Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Infamous Black Friday Shopping Day

What in the world has happened to our sacred Black Friday shopping day?  To the tradition that signaled the beginning of the Christmas shopping season?

Thanksgiving is this week and so is the traditional Black Friday shopping day—the day THEY say marks the moment retailers have covered their expenses for the balance of the year and are operating totally in the black with everything being profit.  Or at least that's what it originally meant…in days gone by.

Since U.S. Thanksgiving is always the fourth Thursday in November, for the majority of people that equates to a Thursday through Sunday four day holiday weekend.  In the past, the long holiday weekend has marked the beginning of the Christmas shopping season, commencing Friday morning.  It also signaled the time to drag out the holiday decorations, gift wrapping paper, and turn our thinking to the jolly ho-ho-ho mode.

But it seems that everything is different now.  Somewhere along the line Black Friday has become an almost bizarre ritual with all the trappings of an event type of display.

Rather than stores opening a couple of hours earlier than normal as it used to be, each year for the last few years they are opening earlier and earlier.  People waiting in line outside for hours in the cold so they could be the first ones to rush inside the moment the doors were unlocked at 3:00AM.  Television news crews would do live reports from some of the larger stores showing hundreds of people with their lawn chairs, sleeping bags, and some even had tents.  Earlier in the evening it's a party type of atmosphere.  By the time the store unlocks the doors, it's a lot of very cold and tired people all trying to crowd through the door at the same time.  I suspect they want inside from the cold as much as to make that race to their desired bargain.

Where I live, the temperatures are much warmer this week than this time last year (in the 70s just a couple of days ago).  However, the warmer temperatures are predicted to be accompanied by strong winds.  If those lawn chairs aren't anchored down, they will blow away.  Several stores opened their doors at midnight last year.  Then there were some that opened Thanksgiving morning and never closed.

Black Friday sales have now evolved to include shopping on the Thursday Thanksgiving holiday.  And you know how that goes…once it happens, it becomes tradition.

I think the biggest boost to the concept of Black Friday bargains has been the internet whose version of Thanksgiving holiday shopping is referred to as Cyber Monday.  Shopping via the internet rather than actually getting in the car and driving to the mall has been growing by leaps and bounds to the point where many long time established retail chains have been forced to close the doors on many of their stores.  And many internet shopping sites offer the same Black Friday sale prices as their brick and mortar stores and as their competitors including additional incentives such as free shipping or being able to pick up your online order at the local store.  No standing in line for hours in the cold in the middle of the night.  Now those bargains are only a mouse click away.  You get a good night's sleep and the Friday after Thanksgiving is available for pursuits other than elbowing your way through throngs of holiday shoppers.  I have a confession.  I don't like shopping.  Personally, I find internet shopping a preferable alternative any time of the year.  :)

So, who plans to brave the weather, lose sleep, and jostle your way through crowds to snag those bargain prices this year?  How many of you have already completed your holiday shopping?

And speaking of holiday shopping…how many of you noticed how early all things Christmas were out and on display this year?  I encountered Christmas items prominently displayed and Christmas promotions before Halloween.  Some as early as in September.  And I'm already hearing Christmas music on the radio.  And Hallmark's two cable television channels have been running nothing but Christmas movies since the beginning of November.

How many of you prefer to stay home on Black Friday, click the mouse, and enjoy all those Thanksgiving dinner leftovers while watching football?

And now I have a confession.  Last year I did venture out to a store on Black Friday about 7:30 that morning, but not for holiday shopping.  I had to go to the office supply store because I was out of printer ink.  There were a few people there, but not many.  However, 4 doors north of the office supply store Kohl's had a very full parking lot.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Those Naughty Pilgrims

With Thanksgiving comes stories of the Pilgrims taking up residence in the new world, landing at Plymouth Rock in what is now the state of Massachusetts.  The pious Pilgrims certainly have a reputation for being a rigid, hard-working, and humorless group.  But there are a few surprises to be found.  Even though drunkenness was discouraged, beer was accepted as a drink for men, women, and also children.  The daily ration on the Mayflower was a gallon a day for each individual.  It took 66 days for them to sail from England to their landing place in the new world.  Hmmm…66 days times 1 gallon per person times the number of people on the ship.  It seems that a lot of room on board the ship was devoted to storing the beer ration.

Even sex was not taboo under the right circumstances.  They had a matter-of-fact attitude about sex as long as it was between a married couple.  It's when sex strayed from being the exclusive right between a married couple that the stories get interesting.

Studies by a group of anthropologists at the University of Virginia found that the Pilgrims spent a great deal of time thinking about how to punish those with impure thoughts and actions.  Studies also discovered that in 11% of the marriages at Plymouth Colony the bride was already pregnant.  The same study estimates that as many as 50% of the Pilgrims engaged in premarital sex.  Definitely not an image that fits the stereotype of the staid Pilgrims.

But what about the actions and activities of those naughty Pilgrims?  As with so much in life, there's the façade and then there's the underlying reality.

Although not liberal in their thinking or lifestyle, the Pilgrims were not as uptight as history would have us believe and apparently not as uptight as their cousins, the Puritans.  Both the Pilgrims and the Puritans were English Protestants who believed that the Church of England was in need of reform.  Although both groups were strict Calvinists, they differed in their approach to how the Church of England should be reformed.  The Pilgrims were more inclined to separate from the church (therefore known as separatists), while the Puritans wanted to reform the church from within.  The Pilgrims were the first group of Puritans to seek religious freedom in the New World (thus separating from the church).  As strict Calvinists, members of both groups believed in original sin, predestination and the literal interpretation of the Bible as God’s word.

The Pilgrims tried to create a strict religious society, but had an understanding and mercy unusual for their time in history.  As time passed, however, intolerance grew and was reflected in their laws and clearly demonstrated by the notorious Salem witch trials.  Innocent people were convicted and put to death on evidence that later even the Pilgrims declared to be inadmissible (I saw it in a dream, the spirit of my dead grandmother came to me and said…).

According to the Mayflower Compact, the colony was to establish laws based on Biblical teachings "for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith."  The Old Testament book of Leviticus was the basis for most of their laws, a biblical source that definitely predated Christianity's teachings of love and forgiveness rather than reflecting those teachings.  Adultery?  Death.  A man has sex with his daughter-in-law?  Death.  Sodomy?  Death.  Bestiality?  Death.  Are you beginning to see a pattern?  :)

But interestingly, the Pilgrims did not typically enforce the death penalty for sex offenses.  There is only one known case in which the convicted offender was actually put to death for sex crimes.  It was the case of Thomas Graunger, a teenage boy apparently at the peak of his raging hormones who sought satisfaction from any and all sources available to him…those sources being the farm animals.

According to Plymouth Governor William Bradford, "He was this year detected of buggery, and indicted for the same, with a mare, a cow, two goats, five sheep, two calves and a turkey."

