Thursday, March 24, 2011

Happy 137th!

Happy Birthday, Houdini!

So 137 years ago, little Erik Weisz was born in Budapest. (He claimed later that he was born in Wisconsin; this was perhaps to avoid anti-semitic and/or anti-foreign sentiment.) At 4, he traveled to the US with his mother and brothers. He grows, he astounds with great magical wonders, and then, before his time, he dies. (Due to peritonitis brought on by appendicitis being punched by some dumbass college kid, on Halloween, no less.)

Houdini's wife had a seance every year on Halloween to try and make contact until 1936, when Bess declared it would be her last. That didn't stop other magicians from picking up where she left off. Today, the annual seance is held at the Houdini Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania. (Also famous for The Office and that's pretty much it...)

So in Harry's will, it stated that his brother was to get all of his personal belongings, including his very large magical memorabilia collection. Then, the will stated, after his brother's death, all of it was to be burned. Well, he kinda got his wish... But I digress. So Theodore didn't burn it, he stored it in a warehouse where it sat for some 40 years until it was auctioned off and was bought by a couple of entrepreneurs from Canada. They opened The Houdini Magical Hall of Fame and displayed the original Chinese Water Torture Cell, an extensive handcuff collection and posters from his magic displays, among other things. But in April 1995, it burned to the ground, destroying most of everything. So there. Houdini got his wish.

Another fun Houdini related story:
In 2002, Long Island resident Stephen Chotowicky called the police to report that his son in law had stolen some tools. The son in law proved that he didn't steal anything but out of spite, mentioned to the cops that his dear daddy in law had something they had been looking for. In 1983, the bust of Houdini was stolen from his gravesite, and he claimed that Stephen had it. So the police kick down the door and found not just the bust but also news articles about the theft to make a jaunty little shrine to the whole thing. And to jail he went!

He was handsome, talented and had a mind for magic like no one else had. So to you I raise my glass, Houdini! Happy 137th!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sept. 13, 1944 - aka I've been reading too much WW2 history

To my dearest, 

Winter has come and it’s turned frigid. I long for our time together and your warm embrace. While you fight in savage lands, far away from me, I oft think of you. Is your work going well? Is the government working you too hard on these progressive projects? Are you lonely in your bunk at night? Do you think of me? 

I am lonesome without you here with me. I have stopped having cocktail hours, even though you made me promise to continue without you; it’s too much to bear. After my day in town, I seem to only muster enough energy to read by the fire. I am distracted all day at the bakery, daydreaming of summertime, picnics on hilltops and bike rides in the country sides. My focus only becomes acute when I hear the radio with news. I know you have told me that you are not too close to the front lines but I still worry so.

Until that day, I humbly wait for you, bandaging young men’s wounds, baking bread for the wonderful people here and helping out the best I can. I will meet you in Paris on the day of liberation, which must be soon or I will dry up from all the tears I’ve shed missing you. 

With all my love,

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Hollyweird, Hollywonderful

Say what you want about Hollywood, I love it.

It's shallow, fake, full of itself. But I'm not interested in all that. I love the weird. The crazy mysteries and strange circumstances. The history! So many stories.

So last weekend, to soak up some of the weird during a less than exciting job interview, I ventured upon the Dearly Departed tour. Now I'm not a 'tour' kind of girl. I don't want to have the same experience/pictures as 10 other people who all have to share a bus. But life is short so I signed up and did I picked a good one!

Death, betrayal, broken hearts, love, hate, weddings, babies, theft, madness, nostalgia and fun all in one little van.

Join me, won't you?  For the next few posts I will share the gruesome knowledge and creepy fun that is Hollywood!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Maybe they did see demons...

Being a young girl in 1692 must have sucked.

There was little frivolity, no dating, little free time and defininatly no dancing naked in the woods. (What? You didn't do that when you were a kid?) Actually, even being an adult wasn't a barrel of monkeys either. Escaping from persucution tends to make one more fervent in the thing that makes you persucutable. They were dedicated and rightious. The puritans forbade dolls, toys,  music, anything thought to be wasting time and even celebrating christmas. The only school was bible school and 3 hour sermans at least twice a week. To say some maybe have felt oppressed is a bit of an understatement. Some 'acting out' was bound to happen.

Two young girls in the settlement, Abigal and Betty, started to act strangely. They screamed, wailed, barked. They threw things around the room. They complained of being pinched and scratched. They would fall to the floor and freeze in a twisted position. They would speak gibberish and scream about demons. All around strange behavior for puritans. But an obvious answer to this insanity... no, not insanity. The devil. Oh, excuse me, I mean, THE DEVIL! (cue dramatic music, flip the lights on and off, gasp in apparent horror.)

So I'm sure you know this part that comes next. Lots of finger pointing, more fits, trial after trial. Then bad things.

Sidebar: I've known my fair share of preacher's daughters. They are rarely a complient bunch. At least one I've personally known has become a porn star. Well, of the online only variety, but I think that still counts. I obviously wasn't there in 1692 but if I know one thing, a repressed youth will react drastically if pushed hard enough.

Maybe they just wanted a little fun in their not-so-event-filled lives. Fun that lead to 20 deaths. But perhaps they weren't just being little brats; perhaps it was something no one thought of... mold.

Ergot. It's a type of fungi that grows on rye and related plants. They have a wide range of effect on humans, from circulation in the limbs to neurotransmission.  Ok, that doesn't seem so scary... Well you would be wrong. Think blackened limbs, hallucinations (which leads to irrational behavior), and major and minor seizures. Did I happen to mention the severe uterine contractions? I know that makes me act like a severe bitch regardless of consuming ergot.  Oh, and it's a analog to synthetic LSD. So there you go. Good reasons for the demons.

There have been lots of conflicting back and forth about this and who's to say what happened. Not me.

Perhaps the devil did make them do it.

O Christian Martyr Who for Truth could die
When all about thee Owned the hideous lie!
The world, redeemed from superstition's sway,
Is breathing freer for thy sake today.
--Words written by John Greenleaf Whittier