.

In 2018, the State of California charged James D’Angelo with multiple counts of murder and suddenly Family Tree DNA was mainstream news. As was GEDMatch, the database company that law enforcement had searched to find the familial link. In May 2018, GEDMatch changed its privacy policy, announcing to all users that the database was an investigative tool that could be searched by law enforcement officers without the need for a warrant. And the ethics debate began, was it actually ethical to let law enforcement have unrestricted access to a DNA database like GEDMatch and the specialists GEDMatch employs, because the genetic genealogists kept on staff by GEDMatch are part of the law enforcement package, not only can law enforcement submit samples and receive information back without need of a warrant, but the genetic genealogists that work for GEDMatch assist law enforcement with the sample submission and do the leg work involved in discovering familial links.

I mentioned Colorado earlier for a specific reason. Nearly every case that has involved Family Tree DNA has involved violent crimes, essentially murders. In 2009, Colorado submitted a sample to an open DNA database of a car burglar. There was some property damage and I think the amount of stuff stolen was only about a hundred dollars (not even a felony). A match was found and the burglar was arrested and charged with the crime.

I bring it up because this work is time consuming. It’s not just about finding a match with a similar DNA profile. The heritage of each sample has to be traced and a family tree somewhat mapped out, which is easier to do when you have a name than when you don’t. Tracking genealogical records to see if the two samples are indeed related and who the unknown sample might belong to within the family tree that has been mapped. Now, nearly all genealogists today work with genetic evidence to prove kinship. It still takes a lot of man hours to track down the genealogy of a genetic sample, let alone two genetic samples one without any information other than what can be gleaned from the DNA report (white male, brown eyes, blond hair, mainly of Eastern European heritage – haplogroups are amazing). Should something this time consuming be used for car burglary, especially a car burglary that is only a felony because windows are expensive?

Don’t get me wrong, all criminals should be punished for their crimes. I just believe that this investigative technique is so involved and time consuming that it should be used for violent crimes. Having your car burglarized sucks, but no one died, so perhaps the means weren’t justified by the end in that case.

Falsehoods Associated With Social Media

In the last week or so, I’ve seen an infographic make its rounds on Facebook. It is perpetuating lies. After about the 17th time I saw it, I downloaded it. If you are sharing this graphic, you should seriously think about doing research before blindly following the crowd, because the crowd is apparently okay with perpetuating lies, spreading hate, and continuing to divide the US further. PS: Propaganda like this was one of the best weapons Nazi Germany had, it’s amazing how effective it still is.

Nazism was Fascist. They said called themselves Socialists. But I can say I’m a the returned Messiah, it doesn’t make it true. A fascist government requires a centralized, all powerful leader – a dictator. Which Hitler was. It is actually contrary to socialism to have a single figure at the head of the government. This is part of the reason the Soviet Union and Red China were in fact, not socialist either. They too were fascist governments. Sometimes, the control was pulled very tight like it was under Stalin and sometimes it was a bit looser like under Gorbachev.

Having guns in the hands of the public is a problem for a fascist government. Guns allow for the masses to organize to overthrow the government and dictator at the head of it.

It was President Trump that suggested we should have State Run Media, not Democrats. Also, it is the conservative party in the US that supports the banning of books and keeping certain scientific information out of our classrooms and therefore out of the hands of their children. That censorship is supported by Republicans more than Democrats.

Abortions in Nazi Germany were illegal. Now, if an undesirable became pregnant there were special Nazi doctors they could see. However, that was tricky, because while that doctor could perform an abortion on an undesirable, the woman could then be charged with a crime and sent to a work camp or concentration camp. The sentence was harsher if a woman was caught getting an abortion by a doctor who wasn’t approved by the Nazis. An aryan having an abortion was a capital punishment offense. Both the woman having the abortion and the doctor performing it could be arrested and sentenced to death for it. There was one exception. If a fetus showed signs of deformity then doctors were expected to recommend an abortion – no room for the handicapped in Hitler’s master race.

Nazis didn’t just hate Jews. They hated everyone they deemed below them; Jews, blacks, Turks, anyone who couldn’t pass as a Viking God, homosexuals, Slavs, communists, people who liked the idea of republicanism and democracy, socialists, non-Christians, etc. The whole Viking God thing was brutally important. If you couldn’t pass as a Viking (tall, blond, good skin), you were undesirable in Nazi Germany – the irony there of course is that Hitler couldn’t pass as a Viking god anymore than most Germans. Jews took the brunt of it, because they had been chased out of most Western European countries (Spain, Portugal, Italy, even France to some degree) and had congregated in large numbers in Germany and Eastern Europe at the end of the 1800s.