Even though Thomas was the only one executed for a sex crime, punishments were routinely severe even with far lesser sex crimes and usually meant whippings, being put into the stocks, and fines.

Men were not the only offenders in Plymouth colony.  The prim women weren't always so pious either.  Women were often caught since the evidence of their dalliances were babies.  The records of the times are filled with one out-of-wedlock child after another.  Babies showing up just a few months after marriage were also evidence of wrong doing.  Pre-marital sex was severely punished.  Fines were levied even for making passes, for appearing to have a lascivious carriage in public, or partying in mixed company at an unseemly time of night.

Sex outside marriage, even between two unmarried consenting adults, usually meant a whipping and fines.  If the woman became pregnant, the man had to either marry her or pay for the child's upbringing.  The man was usually placed in the stocks and whipped while the woman was made to watch.  Sometimes mercy was granted as in the case of a servant, Jane Powell.  Following years of hard servitude, she was destitute and had agreed to having sex in the hopes of marrying the man.  Apparently the court found her plea convincing and she went unpunished.

Even though the Pilgrims imposed strict punishment for crimes, they also understood human temptations.  In 1656, Katheren Aines and William Paule were sentenced for committing adultery.  William was whipped and forced to pay the costs of his imprisonment.  Katheren was whipped, imprisoned and forced to wear a letter on her shoulder designating her as an adulteress.  (Calling Nathaniel Hawthorne!)  However, Katheren's husband, Alexander, was also punished.  Alexander had left his family for some time and treated her badly during their marriage.  The Pilgrims viewed him as guilty of "exposing his wife to such temptations."  Alexander was required to pay for his wife's imprisonment, and sit in the stocks while William and Katheren were whipped.

This Thanksgiving as you sit down to your turkey dinner, it might be a good idea to take a moment to be thankful that you aren't a Pilgrim.  :)

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Thanksgiving Myths and Facts

We all know the often told story of how the Pilgrims left England seeking religious freedom and finally settled in the New World, stepping off the Mayflower onto Plymouth Rock in what is now the state of Massachusetts.  And how in 1621 they invited the local natives to share a feast with them in order to give thanks for a successful harvest and surviving their first year.

From those humble beginnings have come many facts and just as many myths about the Pilgrims and our Thanksgiving holiday.

I have some Mayflower myths to share with you, followed by some Thanksgiving facts.  And next week…Those Naughty Pilgrims.

Myth:  The first Thanksgiving was in 1621 and the Pilgrims celebrated it every year after that.
Fact:  The first feast wasn't repeated, so it wasn't the beginning of a tradition.  In fact, it wouldn't have been called Thanksgiving because to the Pilgrims a thanksgiving was a religious holiday when they would fast rather than feast.  That feast in 1621 was a secular celebration and would not have been considered a thanksgiving in their minds.

Myth:  The original Thanksgiving feast took place on the fourth Thursday of November.
Fact:  The original feast in 1621 occurred sometime between September 21 and November 11 and was a three day celebration based on the English harvest festivals.  In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt set the official date for Thanksgiving as the fourth Thursday of November, a decision fraught with controversy.  The date was approved by Congress in 1941.

Myth:  The Pilgrims wore only black and white clothing with buckles on their hats, garments, and shoes.
Fact:  Buckles did not come into fashion until later in the 17th century.  Black and white were commonly worn only on Sunday and formal occasions.

Here's a list of trivia that could be called Thanksgiving-by-the-numbers.

3,000—the number of calories eaten during an average Thanksgiving meal.

12,000,000—the number of whole turkeys Butterball sells for Thanksgiving.

2,000 - 3,000—the number of people used to guide the balloons during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

214—the average number of miles driven for the family get together at Thanksgiving.

1939—the date the Great Thanksgiving Day calendar controversy began (when FDR declared the fourth Thursday of November to be the official date of Thanksgiving).

40,000,000—the number of green bean casseroles made for Thanksgiving dinner.

72,000,000—the number of cans of Ocean Spray cranberry sauce sold for Thanksgiving dinner.

Next week I'll contradict the belief that the Pilgrims embodied the very soul of purity and piety.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Halloween's Ancient Roots

Halloween Is Almost Here. The stores have been filled with candy packaged in special Halloween wrapping, spooky witch and ghost decorations, pumpkins waiting to be carved into Jack O'Lanterns, and costumes for both children and adults. These have now been picked over with what remains having been put on sale with retailers having moved on to Christmas.

I've collected several bits and pieces about ghosts, goblins, and things that go bump in the night that I'd like to share with you—starting with the ancient origins of the Halloween holiday then a bit of Jack O'Lantern trivia.

The roots of Halloween date back 2000 years to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in, rhymes with cow).  The Celts lived in what is now Ireland, United Kingdom, and northern France.  They celebrated their new year on November 1, the day marking the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark winter.  They believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead wasn't clearly defined.  On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, a time when they believed the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.
To commemorate the event, the Druids (Celtic priests) built large sacred bonfires where the people made sacrifices to the Celtic deities.  During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes and attempted to tell each other's fortunes.  When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the winter.

By 43A.D., the Romans had conquered most of the Celtic territory.  During the next four hundred years, the Roman festivals of Feralia and Pomona were combined with the traditional celebration of Samhain.  In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV declared November 1 to be All Saints' Day.  It's believed today that the pope was trying to replace the Celtic festival with a church sanctioned holiday.  The celebration was also called All-Hallows.  So, the night before it, the night of Samhain, was called All-Hallows Eve.

In 1000A.D., the church declared November 2 as All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead.  It was celebrated similarly to Samhain with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes.  Together the three celebrations—the eve of All Saints', All Saints', and All Souls'—were called Hallowmas and eventually Halloween.

Halloween has always been a holiday filled with mystery, magic, and superstition.  It began as a Celtic end-of-summer festival during which people felt especially close to deceased relatives and friends.  They set places at the table and left treats on doorsteps for these friendly spirits.  They also lit candles to help their loved ones find their way back to the spirit world.  Today's Halloween ghosts are commonly depicted as much scarier and our emphasis on customs and superstitions more horror related.

And speaking of superstitions…have you ever wondered about where these strange beliefs came from?  British author Harry Oliver wrote a book titled Black Cats and Four-Leaf Clovers where he explored the origins of superstitions and old wives' tales from around the world.  Here are a few of his observations.
Black Cats Bring Bad Luck:  black cats have been linked to black magic and the ancient concept of witchcraft through the centuries which is why many people think they're unlucky.  If a cat crosses your path, it's considered unlucky.  However, if a cat walks toward you, it's a good omen.

