from Fact to Fiction!

The Wars of the Roses and Cecily Neville

  The fascinating truth behind England's most violent era .Can be seen in The War of the Roses: A Bloody Crown Using historically-accurate, battle-filled re-enactments and interviews with expert historians and noted authors, this definitive documentary series brings to vivid life the captivating true stories behind Britain's bloody civil wars. The Trailer   Cecily Neville - The great-granddaughter of one king, Edward III of England (and his wife Philippa of Hainault); was the wife of a would-be king, Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York; and the mother of two kings: Edward IV and Richard III.Cecily Neville's husband was Richard, Duke of York, the heir to King Henry VI and protector of the young king in his minority and later during a bout of insanity. Richard was the descendant of two other sons of Edward III: Lionel of Antwerp and Edmund of Langley. Cecily was first betrothed to Richard when she was nine years old, and they married in 1429 when she was fourteen.in 1460, Cecily and Richards son, the future Edward IV, won the battle at Northampton, taking Henry VI prisoner. Richard, Duke of York, returned to claim the crown for himself. Edwards Queen, Margaret and Richard compromised, naming Richard protector…

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Learning From Our Mistakes . . . Or Not

   Fact:   http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/trianglefire/ (Notice how the picture of the Triangle fire looks incredibly similar to those in the Times articles of the more recent fires: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/08/world/asia/pakistan-factory-fire-shows-flaws-in-monitoring.html?pagewanted=all)   History Times ThreeFor those of you following the New York Times stories of the fires at garment factories, first in Bangladesh, India, then in Karachi, Pakistan, you'll notice the lamentable similarities to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in this country in 1911.When I wrote The Triangle Murders, I researched the details of that fire and blogged about it in past posts. I fictionalized a murder set against the backdrop of the actual fire and detailed the forensic analysis of the fire after the fact. I also blogged about heroines like Clara Lemlich and Frances Perkins who helped raise awareness of the deplorable situation the garment workers found themselves in every day, as well as the changes Clara and Frances helped institute to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again.Reading the stories about these recent fires in other parts of the world simply blew my mind.But first, back up to Saturday, March 25, 1911, and a few grim facts: The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory occupied the top three floors of the 10-story Asch…

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The Dust Bowl by Ken Burns on PBS

THE DUST BOWL Premieres November 18 and 19, 20128:00–10:00 p.m. ET on PBS   THE DUST BOWL chronicles the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history, in which the frenzied wheat boom of the "Great Plow-Up," followed by a decade-long drought during the 1930s nearly swept away the breadbasket of the nation. Vivid interviews with twenty-six survivors of those hard times, combined with dramatic photographs and seldom seen movie footage, bring to life stories of incredible human suffering and equally incredible human perseverance. It is also a morality tale about our relationship to the land that sustains us—a lesson we ignore at our peril. The Dust Bowl on PBS Fiction: 2012 B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Dirt by S.L. Dwyer

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The History of Vampires in New Orleans