There was a cult of Hitler in place. Nazis were expected to worship their Fuhrer. But that’s true of all fascist governments. Stalin expected it. Mussolini expected it. Mao Zedong expected it. Divine Right kingship also expected it – Kings like Louis XIV and Henry VIII were just as likely to expect worship as their fascist counterparts of the 21st century.

If you want to compare Democrats to Nazis, that’s your prerogative, but you should at least use “real facts” in your comparison. Especially since it is very easy to look up facts on Nazism. Furthermore, before you throw too many stones that direction, you should consider the fact that Republican Steve King out of Iowa doesn’t understand why “white nationalism” is considered bad, even though the phrase was used prolifically to describe the support of Nazism in Germany.

The Allentown 4 – aka The Bodies in the Barrels

In 1985, a grizzly discovery was made in a wooded area near Allentown, New Hampshire. A barrel containing the bodies of an adult female and a juvenile female that had been decomposing for a long time. With advances in DNA testing that happened in the 1990s, it was determined the two female bodies were related. Possibly mother and daughter. The woman was in her late 20s or early 30s and the juvenile was maybe 8 or so years old.

Despite the bad condition they were found in, police were able to figure out that they had both suffered from being badly beaten just before they died and were sealed into the barrel. The case went cold. The identities of the woman and child were never discovered. In my post on familial DNA, I actually mentioned using this method to discover the identities of the bodies in the barrels.

In 2000 with no new leads, a new detective was assigned to the case. He went out to check out the area where the barrel had been located and found a second barrel. This barrel contained the remains of two more female children and DNA confirmed they are related to the woman, although how exactly they are related is still a mystery for some reason.

This barrel was discovered 15 years after the first barrel, even though all four murders seemed to have taken place around the same time. The reason is because the first barrel was moved from its original location. The wooded section where the bodies were found backed up to a neighborhood. Some kids had run across the barrel and begun to play with it, rolling it around, until the lid popped off. At which point, the kids apparently ran away and didn’t tell anyone about it. It was refound a few days later by a hunter and when he realized there were dead bodies in the barrel, he reported it to the police.

In 2017, police finally found a possible suspect and tip on who the woman might be. A woman living in Denver called to report that her mother had abandoned her as an infant to run off with a boyfriend named Bob Evans. Evans was actually serving time for murder in a California prison and his DNA was on file as a result. He had died in 2010.

Evans had lived in New Hampshire at the time the bodies were thought to have been placed in the barrels (1977-1981). His DNA was run and he turned out to be the biological father of one of the female children. In 2002, Bob Evans had married a young woman named Eunsoon Jun. After four months of no one hearing from her, a friend reported her as missing. Her body was found in a crawl space under Bob Evans house, mummified using cat litter.

Police were able to put together some details from Bob Evans’ life and made the discovery that Evans hadn’t just killed Eunsoon Jun. He had a history of molesting young girls. And Eunsoon Jun wasn’t his first murder or even his second. He’d been able to avoid being noticed because Bob Evans was constantly changing his identity.

Familial DNA finally identified Bob Evans as Terry Rassmussen in 2018. Rassmussen had been in the US Navy and he’d had a wife and four children, that he divorced in 1974 before setting out to see the country. This DNA evidence linked Bob Evans (Terry Rassmussen) to the 4 bodies in the barrels. And it linked him to a third murder. With the help of familial DNA we now know that Rassmussen was a serial killer and pedophile and we are that much closer to identifying the 4 bodies in the barrels.

Authors Are a Weird Lot

They say authors are a bit weird and temperamental. I won’t disagree. I’m a bit moody and I live with my head in my own fictional world a lot, even when I’m not writing. They can also act in some extraordinary ways. Ambrose Bierce the father of American science fiction disappeared from the face of the Earth while in Mexico. Douglas Preston moved his family to Italy and ended up getting kicked out of the country because of his interest in the Monster of Florence serial killer case. And on December 3, 1926 Agatha Christie left her home for a drive and disappeared for 11 days.

Christie’s car was found wrecked by a passing motorist, but the novelist was nowhere to be seen. It ended up being the largest manhunt in the history of Britain at the time. Even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dorothy L. Sayers got involved in looking for Christie.