Carrots Are Good For Your Eyesight:  although studies have shown that the vitamin A in carrots is good for your eyes, the vegetable isn't enough to create 20/20 vision.  Many believe that it was a smart attempt by parents to get their children to eat their vegetables.  There is another belief that it started during World War II.  It was rumored that British pilots were eating huge amounts of carrots so they could see from high altitudes and in the dark.  The rumor was created to keep the public from discovering that radar had been invented and was being used against the enemy.

Wear Your Underwear Inside Out:  when you're having a bad day, superstition says that if you turn your underwear inside out things will get better.  No one is sure where this one came from, but it sounds like the result of a wild college fraternity party.

And then there's the Jack O'Lantern.  Making a Jack O'Lantern for Halloween is a centuries old practice that originated from an Irish myth about a man nicknamed Stingy Jack.  He played tricks on the Devil and made Satan promise not to take his soul when he died.  When the time came, God refused to allow him into heaven because he was an unsavory character.  The Devil wouldn't allow him into hell because Jack had made him promise.  With nowhere to go, Jack put a burning coal into a carved out turnip and has been roaming the Earth ever since.  The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as Jack Of The Lantern which morphed into Jack O'Lantern.

In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions by carving scary faces into turnips and potatoes, and in England they used large beets.  Immigrants from these countries brought the tradition with them to the United States where they soon found that pumpkins made the perfect Jack O'Lantern.

Do you have a favorite costume this year?  Are you planning on going to a party?  Leave me a comment about your Halloween plans.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

10 Halloween Superstitions

Superstitions flourish in all countries and all cultures.  Some of the origins are so obscured by time that no one knows when, how or why they came into being.  Friday the 13th always brings out superstitions and the rituals used to thwart them.

And then there's Halloween.

Halloween has always been a holiday filled with mystery, magic, and superstition.  It began as a Celtic end-of-summer festival during which people felt especially close to deceased relatives and friends.  They set places at the table and left treats on doorsteps for these friendly spirits.  They also lit candles to help their loved ones find their way back to the spirit world.  Today's Halloween ghosts are usually depicted as scarier, as are our customs and superstitions.

Here's a list of ten superstitions that seem to apply specifically to Halloween.

1)  If a candle goes out on its own on Halloween, it is thought a ghost has come to call.

2)  A burning candle inside of a Jack-o-lantern on Halloween keeps evil spirits at bay.

3)  You invite bad luck into your home if you allow a fire to burn out on Halloween.

4)  A person born on Halloween can both see and talk to spirits.

5)  Seeing a spider on Halloween could be the spirit of a dead loved one who is watching you.

6)  If you hear footsteps behind you on Halloween, don't look back because it could be the dead following you.

7)  Don't look at your shadow in moonlight on Halloween night.  If you do, you will die within a short period of time.

8)  If a bat flies around a house three times, it is a death omen.

9)  Ringing a bell on Halloween will scare evil spirits away.

10)  A bat that enters a home may have been let in by a ghost.

Do you have any superstitions that apply to Halloween?

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Most Haunted Cities in America

With the approach of Halloween, it's natural for thoughts to occasionally dwell on ghosts, goblins, and things that go bump in the night.  This week I'm blogging about America's most haunted cities.

There are several lists of the most haunted cities in the United States, most of them basically naming the same cities in varying order.  Here's one list of 10 cities that recently came to my attention.

10)  Portland, Oregon:  Portland has a reputation for being the most haunted city in the Pacific Northwest.  It's a city of many haunts, both seasonal tourist attractions and historical happenings where the participants refuse to leave.  One of the most famous…or more accurately, most infamous…historical haunts are the Shanghai Tunnels.  We've all heard the expression of someone being Shanghaied, meaning to be abducted.  This is where it originated.  In the Victorian era (around the 1870s), ship captains would put into Portland on the Columbia River looking for fresh crew members.  Local middlemen drugged pub goers, dropped the bodies through trapdoors into the tunnels below where they were held captive until they could be carted to the waterfront and sold to the captain for $50/each.  These ships were quite often headed for China and the port of Shanghai, thus the term being Shanghaied.  Many of these drugged unfortunates died while being held in the tunnels.  Today, the Shanghai Tunnels have several ghosts, some menacing and others apparently confused.

9)  San Francisco, California:  A city of many haunted locations and happenings.  One of the most interesting is Alcatraz.  The island has a long history, first as a military prison during the Civil War.  It was used off and on by many different groups to house various prisoners from that time until 1933 when it was officially turned over to the Federal Bureau of Prisons and used as a maximum security prison for the likes of Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly. On March 23, 1963, Alcatraz closed its prison doors for good.  Over the one hundred plus years that the island housed prisoners of all types, many died in cruel and terrible ways.  Those spirits still inhabit Alcatraz.  Even today as part of the National Park system, tourists taking one of the park ranger guided tours report seeing and hearing strange things that can't be explained.

8)  Chicago, Illinois:  Chicago was the center of gangland activity during Prohibition, including the famous St. Valentine's Day Massacre.  Many gangsters of the era used Chicago as a body dumping ground.  There were also six thousand Confederate soldiers and sailors buried during the Civil War at Oak Woods Cemetery which has ongoing paranormal activity.  Chicago's most famous ghost is Resurrection Mary named for Resurrection Cemetery.  She was killed by a hit and run driver on the street in front of the cemetery and now is often seen hitch hiking along that street.

7)  Charleston, South Carolina:  The downtown area known as The Battery was an artillery installation during the Civil War.  The area is known for its ghost stories.  The Battery Carriage House Inn is the city's famous haunted hotel where visitors often see strange happenings.  The inn's two most famous ghosts are the gentleman ghost and the headless torso.  The gentleman ghost is thought to be a young man whose family owned the house in the early 1900s and, for reasons unknown, jumped off the roof and killed himself.  The headless torso is believed to be military from the Civil War.  There is no evidence that he intends any harm, but guests have felt threatened when he has suddenly materialized in their room.

6)  St. Augustine, Florida:  The nation's oldest city and the first permanently occupied European settlement on our shores, dating back to its founding in 1565.  Castillo de San Marcos is a star-shaped fort and is considered to be one of the most haunted places in a city filled with unexplained phenomenon.  The construction of The Old Fort began in 1672 and took twenty-three years to build.  Many strange sightings, including a Spanish soldier, have been reported.  It is not uncommon for individuals to capture on film strange lights, orbs, rods, spheres, and even distinct apparitions composed of strange mists.

5)  San Antonio, Texas:  The home of the Alamo is regarded as the most haunted city in Texas.  Prior to the Battle of the Alamo, the ground was a cemetery between 1724 and 1793.  It's estimated that about one thousand people were buried during those years.  On the morning of March 6, 1836, following the thirteen day Battle of the Alamo, one thousand six hundred Mexican shoulders lay dead along with the approximately one hundred forty-five defenders of the old mission.  The remaining buildings at the Alamo as well as the surrounding area is one of the most haunted places in the nation.  Tales of ghostly sightings have been reported for almost two centuries.

