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Category: History

“The Terror” Trailer is Finally Here!

Posted in Celebs, History, Horror, and TV

In 2007, I wrote about The Terror by Dan Simmons.  Here’s what I said then:

The Terror by Dan Simmons is a novelization of the true doomed 1840s Franklin expedition to find a Northwest passage. History tells us there were no survivors and the men died from exposure, starvation and worse. Simmons’ story combines all of the interesting historical details and adds a new menace, a creature which feeds on men. The Terror was a national best seller. Stephen King listed it as one of his favorite books of the year. Who am I to argue with Stephen King?

Then in July of 2016 I posted

AMC has greenlit 10 hour long episodes to air in 2017 with Ridley Scott and David W. Zucker serving as Executive Producers and David Kajganich on board to write and take the reins as showrunner.  This is a project worth keeping an eye on.

You can imagine my thrill at seeing this…

10 Things You Should Know About the Donner Party

Posted in History, and Trivia

James and Margaret Reed, Donner Party members. (Credit: Public Domain)

In 1846, the Donner brothers led a wagon train of pioneers heading to California.  Caught in the Sierra Mountains in one of the worst winters ever recorded, the settlers were forced to hunker down.  As their food and supplies ran out, and over half of the party died, most of the survivors were forced to resort to cannibalism.

Evan Andrews and present 10 Things You Should Know About the Donner Party.  Here are three of my favorites…

2.  They fell behind schedule after taking an untested shortcut.
After reaching Wyoming, most California-bound pioneers followed a route that swooped north through Idaho before turning south and moving across Nevada. In 1846, however, a dishonest guidebook author named Lansford Hastings was promoting a straighter and supposedly quicker path that cut through the Wasatch Mountains and across the Salt Lake Desert. There was just one problem: no one had ever traveled this “Hastings Cutoff” with wagons, not even Hastings himself. Despite the obvious risks—and against the warnings of James Clyman, an experienced mountain man—the 20 Donner Party wagons elected to break off from the usual route and gamble on Hastings’ back road. The decision proved disastrous. The emigrants were forced to blaze much of the trail themselves by cutting down trees, and they nearly died of thirst during a five-day crossing of the salt desert. Rather than saving them time, Hasting’s “shortcut” ended up adding nearly a month to the Donner Party’s journey.

7.  Not all of the emigrants engaged in cannibalism.
As their supplies dwindled, the Donner emigrants stranded at Truckee Lake resorted to eating increasingly grotesque meals. They slaughtered their pack animals, cooked their dogs, gnawed on leftover bones and even boiled the animal hide roofs of their cabins into a foul paste. Several people died from malnutrition, but the rest managed to subsist on morsels of boiled leather and tree bark until rescue parties arrived in February and March 1847. Not all of the settlers were strong enough to escape, however, and those left behind were forced to cannibalize the frozen corpses of their comrades while waiting for further help. All told, roughly half of the Donner Party’s survivors eventually resorted to eating human flesh.

9.  One rescuer singlehandedly led nine survivors out of the mountains.
Perhaps the most famous of the Donner Party’s saviors was John Stark, a burly California settler who took part in the third relief party. In early March 1847, he and two other rescuers stumbled upon 11 emigrants, mostly kids, who been left in the mountains by an earlier relief group. The two other rescuers each grabbed a single child and started hoofing it back down the slope, but Stark was unwilling to leave anyone behind. Instead, he rallied the weary adults, gathered the rest of the children and began guiding the group singlehandedly. Most of the kids were too weak to walk, so Stark took to carrying two of them at a time for a few yards, then setting them down in the snow and going back for others. He continued the grueling process all the way down the mountain, and eventually led all nine of his charges to safety. Speaking of the incident years later, one of the survivors credited her rescue to “nobody but God and Stark and the Virgin Mary.”

Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) / Z-View

Posted in History, Movies, and Z-View

Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

Director: Frank Lloyd

Screenplay: Talbot Jennings & Jules Furthman and Carey Wilson based on the book by Charles Nordhoff        and James Norman Hall

Stars:  Charles Laughton, Clark Gable and Franchot Tone

The Pitch: “Let’s turn Robert C. O’Brien’s novel into a movie!”

