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.


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.

Working on Books

This is not my NaNo Update, it’s a generalized update of what the hell I’m doing with my time.  I continue to plug away at my NaNo novel, but I took on a job fact checking the history/mythology portions of a “coworkers(?)” book.  I’m on a tight deadline for it, which is fine, I work on it for several hours every day.

I’m making slow progress, mainly because I feel I lack the information needed to buy into the mythology and alternate history being presented to me.  Of course, I always expect this to some degree when I do one of these jobs.

I know I’m just as guilty of this as any writer, sometimes I have it all sorted in my brain and forget to tell the readers.  I feel this writer did the same thing.  Which is 100% fixable with a couple of handy dandy rewrites.  That’s why we create drafts.

The problem for me arises because it annoys me that I can do this to someone else’s book, take it apart and point out the logistical problems as well as parts that are lacking in information needed to understand the narrative, but can’t do it in my own books.  Because as I said, we all do it.

Sometimes, I don’t think readers realize how hard it is to create a brand new universe in which different things happened, often with only the barest bones to go on.  For example, any fictional book set in Atlantis, does not have much to begin with, it is only mentioned a few times by a single author.  I’ve done an Atlantis based thing in the Brenna Strachan series.  But in it, I placed a completely fictional framework dictated not by the myths of Atlantis, but on the myths associated with my characters.  That made it much easier to work with.

However, the creation of an entire civilization whether it be Atlantis or Mu or Lemuria is  incredibly complicated.  The writer first has to decide whether their society is going to hold true to norms of other societies at the time or if they are going to strike out and do their own thing.  And if they don’t mimic other societies… There is a lot that goes into a civilization.  This is something I am oddly familar with, not because I learned it in a writing class, but because I took an anthropology/archaeology class in high school.  The final for the class was that we were divided into 2 groups and each had create a brand new civilization (that included all 7 identifying factors of a civilization).  Then we had to break up our artifacts, bury them in the ground, dig up the other team’s artifacts and attempt to decipher the fictional language, interpret their societal structure, identify their religious system and at least some god figure within it, and write a summary on their culture.  We got points when our summary items matched the summary items of the opposing team on their creation worksheet.

It was a terrible thing.  I learned I do not like to be dirty during that mock dig.  I was fine with being the recorder of information, as long as it wasn’t my hands in the dirt and like that, I knew I couldn’t be an archaeologist.  However, I never thought I would use that information again.  Then I decided to write a piece of paranormal fiction.  And suddenly all those things were important.  I know have a checklist for creating fictional civilizations and societies and I fill it out when I start a brand new society.

I got off easy with the Nephilim Narratives, very easy, because there was already an angelic hierarchy to draw upon as well as a mirror hierarchy among demons.  The only thing I had to do for this society was explain how it happened.  How did angels come to live among man and battle against the possessed?  Simple enough really, especially since the religious structure and hierarchy were already there…

And those two things are very tightly interwoven.  Whenever I look at a piece of historical fiction or something like this, which is not historical fiction, but the writer would like to get it as close to historically correct as possible is what kind of leader is there?  I don’t mean a benevolent leader v. not so nice.  I mean is it a king?  If yes, is it a god king?  Is it a divine right king?  There is a serious difference and it shapes how society works.  The best example of a God King comes from Egypt.  Ancient Egyptians believed their pharaohs were the physical embodiment of the god Horus.  As such, an Egyptian pharaoh could do no wrong really… except Akhnaten, who decided to tell Egyptians he was not Horus and that they should be monotheistic – it didn’t go over well.

Whereas a divine right king, is more like Louis XIV of France, in this instance, he rules by divine providence, he is not a divine being himself.  Louis’ position was tenuous though, with many deciding God was punishing them for Louis being on the throne, sending them a horrible famine in which peasants were eating tree bark and grass to survive.  Eventually, the peasants and nobles revolted, and beheaded Louis who had obviously gone astray and God was punishing his people for it.  He was not infallible and God was quite capable of forsaking him, which doesn’t happen with god kings.

This single idea shapes social hierarchies.  Because you can dethrone and behead a divine right king much easier than a god king.  Even Akhnaten the Heretic was not beheaded or dethroned in Ancient Egypt, because doing so would bring the wraith of the gods down on the people.  Also, with god kings, nobles have less power as in lords, dukes, etc. (they weren’t called this in Ancient Egypt, but it’s basically what they were).  Giving them less power meant they could do far less if a pharaoh stepped out of bounds.  But I digress a bit.

So when creating a totally new civilization for a book or series of books, you need to know what kind of political structure is in place, as it determines what sorts of confines are placed on the characters.  We don’t think about it, but any early civilization needs a few things, are they wearing clothing made of cotton, linen, wool, silk, leather?  What’s the climate?  You can’t have everyone running around in wool clothing in a tropical zone, the death toll just from heat related illnesses would be very high.  But if you can’t grow cotton or flax, what do you use for clothing for your characters?  If you say they are all wearing cotton tunics, a reader assumes a supply of cotton is available.  But again, if you have everyone wearing heavy cotton tunics near the equator at some point, a reader will comment on it, probably in a review, because it’s going to break the spell the book has for them.