4)  New Orleans, Louisiana:  With a history of voodoo and slavery in its past, it's no wonder that New Orleans is considered a very haunted city.  Its most famous ghost is voodoo priestess Marie Laveau who was buried at St. Louis Cemetery #1, considered one of the most haunted cemeteries in the country.  New Orleans is well below sea level, so the dead are buried in above ground tombs or vaults resembling small architectural buildings.  Located on the edge of the haunted French Quarter, this oldest still in service cemetery has been the setting for many haunted New Orleans movies such as Easy Rider, Interview With The Vampire, and Johnny Handsome.  But its biggest draw is the tomb of Marie Laveau.

3)  Salem, Massachusetts:  This site of the infamous Salem Witch Trials in the late 1600s certainly makes the list of haunted cities.  Gallows Hill is believed to be haunted by the spirits of the nineteen women accused of being witches who were hanged there.  It also shouldn't be surprising that Salem has one of the largest Halloween celebrations in the country for people of all ages.

2)  Gettysburg, Pennsylvania:  The Civil War battle at Gettysburg resulted in fifty-one thousand casualties.  It is believed that nearly all forty miles of the Gettysburg battlefields have paranormal activity.  Many of the ghosts show up in photos, including the ghost of Robert E. Lee.  In July 1863, Gettysburg's living population was out numbered twenty to one by the dead.

1)  Savannah, Georgia:  Savannah was named "America's Most Haunted City" in 2002 by the American Institute of Parapsychology.  The city was home to a Revolutionary War battleground as well as Civil Way actions.  Savannah offers several different haunted tours and is also famous as the location of the bestselling book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that all of these cities offer ghost tours.  Have any of you ever had any first hand experience with hauntings?

Sunday, October 8, 2017

HIS MAGICK TOUCH—an interview with Devon and Raina

HIS MAGICK TOUCH an erotic witch romance available in ebook that tells us the story of Devon Bainbridge and Raina St. Clair. So, in honor of the upcoming Samhain celebration and it's more modern Halloween incarnation, I've invited Devon and Raina to be my guests today.

Welcome to my blog, Devon and Raina.  Thank you for taking time from your schedule to be here today, especially with how busy you are due to the special gathering of covens for the Samhain celebration.

Raina:  It's our pleasure, Samantha.  Thanks for the invitation.

It's my understanding, Devon, that as a High Priest you've been invited to open and close the special ceremony involving the gathering of many covens from various states at this year's Samhain celebration.

Devon:  Yes, it's a very special gathering this year.  I'm honored to have been chosen.

And isn't it that gathering of the covens that's indirectly responsible for bringing the two of you together?  Two people who had never met but each with your own agenda in seeking out the other?  And you first encountered each other at a Halloween party, of all places?

Raina:  (laughs) That succinctly describes it.  The uncomfortable situation of a witch of the bloodline at a mortal's Halloween party.

Why would you be attending such a party?  Doesn't it violate everything you stand for and represent?

Raina:  Even though I'm a witch and immortal, I still need to earn a living.  The man throwing the party, the one who invited me, is one of my best clients.  So, even though the party theme wasn't to my liking, I felt an obligation to put in an appearance.

Devon:  And it was due to Raina being at the party that I needed to be there.  I didn't know if I would be able to make a connection with her at the Samhain celebration, so I sucked up my personal feelings and teleported inside the country club to the party location where I waited for her to arrive.

So why were you each trying to make contact with the other?  You had no prior connection, right?

Devon:  A prior connection?  That's an easy answer. A definitive yes…and no.  (chuckles)  I had never met Raina but I had crossed paths with her sister, Miranda, a century ago.  Miranda and I had some unfinished business.  Since Miranda had been deftly avoiding me, my plan was to use Raina as a source to locate her sister.  I've always lived by the witch's credo of Harm To None (a quick scowl darts across his face), but my unfinished business with Miranda was in total violation of that honorable intention.

What kind of unfinished business?

Devon:  To put it as simply as possible, Miranda St. Clair misused and abused her witch powers and in so doing was responsible for the purposeful destruction of my brother.  I fully intended to make her accountable to the council for her misdeeds and personally see to it that she did not escape retribution.

And did you?

Devon:  I can't reveal that here, but it's all in the book.

(LOL) Fair enough.  How about you, Raina?  How did you discover the truth of Devon's agenda?  And what did you think when you found out what he really wanted?

Raina:  Devon voluntarily told me about trying to locate Miranda and why.  But his assumption that I could help him with that was mistaken.  Miranda and I…well, we've…(a look of sadness comes into her eyes, Devon reaches over and gives her hand a reassuring squeeze).  Well, it's all in the book.

LOL…It seems that you're both stonewalling me.  Let me try this. Raina, what about your agenda in wanting to make contact with Devon?  What was that all about?

Raina:  I had never met Devon in person, but knew his excellent reputation as a very powerful High Priest and the respect paid him by the members of the witch community.  I had planned to seek him out at the Samhain gathering and was quite surprised to see him at my business client's Halloween party.  Why was I determined to meet him?  Devon is an acknowledged expert in all facets of sex magick.  I wanted him to teach me…to school me in the proper rituals.

Was he surprised by your request and did he agree to teach you the rituals?

Raina:  Well, to quote something I heard recently—I can't tell you that…you'll need to read the book.

The two of you are telling me the same thing?  Neither of you will disclose the information about how you resolved your issues?  You won't tell me what kind of impact Raina's unexpected request about sex magick had on Devon's quest to find Miranda and seek retribution?

Devon:  (winks at me)  I believe you've grasped the core of the situation.

Raina:  In other words…that's right!  (LOL)

Fair enough.  The answers are in the book!  Thank you, Raina and Devon, for being with us today.

HIS MAGICK TOUCH  R-Adult Excerpt #1:

She grabbed a napkin from the bar and dabbed at her neck and upper chest, leaving most of the champagne to trickle between her breasts.

He set the half-empty glass on the bar, surprise covering his features. “I’m so sorry.” A sincere concern surrounded his words. “Are you okay?”

Just the sound of his smooth masculine voice sent a ripple of desire coursing through her body, headed directly for her pussy. She gave him her most seductive smile as she continued to dab the champagne from her skin. “I’m fine, no problem.”

He ran his fingertip along the edge of her plunging neckline. “Can I be of assistance?” A quick glance down the front of her dress noticeably quickened his breathing. “I can lick up the excess champagne…if it will help.” His voice and words teased and a sexy grin tugged at the corners of his mouth, but the glow in the depth of his eyes radiated pure passion and sexual magnetism. The kind that could melt the most determined woman’s defenses.

Her nipples puckered, partly from the cold champagne and partly from his obvious perusal of her body combined with the sexual energy that practically sparked from him. Her heartbeat increased. Being this close to him had her juices flowing and her desires running at full speed. She definitely wanted to experience Devon’s sexual prowess and learn the techniques of sex magick from a master, to discover and embrace the untapped potential of her sexuality.