    Vampires and vampire-like creatures have been found in the folklore of every civilization, every culture and every religion since the beginning of recorded time. New Orleans is no exception. The city was settled in the early 1700's and it was during this time in Europe that massive vampire hunts were occurring. The vampire tradition began in the early 1200's in Eastern Europe and spread into Western civilization over hundreds of years. Vampire hunters, usually church representatives, were digging up the dearly departed, driving wooden stakes through the corpses, then beheading and burning the body. The causes of vampirism varied and one could be predisposed at birth for vampirism. Having been born at certain times of the year (New moon, Holy days), born with a red caul, with teeth, or with an extra nipple were sure signs of a vampire. If the child was born with excess hair, white hair, red hair, a red birthmark or with two hearts, the theory persisted. The 7th son of a 7th son was believed to be doomed to vampirism. If the child was weaned too early, suckled after weaning or died prior to Baptism, vampirism was suspected upon death. If the pregnant woman received a curse or was stared at or attacked by a vampire, the child would be cursed to vampirism. This type of predisposition was considered a genetic defect, like a mutation and vampirism was inevitable. Vampirism happened after birth as well. Being fed upon seven or more times by a vampire without dying would guarantee one to become a vampire. Numerous things could happen before or after one's death that could lead to vampirism; committing suicide, practicing sorcery or witchcraft, eating sheep killed by a wolf, leading an immoral life (prostitutes, murderers, alcoholics, rapists), dying without last rites, having a cat jump over the corpse/coffin, having a shadow fall on the corpse, no burial or improper burial rites, death by violence, or death by drowning. There are ways to prevent vampirism should any of the above occur and a number of different things might be done in order to take steps to prevent that body from ever returning from the grave. Weighting the eyes down with coins, tying the mouth closed or stuffing the mouth with garlic were common practices as was placing coins or dirt on the eyes. Our ancestors would cover mirrors in the house and stop the clocks in the home of the deceased. In Louisiana, many families still practice a custom called "sitting up with the dead". When a family member died, a relative or close family friend would stay with the body until it is placed into one of our above ground tombs or is buried. The body was never left unattended. There are many reasons given for this practice today; most commonly respect for the dead but, this tradition actually dates back to vampire folklore in Eastern Europe. While sitting up with the deceased, the friend or family member was watching for signs of paranormal activity i.e. if a cat was ever seen to jump over, walk across, or stand on top of the coffin; if a dog was seen to bark or growl at the coffin; or if a horse shied from it, these were signs of impending vampirism. At that point, steps would be taken to prevent the corpse from returning from the dead. Ways to stop a vampire included burying the corpse face down and burying it at a crossroads. Often family members would place a sickle around the neck, tie body parts together or mutilate the body, usually by decapitation and placing the head at the bottom of feet. The most common remedy for impending vampirism was to drive a stake into the corpse, decapitate it then burn the body to ashes. This method was the only way to truly destroy the undead. By the 1700's, these practices were going on all throughout Western Europe, particularly in France and Germany where many were migrating to New Orleans. Believers insisted that vampires could have been smuggled over in ships with the settlers. The early French settlers brought over brides from Europe who transferred their belongings in large wooden casket-like boxes. According to folklore, even though vampires prefer the night, they are not destroyed by daylight. It was common for the vampire to walk about during the day but they generally hunted and fed at night. They would not have needed to be smuggled in coffins in the hulls of ships. This idea is that of fictional writers such as Bram Stoker. More than likely, vampires would have entered the ships like anyone else and blended in well with society. If being a murderer, rapist, or other criminal element would predispose one to vampirism, it is easy to see how they would have become so prevalent in New Orleans. The city started as a penal colony. All of the original settlers would have been predisposed to it! Once they blended in with the mortals, they could easily feed on the population without raising much suspicion. With people dying in great masses from diseases such as yellow fever, who's going to notice another corpse here or there? Nonetheless, our folklore has remained true to the casket girl theory. These women were housed and educated in the Ursuline Convent, located on Chartres and Ursulines Streets in the French Quarter. They were eventually married off to the settlers in the city. It is believed by many that the original caskets of these brides are stored in the attic of the convent and that the vampires still reside in them. The convent is no longer a working convent but now is a repository for the archives of the archdiocese. Legend states that late at night one of the attic shutters will open and the vampires escape. They attack unsuspecting victims, return and close the shutters before dawn. But is it more than a legend? By Kalila K. Smith New Orleans Paranormal & Occult Research Society, Read the full article at: http://www.neworleansghosts.com/vampires.htm   Fiction: Amaranth by Rachael Wade  

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Dolphins Might Be Math Geniuses

In an article posted on NBCNews.com, Jennifer Viegas of Discovery News reports on a fascinating new study concerning dolphins published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A. The study suggests that dolphins use nonlinear mathematics to process echolocation bursts when hunting prey. The study was conducted by Tim Leighton, a professor of ultrasonics and underwater acoustics at the University of Southampton, where he is also an associate dean, along with colleagues Paul White and Gim Hwa Chua. The scientists determined that dolphins emit echolocation bursts of varying amplitudes and that to effectively interpret these, along with the echoes from one another, requires complex mental processing involving nonlinear mathematics. While some questions still remain, if replicated the dolphins' sonar model has significant implications for humans, particularly as it relates to the detection of covert bugging devices hidden in walls, or mines at sea. Fiction: This article is another telling example of life imitating art as the dolphins' complex cognitive abilities suggested by the work of Professor Leighton and his colleagues, mirror those described in The Tempest's Roar by R.A.R. Clouston.

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The Fuller Brush Man- who is he?