Her disappearance was worthy of front page news. Her married life wasn’t entirely happy, her husband was a pilot from WWI and a womanizer. Many thought that Arthur Christie had chased her down in his car, forced her into the car accident, then killed her and hidden her body. Others thought it was a publicity stunt. However, by 1926, Christie was a best selling novelist. Her 3 Poirot novel had published earlier that year. It was her 6th novel overall and they were selling well. So while her personal life had problems her professional life was going amazingly well. There was no need for a publicity stunt.

As a note on the oddity of her disappearance, Doyle who was very interested in spiritualism took one of Christie’s gloves to a medium trying to find out if she was alive or dead. Sayers went to the scene of the accident looking for clues. Both produced no leads.

On December 14th, a banjo player at a hotel in Harrogate recognized her from the newspaper. She had checked into the hotel under the name Theresa Neele – which was the name of her husband’s current mistress.

Agatha said almost nothing about the incident for the majority of her life. However, whatever triggered it, seemed to spurn her into taking control of her life. She went back with Arthur Christie to their home, but by 1928, she had kicked Arthur out and filed for divorce.

Many think that she eventually explained all to Dorothy Sayers. But if she did, Sayers never spoke of it either. Several experts in psychiatry believe Christie may have had a mental break down the night of December 3. Whatever the cause, Christie only wrote a little about the adventure and never fully explained it to anyone that spoke about it after her death.

They Are But Slaves

If you watch movies with shirtless attractive men in them, you’ve probably seen the movie Gladiator. The movie that I love while cringing in horror at its inaccuracies. The movie does get one very important detail accidentally right… Maximus is a soldier turned slave to Commodus and then Commodus throws him into the gladiator ring for everyone’s amusement. The part the movie got right: Maximus being a soldier, before becoming a gladiator.

That is quite possibly the only part of the movie that is historically accurate though. Gladiators legally couldn’t be slaves. It was a paid position, making them technically not slaves as they received a wage for every fight regardless of whether they won or lost (it was usually higher if they won).

And with that last sentence your brain might have given a slight stutter. What do you mean if they won? If they lost, they died, how did they get paid? But oh ho, not in the least. Gladiators trained at gladiator schools to fight in the arenas and killing the opponent was not how you “won.” As a matter of fact, killing an opponent was frowned upon quite heavily. It was considered a weakness to accidentally kill your opponent.

Gladiatorial events were similar in format to modern day boxing and MMA events. Two gladiators were the main attraction, they headlined the event in a match against each other. Leading up to that battle, there were lesser known gladiators fighting each other and occasionally wild animals (this was rare though for a true gladiator).

Now, some of the build up for the main event, did indeed include people who didn’t want to fight. Convicts could earn their freedom by defeating wild animals in the gladiator ring. However, the advantage was totally given to the animal as many times, the convict would not be armed, greatly reducing their chances at successfully defeating any wild animal.

And this is where Christians being thrown to lions comes into history. Christianity was a punishable offense during most of the time of the Roman empire. They were seen as subversive rabble rousers. However, most Roman emperors, including Nero, Caligula, and Commodus, saw the benefit in allowing Christians to fight for their right to live and so Christians facing wild animals in the gladiator ring became a thing. A very popular thing. Often the number of Christians advertised facing predators drew larger crowds than the headlining gladiators.

The “thumbs up” “thumbs down” thing was reserved for convicts, if it was used at all. It was incredibly disadvantageous for an emperor to call for the death of a gladiator, because gladiators often came from the highest ranks of society and the Roman army. Gladiators were basically the rockstars of their day and most emperors couldn’t risk the wrath of their people by having a popular gladiator put to death.

An Urban Legend From Columbia, Missouri is Known Worldwide

I’ve mentioned dozens of times that I live in Columbia, Missouri. It is a college town with a population of 110,000 to 150,000 people depending on whether classes are in session or not and how attendance is doing. Not only do we have the home base for the University of Missouri, but we are the headquarters for a private college that has campuses all over the world – Columbia College and we still have one of the few female only colleges left in the US Stephen’s College. However, we could be known for a crime that happened in the 1940s and 1950s has made its way into urban legend status the world over.

The story is the one where the babysitter is getting creepy phone calls and when she has the number traced, the calls are coming from inside the house. The phone creepy calls can be chalked up to fictional license. The murders not so much. There were at least 2, one in 1946 and one in 1950. And a series of babysitter rapes that happened between 1945 and 1951 that police believed were all the work of the same person.