Tagline: Clark Gable as the daring mutineer in the screen’s most exciting adventure story!

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

The classic tale of Fletcher Christian’s mutiny against the sadistic Captain Bligh!


How Much Did McDonald’s Cost in 1972?

Posted in History, and Trivia

MeTV asks How Much Did McDonald’s Cost in 1972?

As you can see above, I got six out of ten correct.  Not great, but not too bad.  We didn’t eat out much when I was a kid.  A McDonald’s hamburger and shake was a real treat.  The cost seems pretty cheap by today’s prices but you have to remember minimum wage was $1.60 an hour!

9 Things You May Not Know About the Declaration of Independence

Posted in History, and Trivia

Elizabeth Harrison and present 9 Things You May Not Know About the Declaration of Independence.  Here are three of my favorites…

1. The Declaration of Independence wasn’t signed on July 4, 1776.
On July 1, 1776, the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia, and on the following day 12 of the 13 colonies voted in favor of Richard Henry Lee’s motion for independence. The delegates then spent the next two days debating and revising the language of a statement drafted by Thomas Jefferson. On July 4, Congress officially adopted the Declaration of Independence, and as a result the date is celebrated as Independence Day. Nearly a month would go by, however, before the actual signing of the document took place. First, New York’s delegates didn’t officially give their support until July 9 because their home assembly hadn’t yet authorized them to vote in favor of independence. Next, it took two weeks for the Declaration to be “engrossed”—written on parchment in a clear hand. Most of the delegates signed on August 2, but several—Elbridge Gerry, Oliver Wolcott, Lewis Morris, Thomas McKean and Matthew Thornton—signed on a later date. (Two others, John Dickinson and Robert R. Livingston, never signed at all.) The signed parchment copy now resides at the National Archives in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom, alongside the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

8. The Declaration of Independence spent World War II in Fort Knox.
On December 23, 1941, just over two weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the signed Declaration, together with the Constitution, was removed from public display and prepared for evacuation out of Washington, D.C. Under the supervision of armed guards, the founding document was packed in a specially designed container, latched with padlocks, sealed with lead and placed in a larger box. All told, 150 pounds of protective gear surrounded the parchment. On December 26 and 27, accompanied by Secret Service agents, it traveled by train to Louisville, Kentucky, where a cavalry troop of the 13th Armored Division escorted it to Fort Knox. The Declaration was returned to Washington, D.C., in 1944.

3. When news of the Declaration of Independence reached New York City, it started a riot.
By July 9, 1776, a copy of the Declaration of Independence had reached New York City. With hundreds of British naval ships occupying New York Harbor, revolutionary spirit and military tensions were running high. George Washington, commander of the Continental forces in New York, read the document aloud in front of City Hall. A raucous crowd cheered the inspiring words, and later that day tore down a nearby statue of George III. The statue was subsequently melted down and shaped into more than 42,000 musket balls for the fledgling American army.

Better Dead: A Nathan Heller Thriller by Max Allan Collins

Posted in Authors, Books, Crime, History, and Z-View

Better Dead: A Nathan Heller Thriller by Max Allan Collins

Publisher: Mysterious Press

First sentence…

I was there when the Commies took over.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…



Better Dead is actually two interconnected novellas.

In the first Nathan Heller is hired to find evidence to exonerate Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, a married couple sentenced to die for providing Russia with secret information on how to build nuclear bombs.  Senator Joe McCarthy, who is leading the hunt for American Commies, wants Heller to serve as a double agent and provide him with whatever information Heller learns about the Rosenbergs.  Before long Heller is on the wrong side of government agents and gangsters and a possible death sentence of his own.

In the second story, Heller learns about government-funded mind control experiments on unknowing subjects from a scientist who has a change of heart.  When the scientist turns up missing, Heller knows that he’s next up unless he can figure a way out.

I’m a huge fan of Max Allan Collins’ Nate Heller series.  Heller is a fictional detective who finds himself in the middle of real crimes.  Heller ages as the series progresses and fiction is mixed with extensive research and historical fact.  It’s fun watching Heller interact with famous (and infamous) folks right out of our history books.  Equally enjoyable is Collins’ take on the crimes and what may have really happened (if it is not as we’ve been taught).

