There Be Aliens

In 1986, the world was shown what would happen in the event of a massive failure at a nuclear power plant when Chernobyl suffered a critical failure in Reactor 4 during a safety inspection.  I was 5 and don’t remember it happening.  But it’s terribly hard to get a history degree without learning about it (especially when your degree is 20th century military and political history of Europe).  Chernobyl is located in Pripyat, Ukraine, although it was all part of the USSR when it happened.

One of my history classes was taught by this really amazing professor who was from the Soviet Union originally and moved to the UK as an adult around the time the USSR fell.  One of his classes covered the decade prior to the fall of the Soviet Union.  It was a very interesting class with lots of information I hadn’t learned in any of my other classes.

Interestingly, on the night of the failure, there was an increase in UFO sightings over Chernobyl.  Three or four of the engineers dispatched to examine the problem at Chernobyl reported seeing a UFO hovering over the reactor.  In the days that followed, more than 200 UFO reports were made to the Soviet government by people living near the reactor and people heading to the reactor to see if it could be saved.

The inclusion zone around Chernobyl was 12 miles.  Nuclear scientist in both the USSR and the US later stated that it should have been larger.  Many of the locals surrounding the inclusion zone believe the UFOs kept it from being a much worse disaster.  Now, this isn’t to say that Chernobyl wasn’t a huge disaster anyway, it was.  It took several decades for wildlife to return to the area and there are still genetic defects among people whose parents were exposed to the radiation fall-out of Chernobyl.  And there are still occasionally, genetic defects found in the wildlife around the area.

On another note, Chernobyl ties into a much larger conspiracy theory involving radio waves.  There was an experimental Soviet project called Duga-3.  It’s a giant array of radio towers and wires meant to alert the USSR to incoming missiles.  Duga-3 was more expensive to build than Chernobyl and surprisingly an even bigger failure.  And it sits in the inclusion zone.  Some have speculated that the Soviet Union intentionally destroyed Chernobyl so they wouldn’t have to admit Duga-3 was a disaster.

Also on a related side note, Duga-3 powered up in 1976 and within a short time the entire world knew it existed somewhere behind the Iron Curtain, because Duga-3 sent out a ticking sound that managed to interfere with radio signals around the world.  However, it’s location was kept secret until they razed the forest that surrounded Duga-3 in the aftermath of Chernobyl.

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Voter Fraud

I’ve drafted this post about a dozen times and deleted it every time.  But with recounts happening once again in Broward and Palm Beach counties in Florida, let’s talk about how voter fraud works.  Because it isn’t easy.  And it’s rather illogical.

And there’s only 3 ways it can be done.

Method One:  You steal someone’s identity.  In most states, this requires you to buy a fake picture ID, appropriate someone’s address, because you can’t go vote at your local poll using two different identities, that’s going to arouse suspicion.  Doing this you get to vote twice, maybe.  As long as you don’t screw up.  In some states, not only do you need picture ID but your voter registration card.  This would require you to sit and watch the mail of the appropriated address so that you can surreptitiously pull out the voter registration card that you had sent there.

Method Two: Absentee Ballot, you apply for and get approved to do an absentee ballot.  Then you also go vote at the polls or you once again pay for a fake ID and get hold of a voter registration card that matches said ID.  And like the method above, you are out a some cash (most forgers do not accept debit or credit cards for their services and the price is dependent on what state you want the ID to be from.  Some states are easier to forge than others.  In Columbia, MO a forged picture ID is going to run you around $500 for a Missouri ID.  Plus, you’ve spent this money so you can vote twice.  I know we like to pretend every vote counts, but even if you vote twice, you probably aren’t doing your candidate a huge favor with your two votes.  I have never seen an election won by 2 whole votes.

Method Three: You somehow manage to get hired by the elections office in your county and you throw away or negate votes for the candidates you don’t want.  This requires you to either be slick enough that others in the room where the votes are counted do not notice you pitching votes or no one double checks your work when validating signatures on absentee ballots.

Method one and two aren’t very good.  Those two votes probably aren’t worth the cash you spent to get them.  Method Three would be more effective, but realistically…. How do you get 12 people feeding ballots into machines to miss that you are throwing ballots away or hiding them under the machine?  Because votes are not counted in a vacuum, there are usually multiple people feeding the ballots into the machine.  As well as some supervisors.  And I talked to a volunteer several years ago that said there was always a police officer in the room when they feed the ballots into the machines.

There is a 4th method that gets mentioned when talking about voter fraud, but it’s much like Method 1 and Method 2.  You somehow manage to get people who are not legally allowed to vote (illegal immigrants, convicts who have not applied to have their vote reinstated, etc)  the proper paperwork that allows them to vote.  But this is usually a fake ID.  There was a case in Georgia a few years ago where a woman voted using her friend’s ID because they looked enough alike that no one questioned it.  She had been convicted of DUI and had her right to vote revoked for the felony conviction and hadn’t applied to get her rights back.