It is much harder to find records about rapes pre-1980 than murders, so my information will concentrate on the two murders, but I did find some stuff about the rapes. In late 1945, a 19 year old woman babysitting for two kids down the street told police a man broke into the house by smashing a window, tied her up and raped her saying he would kill the kids if she woke them by screaming.

In July 1946 Mary Lou Jenkins, a 20 year old woman, was found murdered by the children she was watching. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled. A window at the back of the house had a pane broken out and the window had been raised.

Between 1945 and 1950, there were at least a half dozen rapes with similar details reported, all of them by young women who were raped while babysitting and who said that he would kill the children if they woke. In 1947, a young woman reported to police that a man had broken into the house where she was babysitting and had raped her. He had then tried to strangle her. When she fell unconscious, he left. She was sure he had left her thinking she was dead.

In March 1950, a family returned home around 1 am to find their babysitter, 12 year old Janett Christman had been raped and murdered. The two children she was babysitting were found unharmed in their rooms. Someone had broken a window during a thunderstorm to gain access to the house.

A man named Robert Mueller who had harassed Christman was arrested and convicted of her murder. He eventually won an appeal and a lawsuit against the State of Missouri for wrongful conviction and left the area.

However, if Mueller wasn’t the right man, then the right man was paying very close attention. Once Mueller was arrested, no more babysitter rapes happened.

The reason the urban legend is thought to be based upon these specific crimes is because in the urban legend, the babysitter goes upstairs to check on the kids after the caller asks if they are alright. And the babysitter rapist used threats of violence against the children in the babysitter’s care as a means to control them.

The Great Irish Famine

Famines motivate people. In multiple posts, about the Little Ice Age, The Black Death, and the ineffectiveness of walled cities, famine played a role in motivating mankind. The Black Death would have been less effective if it hadn’t been coupled with a famine, the Little Ice Age created many famines, including the Great Famine of France that lead to the French Revolution, and it motivated people in the Middle Ages to tunnel under the walls of Paris, London, and Moscow in search of food and buyers of goods. It also played a significant role in immigration to the US and Canada in the 1840s.

Some years, it rains an excessive amount in Ireland. If 1816 can be titled the “Year Without a Summer,” then 1845 can be titled the “Year it Wouldn’t Stop Raining on Ireland.” Too much rain can be as bad as too little rain and the Great Irish Famine is a prime example of why crop diversification and a little less rain can make a huge difference to survival.

Most people will know the Great Irish Famine as the Great Potato Famine. For the record, Ireland is great at growing potatoes. I mean absolutely fantastic. Potatoes grow better in Ireland than most crops. And potatoes have more vitamin C than any fruit. Potatoes were staples on ships because they prevented scurvy and as long as they aren’t exposed to too much water or sun, they last a long time.

Not only are potatoes loaded with vitamin C, they are a very hearty food. A little potato can go a long way towards daily calorie intakes and keeping up energy levels. The Irish grew a lot of potatoes. And as with most deadly situations, a perfect storm occurred to create the Great Irish Famine.

Too much rain fell in spring and early summer of 1945. Leading to a disease known as Late Blight to develop on the potato crop. Late Blight is caused by a type of mold. It destroys the leaves of the plants and infects the edible roots and tubers of the plants, causing them to rot in the ground.

Late Blight also affects sweet potatoes, onions, beets, and rutabaga, not just potatoes. Unfortunately, these are the crops that grow best in Ireland. Because it’s frustrating to put effort into crops that won’t grow in rocky soil, there wasn’t a lot of crop diversity in Ireland in the 1800s. Meaning nearly all crops were root vegetables like potatoes and onions. The rains stirred up a specific type of mold. Mold that would attack the majority of the crops planted in Ireland, wiping out almost the entire crop for 1845.

1846 would see less rain, but the mold that caused Late Blight was still alive and well within the soil and the crops of 1846 were also devastated by Late Blight. By 1847, Ireland could not import enough food to make up for the crop failures and Irish people were starting to peel the bark off trees and pull up grass by the handfuls, because you eat anything you possibly can during a famine, even if it’s tree bark and grass (which aren’t terribly nutritious for humans because we can’t digest most of it).

It also had a tremendous impact on livestock, as most livestock had supplemental diets that included the ruined crops and couldn’t stomach crops tainted by Late Blight.