In Better Dead Heller interacts with Joe McCarthy, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Roy Cohen, Bettie Page, Bobby Kennedy and others.  I also like that Heller in these outings is a bit more hardboiled.  Perhaps it’s the decade.

Better Dead is another great addition to the Nate Heller legacy.  I’m hoping for more!


Mike Tyson vs. James ‘Buster’ Douglas: An Oral History of Boxing’s Most Remarkable Upset

Posted in Celebs, History, and Sports

If you’re a boxing fan you won’t want to miss Eric Raskin’s excellent Mike Tyson vs. James ‘Buster’ Douglas: An Oral History of Boxing’s Most Remarkable Upset.

Mike Tyson, Buster Douglas, Jim Lampley, Larry Merchant, the fighters’ trainers and others all weigh in on the events and fight that was the greatest upset in boxing and perhaps sports history!


The Murder of Rasputin: The 100th Anniversary of a Mystery That Won’t Die

Posted in Crime, and History

Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin was murdered in the very early morning hours on December 30, 1916.  If you know the name Rasputin, then my bet is you know the circumstances of his death.

Rasputin was said to have healing powers, a hypnotic effect on men and woman, was a known womanizer whom some said was a saint while others claimed him to be the human incarnation of Satan.

Prince Felix Yusupov, who confessed to killing Rasputin details how Rasputin ate poisoned treats with no effect…

…Rasputin relaxed, eating multiple cakes and drinking three glasses of wine, Yusupov waited. And waited. The “Mad Monk” should have been dead in seconds, but the cyanide seemed to have no effect. Growing worried, Yusupov excused himself to the other room. He returned with a gun, promptly shooting Rasputin in the back. The other accomplices drove off to create the appearance that their victim had departed, leaving Yusupov and Purishkevich alone at the mansion with what appeared to be Rasputin’s corpse.


A strange impulse made Yusupov check the body again. The moment he touched Rasputin’s neck to feel for a pulse, Rasputin’s eyes snapped open. The Siberian leapt up, screaming, and attacked. But that wasn’t the worst part. As Yusupov wrote in 1953, “there was something appalling and monstrous in his diabolical refusal to die. I realized now who Rasputin really was … the reincarnation of Satan himself.”

According to legend Rasputin was poisoned, shot repeatedly, beaten, bound and dumped into a river to drown.  When his body was found its condition supported the account of Rasputin’s murder and unnatural ability to survive…

…Two days later, a search party found a body trapped beneath the ice of the frozen Malaya Nevka River. It was Rasputin: missing an eye, bearing three bullet wounds and countless cuts and bruises.

Rasputin’s daughter wrote in her book, My Father, that when Rasputin’s body…

…was found, his hands were unbound, arms arranged over his head… Maria claimed this was proof Rasputin survived his injuries, freed himself in the river, and finally drowned while making the sign of the cross.

Most of us know the story of Rasputin and his supernatural ability to survive attacks that would have killed mortals.  Yet all we know, may not be the whole story.  Perhaps Rasputin didn’t have supernatural powers.

Andrew Lenoir presents an explanation based on research and historical facts to explain The Murder of Rasputin: The 100th Anniversary of a Mystery That Won’t Die.

Source: Mental_Floss.

America’s First Theme Park Was All Santa, All the Time

Posted in History, and Trivia

Anyone know where Santa Claus lives?

North Pole, right?  Yeah, that’s a correct answer, but so is Santa Claus, Indiana!

I can vouch that Santa Claus, Indiana exists because I visited it as a kid back in the 1960’s.  Of course then it was called Santa Claus Land (or at least that’s what my grandparents called it when they took me).

When I asked my grandparents about Santa living in our home state and not the North Pole, they explained that Santa did live at the North Pole with the elves and reindeer but sometimes the jolly ole fellow liked to escape the cold.

If you’d like to learn more about Santa Claus, Indiana, Erin Blakemore and Mental_Floss have the full story in America’s First Theme Park Was All Santa, All the Time.