This isn’t happening in large numbers though.  If it was, we’d have to redesign our election process from the ground up.  Because if millions of people were pulling this off across the country every election, it would prove our system flawed, even in states where picture ID is required.

The day before this posted, someone gave me a new method… Method 5: Personal belief – Someone pointed out to me that if you want to believe voter fraud is widespread and rampant, then no amount of evidence gathered by bipartisan research groups or critical thinking on the matter is going to convince you it isn’t.  In the same way, no one is ever going to convince Girgio Tsoukalos  that ancient aliens didn’t further the evolution of mankind or help build some of it’s more incredible engineering feats.

When You Find Your Neck of the Woods on Ranker

The other night, I was reading a Ranker list called Funniest Local News Interviews.  As I’m scrolling down, watching videos, one opens and I notice it’s the call letters and number for a local CBS station.  So I start the video….KRCG Columbia/Jefferson City

Two things immediately strike me:

  1.  This guy cannot originally be from Mid-Missouri
  2. I remember this fire

Let me clarify the first statement, most Missourians do have an accent.  Most Missourians do not have that accent.  I can’t tell you what accent most Missourians do have, because they sound normal to me.  But the accent he uses in the video sounds southern to me (and I’m sure some of my southern US friends are going to laugh at me for it, because it’s Southern US meets Alien Abduction I think) and I’m sure Chris Patterson from Texas and Krissy Smith from Louisiana are going to go “that doesn’t sound like what I hear”.

I don’t know anyone within a 60 mile radius from where I live where that accent is their native one if they were born in Mid-Missouri.  I hear it in the very southern reaches of Missouri from time to time, near the Arkansas border, but not in Mid-Missouri.  Not regularly and certainly not anyone native to the area.

For some reason, when I find something this local on the internet, it surprises me.  Partly because if you combined all of the KRCG viewing area, you’d get around 500,000 residents.  Maybe.  Columbia is the largest town in it at 110,000+-40,000 in students.  The next largest is Jefferson City with 45,000 people and it’s the capitol of our state.  Then size varies from 5 in tiny little Shamrock, Missouri to 13,000 in Moberly, Missouri.  The number of students who attend the University of Missouri – Columbia’s undergraduate program is larger than most of the towns that surround us.  Which is why I do an estimate of 40,000 students (undergrad at 3 major colleges/universities and 4 small ones) plus graduate programs at the 3 larger ones.

I think globally except when my town is involved.  It doesn’t really make sense.  But I have conversations with readers from all over the globe including South Africa, Norway, the UK, Australia, Germany, Russia, India, China, and numerous other places, so you’d think I’d be more accustomed to the internet making everyone a local.

And yet I’m not… If you didn’t go watch the video, spend a minute on it so you can hear this guy.  He sounds so out of his skull, but coherent…

 

Weapons of War

Did you know that under law, only certain types of weapons are allowed to be used for warfare?  I know it sounds crazy, but there is a governing body for it and breaking it can make you a war criminal.  And it started because of biological warfare in the days of the Holy Roman Empire.  It’s going to get a little gross at times, but it is an interesting topic, so bear with me.

Guns revolutionized warfare in Europe.  But guns weren’t all that accurate until recent times.  In order to make up for the limitations of accuracy, early gun battles included bullets that had been stored in either dead bodies or cesspits, ensuring they carried some very nasty bacteria into the blood stream of people being shot.  It was horrifyingly effective.  Eventually, it was banned after the Holy Roman Empire and France went to war and more people died from infections after the battles than during them.

The first decree declaring biological weapons (the above mentioned practice) happened in the late 1600s.  And during that decree, not only could you no longer poison bullets, but you couldn’t catapult dead bodies into walled cities (totally real thing; the Mongols perfected it, although Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans are all guilty of the practice).  To modern day listeners, this sounds more like psychological warfare than biological warfare, but it’s both.  You didn’t use fresh corpses, the best ones were the ones that had begun to bloat (remember the gross comment – skip if you have a weak stomach).  These would be catapulted into the cities, it’s scary, but impact was much more gruesome as it would cause the body to explode sending gasses and diseases created by decomposition into the air of the city.

After WWI, chemical weapons joined the list of biological weapons that couldn’t be used.  And this is where it gets interesting, along with Mustard gas and nerve gas, pepper spray, and tear gas are also considered chemical weapons that work on the principle of it being an irritant.  So they were also banned.  This means the US can use pepper spray and tear gas on it’s own people to restore law and order, but not on enemy combatants.

Japanese ingenuity created balloon bombs during WWII.  Only one balloon bomb successfully reached the US, where it killed a family that was picnicking.  Even though they sent up hundreds of balloon bombs.  The problem with a balloon bomb is you can’t control it and it doesn’t show up on radar, meaning it can’t be prepared for.  After WWII, balloon bombs joined the list of things that were banned.