This left the people of Ireland with two options; stay in Ireland and try to tough it out or immigrate. Nearly a million Irish died of starvation and starvation related diseases. Approximately 2 million Irish decided to flee Ireland and try their luck somewhere else.

In total, the population of Ireland dropped by 20 to 25% during the 2 years of blighted crops and the 5 years that followed it. Birth rates in 1847 were only a fraction of what they had been in 1843. We also mention the number that died or fled, but rarely discuss how it affected the regrowth of the population. In 1847, there was only about 1/6th the number of births in Ireland than of 1844. Meaning another couple million were lost simply because they weren’t born, because a population can only grow so fast with traditional breeding methods.

Only 3 times in “modern” history (post Fall of Rome) do we see this significant of a population drop in a single country; during the 1300s & 1400s Black Plague Pandemic when nearly 30% of England died of plague and starvation, and the 35% population drop of the Soviet Union during WWII (the Russian Population has yet to recover, despite it being more than 70 years – the population of Russia today is less than it was in 1920 and Stalin is as much to blame as WWII). And the Great Irish Famine of 1845-1846.

By 1855, there were more Irish people born in the US, Canada, India, and Australia, than in Ireland. It would be the 1870s before the Irish population would reach the same growth it had experienced in 1844. On a side note, the Irish blamed the English for the Great Irish Famine, proving tensions between Ireland and England went back way further than the political maneuverings of the 1920s (in 1921, the majority of Ireland which had been a part of the UK succeeded from their English rulers – Ireland and England have been wrangling for control of Ireland since the early 1600s).

The Power of Earthquakes

I’ve done posts about volcanoes before and nuclear winters they can create, but I’ve never tackled the subject of earthquakes. Which is a little weird, since I live much closer to an area likely to be demolished by an earthquake than a volcano (sort of, if the Yellowstone Super Caldera goes, I will die as a result ash emissions making the air unbreathable and possibly hydrochloric acid rains even in Missouri).

However, the New Madrid fault line runs through the south east of Missouri. I don’t think of earthquakes much, because I am divided from the south eastern part of Missouri by the Ozark mountains and the geological makeup of the Ozark Mountains, means that in Mid-Missouri, I am less likely to feel an earthquake in the New Madrid fault line than people in Alabama, even though I am significantly closer.

Beginning in November 1811, a series of more than 2,000 earthquakes rocked the New Madrid fault line. The majority of them were estimated to be very deep and not particularly strong. There were three major ones all over a 7.7 magnitude (estimated), December 1811, January 1812, and February 1812. The ground heaved its last major sigh in March 1812.

The epicenters of all the quakes was in the bootheel region of Missouri. They created massive, widespread damage to the southeastern part of the state. And gave a curious clue about the New Madrid fault.

We all know Japan, California, Alaska, Indonesia, are all prone to earthquakes. They can be terrible things that are very destructive. The average earthquake lasts only 30 seconds or less, making them some of the most destructive 30 seconds known to mankind. However, the 3 powerful quakes that shook the New Madrid in 1811 and 1812 all lasted more than a minute.

They rang church bells as far away as Toronto, Canada (for those that don’t know where Missouri is in the US, find the middle of the country and search around, it’s just over a thousand miles from New Madrid, Missouri and New York City, approximately the same distance exists between New York City and Miami, Florida).

In comparison, the earthquake that struck Chile in 2010 and shifted the earth on its axis by 3 inches lasted only 19 seconds. The one that struck Sendai, Japan in 2011 and caused failure of the Fukushima nuclear power plant lasted 24 seconds.

The New Madrid produces thousands of small earthquakes a year. Many of them too small to be felt or noticed. However, it also produces a few decent sized ones every decade or so. The recent earthquake in Tennessee was caused by a shifting of the Tennessee/Georgia plate and therefore not activity specifically related to the New Madrid fault. It was a 4.4 and lasted less than 20 seconds.

However, the New Madrid might be due. A large earthquake – a magnitude over a 6.0 has not hit since the quakes of 1811-1812. Since the 1980s, earthquakes with a magnitude of 4.0 or higher have become more common along the fault line. And experts have been predicting a big one for as long as I can remember.