And as the reader’s review gets read, it’s going to affect other readers.  People who do not think about what sorts of clothing should be worn in a tropical zone is going to read the review and then as they read the book it’s going to dawn on that reader that it doesn’t make sense.  It could affect their review at which point, you’d have 2 reviews talking about it and that could snowball.

It sounds silly, but remember I have a review of the Strachan novels that dings me for demons running around the planet.  They said “It couldn’t happen, that’s not the way it works.”  My gut reaction to that review was “did they forget it was a fiction novel?”  But as I thought a little more about it, I realized what they were really saying was that some inconsistency between what they know and what they read caused them to stop and go WTF?!

Because all readers bring their understandings and experience to reading even a work of fiction.  Whether that’s fair or not, is up for debate, but as someone who enjoys Stephen King novels, I know why the first 25% of his novels are hard to get through.  I usually skip that huge portion, but that portion is his world building section.  That’s where he lays out the rules that govern that book.  If, in the first 25% of The Stand, we were told that men and women had been treated equally for thousands of years, we would have gone what?  No, they weren’t.  They still aren’t.  And without an explanation, this piece of information would have been jarring and we wouldn’t have had the experience to understand it.  We would require him to give us more context, in what ways were they treated equally?

Here’s the thing, the reason that happens in every King novel is because he has crafted a universe very far away from the expectations and experiences of his readers.  The Stand, The Shining, It, Pet Cemetery, Rose Madder, The Dark Tower Series, all these books take place in the same universe and it isn’t our universe.  So he has to explain it every time we open a book, that way we realize we are not in this Maine, we are in an alternate Maine, one that exists in a reality we don’t live in and so things are different and we have to be given that information to understand it, to connect with characters, to keep us from being jerked out of the book to scratch our heads and ask WTF?!

The Halloween Post

I spent 2, maybe 4 weeks, trying to come up with the perfect post for today.  Ghosts?  Demons?  Serial killers?  What should it be?  All of these things are scary or can be.  I even did a draft post of deities you wouldn’t want to meet like Lamashtu the Mesopotamian Goddess of stillbirths and miscarriages and by “goddess of” she was thought to cause them, as well as kidnapping infants for the purpose of lunch (or sacrifice) depending on what source you use.

And then I saw a post on a “For Sale” Site and this blog post was born.  The Stardust Ranch is for sale.  If you aren’t up on modern ufology, the Stardust Ranch has gained infamy among Ufologists, because the current occupant and seller swears he’s killed multiple grey aliens on the property over the years.

The Stardust Ranch (also known as the Skinwalker Ranch) has gained its infamy by being featured on shows such as Ghost Adventures.  However, the owner has turned down offers to allow shows such as UFO Hunters and Fact or Faked (both now defunct shows, but highly enjoyable) to film episodes on the property.

And the Stardust Ranch isn’t the only place in the US thought to be infested by aliens.  Nome, Alaska has been dealing with a troubling spate of disappearances for more than forty years.  They’ve got an FBI agent that lives practically on site anymore to assist with missing person’s cases.  The town of just 3,000+ people has been thought to be the home of a serial killer, a Satanic cult, and genetically modified wild life to explain the high number of disappearances there.  Perhaps, it’s not surprising then that residents and Nome, have begun to wonder if the disappearances aren’t actually alien abductions.  Since 1995, the town of 3,800 people has had 24 missing person’s cases.  Which is a higher rate than most towns that size (my town of 120,000 didn’t have 24 missing person’s cases in the same time period and we are a college town with close to 50,000 students that come and go each semester and swell our size closer to 140,000 – some students are full time residents).

For the record, a lot of places in Alaska have a ban on alcohol because people get drunk and wander into places they can’t survive very long especially during the winter.  Nome is not a dry town, it allows alcohol sales.  And while that probably does account for at least some of the disappearances, it doesn’t account for all.  And considering kids as young as just a few years old have gone missing, it seems unlikely they got drunk and wandered into the cold Alaskan wilderness one night after leaving the bar.

Aliens are scary.  Hawking was right about the desire for life to subjugate other life forms they find inferior, look at colonization among humans.  Any alien race capable of reaching Earth is capable of destroying it’s human population.  Or enslaving us.  And if we can’t be shiny, happy people, even among other humans, why should aliens treat us any different?  Not to mention the chaos and panic that would ensue should aliens arrive on Earth en masse.  Remember the scene in Independence Day where they are talking about launching nuclear weapons at the mother ship?  The fictional part of that, is the arrival of the aliens, not our response.


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?