Moving forward, the Vietnam War brought bans on napalm and flame throwers.  Oh and spike pits, those things you see in movies where there’s something that looks like ground hiding a pit full of nasty sharp pointy things – this is actually an ancient tactic used against cavalry as well as ground troops.  However, the battlefields of Asia in Korea and Vietnam showed these things to be rather destructive to soldiers and civilians alike.  And they were banned.

Also on the list are plague animals; rats, locusts, fleas, etc.  Anything that causes widespread destruction that cannot be effectively controlled.  Thankfully, in this measure dog bombs, bat bombs, and pigeon bombs, were also banned.

There are two forms of nuclear weapons banned “dirty bombs” and “salted bombs” but nuclear weapons themselves are not on the list of banned warfare.

Just something to think about.

Lord Byron & the Vinegar Diet

George Byron is an 18th century poet, politician, philosopher, and terrible role model for young ladies, who identify with Lord Byron because he did indeed write some very moody poetry.  Lord Byron was a bit of a kook.  Born in Britain he eventually moved (or was sent to India – I don’t remember, Byron didn’t leave much of an impression from my Brit Lit classes).  However, Byron comes to mind every time someone tells me to drink apple cider vinegar to cure what ails me.

I don’t, because Lord Byron proved a vinegar diet wasn’t good for you way back in the 1700s and 1800s.  This might need a touch of explanation, since Lord Byron wasn’t exactly sickly.  He was your average guy who wrote poetry as a member of the British nobility.  But he had a secret, he was very sensitive about his weight and terrified of becoming fat.

Lord Byron made the decision that vinegar would keep him slim.  And he began to drink it every day.  He believed it aided digestion so that you wouldn’t need to eat as much.  The logic is sort of there.  Lord Byron began having stomach problems shortly after starting his daily vinegar intake.

The symptoms sound like an ulcer, but could have been almost anything.  Vinegar is an acid after all.  Drinking vinegar can lead to esophageal issues, stomach problems, and it destroys the enamel on your teeth worse than citrus, carbonation, sugar, and starch from foods like potatoes (for the record, potatoes are worse for your teeth than sugar).

He also developed symptoms of malnutrition at one point, possibly because he wasn’t really eating he was so sick from the vinegar intake.   Although in his defense, it was keeping him slim, he suffered digestion problems and couldn’t eat very often or very much and reportedly he developed horrible diarrhea which is always fun.  Of course, just to make sure the vinegar was capable of working, Byron who was a vegetarian most of his adult life, sometimes went weeks subsisting on wine and crackers.  And, when he did indulge in food, he often purged it afterwards even before starting on the vinegar diet.

And while he died at the ripe old age of 36, it wasn’t from malnutrition, dehydration, or anything else that should accompany a vinegar diet.  He died from a fever contracted in India, I believe.  However, a doctor friend of his claimed his dieting habits had left him weak and susceptible to terrible illnesses.

Apple cider vinegar isn’t any better for you, it just has a slightly improved flavor over white vinegar.  Pickle juice which does contain vinegar can actually be quite good for you, commercial pickle juice is a mix of vinegar and a brine solution.  The brine solution uses salts that the body needs to help with all sorts of things (including potassium).  But one should still not sit down and drink a jar of pickle juice, unless you are also drinking lots of water, brushing your teeth religiously with an enamel protective toothpaste, and eating regularly.

Small amounts of vinegar are actually good for you.  It can aid with digestion as well as help clean up microbes in the mouth, and surprisingly, provide us with nutrients we don’t get from most of our foods.  But that’s the key, vinegar should be consumed in food products, not drank like a glass of water (pickled vegetables (beets, jalapenos, pickles, sauerkraut, etc).

For the record, dieting fads of the 1700 and 1800s are fascinating and strange and mimic modern dieting fads.

Amendments, Details, Medical Marijuana

I don’t normally check my private/direct messages with my phone.  I prefer typing at my computer keyboard.  The other day, I got a private message via Facebook, basically calling me a moron.  But I checked it on my computer and by the time I got to it on my phone, it was gone.  If you change your profile or something after sending a private message, it deletes said private message.

I first noticed this oddity when I was accused of stealing some guy’s script because I had an unpublished novella called The Dysfunctional Mob and apparently he has a screen play by the same title, that hasn’t been copyrighted or appeared in film form.

Anyway, the writer of the private message told me I was an idiot who didn’t understand how the government worked and I needed to take some history classes because the 14th Amendment deals only with birth right citizenship, not the other stuff I mentioned.  Event though said writer managed to get the message removed before I could get a screen shot, the jokes on them.  I have a history degree and was unable to avoid taking classes in US government and history.  And Amendment 14 deals with a whole lot more than just citizenship.  Even Wikipedia is fairly correct on it’s inclusion of passages from said amendment and the explanation of the 14th amendment.  I know because when it first came up in the news, I couldn’t remember what the 14th amendment was and had to Google it.