She smiled seductively. “That’s a very gracious offer."

BLURB:  As the powerful High Priest of his coven, Devon Bainbridge lives by the witch's credo of Harm To None. Yet he is willing to sacrifice everything in his century long quest for revenge. He intends to use Raina St. Clair as a means of locating her sister, the witch who misused her powers to destroy his brother. But once he meets Raina, his plan doesn't go as intended, especially when he discovers her agenda. She wants to learn sex magick.

Is Raina the one woman who could save Devon from himself?

HIS MAGICK TOUCH, erotic witch romance is available in ebook at The Wilder Roses, the Scarlet Rose line of erotic romance from The Wild Rose Press:

Additional excerpts from HIS MAGICK TOUCH and information on my other books available on my website at www.samanthagentry.com

Sunday, October 1, 2017

5 Most Haunted Roads In The World

It seems that almost every country has a list of haunted roads, haunted towns, haunted houses/castles, and anything else that can be put into the category of a haunted something, with one or more entities attributed to the paranormal/supernatural condition.

I recently came across a haunted road list that claimed to be the top 5 in the world and I'd like to share that with you. I do not agree with this list. I've read about roads purported to be considerably more haunted than some of these.

5)  Belchen Tunnel, Switzerland:
It's claimed that the ghost of an old lady haunts this Swiss road. There was one specific report that said two women picked her up and she warned them that something dreadful was going to happen. Then she disappeared.

4)  Stocksbridge Road, UK:
This is also known as the Killer Road and has been home to many ghostly sightings. One report said some security guards witnessed children playing on the road late one night, but they disappeared before the guards could reach them. Numerous reports have been made of the ghost of a monk appearing on the road's bridge.

3)  Highway 666, USA:
Travelers on this haunted American highway (known as the Devil's Highway) have reported speeding ghost cars, packs of devil dogs, and a flaming demonic semi-truck that drives directly at the spooked travelers. Many people attribute these sightings to a biblical association between the numbers 666 and Satan. In 2003, the highway number was changed to Highway 491. There are still a few places where you can see the highway 666 sign (labeled as old) next to the Highway 491 sign (labeled as new).

2)  Tuen Mun Road, Hong Kong:
Local residents blame the high number of accidents along this road on the sudden appearance of ghosts in the middle of the road. It's claimed that a person suddenly appears, forcing the driver to swerve and crash. They say with every new car fatality that another ghost will haunt the road.

1)  Clinton Road, New Jersey USA:
If you find yourself on this haunted road, be sure to toss a coin into the river at the Old Boy Bridge. The ghost of a boy who drowned will throw it back. There have also been reported sightings of UFOs, mutated circus animals, and mysterious glowing eyes.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

10 AWESOME MUSEUMS NOT OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Museums…those public and private repositories of anything and everything that might be of interest to someone, collections open to the public to enjoy and that educate.  They encompass a wide variety of interests such as fine art, items showing the natural history of a region, or something as specific as a hair collection.

I recently found a list of 10 very specific museums/collections with a common thread—they are not open to the public.

CIA Museum
Needless to say, one of the most secretive agencies in the entire United States government (and the world) wouldn’t just throw the doors of their archives open for everyone. The Central Intelligence Agency’s internal museum is one of the most thorough collections of intelligence memorabilia on Earth with over 3,500 items. The collection includes documents from the OSS [Office of Strategic Services created in WW II, the forerunner of the CIA], spy weapons and equipment, and even an AK-47 rifle that belonged to Osama Bin Laden. The only public aspects of the Museum are three showcases at the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia. And that building isn't easy to get into, either.

International Museum And Library Of The Conjuring Arts
If you’re looking for a community of people who like to keep secrets, the CIA isn't the only place to look.  Professional magicians are right up there, too. Considering that their careers hinge on being able to fool people, magicians aren’t crazy about opening up to the public. David Copperfield has used his vast fortune to amass a collection of over 150,000 pieces of magic history from practitioners like Harry Houdini and hundreds of others.  It’s located in a 40,000 square foot Las Vegas warehouse that has a fake hat shop in the front. [I saw a television special about Houdini including an auction of items from his career with David Copperfield being one of the major successful bidders on several items]

MIT Museum Of Espionage [in Turkey, not the Massachusetts Institute of Technology :) ]
The United States isn’t the only nation that keeps its intelligence archives in a private museum. Turkey’s MIT spy group has been amassing an impressive collection of memorabilia from top-secret operations for years. Stored at the group’s headquarters in Ankara, the museum’s glass display cases contain such spy craft relics as a shoe wedge designed to store a hidden microphone, hollowed-out objects for secreting code books, and bugging devices discovered in Turkish embassies abroad during the Cold War. A Turkish newspaper requested access to the museum and was allowed in for one day, but that’s the only time the Museum of Espionage has ever been seen by the public.

Canadian Museum Of Making
It is possible to get inside the doors of the Canadian Museum of Making, which is located on a private ranch near Cochrane, Alberta, but it’s not easy. The museum’s owner, Ian MacGregor, is very picky about who he allows through the doors. From the outside, you’d never know that the 20,000 square foot museum is even there, because he constructed the complex entirely underground. Inside is one of the world’s most extensive collections of mechanical objects from between 1750 and 1920. Every once in a while, MacGregor will open the doors to select people, but it's a rare occasion.

El Museo del Enervantes
Intended for use in the training of military staff waging Mexico’s seemingly endless war against the drug cartels, El Museo del Enervantes, located in Mexico City, is a private museum that chronicles every aspect of the world of narcoterrorism. In-depth exhibits illustrate the manufacturing process involved in making cocaine, heroin and other drugs. A huge display case shows off dozens of handguns confiscated from drug lords, many encrusted with gold and jewels. There is also a plaque commemorating all the Mexican soldiers who died on duty since 1976.

The Honda Secret Museum
Many automakers rent out space to spotlight important moments in their history, but Honda defies the trend by making their history museum closed to the public. Assembled by company veteran Lou Staller, it’s a collection of almost 50 cars and motorcycles that commemorate Honda’s successes and failures. Included in the collection is a Honda N-600 from 1970—the first passenger car the company sold in the States—and the 1997 EV Plus, the very first electric vehicle to be marketed here. The museum is only accessible to Honda employees, and the vast majority of them have never been there, making it a treasure trove for car enthusiasts.

Musée d'Anatomie Delmas-Orfila-Rouvière
The Musée d'Anatomie Delmas-Orfila-Rouvière permanently closed its door to everyone—public and invited only—in 2005. Prior to that time, it was the largest and most complete anatomy museum in France. The Museum’s collection began in 1794 and expanded steadily over the years to include upwards of 5,800 anatomic items from humans and other animals. Some of the coolest stuff on display includes casts of the heads of executed 19th century criminals, comparative anatomy displays of reptiles and birds, and skulls of deceased mental patients. It occupied the eighth floor of the Descartes University’s school of medicine, and access was granted only to the medical elite.