The Fuller Brush Man (1946) MGM knew it had a valuable property in Red Skelton, but the studio never really knew how to handle his unique talents -- until he was loaned out to Columbia for the hilarious, money-spinning slapstick comedy The Fuller Brush Man. The star plays Red Jones, a born screw-up who can't seem to hold down a job. With the help of his ever-loving girlfriend Ann Elliot (Janet Blair), Red gets a job as a Fuller Brush salesman, intending to take the business world by storm with his can't-fail sales techniques. Unfortunately, when Red isn't messing up on his own, he's being sabotaged by his supervisor Keenan Wallick (Don McGuire) -- who also happens to be sweet on Ann. While trying to make a sale at the home of Commissioner Trist (Nicholas Joy), poor Red finds himself the Number One Suspect when Trist is murdered. With Ann's help, Red eventually stumbles onto the identity of the actual killer, and the chase is on. And what a chase! Pursued by a battalion of thugs (played by several of Hollywood's top stunt men), Red and Ann hotfoot it through a well-stocked war surplus warehouse, wherein all the props -- rubber rafts, prefabricated houses, camouflage tents, flare guns -- are utilized to their utmost comic potential. A riot from beginning to end, The Fuller Brush Man may well be Skelton's funniest film. It was successful enough in 1948 to spawn a series of imitations -- The Good Humor Man, The Fuller Brush Girl, The Yellow Cab Man, Kill the Umpire - -all of which, like Fuller Brush Man, were co-scripted by the inexhaustibly inventive Frank Tashlin.  Read more about this film and review. Fiction: In Search of the Fuller Brush Man    

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PBS Documentary: Sheriff

Fact: SHERIFF follows the daily adventures of the larger-than-life character Sheriff Ronald W. Hewett in rural Brunswick County, North Carolina Premiered on PBS's Independent Lens SHERIFF follows the daily adventures of Sheriff Ronald E. Hewett as he tries to keep the peace in the rural community of Brunswick County, North Carolina. More than five years in the making, SHERIFF uses classic cinema verité techniques (excluding the interviews and music) to paint a detailed, intimate portrait of a dying breed of iconic Americana: the small-town sheriff trying to do good in a very bad world. We meet 38-year-old Sheriff Hewett doing what he is so often called upon to do: face the local news media under the harshest of conditions. In this case, it is a double murder in which two small children were also brutally injured. As mosquitoes buzz around his sweating face, Hewett delivers to the cameras sound byte after sound byte, before politely excusing himself so that he may be sick on the side of the road. Indeed, Hewett is the quintessential southern gentleman, a man whose easy smile, open sincerity and comforting southern accent invites the entire community to embrace him as part of their family. This is not entirely by chance—as a montage of Hewett business placards and road signs reveal, Hewett seems to be related to almost everyone in Brunswick County and is considered their favorite son. Some of this admiration stems from Hewett's bold modernization of the formerly backward, backwoods sheriff's department. (Before Hewett was elected in 1994, the sheriff's department wasn't even open after 5 PM). SHERIFF reveals the flawed but earnest human behind the Andy Griffith and Buford Pusser clichés. Hewett's daily struggles with justice, power and public opinion are not far removed from America's own struggles. In one of the film's most humorous scenes, Hewett raids a small-time video poker parlor and uses his intimidating charm to induce an employee to reveal the location of the cash earnings. Although he finds it difficult not to sympathize with some of the low-income denizens of Brunswick County, Hewett is convinced of his duty to clean up his homeland. After he corners one of the video poker owners, he delivers a speech so heroic it's hard to believe it wasn't scripted. Interspersed between these entertaining episodes are gentle interludes that capture the tones, textures and earthy serenity of the modern American South. Insects chirp over beautiful shots of twisted swampland. Corn stalks roar, rustled by the hot wind. The neon sign of a store advertising "Worms & Coffee" buzzes into the damp, dark night. These sequences look past the stereotype of the oft-mythologized South to show us places we all recognize: places of beauty, wildness and serenity. This serenity is all too often shattered. The centerpiece of SHERIFF is the brutal slaying of a 70-year-old attorney. Hewett arrives quietly and examines the bloody crime scene. Then once again he's thrust before the news media and delivers in his characteristic timbre the hard facts of the case as well as a plea for help in finding the killer. The ensuing investigation, which involves many of Hewett's officers, eventually frustrates Hewett when he finds they are not following orders to his precise specifications. But on the second day of the investigation, Hewett falls back into his comfortable good humor, even taking breaks to make sure all of his employees and volunteers are properly slathered in bug spray. Fiction: A Cold Snow In Castaway County  

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Summer, the ocean —-and Pirates!

In the early 1700's a very headstrong and tough girl from Cork, Ireland (she beat a man for making unwanted advances!) married into the adventurous world of Piracy --- actually she married several pirates! After marrying her "dream" pirate in 1719, she helped steal a sloop and made a life of piracy in the Caribbean. Dressed as a man she proved to be as good as many a man at fighting and stealing. After being caught and tried, she escaped hanging but her fate is unknown. As with many pirates, Anne Bonny's story has become that of legend. Books of interest: Helen Hollick has written 3 books in the Sea Witch Series that will make you feel the very spray from the sea as this story carries you into a world of danger, love and treachery! Following the pirate Jesamiah Acorne and his woman, Tiola, upon the high seas will give you the thrill and romance of the life of a pirate.

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