Anyway, I’m not here for the 14th Amendment today.  The State of Missouri votes today on Medical Marijuana.  But because everything is either feast or famine when it comes to voting in Missouri, we aren’t just voting for one amendment – there are 2 of them regarding medical marijuana and a proposition.  Now both amendments might pass, but the one with the most votes technically wins.  The proposition and either amendment could also pass.

I’m fairly sure the 2 amendments are meant to confuse people.  Because Amendment 2 is much, much different than Amendment 3.  And the language is super important.  Why do I think it’s meant to confuse people?  When the amendments were presented to our state government, the biggest complaint was about how this would make marijuana easier for teens to get.  The whole “we must protect our children at any cost” stance.

Amendment 2 has a much longer list of conditions allowed to use medical marijuana.  It also allows people to personally grow it, you pay a fee, send in a prescription, and they send you six plants and a license.  The list of conditions though is part of the really important bit, Amendment 2 has more than 20 conditions allowed to be prescribed medical marijuana and creates jobs.  Amendment 3 has much higher tax rates and says the extra goes to research, but if you read it closely the “taxes” go to a guy in Springfield, Missouri who’s a lawyer and on the board of a research institution and where the “research money goes” is at his discretion.  Also the list of treatable conditions includes just 9 medical conditions.

Amendment 3 doesn’t help many people, it does seem to help the guy who wrote the amendment, the lawyer Brad Bradshaw – who I have heard described by numerous people as an ambulance chasing lawyer.  I’ve never met him, but I picture Leo Getz as played by Joe Pesci in Lethal Weapon when I think about it.

Several of my friends that live in Springfield have been debating the amendments on Facebook (which is where the ambulance chaser comments) have come from, because one of the adverts paid for by Brad Bradshaw said it would create 10,000 jobs in Springfield.  Now Bradshaw is claiming he doesn’t know why the advert says that because it will probably only create a couple hundred jobs.  Meaning Amendment 2 would create more and while the taxes on it are lower, it will also generate more revenue because more people could be prescribed it.

And Amendment 2 clearly states that the taxes will go towards helping the problem of homeless vets as well as medical research into cancer, but it is not at the discretion of a single person and his board of cronies, the funds get divvied up by a board made up of doctors who work at research hospitals and Missouri’s veteran’s affairs department.

Amendments are long and boring and full of legalese.  They are hard to read and difficult to understand.  But reading and understanding them are vitally important.  Because there are always things hidden in them that don’t appear to fit with the amendment – just like the whole “it’s a 4% tax rate, but the money goes to help homeless vets and cancer research”.  What?  How and why is assisting homeless vets included in an amendment regarding medical marijuana?  I haven’t seen any pro-Amendment 2 advertisements because I try not to watch TV with commercials in it.  But I did see one anti-Amendment 2 advertisement and it was all about how doctors in Missouri don’t support medical marijuana, but they support Amendment 3 because it allows for more medical research into treating cancer.

In the last 17 months, I have yet to meet a doctor who doesn’t support medical marijuana in my state.  Even my 74 year old primary care physician has told me if I moved to a state with medical marijuana treating my CRPS would be easier.  These two commercials are important because both have been mentioned in the online discussion among my friends.  What wasn’t mentioned was that states with medical marijuana have fewer opiate related deaths and fewer patients that need opiate prescriptions.

Despite the boring nature of amendments, it’s important to read them in their entirety because you never know what might be hidden in them.  Also, just listening to adverts or spokespeople talk about them can be misleading.  I still haven’t figured out what Missouri Doctor’s Association doesn’t support medical marijuana because from what I can tell, the Missouri medical community is good with it, across the board.  Most likely it’s a ploy, if people think their doctor doesn’t believe in medical marijuana then there’s no need to vote for it, because even if they have one of the conditions on the approved for treatment list, their doctor won’t prescribe it.  I live in a very liberal city that has a large pro-medical marijuana stance.  I have yet to see a single sign that says vote no on Amendment 2.  One of our law firms in town has a banner on their building that does say vote no on Amendment 3 and gives a web address on where to get more information on the two amendments.  I didn’t go check it out because I figured it’d be skewed towards Amendment 2 since the law firm is obviously not in favor of Amendment 3.