You Lost Me Bill

I have loved the book The Man From The Train by Bill James.  I actually listened to the 4th section of the book twice thanks because somewhere Kelly’s nocturnal interruptions made me miss something important.  For the record, she interrupts me but doesn’t want anything.

The fourth section dealt with who he thought the killer was, so I really really really wanted to listen to that section.  And I wrote down the names of some of his cases that he thought were his first cases.  And I Googled them (example of Colorado Springs Murder).  And read about them and decided his suspect was viable.

And as the section unfolded, I found myself agreeing more and more with Bill James’ explanations on whether to include a case or exclude it via his research.  And then he took a left turn and I wasn’t sure whether I could follow or not.  I’m still not.

Bill James’ suspect was a German immigrant named Paul Mueller.  And his first murder was in 1898 near Boston, Massachusetts.  Got it.  And Mueller served in the German army which is actually a bonus in the “he might be the serial killer” column.

After 1912, the murders stop in the US.  It happens.  And in the 1910s, it’s easy to disappear.  James thinks Mueller caught a steamer and went back to Germany.  It wasn’t that uncommon pre-WWII for all European immigrants in the US to go back and forth between their home country and the US.  Particularly Germans.

In 1922, the Hinterkaifeck murders happened.  All but one of the bodies was found in the barn stacked on top of each other.  Killed by a mattock.  I’ve blogged about the Hinterkaifeck murders a few time, because it was never solved.

Checking online newspapers (from the time – that was a much bigger chore than I expected by the way), Bill James is correct, the US was aware there was a serial killer in the US that was responsible for several murders including Villisca, Iowa.  Bill James gleaned this as the killer’s MO from the research he and someone else did:

The killer killed with the blunt side of an axe, essentially bludgeoning the victims to death.  He found the axe either on location at the houses of the people he killed or he took it from the neighbor’s yard.  He usually killed the males of the house first.  He usually did something to jam the front door closed and make it appear to be locked.  He usually pulled down the window shades so you couldn’t look inside.  He often stacked his victims on top of each other, except for one.  That one was normally the body of a pre-pubescent girl that he molested in one way or another.  I will not research enough to figure out what that was, I don’t need to know that badly.

Here’s why he decides to include Hinterkaifeck.  Andreas Gruber, the father of the family was killed first.  The bodies of Andreas daughter Viktoria, wife Cazilla, and granddaughter Cazilla were found in the barn.  The maid and the body of 2 year old Josef were found in the house.  Cazilla the younger may not have immediately died from her injuries as she was found clutching tufts of her own hair and it was noted that she had bald spots that appeared fresh.

It is not stated for sure that the younger Cazilla was molested like the girls in the US.  But she would have been within the right age for Mueller’s tastes.  While these similarities do seem to eerily connect the murders, I’m skeptical.  For starters things around the Hinterkaifeck farm were odd, even by the standards of the time…

Andreas and Viktoria had been brought into court and charged for having an incestuous relationship.  Viktoria’s husband died during WWI and Josef was thought to be the son of Andreas and Viktoria not Viktoria and her husband Karl Gabriel.  Karl’s body was not recovered from the battlefield, which is not terribly uncommon, but people around Germany continued to swear they saw him until well after WWII and he was at one time considered a suspect.

Neighbors said Gruber complained about strange things happening on the farm in the weeks leading up to the murder.  At the time, it was considered the gospel truth.  But in the 1980s the son of a man who was a neighbor of Hinterkaifeck made a death bed confession that his father had told him he had made up much of the stuff he said Andreas Gruber had complained about after their former maid said she had been paid by a newspaper to say she quit because she thought the house was haunted.  He said his father was also paid by a newspaper.

And paying crime witnesses for information for the next day’s paper wasn’t uncommon and it wasn’t considered unethical at the time.  Which often lead to salacious and juicy gossip being printed by the news just so someone could get a couple extra coins in their hands.

German police academy students may have solved the case in 1999, but since the suspect was dead, the name was not released to the public.  At one time, there were more than 100 suspects in the murders (Andreas Gruber was not a popular man).  One man worked on a piece of equipment at the farm for 4 and a half hours with the bodies stacked just a few yards a way in the barn.

His story garnered him some unwanted attention, when police finally got around to questioning him in 1925.  The man said he had noticed the barn door open right before he left and he was certain it had been closed when he arrived.  He peeked into the barn, saw nothing, but felt uneasy (the bodies had some hay thrown over them).  He returned home and sent his sons to go check on the neighbors.  The sons returned and reported they had not found any sign of the family and the livestock were in need of care.  The man then returned to the farm with a local constable and the two men discovered the bodies of the family in the barn at that time.

It is still in the top 10 most notorious murders in Germany.   And it was the first murder case from Germany to make newspaper headlines in the US.  And no one was sure if the Gruber’s were robbed or not, although it is thought they weren’t since Andreas Gruber’s pocket watch was found on his body.  None of the murders involved in the serial killer crimes in the US involved robbery, except maybe the first one.


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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