The Black Museum
Scotland Yard, one of the most famous crime-fighting institutions in history, has amassed some serious items. If you want to see them, they’re kept in the Black Museum. Located at police headquarters in London, this collection of evidence from some of Scotland Yard’s most notorious crimes includes the pots serial killer Dennis Nilsen used to cook his victims and a taunting letter from Jack the Ripper. Also on display is a vast array of weapons used in the commission of crimes, including some cleverly disguised tools of mayhem. There is a current discussion about finally making the museum open to the public, but as of now it’s still police only.

The U.S. Secret Service Museum
It appears that taxpayer money is supporting a disproportionate number of museums that aren’t open to the public. Located in the nondescript office building that houses the Secret Service headquarters is a small private museum that’s only open to invited guests. Inside the one-room museum are artifacts from some of the most shocking crimes in American history—assassination attempts on Presidents. Among these artifacts is the bullet-scarred window from Ronald Reagan’s limousine on the day that John Hinckley attacked and the assault rifle that Francisco Duran used to spray bullets into the White House in 1994.

The Zymoglyphic Museum
The Zymoglyphic Museum in San Mateo, California, is open to the public—but only for two days out of every year. The museum's creator houses his collection in a small outbuilding off of his garage, down a nondescript suburban cul-de-sac. Inside is the world’s largest assemblage of animals and artifacts from the Zymoglyphic Era…a period in Earth’s past that never existed. The dioramas, housed in aquarium tanks, are well thought out and executed with incredible attention to detail.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

10 SURPRISING THINGS SPOTTED WITH SATELLITES



Satellites have become integral to our daily lives—such things as telephone, television, internet, weather forecasts, and gps tracking just to name a few.  And with the launching of the Hubble telescope we can now see billions of light years into the vastness of space.  And we can't overlook those scientific discoveries including rediscovering things long forgotten and/or overlooked.

Phytoplankton Blooms
It's kind of bizarre to think that some of the smallest living things on Earth can make a display that you can see from space. In August of 2012, NASA's Aqua satellite captured some remarkable images of a massive phytoplankton bloom surrounding Russia's Novaya Zemla island. These particular plankton contain plates of a calcium-containing mineral that give them a bright blue color, and when they gather in massive numbers they make an incredible visual image. Temperature and salinity conditions have to be absolutely right to trigger this phenomenon, so capturing it this clearly is pretty amazing. [pictured above]

Hundreds Of Sunken Ships
Much of the ocean is resistant to satellite photography because we don't have cameras powerful enough to penetrate those depths from space. However, there are still amazing things to be seen in the shallows, such as the ghost fleet of Mallows Bay. At the start of World War I, the United States needed to quickly build transport vessels. In April of 1917, 1000 ships were ordered to be built. By the end of the war, the boats had become obsolete and eventually they were sunk to the bottom of the Potomac River at Mallows Bay. From space, the ship graveyard is a striking and amazing sight.

A Marijuana Farm
If you're doing something illegal, it used to be sufficient to put up a fence and keep prying eyes out. But when the eyes are in the sky, things change. Spotting marijuana growths from small planes has been common practice for quite a while. But the owners of a massive marijuana growing operation in Switzerland found that out the hard way in 2010 when Google Earth satellite images revealed their pot fields. Police in Zurich discovered the two-acre field by chance while looking up the address of area farmers, and quickly moved in for the bust. Sixteen people were arrested and over a ton of marijuana was impounded.

Kazakh Geoglyphs
The people of the ancient world did some things that still confound us today. One of the most perplexing is the practice of creating geoglyphs—massive drawings in the earth that are too large to be comprehended from the ground, but show up clear as day from high above. The Nazca lines of southern Peru are the most famous. In 2014 archaeologists happened across a completely new set of geoglyphs in Kazakhstan. The drawings, which depict a number of different geometric shapes, have yet to be explained.

A Hidden Rainforest
It's well-known that the truly wild areas of the planet are dying at a rapid rate, but satellite imagery can often reveal hidden oases that mankind hasn't managed to ruin…yet. That happened in 2005, when scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens were going over Google Earth images from Mozambique. At the top of Mount Mabu, isolated by steep slopes, was one of the largest untouched rainforests that scientists had ever seen. Villagers had used the site to hide from the civil war that rocked the nation, but aside from that it was on no map and not recognized by the government. Three years later, an expedition found previously undiscovered plants and animals there.

Lost Egyptian Pyramids
One of the most frustrating parts of the archaeologist's craft is having to guess about ancient civilizations buried beneath the surface. Egypt, with its constantly-shifting sands, is especially tough. Thankfully, satellites equipped with infrared cameras have changed the game completely. In a 2011 survey of the country, heat-sensing photography was used to reveal the shapes of seventeen lost pyramids, as well as thousands of other buildings buried beneath the desert.

A Methane Hotspot
Satellites don't just take photos of things we can see with the naked eye. Their advanced sensors allow them to record wavelengths we can't perceive. That's how we found an enormous packet of the greenhouse gas methane hovering over the American southwest. The Four Corners area, where Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah meet, is a hotbed of natural gas extraction. Scientists believe that the methane was released as a side effect of that industry, and claim that it's equivalent to the entire greenhouse gas output of Sweden.

A Meteor Crater
One of the coolest things about satellite surveillance is that it allows us to see things that would be virtually invisible from the ground. Case in point: the crater from one of Earth's most recent meteor impacts, a scant 5,000 years ago. Measuring just 150 feet wide, this tiny hole in Egypt was first noticed in 2008. But it wasn't until a team analyzed Google Earth images in 2010 that they realized what makes it unusual. The site is what's known as a "rayed crater," featuring lines of lighter-colored rock emanating from the impact area. These craters are common on the Moon but typically eradicated by erosion on Earth, so it's an advantage to science to find a new one.

A New Species Of Hominid
One of the most fascinating discoveries in the history of paleontology—a completely new hominid species that fills in information about the evolution of Homo sapiens. In 2007, South African professor Lee Berger was using Google Earth to examine caves around the so-called "Cradle of Humanity" area of South Africa when he started to notice a pattern. Following it out, he marked 500 other sites that he thought had the potential to produce fossils. The next year, he started to explore them on foot, and one gave up an incredible find: the first bones of Australopithecus sediba, a species that some believe might be the missing link between man and ape.