I have kept an eye on the Facebook debate simply because I like reading the comments on why someone thinks everyone should vote this way or vote that way.  It shows people exorcising critical thinking skills, and is a nice change from the normal political stuff that shows up on Facebook.  I often fear we are a country losing our ability to critically think about things and are likely to just follow the crowd and take the word of a political official as gospel truth.  In the end, we are all going to go to the polls and vote as we believe, but it will be informed voting.  None of my friends in this discussion are going to get into the polling booth and go “I have no idea whether this is a good idea or a bad one, so I’ll just randomly decide to vote no or yes on it, based on advertisements I’ve seen,” which is a terrible voting practice since all adverts are skewed one way or the other in an attempt to get someone to do what they want.  That’s why the anti-amendment 2 commercials have stressed the low tax rate and the expanded medical treatment list as awful and going to put drugs in the hands of our teens.  It leaves out that Amendment 2 requires someone to be 21 or older to obtain a prescription for medical marijuana and it doesn’t mention that about half the tax money raised goes towards helping veterans.  Why because these two things would help push amendment 2 through the polls.  I’ve seen a few posts that were like “I’m not pro pot, but I am pro helping vets, so I’ll vote yes, because I don’t care if other people use it, and the money will help veterans.”

As a PS: normally when I write a political post, like I did with the removal of the 14th amendment, it’s not about taking a side (although about half my readers take it that way), it’s about dispensing information.  It doesn’t matter to me if you are pro-birth right citizenship or anti-birth right citizenship or where I stand on the matter, what I do care about is that you realize this amendment doesn’t just deal with birth right citizenship and the removal of it could be used to subjugate or abuse US citizens, the ones that have been here for generations, because it like so many other amendments isn’t about just one single thing, there are clauses in there that have nothing to do with birth right citizenship.  And I feel like before anyone takes a die hard, unmovable stance on anything related to our government they should be working with all the information and not just what they read in news articles or hear come out of the mouths of our political leaders, who all have an agenda.

Now, go forth and vote…

Serial Killers, Industrialization, and Urbanization

Recently, I published a post about serial killers having always existed in the course of human history.  I had a reader disagree with me, stating that as far as they could tell, serial killers were the result of the urbanization that happened during the Industrial Revolution.  Here’s my rebuttal and why I think they have always walked among us.

Urbanization was not a result of the Industrial Revolution.  Since civilizations began to form on this planet we have had urbanization.  I did agree with one thing they said “crime is a side effect of urbanization.”  Yes, yes it is.

We look back into history for codified penal codes and the first is always the Code of Hammurabi.  We all know it, a justice system built upon an eye for an eye.  It was written by the king of Babylon Hammurabi and set down on a large chunk of stone as well as smaller scrolls.  The difference is, we’ve found the large stone, but only fragments of the scrolls, which appear to have been delivered to magistrates outside the capitol city Babylonia.

It makes sense.  The stone was carved approximately 3,700 years ago (best guess based on source materials talking about it).  We don’t know if the stone was carved first or the scrolls, but safe money would be on the scrolls.  This means that mesopotamia may have had a crime problem.  A problem with not just crime, but uniform punishments for crimes.  Hence the creation of the code.  In one of my early civilization classes, we were told to look at the punishments listed first on the code, because those are probably the most prevalent (i.e. the biggest problems).  If my memory is correct, the first two deal with theft and murder.

Best estimate for the population of Babylonia in 1700 BCE is 200,000 residents.  That would make Babylonia an urban center…. and if my professor was right, we know they had problems with murder or Hammurabi would not have made it a priority to address it.  And as a human being, I tend to agree with my professor.  I don’t put the least important stuff at the beginning of a letter.  I start with the things that I absolutely require the readers full attention on.

There are over 200 penal codes outlined in the Code of Hammurabi.  Attention spans suck, even back then, because people are fundamentally people.  You don’t start with horse theft if it isn’t a big problem because people are only going to read the first 20 lines or so.  Beyond that and their brains are going to shut off.  It’s the way it works, that’s why no one reads the End User License Agreement when they install software… it’s legal jargon and there are pages upon pages of it.

And we don’t actually know what crimes were a problem because while Hammurabi made a codified penal system for crimes committed in Babylon in the 1700s, no one wrote down Enki Abu Blah (Enki is a god in Babylon, I just couldn’t think of any other names for a Babylonian) was found guilty of murdering his neighbor after he found his neighbor had participated in carnal relations with Enki’s wife; punishment put to death by being pecked to death by crows.

Other early civilizations (Egypt, Greece, Rome, Persia, Carthage) would also codify crime and punishment.  And again, murder appears to have been a problem among these civilizations if the order of the laws as stated on papyrus scrolls is an indicator.  Again, what we lack are the written records of the crimes committed that made it necessary to codify a legal system.

Giza, Egypt around 1000 BCE has been estimated to be nearly 300,000 people including slaves.  Move forward a little and you have Athens in approximately 500 BCE with a population of 250,000 people, but those were citizens… women, slaves, men under 30, men not born in Athens, but not slaves, these people were not slaves.  Most historians, archaeologists, and anthropologists suspect the population of Athens to be more than 500,000 in 500 BCE.

If serial killers exist because urbanization exists, then my original statement was correct, serial killers have existed from the moment we started building cities.  Hell, the capitol of Sumer in 5,000 BCE, the ancient city of Uruk had a population of 200,000 people.  To put that into perspective, you really have to think about it.  6,700 years ago, when the world population numbered in just the millions, Uruk had a population of 200,000 people.