On a side note, I have experienced a 5.3 magnitude earthquake along the New Madrid. For a year between the spring of 1982 and spring of 1983, I lived in New Madrid, Missouri. In September 1982 (I had just turned 2 years old to give you an idea of why I don’t remember it), a 5.3 with an epicenter south of the small city of New Madrid struck during the night. Neither of my parents remember it. Interestingly, while researching my article on the Little Ice Age, I found a newspaper article discussing the 1982 quake in southern Missouri. One of the items discussed in the article was that concrete that had been poured the day before, had not cured before the earthquake hit and had to be demolished and re-poured. There was a legal battle regarding who would pay for the additional materials and labor to redo the job; the city of New Madrid, the Missouri Department of Transportation, or the company who had poured the concrete.

Climate Change

The 1300s were a really crappy time in human history. The Black Death was sweeping through Europe and Asia. Feudalism was still the predominate system of government, most people didn’t bother to name their children until they were teens and then let their children pick out their own names because child mortality rates were so high. To that dreadful list, you can add a miniature ice age.

Yes, I really did say a miniature ice age. It lasted about 500 years and then we nearly entered it again in the 1920s. The Earth doesn’t just orbit the sun creating cycles of seasons, it orbits in an elliptical manner at a tilt. The result is that roughly ever 2,000 years sees a miniature ice age in the northern hemisphere with a coordinating one in the southern hemisphere that do not hit at the same time (as only the north or the south can be tilted away from the sun at one time).

This mini ice age, known as the “little ice age” is a contributing factor to mortality rates of the Black Death, the plague that did significant damage to human populations in the 1300s and 1400s. The problem with finding the “end” of the “Little Ice Age” is that some natural disasters influence climate significantly. We can say for sure that by the mid-1800s, the Earth had tilted back so that the Northern Hemisphere was getting warmer again.

Famines began in the late 1200s, due to shorter growing seasons and colder temperatures in the northern hemisphere year round. Famines make people more susceptible to diseases and generally poorer health, meaning the strong able bodied populations that would have had much higher survival rates when the Black Death arrived, weren’t there.


There was a severe period of cooling in 1769 and 1770. Which contributed to the Great Famine of France that lead to the French revolution in the late 1780s.

The 1800s brought more complications, because Earth can be a bit fickle. The 1810s saw a series of large natural disasters, including earthquakes and powerful volcanic explosions. The earthquakes leveled towns and the one that hit along the New Madrid fault line in 1812 was so powerful, the Mississippi River ran backwards for several days. However, earthquakes don’t contribute to ice ages that honor goes to volcanoes. Ice samples from the Antarctic and Greenland shows that a massive volcanic eruption occurred around 1808 that caused enough ash to be flung in to the air to create the coldest decade recorded in history to that point – ie: a nuclear winter at the tail end of an ice age caused by tilting of the Earth on its axis.

This eruption was followed by several others between 1808 and 1816. In 1815, Mount Tambora had an eruption that was twice the size of the eruption of unknown origin in 1808. 1816 is known as the “Year Without A Summer.” A second nuclear ice age then occurred during the last years of the Little Ice Age. By the 1810s, the Earth would have been in the process of tilting back to the benefit of the northern hemisphere. Emphasis on should have been, as I lied earlier without realizing it….

I said earthquakes don’t contribute to ice ages, but that isn’t entirely true. Strong earthquakes can change the alignment of Earth on its axis. In 2010, an earthquake in Chile shifted the Earth on its axis by 3 inches, which doesn’t seem like much, but actually shortened the length of a day in the Southern Hemisphere by 2 seconds. It was an 8.8, the third strongest ever recorded in history. In late 1811 and early 1812, there were three earthquakes that shook the New Madrid fault line in the USA (northern hemisphere). The smallest is estimated at a 7.8 and occurred in January 1812. The largest was an 8.8 in February 1812. It is this quake that made the Mississippi River turn against its normal flow. On top of making the Mississippi River run backwards, it created a lake, and there were fissures that ran up to five miles long in the bootheel region of Missouri. It is impossible to imagine these 3 powerful quakes did not shift the Earth’s axis at least a little bit, given their magnitude, depth, and location (all of them happened in nearly the same location of Missouri, even though the fault runs into Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, and the southern tip of Illinois).

While we don’t have proof, it seems likely that the powerful New Madrid earthquakes shifted the northern hemisphere a couple of inches further away from the sun, further shortening already shorter days due to the tilt of the axis during this normal orbit variation. That is coupled with 2 volcanic eruptions (in 1808 and 1815) that caused nuclear winters. Thereby extending the Little Ice Age longer than what the natural axis tilt would have created.

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