A Mars Lander
Let's look away from Earth and cast our attention to our nearest planetary neighbor for a look at a mission gone wrong. In 2003, the European Space Agency launched a mission to Mars that involved landing an unmanned craft called the Beagle 2 to take samples and return data. Unfortunately, after launch the ESA lost contact with the Beagle and it vanished into space. A dozen years later, NASA staff operating the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's cameras spotted an anomaly on the planet's surface. Upon investigation, they realized they had found the long-missing Beagle 2. The craft's solar panels had failed to open, resulting in mission failure, but it's been sitting on Mars this whole time.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

10 Miscellaneous Facts From Around The World

With this week's Labor Day holiday, the summer season is over for most of us.  We've already taken our annual vacation, the kids are back in school, we've brought the boat home from the lake and put it back in storage. But that doesn't mean it's too early to start thinking about next summer's vacation. So, I'd like to offer you some miscellaneous travel tidbits and trivia.

I came across an article that listed bits of trivia about various travel destinations.  Little snippets of miscellaneous information usually not included in travel guides.  Things I found interesting.  I hope you find them interesting, too.

1)  Mt. Everest (pictured above)
It's a commonly known fact that Mt. Everest, on the Nepal–Tibet border, is the highest point on earth.  You'd think that would be enough, wouldn't you?  Well, apparently it isn't.  The precise height of Mt. Everest is somewhat disputed.  It's generally thought to be 29,029 ft (8848m) above sea level.  And the interesting little fact?  It's still growing!  Mt. Everest is pushing upward at a rate estimated to be 4mm a year thanks to the clash between two tectonic plates.

2)  Mexico City
While Mt. Everest is growing, the interesting little fact about Mexico City is that it's sinking at an average rate of 10cm a year which is 10 times faster than the sinking rate of Venice, Italy.  And the reason for this?  Mexico City was built on a soft lake bed and subterranean water reserves have subsequently been pumped out from beneath the city.  The obvious result?  The city is sinking.

3)  Vatican City
The world's smallest independent state, 44 hectares (110 acres) is totally encircled by Rome.  The Vatican's Swiss Guard still wears the uniform inspired by Renaissance painter Raphael.  Its population is 800 with only 450 of those being citizens.  It even has its own coins which are legal tender throughout Italy and the EU.

4)  El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles
What is all that?  In English it's Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels.  In it's shortened version it's better known as Los Angeles, California.  The town came into being in 1781 and today, in an area of downtown Los Angeles referred to as Olvera Street, there is a cluster of museums, ancient plazas and lively markets providing a taste of life in 1800s Los Angeles.

5)  Nuestra Senora Santa Maria del Buen Aire
What is all that?  In English it's Our Lady St. Mary of the Good Air, better known today as Buenos Aires, Argentina.  It's the best spot to savor the tango.  And don't take the tango lightly.  In Buenos Aires, it's very serious business.

6)  London Underground
London's Metropolitan Railway was the world's first subway, opened in 1863.  The first section ran between Paddington and Farringdon and was a hit in spite of the steam engines filling stations and tunnels with dense smoke.  Today, if you take the Circle Line between Paddington and Covent Garden, you'll travel part of that original route.

7)  Venice, Italy
As mentioned earlier, Venice is sinking.  But in the interim…one of the things immediately associated with Venice are the gondolas on the canals, especially the Grand Canal.  Each gondola is made from 280 pieces of 8 different types of wood.  The left side is larger than the right side by 24cm.  The parts of a gondola represent bits of the city—the front echoes its 6 districts, the back is Giudecca Island, and the lunette is the Rialto Bridge.

8)  Great Wall of China
Most everyone knows this is the largest military construction on earth.  However the part about it being the only man-made structure able to be seen from space is an urban myth.  The sections were built by independent kingdoms between the 7th and 4th centuries BC then unified under China's first Emperor Qin Shi Huang around 210 BC.  A not well known fact is that the sections near Beijing which are most visited by tourists are reconstructions done in the 14th to 17th centuries AD.

9)  Table Mountain, South Africa
This large plateau of sandstone looms over Cape Town.  But this huge table has its own table cloth.  The plateau's cloud cover gathers across the flat top and spills over the sides when the wind whips up from the southeast.  You can reach the top by hiking trails or cable car.

10)  Uluru, Australia
This is probably the world's largest monolith, rising from the Australian desert.  More commonly known for years as Ayers Rock, it is now referred to by the Aboriginal name of Uluru.  The rock glows a fiery orange-red color, especially at sunset.  Where does its red color come from?  It's made from arkosic sandstone which contains iron.  When exposed to oxidation, the iron rusts thus providing the red color.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

History Of Labor Day Holiday

The Labor Day holiday is celebrated on the first Monday in September.  This is the same day that Canada celebrates their Labor Day holiday.  This year, that date is September 4, 2017.

The history of Labor Day in the U.S. goes back to the labor movement of the late 1800s and became an official federal holiday in 1894. It's celebrated with parties, parades, and athletic events.  Prior to 1894, workers who wanted to participate in Labor Day parades would forfeit a day's pay.

Over the ensuing decades, Labor Day has come to symbolize something else, too.  In defiance of the Summer Solstice and Autumnal Equinox signaling the beginning and ending of the summer season, Labor Day has become the unofficial end of the summer season that unofficially started on Memorial Day weekend (the fourth Monday in May in the U.S.).

What led up to the creation of a holiday specifically designated to honor and celebrate the workers and their accomplishments?  The seeds were planted in the 1880s at the height of America's Industrial Revolution when the average American worked 12 hour days/7 days a week in order to earn a basic living.  
Although some states had restrictions, these workers included children as young as 5 years old who labored in the mills, factories, and mines earning a fraction of the money paid to the adults in the same workplace.  Workers of all ages were subjected to extremely unsafe working conditions in addition to insufficient access to fresh air and sanitary facilities.

Labor Unions had first appeared in the late 1700s.  As America changed from an agrarian society into an industrial one, these labor unions became more vocal and began to organize rallies and strikes in protest of poor working conditions and low wages.  Many of these events turned violent.  One prominent such incident was the Haymarket Riot of 1886 where several Chicago policemen and workers were killed. 
Other rallies were of a more positive nature such as September 5, 1882, when 10,000 workers took unpaid time off from their jobs and held the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history when they marched from City Hall to Union Square in New York City.

It was another 12 years before Congress legalized the holiday.  This was primarily brought about on May 11, 1894, when employees at the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago went on strike to protest wage cuts and the firing of union representatives.  Then on June 26, the American Railroad Union called for a boycott of all Pullman railway cars thus crippling railroad traffic nationwide.  To break the strike, the government sent troops to Chicago.  The resulting riots resulted in the deaths of more than a dozen workers.  As a result, Congress passed an act making Labor Day a legal holiday in all states, the District of Columbia and the territories (many of which later became states).

And now, more than a century later, the true founder of Labor Day still hasn't been identified.