However, urbanization did occur with the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s.  It just didn’t occur as we think.  London in 1500 CE had a population of 80,000 people.  A far cry from the population of London today.  But with the Industrial Revolution London went to having a population of more than one million people in 1800.  It became the largest city in Europe with industrialization.

For some reason though, we are still convinced that our civilization ancestors, lived in towns of 5,000 people or less.  If Sparta had only had a population of 5,000 people, they would have lost a lot of battles.  In reality, the Sparta we learn about in school had a population of more than 50,000 people.  Much, much smaller than it’s sister city of Athens.  Of course, Sparta had population growth under control with their rules to ensure that every man served in the army and they weeded out weaknesses in infants by leaving them to die, so they wouldn’t contaminate the gene pool by breeding.  Those kinds of things make it very hard to grow your population.

I have pondered on part of their argument though, was it perhaps not urbanization that created serial killers, but industrialization?  If that’s the case, then serial killers would be fairly new to the world.  Every time I think about that part of it though, I come to two very odd facts that I have trouble reconciling.

  1. Nearly every child raised before 1960 most likely had sociopathic traits.  Child rearing before modern day leaned far more to the Spartan method than the Dr. Spock method.  Why aren’t serial killers littering the historical records.
  2. There are serial killers in the history record before the 1800s.  Not many, but a few.  Which makes me think the same problem exists for early serial killers as it does for the US v. the rest of the world in the creation of serial killers.  In the 1990s, the FBI put out a terrifying report, the US which holds only 5% of the world population had over 85% of it’s serial killers.  Holy crap, what was the US doing wrong?!  Turns out, nothing and the stat is very skewed.  The reason it looked like serial killers were a US problem was because we had the FBI.  By the mid-1990s the Behavioral Science Unit was up and running.  Understanding serial killers was becoming an art form.  Why so many serial killers in the US compared to the rest of the world then?  Lack of reporting, lack of understanding, lack of putting serial killer cases together.  And lack of publicity surrounding the capture of serial killers.  The US doesn’t have a serial killer problem, it has a reporting problem – they are too good at reporting their successes.  I believe pre-Victorian era serial killers work the same way, if they were caught, there wasn’t any publicity around it.
  3. Finally, there wasn’t a complete definition for a serial killer.  Nor the understanding that we have today.  As of right this second, we know that serial killers can and do just stop killing for a variety of reasons that do not involve death or prison.  We also know that sometimes they change signatures and MOs.  Victimology is the most consistent thing about a serial killer.  And there were serial killers.  Only a handful, but a handful of serial killers before the 1800s is a sign that serial killers did exist.  Elizabeth Bathory, Gilles Garnier, Vlad Tepes (the real person not the creation of Stoker), were all medieval serial killers.

I also believe that serial killing took a hiatus in the 14th and 15th century.  This is where the lack of urbanization myth comes from.  Between the mid-1300s and the late 1400s Europe, all of Europe (as well as the Middle East and North Africa) had a serious problem.  Bubonic Plague became hyper-virulent.  Normally, plague is passed by fleas and even humans had fleas during the Middle Ages, but that doesn’t explain why it swept through Europe with such deadly efficiency and speed.  Plague under normal circumstances spreads very slowly and takes 7-15 days to kill you.  During the Black Death epidemic of the middle ages, it spread rapidly, written accounts make it appear it could be spread from person to person, and death happened in just a few days, not a week or longer.  We have now learned that once in a while, it does indeed spread person to person and become a much stronger reproducer causing quicker deaths.

Millions died.  But the superstitions surrounding the Black Death (which have mostly turned out to be true, just FYI) about it travelling on the air, would have been preventative, keeping the deranged away, in case your household had plague, but wasn’t showing symptoms yet.  In 1200 CE, the population of Paris France was estimated at over 100,000 people.  By 1500 CE, when the Black Death was under control, the population was only 45,000 people.  More than half the city’s population either died or moved, because in urban centers, plague spread even faster than in rural communities.  (The Black Death did have one good side effect, it ended feudalism)

This was not the first time this had happened with plague, but it was the worst.  The Justinian Plague (also an outbreak of bubonic plague) killed more than half the population of Constantinople between 400 CE and 540 CE, estimated death toll was in the hundreds of thousands.  Meaning Constantinople was quite obviously an urban center at the time.

Leading me to continue to believe that serial killers have always existed.  It should be pointed out that I don’t always buy into the modern definition of a serial killer, because there are at least 4 of them and they are all based on the idea of signature, MO, and inability to stop killing.  Since all these things are fluid, more fluid than we thought just 20 years ago, I consider a serial killer anyone who murders more than 3 people for either sexual gratification, their own personal pleasure, or entertainment.  I consider this a fitting definition, since one of these three things must be there for a serial killer to be created.  For example, if I kill author C. Patt (don’t worry, Chris, you’re safe, I hate being in the same room as dead things and frankly killing you makes you a dead thing), I have to enjoy it or I won’t do it again.  That lack of enjoyment automatically stops me from being a serial killer, since one victim doesn’t cut it.  Also, things like cooling off periods are quite variable which is part of another definition of a serial killer.  I usually believe that simpler is better for defining things, because there are too many outliers when definitions get very detailed.

There was also an argument for urbanization creating the anonymous neighbor.  This is true, in towns and cities of several thousand people, you don’t know everyone.  However, I’m not sure that serial killers require anonymous neighbors.  There are scores of serial killers that started with someone they knew, personally, sometimes intimately, before moving on to their anonymous neighbors.  What urbanization does bring to the table for serial killers is an extremely deep well of victims to choose from.  It’s much easier to kill 10 people in a city of 100,000 than in a village of 500.  But massive urban centers dotted the landscape as far as the eye could see.  And I’m not convinced it was the industrialization of Europe that lead to the creation of serial killers, simply because there’s no reason for it to be a huge factor.

Ed & Lorraine Warren & More Ghostly Stuff

I loved several of the movies based on the cases of Ed and Lorraine Warren – A Haunting in Connecticut, The Conjuring, The Conjuring 2, Annabel… I haven’t seen the Nun yet, but I’m sure I’ll enjoy it.

The problem is I don’t believe in Ed and Lorraine Warren.  Not because I don’t believe in the paranormal, but because often times, the research done by the Warrens was faulty.  And there was no corroboration on their cases except the people it happened to.  Except I can tell a good ghost story too and it wouldn’t require verification by Ed and Lorraine (although both are now deceased, so maybe I should be concerned about labeling them terrible witnesses and investigators of paranormal/ghostly phenomenon).

The one I believe in the most is The Einfield Poltergeist, the subject of The Conjuring 2.  What convinces me there was something going on is the witnesses that weren’t the family and weren’t the Warrens.  The scene with the police going into the house, was giving dramatic license for the movie, but it did happen.  The police did investigate and they did conclude that they could not explain how Janet was causing the events that happened to them while in the house.

Paranormal investigators and debunkers came to investigate the Einfield Poltergeist, beyond the Warrens.  Most walked away convinced Janet was pulling the strings on a massive hoax, but couldn’t figure out exactly how she was doing it.

Janet was a pre-teen with a bit of trouble in her past, which seem to be the perfect circumstance for a poltergeist.  Would it surprise me to discover it was a hoax?  No.  Would it surprise me to learn that it was real?  No.  Do I think Janet was involved?  Oh yes, either as the battery for the activity or as the perpetrator of a hoax.

But no matter how much independent research I do into the Einfield Poltergeist, I’m with the others that investigated, I can’t explain how it was done if it was a hoax.  And I’m still not completely convinced it was real.  The hardest thing to prove in history is a negative.  It was one of my first lessons when I began to formally study history.  I can’t prove that Hitler committed suicide in his bunker in Berlin in the last days of the war.  I also can’t prove that he didn’t.  I can have an opinion and I can conform to accepted historical opinion, but they can’t prove it anymore than I can.

History is full of these paradoxes: unable to prove it did happen, unable to prove it didn’t.  It’s a strange thing to deal with, especially when writing fact oriented papers.

Proof in history does not require a photograph or video (although those do help), they require reliable witnesses and something tangible to accompany the witnesses.  In the case of the Einfield Poltergeist, the fact that even the debunkers and professional skeptics could not figure out how the hoax was perpetrated gives a great deal of sway to the argument that it wasn’t a hoax.

Interestingly, bias and this historical paradox will make it so neither ghosts or the paranormal can be proven.  There will always be something that leaves it unproven.  In the case of the Einfield Poltergeist, that reasonable doubt comes from the circumstances of the family.  They lived in a council flat (for Americans think subsidized housing and/or Section 8).  The family was not in a good way and the mother had asked to be moved to a different house before the poltergeist activity began and was denied.

Which makes one wonder was the Einfield Poltergeist a hoax to try to get a better council flat?

Serial Killers Aren’t New

For some reason, we think serial killers are a phenomenon of the modern day.  I’m here to tell you that’s wrong.  They have always existed.  The difference is that there understanding crime has changed and we’ve created police forces.

Did you know Scotland Yard, the metropolitan Police Force of London did not exist until 1829?  And the oldest formal police force in the US is the Boston police department which came into being in 1838 and was largely modeled upon Scotland Yard?  The NYPD would follow in 1845.  And Albany, NY, Chicago, and New Orleans would follow in the 1840s and 1850s.  This means the oldest police force in the US is only 179 years old.