So, for everyone enjoying this 3 day holiday weekend, now you know why you have that additional day.  And why the banks are closed and you don't have any mail delivery.  :)

Sunday, August 20, 2017

24 Historical Quotes That Proved To Be Very Wrong

Statements are made, then the reality follows.  Here is a list of 24 historical quotes probably believed when they were first spoken but have since been proven to be very wrong.  There's one I've always liked, but since I don't have the exact quote or the date I didn't include it as part of this list.  It's a quote attributed to Bill Gates of Microsoft.  To paraphrase, it went something like this:  No one will ever need more than 64K of memory.

24)  "There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable.  It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will."
  --Albert Einstein, 1932

23)  "We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out."
  --Decca Recording Company on refusing to sign the Beatles, 1962

22)  "This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication.  The device is inherently of no value to us."
  --Western Union internal memo, 1876

21)  "Reagan doesn't have that presidential look."
  --United Artists executive after rejecting Reagan as lead in the 1964 film THE BEST MAN.

20)  "Train travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia."
  --Dr. Dionysius Lardner, 1830

19)  "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."
  --Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

18)  "X-rays will prove to be a hoax."
  --Lord Kelvin, President of the Royal Society, 1883

17)  "Everyone acquainted with the subject will recognize it as a conspicuous failure."
  --Henry Morton, president of the Stevens Institute of Technology, on Edison's light bulb, 1880

16)  The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty—a fad."
  --The president of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford's lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Co., 1903

15)  "Television won't last because people will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night."
  --Darryl Zanuck, movie producer, 20th Century Fox, 1946

14)  "No one will pay good money to get from Berlin to Potsdam in one hour when he can ride his horse there in one day for free."
  --King William I of Prussia on trains in 1864

13)  "There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home."
  --Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), in a talk given to a 1977 World Future Society meeting in Boston

12)  "If excessive smoking actually plays a role in the production of lung cancer, it seems to be a minor one."
  --W.C. Heuper, National Cancer Institute, 1954

11)  "No, it will make war impossible."
  --Hiram Maxim, inventor of the machine gun, in response to the question "Will this gun not make war more terrible?" from Havelock Ellis, an English scientist, 1893

10)  "The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value.  Who would pay for a message sent to no one in particular?"
  --Associates of David Sarnoff responding to the latter's call for investment in the radio in 1921

9)  "There will never be a bigger plane built."
  --A Boeing engineer after the first flight of the 247, a twin engine plane that held ten people (pictured above)

8)  "How, sir, would you make a ship sail against the wind and currents by lighting a bonfire under her deck?  I pray you, excuse me, I have not the time to listen to such nonsense."
  --Napoleon Bonaparte, when told of Robert Fulton's steamboat, 1800s

7)  "The idea that cavalry will be replaced by these iron coaches is absurd.  It is little short of treasonous."
  --Comment of Aide-de-camp to Field Marshal Haig, at tank demonstration 1916

6)  "I must confess that my imagination refuses to see any sort of submarine doing anything but suffocating its crew and floundering at sea."
  --HG Wells, British novelist, in 1901

5)  "The world potential market for copying machines is 5000 at most."
  --IBM, to the eventual founders of Xerox, saying the photocopier had no market large enough to justify production, 1959

4)  "It'll be gone by June."
  --Variety Magazine on Rock n' Roll, 1955

3)  "And for the tourist who really wants to get away from it all, safaris in Vietnam."
  --Newsweek, predicting popular holidays for the late 1960s

2)  "When the Paris Exhibition [of 1878] closes, electric light will close with it and no more will be heard of it."
  --Oxford professor Erasmus Wilson

1)  "A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth's atmosphere."
  --New York Times, 1936

Right now, somewhere in the world, there is a prominent person making a statement about some new emerging innovation that will give future generations a good chuckle.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

10 Biggest Myths About Medieval Torture

I came across an odd bit of information a while back.  Even though I don't write historicals, I decided to save it with the thought in mind that it might make an interesting blog.

Medieval times…the Dark Ages.  There are many documented tales of truly barbaric treatment.  But, unlike the message we get from Hollywood's entertainment industry, Medieval times overall weren't as barbaric as we've been led to believe.  And with that thought in mind, here's a list of the ten biggest myths about justice in the Dark Ages.

10)   Go Directly To Jail?
Most Medieval communities actually had a judge and jury type of system, although it was much quicker than today's long drawn out sessions.  Court generally lasted less than half an hour.  At the judge's discretion, he could ask a few simple questions and deliver a verdict without consulting the jury.

9)   The Lawless Middle Age Villages?
Earlier Medieval communities had much more social responsibility than today.  If one member claimed to be wronged, every resident had to join in the hunt and persecution of the criminal, otherwise they would all be held responsible.

8)   Those Strict Church Types?
The pious Middle Ages were serious about religious offenses.  Each town's church usually ran its own kind of court to investigate everything from bad attendance to heresy.  However, the concept of sanctuary was also well known with the church as a place where criminals could avoid sentencing or punishment.

7)   Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind?
Criminals who committed lesser offenses were often subject to a policy of three strikes and you're out—literally.  Repeat offenders were often simply banished from a city and not allowed back rather than killing them or having them clutter up the prisons.  Humane and cost effective.

6)   Executions: Left, Right, and Center?
According to Hollywood, Medieval evil-doers were killed on whim and often in public squares for even the slightest of offenses.  In reality, capital punishment was used only in the most serious cases which included murder, treason, and arson with the guilty usually hanged.

5)   Royal Highnesses High Above the Law?
Medieval nobles did enjoy certain privileges when it came to bending laws or making new ones to serve their purposes.  However, most European countries had legislation preventing their kings and queens from running wild, such as England's Magna Carta signed by King John in 1215.

4)   Public Beheadings as Weekly Spectacle?
Beheading was swift and painless—as long as the axe was sharp.  It was considered a privileged way to die and reserved primarily for the nobility.  Treason was the crime of choice with the beheadings usually taking place inside castle walls rather than in public.

3)   The Burning Times?
A few witches, as proclaimed by their accusers, were burned at the stake during Medieval times.  But it was during the following Reformation period (beginning approximately in 1550) that burning witches at the stake really took off.  However, in England witches were rarely burned and were hanged instead. At the Salem witch trials in the U.S., most of the accused who were actually put to death were hanged.

2)   Off With Your Ear?
Mutilation—severing of an ear or hand—was occasionally used as a punishment for serious crimes, especially in larger jurisdictions such as London.  But more often, Medieval law enforcement used it as an empty threat rather than actually doing it.

1)   Rack 'Em Up?
Immortalized in the film Braveheart, the most famous torture device of all time was the rack.  It probably wasn't used in England until the very end of the Medieval period.  It was used extensively along with other devices beginning in the torturous days of the 1500s when Queen Elizabeth I, and other European monarchs, began purging religious opponents.

So, next time you're watching a high budget film set during Medieval times filled with bloody and torturous actions, remember there's a good chance it didn't really happen that way.