Before the establishment of police forces, most towns had a constable, but they weren’t exactly crime fighters.  Crime fighting and criminal investigation was not born of the police forces in the 1800s, that came from private investigation agencies, in the UK the Field agency was the first and in the US it was the Pinkerton Agency.  However, it was a French private investigator that started studying criminology, ballistics, and other forensic investigative techniques, including encouraging crime scene integrity.

Long before Jack the Ripper was killing in White Chapel and HH Holmes had even thought to consult an architect to build his Murder Castle, there were serial killers.  The Bloody Benders, and the famous body snatchers William Burke and William Hare, all count as serial killers that operated long before the Ripper and Holmes.

For some reason, modern culture doesn’t apply the term serial killer before Jack the Ripper and HH Holmes though, so our brains convince us they were the first.  And history is a huge part of the problem on the misconception that serial killers are a modern thing.  For the purpose of this post I’m going to use 1881 as the starting point for modern serial killers.

Now for the part history plays in our misconception about serial killers.  Scrolls of papyrus or linen or velum are not cheap to make.  They take a lot of time and elbow grease.  So writing down history was hard.  Add in the expense and history was reserved for the elite.  But writing down that Caligula was a raving madman who could find an excuse to kill practically anyone, was a good way to make the list.  The records we do have of the bloodshed Caligula produced came from scribes that worked under his successor.  And while some of those were happy to make Caligula as vile and awful as he really was, not all of them were okay with showing a Roman Emperor in such a terrible way.

This meant that Bob the Serial Killer of Antioch was probably not written about, because that was a scroll that wasn’t able to be used for the deeds of a ruler or noble man, and realistically there was a good chance there wasn’t any organization crime oriented force to put together that Bob was a serial killer.  Until the printing press and paper became cheap enough for newspapers, there just wasn’t going to be a record of a serial killer that wasn’t in a position of power.

Even today though, we don’t label even terrible leaders as serial killers, even when they are.  And we seem to give them some leniency due to breeding issues (like inbreeding).  But Caligula really wasn’t all that inbred and developed most of his mental issues after suffering from a serious illness that caused some changes in his personality.

And while we don’t consider Caligula a great ruler, we also don’t consider him a serial killer.  There is one exception, because there is always at least one exception, Vlad Tepes.  Perhaps there is some wiggle room with men like Caligula and the label serial killer, but there certainly isn’t with Tepes.  Bram Stoker was so appalled by the stories of Tepes that he turned him into a soulless, blood sucking monster and the name Dracula became synonymous with killer vampires for the rest of history.

I find it surprising more rulers didn’t grow up to be serial killers.  The childhoods of most rulers were horrible, Tepes and Ivan Grozny (Ivan the Terrible) are great examples, Tepes was taken as a prisoner by the Ottoman Empire and the Sultan repeatedly and often tortured Vlad and his younger brother.  Ivan became the ruling prince at just 3 years old.  And finding a capable regent to rule in his stead until he aged, was difficult to say the least.  Literally no one in the castle cared about Ivan.  And he often had to beg the kitchen staff to get a meal in his own palace.

Tepes and Ivan IV are the two that come to mind imediately, for me, but there were plenty of other rulers raised in similar situations that ended up being serial killing monsters.  Even the famed Cleopatra of Egypt was basically a family annihilator.  Murdering her siblings to secure her place as Pharaoh.  And the murder of her two older sisters, both married to Roman noblemen are why Rome objected so strongly to first Julius Caesar and then Mark Antony shacking up with her.

Holiday Crime Stats (Some might Surprise You)

Every year someone tells me that Halloween has a high murder rate.  And every year, I point out that person is wrong.  As a matter of fact, Halloween has a low murder rate.  I think it’s because we aren’t forced to be with family.  Anyway, I decided this year, I’d get a post written that I can just refer these “Halloween is murder night” people to.

  • Property crime does see a slight increase on Halloween.  Probably because all teens are basically sociopaths and find egging houses and TPing front yards as fun.  Although last year, a friend of mine who did not hand out candy found someone had hurled fresh piles of dog poop at their house (so weird and so gross).
  • The three weeks or so before Christmas could be called “Crime Weeks”.  Christmas seems to bring out the worst in everybody, even criminals.  Burglary, home invasions, murders, and suicides increase around Christmas.  Drug overdoses also see an minor uptick.
  • And it’s not just crime and drugs affected by Christmas.  People with mental health issues like anxiety and depression find December a difficult month to deal with.
  • Personal debt increases and in many cases, it takes several months to pay it off, which leads to people being crankier after the New Year starts according to researchers at Duke that did an economics and mental health study a decade or so ago.
  • In 2nd place for Holidays make crime and our mental health worse, is Thanksgiving.
  • Even Easter and Valentine’s day is “more stressful” than Halloween.

Having said Halloween has a low murder rate, murders do still happen on Halloween.  But it’s no different than a Tuesday as far as murder rates go.

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